Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
EXCAVATION OF MEMORY IN FIVE ROOMS
“History does not live in the past; it only lives in the present. You select your memories. You select what you tell. Lies are more real to me because they are immediate. Retelling the facts, as they are supposed to be told, means much less. The facts are not interesting. Recounting facts is like creating systems of documentary. It is creating catalogues.”
- Kutluğ Ataman, in conversation with Ana Finel Honigman, 2004
My senior project arose out of an urge to compress the space between recalled and invented memory. Since my father’s death in 2006, I have taken the role of his personal archivist. Over the past 10 years, I have sorted through piles and piles of photographs, magazine clippings, his own scrapbooks, poetry, songs, plays and screenplays he wrote, notes jotted down on ripped pages from TV guides, correspondence, headshots, call sheets, diaries, yearbooks, pictures of ex-girlfriends, membership cards, passports, fake IDs, reels, home movies, audio tapes, birthday cards, etc. I have watched and rewatched the movies, TV shows and commercials he was in and spent hours online googling him. I have collected stories from his friends and family and replayed in my head the memories I could recall. I decided that I wanted to make a film comparing and contrasting the different versions of him. So, I interviewed my mother, my half-sister, her mother, my niece, my nephew, my cousin, a few of my dad’s friends and his dentist. I went to a psychic medium and asked her to channel him on camera.While some of these conflicting ideas of my father were interesting, most of the “talking head” interviews were redundant and negative and visually uninteresting. I decided this work was important research, but it couldn’t make up the bulk of my film.
My childhood was obsessively documented by my parents. Every holiday, celebration and performance was filmed shakily by my mother, who would force me to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame or ask me standard questions like “can you say ‘hi’ to grandma and grandpa?” and “can you show us the flowers you got for your piano recital?” My father prided himself on his ability to hold the camera steady and find everyone’s good angles, a product of working on so many film sets and being photographed so often. In my mother’s videos, my dad could be heard offscreen shouting at her to keep the camera still and let me talk. He was obsessed with capturing our quotidian lives and getting candid interviews with me, saying things like, “this is slice-of-life stuff, this is what we’ll wanna watch in twenty years.”
I used the 3D animation software Blender to model my childhood home from memory. As I moved through the virtual space, memories and moments were triggered for me. I chose not to situate my house in a realistic environment, and kept it in the blank coordinate plane surrounded by blackness to solidify it’s place in the indeterminate space of memory, outside of linear time. I placed objects and media that were evocative of my childhood in the house. I wanted the shots of the virtual house to mimic shots from my home movies, to be sterile representations of space, devoid of people, on which memories could be projected. I paired them with intimate audio from home videos to evoke feelings of loss and to create a tension between presence and absence. I wanted the light source to change and the walls and details to fall away as the video progressed, as I approached a more complete and concrete idea of my dad. I wanted the house to be a keeper of and participant in the memories and events and feelings. It was important for the memories to be taken out of their chronological order and rearranged, so the house could act as a sort of memory palace from which the memories arise and in which all other media is installed. I included audio from the interviews with the people who knew him most intimately, my mother, my sister and her mother, all of which were recorded in my house. I modeled the tape recorder that my dad and I used to record our conversations so that I could situate the audio of those conversations in the house effectively and authentically. As the lighting dims and the walls fall away, the house moves further away from being a realistic rendering and more towards an expression of memory and feeling.
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Gleason, Kaitlin Eleanor, "Excavation of Memory in Five Rooms" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 120.