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A girl lays on her stomach on the edge of a pond, looking in and running her fingers through the water

Elizabeth Gu (’21) tells us about her thesis story, ‘Water Memory’

We had a chance to ask Elizabeth Gu (’21) about her thesis story, Water Memory.

Water Memory is a web story about a young scientist who aims to create bioluminescent light in a sunless, dystopian world. On the day her rigorous experiments succeed, her entire life’s work is suddenly terminated by nameless bureaucratic administrators. As she wades through the uncertainty of meaningless days, she becomes drawn to the ocean and is swept up in a massive wave that leaves her marooned on a small, peculiar island. There she encounters mythical beings challenging her ideals of personal choice, self-preservation, and what she ultimately must fight for in order to reclaim her agency.

A woman stands in the dark with a bioluminescent object

Tell us a little bit about the process of deciding on telling this story. Did you always want it to be told in this medium?

Deciding on this story kind of felt a lot like rummaging and etching out a murky figure for me personally. My process isn’t always like that, but I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself at the time. With ideation happening during peak pandemic time, there were a lot of thoughts and experiences I drew inspiration from. Trying to put those things into a coherent story format felt very challenging, but luckily (with any artistic process) the murky figure was able to become much clearer. I’m even realizing new things about my story now.

And to answer your question about the medium — I think so! I’ve always done things digitally, so it felt second-nature and natural to host my story online as a web narrative.

Why are you the only one who could tell this story?

I actually don’t think I’m the only one who could. I’m just telling one flavor of it because it’s such a big subject. It’s about a lot of things. I just want people to find their own points of relatability through my individual interpretation.

What themes do you want people to connect with?

There are themes of escapism, feeling lost, melancholia, and the weight of capitalism. However, it’s also about self-discovery and quite literally finding your own light. To me, my story serves as a reminder of all this.

Do you think you would have told this story if you’d never attended MFA Visual Narrative?

Probably not! I think all those defining traits brewed under these unique circumstances make Water Memory what it is now. The process of unearthing it would look completely different since I’m so affected by the people and environment I’m surrounded by at the time.

How did your mentor help you in the creation of the story?

Bee Grandinetti grounded me so much! I’m so thankful I was able to collaborate with an industry professional and human being I’ve long respected. I tend to overthink ideas (especially in those difficult pre-production phases). She taught me to see new ways of simplifying and streamlining my concepts that worked for me, without diminishing them.

The ‘And Then…’ thesis show will be online August 6th. Join us and enjoy the full story.

Be sure to follow her on Instagram.