The she perhaps remembers the most and wants

The role of exploiting the modern memory and these personal archives and
documents is particularly relevant in the work of Tracey Emin. Born in 1963,
Emin is an English contemporary artist known for her autobiographical and
confessional works. Her White Cube solo exhibition My Major Retrospective (1993) is seen as a highly personal ‘review’
of her life. The exhibition contained over a hundred objects which Emin had
collected over the years, in what constituted a developing act of obsessive
assemblage.

This precious, personal collection on display included teenage diaries,
souvenirs, toys and memorabilia combined with paintings and drawings.

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This ‘photographic graveyard’ of Emin’s archived past and present builds
on a deeply confessional narrative of a visual autobiography.1

This particular
exhibition by Emin visualises Pierre Nora’s theory of the ‘modern’ or ‘archival
memory’ in the way in which she has displayed these obsessively collected items
of her personal life and past. Her show referenced Nora’s comment on the way in
which society is so frantically obsessed with this archiving, afraid of the
future and these unpredicted events, too afraid to let go of these
self-preserved memories; “Even as traditional memory disappears, we feel obliged assiduously to
collect remains, testimonies, documents, images, speeches, any visible signs of
what has been.”Emin’s work has always had a central focus on the documents and
representation of her personal life, and so although this ‘museum’ exhibition
supports and stages the way in which we save our memories you could also argue
that Emin’s need to collect and document her belongings is more for this
self-exploitation than this preservation or need to look back on memories or
reminisce on her past. Her need to exploit her private archive perhaps exceeds
Nora’s expectations of the ‘modern memory’ but also supports it. Tracey Emin,
rather than displaying these family albums or expectations of a happy life
she’s had, instead merely shows us the most personal elements of her history,
these most forgotten or private memories and secrets. Despite this, it
seems the transparent presentation of the most intimate and private emotions,
are what she perhaps remembers the most and wants to share with the viewer. Pierre
Nora’s discussion on this ‘modern memory’ is very much supported by My Major Retrospective and how we have
all become so attached to these objects and elements of life, afraid to let go,
with the need to museum archive our pasts. Emin’s constant need to reference
her past and traumatic history of herself in her work is merely a reference to
this obsession, forever using these tools of documentation to recreate or
represent the past, and the growth of ourselves, just as she has with her
diaries and framed photographs, exploiting what is seen as a recreation of herself
and a history only remembered by this exhibition. These to us, as Nora
explains, have become an ‘imaginary museum of memory’ of Emin, a reference to
this social consciousness and how she is perceived, using this self-archive as
a way of remembering or exploiting only what she wants, whit these ‘props’ as
the evidence of the documentation.

                  In an interview with Lynn
Barber from The Gaurdian, Emin was
asked about this obsessional habit of hoarding things, and the way she keeps archives of her life
and “never lets the past go”.

“Perhaps it’s
because I never grew up… Truth is such a transient thing, it’s like with my
work, people say, Oh, the honesty and the
truth behind it – but it’s all edited, it’s all calculated, it’s all
decided. I decide to show this or that part of the truth, which isn’t
necessarily the whole story, it’s just what I decide to give you.”2 So
with this interview, we are faced with this ‘modern memory’ in Emin’s piece, supporting
Nora’s explanation of how the collection of objects throughout life become a
reference to what we want to remember, an edited history of ourselves and
memory, an archive of a recreation we imagine of ourselves and the memories we
remember.

 

In conclusion
to this essay, the memory and the archived memory is referenced throughout the
works of Landy and Emin, and their focus on the documentation of
self-preservation through object, home and possessions supports the theories of
Bachelard and Nora.

Both artist’s
clearly support the two theories of memory, evaluating this idea of recreation
or archived memory in relation to personal experiences and identity, thinking
about how the information of the past we exploit is what gives us this history
of ourselves. 

The two
theories on memory reference the importance of the past, the possession and the
archiving of memories within this generation and how memory is a relevant
subject, not only in philosophy but also in contemporary art, in which artists
exploit these personal and emotional experiences of memory.

 

 

 

1 http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/tracey_emin_my_major_retrospective_1963-1993_duke_street_1993/

2 https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2001/apr/22/features.magazine27

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