Memory as an Ever-Shifting Prism

Dana Roy



As we reach the middle of the quarter, I am becoming more aware of my reactions to the assigned readings and noticing in what ways I have changed or have not changed. I think Margo Machida’s book, Unsettled Visions, has been a great tool in allowing me to discover and gain a greater respect for Asian American artists, not only by their artistic choices, but also by their examples of connecting emotional and memorable experiences with their present day environment.

In Chapter 3 of Unsettled Visions, I learned about the Asian American artists Kristine Aono, Yong Soon Min, and Hanh Thi Pham, and their approaches to coming to terms with how certain traumatic events affected their families, and what they did to capture this in their artwork. I personally felt that this chapter resonated with me because it emphasized the role that families play as inspiration to the artists’ works. Their examples made me think further into how aware or unaware I am of my family’s life experiences since they emigrated from the Philippines.  As I recollect the stories that my parents told me about their settlement in California, I am beginning to think about how their past has possibly impacted the way they raised me. I know very little about their emotional experience of immigration, therefore, I question if knowing more details would help me discover links to gather a deeper appreciation for my life in America. Maybe I could begin to see things with more opportunity and find even more purpose behind making meaningful memories as a young adult…

I also found it interesting that Machida explained memory as “an ever-shifting prism.” I found this to mean that, based on how we individually perceive our present environment, we manifest different ways of how we involve our memories into our lives. Memories can mean different things at different points in our lives. I was also very interested in the notion of “sense-memory” that Machida brought up when discussing scholar, William James. With “sense-memory” a viewer is able to find sensitivity and relate a familiar trauma to an artists’ piece. Through this experience, the viewer is confronting their trauma, just as the artist has confronted theirs. I think this is a connection many artists strive for.

Yong Soon Min’s piece, “Defining Moments”, is a memorable piece that opened up my mind to the idea of how artists may use their own form of their bodies to make a statement about traumatic social issues. In Defining Moments, Min used the landscape of her body to record Korean memories and heritage. I think the use of her Asian body delivered a feeling of vulnerability and nakedness to the world, along with a confidence in owning up to her body and taking agency of what has affected her, and not being afraid to share those feelings.


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