I wrote about my new project a for the first time as part of a post on Body Impolitic about a photo Choice exhibition catalogue called High Stakes. I've proposed a panel
at Wiscon Time, Contingency, Memory – As Elements of Art. The new project is tentatively called Memory Landscapes: A Life in Time. If you're a member of WisCon, you can check "I would like to attend this panel" on the programming web site the panel is the very last one in the "Feminism and Other Social Change Movements" category.
I’ve been thinking through the complexities in fascinating conversations with literary friends, especially Debbie Notkin and Pat Murphy, who are on the panel. I want it to be the basis of larger conversations with them and the audience. About how our concepts and narratives of time are expressed in our work and how we see our lives in time.
As many of you know, I've been a photographer for 25 years, doing black & white fine-art darkroom social change portraits. I realized at the end of my 25-year series of portrait projects that I wanted to do something completely new and different.
I wanted to create a memoir. I'm 72, and have had a long and complicated life. I started thinking about memory, and how what is remarkable is not how much we forget, but rather how much we remember.
After a lot of time, thought, and less-than-successful experiments, I realized that my memories are not linear - because "inside the head everything happens at once." (Penelope Lively) Linear narrative is a useful construct, but it's not how we actually remember. I want to re-engage with the memories of my life, to create an autobiographical visual memoir, to express the poetics of non-linear time.
Memories are filtered, by who we are now, who we were then, and what has happened in between. We view our past through layers of memory, and the past is everything that happened except this moment.
Photographing my memories is a way of capturing moments in time. Not mythic moments, but images constructed from carefully chosen real objects, some only for aesthetics, many relics from my life through time. Objects are arranged and contexted to express narratives that are autobiographical slices of my life.
I had already been thinking about iPad art, separately from any project. With an iPad, for the first time one can make work where viewers everywhere see the original art, not reproductions or recreations. iPad art is also illuminated from within, presenting the opportunity to express the layering of memory. In a sense, I am creating memory landscapes that are iPad still lifes.
The project's first three photographs (of a projected 25) are included as work samples. One, "My Father and I," includes: photobooth pictures of my father (1932); a hundred-dollar bill; fragments of a shot glass; a black hacksaw blade; razor blades with our mutual initials; his cremation tags; and marigolds for mourning - all on an illuminated background of gray silk.
Making the images starts with thinking about the memories, the histories, and what initial objects will express them. Then the objects are arranged, rearranged, remade, contextualized, often replaced. The image evolves, is demolished, rebuilt, until the final memory landscape emerges.
I'm looking forward to many conversations that explore and enlarge on what I've been thinking.