Ken. To be destroyed
It was a family secret that Sara Davidmann’s uncle Ken (K) was trans*. The family attempted to erase this from history and the family photograph album depicts K as male.
The title for the project was taken from the writing on an envelope that Davidmann found in her mother’s possessions. It was found with another large envelope and a brown paper bag – all of which contained letters and documents about K, spanning a 50 year period (1953 - 2003). The letters brought to life how little was known about trans* people in the 1950s and the difficulties that K faced trying to reconcile being trans* with her relationship with her wife, Hazel, and society. Nevertheless, K and Hazel were able to re-negotiate their marriage to encompass K being trans*. They lived together for the entirety of their lives and after death they were buried side by side.
At the same time as discovering the letters, Davidmann found a set of K and Hazel’s wedding proofs taken by Alexanders’ photography studio in Edinburgh - with the word ‘proof’ written on them. Looking at the photographs and letters together it seemed to Davidmann that in one hand she was holding an emblem of what in the case of trans* people a conventional family album allowed – the erasure of the trans* life - and in the other evidence of the experiences that would have been erased.
Family albums, in one sense, are creations/fictions of family histories. They present an idealized version of the family with photographs taken at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and celebrations. The everyday life of the family is rarely represented and photographs are not usually taken of discord or difficulties.
Without Davidmann’s involvement the family would have expunged the fact that there was a trans* family member. The dearth of recorded trans* family histories can be explained by these kinds of erasures - the editing out of trans* people from family albums and memorabilia.
‘Ken. To be destroyed’ is a work in progress. In this exhibition Davidmann begins to tell the story that is missing from K and Hazel’s wedding photographs. She is holding a ‘conversation’ with the family album, queering it, and returning a new version of the story to the family history.