Poorly Imagined Childhood

Poorly Imagined Childhood

… a poorly imagined childhood is an evolving long term project that explores childhood memories and experience across cultures. I have nominally centered it in 1950’s and 1960’s Hong Kong. This is the place I now call my home.

This project has been sitting in the back of my mind for quite some time. It has a direct conceptual link to an earlier project called … a poorly remembered childhood which lasted for several years. That project looked at what we could consider “real” and “imposed” memories. It also touched on the concept of “Cultural Memory”.

Memories are interesting things, and contentious. No one I believe will ever have the same memory of an event as another person. It can also be argued that we may never have the same memory twice, as the simple act of remembering can alter a memory. And comparing memories with others can add or remove detail. Psychology departments at universities are full of studies and experiments about this.

As someone who is curious by nature I have often wondered what it might have been like to grow up in a different culture. As I child I read with some ferocity. I was transported to lands, times, places and cultures that were so different to my New Zealand suburban life. When I made a new life in Hong Kong I started to learn more about its culture, its people and its recent history. Over time (I tend to think and research a lot), and after several rejected and abandoned avenues of approach, I began to look at what now seems so obvious to me, the discarded photographs and family albums I was finding in local second hand stores and in recycle shops.

I had also been “collecting”, initially in a very loose and haphazard way, then with a more defined purpose, people’s memories of their childhood in Hong Kong. Also, thinking back to my own (non Hong Kong) childhood and my understanding of other places and people filtered through a variety of sources, I have also mixed into this the imaginations of others not from here. What is interesting is the strong similarities in childhood experience that don’t fit just one place or one people. There is a universality.

The work is divided into two parts. Reproductions from my archive of found family photographs and a soundwork currently in the process of being designed. This work will consist of a multitude of voices in several languages related to Hong Kong. Each voice will be an individual account whilst building up a cacophonic cloud of voices/memories/fictive accounts. The soundwork will allow the “viewer” an opportunity to move from the overwhelming pressure of memories to the ability to concentrate on individual accounts and experiences by placing their ear close to an individual speaker and allowing that memory to, briefly, be understood with some clarity.

“Memories” were chosen from those collected. They are assigned by a mixture of chance and instinct to individual images and copied onto the images by calligraphers.

These memories are an amalgamation of real and imagined.