Alison Landsberg argues that forms of mass culture such as cinema support one’s ability to possess a memory of an event they did not experience (Landsberg 25). According to her, this is largely due to the way in which film enables the viewer to have a vivid, visual encounter with the event. Landsberg later addresses the way in which these memories feel authentic, despite their prosthetic nature. She suggests that this because of the way in which the mediated experience itself is real. This blog post touches on some of Landsberg’s ideas by demonstrating the notion that a memory of a place can be mediated in a similar manner as that of an event.
Using a combination of two media formats; photography and text, I have reconstructed my memory of a trip to New York City. The sets of images provide a subjective perspective of some of the places I visited during my time there, while also offering an alternative, more objective view of them through the addition of still images extracted from widespread cinema. The text that trails the four sets of images acts as a sort of individualized standpoint. Its purpose is to give the reader a sense of the familiarity I felt on my first night in the city. As a whole, my creative project intends to illustrate the ways in which we experience prosthetic memories through our engagement with cinema.
According to Landsberg, the widely disseminating images I have chosen to incorporate into my creative project, not only innately informed my subjectivity but equally my relationship to the present and future tenses (Landsberg 26). Both the text and the sets of images support the idea that my memories of New York City are not strictly derived from my own lived experiences (Landsberg, 25).
The overlapping of film stills and my own photographs are presented in such a way, to illustrate the difficultly of distinguishing between my authentic memories and those supplanted by prosthetic ones. Essentially, the visual power of the scenes from each of the four films was such that I was able to acutely feel the same sensations that I would have, had I been physically present. According to Landsberg, I was “emotionally possessed” (30). As a result, my ‘authentic’ memories of New York City have became somewhat diluted while those prosthetic have remained vivid. This idea is demonstrated in the sets of images. In the last photo of each set, the movie scene shifts to the foreground, appearing more prominent than in the second image. This shows the extent to which I identified myself as ‘living that moment’ through the lens of the camera. The transparency of my own photography in the last image exhibits how much of what I now remember of the places was strewn to me via the media. This suggests that my memory of the locations is not a pure or entirely authentic recollection, in the sense that it has largely become a revisiting of the filmic experience rather than the real one.
Lastly, the small section of text addresses the sense of belonging I experienced in a city I had never visited. It describes the familiarity I had with the sights, the smells and the sounds of the city. In combination with the images, the text suggests that this sense of attachment and awareness stemmed from the already semi-present prosthetic memories. Had it not been for these, I would not have felt nearly as comfortable in this ultimately unfamiliar new place. The ease of the transition at the time was made a lot easier because of these deeply entrenched archive of ‘inauthentic’ memories.
Ultimately, the creative project as a whole aims to show how prosthetic memories become “part of one’s personal archive of experiences”. Etched in our long-term memory, they not only dictate the way we see the view a place in the present tense but also how it will be remembered in the future. In favour of Landsberg’s argument the project exhibits how through the effective mediation of mass cultural technology, audiences adopt memories of places from the alternate realities they see on the screen and convert them into their own ‘authentic’ memories of the place.
- Alexia Antoniadis
Landsberg, Alison. Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Rememberance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Print.