Memory Series Pieces for Catalysts: Eight Artists on the San Andreas Fault – Group Exhibition at UCR

80DK, 2011, Digital C Print on Watercolor paper, 44 X 30 inches

I was interested in finding out if memory could be altered in terms of emotional and psychological response to one’s most poignant and monumental moments in life if the environments in which the memories occurred were revisited and certain events portrayed from an aged and contemporary, adult perspective.

I began a series that depicted places of my past shown in their modern day reality, with a cast of mature characters re-enacting my memories. In most instances, the results softened the memories, making them less emotional and intense. In most occasions resolutions occurred and fondness was provoked for the human experience at large.

Til You Drop, 2011, Digital C Print on Watercolor paper, 44 X 30 inches

In one instance though I came into contact with a strange phenomenon of memory’s overall oeuvre. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we hung out at malls, which were almost synonymous with the word “babysitter” to latchkey kids. We spent most of our self-individuating years there practicing different identities in a safe controlled environment where we could be entertained culturally (in the movie theaters), sexually (in the back halls and food court alleys), physically (cheap food and the arcades or the ice skating rinks), and mentally (the trend parade that was the revolving storefront). I spent the better part of my early high school career riding the bus after class to the mall downtown with friends where we would stash our backpacks under the public restroom sinks and with false French accents, proceed to roam the place as if we were visiting from a foreign land. Perfume samples from department stores were free, as were samples of chocolates from the gourmet candy emporium. The skater boys out back always had cigarettes and beer if we were feeling rebellious.

When I returned to revisit this particular mall to make a piece for this series, I found it the exact same way I had left it, only in ruins. There were no brand new stores to reflect the natural passing of time, or seamlessly blend my yesterday with today to produce that desired sea of good feeling. There were no empty lots or new places in its space to further express the normal ebb and flow of the cycles of life. There was no evidence to assure me that things indeed evolve and change beyond those awkward and vulnerable years. Stuck deep in the formative tome of my teenage psyche, the place was an abandoned shell, indeed producing within me a sense of being shell-shocked.

I uncovered a limbo in the annals of memory that produced neither resolution nor dissolution of the original memory and was instead now faced with the unsettling sense of simply being frozen in time.

– Kimberly Nichols November 3, 2011

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2 Responses to “Memory Series Pieces for Catalysts: Eight Artists on the San Andreas Fault – Group Exhibition at UCR”

  1. Tom Goforth Says:

    I really like the working concept you are working with here Kimberly. It closely resembles the notions of Jacob L. Moreno, the originator of Psychodrama. Moreno would have someone pick people from a psychodrama group to populate whatever issue they were working on in their therapy. He would then have them set the stage of their drama in great detail, so that the “protagonist” would have the feel of the location of their story, and then he would have them play out the scene in which their “issue” took place. He did not revisit the actual scenes of childhood geographically as you are doing, but he did call on the person’s memory and imagination to reconstitute the memory in as much detail as possible.

    His work was carried on by his student and wife, Zerka Moreno, who may no longer be with us. I was trained in this form of therapy in the 1970’s. It is a powerful format that is seldom practiced these days as far as I know.

  2. Elizabeth Alexander Says:

    I was with Kim in those days gone by. We did have an unusually good time. Even though it was so long ago, it is still on the tip of my everyday thoughts. Those years stick out almost more then any other time in my life, why, i don’t know. Thanks Kim for writing that! Because sometimes it feels like it was a dream.

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