in the Category: art
Put me in front of someone else's camera and I won't succeed
On the occasion of their exhibition Home Game in Botanique, we met daughter Lisa De Boeck and mother Marilène Coolens, the duo behind Memymom. With much pride, they took us into their world full of colors and stories, and as soon as we walked into the exhibition room we were completely absorbed by the different shapes of the framesa and the sizes of the pictures. For a moment it seemed as if the pictures were talking to us.
Interview by Astrid Stubbe
Photos shot in Botanique by Anna Van Durme
Congratulations on the exhibition! It is the first time that you are organising such a big exhibition in your home city. How come?
Lisa and Marilène: It’s not the first time exhibiting in Brussels, but it is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to use such a large space and make a big impression in Brussels. As a Brussels native, or even in your own country, that’s always a bit more difficult because you’re more likely to get noticed as an artist abroad. In your home city, it’s not so obvious. That's why it's called Home Game: we're playing one right now. Home Game is a continuation of the solo exhibition at Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi (2018), which was a representation of who Memymom was, us as an artist duo in 3 chronological chapters.
When we got the chance to exhibit here, we decided to expand it so we could also show our collaborations with others. We’re very quickly thrown into the box of a mother and a daughter taking pictures of each other, and then the story stops. Memymom is so much more than that. It's really about a confluence of two people, and not specifically mother-daughter or women, but really two people who match and start to make art together.
We’re very quickly thrown into the box of a mother and a daughter taking pictures of each other, and then the story stops
Lisa, how did you feel growing up and being photographed a lot?
Lisa: We came to each other in a very natural way. I was playing or working on something and Marilène brought out her camera. It was all quite automatic and it wasn’t necessarily just Marilène who wanted to photograph me. I needed to express myself, especially when I had seen certain things that inspired me. For example, after I had seen Catwoman I made myself a suit, and before we knew it we did a shoot where I imitated her.
It wasn’t necessarily just Marilène who wanted to photograph me. I needed to express myself
Memymom was created in 2004, although you had been taking photos for a long time. Your father and husband indicated earlier that you had to do something with it but he sadly passed away in 2002. How come you changed your mind in the end?
Marilène: Memymom was created in 2004, and in that year we decided to shoot digitally. Our first archive ended in 2003, and that ending was a transitional phase.
Lisa: To me, Memymom was more a reaction to his death, which was a driving force. If my father had not died, it would not exist. In 2011, it occurred to me that we could bring out that old archive, so I asked Marilène to start again. She wasn’t very enthusiastic at first, and since I wanted to do this together with Marilène, I couldn’t decide on my own. But in 2012-2013, we got an offer from the Brakke Grond in Amsterdam. I told them we were working on our archive and that's where it all started. It was pretty intense, crawling back into a past where he was still alive. My father was also a great help in those days; he brought the cameras, computers, and scanners. He was our creative director.
Marilène: That's right, if it depended on me, all those photos would remain in an archive and nobody would have seen them. Lisa kept insisting and in the end it just happened as it should. I certainly have no regrets and I never doubted whether we were doing the right thing or not. Once you go for it, you have to go for it fully. I also have complete faith in Lisa: if she comes up with an idea, I will follow her because I know it will turn out alright.
Lisa, you often play a role in the photographs. Are you sometimes completely yourself or do you find it difficult to show vulnerability in front of the camera?
Lisa: I don't like to show myself in photos. I don't find that very interesting. You won't find the natural 'me' here among our photos. What you will find is the purest translation of what we think or feel. It has nothing to do with vulnerability - that is just who I am.
Do you find it difficult to slip into a particular role?
Lisa: Yes, sometimes it can take a while until I have a fixed moment where the image is completely in tune with the role. I can only do that with Marilène. It's our interaction, it's what happens between the two of us and it’s a way of how we deal with each other. Put me in front of someone else's camera and I won't succeed.
Marilène: I am sometimes amazed at how Lisa can get into a role. I always wonder where she gets that from. Sometimes I hardly recognise her when she takes up certain poses and it perfectly fits the story. I’m suddenly in a completely different world where I can manage very well to create beautiful images. Afterwards, I can also edit much better.
I am sometimes amazed at how Lisa can get into a role. I always wonder where she gets that from
Is there always a certain story or conviction in the images? Or is it sometimes just the image that can speak for itself?
Lisa and Marilène: We have a story and an idea, but the purpose is to allow it to speak for itself. It is and remains art: we can't capture a story with all the images and force people to necessarily feel that way about a certain image. It's important to us that we’re able to tell our story and then let it out to people. The viewer can follow his or her path.
The titles of our works are important to us because they reflect a certain sensation, moment, or feeling that we had while making them. Sometimes we change a title because a story can change from time to time. After all, your work is a beginning in which you insert yourself and from which you can start to tell a story.