Rememory: Cinema as Brain, Archive as Self
“If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place -- the picture of it -- stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around there outside my head. I mean, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw, is still out there.”
- Toni Morrison, Beloved: A Novel
What I remember is an image floating around there outside my head. The frame is shrouded in black, the battery is dying, and the timecode continues to roll through the tape. The digitized black-and-white image is one of my past: me, at the age of 17, cruising up Mt. Diablo on a muggy summer afternoon with my girlfriend, Nikki, who was 16 at the time. As the tape fills up and the battery fades away, the image cuts to black, but my memory of this moment, this image, never ceased to disappear once the camera stopped rolling. Today I revisit this image of my past to understand how and why I have documented my life through media, whether that be through photography, writing, or film -- a medium that encapsulates memory in both time and space outside the mind. In Rememory (2016), which acts as an autobiographical film of my tangible and digital existence, I scavenge through the archives of my past and uncover moments from cardboard boxes filled with photos, the dated YouTube channels of old friends and family, and my own hard drive loaded with unpublished media. With Rememory, I wanted to use these images and memories as a way of understanding how my life might look like after I die, using film as an extension of my own mind and as a tool to think through my representations of the Self. As an entry point, the floating black-and-white frame of my girlfriend and I driving up a mountain acts as a visual anchor for what is to come; it is an abstract image that appears four times on screen and each time it appears you learn more about its relevance as a way thinking through the film. The sequence bookends the film and is paired with similar visual records on video and Super 8mm celluloid, both of which also have droning audio tracks that are meant to replicate the act of watching home movies.
Yet, Rememory is not driven by moving images. Instead, the story of the film is told through photographs, for which I took over a span of nearly a decade, and my own narration, which acts as a meditation on what it is like to revisit forms of both tangible and intangible memory. The moving images, most of which were taken from old YouTube videos I participated in, act almost literally as a replaying of the memory of my past, while the photographs, text, and narration are a representation of the present. Rememory thus becomes a new document of my life and a possible answer to the question I raise throughout the film: “After I die, what will my life look like?”
In the end, I return to the digitization of my tangible memory and to the black-and-white floating frame, but present a certain philosophy that arose through revisiting these images and the creation of this film. I write: “If you meditate on an image, its story becomes ingrained into the mind. If you continue to meditate on an image, its story becomes ingrained into history.” Rememory works as my consciousness, while the archives work as the Self and memory. These archives dig into the past, yet it wasn’t until I pieced these memories together that I began to understand my story, my Self. And not even my Self as a filmmaker, artist or thinker, but as a human. Rememory is an extension of my mind and my life, and that is really what makes the archive and film as a medium for expressing the Self so beautiful and crucial to our contemporary society: it makes the intangible aspects of our experience and existence, tangible.