memory and the film archive

I have recently become more interested in the way that cultural value might be related to memory.

It seems obvious to say that we might value a cultural experience if it connects to memories that we have. These might be good or bad memories. If the experience was not enjoyable, then ‘value’ might not be the thing that we necessarily think of when remembering it. Yet even dismissing a cultural experience which we remember less than positively, is an expression of value – or lack of it.

For participants in cultural activities, such as in our project, an event may be seen to have value if it is memorable, as well as enjoyable in the moment. Our participants all remember specific parts of the workshop experience; many of these, such as the morning warm up activity are strongly shared between the group.

Our project has provided several instances where participants have been invited to remember the workshop experience. We have had recorded conversations for example where Emily and I attempted to elicit what was most memorable. The film editing workshops have provided an additional layer of memory work.

The project films are an archive deliberately constructed, like other archived objects/materials, to ensure that the experience is remembered. The films could be seen as rememberings, recorded representations that may soon come to stand for the experience that occurred. They may also become testimony that the events/experience actually happened. Archival practices like our film-making, if we see it in this way, can themselves can both be the product of memories and trigger memories.

Participants have brought their own individual rememberings of the workshop to film editing, and conveyed through their editing decisions, what they most wanted others to ‘see’ about the way they experienced and remembered the event.

But of course, editing the film, putting the films together, showing them at a small gathering, and then having them shown at Tate Britain has provided another set of memorable experiences. And Emily and I have again recorded conversations about the film editing process and how it related to the original workshop.

The project has thus been one of progressively using memory – producing and reproducing, selecting and rejecting, foregrounding and backgrounding, interpreting and reinterpreting – in layers and folds, individually and together. I am wondering how much  this layering and working on and working over the workshop as material is a deepening of the experience. And is a deeper cultural experience, one which is layered in memory, one which is valued more, or just valued differently?

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