Date of Submission
Project Advisor 1
Senior Project submitted to The Division of Arts of Bard College.
In September of 2021, I turned 21 years old. During that time I also discovered a 8mm video tape in my childhood home. Unbeknownst to me, this tape, which hadn’t seen the light of day since its conception, would end up consuming my life.
The tape was a home movie filmed by my mother and her partner at the time during an outing to Vietnam in 2005. The footage consisted mostly of landscapes and claustrophobic close-ups of distant relatives. Rarely would I enter the frame. But I wasn't interested in seeing myself as a child or even seeing a shimmering Vietnam sunset that I have no recollection of. It was seeing small moments of my mother’s radiant smile. It was seeing her beautiful face softly illuminated by a golden sunset reflected off of water ripples. She looked like an angel. I had never seen her smile in that way before. I felt melancholic and at the same time enamored. I almost hadn’t even recognized her. She was a stranger to me. In that moment I realized, that's exactly what she was to me, a stranger yet a mother. By virtue of generational, societal, and language gaps, I know nothing of her story, I can barely speak to her on account of my failure to understand her native tongue. At the same time, she knows nothing of me. I will never be able to understand her and her struggle just as she will never understand me. Despite this, maternal and unconditional love lingers.
The 8mm tape marked a shift in my life. That estrangement is nothing new however. Growing up I always felt a sense of familial and maternal disconnect. I chalked it up to the immigrant experience but even that felt unresolved to me. My creative practice since has been attempts at uncovering the estrangement I felt watching the footage.
In September of 2021, I entered the Realm of Remembrance. Through a series of video installations and sculptures, I offer my childhood and familial history in order to explore notions of memory and love warped by the horrors of diaspora and migration. The materials take the form of objects familial and familiar to me from childhood blankets and toys to found footage. While objects like toys tend to be conflated with connotations of plastic, material, and consumption, in the case of my mother these materials become vessels of a certain love that became lost in translation, altering meanings of consumption in favor of gestures of affection guided by the American dream.
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Vanbach, Brandon, "Realm of Remembrance" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 296.
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