Shumona Goel

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over one year

Shumona Goel has been making short personal films on 35mm and 16mm film formats for several years now. Her main concern has been the exploration of issues of displacement and migration.

This grant supports Shumona’s project Family Tree––a film installation, for public space––which will enable her to extend her current practice and deconstruct the film form as she moves from single screen to multiple screens.

A family tree is a map people use to locate themselves in history. They draw branches to forge links to ancestors or roots and subsequently assume that family members share similar traits. Shumona points out, however, that this is a restrictive model, at odds with the experience of migrant families whose directions cannot be anticipated or directed. Through this installation, Shumona will attempt to deform the concept of the family tree in order to consider 21st century family lives, which are dynamic and constantly in motion.

For Family Tree, Shumona intends on using source materials that are not literal, but expressive. The lack of a narrative arc favours a more poetic arc. The tree is a metaphor to see what a person or a family may feel like in motion or in pieces. By attempting to express the internal experiences of a migrant, this installation will fracture a single, solitary sense of self to demonstrate how migrants adopt or invent multiple and conflicting roles to cope with changing environments.

The viewer will also encounter a television on which low-tech videos chronicle the personal histories of Indian families in the USA. In one video, Indian immigrant women perform a fashion show for an American country club. By mixing feelings of melancholy with perverse humour, Shumona hopes that these raw and often outrageous videos will resonate with unexpected poetry.

Meanwhile, an ambient soundtrack will force the viewer to experience anxious phone conversations between migrants and distant family members. These personal exchanges fade into audible news reports–– summaries of social interaction. Shumona will link the experiences of her family’s immigration to the USA in the 1960s, to her own more recent reverse migration to India.

Ultimately, Shumona sees the exhibiting of Family Tree as resisting “art galleries in order to favour an exhibition space which is defiantly haphazard, because the piece is, at least in part, about the struggle of migrants to carve out a space for themselves”. She thus hopes to provoke dialogue among artists, writers, curators and innovative filmmakers in order to evolve new modes of curatorship and increase support for transnational artists.