no flowers, test c-print, 24 cm x 30 cm, 2023

SINCE 2022

Grief hits you like a wave, crushing.
Death is where we’re equal.

My father bled out in front of the doctors during surgery. They didn’t give him a blood transfusion. He lost three quarters of his blood. Four litres of blood. In the sheets, on the floor, on their gloves. His nervous system collapsed and he became blind. My father left the German hospital as a severely disabled and blind man. That was in 2016. It was the first time we spoke about racism. Wir dachten, Sie würden es nicht schaffen, the doctor told him. My father had been a software engineer, who could no longer read nor code, and barely walk. In 2020, I started documenting his life with my film camera, as an excuse to get to know the new man he had become. In summer 2021, we traveled to Ghana together, the country of his birth, in the hopes of finding alternative therapy for his declining health. So richtig Ghanaer bin ich auch nicht mehr, he told me on the phone. I had to fly home early.

A few days later, he died in Accra.
8th of August 2021.

He went through the fire and then to the sea.

no flowers.

I couldn’t say goodbye.

A disfigured body; humiliated, dehumanized.

Delirium is a medical condition characterized by severe confusion, disorientation and changes in cognition and emotion. It can be caused by blood loss, medication, and trauma. My father saw figures, colors, and things we couldn’t see. His mind invented a new reality, one of hallucination, dreams, and nightmares, an isolating world that
nobody had access to but him. Blind people don’t see black.

What is real?

His sudden passing triggered a period of suicidality in my life. Is this the human nothing? The Nothingness? Living and functioning with a distorted perception of the world; dissociating daydreams resembling nightmares.

What is real?

Suicide is a societal taboo attached to a nervous urgency from those in your environment to kill your thought and desire. But the only way to overcome it reveals itself after sitting in the pain. Another way to overcome it may be meds, but I don’t take pills.

DELIRIUM consists of handmade chromogenic darkroom prints from AI-generated images transferred onto color negative film. The original photographs used as inputs for the AI engine were the analog photographs I took of my father’s life before he passed. When working with AI, the engine’s content policy did not allow for the use of human faces at that time. However, my African father’s face was not detected as human. I used the engine’s racial bias to create an intimate portrayal of the human experience, reimagining and transforming what was taken; memory and life – through photographic processes which reveal the pain we’ve shared.

Exhibition view Werkschau 2023 at Museum haus konstruktiv, photographed by Peter Baracchi

laboratory view, Berlin 2023

no flowers I-III (red glitch chromogenic iteration) 
2023, photographic objects (AI, C-prints, wood, black paint), 226 cm x 145 cm each 
exhibition view Werkschau Kanton Zürich 2023, Haus Konstruktiv
no flowers, contact c-print from laserprinted negative, 24 cm x 30 cm, 2022

Notes on no flowers:

–– Blind people don’t see black.
When blindness occurs as a result of shock like significant blood loss, the human brain still generates images, but they aren’t derived from what we call reality. My father saw figures and scenes we couldn’t see. It was probably a combination of his sudden blindness and severe side effects of his heavy medication. He told me that many blind people experience this, but never talk about it, because they feel shame and fear. I always thought of this state of dreaming awake. Not daydreams, but nightmares you cannot escape.

–– He went through the fire and then to the sea. No flowers.
After his sudden death in 2021, everything had to go very quickly logistically. He was denied to be buried next to his mother in Sanfo, his childhood home, because he had left church as an adult in Germany. So he was cremated. He didn’t receive the ceremony his mother had. I remember the abundance of plastic flowers at her funeral.

–– I don’t take pills
When he died in 2021 and I wanted to not live anymore, I turned into a machine, almost. The pain was too heavy to bear. Not the pain of loss, but the pain of all the injustice he had faced. The racism, the humiliation. He was so strong before all of this. What happened to me was something I’d describe as dissociation. I don’t know if it’s medically correct. I lived but I didn’t. I was functioning so I wouldn’t drown.

I felt like these states of perceiving reality, distorted and inescapable, somehow overlapped. no flowers is a larger series within DELIRIUM
contact print from AI-negative film roll (medium format), 2022
c-print from AI-negative, 24 cm x 30 cm

Exhibition view at Centre de la Photographie Genève in Geneva CH, March 2024 – photographed by Annik Wetter
© 2024 Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah

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