100 Stories About My Grandmother

Peter Kingstone

2008, colour, English


My work explores ideas around narrative, histories, and the intangible nature of truth. 100 Stories About My Grandmother uses narratives of others to construct a picture of my grandmother, and will deconstruct notions of family and how they work. The group that I will be using to provide the stories of their grandmothers is male prostitutes. The narratives requested will include both the narrator and their grandmother. I will not ask for historical facts, but instead personal lived experiences. This contrast of discussing my grandmother and asking sex workers about their grandmother is important. The societal descriptor of sex workers are destitute, drug addicted, amoral, disease infected, and lower class. Their voice becomes heard through either legislation, or well meaning community or church groups attempting to stave off the perceived perils that sex work brings to a city. 100 Stories About My Grandmother becomes an investigation that asks if there is more to male sex workers then the descriptions and the voices we have heard from others. In turn their narratives are used to build my grandmothers story.

Having sex workers speak for themselves, and not talk about their employ is a step towards understanding prostitutes as individuals. As has been stated sex workers is a group of people that society does not want to understand or offer respect. Sharing familial stories is a banal pursuit. But, by acknowledging these narratives 100 Stories About My Grandmother creates an understanding of the individual male sex worker, and includes them within the society. Also, these familial narratives usually would come from within a tight circle of family and friends. Therefore, sharing these stories with an audience produces an affinity. The audience would hear the tales and understand them, and therefore feel they feel a kinship with the narrator because of the constant fact that we all have grandmothers.

This point returns to the projects title 100 Stories about My Grandmother. The problematic I'm setting forth is that I know very little about my grandmother; in fact I have no lived experience with her. The disparate narratives will be cobbled together into 100 stories to conjure up who my grandmother was. The narrative structure of the piece is creating many threads about an unknown. This unknown is a black hole within the work, a hole that will be filled by the audiences‚ of their grandmother. Therefore the "My" of the title will not simply refer to each individual narrative, nor will refer to my grandmother, but will refer to the former and the latter plus the audiences experience with their own grandmother.

100 Stories About My Grandmother is a four-channel video installation, each presenting approximately 1.5 hours of interviews. The installation involves four video monitors, DVD players and headphones. Audience members can sit in front of a monitor and listen, through the headphones, to as many interviews as they would like. I hope that audience members will share with each other their feelings about the stories they've heard and the people they have met.

The monitors will be installed close to each other, but far enough apart to allow for private viewing. The walls of the gallery will be painted a very light purple or lilac colour, changing the white box into a more mature and traditionally maternal space.

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Critical Writing

Peter Kingstone
by Jon Davies. Canadian Art, Winter 2008, v. 25, no. 4.