(photograph by Alessandra Distefano on GuardianWitness 11/12/16: Another time: readers’ photos on the theme of memory)
Each week there is a photography assignment in the Observer New Review via Guardian Witness which offers readers an opportunity to deposit their photographs online on an ever changing theme – this week it is memory. It’s an interesting template and acts as a repository which is archived by default and open to display. It is also a curated space (by Tom Stevens). But does this make it a museum of sorts? The jury is out.
Readers donate images, sometimes of objects and in this edition on the theme of memory. They are witty and poignant and also interesting – yet presented in the now ubiquitous loo roll format of so many social media platforms such as Twitter or FaceBook. Scroll. Roll. Move on. Forget.
So much for the theme of memory. Which is a little ironic.
It’s easy journalism to open a template for readers to upload their quality images with a few words of explanation of their own to contextualise. The Guardian does it’s bit to hold this data within it’s pages and creates (as noted) a readymade archive – as newspapers do. It’s also easy reading. So win win – in a sense. But what is actually happening in this space?
I suppose what makes reader’s ‘memories’ so forgettable is the greater context of the word wide web and the constant sea of information that washes on the shores of consciousness. This is compounded by the lack of editorial ‘voice’ though of course selection takes place behind the scenes.
Readers gain something from uploading personal images on the Guardian Witness platform – but what? Visibility. Recognition. Ah yes – witness.
We see and yet we don’t see. We can’t see for looking.
But it is a democratisation of sorts – a signal that the formality of museum presentations in which a curatorial voice speaks (down) loftily (authoritatively) to the viewer/guest is crumbling. Something fresher and likably gritty is taking place.
Our enterprise at MfOR lies somewhere in-between this fertile ground. We won’t be seeking public submissions and we won’t speak in lofty tones. Yet we will be aspiring to go to places no loo roll format could ever reach.
Interest in and attention to the world of objects is currently high in our culture yet it is often throw away. Precisely the opposite of our intention. We want to create something of lasting value.
Bring it on!