The importance of experimenting with the process of representation:
My experimental video essay, Just Sharing, is an attempt at making sense of the process of awakening my consciousness to the reality of my encounters with racial violence framed in a broader history of imperialism, which links the U.S. and South Korea. It is also an incomplete but continuing narrative about my aspirations of piercing a particular screen, which mediates the reproduction of dominant cultural norms and values contributing to the reinforcement of white supremacy. In the video piece, the screen manifests itself in the form of a white mask, which many racialized subjects desire to wear in hopes of mimicking the image of the idealized white oppressor. Such a characterization was intended to reveal my personal struggles of wanting to believe that the mask or the screen could protect me my own inferior and othered body. However, my desperate efforts to emulate whiteness can never be completely realized. It is precisely in these moments of understanding such a reality of unfulfilled inclusion into the dominant white culture that I recognize my own agency to imagine outside of the very white screen with which I had surrounded my racialized body. This struggle is the impetus for experimenting with different representational strategies as well as “playing” with the imaginary white mask that has shaped my desires to perpetually perform whiteness.
Inspired by Bertolt Brecht and Jean-Luc Godard, I experiment with how memory can be represented or made sense of in different ways. In the piece, the different story spaces presented constantly disrupt and interpenetrate each other. Rather than reflect on my personal memories of cultural assimilation through an arrangement of sequences motivated by the logic of causality in a linear progression of time, I try to demonstrate the plurality of different everyday cultural dynamics co-existing in a singular time frame. The purpose of showing the intervention of seemingly entirely different types of experiences with memory is to critically question how the fragments of our past experiences manifest in many different forms. Whether through oral testimonies, flashes of image fragments, physical rehearsal of memory through the body, or a combination of the three, this experimental video essay attempts to explore the different alternative methods and processes of constructing history beyond the practices of official historiography.
The scenes of the mother and the son demonstrate different kinds of experiences with memory. These demonstrations reveal the possibilities of performing or rehearsing memory in the process towards rewriting history. Memory in this context is not flashes of image fragments randomly intervening in our thought process. Memory can be conceived as past experiences that have been habituated into the body. The physical body and its performed motions can also mediate the process of making sense of and articulating the past experiences engrained in our very muscles. In one of the staged scenes, the mother and the masked son are found demonstrating a situation of a conflict between them unfolding in a supposed public area. The situation reveals the son’s shame for his affiliation with his own mother. The memory of this shame is something that lives in the body of the masked son, and it is only by acting it out that the viewers are able to witness the interactions and interpret the relationship between the two characters. Yet even these performed actions cannot continue for a prolonged duration. The performances of this scene are geared for the performers themselves to intervene in the demonstration of the situation, as they try to directly reveal their feelings and thoughts to the camera.
Another Brechtian intervention has to be made as the mother steps out of performing her role in order to recall and make sense of this moment through the articulation of words. The mother directly addresses the camera and retells the moment, which has been shown through bodily motions, in her own words. However, her thought process does not recount the detailed movements of her son’s body, she is more focused on contemplating possible causes or past events that lead to this moment of disconnect and broken communication between the mother and the son. By interrupting the dramatic actions with these moments of foregrounding character evaluation, the direction of the plot progression becomes increasingly muddied, and it becomes more difficult for viewers to emotionally invest in the story or identify with the characters. The disruptive images in the video piece reflect a larger critical issue of the need for disrupting our own consciousness from remaining in a state of complicity. Instead, Korean American immigrants, activists in particular, must intervene, as well as exercise our agency to re-constitute the terrain in which we choose to resist the forces of racial hierarchy and white supremacy.
Brecht, Bertolt. “A Model for Epic Theater.” The Sewanee Review 57.3 (1949): 425-36.
Link to Just Sharing