EMPIRE OF MEMORY
Project info

Prompted by a commemorative coin bequeathed to me by my father, I began to consider that conflicts in many instances may be fought in the memories of citizens rather than on actual battlefields and, as such, require alternative approaches to their visual depiction.

The historian Margaret MacMillan, refers to Mark Twain’s observation that: ‘History never repeats itself but it rhymes’. Commemorations, anniversaries, and recollections of past wars re-frame present day conflicts. Chance events, sudden catastrophes, even everyday political disputes echo accidents from a previous era. “So we have good reason to glance over our shoulders even as we look ahead”. Memorial activity, such as war memorials and mourning rituals, show this remembering ‘handed-down’ from generation to generation as a form of haunting.

This exhibition uses contemporary photographs alongside archive material, family albums and public records, in order to show this relationship between remembering and forgetting. The combination of images, from the everyday documentation of a place to the use of unique properties of film photography: jammed mechanisms, accidental double exposure, negative rebates, marks of selection and chance light leaks; allude to the ‘after-shocks’ and reverberations of war in the present day.

Questions, such as: what do we believe in? Why do conflicts keep recurring? What does it mean to be a man? Personal responses can assess these collective memories of a nation and may persuade us to consider our own role in the process of reflection and possible healing. As Margaret MacMillan states: “ if we can see past our blinders and take note of the telling parallels between then and now, the ways in which our world resembles that of a hundred years ago, history does give us valuable warnings”.