Arne Sjögren’s work, Diving: another place entirely, forms part of an ongoing series of multimedia assemblages in which the personal stories of fictional characters intersect with historical events. The works being screened for this online graduate festival consist of an installation of four videos:
The first video, Wendy’s story, is based on Sjögren’s own family archives and interviews with family members. It explores the ways in which a colonial Indian upbringing, especially her intimate bond with her ayah or nanny, has shaped the subsequent post-independence life, character, and relationships of an English woman. It is a fictionalised narrative set in the 1980s with flashbacks to the 1940s and 1950s.
In contrast, the second video, Ayisha’s story, presents an imagined fictionalised viewpoint of the ayah herself. Her story is set on the eve of Indian independence, and this fictional narrative is drawn from, and informed by, written British Raj childhood memoirs and recorded oral history research on domestic servants in India. In the form of a poetic monologue, Ayisha’s story recounts the relationship with her young English charge, Wendy, the domestic bonds that tie her to the colonial family, her treatment by the British family, and her brother’s part in the independence movement.
The third video, A means to a beginning, imagines, in an abstracted form, Ayisha’s granddaughter researching her own family background to unravel events and experiences from the points of view of both the coloniser and the colonised subject of British colonial rule in India.
The fourth video is a filmed record of the original three-part installation, in situ, documenting how it is intended to be seen in place.
Arne Sjögren is a practice-based PhD Researcher at CREAM, School of Arts, University of Westminster and a founding member of Hyphen Collective. He works with multimedia to explore fictionalised interpretations of historical events derived from family interviews, archives and personal memories. Through the use of different technological modes afforded by a series of intermedial assemblages, Arne’s doctoral research explores the idea of different narrative voices that express the complex personal experiences of ‘colonial entailment’ (Stoler, 2008, 195-196). This polyvocal approach to this fictional narrative both allows, and invites, multiple imagined voices to speak.
Stoler, A. (2008). Imperial debris. Cultural Anthropology 23(2), pp. 191-219.