All my life I’ve been obsessed with documenting. I’m starting to think this is an odd practice, and that most humans don’t actually obsessively keep objects and momentos from their entire life. My concept of a memory box I believe sprung from reading Laura Ingles Wilder. She had a box where she kept objects for her wedding day (at least, that’s how I remember it). I wanted a box like that too, a giant chest filled with my most precious items that I could look back on throughout my life. But of course my obsession reaches farther back than that, because I have objects from even when I was a baby.
Even when I didn’t have physical objects, I had journals or photographs or paper documents. Most of the memories I have are because I wrote them down or photographed them. But they say that the more you document, the less you remember yourself. Have I stunted my own ability to remember my life? So much so that these objects have become both my illness and my crutch? As I get older, I try to document less, but then I regret not photographing everything, or not keeping that object that I saw. It’s like planting a flag on the moon—I have to prove I was here, or I got through this obstacle, so I know I can get through it again.
I’m making this project because I am curious. What does it even mean to have all of these documents of everything I’ve done in my life? And what does it mean for other people to see them as well? Is it a breach in my security to share my 7th grade piano lessons or the pill I took when I got my teeth pulled? There was the great fear of online predators and what sort of detriment is that? Is it our own because we can’t share who we are as people? Is what I’m doing even safe? Is it narcissistic? Is it self-centered? Does anyone other than the memory-bearer care about it at all?
Yeah, then there’s the importance of it all. Will any of this be as important to anyone else as it is to me? At the end of the day, can you really know anyone as much as you know yourself, even if you know most of their life as intimately as I’m going to share mine?
I remember back in the early flickr days, in 2009/2010—you either shared all your struggles and hardships, or you were completely aloof, maybe only sharing your name. You could be vague and anonymous and there was also a certain mystery about that. I was always the former. I had to share everything. Writing and photographing was my way of coping with my changing adolescence. Of course now I (and many of us), feel that terrible nostalgia for that time because of our over dramatization of it, oh how we were so free back then to just make things and spill our hearts our for art. Is the ability to relive a memory so vividly keeping me from letting it to? It’s been ten years since I moved away from my friends in high school and I still feel bitter and resentful towards them and that time. Can I not let it go because I’ve clutched its objects so tightly? Does that mean it’s better to forget? Or do our memories shape us into who we are? What happens when we do forget?
I don’t even know if there’s a lesson in all of this—for me or for anyone else. So I’m just curious. I’ve had these items my whole life. They’ve been living in a box, or scattered around my house to remind me of events that mean things to me. I am just really curious to see what an online catalogue of someone’s life will look like. Or even what a physical catalogue will look like, once you spread everything out on display.
One of my big lessons is how to categorize my memories. Should I organize them purely chronologically? Or by certain pockets of experience (school objects, personal objects, etc), or even by color, or document type? Do I scan in every page of every journal? Or just photograph the outside cover? I think of course the only way to do it is as thoroughly as possible, but then do I just document the physical objects I have? What about the online ones? The home movies, the items I still live with in my day to day life? Do I block out names of people I associated with to protect their privacy? Or is that an alteration of the memory that is antithetical to the concept of this project anyways? And I always come back to the question of, does this really matter? Will anyone else care?
And yet I’m still curious.
They tell you to back up your work online so that you don’t lose it. These items could easily be lost in any number of ways. Is this my way of simply archiving my memories? Us humans aren’t quite computers yet, but this online back up may be pretty close. I just want to put my painting on the cave wall too.
I hope you enjoy this crazy, weird, probably long project of mine. I’ll be documenting a few different things, chiefly the objects themselves. But I will also be writing about what memories the objects represent, and about my feelings towards the project and memory in general—what about those forgotten memories? What does it even mean to remember something? How do I cope with all this?
The first memory is here. I hope you enjoy.