/03 The Colour of Memory

Johan Bergström


A contemporary Russian saying claims that the past has become more unpredictable than the future. Nostalgia may depend precisely on the irrecoverable nature of the past for its emotional impact and appeal. It is the very pastness of the past, its inaccessibility, that likely accounts for a large part of nostalgia’s power. But this is rarely the past as actually experienced; it is the past as imagined, as idealized through selective memory and desire.

The selection of memories becomes obvious in the tradition of family photography. The family albums are usually characterised by pleasure and held-off closure – happy beginnings, happy middles and no endings, making a promise of a brighter past in the future, a kind of nostalgia-in-prospect.

But how can we ever be sure to remember things as they were? Over time memory fades, people grow old and events seem to change. Shared experience slowly turns into collective memory. We mix up what really happened and what we choose to remember, as well as mixing that up with other people’s memories and mediated information through newspapers, television and films.

The work NOSTALGIA reflects on the mechanisms of nostalgia and questions ones solidarity with the past by visualizing memories too unpleasant or too trivial to remember. It points to the deceitfulness of memory, in the age of photography, where many seem to be under the delusion of being able to control the past.