“Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past” is a truism today, originally from the lips of our great, philosophically-minded comedienne and actress Lily Tomlin. It means simply that we need to radically accept that whatever traumas we have lived through are part of the life experience that created us, and we must build from there. Still, creative people cannot help but muse over alternate realities that might have been and, through the telling, make sense of the actual narratives. A Better Yesterday presents three personal histories and stories that are remade as ambiguously fictional situations.
JooYoung Choi created a complete alternative universe in which every visitor will need to play a part. Adults will remember when the characters on children’s television needed their help to be saved—whether that help involved drawing, dreaming, or singing along.
Jack Early presented Jack Early’s Life Story in Just Under 20 Minutes (2014), a multimedia installation with the artist’s ups and downs recounted with a Garrison-Keillor-like simplicity and playing from a customized yellow Victrola. The show also featured his family recreated as life-size pillow sculptures.
Lily van der Stokker is a Dutch artist whose medium is large-scale wall paintings that might resemble childlike illustrations but always speak of the complexities of adult lives and the weight of our pasts. Many of her subjects deal with nostalgic reverie, remembering the past fondly and creating a rosy colored picture that hints at melancholia and loss.
In the era of reality TV and near constant, multifarious forms of therapy, it’s refreshing to celebrate the aspect of artistic creation that makes cold, grey facts of past events into a mutable material for joy.