I decided to choose the subject matter of personal identity in opposition to familial identity before John died. At first I resisted the specific narrative of my relationship to my father and his relationship to his father. But when John died it became a necessity to focus this project on my relationship (or lack thereof) with him. Death in the family is an inevitability that we all must face, but that loss varies depending on who it is. I have very few memories of John and I do not hold the highest opinion of him. However my Dad lost his father, and therefore went through a significant change and life experience. My empathy for my Dad, and the experience of witnessing his loss and mourning, led to me witnessing John’s farewell video to my Dad.
That moment was a major shifting point for this project, and one that informed me that I needed to steer the piece in an even more personal direction. By coincidence I had taken an interest in epigenetics during this period. Epigenetics is defined by Merriam Webster as “relating to, being, or involving changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence.” The implication of which is that events in one’s life can affect the gene expression (and gene function) of one’s offspring. Watching John’s farewell video to my dad I saw him move in very similar ways to how my Dad and I move. All of the sudden I was watching a version of us dying in bed. I was not prepared for the emotion response that that video elicited in me, and so therefore decided to explore that topic.
The fact that there could be hidden traces of a dead man inside of me was alarming, especially someone who had caused a fair amount of difficulty for my close family. I know more about John now than I ever did when he was alive. Even though I live quite far away from my Dad, through John’s death my Dad and I have created a bond through this strange reality.
Through an exploration of my own personal history and lineage, I hope to create an alien familiarity. Through specific example I hope to provide an entrance point that is relatable enough to spark a conversation. However, during the piece I aim to create an experience that is approachable. By making myself vulnerable to my audience and exposing my family’s particular history to them, I hope to provide a narrative that serves as an anchoring point for my content.
The theme of lineage, and the minute changes that occur when something is duplicated captivates me. If you repeat a process, eventually you will be left with something that is unique from the original. The digital is especially useful in this regard. Through corrupting video of myself, my Dad, and John I created iterations of digital doppelgangers. Recognizable distortions of the three main figures of this project emerge and fade, blurring the line between the three of us and our individuality. Genetically we three are quite similar, it’s only in those particularities, quirks, and a strange combinations of nurture and nature that we are individual from one another. I wonder what other permutations of us could have existed.