Sunday, January 18, 2009

You know... I don't know.

I had a good day today at my studio doing a lot of nothing and a lot of something. I interviewed my mom yesterday and finished transcribing her 30-minute long interview today. I interviewed my dad today (twice! the recorder failed to work the first time!) and am just about to start. I asked each of them to tell me the three following stories: how they met, how they decided to get married, and how a bowl my mother bought in Spain was repaired by my father.

When I was transcribing my mother's stories I, at first, wasn't sure if I should include all her "hmm"s "um"s "uh"s "you know"s "like"s and repeated lines. I did. Today when I was listening to my father's renditions of the same stories I was struck by how differently his sentences were structured, having just finished listening to my mothers for several hours. Both are fantastic story tellers but they do it really differently. My mother is more empathetic, colloquial, nervous, elaborate and explicit. My father is more clinical, careful, formal, confident, historical, fluid and pedagogical. My mother is a feeler and my father is a thinker. I'm going to have to think about this a little bit before I can make any gendered statements about it... except that, I guess that makes sense (?).

Most of all, I want to talk about my mom's stories. The most repeated expression she used was "you know." Here's an excerpt from one of her stories:

"So, so anyway when I got to Iowa, um, myself, I, I flew there and uh, you know, I found a place to live, well, actually my advisor had found a, a room for me in a house that was only, like, a block away from the, uh, from the department. So that was good, you know, it wasn’t particularly, you know, an inspiring place to live but it was very close so I just kind of went ahead and took it, you know, almost sight unseen."

About a month ago I had a conversation with my mom about how sad it was for me that I didn't really know very much about her life before I was born. I thought that it was very strange and anti-feminist to accept that her story began with my own genesis. So this project was born out of that discomfort. I'm so interested in her punctuative "you know"s because they mean two things: 1) this is an incredibly feminist storytelling gesture-- to engage the audience by asking questions and connecting personal experiences to a more universal one, and 2) In a way, this is my mother teaching me things that I don't know and inviting me to ask more questions of her. She's probably going to read this and be embarrassed, but I think it, and she, are awesome.

I've got a drawing in the works where I have taken one of her stories, whited out all of the text except for commas, periods, ellipses and the words "you know." I went to Office Depot today to copy it onto a transparency (54 cents-- I paid entirely in nickels and pennies!) and hope use a projector to help me draw it on large paper. In this particular story, the expression "you know" occurs 21 times. I'd like to make some larger drawings by overlapping my parents' testimonials over one another, but will have a better idea of how this is going to happen after I transcribe the recordings of my father.

Oh! updates! My cell phone still broken, cutely nestled in a bag of brown rice. I sorted through photographs at The Apartment today for an hour but couldn't make any decisions about which to take home with me before I got kicked out at closing time. Tomorrow is the last day of the Bush presidency and Martin Luther King day! Double hurrah! This is an incriminatingly nostalgic picture of our little family 24 years ago in Iowa. I'm so... pink.

1 comment:

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