Who’s White, Your Mom or Your Dad? (2023), Multimedia installation, Semi-glossy print photos, digital video on flat screen TV, digital video on iPad, headphones.
Who am I? A question that has followed me through life as a mixed-race person of Italian and Jamaican descent. The racial gaze, an ever-present force, has led me to question my identity, my place in society, and how others perceive me. But this project, "Who's White, Your Mom or Your Dad?", is more than just a reflection of my experiences. It's an exploration of the mixed-race experience in Canada, told through the perspectives of diverse individuals who also walk the line between cultures.
Who’s White, Your Mom or Your Dad? was conceived after I uploaded a video online asking the audience to guess my ethnicity. The video received over 1000 responses, however none of them were correct.
My interest was to create a project about the mixed-race experience in Canada that would raise awareness, foster understanding, and promote empathy for the experiences of racialized individuals in Canadian society. The desired impact of such a project was to challenge stereotypes and prejudices, celebrate diversity, foster self-awareness within non-racialized communities, and encourage dialogue and engagement around issues of race and identity.
Once I understood my goals, I realized that it would be necessary to include the perspectives of other mixed-raced individuals because there is no one "correct" way to be mixed-race, and individuals
who identify as mixed-race come from a wide variety of racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Including a range of perspectives ensures that the project accurately reflects the diverse experiences of mixed-race individuals and avoids essentializing or stereotyping the mixed-race experience.
I also felt that highlighting technology was important for this project because technology has played a major role for me in my search for self-discovery, connection, self-expression, and in how I relate to others as a mixed-race person. Furthermore, this connection between identity politics and technology has been ever-present in the research done for this project. For example, in her book Glitch Feminism, Legacy Russel writes:
Within glitch feminism, glitch is celebrated as a vehicle of refusal, a strategy of non-performance. This glitch aims to make abstract again that which has been forced into an uncomfortable and ill-defined material: the body.
Though the glitches Russel describes in her book do not necessarily have to be digital glitches, I have found that the use of digital glitches allows me to speak to this concept. Furthermore, as a mixed-race person, I can relate to the notion of “error” through having felt as if my “mixed-racedness” is an error within our white, heteronormative, patriarchal society and that this “error” is not something to be corrected, but instead, celebrated. This celebration of error is demonstrated using bright coloured glitches in the project.
Additionally, the use of selfies in the project was a decision that was inspired by the work of researcher Katrin Tiidenberg whose work on female self-shooters (people who take selfies and post them online). What Tiidenberg found is that “self-shooting has been in no way a trivial, vain pursuit, but a self-therapeutic and awareness-raising practice.” As a self-shooter myself, I have also found this process to be empowering. This is something Tiidenberg also found of her research subjects; and, by using selfies and juxtaposing them with incorrect guesses of my ethnicity, in this project, I aim to create a piece that speaks to the possibility of empowerment while confronting the racial gaze.
Lastly, the use of colour in this project speaks to the vibrancy of the volunteers who spoke on their experiences and the excitement we all felt in creating a space for ourselves to speak on what our experiences have been.