Image Caption: Dear Eric, I am happy you have finished your preparation to finally publish your book and to be part of it makes me really proud. Participating in Sudden Flowers was a great experience and holds a special place in my life, as a time when I was truly engaged with my personal memories and emotions. It was a time of joy, discovery, and knowing people outside my inner circle. I learned ways then to explore my feelings and to express them in an artistic way. Working as a group was exhilarating and at times challenging. Sometimes I was afraid that people might judge me or ridicule me if I expressed my feelings or thoughts. Just because I am an orphan, I thought people might see me as different but in fact, in most cases, people showed sympathy for me. I remember when we were preparing our first exhibition at City Hall. I was very nervous during the days leading up to the opening, a feeling of uncertainty about the reaction of the viewers and especially the idea that my friends might know that my parents died of AIDS. The period when we were making the photographs – writing scripts and brainstorming on ideas that bring back memories of our past lives, especially the period of our parents’ illness and death – was filled with mixed emotions of sadness and regret. At the time I thought
it was better to forget all the bad things that happened in my life than to deal with the memories. Sharing those memories and stories with my sisters and friends was exciting and therapeutic since I learned that other kids have similar experiences and bringing those experiences out was a huge relief. I felt I was connected to other kids. We were really supportive to each other together. We laughed in joy and, at times, we wept with grief. Finally, I believe I have played my little part by showing some of the stories as an orphan to my people. I am particularly grateful to you Eric, who for the last fifteen years has been a mentor, a friend, a brother and a caretaker for me and my fellow sudden flower production members. You are an astounding person who has an empathetic belief that every child has a wonderfully touching story to tell and those stories can be shared and make a difference in the fight to secure a better future for AIDS orphans. Even as a young man, your ability to create ways to overcome challenges was unparalleled. I am thankful that you always supported my dreams, encouraging me to work hard and achieve my goals in life. I am really honored to have worked with you, and I am hopeful that you will continue to reach many other lives. Sincerely yours, Biniyam Mesfin
Assembly presents “Sudden Flowers,” a project by Eric Gottesman in collaboration with Sudden Flowers, an art collective of young people in Addis Abba. This NFT collection explores the complex lives of and harsh realities of young people growing up in one neighborhood in Addis Ababa between 2000 and 2014 who, in the wake of their parents’ deaths, experienced the trauma of grief, structural violence, and AIDS-related stigma. "Sudden Flowers'' was a fourteen-year-long artistic collaboration with a collective of young people in the Shiromeda/Sidist Kilo neighborhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The young collective delved into the possibilities of image making as a tool for self-expression, healing and teaching others. Together, they made photographs, films and installations and displayed these works in their neighborhood, throughout the city and the country. Each of their projects is like a “lyric” in larger poetic structure.
Eric Gottesman is an artist whose work addresses nationalism, migration, structural violence, history and intimate relations. His projects question accepted notions of power and, by engaging communities in critical self-reflection and creative expression, propose models for repair. Gottesman’s work is always collaborative, and he has never made an artwork alone. His work has been shown in museums like MoMA/PS1, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, MFA Boston, Houston Center for Photography, MoCA Cleveland, and the Addison Gallery of American Art. Gottesman is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Creative Capital Artist, a Fulbright Fellow, an Artadia awardee, an Aaron Siskind Foundation Artist and a co-founder of For Freedoms, an initiative for art and civic engagement that won the 2017 ICP-Infinity Award and was named the "largest creative collaboration in United States history" by TIME Magazine.