memory

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Mnemography

Mnemonic geography. The writing (graphic recording) of memory on a map. Wrapping a timeline around the contours of an imaginary island.

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Notes upon the mystic writing pad.

I’m starting to imagine that I’m putting together a kind of archive (the plural Weymouths suggesting a collection, a repetition, multiples), but it’s also reasonable to think that I may be taking one (or several) archives apart. Every history or collection or body of knowledge I come across in relation to Weymouth seems like fair game for re-thinking, re-framing or deconstruction. In Archive Fever, Derrida writes of typographic traces and the surface (substrate) upon which one writes (keeping records), the externalization of memory (hypomnesis) — ideas I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around since Rome. And the archiviolithic (a force that leaves no trace of itself behind — destruction of the archive).

And then —

“Archivable meaning is also and in advance codetermined by the structure that archives. It begins with the printer.”

Derrida writes of the “mystic pad” — an exterior, archival model of the psyche’s recording and memorization apparatus. He’s referring to the short essay “A Note Upon the Mystic Writing Pad” (PDF) (1925), where Freud outlines his theory: the erasable wax tablet as a perfect illustration of the tenuous link between perception and memory — a form of note-taking that is both unlimited and yet retains a permanent trace:

“None the less, I do not think it is too far-fetched to compare the celluloid and waxed paper cover with the system Pcpt.-Cs. (perception consciousness) and its protective shield, the wax slab with the unconscious behind them, and the appearance and disappearance of the writing with the flickering-up and passing-away of consciousness in the process of perception.”

A beautiful idea in its simplicity and the richness that comes along with the metaphor (drawing, writing, erasure, forgetfulness, impressions on a skin). And I can’t help but try to conjure up Freud’s premonition, 85 years later, in the form of today’s pads:

“It is true, too, that, once the writing has been erased, the Mystic Pad cannot ‘reproduce’ it from within; it would be a mystic pad indeed if, like our memory, it could accomplish that.”

A Note Upon the Mystic Writing Pad

What if a book could be a mystic pad, just as Freud describes? Not a Kindle book (flickering-up and passing away), but a book printed on paper, or a series of 12 books on paper. Somehow, in the construction of the material at hand, in the design of the book(s), perception stays on the surface (the stimuli), but opens up (gives up space) for memory to come and go, associations and impressions. An unfixed, indefinite presentation of history…an archive of indeterminacy. I’m not sure what this looks like yet.

So much material, everywhere I look. From a map of Native American trails to the original 1642 deed between the Wampanoag and the English settlers to Frank Lloyd Wright’s recollection of Weymouth from the three years he spent there as a child, to the River Wey to the Weymouth curb to the Osmington White Horse of 1808. And Hal. Each hub implies an entire archive of memory — separate memoirs, histories, collections. Data to be grabbed (tweets, weather records, google images), photos to be taken (the Portland stone buildings of London and NYC).

I’m starting to see one goal forming, sooner rather than later: the creation of a score.

 

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Ghost type

  Stetson Shoes.

Stetson Shoes was one of a number of shoe factories in the town of Weymouth. The Stetson Shoe Company closed its operations in 1973. The factory building has been converted to office space. Location is on Route 18 south of Route 3.

There’s a long history of typography that evokes time and place, usually in broad strokes—a decade, an era, a nation. Since creating Divieto I’ve had this on my mind: how personal can typography be? What if letterforms could evoke a narrower scale of memory—a specific moment, a building, a corner of a room. Shapes grabbed from within a photograph of an image of a photograph. Several layers of memory at work here. I want to extract something and bring it to the surface—letterforms carrying something along. Or perhaps they carry nothing at all. Inducing an association—the place, the moment, a deep history. Maybe I can re-draw the letters and resurrect a (new) alphabet, evoke something onto a working surface. Like sighting a ghost. This isn’t about technical accuracy or details; it’s about quickly throwing up the scaffolding around a ruin. A place to look. “Here is an artifact.”

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Athens, Still Remains

My original memory palace

And so it continues. Tomorrow I travel again, backward and forward into history. An ancient city to the east, even older than Rome. Or, a deeper look into an older self — a child’s view out a strange window, or from behind the adults, looking up onto the table. This is the exact place where language was both a) an obstruction and b) an expansive view inside and out.

How is it possible that a language could feel both known and unknown? What if it could be learned? What would be understood?

For the next six weeks you’ll find me here, enrolled in a Greek language class here, thinking about this place, and looking behind, ahead, inside and out.

To get me in the mood, I’ve been reading —

Athens, Still Remains (Derrida/1996)
A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis (Freud/1936)
On Memory and Recollection (Aristotle/4th century BC)