15. Memory and Place

‘ Being attached to a place means allowing memories to be held by that place – In turn, being held by a place means being able to return to that place through its role as a reserve of memories’ (Trigg 2013: 9)

 I have set out to fill a sketchbook with rooms and outside spaces remembered. Rooms have been recorded in pencil line. The reason for this is purely to keep it simple, to allow the pencil to walk without too much thought – for thought was supposed to be focused on memory, not material.

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I am not particularly content with many of these pencil drawings. Firstly, they lack the fluid quality of line that I think better corresponds to memory. For memories are far from tight and geometrical, which is how some of these appear. There is too much consideration given to perspective and shape. In fact, for some reason it surprises me that these memories attempt to construct shapes to recreate a room. Why should this surprise me? After all, isn’t that how rooms appear? – Shapes, within and around other shapes, where, as Trigg (2013) states: ‘Totality of place is reduced to its parts’. Perhaps that is it: these things were something more than shapes to me, something that hasn’t been recreated here. The rooms and the objects within lack the feel of the place, they are simply drawings of rooms – not past rooms experienced. Perhaps simplicity wasn’t the key, pencil the right material; memories aren’t simple and memories aren’t linear. A rather apt description within the first few pages of Bachelard’s amazingly insightful book The Poetics of Space reflects this difficulty: ‘…the related problems are many if we are to determine the profound reality of all the subtle shadings of our attachment for a chosen spot’ (Bachelard 1994: 4). For the phenomenologist, Bachelard believes that ‘these shadings must be taken as the first rough outlines of a psychological phenomenon’ (Bachelard 1994: 4).

The daydreams that shaped these rooms have not been transferred through this process. It is as if a history of experiential knowledge gathered over time informs these drawings, creating a tension between external and internal. A greater thing than reality has not been retrieved: childhood. Bauchelard speaks of the these childhood daydreams and the role that they play in shaping our memories of rooms: ‘If a compact center of daydreams of repose had not existed in this first house, the very different circumstances that surrounded actual life would have clouded our memories.’ (Bauchelard 1994: 17). To re-consider these drawings through the filter of the daydreams acquired within that space; to succumb to the ‘imprecision of the inner life’ (Bachelard 1994: 57) could lead to a more ‘realistic’ and fluid impression.

If we have retained an element of dream in our memories, if we have gone beyond merely assembling exact recollections, bit by bit the house that was lost in the mists of time will appear from out the shadow. (Bachelard 1994: 57)

There are however a few drawings that come close to conveying intention to me. As expected these hold a different quality of line – one that is fluid and in some cases fragmented, unfinished. There is a quality of line that becomes more than line, one that suggests tone and colour. Imagination can fill in the gaps and piece together the puzzle – just like memory and dream. When this happens, there is no longer any need for an alternative medium.

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Almost stage-like structures emerge looking like a container for memories, a construction for human experience that without which could lose definition…

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From one of my very first memories there appears a dramatic, displaced quality signifying a traumatic event…

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…Or a fragmented, uncertain ascent to a girl’s bedroom…

P1050192webStairs leading up to Juliette’s bedroom

The uncertainty of objects…where marks become a layering of attempts to remember – drawn and redrawn and not remembered…like the armchair here…

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‘It is as though something fluid had collected our memories and we ourselves were dissolved in this fluid of the past’ (Bachelard 1994: 57)

In the pursuit of memories and place the following drawings are of outside spaces remembered. When considering the Bachelard quote above I feel that they come closer to this notion of fluidity and of dissolving – they seem to play with the idea of dream and memory ‘lost in the shadow of the real past’ (Bachelard 1994: 15). Perhaps this is due to the medium used (wax resist with ink and white pastel) where there is a process of hiding and revealing; the unseen coming into focus yet fragmented, primitive and uncertain amongst the shadows.

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I cannot say for sure if I recall things in colour. When I think about it, colour becomes one of many separate elements imposed. It can be over-exaggerated or monochrome. Perhaps it is only a true reflection when the colour was particularly significant, tragic or contrary. The following are places remembered from a recurring dream where interestingly I have decided to include colour…

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…And a dream-like day remembered in colour…

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‘…We cover the universe with drawings we have lived. These drawings, of course, can’t be exact. They need only be tonalized on the mode of our inner space’ (Bachelard 1994: 15).

 

References:

Bachelard, Gaston. (1994), The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How We Experience Places, Beacon Press

Trigg, D. (2013), ‘The Memory of Place’, ‘http://www.academia.edu/355785/The_Memory_of_Place_a_Phenomenology_of_the_Uncanny

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