The Past Is a Foreign Country

Work created in collaboration with Maggie Thompson for Art Lab: Experiments in Collaboration, presented at the Crossley Gallery at Dean Clough, Halifax, July, the 30th, to September, the 18th

The work explores the way we perceive time and place as vital to the creation of memories and is the result of a collaboration between two artists separated by geography. The focus of the work is an exploration of time and distance where we chose to use time beyond its features of the ordered unfolding of events, but as a reservoir of historical and personal experience engaging with emotions, perception of the world’s matter and the fine line between the visible and the invisible.

Found images of a family photograph album are now magic lantern slides projected onto hand-pulled prints. There is time embedded in this method of making the work which acts as a counterpoint to both the speed with which the original images were made and the almost instantaneous digital technology which we used to explore how to develop the work for the exhibition.

We aim to challenge the idea of individual memory since, by presenting the real images with a new narrative. We have blurred figuratively and literally the lines between fact and fiction. We question “what might have been”, an abstract idea about which we can only speculate but an idea not hemmed in by what has taken place.

By using real photographs to create magic lantern slides we have taken a medium renowned for its accuracy, and in projecting it onto the hand-pulled prints has caused some of the details to be lost so that the mind can fill in the gaps. The photos have become abstract and imagined mirrored geography, of new horizons and changing distances, disconnected from the original places where the images were created, but having their origins in the digital images of Google earth as the places as they exist in our recent past. It is hoped that the work will speak of the fragility of our memories but at the same time bring forward the poetry of the constant dialogue between past and present.