We have always tried to understand what memory is, how it works and how it betrays us. Memory is an important part of what makes us human, and yet is one of the most elusive and misunderstood human attributes. Memories are subjective human experiences, and the most universal as well. This semester’s free art exhibition organised by the Art Society, “R E T E N T I O N” , touches upon the theme of memory and how we hold on to the past.
ArtSoc’s exhibition co-ordinator Viktoria Szanto was initially set on hosting the exhibition at the Preservations Trust museum (the location has since been moved to All Saints Church) when she came up with the idea for the theme.
“I was surrounded by all this memorabilia of the history of St Andrews that not many people know about, and that made me think of how much history there is that we don’t have access to, that is not in history books,” she says. “All these personal memories are so crucial to the people who had them, but at the same time they are ephemeral, and only last as long as the person is alive. Art is a wonderful way of commemorating or expressing them, getting them out of your system.”
Memory is often touched upon in pop culture. It’s the gut-wrenching focus of the Black Mirror episode ‘The Entire History of You’, for example. According to psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, many of our seemingly “genuine” memories are often false memories, created by our imagination as substitutes for forgotten moments. The episode focuses on a world where this issue is finally overcome, as everyone is able to record everything they see. People can play back their memories on a big screen for others to view, but perfect memory retention reveals itself as a double edged sword.
We often play back moments in our mind, thinking over the minute details that made up an encounter, analysing them to get a clearer picture of events. However, we often exaggerate these memories, making good moments seem better or bad ones worse. Nonetheless, these “artificial” memories play a crucial role in constructing our identity, and “false” memories often inspire artists and poets alike, allowing them to dramatise past experiences for new projects and ideas.
“I think memory as a theme is interesting,” says Szanto. “Firstly for the artists, to engage with something that’s so specific, but equally so elusive and broad. There’s personal memory, collective memory, objects as memorabilia, monuments… [there are] so many ways to approach the theme.”
Memories are sentimental, treasured and cherished. We cling onto things that remind us of moments, people, places, and past experiences that either moved us profoundly or those that give us a warm and fuzzy feeling when they come to mind.
“For visitors I think it will be fascinating, because art allows artists to expose and lay themselves bare to the public,” Szanto continues. “Seeing personal memories of others or personal ways of approaching the theme itself could be thought-provoking. We will try to provide outlets for visitors to express these thoughts and interact with the theme.”
As with previous ArtSoc exhibitions, there will be plenty of interactive artworks to engage the visitors, as well as mulled wine for early birds to stimulate artistic creativity.
Final date for submissions is this Thursday and physical submissions are accepted all day at Taste. R E T E N T I O N takes place in All Saints Church on Saturday 26 November at 6:30 pm. You can join the Facebook event here.