Just when I was thinking about how to put into words what compelled me to make my new work without explaining it away I re-found this piece of limpid writing which delights and pierces me every time I read it through: “One day a few years ago my mother took out of her cedar chest the turquoise blouse she bought for me on that trip to Bolivia, a miniature of the native women’s outfits. When she unfolded the little garment and gave it to me, the living memory of wearing the garment collided shockingly with the fact that it was so tiny, with arms less than a foot long, with a tiny bodice for a small cricket cage of a ribcage that was no longer mine, and the shock was that my vivid memory included what it felt like to be inside that brocade shirt but not the fact that inside it I had been so diminutive, had been something utterly other than my adult self who remembers. The continuity of memory did not measure the abyss between a toddler’s body and a woman’s.
When I recovered the blouse I lost the memory, for the two were irreconcilable. It vanished in an instant, and I saw it go.”
Rebecca Solnit: A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The quote is from the chapter The Blue of Distance, can’t give you the page as I’m reading on a kindle.
The ‘living memory’, of how it felt to wear the little garment, becomes a memory of a memory as she struggles to grasp the otherness of her own two year old body/self. How beautifully she expresses it. And it occurs to me that with my work I try to do something that operates the other way round. I’m now trying to move from childhood memory to memories before ‘I’. I have to let myself fall into another time, during which I was not alive, but of which I carry imprints in me. So no ‘living memory’ here, more the attempt at something I’m tentatively calling ‘empathic memory’. I see the dress as a kind of live-in environment, the container of memory which maybe? can be accessed by the viewer through falling a little ways with me, through a memory of their own childhood self, and on, imagining the feel of the woolen dress and its shape on their skin, on their body-in-process.
A friend visited and said ‘cute little dress’ without realizing it was a dress with a difference. Not sure if I’m too subtle. No, I want people to look again. And again. Or miss it. First piece of a new project, while the foundlings are scurrying around at the back of my brain.
LR’s girl (2012)
Materials: hand-me-down wool/polyester mixture
Dimensions: 41 cm x 31 cm