Bloodlines, Kinship

Hilary A. Short

Bloodlines is a 228-inch-long installation made horizontally in Microsoft Excel and then rotated 90 degrees to create a dripping or oozing effect down the wall. It began as an inquiry into naming and the organizational hierarchy of the family tree. The tree serves as a symbol of nature, an inherited organizer used to display relational hierarchies of time and power, enacted subsequently through myriad metaphors. If the medium is the message, the tree is the medium that validates the family as a natural hierarchical entity positioned in linear time. The tree is, and has been, an omnipresent symbol for how we order and understand relationships—tying together “nature” and “order” in our collective understanding of the family. Contemporary genealogical practices carried out on websites like uphold hetero status markers of the family vis-à-vis patrilineal threads while privileging records of white lineages. Documents, or “records,” serve as archival evidence in this online database—thus archival evidence reflects social ties and social hierarchies. In this way, using to gather family data and Excel to hold said data is revealing what was always there—the tree as disassociated from, but disingenuously carrying forth, our belief that nature is unquestionable.

Kinship is an A1 poster depicting “spheres of memories”—memories associated with “inherited” objects—tethered to physical points around my home, which is drawn as a blueprint. Each sphere is surrounded by a fuzziness, as a translation of uncertainty and precarity around truth and knowledge. In Bloodlines, the “document” or “record” carries forth the archival evidence of the state. Here, in a domestic space, familial objects take on that role. Emanating from them (the objects) are stories; memories of passed time and past relations, and I am their captive subject. Objects like these are passed down through bloodlines enforcing genetic logics of inheritance and pulling them, discontinuously, into affective and temporal relations between the original owner and the current one. 

Click this link to access Short’s full artist statement.

Hilary A. Short is a writer and designer. Currently at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she is both working towards a MA in Design Criticism and is the Art Director for the Office of Diversity’s Inclusive Classroom Initiative. Her work considers the roles and structures in society—highlighting the struggle between personal agency and pre-determinism. Within a feminist framework, she explores relationships to our own bodies, objects, and memories all while trying to keep a sense of humor over wondering whether or not we have control over anything. Hilary holds a MDes in Graphic Design and a BA in Sociology.

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