Crackle & Drag: A film by TR Ericsson


On this page you can watch the film "Crackle & Drag" and find additional information about the work of TR Ericsson.


Ericsson's practice is one that tends to be shirt wet and hands dirty as it sings a mourning song. His epic project deals with love and loss, laughter and intimacy, struggle and grief. In many ways, the body of work he leaves behind is one of a life spent grieving, of looking back in order to navigate moving ahead with an emotional literacy that can be devastating, beautiful and necessary: A reminder that the end of the world is different every time.  





  • The Film

    A haunting epitaph of maternal and filial love structured around a series of biographical vignettes that document his mother’s life. The passing of time and distance are narrated by voice recordings she left on the artist’s answering machine in the mid 90's and early 2000's as she struggled with addiction, poverty and chronic illnesses. She died by suicide in 2003. Like most of Ericsson's work, this film is constructed using a combination of archival and originally shot material.




  • The Archive

    The Archive

    In the years following his mother’s death, Ericsson amassed an archive that would lay the groundwork for his ongoing series Crackle & Drag. The title comes from the song Crackle and Drag by Paul Westerberg of the alt-rock band The Replacements and pays homage to the poet Sylvia Plath and her poem Edge: “...The woman is perfected. Her dead body wears the smile of accomplishment…Her blacks crackle and drag.” 

    The artist’s archive is an expansive collection of biographical objects dating back to the early 1900s. These artifacts from Ericsson’s rustbelt heritage include thousands of snapshots, reams of correspondence and public records as well as numerous household items that document the lives of his working class family. Not solely concerned with the invocation of memory, Crackle & Drag makes a personal struggle public, as Ericsson seeks to narrate, contextualize and transform a crumbling inheritance into an indelible and moving response to love and loss.
    Many elements of the archive, which play a role in the film are reproduced in various artworks. These reveal Ericsson to be a process polyglot, though here we draw particular attention to image and text based works, which tend towards Deadpan photo-conceptualism with a graphic sensibility that demonstrates a penchant for both unusual materials and process twists. 



  • Fire


    Metaphorically and literally, cinders play a large role in this film as well as Ericsson's broader practice.


    The burning photographs. The ashes. The fireplace in his grandfather's shop. Cigarettes smoldering in the ashtray. By the end of her life, the floral patterned wallpaper in his mother's dining room was tobacco stained yellow. In an ongoing series of work (2008 - present) Ericsson takes a cue from these walls, using smoke to stain family images onto paper or wooden panels. The results are haunting: delicate, durable and tarnished into an almost  glorious gold that never escapes it's poisonous references. These works reflect the DIY Punk spirit of his youth, as well as his training as a painter and draughtsman.The image used here is the same photograph of his 21 year old mother as a young bride that we see in the film poster, or on the pool table. 


  • Ashes


    Like artists Marc Quinn or Janine Antoni who use bodily materials to instill meaning in their work, Ericsson uses a silkscreen process and mixes his mother's funerary ashes into the printing medium. What meaning is instilled with her remains? What remains? A grieving ritual appears over time as a very specific action is repeated with different thoughts in mind to be spread to unknown places again and again. The gesture could be compared with Indonesian tree burials. An organic ritual that gives vitality to human remains so that they'll grow back into the world. It's a gesture that implies an urgent attempt to reclaim what's been lost with the willingness to wait for it. The "tree" Ericsson constructs around his family is elaborate and rich. This is not a tomb or stagnant monument, but rather a dynamic and subversive method of scattering.


    This film momentarily however, returns to a time before this ritual as Ericsson must knowingly approach his mother's death once more and as the director, must decide when it happens and how to face it.  

  • The Box Set

    The Box Set

    In many ways, the film originates with an earlier work, which organized elements of his archive into 150 zines, each intended as notes for a film. The box set is an edition of 10, composed of all 150. According to Ericsson, "In its entirety, it covers more than a century of small fragmented photographic moments; however the looping narrative is far more intimate in scale and points continuously to the aftermath of one woman's passing (my mother). Considered as a film work, the story illustrates a very personal struggle to come to terms with the past while still maintaining an active fidelity to the present moment, which itself is continuously vanishing in time. Watching my beautiful daughter develop probably explains how I came to this work. I love the idea of being able to leave her these short filmic diaries before they completely disappear from memory."  He's made sure they won't disappear too quickly. Using the box set of zines as a vehicle, Ericsson places his family's history into prestigious libraries and collections including those of Yale University Library Collection, Harvard University, the MoMA in New York City, The Cleveland Museum of Art and others. As we will see when reading about other works, this placing of the archive and it's material elements add to the burial narrative.

  • Related Works