Before I begin to explain my three project proposals I wanted to share with you my thoughts on my final piece. Though it may seem that what I’m about to say is off topic, I will get there I promise.
The past 12 months have been a difficult time for me, for one reason or another I have struggled with everything life has thrown at me and I have been pulled into a very deep depression, I have taken various medications, sat through counselling and even ended up in hospital on more than one occasion, unfortunately neither the professionals or medication helped. During this time I began a project which goes something like this:
In 1975 my aunt and uncle moved to Australia taking with them their two adopted children. I’d never met my cousins but visiting them has always been on my to do list. Thankfully Facebook came along and it gave me the opportunity reach out to them. One of my cousins got in touch last year asking if I could help her find her biological mother, living in Australia was proving difficult to find information on UK residence. I agreed and began documenting our conversations and findings. As our relationship grew I decided I wanted to use this as the basis of my project. The project would look at our relationship during the many emotional messages we sent back and forth. As the idea developed it began to focus not only on this emotional journey but the physical one too. The hope and outcome in all of this was to find her biological mother and produce an album with documented pictures of my journey to Sussex where she was originally from and to deliver this album in person, that long awaited trip to Australia. However it was not meant to be this time, I was at my lowest and for most days was unable to get myself out of bed. The reason for this reference other than it being a memory is that I had planned to create a book, a book that would sit at a table, a table that would hold on it a teapot, a cup and saucer and some biscuits. Next to the table would be a chair and on that chair would sit, well, maybe you.
This idea, which arose before my critical study essay came about because I’ve experienced this setting while reminiscing over an old letter or family album. Many a Sunday afternoon, raining of course and pondering over old shit that I have kept for all these years, old diaries, stories, poetry, knick knacks you name it, I am a collector of all things useless but all are sentimental. I wanted to produce an installation, one that people could be a part of and experience their own lives through reading about mine.
So with that began my critical study essay which you may have already read if you looked at my previous post (Little Piece of Madeleine). Does the Photograph Remember Everything? was the title to my essay which focused on the way in which memory works and in particular to the relationship it has with photographs.
My critical study essay taught me a lot on memory and how memory works, to evoke memories doesn’t necessarily come from one particular thing. Our brains are made up of many different parts and each part holds separate information on one memory for example one area can hold information on sounds, the other on smells and another on the visual aspects. For a memory to be recalled upon requires the right trigger to activate it. Signals are then sent to all of these parts of the brain and new pathways are created to open up this existing memory. By recalling a memory you are in effect changing it, each time you recall it, new information is being added and new pathways are created. Indeed with each recall the memory is being distorted.
What interested me most was how memories can be triggered, photographs are a good tool for this but they are not exclusive. Many long term memories are triggered by our other senses; smells, sounds, touch and taste, with these a picture is presented in our minds and they are often involuntary. What I mean by this is that to look at a photograph is done by choice but it is often that unsuspecting sensory stimulant that triggers the strongest memories, that song that suddenly plays on the radio that you haven’t heard for years or a particular smell that drifts past your nose that reminds you of your first love. However if you combine one of these stimulants with a photograph, does it perform a better job of evoking memories? This is what I want to explore.
By creating an installation that people can participate in I want to invite the viewer into my life but also engage them into seeing their own. Would this installation trigger their memories? Using the same idea of using a table and chair scenario and offering a multitude of tastes and smells I wanted to recreate Proust’s experience with the Madeleine.
The drawing I created is the vision I have in my head of the kind of thing I would be looking at, of course the window would be artificial and the size would be that which is available to me, but it gives a sense of my thoughts. Depending on which idea I choose will also affect the table setting and the objects and ingredients used to create a sensory piece.
…but for now I will leave you with this thought, what is the smell of utopia? According to studies it is wet grass, smells which mean something to us, the ones which we can recall tend to be the ones which remind us of our happiest times and childhood.
Until next time…