12 ans après
In 1999 a European organization that promotes the emergence of young artists (Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes) selected Elina Brotherus as the artist-in-residence for the Musée Nicéphore Niépce located in Chalon-sur-Saône, France. During her stay there, Brotherus created her seminal series of photographs called Suites françaises (French Suites).* The series consists of images in which she teaches herself French with the help of Post-it stickers. It deals with living in a foreign country and absorbing its culture and visual environment. The residency was a turning point in her life. It enabled Brotherus subsequently to live and work in France as well as in her native Finland.
In 2011 Brotherus was again invited to Chalon-sur-Saône, this time to teach at a workshop in a local high school. She stayed in the same monastery guesthouse as before. She photographed many of the same places that she had explored visually twelve years earlier. The result was a series called 12 ans après (12 Years Later) in which her new images form a poignant dialogue with the older photos. It also shows the evolution, for instance, of her use of text in photos. The older photos have a Post-it with often just one word, whereas the new pictures may contain many stickers that form an extended narrative. In the series 12 ans après, the artist finds herself in a mid-life point. What she is living now was to her younger self an unknown future. She looks back at her life at the age of 40. The passage of time is made concretely visible.
* One of the images was on the cover of a widely distributed Thames & Hudson book, Charlotte Cotton: The Photograph as Contemporary Art.