“There is a moment in childhood when we first notice that everyday life in “our home,” may be very different from everyday life in the homes of our friends, peers or neighbours. It is a moment that can spark an investigation into who we are and how we live. In 2000, a woman investigating her past offered me letters of correspondence she kept with her former nanny for an art installation.” Iris Häussler
The theme of the project “Paulina” began with the real biographical details of a Russian woman subjected to forced labour during World War II, and for a time served as the nanny of a young girl. Now a woman, she is living in a suburban house outside of Bonn, Germany, where she tries to learn more about who the nanny was, what became of her, and how she might pay tribute to her.
Häussler was commissioned by the woman to create objects and drawings from the little evidence of the nanny’s life that had survived. She offered a small collection of returned unanswered letters written over the years and sent to the last known address of Paulina. The letters helped the woman recall joyful memories of her serene childhood–memories that for many years lived paradoxically alongside those darker suppressed emotions that recognized the abuses of war from which she could not be fully protected.
In a small room, furniture is draped with white linen. A glass display cabinet exhibits a collection handwritten letters preserved in wax casings. A work of embroidery reads:
Lange wartete der teller,
ob ihn ein Löffel berühre.
Einer, der die herausgeschwitzte
Suppe in den sich öffnenden
Mund führen würde.
Bis er nicht mehr aufgedeckt
(Roughly translated to English: The plate waited a long time to see if a spoon would touch it. One that would guide the soup out into the opening mouth. Until it was no longer revealed.)