Palimpsest: Cauchemars de Mon Père (Palimpsest: Nightmares from My Father) intersperses images from “War Stories” with other images from my father’s slide archive along with video footage of magazine clippings that document the war in Vietnam—images that my father and other veterans likely consumed. By photographing his slides through a small slide viewer, I placed myself in the position of my father viewing images of past events, the re-experience of which was likely interrupted, overwritten, erased, rescripted through the recollection of events that preceded and followed them. By including Vietnam-era ephemera as video rather than still images, I formally distinguish these images from the ones that derive from my father’s archive and introduce and emphasize more directly a social and cultural context for his and other veterans’ experiences. Through its violently paced firing of images in which memories, the past intrude upon, become entangled with, and alter perception and experience of the present, Palimpsest re-imagines an experience of a kind of Bergsonian durational time. In this looped video without beginning or end, traces of past experiences temporally collide in a kind of febrile, heterochronic palimpsest.
My photographic attempt to access and re-imagine the traumatic personal history of my father, who died when I was seven years old and whom I longed to know better, is an invitation to consider the histories, war experiences, and post-war experiences not only of the individuals and places that he photographed but also to contemplate the profundity of war’s impact, which traverses time, place, generations. Palimpsest: Cauchemars de Mon Père’s subtitle obliquely refers to the title of Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, and is a kind of response to the United States’s decision to intensify our involvement in the war in Afghanistan. In addition, it registers the dark legacy that many contemporary fathers, mothers, siblings, and others will leave to those who love them as well as the nightmarish legacy of western imperialism in Southeast Asia.
Palimpsest: Cauchemars de Mon Père
single channel video projection, 3 minutes, 40 seconds