Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

WORDS | Wandering Memories

As the President of disability arts organisation, Access Arts, John Armstrong opened a current exhibition at Hands on Art in Brisbane’s Southbank, titled 29 and involving 29 artists. Here is an extract of his opening speech.

This exhibition tracks 29 highly individual journeys. These artists take memories and give them form – take subtleties and give them shape and take very ordinary things and give them power and presence. These artists rescue wandering memories and give them a context – a new place to be that allows viewers to experience them and to use them to construct their own rememberings.

Most of these artworks deal with the stuff of our collective peripheral vision – things we glimpse and sometimes take the time to focus on but usually pass by – the relics of peoples and times past – the stuff of history – individual and human scaled history.

It is interesting that research into memory counters the commonly held opinion that memory is much like a tape recorder or camera and basically captures what’s out there. It seems that your memory of an event is something you construct from lots of bits and pieces – from what you saw and heard and experienced and felt at the time – from what people told you afterwards – from suggestions and thoughts and implications – all filtered by your attitude, by who you are.

Memories for individual events resemble jigsaw puzzles that are assembled from many pieces – in a similar way to how we live our lives, as REMEMBERERS we knit together relevant fragments and feelings into a coherent narrative or story – we desperately try to make sense of it all!

So rather than thinking of yourself as the sum of your memories – the end product of everything you’ve ever experienced – the reverse is more likely to be true – your memories are the end product of all you’ve ever thought and done, filtered through your perceptions and opinions. Who YOU are is shaped by YOUR memories, and YOUR memories are shaped by who YOU are.


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