Friday, 3 August 2012

art for health: remembering and forgetting

Teddy Boys, D.A. haircuts and Camberwell Beauties

‘Memory is a perpetually actual phenomenon, a bond tying us to the eternal present; history a representation of the past’ – Pierre Nora

These last few weeks I have been collecting memories from patients suffering from aphasia with three other artists for Little Boxes of Memories, a project run by Entelechy Arts in partnership with the Museum of London and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lewisham Hospital Arts Committee.  These memories will provide material for the creation of multi sensory boxes to be used as resources in schools, props in a performance as well as potential exhibits in a future exhibition.

My focus throughout the project was to collect these memories through making. Symptoms of aphasia being commonly movement as well as speech impairment, I was prepared for a challenge.  I brought in objects and materials to each of the sessions and used these as introduction, 'meeting points', that prompted engagement and exchange.  Over the course of the few weeks more objects and materials were brought in by the patients and furnish their bedside spaces and were shared amongst themselves.  This gave the patients a sense of agency and choice and created a sense of community much needed at a time of loss, fracture and trauma.

ball inspired by T.'s tales of football and cricket
3-way plait inspired by D's recollections of making 
across three generations in her family
Many rich and evocative stories were communicated to us over the course of the few weeks and we are now working on how to represent these in the boxes. This process had started early for me as I responded to the stories by producing objects with the patients, which in turn prompted more conversations and revelations and created a connection between us. Reading studies on memory, I recognised how the fear of forgetting can trigger memory and how the reverse is also true.  Pierre Nora argues in Les Lieux de Mémoire how memory stands in opposition to history rather than being complimentary to it.  He writes 'memory, insofar as it is affective and magical, only accommodates those facts that suit it; it nourishes recollections that may be out of focus or telescopic, global or detached, particular or symbolic'. How accurate the patients' memories were didn't matter so much in the end because it is in the recounting of these itself that the past was reconciled with the present, and the possibility created for future imaginings.

‘Memory takes root in the concrete, in spaces, gestures, images, objects; history binds itself strictly to temporal continuities, to progressions and to relations between things.  Memory is absolute, while history can only conceive the relative.' – Pierre Nora

tales of London recounted by patients about to be released
(London AZ pages)

No comments:

Post a Comment