My project “The House That Built Me” is in honor of everything that one’s shelter can provide for a growing young man. The project is an overview of things that my house back in New York, the house I have grown up in for 23 years, means to me. The house will continue to stand where it is today, but I no longer will be returning to it for reasons that are inevitable. I decided to create a video that wasn't sad and depressing to leave this house, but more of a thank you to the home. I am saying goodbye to a lot of things, but I am taking my memories with me.
When I started thinking about degree project I was intrigued by the subject of millennial. Being a millennial myself, our generation is already been born and the next generation is currently being born, I felt that our generation is going to change many things from the workforce to how we interact with each other. Unfortunately I found that my research ended my yearn to learn about millennials due to all information existing and no new data to prove. I would be just retelling data that has already been established, with me being the medium and not the curator.
With millennial having a short life, I came across the concept of infinity as a philosophical force that we can not control but live with everyday. Infinity being a strong, broad word, it could represent mathematical equations, the power of time, personal history and feelings, even parallel dimensions. the opportunity of infinite possibilities exist with infinity, but that is also its weakness. Infinity being a powerful force within our universe, it was difficult to get my audience on the same page as I when it came to presenting my research. Some were thinking mathematically, others I am not even sure. This all lead me to my current degree project of taking my understanding of infinity inward, projecting it on myself to a create emotion that exists forever. A memory, a moment in time that is personal to me, but could present publicly to generate empathy and understanding.
Coincidentally during my idea phase of what I wanted to pursue for my infinite feeling, my home in New York was put on the market. After 22 years of growing up in this house, the house that I always called home, was about to become someone’s else. You never want to accept change and you forget that your parents or guardians have their own lives to attend to, and they are ready to move on from this home. Its served it purpose of raising three kids, providing shelter, food, fun, life’s milestones, and every bump and bruise to raise me. There is a tension between it belonging to me physically and emotionally. It will always be home, it’s not going anywhere, but my families time is up with what it has to offer. It is the house that raised me.
Infinity by definition is the state or quality of being infinite, an infinite or very great number or amount, and/or a point in space or time that is or seems infinitely distant. When I began my research into infinity, I found myself engrossed how infinity can be interpreted multiple ways. It can be mythology, real or not real, paranormal, religion, video, addictions, labyrinths, even chaos. Just with this knowledge of how it can be used made me recognize that is a very broad, powerful term. What in all this knowledge did I want to explore. I thought about it long and hard, and I couldn’t decide on one subject. I decided to take a unusual route. I wanted to break infinity.
Breaking infinity to me meant taking something that would exist in an infinite space, loop, or time, and remove it. Once removed, that area or time would become disrupted, patterns would fall apart, and it would become tangible. My main source of inspiration came from two books; Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis and Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. The Garden of Forking Paths is a book about a man that shows up to a house to murder a man, but instead has a conversation with the butler about time, space, and infinity. The trick in the conversation though is the butler never says the words time, space, or infinity. He presents scenarios that are possible, but you are not aware of them. That there is actual parallel universes happening right now that you are not conscious of. For example, the scenario where the man is talking to the butler, is it real or not? There could be a world where the man walked away and no one dies, or he could of killed the butler instead of his master. It makes the reader think hard about what if there is other possibilities.
The second book, Einstein’s Dreams, is a fictional piece of work where Einstein executed and wrote down in a journal over the course of a few months of his dreams. Every few nights, he would dream of time and what time means. Each dream was bizarre in its own way. One dream had time go in reverse, and another the mental awareness of time was only 10 seconds. With each dream being written down, you were forced to imagine the world that Einstein dreamt, making you reconsider if time was really something that can be interrupted in infinite ways.
From my readings, research, and knowledge of the concept of infinity, I learned it is divergent, convergent, and parallel all at the same time. It is also incomplete and innumerable, it will literally never cease to exist, bringing it back to the basic definition of the state or quality of being infinite.
To further pursue infinity, I found multiple artist that understood the concept of infinity differently and generated drastically different work. The two main artists I focused on were Lee Ufan and Ann Fessler.
Lee Ufan is a Korean minimalist painter and sculptor artist and academic, honored by the government of Japan for having “contributed to the development of contemporary art in Japan.” His work spoke to me because in his book “Marking Infinity” it goes into depth of how he embraces infinity into a moment. He stands over his paintings waiting for the exact moment that is right to make a single mark, and continues that mark until the paint on the brush runs out. The technique sounds simple, but when reading more into it and learning he would hover over his paintings from seconds to minutes to hours shows that teaching oneself to live with infinity and not control it but to let it control oneself was very inspirational.
