Dena Elisabeth Eber
Book Review: You Refuse to Believe that You Ever Liked Pink
Dena Elisabeth Eber is an American artist whose practice includes digital imaging, digital mixed media, and interactive installations. Her latest photobook, You Refuse to Believe that You Ever Liked Pink (2023) is an account of Dena’s daughter Margaret’s transition into becoming Alex, a non-binary, asexual adult. In Dena’s words, the book — which was over a year in the making — “examines our relationship through changing circumstances, supported by the unconditional love we hold for one another. As for my voice, both pain and joy come through as I mourn the loss of who I thought Alex would be and fall in love with the person that Alex is becoming”.
Comprising portraits of Alex, interspersed with Dena’s poetry, and screen grabs of the messages shared between her and Alex, You Refuse to Believe that You Ever Liked Pink is deeply personal and intimate. When Dena writes “Today Margaret told me that she is Alex. I don’t know what that means…who the hell is Alex? Why is she telling me now?” there is a sense of going through someone’s private journal. Whether it is because of the mundane locations in which Dena has photographed Alex, the use of low resolution video screenshots, or Dena’s honest admission that while she supports her child, she doesn’t understand everything about Alex’s new identity, there’s something very unpretentious about this book.
Dena’s focus is not on creating a visually stunning book, but on documenting the reality of a major personal change. There’s an element of performance in the images, considering that Dena cites Cindy Sherman as an influence. However, Dena’s integrity towards her relationship with Alex takes precedence over aesthetics. The reader is taken into the heart of the family home, replete with an unmade bed, darkened corners, and a couch whose cushions have become uneven with use. This could be any family’s home, who are fighting their battles, navigating relationships, loving, losing, living…
In an essay accompanying the book, Alexa Dilworth writes “how do we understand self, much less the selves of those closest to us as they emerge and evolve?” You Refuse to Believe that You Ever Liked Pink does not answer this question, but reinforces the importance of love, patience, kindness — and sometimes even curiosity — while coming to terms with the evolution of those closest to us.
ISBN: 978 90 5330 958 2
By Shyama Laxman
ISBN: 978 90 5330 958 2