Function 21: The Human Experience
Elisa Chiocca D’Alfonso
Elisa Chiocca D'Alfonso
In the video Half-Sisters I undertake an unresolved personal journey to better know my half-sister and ultimately, myself. Quite shockingly, at the age of eighteen, my father sat me down and told me I had a half-sister. He told me her name was Micha, and that she was thirty-three and was living in New York City. Growing up as an only child, I was used to being alone. Now, there was someone out in the world with whom I shared parts of myself. I didn’t quite know what to make of this information, how to approach her, or what this would mean going forward. Knowing she existed somehow changed everything I thought I knew about my life. My identity as an only child was altered and what I thought I knew as fact was no longer the case. This reality showed me that life never goes as planned.
When we met for the first time in 2014 in Montreal, despite being from different generations, cities, upbringings, and families of different cultural backgrounds, the similarities between us were powerfully evident. She looked like me; in fact, she looked more like my father than I did. We shared interests, experienced similar struggles; we spoke the same, and expressed ourselves with similar mannerisms. Micha studied psychology, and then turned to art, as did I. She painted and played the bass, as did I. It was like seeing an uncanny reflection of myself.
After our first encounter four years ago, we quickly lost connection. Soon, that part of my life got deeply buried. I blocked her existence out of my mind. Discovering this information made me feel resentment and anger, not toward her, but the situation as a whole. For Micha in particular, this experience has been especially difficult as this discovery confirmed her lifelong feelings of doubt about being the biological child of her father.
Years have gone by, and the desire to create a relationship with my half-sister has grown. To unravel this complex connection and find out more about this person with whom I share so much, I decided to film us together. The project Half-Sisters is a timely investigation of familial ties, genetics, and the dynamics between nature and nurture.
The project began by collecting recorded video footage of our intimate conversations over Skype where we discuss and share our experiences and emotions toward this situation. It then progressed by visiting Micha in New York this year to explore a deeper and more personal connection in person. The film encompasses an introspective look at our history, our emotions, and the complex nature of sisterhood. The video footage combines a range of material from pseudo-scientific documentation of our physical resemblances and mannerisms, to moments where we communicate our feelings. By capturing the experience of seeing myself in the eyes of my sister, the video examines the nature of genetics and the power it has to connect people emotionally and physically.
By actively collaborating in the creation of this work, Micha and I unravel our realities in this experience and grow to better understand each other. As personal as this story is, it offers broader insight into the complex nature of family relationships and the remarkable role genetics plays in connecting us.