Experiment: Presenting the outcome #3 – suitcase of memories

This experiment began the exploration of multiples. Three antique suitcases and the three dresses worn in the photographs were used. Then multiples of each photograph were printed at postcard size and scattered around the relevant suitcase.

In the first layout below I set each suitcase open and distributed the postcards mostly inside each one but with some extending out of the case. The consistency of this connection between the three cases creates a rhythm and intent which looks resolved and purposeful. Immediately I am drawn to the connection between the dress in the photographs and the physicality of the clothing. The history in the photos has been propelled into the now, the neatly folded clothes represent something owned by the individual but only an empty shell. This is a parallel to how we remember a person when we see clothing that stands for them – we see texture and colour and we might smell the past but we have to conjure up the image of the person.

This connection to other senses is worth exploring further. For example, smell is fascinating as it is often called the most evocative sense as a specific smell can bring back memories that we can’t explain and have an association that is hidden away in our subconscious. Perfume on physical clothing is then doubly evocative of course. Can we draw parallels between the evocation abilities of language and other senses? I think this is getting interesting as we are exploring differences, for example, words have been removed from their original context (remember Judith Butler’s work) and have potentially lost their power. Visual artefacts have been disconnected from the individual but retain their physical presence, they still live in the now, we can touch them, walk around them and smell them. The language we show on the postcards has been multiplied so we are saying that this repeats over and over in our heads and we try to understand it.

So which is more powerful, language or physical artefacts? That is difficult to answer but I think letting this idea loose on the viewer would generate an outcome I’d be very happy with.

In the second sequence below I closed each suitcase, scattered the postcards on the outside but just showed a piece of the dress poking out of each case. My immediate reaction is that this is not as successful. The memory chest seems closed to us and we do not see such a close connection between the clothing and the photographs. The first arrangement above works better as we care been given a peek into a treasure chest of memories and I enjoy how above there is a sense of a bag been packed, which is yet another string to the situation that unfolded.

Summary & next steps

Open suitcases and postcards add rich context and the whole arrangement suggests narrative around relationships, moving on, communication and visual association. I really enjoy the first arrangement above so I’ve ordered printed postcards of each photograph as I’m confident that multiples are working well.

More arrangements will be considered but I’ll look at other artists who play with similar concepts to grab more inspiration.

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