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by Kim-Anh Schreiber

January 2020



“I was paying attention to motherless girls throughout my childhood. Jotting notes: How big is the shape she left behind? How deep was the empty pool? It took a long time to answer these questions because I was absolutely intimate with the estrangement. But by putting these notes together, cutting, editing, collaging, organizing, and reorganizing, I began to understand the story of what happened. My mother, receiving a new life on a boat, mirrored this estrangement in the portrait of her relationship with herself, becoming very much like: a boat. And though I immediately understood that she had left, it was a long time before I understood that she was only coming back as a ghost.”

Part exegesis on Nobuhiko Obayashi’s cult classic film House and part meditation on the secondary traumatization of having descended from prison camp survivors and Vietnam War era immigrants, Fantasy is a testament to the power and vitality of art-making and meaning-making in the shadow of survival, making for a reading experience like few others:

“The phenomenon of children of traumatized parents being affected directly or indirectly by their parent’s post-traumatic symptoms has been described by some as secondary traumatization, and can occur through dissociation in the contexts of attachment, transmission of trauma through efforts to maintain control, and epigenetics. Very often the unexplainable or inexpressible or unconceivable is recognized by the next generation as an affective sensitivity or a chaotic urgency, ambient anxiety that children can sense but not understand, through affective messages, gestures, values, thought systems, and stories, like a code that is being communicated without translation. As such, children of “survivors” are often implicitly tasked with representing without ‘re-experiencing,’ in a forced labor akin to art, parenting, and therapy. This is often difficult when that which is being represented is unfathomable, the experience illegible.”

Excerpts from Fantasy can be found at Brooklyn Rail in previous forms.

Kim-Anh Schreiber is a multi-disciplinary artist currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Screen Cultures at Northwestern University, where she studies comedy, feminist, & diasporic cinema through hybrid writing styles. She has written two plays, Kult of Konsciousness and Meatloaf, and co-created the video project Candy Ego, which is in post-production. She holds an MFA from UC San Diego and a BFA from NYU’s Tish School of Arts. She can be found online here and here.