Are you sure?
“All families invent their parents and children, give each of them a history, character, fate, and even a language.”—Edward Said, On Writing a Memoir, 1999.
I developed Are you sure? to explore how conflicting historical narratives contribute to self-identity. Even though trauma often disrupts ties to families of origin, their versions of events can reach into the future, providing revisions that can become a kind of truth for the present self whether to embrace, ignore or resist. Each of these tangled stories in turn forms the shared stories of communities, societies. Are you sure? is a work of graphic memoir and an expanding archive, but one that makes no claims to fidelity, instead employing the instability of memory to invite viewers to bring their own memories, dreams, distortions. It is comprised of three photograph- and text-based works that formed an exhibition alongside painter Suzo Hickey at the Campbell River Art Gallery in 2015.
“Likes to show off” started with an uncaptioned photograph of myself as a child. I only know fragments of the circumstances—pieces of a dramatic narrative over which I have no mastery, no certainty, no evidence. So I asked strangers to give the photograph a history, a character, a fate, a language. I combined their captions with phototransfer on wood blocks to make an assemblage of image, objects, gaps and revisions to form a composite document—a new, shared story that acknowledges both the power and problematics of memoir and projection. This work was also in the Geometry of Knowing group exhibition at SFU’s Audain Gallery in March 2015.
“The Blanks” is an interactive installation in which viewers are asked to respond to family photographs in which the subjects have been erased. The typewriter and index cards invite viewers to read, revise and expand these records, resulting in an archive that grows with each exhibition.
Are you sure? (Volumes 1, 2 & 3), the third and title work of the exhibit, is a series of handmade image and text books in which I relate stories from my personal history, but which are complicated by my inability to provide a cohesive narrative. I use geography, family photos and 1970s pop culture as touchstones to remember and to forget. At the CRAG exhibition, the books were accompanied by a radio playing CBC at an almost indecipherable volume, providing a soundscape that is both distorted and familiar. This work also exhibited in the Photobase: Re-imagined Memories group show at the North Vancouver Community Arts Council Gallery in 2018.