Eight people from Taiwan, Denmark, Scotland, Romania, Italy, Lithuania, and one Kurdish carry unforgettable painful memories from their childhood or adolescence. The work presents audio and video, documents translated to the Chinese and English languages, and the paintings made as a response to the interviews. The artist interviews people from different countries and ask them to recall the saddest memories of their childhood. After listening to these stories, she reinterprets them and tries to erase those memories of the interviewees.
How to help them reconstruct beautiful childhood memories? The artist aims to visit their country and their age by conducting a field survey and gathering historical data. She uses painting, video, and document archives (maps, memoirs) to reproduce the scenes of those memories. Some of the interviewees stayed in a concentration camp, some were bullied in school, some saw criminals coming into their home to collect debts, and some lost their close family members. Each different story reflects a way in which this world functions. As we look from a child’s perspective, we can see the most intimate matters and national problems, such as war.
This work attempts to give these eight grown-ups who once were little kids new beautiful memories.
My name is R. I’m from Denmark. When I was a little child, in my early days of school, I was a little big, and I didn’t feel very good about myself. There was a guy and some people in the school that exploited that, and started bullying me. They liked pulling up my underwear and pushing around, grooving around and doing unpleasant things. I hope that maybe in the future, people could try and see a bit more about what their actions do to other people, especially children.
When I was a kid, I was walking to my grandparents’ home, and on my way I stepped on a dragonfly. When I looked on the road, it was half dead, but also still trying to move, and that’s when I realized about the power we have to hurt, I really tried to help it, to get it back together. I stayed with it for a few hours, trying to get it to fly again, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to accept the fact that we can hurt so much without realizing. That was the first time when I realized that how the world can suddenly get bad by our influence. After that I always try to make the world better by being aware of the consequences, and I think that is something we can all do. Just try to be aware of not causing pain and suffering around us through little and big things.
Hi, my name is K. When I was little, me and other kids from my street had this treehouse. It was a really nice tree house and we had it for many, many years. We gathered all the stuff around. We had the skin of some animals, and we had flower parts. We had nice really nice rocks we found around. We had a lot of stuff, and we really liked this treehouse. Then, one time I got kicked out of the treehouse. How it happened is that I went to eat lunch, then I went back to the playground where other kids from the treehouse would hang out. It was a multi-story playground, so some of them were sitting on top of stuff. When I got to the playground, everyone was suddenly quiet. Everyone was looking at me, and I could tell something was really wrong. Then someone said to me, “We talked about it, and we decided you can’t be in the treehouse anymore.” The reason why this happened was that I had traded some styrofoam for something else, and suddenly everybody started trading styrofoam for stuff, like a cool branch that you found. Suddenly everything was about trading and getting as much styrofoam as possible. It made the treehouse become not as fun, and everyone had apparently decided that it was my fault that this happened because I was the first one that charged someone for styrofoam. Anyway, back to when I got kicked out. They told me, “You can’t be in the treehouse anymore.” I tried to pretend I didn’t care. I was like, “I don’t care. That is whatever. I don’t care about treehouse.” I said that to leave. I started walking back, and my parents’ house was right next to the treehouse. As I got behind the hedge that surrounded the garden, I just started crying. I had to be really quiet because the playground was only 10, 15 feet away. I didn’t want to go inside and tell my parents because I was embarrassed, and also because I thought this was the sort of thing between us kids. I remember I was sitting in the garden behind the hedge, crying really quietly, and I could hear all the other kids playing on the playground and having fun. I was never going to be a part of it again. Of course that’s not true. I can’t remember exactly how it happened, as I was only nine or ten years old, but we all made friends again, and we were all friends for the rest of my childhood. Our parents still have New Year’s Eve together. I still see them around, and we like each other’s stuff on Facebook. What I really learned from this experience is that even when something really bad happens and you feel like it is the end of the world, like I will never recover from this, you will recover. Life does move on, and you will be better or you will be different. Or something. But you will move on. I’ve had a lot of bad things. Well, not a lot. But I’ve had other bad things that’s happened to me as I’ve gotten older and become an adult. It’s been really good having the knowledge that even if at the moment it feels as if your world is ending, you will be able to move forward, and you will be able to rise again.
Hi, my name is Owen. I was one of these kids that really, really wanted to be an astronaut. I followed all the rocket launches and space shuttle launches. It was when the Columbia disaster, when the shuttle crashed. I remember being really upset, not only for the people that lost their lives, but also I thought we were going to stop going to space It was something I really wanted to do, so I was quite hurt that this happened because I thought maybe I wouldn’t get to go in the future. But after doing a bit more research and finding out about it, in a way it turned to a good thing because it made us learn from our mistakes and move forward and not dwell in the past. This really bad thing happened, but we need to find out why. We solve it, then we keep moving forward. So I think that made a big impact on it. And we’re still going to space. I haven’t made it yet. Maybe one day.
