FOR WANT OF ETERNITY
“For want of eternity ten thousand old things have been assembled”
‘Museum’, Wisława Szymborska, 1975.
I work in a film developing lab. I scan roughly 100,000 images a month. Babies being born, dinner parties, feet, cocaine, sex, picnics, protests, children crying, family holidays, paintings, dancing, the wilderness, loneliness, Christmas, and New Years.
Anyone can take pictures and they do. This excess of images makes deciphering their importance exponentially challenging. The contemporary world’s compulsion to document has brought into question the act of documenting altogether. What does image-making at an industrial scale come at the cost of? Why does it feel necessary to hold on to time through objects to form an object(ive) sense of reality?
My dad is an obsessive-compulsive collector. Some might even call him an organised hoarder. Hundreds and thousands of records, stamps, tram tickets, films, sci-fi books, comics, marbles, shells, matches, letters, and curated cultural relics that hold lost time. Meticulously organised and stored in his 25 square metre apartment in which he resides. Nostalgia has a funny way of making these objects feel unequivocally important.
The relationship between the over-consumption of imagery I see everyday and my dad’s compulsive collecting is something I am still attempting to wrap my head around. In both of these worlds I am engrossed by a mass of memorabilia. I see the intimate lives of strangers and familiars and attempt to understand the compulsion to represent ourselves with (and within) objects.
While my dad relishes in his collections and the joy it brings him to share their stories, his belongings hold him within the walls of a self-curated world. A world psychologically safer than the one that exists outside of his second floor apartment. His nostalgia-driven order is determined to never risk losing time even once it has past. It is as though he is made up of these objects and without them and their associations he ceases to exist. His sense of the world is wrapped up in each bookmark. This reasoning is profoundly similar to the contemporary world’s growing obsession with analog photography. We feel inclined to collect and manicure time in such a way that we construct images that impose the aesthetics of nostalgia. Before time has even had a chance to pass, we curate it. We attempt to mould reality to feelings that can only exist with retrospect.
This project is an interrogation of the cultural mausoleum my dad has constructed. ‘For Want of Eternity’ attempts to dissect the construction of memory, personal histories and and the pervasive fear of lost time that impacts us all. This project engages with the chemistry that enables the photograph, and how these reactions resist the ungovernability of time.
All images have been hand developed and printed with biodegradable developing chemistry, pholyphenol extracted from foraged thistles, vitamin C, and sodium carbonate. The photographic fixer used has been continually replenished using a galvanic cell used to extract and preserve the silver that has accumulated.