Emma Nishimura at Parallax

November 6, 2011

Emma Nishimura’s installation Vestige: Navigating the Layers was up at Parallax from October 7-31, 2011. Here is Emma’s artist’s statment from the exhibit:

Three years after finding a box full of my grandmother’s sewing patterns in my mother’s basement, I am still trying to work through all of the memories and emotions connected with it.  Passed down through the generations, I have inherited these patterns, just as I have inherited my grandmother’s stories.  Growing up, I was very much haunted by the experiences of my Japanese Canadian grandparents, their time spent in Japan, their internment during the Second World War and the years following that time.  I heard these tales around the dinner table at my grandparent’s house, my sister and I sitting quietly, listening attentively, learning of our family’s legacy.  Yet many stories were left untold, questions unasked due to the silence and bitterness that seemed to cloak the events of the internment.  Only now, in my attempt to gather and record all that is remembered of my grandparent’s lives, do I realize the impossibility of ever knowing the entire story.  All that is left are fragments of memories and different versions of events.  Stories mediated over time through different tellings and retellings have left distinctions between fact and fiction blurred.
After sorting through these narratives, my grandmother’s patterns and their many layers of history, I have taken on their burden and have acquired baggage that I cannot seem to let go of.  Thus, it is through this body of work that I seek to explore the ideas of melancholy, of being trapped in history and returning to the same stories again and again.  In re-making the garments that my grandmother once created, I have re-traced her movements and made visible something that was long ago lost.  Yet, throughout this process I have been acutely aware of the futility of my actions, as these garments can only ever be an echo of what once was.  However, despite the fragmented versions of events that I have collected, and the elusive and fragile nature of memory, I seek to create though my work an environment in which to share these stories.