duration: 2 hours
Commission for "MAP1: Waterways"; Venice, Italy. 2017
Be afraid only of standing still places alongside each other, text fragments of my grandmothers' dramatic escape from communist China, and of Marco Polo's deadpan narrative of his trek from Beijing through Southeast Asia.
My 98-year-old maternal grandmother recently passed away and reminiscing about her life with my mother, I recalled her harrowing escape from communist China via cargo ship. My paternal grandmother fled China under equally dreadful circumstances, with jewels hidden inside her hair bun and sewn into the hems of her samfu.
A child of the Chinese Diaspora, I wanted to memorialize these personal histories of border-crossing. Thinking about situating these chronicles in Venice, the legendary border-crosser, Marco Polo, of course came to mind. While his descriptions of foreign lands were fascinating, I found the deadpan accounts of his (seemingly endless) journeys from point to point compelling companions for those of my ancestors.
I wend my way from Marco Polo's home through the Diaspora Pavilion to the waterfront near the Arsenale, adhering text fragments of my grandmothers' escape and of Polo's journeys - using a concoction of human sweat and tears - onto the city's myriad surfaces associated with water. As the moisture evaporates, the slips of texts will flutter off in the breeze creating a new narrative of movement of their own.
Costume by the nonpareil Annika-N.
photos by: Colleen Flaherty and Something Human