Image credit: Pia Johnson Self-portrait in the closet, from I Said Goodbye to Every Room, as if Saying Goodbye to You series 2020, Archival inkjet print
I said goodbye to each room, as if saying goodbye to you
by Pia Johnson
I said goodbye to each room, as if saying goodbye to you speaks to life, loss and the houses we inhabit. I created this series a few months after my Por Por (Chinese maternal grandmother) died, when I visited her house for the last time, on the date of her birth. It was a house I knew well, a migrant home in one of Melbourne’s suburbs—a constant in my family and filled with childhood memories—now emptied of all her belongings. Although she had not lived there for her final years, there was a strange sense that the house still embodied her; that the smells and memories could envelop me, allowing me to say goodbye.
Although this is a personal space, the house speaks to the demise of the migrant ‘dream home’ in the suburbs. As this generation of migrant Australians passes away, so too does the significance of their family houses. The inevitable reality is that these homes will be demolished to make room for the production of new multi-complex housing blocks. With a growing population in Australia that may perhaps have different values, this work contemplates the importance and resonance of these houses within our cultural landscape.
Pia Johnson is a photographer and visual artist that lives and works on the land of the Dja Dja Wurrung people in the Macedon Ranges. Her practice emerged through examination of issues of cultural identity and difference stemming from her mixed background of Chinese Italian-Australian decent. These themes underpin her interest in memory, cultural spaces and performance. She investigates notions of trans-cultural identity, belonging and otherness through photography. Her current research explores the interpretation and performance of Eurasian ethnicities, engaging with living archives; intersections with gender; and the commercial practice of photographing live performance.
Johnson has exhibited in Australia and internationally. She has been a finalist in a number of photography awards and her work is held in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. She holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts from the University of Melbourne, and is currently a PhD (Art) candidate at RMIT University, where she also lectures within the School of Art.