Archive for the 'Memory' Category

Going to what attracts

Last month’s post had a rather cerebral, methodical, contemplative tone. I was faced with input, reading around it, developing responses. There was a similar, sedate follow-up post planed and partially written.

This morning I was overtaken by a kind of creative hunger. An overwhelming mad rush – try this, no try this, OK not good what about this, or this, or… And I ended with this:

It was important that this photo showed the bracelet on skin. My mini-photo booth was partially dismantled, one arm stuck through the side seam – but this is not an inert object. It demands warmth, insists upon its tactile nature.

I’m in the eerily quiet calm after the storm, trying to piece together what happened. Afterwards I walked through warm Sydney sunshine, held by my new bangle. My first use of memory wire, it gently presses the double-cone shaped beads into my skin, they roll against me – an embrace, holding me together. The swirl beads are polymer clay, made with leftovers from my latest project, baked in the oven this morning. No sanding or polishing, the simple matt finish left by the touch of my hands as I formed them. They feel warm against the skin. I have a sense of repletion, satisfaction, looking at the variations in scale and finish. The blue/green beads have a faint striation in them giving a glow, reflecting the striations of the cones.

I walked in warm winter sunshine, the air not quite still. Welcoming. Coffee sitting outside a local café, back to the sun, by my special request ceramic rather than takeaway cup. Today some of Sydney went into lockdown – both my sons, given where they work. At the moment I’m clear, but a friend who paused to chat as she was walking her dog went to her CBD office last week so will be in lockdown from midnight. Her husband is already in the mountains, on their planned weekend getaway.

I walked and sat and read and chatted and all the while felt the bangle. Felt a warm, active embrace – not exactly of mum, and not of memory of mum, but that new relationship or internal understanding or that kind of good hurt that isn’t tearing or scary but somehow a confirmation of being alive. I was thinking of mum, aware of missing her desperately, but also – well, at times I’ve felt a void, lost in emptiness, then more recently I read Gaston Bachelard: “The word vast, then, is a vocable of breath. It is placed on our breathing, which must be slowed and calm. And the fact is that always, in Baudelaire’s poetics, the word vast evokes calm, peace and serenity. It expresses a vital, intimate conviction. It transmits to our ears the echo of the secret recesses of our being. For this words bears the mark of gravity, it is the enemy of turmoil, opposed to the vocal exaggerations of declamation. In diction enslaved to strict measure, it would be shattered. The word vast must reign over the peaceful silence of being.” So I’ve been thinking – not of filling the void. Seeing instead my own internal vast. Inhabiting it. Making connections. Open to correspondence. Letting go a bit, so my relationship is strengthened, developed.

Let’s backtrack a bit on the making. The polymer clay beads were made from leftovers from this:

The making and baking completed yesterday. This morning off the glass bowl I used as a form. Still needs some sanding and buffing.

The design is based on fabric from one of mum’s skirts. Other variants were in my last post – a coiled vessel; a resined vessel; a resin bangle.

Just before sitting down to attempt to capture all this, I took a “family” photo.

This also shows some extra beads and a “backdrop” of some print-making play, but not all the notebook images exploring the fabric motifs and planning the various responses.

Back to the experience of today. The blue/green beads were from a double-stranded necklace that belonged to mum. I repurposed it as an arm wrap, but one of the strings broke so for the past couple of months it’s been sitting in a little box while I considered repair versus re-use possibilities. Today, in my flurry of activity, they called loudly. The little silver beads are stash – but for the sake of emotional completeness I’ve decided I got them when making earrings using family heirloom mother of pearl gaming chips from mum’s great-x uncle (July-2018). The memory wire is a recent purchase – but come on, it’s memory wire.

I wanted to finish with a photo of mum, wearing the same skirt and a shirt of similar colours to the blue/green beads. To be honest I don’t recall seeing her wear the necklace, nor any kind of bangle. Her standard was wedding ring, wristwatch, pendant. But that matching of the patterned, moving skirt with a shirt of that blue/green – classic mum. Perhaps that’s part of this morning’s frenzy – playing with materials and components, following emotion, going to what attracted. I wasn’t thinking, I was feeling.

It’s a different skirt. But you get the idea.

The Red Exercise Book

Found in an anonymous pile
behind the hanging files
of the two drawer cabinet
underneath the dressing table
of the large spare bedroom
of my mothers apartment.

