The fragility of memory.

April Seminar, Day One: Something really interesting came out during one of the critiques today and I wanted to write about it before I forget it because I thought it was very relevant, particularly to my own practice.

One of the things that particularly interested me about the critique was a personal story behind the work, which I pressed my fellow student to tell even though she was reluctant.  I am always a sucker for the personal hook to something, because I am fascinated by people and by stories, particularly those that are revealing and intimate.

The thing I wanted to write about and remember was the reason for her reluctance in talking about the experience.  (I’m going to paraphrase horribly here) She felt as though telling the story multiple times reduced the power of what happened, and made it somehow seem less real.  The implication was that in sharing it, the experience became less special because it became less personal through the process of putting it into words.

This is fascinating territory for me, because it is so intertwined with the personal nature of memory and is another facet to the territory that I have been exploring. What clicked into place today was the idea that a memory, in the telling of it, could become a narrative that is somehow lessened in the act of passing it on.  I’ve always considered that memory is a vulnerable thing that can be lost or grow hazy over time, but I hadn’t really examined what we do to facilitate that or to prevent it.  The repetition of the story might at once help to solidify the narrative of the experience while at the same time eroding the power of the experience (and thus the memory of the experience).

This is problematic because in order to share or preserve memories we have no real choice but to create these narratives, but does the act of bringing it out of your head and into the world irrevocably change those memories? Does creating an image reinforce or undermine the idea of memory?  This ties in with the problematic nature of the photograph as an object of memory and the paradox that is caused by the fact it is a record of a memory that becomes a memory: replacing it like a cuckoo in the nest.


  1. I am enjoying your thoughts around memory and sense your are delving deeper into how the human psyche operates our emotions and behaviors.

    1. Thanks Kelly-Anne, I have to admit that after my critiques I’ve been questioning whether looking at memory is the right approach. I haven’t really made any decisions in that respect, but it is a topic that I am really fascinated by, so I’m not sure that I can let it go.

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