It’s Going to Always Be There, Waiting for You
“If a house burns down, its gone, but the place—the picture of it—stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there in the world… even if I don’t think it, even if I die the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there… Because even though it’s all over—over and done with—it’s going to always be there waiting for you.” (Morrison 36)
Call it divine timing, mind reading, or the ghost of Beloved’s past, but whatever it is has to be the strangest, most revelatory, and incredible thing in this world. While at the Schomburg Center in Harlem working on my thesis, a fellow Amherst student, Noah Morton ‘17, accompanied me to sift through a ton of archived material. What we saw was nothing short of amazing and the conversations had about remembering these moments depicted in the photographs helped me inch closer to what I envision my thesis to be. I speak a little bit about it in my former blog post but on our walk to the train station, Noah asked whether the spirit of a space remains despite the un/intentional destruction of it. It felt like a rhetorical question, as we both had similar answers stating in different ways that yes, it must. However, it felt like a partial answer, as we based them on the fact that some archived relics or unarchived artifacts exists somewhere and is “waiting” to be found.
Literally a day later, upon reading Beloved by Toni Morrison, the aforementioned quote appeared as Sethe speaks to her daughter, Denver about talking (as opposed to praying) with the Lord. Sethe explains her disbelief of time, as places, regardless of memory remain out there in the world. This doesn’t mean that they exist in some physical form be they a collection of archives or a single artifact, but that they manage to exist in some ethereal form that is accessible to people when someone occupies the space. This directly addresses Noah’s question, reveals the partiality of our answer, and succeeds the theoretical and material work I have done for my thesis thus far. Aiming to re-envision histories of Black Brooklyn (black people, their institutions, their joy, their presence, etc.), I have placed a lot of emphasis on tangible archives/ artifacts given the nature of excavation and academia’s emphasis on working from palpable things. But what of the things we can’t see or hear, or the experience we feel. How do I digitally preserve that feeling of haunting due largely to physical absence and silence? In a photo series and more particularly for virtual reality, how can I illustrate Sethe’s understanding that without sight or sound, “it’s going to always be there waiting for you.”