Yanru Deng

"Interweaving of Memories"

Section MS4, Mirna Pedalo

Keywords: collage, memory, moving image, photography, narrative

This project was inspired by my late great-grandmother who was from Chongming island in Shanghai. From an early age she was taught to weave the famous Chongming homespun, an important local custom closely tied to the island’s culture. Her skills were used to make traditional clothes for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (me included). Big box filled with her homespun cloths treasured her own dowry, as well as the cloths she spun herself. These pieces juxtaposed together told a story of her life, with each piece of cloth bearing a different pattern woven for a different occasion (her wedding, in memory of her happy childhood, to keep her husband safe while away…). Yet, as she moved to other places, her children and grandchildren grew up, and fewer people wore Chongming cloth, these pieces became superfluous and undesirable.

Chongming cloth spreads like a poem in the countryside of the Chongming island. Passing of the time is evoked through the movement of the shuttle between the vertical and horizontal thread in the weaving process. Still, the memories of my great-grandmother and our bond remain sealed in the Chongming cloth. By interweaving the extracted linear elements from retrieved pieces of my great-grandmother’s cloth and the first dress that I bought on my arrival in London, I want to mediate both the bond, and the generational and aesthetic gap between myself and my great-grandmother.

Four different combinations reflect four different ways in which I connect to my great-grandmother and her heritage. The position of the homespun cloth on my contemporary dress speaks of the memories and feelings that I’m trying to evoke. Positioned around the neck brings back memories of being embraced, on the pocket means she rests in my heart, and around the edges that our family lineage frames my life. The fourth one puts an emphasis on complexity of intergenerational relationships. The still images are accompanied by a video which highlights the process of making, stitching and sewing, as another way or reconnecting with my ancestor.