Memymom – The Umbilical Vein
Mother Marilène Coolens photographed her daughter Lisa De Boeck from 1990 to 2003, while playing improvised theatrical sketches. On the bed, at the table or between the curtains in their house in Brussels, we watch the five-year-old girl growing up. Mother Marilène Coolens and daughter Lisa De Boeck created Memymom, a collaboration between the two artists, two self-taught photographers who work and live in Brussels, Belgium. ’The cross-generational project began with what the pair describes as a ‘hangover from the past’.
“Marilène began taking the photos that now make up ‘The Umbilical Vein’ when her daughter was just five and continued until she turned 18. Images of a nine-year old Lisa sitting on a bed in a Pucci blouse and high heels, others of her pouting seductively at the camera à la Marilyn Monroe or posing as Catwoman, capture the transformation of a child into a young woman. The photographs will leave few people cold. They taunt viewers, who find themselves wanting to give them a comfortable place within an understandable context. But a nagging question remains: Are they a statement on the sexualisation of girls, or do they simply add to that imagery? Or are they about something else altogether? According to the duo, they found inspiration for the characters Lisa portrays in their experience of the 1990s, the decade during which most of the photos were taken: pop culture, movies, fashion and pedestrians on the streets of Brussels. Lisa usually seems quite serious in the photos, often almost unhappy. But Marilène encourages you to look closer to find a child’s daily reality. And you find this in tiny details, such as a faint trail of spaghetti sauce in the corner of Catwoman’s mouth.
These semi-staged dreamscape portraits developed into a mature conversation that deals not only with metamorphosis, personal identity, potential and a maternal relationship, but has evolved into a plea for sensual analysis and tragic romanticism. It reveals both the foundations of the close mother-daughter bond and the professional career of this artistic duo, who have worked together under the moniker Memymom since 2004.
The rough analogue images of a past era also form a source of inspiration for the artists’ current work which produces an emotional aesthetics that stops just short of the erotic; inventing mystery, exercising intimacy and creating a post-modern hyperlinked narrative where anything might unfold. The mother-daughter relationship means they can often work in a highly intuitive manner that allows the results to emerge naturally, even almost automatically.”