Childhood Memories, 2010
For this project, I chose a conceptual placement. I don’t believe a placement has to be a physical place, as this only confines us to the limits of geographical location. My favourite way of expressing this concept to people was to get them to close their eyes and to imagine themselves on the top of a mountain, where they can see everything below, all the trees and the fields and the distant horizon – when they’ve opened their eyes, who’s to say they weren’t really there? I took this concept one step further by applying it to my personal memories, as I believe memories, especially distant ones, are an interesting mixture of the real and the imaginative as they pit the facts of sensory experience against the faith of being able to reconstruct it accurately. This led me to dismiss my initial plan of visiting previous homes, as not only would it have proved extremely expensive, but it would have also been irrelevant; all it would have achieved is to scrutinise the memories I’ve fondly constructed by subjecting them to a regimental realism, and I wasn’t even sure yet that I favoured remembering accurately over remembering imaginatively. After I had decided on my placement as being the places in my memory, I then decided to use memories specifically from between the ages of 1-10, as it would have been an unfeasible task to remember all my memories; more importantly, choosing to remember my earliest memories would require a further conceptual journey.
Firstly, I began writing down all my memories in a book (such as Tracey Emin’s exploration of the soul) without consulting my family or friends for accuracy or truth. As we all remember things differently, it would risk changing the way I remembered things, and ultimately privilege truth over memory. In this way, I wanted to stress the importance of my memory as the placement rather than memory in general. These memories covered three different houses in three vastly different locations, some of which I remembered more than others; Germany, my birthplace, of which I have very little memories and virtually no recollection of physical layout; London, and Hull, where I spent the majority of my childhood. I am a naturally organised person, so I was keen to buy a library chest and use an index system with card catalogues to store my memories. Unfortunately, no libraries were giving any of these away. Alternatively, I began to think more about my organised nature and the ways in which I arrange memories daily, through post-it notes, cork boards, reminders and page markers. I thought it would be effective to combine the familiar way in which I use post-it notes to arrange short-term memories as a method of arranging distant memories instead.
I decided to arrange post-its in the mind map not unlike Peter Davis according to groups relating to ‘Me’ and ‘My family’, which are central as they are the most important, with places and relevant themes such as holidays circling around the edge. Although arranging them by age or place would have seemed more organised, I decided not to because this isn’t how a person naturally remembers things. If somebody then asked you to recall all of your memories from when you were seven, this would obviously be impossible.
Once I had recollected as many memories as I could on the post-it notes, I decided to include pictures of the houses, using reconstructions from Sims 3, and the streets using Google Earth and Google Street View. I did this to help trigger memories when I was writing them and the images helped to break up the blocks of yellow on the post-it mind map. The decision to include the images was also to help the viewer, who could achieve a sense of physical location that would be the equivalent of my ability to imagine these places in memory.
To establish a further organisational element, I used cotton to link memories to images (which is black). An example of this is the memory of my sister bashing a pipe in my mouth that is linked to the picture of my bathroom sink because that’s where I spent the next two hours washing the blood out of my mouth. Even though the post-it notes don’t state where a specific memory takes place, the cotton is efficient in establishing this link. Blue cotton links all the London pictures together, red links all the hull pictures together, green links all the hull post-it notes together and pink links all the London post-it notes together (Germany only has one post-it, and therefore couldn’t warrant its own coloured link). This process was used because the groups of post-it notes are mixed based on common themes such as memories from school, memories of pets, memories of holidays and so on, including then a mixture of writing and images. The coloured cotton makes organising these memories more efficient.
The project could have been expanded in many different ways. Firstly, the limited amount of memories until the age of ten could be developed into a much larger project which incorporates memories from birth until the present day. For this, I would need a vast amount of wall space because it would involve making the mind map even bigger as it would cover an additional three houses that I have lived in since Hull. The use of Google Street View would be effective in finding images of these subsequent locations. I could also have experimented with using Sims 3 to create pictures of my family members, which would have worked in a similar way to the pictures of the houses as a visual aid.
I really enjoyed working on this large-scale installation, and would like to continue working in this way for my final year. I may not continue with this particular project, although it could have been taken in so many different directions without consideration for constraints of time and space. I also found I began to suffer from what I eventually called “sick of myself’ syndrome as the project was wholly introspective, and spending an entire year continuing to be that self-involved would eventually make the project laborious and non-enjoyable. If I did continue next year with work that contained a similar mind-mapping element, I would have to pick another subject to make it fresh and to ensure I continue developing as an artist.