A Red Exercise book
Begun in March 1939

A father’s pride in his daughter
(he was a school headmaster)

A girl on the cusp of leaving childhood
becoming a young woman

There are newspaper clippings, a congratulatory telegram

Never late and never absent
A family summer holiday
Relaxing and celebrating a job well done
a future beckoning
The final page used.
101 blank pages follow.

Look again at that last page. The dates.

As a reward the precious young scholar has an extended holiday. Two weeks later she travels home alone. In a country newly at war. Her family “glad to see her”.

I don’t recall ever seeing this exercise book before. There are plenty of family stories of what came next. In the end the start of high school was delayed by six months. Bomb shelters needed to be built, and the older girls were given priority to finish their education. Later the school bomb shelter was flattened – on a holiday Monday, so it was empty of students.

There were months of broken nights in the coal cellar. The first air-raid alarm was bombers flying over to industrial targets in cities to the west. The dangerous time was the second alarm as the bombers returned, dropping unused bombs wherever they could. School started late the next day If the second alarm was after midnight.

Grandpa built bunks in the coal cellar, chipped the mortar from the bricks separating them from next door – a way out if only one house was hit. There was a celebratory Opening Ceremony of song and poetry.

The very specific timing of that last page of that exercise book feels like a publicity blurb – a girl on the cusp of becoming a young woman; a country on the cusp of war…

And her “first long distance journey alone”. She bought a suitcase with her first pay as a teacher, and came to Australia alone by boat aged 24. In part it was to meet her war-time penfriend, and the family who sent them food parcels through the war. We have the albums of her travels – in Perth, then by land across the continent to Adelaide and then Sydney…

How can I, as a daughter and as an artist, respond to this?

Cautiously
Lightly
Over time
Without confusing the objects with my mother, our relationship, my grief
Nothing Monumental or Memorial.
Responding. Perhaps a series of small gestures. Oblique.
Interleaved with other projects. I want to respond, not be taken over.

So far one focus is administrative – scanning and documenting whatever speaks to me while working with my siblings to clear the flat. And as my concentration continues to improve, reading around the terrain.

  • Kate Zambreno Appendix Project. The ongoing, always provisional. project of writing about her mother
  • Greg Dening No single, stable history. No zero point. My construct of her world. Represent | Re-present | Re-present (make it now)
  • Jonathan Safran Foer Everything is illuminated. The self-interest, the individual needs, the deceit, the unstable past looking for family history
  • Kate Briggs This Little Art Looking at translation, the suspension of disbelief. Translation across time rather than language?
  • Anne Carson Nox Building a tentative and partial picture from fragments
  • The weight, the demands of the archive. Walter Benjamin; Kate Zambreno
  • Eula Biss “How motherhood radicalised Adrienne Rich”. The anger and frustration
  • Margo Neale & Lynne Kelly Songlines. The third archive.
  • Jane Rendell “The Welsh Dresser” in Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism. Unpacking a container of the past
  • Lydia Davis “Happy memories” in Collected Stories. Had me thinking about the different types of memories
  • Adrienne Rich “Six meditations in place of a lecture” in What is found there. Writes of Eduard Glisant’s work: “Relation is turbulence, exposure, an identity not of roots but of meeting places; not a lingua franca but a multiplicity of languages, articulations, messages.”

Possible future reading

  • Referenced by Zambreno
    • WG Sebald Austerlitz
    • Bhanu Kapil Ban en Banlieue and Schizophrene
    • Theresa Hak Kyung Cha Dictee
    • Roland Barthes The preparation of the novel
  • Kim Mahood Position Doubtful: Mapping Landscapes and Memories The burden of history?
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Notes on Grief
  • Max Porter Grief is the thing with feathers
  • Krissy Kneen The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s already daunting. In any case, I want making to be a (the?) primary tactic in thinking through this. Containers and the circular – which enclose, embrace, trap, exclude and so much more have already been seen in resin, fabric, coiling (30-Apr-2021).

I’ve made early attempts using polymer clay. The idea is to spend some time with some of the objects in mum’s apartment. Focus on and respond to colour, pattern, line. The materiality. Create some time and space and quiet in my mind to reflect on all I continue to learn about the person.

The container that is the Red Exercise Book. The embossed red cover. The shape of the inked letters in Grandpa’s hand. The ripples and reflections of the sea, that summer in Weymouth. I want to create my own new memories with them.

And only just now, as I’m about to hit Publish, I notice the scroll and “Volume 2” on the cover. What???


Instagram

No Instagram images were found.

Calendar of Posts

September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

Categories