Forget-Me-Not. After Lives.
Forget-Me-Not is part of the project, After Lives, that I participated in 2013 with 10 other design students from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. The project is a collection of interactive sites tracing individual lives across history and living memory. Filtered through research, interpretation and design, these lives offer rich clues to the dormant and particular silences that surround us. Each project centers on the story of someone related to its author, either not very well known or not known at all (in my case, my great grandmother) and when time and genealogy prevented close relationships with them. Wars and politics cut through their stories, drawing and pushing our protagonists to new frontiers, new futures - leading circuitously to us, in our present and prospective forms.
After Lives explores design's role in shaping modes of attention, memory and narrative in the context of events in history. Its digital approach brings insight to evolving questions in the fields of biography and social history, linking individual stories with larger cultural forces.
Forget-Me-Not is a montage inspired by the life of my great grandmother, Jozefa Borkim (1902-1978) who lived through a series of major historical events in Poland. It was created with the use of my family photographs, interviews with the family members, and video recordings of water scenes and Polish landscapes where my great grandmother lived and where I was born. I supplemented these primary materials with excerpts from documentaries found online and historical information obtained from public sources. The use of Chopin's music and a recurring image of my great grandmother's favorite flowers, forget-me-nots, originate in my own limited early memories of my great grandmother's life.
The images collected and the stories I gleaned from family interviews directly fueled my storyboard for the montage. My technical approach to the project, the use of water footage and the concept of different reflective surfaces represents my attempt to address the reflective character of the past, its persistence in the present and its tendency to rewrite itself in the future.
My intent is to give viewers a peek into my great grandmother's life and to pay tribute to her and her compatriots's capacities to face inhumane conditions, fear, loss and the unknown. My intent is also to point out the nature of life: "Life is a becoming beyond what it is because the past, not fixed in itself, never fixes or determines the present and future." As Elizabeth Grosz points out in The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely, we should also remember that "the past is never exhausted and so, it is always contained in the present and ready to be revived in the future." *
*Grosz, Elizabeth A. The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely. North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2004.