Archive Aesthetics and Community Storytelling

Sep 16 – Oct 15, 2020
Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 16, 2020  |  7:00PM

Archive Aesthetics and Community Storytelling

Archive Aesthetics and Community Storytelling is an online exhibition of work  created by students in the Archive Aesthetics and Community Storytelling course taught by Thomas Allen Harris. The course looks at films that redefine ideas around family in relation to larger social movements, with a focus on personal films by documentarians, artists, activists, and agents of change who are united in their use of the nonfiction format to speak truth to power. In short media projects, students employ their own family archives as well as those of the Beinecke and Sterling Library’s archives at Yale and beyond to explore issues and themes around migration, citizenship class, history, familial relations, loss and love. These bold and deeply personal works shine new light on family and identity while traversing Diasporic journeys that connect old and new worlds. As the family album seeks to unite people across time, space, and difference, the films and texts explored in his course are also journeys that culminate in linkages, helping us understand nuances of identity while illuminating personal relationships with larger cultural, social, and historical movements. 

Participating Students:

Miho Hirozawa Carey

Raiford Cohen

Alice Lieu

Ayla Khan

Allison Minto

Dan Onuoha

Annelise Ratner

Zyria Rodgers

Rhea Sakinah


Skin is, My by Miho Hirozawa Carey.

Skin Is, My is an experimental short, providing commentary on the hyper-association my brother and I have experienced throughout our lives as children of mixed race. Although the public eye never assigned me to the person that birthed me, I remained linked to the person who was birthed alongside me: my older brother, John-Henry. Without representation of mixed race families growing up, we formed a bond through our mutual exclusion from the American family portrait. Using the chaotic yet mechanical song, Skin Is, My, by Andrew Bird, I attempt to relay Bird’s feelings of distance between his soul and skin to my own experience. Although this isn’t the way I feel about my skin, the detachment Bird feels resonates with our experiences: our skins create a distance between the woman who birthed us and ourselves. It doesn’t illustrate the ways in which we are close to her and even identical to her. Experiencing this alongside my brother has enunciated a fluidity between our skins and bodies.


Caucasia, directed and Edited by Maya Raiford Cohen

Drawn from the public film archive, this project collects clips from various 20th century American films in an attempt to quietly excavate the trope of the tragic mulatto. 

Link: Caucasia


Hi Papa, shot/directed by Ayla Khan 

“Hi Papa” is an exploration of a complex father-daughter relationship. Using personal archives, it traces the evolution of the relationship from love, loss and back to love, reflecting on its various expressions, explicit and implicit, along the way. This process is mediated by memory, which is simultaneously reconstructed—to heal and transform the relationship.



Our Vân, written/directed by Alice Lieu. Interviewed my grandma, Mai Dang, my mom, Hoa Lu. 

Our Vân is a counter-archive aesthetic of a Vietnamese American family, told through a photo album that destabilizes the institutionalized, American-centric imperial archive of the Vietnam War. To begin dissolving the reductive frameworks of the hardworking Vietnamese refugee finding refuge in the American Dream, Our Vân turns to oral storytelling to wrest submerged Vietnamese subjectivities from their silenced states. The film acknowledges both agency and complacency in the perpetuation of violence found in our choices of silencing stories; trauma is neither resolved nor omnipresent. Our Vân, a bilingual wordplay on my Vietnamese name, Mỹ Vân, and the metaphorical concept of a collective history/futurity, becomes a liberatory act of taking control over how events/people are named or framed–and thus, remade and remembered.



“untitled (seven pictures)”,  filmed and directed by Daniel Onuoha

Cast, in order of appearance:

Selena Martinez

Sara Speller

Daniel Diaz-Vita

I made this film to situate the people I lived with, within my residential college, in an archive that I accessed through my job for the college; and this fascination with the past and present and the tendency for performance to warp those things resulted in a recording that was shaped by that tension, in which fellow Davenport students re-posing images from the Davenport archives re-inscribed the relationships in the photos.

Kaun កូន,  written, edited, and illustrated by Annelise Ratner. Interview filmed by Annelise Ratner. Archival images and clips from YouTube and personal archives.

This short film imagines the voice of my grandmother speaking to my mother as they arrive in the United States after escaping the genocide in Cambodia. The project engages with family, memory, erasure, and resilience in the absence of a personal archive.



“home.” Written and edited by Zyria Rodgers. 

This short film encapsulates the small universe that is the South, from the perspective of one who inherited the world on a screen.


One Love, directed and edited by Rhea Sakinah, featuring Patrick Grant.

Lost messages sent through sound systems, hours spent mirroring unfamiliar movements. This project explores music and music videos as languages, as cultural archives, as spaces to inhabit to reconnect to community and rediscover home.

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