For those who’ve been following my work since early days of “professional” will know my secret love for End Of Life theme, especially in a form of art and visual media.
Couple of weeks ago I went to some of the events of Remember Me Conference in Guildhall, Hull. The conference was across four days with different speakers, papers and exhibits, even a Remember Me Memorial Trail.
Remember Me project seeks to explore the nature of memorial practices and processes. Their research, made up of nine stands, includes historical and contemporary studies, ethnography, qualitative interviews, free-writing texts and photographic essays to explore the changing face of memorialisation over time.
In simple words the conference was about exploring “the changing face of memorialisation” and raising the topic that to this day is still a taboo. The conference was open to all interests and someone like myself.
Due to my schedule I was unable to attend all of the talks and exhibits, however I managed to soak up enough “brain food”.
My background into this subject starts when I was in my last year of university. My Final Major Project was slightly controversial – END OF LIFE CELEBRATIONS. My cultural background, Latvian heritage and personality brought me to explore the challenging topic of death, end of life and funerals. Throughout my project development I learned and discovered interesting studies and of course, got introduced to Remember Me Project.
Time flies by, work takes over life and I got less and less time to sneak through the bushes and photograph funerals [joke, I did that once].
There is full commitment and involvement required if to be fully aware of what is happening, it is like a world of its own in all forms and shapes. The topic is vast and, as much as I love it, at this stage of my photographers life, I don’t have the luxury to have unpaid project developments.
That is why going to even a small amount of the events, really made me feel happy and alive.
My favourite was DR. Christina Welch and her talk “EXPLORING EXTANT CARVED CADAVER MEMORIALS IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND”
Yes, it might sound ridiculously serious and of course, the study is serious archaeological topic with a high importance to understand history, but Dr Welch was like the neighbour chatting about the Thursday’s bin drama down the next street. That sort of passion and ability to make it interesting for uneducated potatoes like myself, only comes from great interest and love for the job.
Second was the small exhibit in the main social point in Guildhall. A SUITCASE FOR THE FINAL JOURNEY EXHIBIT. First of all, Google is struggling to give me some information, just traces of Europe-inspired exhibition currently happening in San Francisco.
But no doubt I’ve got it covered as usual taking all leaflets available.
“The project is about reflection: on the finiteness of life, the need for identifying personal essentials. We provided 103 persons with identical suitcases and were curious: would they all pack similar items or completely different ones? Sentimental or practical? Momentos or equipment?
The result is a touching, fascinating image of what is important and dear to us – or close to what we really wish.
The project had far-reaching impact: the TV documentary about the project attracted over 1.7 million viewers already when first broadcast in 2006 and has been broadcast repeatedly since then. The book is already in its third edition, and over 2.5 million visitors attend travelling exhibition until now…”
There was other two talks I went to:
Celebrating The Life? The Hidden Face of Dementia.
The talk addressed questions of ambiguous identity and the purposes and functions of memoralisation in today’s society. The study explores how people with dementia are remembered and their lives celebrated. The study also promotes a dementia friendly society as well as providing insights into the tensions around identity. The last part was very interesting perspective of three stages of self-understanding when being ill with dementia and the ways dementia patients are looked at within social groups/family and friends circle.
Second was the one I rushed to Fridays sessions for:
Liz Nicole and Jane Hutchinson
THE PHOTOGRAPH AS A VEHICLE FOR MOURNING AND REMEMBERING.
Right up my street, huh?
This speaker was not just talking, she also had two exhibitions at The Brodrick Gallery at Hull School of Art and Design.
The talk was about photography being a medium to explore the vast subject of end of life and memoralisation. Photographer was multilayered with the subjects – from photographs of cemeteries and grave stones from the Great War, to using cyanotype method to record traces of objects, the hanging branches and leaves of the Weeping Willow and the First World War monuments examined through the lens of 100 year-old KODAK.
There was a relation between her and me, she was expressing the never ending search, never ending question and ongoing photographic explorations. And I felt exactly the same when I was doing my own work around the subject.
The experience was rushed and there was other brilliant speakers that I had only a few snippets of. One of them discussed the Great War photographs as post cards from those days.
Writing blog about this was more for myself as a reminder of what makes me alive with photography and challenging the ordinary.
For those who feel like this is mind-tickling and interesting, pushes the boundaries for what we perceive as normal to talk about, there is loads of information and often events like this [on a smaller scale though] happen nearby. I will be your buddy, give me a shout!
Thank you to Hull University and Remember Me for hosting this interesting and much needed conference, it was my greatest pleasure to be part of it.