Quintessence is defined as "the aspect of something regarded as the intrinsic and central constituent of its character" (dictionary.com) Memory and the cognitive recollection of experience are arguably among the more quintessential aspects of the human condition. The sharing of memories, telling of events and ability to reminisce is a significant part of what makes us human. These things that we call memories are formulated by dynamic catalysts, and stored in a complex conglomeration of neurons, cells and molecular structures. We predominantly associate memory with the brain, it is cognitive and neurological. The circumstances of life have lead me to contemplate, question and ponder on these ideas.
In 2014 I sustained a concussion and subsequent cerebral edema, I had an accident where my face collided with the corner of a water slide at a very high speed, leaving me wondering through the realms of consciousness for many days. I spend a few days becoming acquainted with the walls of a hospital room, attached to oxygen and an IV. The excessive swelling on my brain temporarily halted my ability to formulate new memories. At my worst moments, my memory would reset every 45 seconds. Over much time, with the help of mysterious medication and repeated questioning, I eventually came back to ‘normal.’
In the weeks and months prior to this event, I had visited London, England, had a wonderful 21st Birthday party, a grand family Christmas and a family vacation to the Zambezi Valley. Even today, I have very few memories of any of that. London is totally gone from my memory, as if it never happened. I do remember that my sister organized an awesome, adrenalin packed experience on a micro lite for my birthday. I remember my parents hosting a party for my birthday, and I remember some of who were there and the kind, encouraging and inspiring words spoken to me that night. I remember seeing what was possibly the hugest/ most satanic spider I’ve ever seen while on that trip to the Zambezi. Beyond that, I only remember the stories people have told me, and the photos I’ve seen, although I do not remember taking those photos.
I have begun to wonder, why do I remember some things, but not others. Is there a common factor governing why I remember what I remember, and why I do not remember what I do not remember. I realized that all of the memories I have are ones associated with intense emotion. Love, appreciation, excitement, fear. I only have memories of emotional experiences, nothing cognitive, or factual. Could this be evidence that memories are not stored (exclusively) in the brain, are they stored in the heart too, or in the soul, are they a learned chemical reaction?
In this series, I looked at the metadata on my hard drive, and found photos I took during the time I do not remember (roughly November 2013-February 2014). I edited those photos with a gradient map (color overlay) based on a color inherent to each image, and digitally printed the photo. Below the image I hand wrote text about my experience, and the impact it had on me- emotionally, physically, and psychologically. On top of all of that, I screen-printed a graphic image that I made using my CT scans. I have no personal memories of any of these events, the photograph is all I have. And the stories told to me by the many people I love.