“Imagining My Grandmother”  (Lilian Fu / 2010 / video-animation)

Lilian Fu

In many ways, animation and recollection have strong affinities and may form the most interesting assemblages. The initial meaning of the word ‘animation’, which comes from its Latin root, anima, is to give life to a dead object. Memory in a way shares the same function of animated pictures. When we talk about or commemorate a person, we are ‘giving life’ to him/her in new ways through imagination, filling in the missing parts by making up new stories or adding in new elements from hearsay.

The similarities between animation and recollection give my project, Imagining My Grandmother (2010), a bit of irony because to some extend, I am giving a new life to my grandmother who is no longer alive, by re-telling her story through my relatives’ verbal recollection. In my project, the details I have gathered are intricate and fragmented – to arrange my footage is also to generate enormous possibilities to define the whole thing. However, the one most important thing that makes person A who she is and wouldn’t be transferrable to person B is, I believe, people’s impression of my grandmother. For in memory, the sensory impression of an event always lasts longer than the event itself. Impression is abstract but it sustains in the human mind for a longer time. Thus, the people in my animation do not have a clear face; it is the overall impression I want to portray instead of details.

I have added to the animation many improvised elements which indicate my presence as one of the participants in this project, and also my identity as a grand-daughter. In an early phase of my ethnographic research about my Grandmother, when she was still alive, I invited her to appear in front of the camera to be interviewed by me. In this present version of Imagining Grandmother, I have turned my footage into an animated interview. My grandmother died on Christmas Day, 2009, at 9:45am in the United Christian Hospital. For quite a long time, I was not able to fully register the absence of my grandmother and felt as if nothing happened. My deepest feeling within is that I cannot bear the thought of forgetting her. So I started to collect her things, including objects, pictures, videos and people’s recollection about her. I found that among all things, memories are the most powerful in tracing a person, and yet memories are so discountable since the ‘facts’ could be so easily altered by the speaker’s prejudice, personality and manner of speech. Moreover, each additional interviewee’s memories generate a distinct degree of individualized impression. Through the process of interviewing different people, not only that I gathered more information about my predecessor, but the interviewees also review more of their relationship with her.

The second part of the work, Black Box of Soul (2010), is a simple 3D-animation with which I ‘document’ my grandmother’s last few months of life. During that time, at first she was trapped in a small room at home and in the hospital due to physical disability. Slowly her space of mobility diminished to that of the bed alone, and in her final days she was trapped in her own body. In a long tableau shot, I show the audience minute changes in her relation to space bit by bit until the end when her soul escaped from her body.

In these two works, the inclusion of interviews points to the living time of my grandmother, and the black box installation is about her journey towards death. Thus the two echo with each other — dying, remembering and re-living, the story of a person unfolds. (Lilian Fu)

Imagining my grandmother 〈重構祖母〉 (2010 / video-animation)
Black Box of Soul 〈靈魂黑盒〉 (2010 / 3D video sculpture)