Memories are powerful. They allow us to go back to a place in our past, or decades ago to a time we never knew. Daniel Blaufuks, a Lisbon-based German Jewish contemporary artist, showed me that media in the form of photography and film serves as the gateway to our memories. These mediums give us the power to explore our historical truths.
Als Ob/ As If is a film by Blaufuks. I recently attended his film installation and roundtable discussion on memory, media, and art held at the Weisman Art Museum. I was given a half hour preview of the film followed by a discussion that included insight and perspectives from different College of Liberal Arts departments at the University of Minnesota. The professors from these departments provided rich background to Blaufuks’ Als Ob/As If. The departments included: Holocaust and Genocide Studies, German, Scandinavian and Dutch, History, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature and English.
Some wise words that were spoken at the panel were to hold still, look closely, and feel time. They mentioned slowing down and being intentional when viewing media. I found this process interesting because it allows you to feel a connection with the time that is depicted in the photo or film.
The idea is to be slow when engaging with a form of media. The notion of slowness is captured perfectly in a magazine that I recently discovered.
Kinfolk is a magazine that encourages its readers to simplify their life. It’s amazing what happens when you’re intentional with your actions and choose to live slowly. You become cognizant of the simple pleasures of life. Kinfolk captures this idea in such an effortlessly beautiful way. It eloquently depicts the simplicities of life in a way that makes you want to slow down and find those moments in your own life. I spent the better part of my week browsing through the magazine’s social media sites and found myself mesmerized by the idea of slowness and how it’s captured in photos and film. (Kinfolk’s Pinterest is pure gold).
I decided to try to adopt the idea of slowness into my life, which led me to an epiphany. When looking at media, slowness subconsciously takes over, allowing me to fully comprehend the emotions that accompany me on my trip to memory lane.
As I look around my room, I notice a variety of pictures that have accompanied me throughout my life. Looking at them evokes a sense of nostalgia for a time and place that has come and gone. They allow me to remember the effortlessness of being a child, dressed up and ready to take a trip to outer space with my brother. I can see the tanned face of my grandfather propped beside his fighter plane. I see a high school version of my mom smiling back at me in her cheerleading outfit and the young love of my grandparents thanks to a photo booth circa 1950. All of these photos serve as my portal to a time once lived by loved ones.
Much of my childhood is documented on an old camcorder, thanks to my dad. At the time, I didn’t understand why he had this huge contraption positioned on his shoulder following every move that my brothers and I made. Today, those home videos are treasures. Through those series of film, I am brought back to a place of pure happiness lived with my family, memories that will never be forgotten thanks to dad and the clunky camcorder.
As humans, one of our basic instincts is to collect. Some collect shelves full of old books, while others collect baskets of Beanie Babies, believing that they will be of value some day (looking at you, grandpa). Everyone is different in what they choose to surround themselves with, but there is one collection that everyone has in common: media. This collection of media is the keeper of our memories. This is why we have family pictures adorning the walls of our houses and old home videos kept in our movie cabinets. They are there to remind us of our historical truths.
Blaufuks showed me that media, in the form of photography and film, captures life in its purest form. They are the memories and personal collections of life and passing time. The past is a destination many long to revisit, and media is their ticket there.