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  • Writer's pictureCristea Zhao

2. Videos for the Grandchildren I’ll Never Have, 2019

Jason Phu

Videos for the Grandchildren I’ll Never Have, 2019


I got to know Jason Phu’s work after I just arrived in Australia. Firstly it was his solo commission show in Westspace, ‘My Parents Met at the Fish Market’. In fact, not only at this exhibition but also in his works in general, cooking, food and recipes are often the dominant elements. These non-verbal dimensions of Chinese/Vietnamese culture are important symbols for us to understand his practice. Decoding them, we can get a sense of cultural slippage, cultural heritage, and intergenerational communication and caring etc.

Videos for the Grandchildren I’ll Never Have is some very homemade quality cooking videos editing together with Phu’s parents telling stories or singing in different languages they’re capable of. The content included some personal family stories, love songs, nursery rhymes or folk stories. I didn’t expect I could have such an emotional feedback for this work but truly I did. This is a perfect example of how simple actions and language rather than text itself can have such an infective power over the viewers. The text, or let’s say the meaning of the content doesn’t matter here. It could be substituted with any other narrative forms, but the media that carries it already says what is needed to be said. It reflected and can be decoded into the migration/immigration as an important social phenomenon and then the geopolitical tides in the Asia-Pacific. There’s also a depth of history in this work as it invited us to imagine what our last generation went through, what’s their personal memories, what kind of collective memories they hold? The images of Phu’s parents cooking for the family is an emotive personal touch. That is an act of caring, nutrifing and breeding their next generation.

I found this work very inspiring to my own practice. You don’t need to literally tell a personal story with details to transmit a sense of intimacy. Sometimes a simple action can convey more than that. And when addressing the complexity of what we’re experiencing in the reality, you don’t need to reveal too much with too many components either. The context speaks, what matters is to find a trigger and bury it down.

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