My name is Giulia, and this is the story I’m going to share. The fact happened when I was maybe seven or eight years old in primary school. That day, the teacher gave us a color album, I think that’s what they are called, with different pages and images that were supposed to be filled up with color. I remember the break. When the bell rang, saying that there was a 15 or 20-minute break, everybody went out of the classroom, but I decided to stay and look at this color album. I found the most interesting page with this really nice image. I stayed there and I colored really fast. After that I really wanted to keep working on the same image, so as mine was finished I grabbed my classroom friend, the person that was sitting next to me, I grabbed his color album. I went to the same page and I started to color on his album without asking for permission because he was out playing. I thought that I could just get away with my small crime because I thought that I could just erase the colors before he would come back. But something went wrong because one of the crayons had a small damage, and some marks were too deep to get erased. So, I was erasing like crazy and I couldn't make it. When he came back, he realized I took his color album against his will. He and his best friend started to call me names, insulting me. They called me thief, and they also called me beast, which is an Italian way of insulting people. It’s a special way of insulting someone, as if you are compared to an animal that cannot have her or his own instincts. I was called beast, and I still remember the kind of harness and expressions on their faces while they were calling me that. I thought I deserved those names, but that one insult was just beyond my own comprehension. It’s not a real trauma, but I can still remember exactly happened and how the effect went on, and I still bring with me so many images after so many years. And those words. And I learned that you cannot get away with crime even if they are really small. And this message was translated into bigger context. That’s it.
My name is Jay Lin. I’m from Taiwan. When I was 9 years old, I lived in Kaohsiung. At that time, I had an uncle who often came to visit my mother. I remember they often discussed various things in the living room on the first floor. When he was available, he would drive me to my classes or cram schools. However, after he drove me to my cram school one day, I never saw him again. From that day on, I also sensed a drastic change with my family. My father and mother had become very nervous each day. In addition, our family moved about three or four times that year from various places in Kaohsiung City to the countryside and then finally abroad. One day I returned home. I opened the door, went inside, and then closed the door behind me. At that time, we lived in a five-story building that had a roll-up door. After I closed that door, three or four men who looked like gangsters started knocking on the door. I knew they had seen me, so I was very frightened. I ran to the fourth floor to hide. Those gangsters kept knocking on the first-floor door. Then they broke the windows with rocks and kept shouting, “You owe me money. You owe me money. I will teach you a lesson!” At that time, I was home alone. All the lights were off. I hid on the fourth floor, terrified. I did not dare to look at anything, so I turned off all the lights. At that time, there was a small place to worship Guan Yu on the wall, lit by red lights. I looked at it and saw that Guan Yu’s hat was shaking. The two red balls attached to it were shaking, too. I was almost scared to death, since there was neither an earthquake nor wind at the time. Even today, when I retell that experience, I am still frightened. After that experience, those gangsters eventually left. Later, my parents learned about this incident. However, I never told them about what happened on the fourth floor. Still, after that incident, I became more grateful and appreciative for everything my parents did for me. The next day, we emigrated to the United States. Everything that happened in Taiwan, I left behind in the past. As it turned out, that uncle had borrowed a huge amount of money from my parents. After he took me to school that day, he stood in front of a train and committed suicide. Due to his suicide, he could not pay back the amount of money my parents lent him. Also, my parents were his guarantors for many things. Consequently, that year, he caused a huge crisis for my family. In retrospect, moving apartments so many times in a year and facing such a horrible incident actually made me stronger. Because I faced this trauma at such a young age, I was not as frightened facing similar crises in the future.
Hey, my name is Imad, and I am a Kurd, From Iraqi Kurdistan. This story was about when i was about seven or eight years old. We were in one of the refugee camps in Iran. We fled the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, and we stayed in the refugee camp for a few years. We were not allowed to leave the camp. I remember my grandmother was very, very sick. She needed intense medical care and attention, but we could not leave the camp. Even when my grandmother was sent to a hospital, nobody could go with her. We were not allowed to leave the camp. Because of that, she actually passed away in the hospital. We couldn’t even send her body back to Iraqi Kurdistanm so we were forced to bury her somewhere around the camp. After a few years we returned to Iraqi Kurdistan, and we said one last goodbye to grandmother’s grave.
My first name is Laura, and my last name is Lygaityte. Originally, I am from Lithuania, and my childhood memory is mainly based on the fact that I grew up without my father. When I was nine months old, my father passed away, so I have no memories about him or any experiences together with him. It’s one of the most painful facts in my life, not only my childhood, but my life in general. It’s quite different for some people, because I’m not the only one that grew up in a family without a father or mother. For some people it’s easy, for some people it’s hard. For me, that was actually heartbreaking, because as a child I had to see my friends during summer going on trips, spending time at the beach, having quality family time. I’ve never had these kinds of experiences because my mother was too busy taking care of me and my brothers. That’s why she never had time to leave the place we were living at the moment. We never had these summer outings or summer trips, where we go to the lake and spend the weekend together with the family. So I was always kind of jealous about my friends, because they had something I could never have. Actually, it was also very difficult for me as a child to imagine how it feels to have a happy family. I was happy as a child, it’s just that I always felt like there is someone, that one person, who is my father, that is missing from my family. This experience for me as a child was very, very painful. My mother was very heartbroken after my father passed away, so actually she didn’t really like talking too much about him or sharing her memories and stories. She wasn’t even looking at the photo albums. It was hard for her to go back the time when my father was still alive. I never knew too much my father, and I never asked too much about my father, because I knew it was very painful for my mother. Now after all these years, almost thirty years, I think the only thing is I learned is to live with the fact that I was, I am, and I will always be that girl who grew up with a father. Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is very heartbreaking. But it’s the way it is, and I learned to leave everything behind and go forward with my life. And although I will never be able to understand how it feels to live in a family with a father, this kind of experience has brought me to the place I am right now. There are good things and there are bad things about it.