Study of Conversational Patterns in Phone Calls to My Grandmother

Thread, pins, ink and paint on wood
30.5 x 61 cm / 12 x 24 inches

Ever since I was a child, my grandmother would periodically call to check on me. Because I was not well-versed in her Chinese dialect, these calls would generally involve her asking me the same questions, giving me the same words of advice, or describing some anecdote, and me responding in monosyllabic “Mms” or “Yahs.” Even as I grew older, I made little linguistic progress – I could understand more, but never did expand my vocabulary very much.

When I was studying in a different country, I had the responsibility of calling her every week. The patterns of the phone calls of my childhood have been further ritualised, in addition to being infused with stronger emotions such as guilt (for example, her reminding me to return home to Singapore to work). This study, based on three recordings of my weekly phone calls, explores my relationship with my grandmother through the identification of the nodes in our conversations – her repetitive questions, my simple answers.

This work was exhibited in the VCS Spring 2014 Open Studios (1 May 2014), on the BFA Visual & Critical Studies Department floor at the School of Visual Arts.