When one wants to forget, sometimes there is another one who tries to recollect what has actually never been in their memory but just should not be forgotten. Memories are physical but not necessarily true. They can be constructed and they can be voluntary.
Driven by the interest to learn more about the history of places where I took my photographs, I have been collecting old slides and negatives for several years now. Since films deteriorate over time, the images I had scanned needed to be restored and retouched. Among slides taken by unknown amateur photographers, I selected those that best fitted my own ideas of what good photography is and corrected various defects where necessary.
When I lived in Russia, I was fascinated by the photographic studies of false memory and memory implantation. Working with the photographs I’d collected, putting them in order, and making a story out of them, I was living somebody else’s life in my mind’s eye. This, however, had a lot in common with what I remembered from my own life, and that of my loved ones. Thus, real memories of the past were mixed with those that grew out of other people’s photographs. Brought about by my imagination, they became mine.
It was clear to me that the events of false memory that you had perceived and lived through in your imagination, that you had reflected on and developed an emotional awareness of had both properties and value comparable to those events that you had actually experienced. This revelation inspired me to start a new project, Before I Was Born. In addition to photographs, I took to collecting old things and imagining that they came to me from older relatives.
The entire collection of things and photographs, of course, migrated to Israel – since I did. In this new place, I wanted to develop a new imaginative experience. I already knew how to work with false memory and create the effect of attachment and engagement with the not-so-real past. Yet this time the task turned out to be more difficult.
Relocation to another country for permanent residence is a tough experience. Everything is different: the environment, atmosphere, visual imagery, social interactions, daily routine, - pretty much everything that makes up your whole life. When you live in the same place for a long time or even from birth, your memories are smooth, monotonic, and seamless. When you move, you live through a flurry of fresh experiences, events, contacts, knowledge. False and real recollections are somewhat chaotic, uneven, sometimes accidental. Also, I wasn’t particularly well-versed in the history of Israel of the 1960s-1980s. It was impossible to grasp and understand everything at once. This time, slides came to me from completely different sources, and it was much more difficult to bring them to a common style.
I ended up not with a seamless story, but rather with snippets of flashes of memory that correspond to my fragmentary knowledge and my current ideas about what was the place like before I moved here. I look at this visual history with a smile as I always do. When working with these photographs, it was important for me to convey the idea that this was a flashback rather than a glimpse from the past, typical of old photographs. I reworked and changed the pictures as memory usually does. In memory, random images tend to linger, so they linger in this project. And while I may not have achieved a full sense of the past in this new place, it became much closer and more understandable to me.