My husband often comments ‘I’m worried about your memory’ I get things confused, I forget things... the other day as I was trying to get my sleepy son out of his bed in the morning, I tried to convince him that it was Friday; the last day of the week he had to get up… my son looked at me with confusion, as it was explained to me it was in fact Tuesday. I was in my own version of Ground Hog day, I was about to repeat the diary activities of the previous week. So what’s happening to me? I suspect it’s simply that I’ve just got a lot of things going on at themoment, lots of new projects starting, all with different challenges, there are the kids to get sorted, and domestics that are loaded at the bottom. I find I have to make an effort to stick to one subject, my brain is whizzing round with ideas and questions. I thought it was meant to be the ‘younger generation’ who've no attention span. The trivial and the mundane is quickly consigned to my brain's deleted folder - I live by lists and my diary.
But is there anything else? Is this also about getting older? How does your memory change, as you age? Memory is something we take for granted - until we lose it- or someone close to us loses it.
As part of the project ‘working memories’ I am undertaking some research into art and memory, investigating art as biography, as autobiography, the role of the archive (both paper and synaptic) revisionist memory, absence of memory and art as remembrance.
Working with people diagnosed with dementia encourages new ways to look at memory. You can’t validate their memories; it’s their reality - is one persons wrong is another's right? As artists/writers Phil and I work with the person as they are now, the truths as they see them. We have enough distance to do this comfortably, when it’s your own family - people you love - it’s a harder journey to take. We time travel with our minds, and the past for someone with dementia is often a more comfortable place to be in than the confusion of the now.
|My sisters Kim and Nicola and brother Brian|
It’s not just people with dementia who adapt memories; am I alone in having siblings who ‘steal’ an autobiographical memory? My big sister Kim is now convinced that she was the one who tied my sister Nicky to a tree and left her to be eaten by the wolves… whereas I ‘know’ it wasactually me who was tied to the tree by Nicky. Memories become stories they are re-told, distorted and edited for dramatic or comic effect and their ownership changes. A vivid memory is no guarantee that it really happened, but is a‘false’ memory a lesser memory? Too many questions not enough time, I've just seen another pile of jobs emerge whilst I have been writing this to distract me..