Project background & description
These photos were taken by the artist’s grandfather, Alfredo Brum, during the 70's in different places around the world. The stories behind them are very special as they not only depict him as a family man, but also reveal Alfredo Brum’s “secret” life.
While the series contains photos with wives and kinds going on vacation to places like Disneyland and ski trips to the mountains; there are whole albums full of pictures from nightclubs and exotic dancers in Brazil, Easter Europe festivities, and parties in Las Vegas, just to mention a few.
After his death in the early 2000’s, an inventory was done with Alfredo Brum’s photos, along with what was left of his possessions. For his widows, specially his first wife, looking at those photos was devastating as they didn't even know they even existed until then. The family barely knew some of the people depicted on the photos and most of them were complete strangers, so all the photo albums were put in boxes and stored in a basement at the artist’s parents house in Mexico City.
The artist’s first contact with these photos was a few years later when the basement got flooded after heavy rains. He found his father throwing away entire boxes with photos that had been “ruined” by water, humidity and a very particular phenomenon that would inspire him into starting this project.
Oscar Brum has used paint, ink, gold leaf, and the naturally occurring mold or fungi
caused by the water and humidity to which the photos were exposed, as well as damages caused by other factors, to reshape the context of the subjects depicted on them into an interdimensional sphere, redefining their existence in a contemporary world.
As in some pre-hispanic beliefs, fungi feeds from the dead, giving instead place for new life to be born, it transforms death into the precursor of life itself. This project is an attempt to retell those original stories, whose absolute truth has died with the artist’s grandfather, but their essence and great value have become immortal through Oscar Brum’s reinterpretation.
Given not only the amount of material found inside those albums and it’s state of
transformation, specially thanks to the factors previously mentioned, but also the
enormous sentimental, historical, and pictorical value of Alfredo Brum’s photographic collection, the artist refers to it as a “unique and very rare” gift. A gift that might have not been intentionally given to him, but certainly would broaden his boundaries and become a strong pillar in his artistic research.
Physical elements & symbolism
The artist has created different mini series from his grandfather’s photographic collection exploring what he refers to as the “Great Mysteries”: Life, death and the infinite cycle of regeneration and rebirth that, he states is the balance-giving force of ours and all realities.
Two of the most important elements of the pieces are fungi and gold. The first one as the destructive force that is essential for existence; and the second one, the most sacred of elements, purifies and gives new life in these forgotten and almost lost stories. The belief of rebirth and the infinite cycle of life & death has been part of the human kind since the beginning of history and has shaped entire civilizations. The cosmovision of some of these civilizations, specially the pre-hispanic cultures from Mexico and South
America represents an important source of inspiration and plays a defining role on how the artist approaches the symbolic construction of his pieces.
Other elements of the physical and contextual nature of the photographs such as the type of paper and ink they are printed on, their size, the place of the world where they were taken, the event they were made to preserve, the people they depict, amongst others, have been used alongside the harmonious interaction of fungi and gold to create a one of a kind series who’s aim is remembering the forgotten, “reviving” the dead, and reevaluating the “useless”.