The overhead projector is an analog piece of technology that was formerly largely used in contexts of pedagogy and classroom instruction. A device implicated into the history classroom education, one that is largely muddied by a lineage of biased, prejudiced, colonized ways of teaching, rooted in collective memories of historical events that form out of social construction. This idea is further complicated by the use of the personal narrative and subjective nature of the text when commenting on historical events. In this work, the overhead projector is used as a tool for making and displaying pictures resists a culture of the rapid creation, dissemination and reception of images in todays digital world. This project questions how much our notions of historic truth are reliant or largely dependent on visual images.
Fragments of text is printed on transparencies and broken into paragraphs, interspersed with the photographs for viewers to create compositions with. These pieces of text are excepts from a collection of short stories written by my late great uncle about his and my grandfather’s adolescence in 1930’s and 40’s Hawaii, which he titled “The Book of Joe”. Growing up in what was then a more rural Honolulu, facing the Great Depression, and eventually the Second World War, my uncle recounts stories of playing, fighting, and mostly fishing as young brothers. Written in his 60s, long after my grandfather’s young death, my uncle states his intention of the work upfront- to recall his older brother as protective, loving, and kind for the benefit of the wife and children he left behind. Through many of the stories lies an undercurrent of greater things at stake- poverty in the face of the Great Depression, proximity to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the complexities of being a Japanese-American during a war with Japan. Like many Japanese-American men in Hawaii during this time, both my uncle and grandfather ended up serving in the American military to guarantee the safety of their families from internment. My uncle served in military intelligence in the Army, and since he could speak Japanese, was sent to Hokkaido, Japan to communicate with Japanese Prisoners of War. Despite these events happening at the time, other than brief mentions of war the anecdotes are largely unclouded stories of childhood mundanities.
As with previous works, I continue to use found photographs, in this case selecting ones that remind me of familiar spaces from my home state where the stories are set, and feel reminiscent of the people and places described in the text. With the potential to be arranged in endless compositions, the pairings of images and text begin to illustrate one another, building narratives between text, landscapes, and figures, revealing and concealing information. There is a desire to fill in certain gaps- where evidence of memory and history become muddied. Using found images and materials to craft new narratives isn’t about extracting a factual and historical truth, but an effort to take advantage of the unreliability of photographs as documents to expose history and memory as constructions, consciously undermining the documentary use value of photography. These found images work to become evidence for a history I haven’t lived or seen, and a tool for illustrating fictional narratives framed by memory.