Remembrance of Things Past


The 8mm family films c1940 mined for the Memoire Involontaire project were created many years before I was born. Identifying in them members of my immediate family stirred an enduring sense of loss and also curiosity about the details I was able to see in slow motion or frame-by-frame playback, through the gaze of the filmmaker who was a very familiar first cousin of my mother. I was able to see both recognizable and unknown adults interacting with each other and children in ways concerning and also seemingly intimate. For example, nail-polished fingers supporting a bare-chested infant next to a girl in blue shorts, brought to my mind the blue couch I sat on, age 4, watching black and white television next to a family member, the filmmaker himself. In his novel ‘Remembrance of Things Past’, also called ‘In Search of Lost Time’, Marcel Proust called this recognition of the past in the present moment Memoire Involontaire. I enhanced and significantly enlarged many of these psychological associations in representation found in small, degraded memory fragments, and in so doing, tangibly interacted with time long past. This exploration of the artifacts of old family film is particularly meaningful to me at this juncture in history when film industry is in its demise and due to its complexity and cost will never be recreated as it was. As visual culture transitions away from film, the image’s link to physical reality and verifiable memory slips since digital capture is only a calculation of time and light converted directly to code. The Memoire Involontaire project, in 3 phases, addresses what we lose when film itself becomes an artifact straining our recognition of the past.

I. This Was Now (2012-2019) references the separateness of stills underpinning film movement and the pre-history of cinema in photography. In that stills vs. movement is so tinged with mortality, the photographic still frame conjures the ever-changing nature of the world [Barthes] and the ghostly uncanny [Freud]. Beginning in 2012, 56 still frames were selected from 1-hour B&W and 1-hour color film. The stillframes were enhanced and enlarged with digital painting and algorithms approximately 10,000% from their original .14” x .21” dimension to 15” x 21”. Each archival print in this series comprises a Limited Edition Set of 5 + 2 AP.

II. In Situ (2016) considers ghosts and self-reflection in film viewing experience in general, and the recognition of my towering phantoms in particular. The uncanny in the specter of death, spirits and ghosts is considered the source of all human speculation since primeval time. Beginning in early 1950s motion picture films could be viewed on the television set, originally a living room furniture piece. These 8 ‘In Situ’ Memoire Involontaire images were created by projecting an enhanced still frame in the artist’s studio comprising antique furnishings including an original 1950 RCA TV. The artist sits facing the console TV screen in which a second stillframe is composited. Each 12.6” x 19” archival pigment print in this series comprises a Limited Edition Set of 10 + 2 AP.

III. Post-Cinema (2019) comprises variations of Phase I images generated with an algorithm and also clips exported from the original family film manipulated by a second algorithm. The first draws attention to the disruption of time, memory, and sense of self in the digital age. An enhanced and enlarged stillframe is scanned by a customized algorithm to sort each pixel in rows according to hue, saturation, brightness, or grayscale values. This image is then blended with the digitally-painted still frame. These generative algorithms redesign the still frames incorporating randomness, mimicking Proust's 'Memoire Involuntaire', the recognition of the past in the present moment, and similarly, the maintenance and continual re-integration of memory with present experience by neural pathways in the brain. (Series of 20 16.5” x 16.5”) Archival Pigment Prints each in limited edition set of 5 + 2 AP. A second algorithm arranges Memoire Involontaire stillframes selected in predetermined intervals from a one second clip exported from the original family film in a grid pattern, to represent the time passage in moving images as a still composition. This is a series of 10 Archival Pigment Prints of varying sizes.