I haven’t spoken much of one of the underlying themes of my work, transgenerational trauma, so I wanted to mention it here.
I, like many people, have experienced multiple traumatic events in my life so in order to better understand how to work through them, I turned to psychology. In my pursuit of psychoanalytical interpretation, I stumbled upon the term ‘transgenerational trauma.’ Transgenerational trauma refers to trauma that passes through generations. The idea is that not only can someone experience trauma, they can then pass the symptoms and behaviors of trauma survival on to their children, who then might further pass these along the family line.
Transgenerational trauma, in the case of this project, can be processed by the affected individual as the removal of identity through the parameters of incarceration, speaking physically as well as psychically. This refers to both my father’s absence in my life and not knowing where I came from as well as the inherited trauma from my ancestors – their identity as American citizens being being stripped from them and being labeled enemies and treated like prisoners. I am applying this concept through the lenses of personal and familial narratives as well as a fragmented political history of the United States, specifically referencing the Japanese internment camps of WWII.
My family’s story of trauma dates back to the 1940’s during WWII. My grandfather and his family were forced to leave their homes with only what they could carry in a suitcase and moved to the Portland County Fairgrounds where they lived in stables meant for pigs. They lived there for a few weeks until the “camps” were ready to move into. Once they were moved into the camps, they were only provided with a bare light bulb, a coal burning stove, and a couple cots. They had to make their furniture with scraps that they found lying around the camp. They repurposed materials to make art to find a sense of peace in the hell they were living in. This was later called the ‘art of gaman’ which means to bear the unbearable with dignity and grace. I used this idea of gaman and repurposing found materials in my studio into my art work.
Nicole, I measured the “random” vertical and horizontal lines on my wall and they measured 15.5’x8′!! I’m so glad that you pointed that out. Lol. It’s amazing how our subconscious guides us!
Below is a detail shot of my final installation in Beeler Gallery. In a philosophical sense, it is symbolic of the body imprisoning us (both transgenerational trauma in our DNA) and using performance (learning our identity) as a way to move through the process (doing the work). This is the experience just before and leading into liberation. This can be looked at on a spiritual as well as physical level.