Ashwinstudio art blog

Converging Time – Collective Memory

6th November, 2020

Converging Time is a multi part body of work, both online and offline, that I created for my final MA Fine Art artwork.

Open digital Converging Time artwork

One on the areas of research for this artwork/s is idea of individual (me) and collective (family and the global society) memory. How will I and the rest of us, who survive the pandemic, look back on this? Will we be proud of how we reacted to the situation and how we may have helped others? Did we act responsibly or in hindsight did we act selfishly? Will the guy on the TV the other day (longer interview online), who had visited Bournemouth, look back with pride as he claimed it was OK to head to the beach because he did know anyone who had suffered from Covid?

VE Day brought back memories of many chats I have had with family members who recollected their experiences of WW2 and even WW1. Despite the hardships they suffered, they still had fond memories of solidarity when most people pulled together. For example, my Nan, who worked as Nurse in London during the Blitz, witnessed the horrors of war but still missed the camaraderie. Nevertheless, my Great Aunt said the camaraderie was over exaggerated and just nostalgia. However, she and my Granddad both spoke scathingly about the so called ‘spivs’ who made money on the back of misery or some of the rich who mysteriously still managed to live a relatively luxurious life. The odd thing is, they have now become my memories, memories from outside my ‘timeline’ — most likely distorted by the teller and my then younger mind.

My Great Grandfather, served during WW1 and survived some of the most horrific battles. He even served as dispatch rider in Mesopotamia, alongside ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ but rode a motorcycle and not on a camel or a horse. Supposedly, he earned the Baldwin part of my name for bravery but to me he was a gentle loving man who I adored and who I sat next to for hours as he painted portraits etc. He told me stories from his past, studying in Rome, creating tapestries for the Queen Mother and even warned me against a life as artist because it would be too hard… just as his parents had warned him. However, many of my memories and facts about his life are second hand, from family members and acquaintances, a form of “family memory” (Halbwachs,1952) created from repeated tales that change through the telling and differ depending on the teller.

As Halbwachs (1952) expressed: “The individual calls recollections mind by relying on the frameworks of social memory.”

Or as Gedi and Elam put it: “The only way memory can be perceivable, verifiable and meaningful is externally, within the “social frameworks.”” (Gedi and Elam, 1996. pp.35-36)

Nevertheless, the isolation of Lockdown brought back so many memories, a blur of memories or as what Hallbwachs describes as a ‘collective memory’. Sometimes, it was a news item, other times it was a memento, or even something said in a Zoom conversation but for whatever reason I found myself recollecting memories that I had not though of for years. However, I was not the only one, Facebook was full of people posting memories and also so many old friends suddenly contacted me, wanting to catch-up and reminisce. Although, many conversations also revolved around what people hoped to do when the Lockdown ended. Other posts, and there were many, highlighted the confusion or the shock as the pandemic unfolded.

My plan was, to try and highlight, perhaps even archive, many of these memories. Also, to include the words and phrases that have now become so common such as, ‘new normal’, covexit, covidiot and ‘extraordinary times’. I have chosen not to show the images in order by to use a random order because this is how I have perceived these times. Some images such as, the mass burials or clear skies, have forever been burned into my mind but others are fleeting and random.

In years to come, we will all have alternative memories of how we lived through the pandemic but I believe there will also be a ‘collective memory’ (in the truest sense) of the pandemic. Perhaps, politics, historians, writers, the media or the film industry will twist the narrative and maybe different cultures will have their ‘collective memory’ within the global ‘collective’ but most likely, the truth will be merged with myth.

Assmann, J. and Czaplicka, J., 1995. Collective Memory and Cultural Identity. New German Critique, [e-journal] (65), pp.125-133. 10.2307/488538. <> [Accessed June 26, 2020].

Halbwachs, M., 1952. On Collective Memory.  ed. and trans. Lewis A. Coser, 1992. London: The University of Chicago Press

Gedi, N. and Elam, Y., 1996. Collective Memory — What Is It? History and Memory, [e-journal] 8 (1), pp.30-50. <> [Accessed June 26, 2020].

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