Things That I Know, Things That You Know

2019-01-19 – Feature

Language, Relationship

Things That I Know, Things That You Know is a combination of human form, objects and written text. Heather Rattray describes her series as a visual representation of the process of learning a new language.

Composed of a series of images and scanned written letters, this series is a memoir that follows Rattray and her mother through their long distant relationship in both physical form and language. Through a natural response of wanting to speak their native language, this story follows a family affair of both mother and daughter communicating in a way that was both confusing and sentimental. “My mother’s parents were immigrants from the Netherlands. My mother’s first language was Dutch, but this was replaced by English when she started school. My grandparents felt strongly that their children should learn English above all else, since they believed this was the way to succeed and advance in their new country.”

Rattray describes how learning the language takes place individually and then moments of joint communication mould their newly found relationship “I shape my learning around the everyday and try to visualise how this learning is taking place — my individual learning, and where my learning and my mother’s learning intersects in what we know and do not know. The learning process is difficult, filled with blank spaces where words struggle to reside in memory, and the struggle in switching back and forth between two vastly different languages. While we learn, my mother tells stories about her upbringing. I learn more about this language that is foreign to me and it bridges the gap of the heritage language that I am learning as the third generation.”

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Heather Rattray

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