sabotaging memory + artists who destroy negatives

So I'm going through reams of small yellow plastic boxes of my father's slides and started thinking about working with them, altering them, bringing them into the here and now... some attempt to "engage the materiality" of them. After a chat with my supervisor all this stuff came up about what it means to destroy or impact negatives, the original and sole copy of an image. She's given me strict instructions to NOT read the classic, Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes so I'm flying blind and fumbling. Am probably going to embarrass myself and make some awful faux pas :)

Western culture sabotages memory every day by its intense focus on progress and advancement... the internet sabotages memory... and we are known as a culture with a poor memory (Jenkinson 2015, Eisenstein 2013) - other cultures have public ceremonies and rituals to recognise and honour the contributions of their ancestors and all the ways they've contributed to and made possible the existence that's here today. Our culture has none of that - when you're dead, you're gone and forgotten. Western families may have ways of personally honouring anniversaries and days of death etc but it's private - not in the public sphere and has to be recreated and committed to by each individual involved. Because of the lack of public honouring of western ancestral heritage (outside of war memorials, Anzac day and questionable dates like Australia Day), every day we witness loud and clear an apparent "truth" that our individual lives don't matter and will not be remembered by anyone at all.

By sabotaging my father's slides, I'm attempting to bring his personal memories, his personal vision of the world, into the space of the universal - to create new memories from old ones for myself and for others, to bring into the present moment an awareness of the annihilation and forgetting of ourselves - a transcendence of some kind, transcending the personal, transcending relationship, transcending memory....

We all know (but rarely if ever talk about or think about) that most of us won't be remembered after we die outside of our immediate family and friend circle and even then, only on occasion. We will have no ongoing presence, importance or influence in their lives. Our memories, hopes and dreams, all the things we fought for, all the things we care so deeply about, will die with us. And at best, it seems our names will only live on for the next 2 generations. I don't know my great great grandparents names - do you? Their memories and their lives are gone and we live as though they don't matter to us as a culture... individually yes, they may matter - but only if we embrace an interest in biography, history and genealogy but otherwise... there's nothing left behind, no memory at all.

Am I playing god by modifying memory? Is that what I want to do?

I don't know.... I have no idea what I'm doing or where I'm going...




Grayson Cooke   

Akram Zaatari

Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend

Amy Friend

"I am not specifically concerned with capturing a “concrete” reality in my photographs. I aim to use photography as a medium that explores the relationship between what is visible and non-visible. I have continued to work on the Dare alla Luce series over a period of time; initially responding to a collection of vintage photographs, retrieved from a variety of sources. Through hand-manipulated interventions I alter and subsequently re-photograph the images “re-making” photographs that oscillate between what is present and absent. I aim to comment on the fragile quality of the photographic object but also on the fragility of our lives, our history. All are lost so easily." - Amy Friend

Before the War

There It is

Inspired by a small, found archive of personal photographs, documents, and objects, Amy Friend presents a new body of work that considers how identity comprises both fact and fiction. Working from anonymous and family photographs and Super-8 films, Friend composes new images by manipulating and photographing abstracted excerpts of the original sources. Ambiguous and enigmatic, these images at once explore and confuse the histories they reference, suggesting new narratives from the minimal details they provide, and Friend uses this to reflect on how we understand and interpret the people around us. When anomalous threads appear and begin to unravel the fabric of stories we think we know, we call into question what is accepted as truth. So little can say so much, and even greater is the unexplored mystery of the spaces between what is known.

Assorted Boxes

Pete Ashton

The image is projected onto a piece of scratched plastic and photographed digitally...

Robert Saint Rich

"There is this recurring instance where I feel an overwhelming detachment from the pieces that I am creating. My process in freeing myself from that feeling is generally found by wiping the slate clean and defining a new process in which I can express myself in my visual language." - Robert Saint Rich