Ann Fessler’s interpretation of infinity is drastically unlike Lee Ufan’s, in which her’s is more of a personal statement that generated her work. Back in the year 2003, Fessler created an installation piece called “Everlasting”, which was on display at MICA. “Everlasting” was a powerful piece because it was about girls that were adopted and the mothers that gave up their girls for adoption. Where does infinity come in? Infinity is the actually feeling that both the girls and mothers develop; infinite questions, the infinite feeling of letting their baby go, and how it is something they will live with forever. Fessler even states that when interviewing mothers they were told to just forget that anything happened, but they didn't, they couldn’t.
With these two artists as inspiration, I decided to reconsider what infinity meant. Instead of projecting outward and trying to have my audience be on the same page as me, I took the knowledge inward and looked at how it can be applied to myself. What in my life is infinite, or could be influenced by infinite. I then thought about past projects, one in particular where I created infinite looping GIFs. My infinite personal idea was emotions and memories.
With my idea of emotions and memories being infinite projections within ones mind, how does one convey that across to a public audience. In coincidental events, my house that grew up in for 22 and a half years was going to be sold. My home is now someone else's home.
Everyone has to go through this process at some point in their lives, to move out of your parents house. I accomplished early on the feeling of moving out at the age of 18 years old with moving to Georgia, later at 19 back to New York, then finally to Rhode Island at 20. I am familiar with leaving home, but over the course of those years, I always returned to the Smith house in Upstate New York for breaks, long weekends, holidays, and summers. I knew the day where I would have to say goodbye was inevitable, but it doesn't mean it’s not bittersweet.
How does one convey memories and emotions into a project? My idea started out as creating GIFs. A technique I am familiar with and convey's what I am feeling. I ended up tossing this idea out because when it came to execution, the possibility of having at least 10 monitors to showcase GIFs that would be small on each screen due to the amount that I wanted to generate, was difficult to gather for the presentation. I decided that the next solution was a video, but not shot in motion. I would shoot my whole project in still photographs just like how memories are created. Still photographs have this power of capturing a single moment in time and have it exist in infinite space. You will never live that moment again but that photograph is proof that the moment did exist. How does one then push photographs to the next level of emotion and memories? By bringing them back to life. When I say back to life, I want to have the still photographs animate in digital space, so they are pulled out of that infinite space and start to enter the space of motion. By doing this, I want to play with blurring the line of existing in photo space and film space, just like how my house still existing in space but it is no longer my place to call "home".
I then came across a process called Parallax, which is when a still photograph is ripped apart into layers in Photoshop, digitally generate elements that are missing behind layers, reassembled within After Effects, and edited with animation techniques such as puppeteering, position, scale, and depth of field. Through this technique I generated videos of photographs that metaphorically look like they are living. I would then assemble all my clips into one video as my farewell to the home and everything it taught me. This is "The House That Raised Me".
When I was 9 years old, I was psychologically evaluated for special education. I then was diagnosed with learning disabilities and placed in special education. At the time, nothing to me seemed wrong, but as I grew up,
I realized that I was treated differently. I was consistently being pulled out of class in front of my friends, totally embarassed. I can honestly say that the next 5 years were some of the hardest times I went through. That is why it is an influence to my development. It created the foundation of my inevitable appreciation to the house that sheltered me when I was feeling at my lowest.
These letters are recreations of the originals between one of my oldest friends and myself after she was forced to move. She had relocated to Arizona. The reason for relocating were reasons which I can not discuss, but she was there one day and the next the house was empty. Even she didn't know she was leaving.
The letters are exchanges from freshmen year of high school. Instant messaging existed but our friendship and bond was strengthened by the genuine intention of staying in touch through a more personal platform. Writing letters helped build a stronger foundation to strengthen self when having to live with unfortunate events. This influenced my project because I kept every single letter underneath my bed, where they will remain until they find a new home.
Process and Expirements
The title creation was something I struggled with for a bit due to one fact, I had no idea what to call my project. It had to with memorliazing my house and having it be my goodbye/thank you to it. I then decided to call it “The House That Built Me” because ultimately it will always be the house that had seen every single moment of my life up to this point.
I had a fellow classmate write the title of my project out in her handwriting, due to mine being a bit messy. Her curvise wasn’t perfect, but had this unique persoanlity within it. Exactly how I imagined my title. Something that read what I was feeling and looked the way I was expressing myself, not perfect, but has a lot of character.
Selecting audio for the project was by far the most difficult. I had listened to well over a hundred songs for this project. Something that wasn't depressing or sad, but not over joyful or happy. I wanted something neutral. I then choose the english guitarist Ben Howard, and his song Promise.