Matias Costa’s The Family Project is the first of a series of Boken books published by LENS School of Visual Arts located in Madrid, Spain. Costa is investigating personal memory and identity, and for his own story, framed within the context of immigration.
He opens his narrative with a graphic symbol that is a classic representation of a family heritage, a branched family tree. The reading of this family lineage has been made even richer with the inclusion of family photographs, mementos and talismans. Costa then follows on the next pages with an upward view-point into the canopy of a tree forest, another metaphoric symbol for a complex family heritage. As a result of this viewpoint, the photograph includes the sky, thus the reader is also looking up into heavens and that our past forefathers maybe looking down upon us.
A photograph of migrating birds in formation, suspended between two urban structures, is a fitting metaphor for Costa’s other subtext, immigration. I can sense the movement between two stationary objects, which can represent larger continents. In this photograph, the blue sky can also represent the sea, the means of travel for earlier generations.
Some of the photographs are fragmented, symbolic of incomplete memory and that has been modified over time, sometimes purposefully, other times altered by the passing of time. In one example white-out has been used as obvious indications that the photographic content has been altered, raising questions as to why the deletions of someone/something from a photograph? It raises more questions than answers; what is the story behind this act, what does it tell about the past and this family? As with most family history, those who were present are no longer with us, thus we can only speculate on the unanswerable questions of these stories.
The book object is a stiff cover publication with small reverse folded edge flaps. The binding appears to be a combination of sewn and gluing, which slightly impedes the reading of the book, as the book does not open fully and some of the photograph content appears lost inside the gutter. Nevertheless, for me this is not such a bad thing in this case, as a book which is about incomplete memory, losing (or concealing) some of the photographic content can be construed as using the book object as a subtle metaphor for his theme.