The Residue of Memory
Memory is a paradoxical thing, central to the formation of the self, yet fugitive and difficult to pin down. Memories become attenuated with the passage of time, yet can come rushing back in an instant under certain conditions. From the simple act of marking time to the recording of complex events, The Residue of Memory examines the diverse ways that events can leave their mark, and how objects and experiences can function as physical traces or intangible points of contact to the past. For his work Free Fotolab (2009), for example, British artist Phil Collins posted ads in several European cities, offering individuals free processing and prints from their undeveloped rolls of film in exchange for all rights to the images. The resulting nine-minute slideshow—a selection of vacation photos, family gatherings, and other private moments—presents a strangely affecting montage of anonymous appropriated memories. By contrast, American artist and activist Andrea Bowers explores both the history of activist causes—including environmentalism, immigration advocacy, women's rights, and civil rights—and their contemporary manifestations. She meticulously redraws images from historical photographs, often editing out the original background and isolating figures from a crowd. By isolating these subjects Bowers moves away from the particulars of the original events and imbues them with a more universal meaning. Whether personal or public, illustrative or evocative, ephemeral or concrete, the works that make up The Residue of Memory collectively engage with and complicate such apparent dichotomies as distance and proximity, loss and remembrance, the individual and the universal.