By Abigail Yue Wang
History is remembered by dates. 6 August 1945. 7 July 2005. 1939-1945. Or by place. Hiroshima, London Underground, Poland. Animate Projects’ latest collaboration with CGP London Sites of Collective Memory features four animated works delving into this subject in close relation to our spatial comprehension of the past. “Sites” establishes the theme, but the individual is the heart of it.
The darkened rooms of Café Gallery project the animated films in their full integrity; one capacious room neighbours another, each screens its own theme in a space where the air seems as overpowering as unhurried, recounting the individual remembrance of past trauma. Jordan Baseman’s Little Boy uses chemical emulsion on 16mm film to render the sky above Hiroshima Peace Museum into ghostly flickers, conjuring the atomic calamity while Ms Setsuko Enya – survivor of the disaster – tells her own account on the day of the blast (and a full transcript).
This is History (after all) by Roz Mortimer drives deep into a Polish suburb, where the shadows of Romani (Gypsies) genocide during WWII, known as Porajmos, still looms over its inhabitants seventy years after. It’s a “forensic examination of memory and place” that recall a history, which has fell into certain oblivion in our routines of commemoration. It raises the concern that just whose memories are deemed “collective” if the rest of us have failed to discern. The stereoscopic CHUVIHONI by Delaine and Damian James Le Bas, continues the journey in the windless Hampshire, searching for traces of Romani diaspora – embroidery, bird tales and the Gypsy oral tradition. No vagabond nor caravans, it demystifies the impression of the culture being rootless, but family-centred on the contrary. 216 Westbound portrays a survivor’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after 7/7 London Bombing. Nine years later, apart from a memorial space in Hyde Park, the city sits orderly, so does Edgware Station, in the everyday surge of traffic, challenged as always but unexceptional.
Sites of Collective Memory asks how and when we should remember in the light of our docile peace. Although individual collection only tributes to the mist of history as a memorabilia, a catalyst; it could feel like something in the back of one’s throat, inconclusive but real. There is no imposed heroism, nor wish-wash larger than life eulogy; instead it hangs in mid air unfathomably, like that of the warming sun as I walked out of the exhibition to a Sunday’s Southwark Park. They are names and tales among, and hopefully, within us. A collective history isn’t indeed faceless.
Sites of Collective Memory
The works first premiered at Animate Project online and at CGP London on 9 July 2014 and will run until 10 August 2014, followed by an exhibition at the Phoenix in Leicester in September, with support from VET and Film and Video Umbrella.