Date of Submission

Spring 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Ben Coonley

Project Advisor 2

Kelly Reichardt

Abstract/Artist's Statement

My relationship with my sister has never been easy, or maybe it was, once, back when I was younger before I truly began to understand what made her so different from me. My deepest compassion and strongest feelings struggled to reach her—that is, I experienced difficulties in getting across just how I felt because she was distinctly unable to reciprocate with the same magnitude how strongly she felt for me.

As I got older, I began to understand that this behavior permeated many facets of her life—her knee-jerk reactions to changes in her routine or unexpected happenings, for example, were a sort of instant-recoil turned paralysis, as it were, and I feared I might become like her in a bleed-over way that is natural of long-term relationships or family dynamics. I had, in my head, a distorted image of a disappointing role model, someone to whom I owe many of my formative years, for better or worse. That I may have looked up to her for any amount of time was challenging to accept—who might I become, now? This fear prompted me to explore other, even opposite, avenues to travel along as I began to experience the brunt of my mishandling of a frustrated expression of my yet unreleased sexuality and ultimately, a response to my sister’s high-functioning spectral autism and her resulting struggle with an over-eating disorder; an issue whose literal weight pressed firmly on the nerves I might have used to understand the difference between what she wanted and what she needed.

So I took refuge in the space of the car—an object whose significance in my life began the first moment I looked out the window of one, suddenly able to see the source of the natural din of my world. In my own little semi-private space, the car became my “home away from ____” and it was there I learned the most about the way the world literally moves.

But in the space of a car that was not truly my own, I had to endure the back seat with my sister when I was not driving. I looked out into the world at the moving parts and the sounds to try to protect myself from having to listen to her outbursts, her histrionics. A window framed solely for me to avoid staring at a stomach whose size was made worse by her seated position. I looked out and I listened out so she couldn’t ruin the space I felt I’d built.

This project was initially conceived as an opportunity to literally look into the private space of the car that families share—the tense, turbulent, cacophonous environment created when a family and all its baggage straps itself into a metal and glass casing. But to do this, I would need to subject my sister to a series of stimuli and a collection of semi-dormant family issues that might exacerbate and even exploit her condition for the purposes of making art.

So, again, I looked outward, playing to the strengths of my actual lived experience. I drove around with four cameras mounted on the roof of our family car and recorded footage of the places of refuge I’d held onto so strongly for all those years. As I drove, I asked myself how the world moves beyond the intricacies of a personal family dynamic. Does it not revolve around our issues? What baggage is hidden inside the other cars that pushed and pulled with me in traffic, and how does that mirror the push and pull relationship I have with my sister?

The following is an expression of a version of my home that didn’t include my sister. What emerges is a sense that something is missing. It occurs to me, now, that something is, and has always been, her.

Here’s Looking At You, Madi.

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