Belongings give a sense of belonging. Clothes are spaces we inhabit. They encase us, wrap around us, give or transform our physical edges. They help define our identity – our sense of self. When we move from elsewhere we pack our clothes, they give a continuity of self in a new space. Clothes contain memories and also contain us – in that way we inhabit our memories.
I am currently exploring connections between autobiographical memory and clothing, working with neuro and cultural psychologists. This research began with informal chats with Dr. Catherine Loveday (neuropsychologist at Westminster University). These chats gained momentum and Catherine’s PhD and undergraduate students have conducted studies to explore its scientific interest and significance as part of memory formation and identity.
My recent work has involved casting the inside space of clothing. Sometimes incorporating sticks or other props whose lengths refer to the dimensions of my body.
Image: Big Stick (hip), 2015, jesmonite and found sticks, 124 x 50 x 10 cm
I am interested in how clothing contains both physical ‘body memories’ as well as ‘autobiographical narratives’. As memories are often recalled verbally, I am keen to see how verbal narratives can be integrated into my very tactile work.
I recorded a series of ‘wardrobe interviews’, where I ask volunteers to choose and discuss 4 items of clothing that have a particular memory of place, time or person. Participants include friends, colleagues and those who have experience of ‘displaced memories’ – where they might be disconnected from the memory, for example through age, mental health or emigration from their home.
Image: Folded, work in progress. 2017, jesmonite (cast of the inside of a child’s trousers)