Introduction – Are We Our Memories? Without memory, we are not whole - or as Dr Peter Marshall claims, “We are our memories” (Marshall, 2002, p.5). Despite this memory is an ephemeral concept - it can easily slip from our grasp, distort the truth and is often incomplete. It also forms the basis of identity (Schacter, 1996, p. 2). It is one of our most vivid links to the past and it is on our memory of the past that we base our decisions for the future. Memory is in not only the mind, but is infused in objects, dates, events and space. Childhood toys are kept and handed down to our children - perhaps in an attempt to give our children some essence of a happy childhood. Does the toy somehow hold the memory of such happy times? Wedding dresses are kept, but never worn again. Statues erected by now infamous leaders are often torn down as though by removing the signifier of a time the memory of it will fade along with the loss of the object. Faithfully taken photographs of graduations and birthdays, holidays and reunions are archived in photo albums or displayed with pride on the mantelpiece. Memories also exist in space and buildings. Hospitals hold memories of death, and of new life. The combined effect of the smell of disinfectant, echoing sound of hallways and claustrophobic, often maze-like, layout can have an overwhelming effect on those who have spent time in hospital. The empty space that remains where the Twin Towers stood in New York holds for survivors and family the memories of the thousands of people that died on September 11, 2001. This is despite there being nothing there, or is it because there is nothing there - the presence of absence? Memory also exists in the land; the scars of deforestation; the journey along a road; the layers of sediment exposed through excavation of land; a special piece of land that has remained in a family for generations has meaning beyond that of a physical place. Memory is also introduced into objects that did not exist at the time of the event. Memorials for dates or events such as the end of a war or a locket holding a photograph of a loved one become solid representations of a memory - Lest We Forget. We use these mementos, or Memory Objects as a prompt - something concrete to remind us of something which is not. However, these objects are much more than just a trigger. The loss of these memory objects does not cause the loss of the memory itself, then why would their loss be so terrible? In our everyday lives, we are surrounded with memories - photographs, furniture, wedding presents, clothing, and toys - all of which hold memories for individuals. Memories influence our identity, our relationships and the environment in which we envelop ourselves. The fragmented memories of an important event often leave those who experienced it feeling lost or incomplete and so we use memory objects as a tool to hold on to the memories we have left. Post modernism theorises that it is impossible to be objective, that human experience cannot be generalised or safely put into easy to understand groups. It theorises that truth is a socially constructed concept, one in which memory - which is extremely subjective - plays a key part in assembling. In the last ten years, there has been somewhat of a renaissance of interest in memory. Society-changing events such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have highlighted the need for conserving memories, for memorial and remembrance - in much the same way the World Wars did on their contemporary societies. Current popular interest in memory and related areas are shown by the curiosity in TV’s John Doe and films such as Memento. These touch on the relationship of memory to identity and reality. The lead characters’ inability to recall anything from their past or anything that happened more than moments ago, illustrates the importance of memory in constructing our histories and identities.
Published on Jul 17, 2009
Published on Jul 17, 2009
First Son is an exploration of cultural change in New Zealand from the 1940s till the 1980susing textiles as medium for communication. It ai...