Artifact #1: Tiger Balm deals with the many facets of identity, nationality and immigration that are implicit in the relationships of Trinidad and Tobago, the US and European colonial history. In the installation’s mirror, a video depicts my mother and myself. In certain areas, both of us have been erased by replacing our faces and bodies with noise, reflecting the metaphorical state of visibility and invisibility often inhabited by immigrant people.
In the early 2000s, my mother’s and my travel documents were stolen by her husband to prevent her re-entry into the United States. This anchored us in our home country of Trinidad and Tobago where I was subsequently raised in my grandmother’s home until coming of age to apply for a new passport on my own.
The installation is a bureau, a shadow of the one that my grandmother has in her home. The bureau is a mainstay in many traditional Trinidadian homes; a hulking wooden relic that recalls British Victorian furniture. I recreate my grandmother’s bureau through the careful placement of personal ephemera: family photos, medicine bottles, various salves, makeup, and Tiger Balm, a Chinese ointment that has long been used in Caribbean homes for general healing purposes.
The mirror's video is constructed of pre-existing footage from our time in Miami. In certain areas, both of our figures in the archival video have been erased by replacing their faces and bodies with noise-- a reflection of metaphorical state of visibility /invisibility and presence/absence inhabited by immigrant and migrant people in the United States. In the case of my mother, it bears witness to her visibility as a once legal immigrant who was rendered invisible and absent due to forces outside of her immediate control: her husband and the state.