The Collective Memory Project
It is so easy to go through life without asking questions (especially for younger people), at a time when the world forces us to focus only on the now, and on the future. It is especially easy to forget that our parents, grandparents, and ancestors we never even knew had full lives before us, lives that they perhaps haven't shared with us at all.
This is something I've recently been struggling with myself, which is what inspired me for this project. Born into a family of "non-sharers" so to speak, it has sometimes been difficult for me to really feel connected to my roots, my origins, and my story. It's undeniable that a more or less significant part of our identity comes from our ancestry: our family, their history, their roots and cultural heritage, etc. This is what pushed me, a couple of years ago, to start asking my grandmothers questions that I had never thought to ask before. In doing so, I started to uncover an incredible amount of information about relatives, ancestors, their lives, our family's origins in Italy, stories of war, of love, of family feuds, of death...I saw hundreds of old photographs, dating back to early 1900s... After many afternoons spent going through all of these documents, my paternal grandmother once said with a chuckle: "Don't worry, this will all go to you when I go, because you're the only one in the family who cares anyway!" This brings me to the bulk of the project.
When someone dies, it is customary for objects to be inherited or passed down to loved ones, sometimes across generations. This is a way for people to say "remember me when I'm gone!", or a way for us to stay connected to our loved ones one somehow, bounded by space and time in this one piece of memory. These objects, though perhaps not often made use of, or perhaps not even considered as beautiful, take on a new life with each new owner, and more importantly, take on a new meaning every time.
This is the main idea behind this project: to encourage and push participants to reconnect with (or revisit) their roots, through such an object. It doesn't really matter what the object is, or what it does -- it can truly be anything, from jewelry, letters, photographs, statuettes, to bigger objects -- rather, what does matter is what it meant to its original owner, and to any other owner after that. Most importantly, it matters what it represents and means to you, its current owner. What I want to achieve in this endeavor is to get people to ask more questions to family members -- by asking questions about the object in question, you will inevitably start discussing its owners, the stories behind it etc., and will be left with more knowledge about where it is you come from.
In practice, it's quite simple. First, I want to photograph the object itself. Then, I'll want to photograph you with the object (whatever it is). Ideally, this will be done in your apartment, or outside if the object requires it, in an attempt to make things more personal. Finally, I will ask you to hand-write a letter, telling the story of the object: who it belonged to, the story behind it, what it meant or represented to that person, who it was passed down to, and finally what it represents and means to you now, and/or anything else that comes through your mind throughout this process. Please do take your time to write this, as the point is to let your imagination and curiosity run freely! I will also photograph the letter (so try to be legible), and also include excerpts of it as captions to the photos once I (hopefully) exhibit and/or publish this project.
I intend to get as many participants as possible, in as many countries as possible, and there's currently no deadline on this project. The only thing is, I'd like to get all my Paris participants done before my big move to Japan in mid-June.
If you have any questions, feel free to text/call me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's go on a journey together!