The Afterlife of Dolls - Statement
The Afterlife of Dolls
“The overriding desire of most children is to get at and see the soul of their toys."
“It may indeed be questioned whether we have any memories at all from our childhood; memories relating to our childhood may be all that we possess."
Miniature worlds of dolls constructed through my own undirected play within the rooms of a dollhouse were photographed with pinhole and plastic toy cameras. The nature of these simple cameras with their limited controls provides freedom from the fantasy ambitions of adult mastery, and from a visual definition of what is real. At times the camera, standing in for the adult body that is too large to go inside, was placed directly inside a dollhouse allowing visual access to what is inside. I started with a dollhouse I have in my psychoanalytic consulting room. Later I experimented with moving beyond the sanctuary of the dollhouse, playing with dolls on Edward Hopper’s beach in Truro and in birdhouses in my back yard. I treat the dolls not just as playthings, but rather subjects with their own life history and secrets. The secrets of the past “play us” as well, until they are revealed.
Play performs childhood ways of being. Play exists between daydreaming and purposeful action. Playful manipulation with and within miniature worlds allows for temporary re-possession of experiences once too overwhelming to be witnessed. The scale of representation was then also toyed with. The large-scale images of miniature worlds and dolls resize the adult viewer in relationship to their childhood past. Now the adult in us is put in its place, not easily allowed to distance from the sizeable psychic presence of our childhood past. The change in scale also comments upon our more adult ideas of psychic reality as it reconfigures our ideas about memory and reality.