Palimpsests | Elizabeth Burden

History is like a palimpsest—only one history, that of the victors is on the surface; the other histories have been erased yet are somehow tangible.  Using the metaphor of the palimpsest to explore my family’s history of the American West, these works use historical photos my personal family photo archive, to consider layers of history and how they impact us across generations.

In these new works, I am beginning to work with augmented reality (AR) tools and techniques to interface with my ancestors in a liminal space. AR is defined as an interactive experience in a combined real-world and virtual environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated ones, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory.

Palimpsests: Generations 1, 2021

Those who have died have never, ever left. The dead are not under the earth. They are in the rustling trees…

Sweet Honey in the Rock, Breaths

Generations 1 is set in my backyard in Tucson, AZ. It has a small house, now used as a storage shed, that is about the size of my great grandfather’s homestead in Saline County, Nebraska. It makes me think of them often.

View video on Vimeo (running time: 0:58)

Palimpsests: Generations 2, 2021

Wherever you go, you take yourself with you, and you will always find yourself.

Thomas à Kempis, translated into English by WH Hutchings (1881)

Generations 2 is set in Chicago, in the park across the street from where I am staying. I find that wherever I go, there I am–and there my ancestors are, too.

View video on Vimeo (running time: 2:15)