Author ········· Edgar Allan Poe
Medium ········· Print
Published ······ July 1845
Language ······· English


NOW I’VE HEARD HIM
– Pau Waelder



One aspect that has caught my attention in my brother Ian’s artworks is his interest in sound. The sculptures, the crumpled photographs printed on photocopy paper,  I got that. In our family, we have a history with visual art. Our father, Juan, is a talented draughtsman, painter, photographer, and sculptor. He taught me how to draw and sparkled my interest in art. I have been good at drawing since my childhood and was often told I would become an artist. Alas, I turned to art history and writing, and became a critic, a curator, and a lecturer. An observer. So I’m comfortable looking at things and coming up with observations and, sometimes, judgement. 

When Ian showed me his first artworks, I could understand how he had developed a trained eye for photography, like our father, and then how he applied a self-deprecating attitude to creating images and sculptures. How he explored the concept of failure that he had assimilated from skate culture, from tumbling down again and again and getting back up, from those videos in which failing is as much part of the routine as it is doing a spectacular flip. Then there were the sound pieces. The rumble of a rolling skateboard, a thump, the occasional clack. And the music, not a symphony but an endless rehearsal, unresolved but not dull. As with the other artworks, I sensed a certain honesty and fragility in these sounds. The difference is that they could not be observed from a safe distance, as one can do with images and objects. There is no listening with detachment: the sound surrounds you, penetrates your ears, and tickles your brain. Sound is inside your head, or it isn’t.

I want to think that Ian has inherited his interest in working with sound and composing music from our grandfather, Federico Waelder. Born in Stuttgart in 1918, he was a skilled pianist, and also a talented photographer. I never met him. All I knew about him was that he managed to escape the concentration camp in Welzheim and went into exile in Chile. Our father did not tell me much about him, and for many years I had only seen one photograph of the man, looking at the camera with a seductive smile, his eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. He was unmistakably our relative (the bulgy nose a distinctive family trait) but besides that he remained a mystery.

I had done little to solve the puzzle of Federico’s life when Ian started researching about our family in Germany. Periodically, he would send us e-mails with his findings, at times deeply buried in amateurish websites. Among the documentation he found were a series of recordings of our grandfather reading poetry in Spanish. These revealed what his photograph couldn’t: a deep voice with a mild German accent, firm but also gentle, surprisingly fluid in a foreign language which is now our own. In one poem, he recites: “An-to-fa-gas-ta,” pronouncing the vocals with his mouth wide open. And then he adds, playfully, “no lo olvides, no lo olvides.” Do not forget. Now his words and his voice have not only reached us, but become part of an artwork, a vinyl disc in which Federico reads a letter to our father and performs on the piano, in a mix with Ian’s own music. Do not forget, he said. Certainly, I never wanted to forget him, nor what he went through. But now the memory is stronger: I am no longer reminded by a distant photograph. Federico has told me himself, and now I’ve heard him.







© Ian Waelder, 2021