Natalie Jo Church (American, b. 2000) questions the reality of interpersonal family relationships. Mining from her own experience and family history, she reveals the gap between the expectations and the reality of family; the gap between what humanity is supposed to be striving for, and what we actually experience. Through a deep dive into her own family's recorded history, converting countless hours of family home videos, Church has taken an interest in analyzing these relationship dynamics evolve over time. How does our past shape our present experience? With a primary interest in 3D and immersive art experience and in an attempt to process much of this history, she has focused on methods that bring a concise and emotionally confronting experience for the viewer. Her captivating installation opens dialogue and pushes for a greater understanding of the way these experiences shape our lives.
I thirst for empathy and generosity. Over the last two years, the onset of COVID-19 forced us into many uncomfortable spaces. Closer proximity to family members and an overwhelming amount of downtime has led to increases in conflict in our personal lives. At the onset of the outbreak, I abruptly lost my housing. I was debilitated by the thought of self-isolating alongside my family. I found it torturous to retract back into my family’s confinement after having had the opportunity to find my own belief systems. I was devastated to think I would have to return to acting like someone I wasn’t in my own home.
Despite the difficulties that came along with the shutdowns, I also got some extra time to tackle some long-awaited projects. While converting found family footage, I became deeply invested in how these videos informed the animosity and malevolence I had been accustomed to. By juxtaposing my family’s superficial happiness with the harmful experiences I lived through, I came across the following terms that informed my pursuit to understand my family’s self-destruction: pseudomutuality, parentification, introjection, and generational trauma.
In my investigations of my family’s footage, I found myself drawn to the children’s toys previously owned by my older sisters, and I began to wonder what these toys would say if they could speak. These toys became vessels for our stories, screaming out for help but being overshadowed by the laughs and giggles of our ‘loving family.’ The immersive quality of my installation is imperative to communicating its meaning as my work envelops the senses of those in the room. Subtlety has never been one of my strong suits; however, I have found that giving an audience latitude to form their own conclusions is often one of the strongest methods of persuasion. This atmosphere incites a similar feeling to that of the uncomfortable spaces I have become accustomed to throughout my life. By inviting my audience into a simulation of the uncomfortable spaces I was unknowingly forced into, I hope to share my desire for a new standard: a standard that means we care for, listen to, and appreciate each other.