“Mother” consists of 14 photographs and a video dedicating to my absent mother. Absence is a form of presence. Since my mother passed away, I went back to China where I was born and found 14 mothers who are my mother’s close friends and relatives. I bought a pair of floral embroidered traditional Chinese shoes to each mother as a gift, because my mother always loved the floral embroidered shoes. We took photographs together at each mother’s home where the mother wears the new shoes and I wear her cloth. After taking photos with each mother, I invited all mothers to come together for a group portrait.
This work seeks consolation and restores narrations of the past through visual expression of memories and loss, exploring relationship between life and death, human existence and universal emotions. I use re-enactment as a method of revisiting and re-imagining past to create scenarios of my mother visiting her birth place and meeting her childhood friends. Through using my own body to present my mother’s present, I reunite with my mother and become her. This work reveals how the mother/daughter relationship is experienced as a site of empowerment, and how memories cross time and space to create a new experience that not only transcends life and death, bridges past and present, but also transforms emotions and realities. “Mother” is an embodiment of a melancholic longing for an unrecoverable past and a memento mori: a reminder of the inexorable passage of time and the beautiful transience of human life.
Chun Hua Catherine Dong thanks the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec for its financial support
Photo credit: Zeng Jin Wen