Half-Memory

somewhere in LA

This picture could be from almost anywhere. I know which city I took it in, but I don’t remember where or on what day. I remember taking it and being unable to see the screen when I took the photo, but I do not recall the reason for taking the photo.

What I find interesting about it is it’s appearance of aging and it’s somewhat generic quality as an urban image. It could have been taken ten years ago and in a myriad of potential cities, for all you know.

But it was taken last week. I feel that I should remember everything from last week, but my trip to Los Angeles was a blur. I remember only the events that were “important,” but I forget the time and specificities of the in-between and in-transit pieces of the trip. I spent four short days in meetings spread across town, which made for a significant amount of time spent in the car. This photo marks a moment that for some reason I sought to capture while driving in a place that I can’t quite orient within my memory. It could have been Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, or elsewhere. I find it both striking and unsettling that I’ve already forgotten the context of this photograph. And in some ways, the photograph’s aesthetic looks as if it is self-aware of its own history– as if it knows that it has been forgotten– the information and context has already begun to fade and leak out of the image itself. See how the building fades into blank white, unknown spaces? This photo, for me, serves as a punctum for the transience of memory and reminds me of Perec’s missing memories.

It also speaks to Matalon’s sense of displacement within her own narrative as I think of my own displacement, both in my experience looking at this photograph and my experience in the city itself. It is the city where I will live after graduating, and it is also a city in which I am a foreigner. I do not know the streets, I do not know my way, and I cannot place the image in any specific fashion, just as I cannot place myself in LA specifically. I only know that in a few months, I will be somewhere in LA.

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