I attending a workshop this weekend with Lewis Bush, on Storytelling. A little while ago I had written on ‘Narrative versus Story‘, which included some of Lewis’ work., and this was an opportunity to dig deeper, timely for the FMP Final Project Proposal,
It was a very helpful event. As it transpires, Lewis and I have several common interests – he is embarking on a PhD which will discuss Artificial intelligence and Photography, for example – so we agreed to stay in touch.
The workshop went into detail about the construction of narrative, using a lot of movie examples. I will not repeat all of the notes here, but instead focus on two aspects of his planning ideas.
As in my earlier post, there is a big difference between the story (the suffering during the Khmer Rouge years, and the optimistic outcome of improving education as a focus of the response), to the details of the narrative – how it happened, how it impacted individuals, and how we got involved).
The first is the trajectory of narrative. There is a totally chronological sequence, from our first visit to Cambodia in 1994, to fact finding, and then getting involved in the schools program in 1999/2000 (meeting all the key characters involved, including Khmer Rouge). This leads to some kind of resolution – building schools and influencing Cambodian education, both for us and the people we collaborated with.
But it is also out of sequence, in that we are now going back to do justice to the previously untold ‘Unfinished Stories’ of the Khmer Rouge years, and that is the centrepiece of the new work.
The second insight from Lewis is to ask focused questions about the narrative. Here are the notes I made during the workshop.
What is my Narrative?
The survivors of the Khmer Rouge Genocide that Ingrid and I got to know well, dedicated their lives to education – an optimistic and hopeful outcome from terrible times.
There are two audiences:
- First, in Cambodia, where their stories will be told for the first time – a kind of release.
- Second, internationally, where these stories will be situated in the historical facts as educational and thought provoking
What Key Characters are there?
- Keo Sarath and family, Being Simeth, Ung Sereidy
- The Yates family
- The Khmer Rouge we have met and who we worked with
- Government officials and educators
- The locations themselves (Killing Fields etc.)
What are the Key Locations?
- Killing Fields
- Cambodian Schools
- The installation location as educational venue
What is the Time Frame it takes place over?
It is a 45 year time frame, from when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and declared Year Zero, until today. But it is broken into segments, as in the timeline above. Our personal history is 25 years, and our direct involvement is 20 years.
The capture of previously untold stories of suffering from Sarath, Simeth and Sereidy is the work of the past 18 months. This is the visual focus of my work for FMP, book, installations and talks.
The header shows a draft layout I shared with Lewis and the group at the workshop. The principle feedback was about strategies for making choices for the central work – the Unfinished Stories.