Memory is a very complex idea that has been theorized many times in the past, by theorists such as Maurice Halbwachs and Paul Connerton. These deal with the themes of ‘collective memory’ and ‘social memory’ respectively. Because memory is an immensely broad subject matter that leads to many different areas, adequate research was key in order to form an initial idea for the artefact.
Although often considered a cliche’, primary research was conducted by looking through my family’s photo-albums in order to recall past events and family members that are no longer here. What became suddenly apparent was the repetition of life as time moves through the generations which was also visually evident from the actual quality of photograph; from black and white to modern high-definition colour. The feeling of holding these memories in a physical and tangible medium was also very moving and profound, although it became evident that the emotion that is generated from looking at photographs is not created by the photos themselves. Instead, these serve as the catalyst that makes the viewer or participant recollect their own memories of that incident and this is instead what causes the emotion; the exclusive memories of the individual. To continue the research, I asked many of my family members what their individual memories of certain photographs were in order to compare how well they remembered the particular event and to see the correlation between different interpretations; false-memory.
Secondary research was also conducted by watching as many different films and televisions shows that dealt with the idea of memory, or have memory play a prominent role. These included the television series Lost as well as the 2012 film Cloud Atlas. Both of these deal with memory and collective memory in very personal ways; with Lost being very self-reflective through the use of flashbacks, flashforwards and flashsideways which adds to the emotional resonance of the themes within the episode; whilst Cloud Atlas deals with collective memory spanning generations through all different stages of life. By watching key emotional scenes within these, it helped form an idea of pace and tone that could be applied cinematically in style to the filming process of the artefact which would hopefully channel the same level of emotion.
Building on from these television shows and films, it felt important to research the key theorists of ‘memory’ in order to fully grasp the themes and context that would be dealt with in the artefact. The theorists that were looked at were Maurice Halbwachs and Paul Connerton, who dealt with ‘collective memory’ and ‘social memory’ respectively. However, one thing that was noticeable in terms of ‘memory’ was that no matter if it is collective or social, it still retains an infinitely personal quality to the individual. Even if a group of individuals were to witness the same event, each person’s memory of that incident would be different, no matter how slight it may be.
When researching narrative, the best kind of stories are the ones that can reach and speak to as many people as possible and so a narrative was employed that many if not all of us go through or will go through at some point in our lives; the event of moving out of one’s original home in order to build a new future. The effect of this, like looking at photographs, stirs some recollection or collective memory among the audience which hopefully allowed the emotion to come through as “it is in society that people normally acquire their memories.” (Halbwachs, 1992: 38)
Halbwachs, M. (1992) On collective memory. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Unknown. 2010. Plane Landing at LAX. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Kg4J_4W4_0 [Accessed: 15 Nov 2013].
Unknown. 2012. The Ending to Cloud Atlas. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAKLzaFYCOY [Accessed: 15 Nov 2013].