Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
So Yong Kim
This project started out as an effort to rescue and to enshrine my grandparents’ memories. The state of my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s and the slow erosion of his memory was the impetus for making the film. Every mode of documentation felt urgent and necessary because of his condition. On one level this film does operate within a realm of pure preservation. I wanted to safeguard my grandfather’s memories of the beginning of his relationship with my grandmother while he could still tell them. I recorded many hours of my grandparents on the phone so I could have a copy of their voices, a record of the cadence of their interactions. When I filmed them in the winter I would often find myself placing a microphone next to my grandfather’s reading chair to record the sound of him breathing. I wanted shake loose those seconds of sound and movement, however banal they seemed, from each day’s process of erasure.
Because I only had a handful of photographs and phone recordings to show for the time my grandparents first met until the time they got married, I wanted to fill the gaps, and to re-imagine a memory space for them. The project became sculptural in this way, collecting found and created materials, and molding them into something substantial and meaningful. Even though I was trying to represent a truth or accuracy about each moment in their youth, a lot of the materials representing those moments were reenacted or borrowed. In this way, I wanted to blend fictions with truths, which to me feels close to how memory forms, expands, and degrades. The fictions and the processes of erosion become just as indelible as the original memory once was. We need these fictions to live.
I recently read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and I have been returning to it as a way to enter into and to expand upon the idea of memory in my film. Proust writes, “Since the true paradises are the paradises that we have lost.” For me, my grandparents’ memories, even though they have not forgotten them, feel as if they are lost to me. I was never there to see them happen. The memories only exist in their retelling, and the mode of time in which they exist is something I will never be able to fully access. This is where the found footage and the reenactment footage needed to be used in the project. The fantasy of reliving memories we never experienced can only bind to the edges of fiction.
The title “The Sublime Has No Memory” is a term of consolation, and meditates on the this idea of lost paradises and lost memories. While making this film I thought a lot about the possibility of grandfather completely losing his memory in the relative future. If all we are left with is imminent loss and the disintegration of memory, our paradises must be borne out of this loss. For me, the sublime has no memory because it is memory itself. It has no memory of its own, it does not choose what to remember or to forget because it is a space of total memory. It contains all time. To add to the title and to this idea, I would also say, “The sublime has no memory of ever being forgotten.” One day we will lose our paradises and our memories, but they will not be lost to themselves.
This film is many things to me: it’s a portrait of my grandfather; it’s a portrait of my grandmother filling the gaps of my grandfather's memory; it’s a confession of what it feels like to slowly lose someone who couldn’t be more apart of your life. I constantly return to the idea of film as memory. For me, within the mechanism of film is the idea that it could potentially record all time. In this way, film is a small version of the sublime. Film has no memory because it is memory itself. It has no agency; it holds what we want it to hold. Perhaps more than anything, this project is about the texture of recorded memory, whether borrowed, created, or held to be true.
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Pyle, Elizabeth Ann, "The Sublime Has No Memory" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 219.
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