BECAUSE EVEN UNDER THE COVER OF DARKNESS WE ARE HAUNTED BY THE PAST (2012 - ongoing)
“At a personal level, we create memorials mostly for ourselves, to honor our own sadness [loss of youth, broken relationships, death etc.] but also to project ourselves into a hypothetical future [...] the memorial activates memories of past losses, collapsing past and future into the present act of memory” – Marla Carlson
There is a fine line between memory and imagination, and often times there is no line at all. And if there is one type of memory that we love best, it is nostalgia because it requires a level of imagination to be effective. Once considered a medical condition triggered in soldiers by a sensory reminder of home, nostalgia was curable by simply returning the victim to the place they longed for. This sense of homesickness pervades our memories in contemporary culture and implicates our identities in the process. Unlike other forms of remembering or trauma, nostalgia is about finding comfort in discomfort. We remember that which we long for and that which we wish to forget because it makes us feel good. And how we remember and what we remember defines both who we were and what we will become. Remembering is a theatrical act. By recalling our pasts we simultaneously restage the completely original (the thing that happened) and the simultaneously apparently fake (the recreation of that thing) in the present moment. We become actors in our own memories, a process that continually folds and unfolds in on itself—there is no beginning or end to the process of memory. But by memorializing past events we create something that can physically hold the memory at a distance while acting as a mnemonic device. Memorials, like nostalgia, bring us comfort and sadness. They remind us of who we are, who we imagined we were, and what we would like to become.
Using oral histories as a way of bringing the past into the present moment we talked with individuals about some of their life experiences. We conducted interviews whose structure was simple: fourty-five minutes; maximum ten questions; questions chosen at random; maximum ten-minute conversation per question.
“Have you ever had your feelings hurt?”
“Do you have any visible scars?”
“Have you ever won an award for achievement in sport or art?”
These questions—among twenty-five others—generated simple short answers and led to longer conversations. The interviews we conducted always began to meander into unexpected territory (not unlike a Situationist dérive) with our own memories becoming threads in the larger fabric of the narrative being created. The interviews were not documented. Instead we were able to witness the interviewee’s performance, remember it, mis-remember it, and then remember it again. After each interview we generated a piece of text that we thought represented the individuals identity, a particular memory, or a future we imagined for them.
The texts were integrated into a quilt thereby creating a memorial—a physical and outward manifestation of the participant’s identity that can bring them both psychological and tactile comfort (they will be wrapping themselves in the quilt after all!). The quilts are co-owned by Moschopedis, Rushton, and the participants. The physical quilts, like memories, will be used, mistreated, forgotten about, and on occasion borrowed for exhibitions.
The photographic representations of the quilts are more a type of portraiture, than they are documentation. The quilts in the photographs are surrogates. They are standing in place of and physically obscuring the person who the quilt is about. And by borrowing the traditional method of presenting a quilt in casual settings—wherein the maker stands behind the fabric, arms stretched out, holding it as best they can with fingers and toes exposed—we are capturing an instance of performance. But unlike the harsh juxtaposition of quilts being displayed by a maker in a kitchen or living room, we have placed our quilts in environments that contextualize both the quilt and the person it is meant to represent. In this way, we are documenting the quilt unaffected by memory, while forever altering the “original” story told to us by the participant. The photographs are the public face of a largely private art object (the quilts) and representations of a much larger process of social engagement.
The photos here were created in collaboration with our pal Bryce Krynski.