‘A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.’
— Walter Benjamin
‘The role of forgetting and remembering have changed, from a default of forgetting to one of remembering.
Technology (cheap storage, easy retrieval, global access …) has altered the culture and economy of remembering and ushered in the demise of forgetting. Everything, across generations and time, is now indiscriminately ‘remembered.’ The objects we think with into our past and toward our futures are increasingly dematerialised into digital environments, where, for instance, touch and smell are hard to come by.
But forgetting has been of central importance to our development, as individuals, as societies. It allows us to live in the present and think abstractedly, while if we were unable to forget, we would – as the philosopher E.M. Cioran noted in A Brief History of Decay – ‘be crushed by the weight of our memories.’
Is this happening?
And if so, what effect might this ‘remembering’ be having on us, as individuals, as a society?
How is it changing our social lives, our understanding of family, employment, Time and art?
And what might we learn from the material that we do discard, abandon, throw away and bury as waste? Landfill – that other archive; our material unconscious.
This project asks you to consider ‘the role of forgetting’ in society and make an artwork based on your reflections.’
— from the project brief.
Angel, Still Ugly
The strapline on the back page of the newspaper said, The Last Goodbye.
I was looking.
He was an ugly old man who had got on the train at Stonehaven.
Moving slowly – like the train is now – he gripped the table with both hands and lowered himself into a seat.
He had brittle pubic hairs growing out of the top of his nose, dirty spectacles, grey hair. I could feel the coldness
in his hands.
The previous occupant of the seat had left behind a big empty crisp packet and a travel ticket.
With clenched fists he violently punched these off the table into the seat opposite, clearing space for a newspaper.
And I wondered.
On how many other occasions in his life had he dealt with things
that he didn’t like, things that were in his way, things that he didn’t want to see,
occasions now forgotten,
by punching them into the seat opposite;
out of the room,
out of the ring.