What is Where? and what is it all about?
This series of images, both still and video, titled Where?, focuses on my mother who was diagnosed with dementia in 2018. It started as a simple guessing game, where I, one of my sisters, or my father would send a family group text of a picture of my mom, followed up with the question, “Where?” It would usually be taken on one of the several hiking trails we do as a family. The more nondescript the place, the better. And if you could answer correctly, the response would be “you are amazing!”
Around the same time, I started shooting portraits and videos of my mother. All of a sudden, she wanted to be photographed. She was someone who, all my life, had avoided it, putting a hand up in front of her face saying she looked bad or old to avoid being in photos. Yet now, she desired to be in front of the camera. If I could bring her excitement in this small way, I would acquiesce. So, we played dress up—one time she channeled Yoko Ono, another time it was Yayoi Kusama.
Her disease has transformed her into a little girl without “grown-up” inhibitions. She has a child-like awe and is in love with nature. She finds beauty in the mundane. Every once in a while she gives motherly advice, but it is fleeting. I began to wonder, “Is my mother in there? Where is she?” The question “Where?” became an existential one. This series explores this question, while also celebrating my mother.
Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia?
Where? is a way to express love for my mother and raise awareness around the disease.
How has working on dementia-related art changed you?
I’ve always made work that was diaristic, so this isn’t a huge departure for me. However, it is different work in that I’m now focusing on another physical being as a subject rather than myself or dogs.
How has the work been received?
I’ve received so many positive responses to Where? Lots of heart emojis for my videos of my mom on Instagram, and they are the ones that received the most views.
This work is dedicated to: My grandmother and mother
Find more from June Kim on Instagram.