In the Wake of Deadad

By Andrew K├Âtting


Six years ago my father died, leaving behind him a legacy of love and violence meted out to his wife and family. I have been using his death as a catalyst into the making of work that deals with memory, autobiography and implied historical narratives.

in-the-wake-of-deadad-2.jpgL: Of the house he built C: Of the bath at our house R: Of being at Eden’s new college

So I decided to make a large inflatable effigy of my Deadad and take him on a journey to places of significance to either his life or mine. Once there I would inflate him using a generator and a small industrial fan and whilst standing in situ I would contemplate his has-been existence.

Then out of the blue as if from nowhere a letter arrived from the Faroe Islands.

in-the-wake-of-deadad-3.jpgL: Of the car that took us to the Faroes C: Of making our way across Mexico for the Day of the Dead R: Of their last supper

Dear mrs./sir.

I undersigned am in search of relatives and found your name in a London area telephone directory. My name is Walther Emil (Kötting) Thomassen, born on 18. of January 1946. In documents left to me after my mother’s (Óluva Thomassen) death, in Aug. 2000. I am the son of an Emil Walter Kötting, born on 14. February 1906 in Lagerfeld, Schwelm, Germany. His last known address is, 175 Regent Street, London W1. He was an english corporal R.A.S.C. no. 252297 serving in the Faroe Islands from 1944 to 1945 when he was recalled back to England. If you have any knowledge of this man or his relatives, I would be very pleased if You could write mke a letter at this following address.

Yours sinserly

Walther E. Thomassen

It was ‘Papa’, my Deadad’s Deadad who had left his wife and family back in London in order to fight for the British during the war. So I set about making another inflatable effigy, which I took up to the Faroe Islands in order that he might meet his father (my Deadad’s Deadad) and also his half brother (my Deadad).

We have travelled far and wide to locations all over the world including Germany, France, America and Mexico. The titles for each ‘Inflation’ are key and I leave you with the list of 65 (one for each year of the Deadad’s life):

1 Of the family grave in Wuppertal 2 Of the ancestral home in Germany 3 Of the road in which he was conceived 4 Of the house he grew up in 5 Of the office in which he would earn a living 6 Of the train that took him to work in Germany 7 Of the factory in which he worked after the war 8 Of the church he pulled bells with my mother in 9 Of him marrying my mother 10 Of respite from our Deadad’s rage 11 Of the house he built 12 Of the garden he nurtured 13 Of kissing the Deadad 14 Of the flat in which I lived 15 Of pretending he was a saint 16 Of the beach to which I lost my virginity 17 Of Pyrenean pastoral and my life he could never understand 18 Of the castle he was always too ill to climb 19 Of Montségur and the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail 20 Of the house we rebuilt 21 Of him facing the mountain of fear 22 Of the bath at our house 23 Of showing him the sacrificial stone under which I would like to be buried 24 Of the bedroom he never knew I had 25 Of life is life 26 Of hello Grandad how are you today? 27 Of the Deadad’s Deadad talking for posterity 28 Of documentation as proof of a new bloodline 29 Of the ferry that took us to the Faroe Islands 30 Of the car that took us to the Faroes 31 Of the house in which we stayed 32 Of the Faroese capital in which his Deadad conceived a child 33 Of the Faroese light making rhythms 34 Of the church his Deadad photographed in the Faroes 35 Of the cairns and their significance 36 Of a Faroese photographic re enactment 37 Of the Faroese homestead to which his Deadad’s he would run along 38 Of the long and windy road 39 Of touching his Deadad for the very first time 40 Of Faroese sea spray on the day we tried to get away 41 Of an ode to a Deadad 42 Of the football club they both supported 43 Of their Grand Daughters and Great Grand Daughters in my studio 44 Of the esplanade they would visit for a day out 45 Of being at Eden’s new college 46 Of bearing witness to a wedding 47 Of making our way across Mexico for the Day of the Dead 48 Of waiting for the grim reaper 49 Of our Mexican wanderlust 50 Of his Granddaughter carrying him across Mexico on her lap 51 Of the hotel in which he stayed for the Days of the Dead 52 Of a Mexican graveyard on the day of the dead 53 Of witnessing the dance of the little old men on the night of the day of the dead 54 Of the boat that took him to Janitzio for the night of the Day of the Dead 55 Of lying down on top of him and contemplating his death 56 Of the beach on which his youngest son learnt to surf 57 Of trying to teach a Deadad to surf 58 Of Hollywood to which he wished I’d aspired 59 Of the world bearing down on top of him 60 Of bearing witness to his oldest son’s birthday 61 Of him being used as bouncy castle 62 Of their last supper 63 Of the flat from which his dead body was carried 64 Of their ashes in the garden of rest 65 Of their being life after death NB - Of being inside his very being

The project can be viewed at and the ‘In the Wake of a Deadad’ Book is available through the Herbert Read Gallery for £30 including postage. Email: