My thesis project recreates intimate family dynamics by showing the separation between what picture-perfect images project to the world and what is really happening in a family.
As we have all experienced, there is a private side to families and then there is a public persona. I’ve built a 9 x 8ft living room space that includes furniture, with personal family portraits hanging on the wall revealing the family and creating an impression of who they are. My vision for the set came from my mother, who was born in the late sixties, and her family. I was able to pull some archival photographs from the family album to add accuracy to the living room that I have staged and create an authentic personal atmosphere. I’d like the audience to walk through the set and notice the layers of complexity of family life—and also experience examples of family tension.
Through the room’s window can be seen an outdoor space. Using a projected video that features a person driving up to the house, I have set the stage for visitors to overhear a recorded argument that happens inside the family walls and is not supposed to be overheard. The audio recordings coming from the speakers in the wall and the controlled lighting create a vivid emotional experience. For some viewers, this may be reminiscent of their own family disputes, or of instances when they witnessed an argument in public that they shouldn’t have been privy to.
With this project I hope to present the aura of a family as they try to hide from outsiders what they are actually experiencing, covering up their home troubles. In reality, marriage, raising children, living and growing together as a family are at times messy and complicated. I’m pulling from personal aspects of my own life, and how family secrets and lies have led to the recent drama in my own family. Poor communication within my mother’s family has led to unhealthy cracks in its foundation. Like most homes, what was going on inside did not necessarily coincide with outside appearances. Things were hidden from the outside world. The image projected externally in neighbourhoods like mine was of white picket fences with meticulously groomed lawns. But behind the beautiful doors were real families that loved, struggled, fought, and potentially made up—and, with time, they hopefully moved forward. In a way, the dichotomy between what happened inside the house and what was projected outside was the first Instagram or Snapchat, uploading an idealized self while concealing many of the user’s inner realities. I am attempting to show that we continue to create these false selves, like the perfect family photo, so that people will see only what we want them to see. Where does the deception really start and where does it end? That is the question I am hoping to ask the viewer.