Memory is hard to define. It’s hard to describe what it is that you see when you recall a memory. Some memories can be vivid and others lacking in form.
During the interview process for vestige I’ve been asking about what you see hear or feel when you recall a memory. I’ve been focusing on memories that people don’t have a photo or video of that they may have seen following the event. I’ve also been asking people about memories that I have shared with them to see if their memory matches my own.
Usually the memory begins as a story, it focuses on the main event and the ‘memorable’ moments that surround it or lead up to it. When I asked my Mum about giving birth to me, she began by telling me that she was alone, it was just me and her. She then tracks back in time to explain that my Dad was looking after my brother. Then she skips all of the details of the birth and tells me how she remembers holding me in her hands and saying the words “It’s just you and me versus the world”. It’s a beautiful moment and it brings her to tears to remember it. She feels the joy of the moment. I ask her more about the details of the space around her when she’s holding me, “What colour were the walls?”… “Cream, I think… I can’t really remember”. These details aren’t important to her story and when I continue to ask questions about the room layout she’s uncertain about almost everything but gives fills the gaps by giving me her best guess. I feel as though she’s using her knowledge of what hospitals looked like to formulate these answers, but they could be true. She remembers there being a clock on the wall and a machine that beeped all night. I asked her why she remembers those specific details and she explains that she looked at the clock to see what time it was when I was born, “two minutes to midnight” and the beeping kept her from sleeping. These elements momentary importance but don’t make it into the main story. They are also only really abstract entities having no specific form, she doesn’t remember what the clock looked like or where the machine was “On the left… no, on the right”. I ask her whether she sees the moment first or third person, “I see me holding you from the side of the bed, looking down at us”. This I find really interesting, she’s abstracted the memory to see it from a different viewpoint, not as the original event was experienced.
When asking similar questions to other people, the results are similar but can vary depending on haw recent the memory was, how intense the moment was and how well acquainted they are with the place where the memory takes place.
There’s a reason I’ve been focusing on memories that don’t have any photo document of the event. I kind of feel that these fall into two distinct categories. The printed photo and the digital photo are broad distinctions but it’s probably more about the point in time where photos became quite throw away, when you started taking hundreds of photos and archiving them to disk, rather than printing them. But then early social media kind of interrupts this a little too, when you might upload a few of your favourites before mass photo publishing became a thing. Memories of ‘print-era’ photos seem to be heavily based on the photo itself. When describing these memories they seem to be much more visually accurate but only within the boundaries of the frame. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s perhaps just not what I’m trying to understand.
The graphical style of Vestige will reflect this using a mix of volumetric capture technologies to create varying degrees of fidelity. Scenes will appear distorted and ambiguous, peripheral details will often be missing, fragmented and falling apart.