Past Exhibits
Traces
9 years, 2 months ago Posted in: Past Exhibits Comments Off on Traces

An Installation by Belinda Hanson

Exhibition Dates: July 7 – August 7, 2010

Traces: “A sign or evidence of some past thing. A perceptible sign made by something that has passed.”

Eric Kandel in, In Search of Memory, recalls his memory of an SS officer in Austria banging on their door in the middle of the night, and how that affected his memories of that night as well as the course of his life, and interweaves this personal history with the exciting science of research neurology. Unlike Kandel, I have few very specific memories from childhood, and have been searching to recover some trace of the lost history of my past.

The impetus for my search began when I observed my mom’s loss of memory due to progressive Alzheimer’s/dementia. At ninety-eight it is not unusual to be suffering from memory loss, yet it is difficult. As she forgets, each level of forgetting leaves her with one less way to access the world around her. From conversing about politics (one of her favorite pass times pre-Alzheimer’s) to playing bridge, “What is trump?” (for the hundredth time). Interestingly, however, I have observed that what happened in her distant past is still, sometimes there, magically clearer than the present moment. She can remember odd things that happened to her as a child, from the weird stranger in the London city park to the feel of the ocean spray in her face sitting on an out-cropping at Cornwall. These things she remembers well. My concern is that I can’t remember the past other than intangibles like a familiar smell, touch or sound. But no events.

Eric Kandel postulates that memory is what defines us as conscious beings. Because it is all memory except the moment of now, we are only conscious because our neurons collect and categorize our memories. Memories define each of us as the person who was here, and experienced that. At this point in his book I started to feel slightly bereft, maybe nonexistent, and I went in search of my memories.

Looking through old photo albums with my mother was reassuring. I was there. As I set about transcribing these photos into paint, sometimes I could feel the grass between my toes, or the wind blowing my hair. Still no specifics, but I felt I was there.

As I continued this search new sculptural forms evolved and abstracted. This installation is a culmination of a year of reckoning with traces of a forgotten history, and an attempt to access a place where as Italo Calvino says in Invisible Cities, “Desires are already memories.”

~ Belinda Hanson


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