These delicate frames hewn from cardboard and flaking glue, dried in the warm air, nestled in these metal cabinets. Unstuck, disintegrating and yet poignantly beautiful holding in themselves much more than just frame, number and title, but a memory of a practice now passed in this digital age. Fragments of film and image in celluloid, a plethora of subjects and then, glimpses of sprocket edges through gaping aperture. Held to the light they become gleaming jewels singing with an irreplaceable vitality held only by film. These little things, material, fragile, densely packed with meaning and alive with possibilities, beg to be explored and interpreted, offering serendipitous avenues in which to encounter new ideas, new meanings. This is a place, not a search engine. As such, it is imbued with personality, history, Memory. If you stay awhile, and I encourage that you do, something will bubble to the surface. This is home to a countless wealth of connections and story, your own, those shared by another, or those discovered as you sift through the multitude.
It is interesting to me, reading the contributions both to this participatory artwork and the Project[ed] Voices project that came before, that each is achingly personal as if those who respond to this space feel compelled to share deep and individual experiences. It seems that we, as human beings, find it difficult to not invest a little of ourselves in this space. Is it the materials that inspire this? The physical act of touch connects us to these materials in a way that digital archives never can. Each little jewel offers a window into another world, a portal into memory, a fragment of time. In these fragments perhaps we all, for a moment, see a reflection of ourselves, of our individual existence and in this are fleetingly touched by the fact that we will not remain, that we will disappear as our predecessors before us. Barthes termed it ‘that terrible thing that is there in every photograph: the return of the dead’, but this place is quite the contrary. It celebrates what it is to be alive. William Blake claimed throughout his life that he was witness to visions, epiphanies, if you will, something that Joyce referred to as ‘the most delicate and evanescent moments’. I am drawn to these ‘moments’ offered by the archive, by the countless serendipitous chances waiting to be discovered by the eager and by the allure that each cabinet offers a wealth of possibilities, starting points and potential epiphanies for those open to receiving them.
These little, delicate and fragile slides continuously fascinate me. They hold a damaged beauty and with it a parallel to the fragility of our own lives, always as ever, shown through the layers of history held in the archive. This is film and like our memories it too starts to fade. The archive is us in so many ways, we must allow it the dignity it deserves, let it sing a little longer. Preserve it in its entirety, so that others may experience the delight of the unexpected encounter, the very heart of these collections.
MA Animation, Manchester School of Art