Becoming Por Por (After Beckett’s not i)

Pia Johnson

Becoming Por por (after Beckett’s Not I)

2018

8min 30sec

2 channel video

Becoming Por por (after Beckett’s Not I) is a video portrait of my maternal grandmother (Por por) and my mother that explores cross-generational cultural identity through memory and time.

MOUTH: … realised … words were coming … imagine! … words were coming … a voice she did not recognise … at first … so long since it had sounded … then finally had to admit … could be none other … than her own … certain vowel sounds … she had never heard … elsewhere … so that people would stare … the rare occasions … once or twice a year …

– Taken from “Not I” by Samuel Beckett (1972)

I am interested in the personal encounter, memory, the family archive and the questions and lines of connection they create to cultural identity. Here within the video work Becoming Por por (after Beckett’s Not I), I specifically focus on my maternal side – Por por (maternal grandmother) and Mum – and their Chinese Singaporean / Chinese Malaysian heritage and lives.

Explored through close shot video portraits within a suburban environment Becoming Por por is a visualisation of two women, an aging woman and her daughter. Within the possibilities of the frame, their mouths, lines, and expressions shape and connect each other and then disperse. Imagery in Singapore – the local area my great grandmother lived intersects the portraits, connecting back to the ‘motherland’, a birthplace and cultural space for my family. Implied is the natural course of daughter becoming mother, and mother becoming grandmother (one that in our lives includes me and my daughter as well). And on the other hand, the relationship to similarity and difference emerges, and how in the end they are ‘not I’.

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