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I can still feel your lips
Memory takes many forms. “We always see with memory,” said David Hockney, insisting on our perceptions of the now as a layering of many pasts. “To come to one’s memory again” comes from the Anglo-Norman “revenir a sa memori” and has less to do with seeing and more to do with awakening, which is still not quite what I want to say. Memory-belief is that which is true but did not happen: an event remembered does not necessarily have to have occurred. Jenny Holzer made a work that claimed “memory is your image of perfection,” referring not to some lack of defects, but an alchemy — the potential for transformation. My favorite thing about memory is that it allows truth and untruth to coexist.
I cried and cried
Ruby Joy Eade’s skin on skin on dirt is only memory now. Exhibited as part of the Upstream Art Trail, the ten works lived in Central Park for four days and three nights. Found text in black, printed on white board, mounted by a wooden pole — the signs speak to remembered moments of teenage intimacy in public spaces. The signs can speak to or for the viewer: ‘you’ and ‘I’ existing in their most malleable forms. Part of the pleasure in encountering the works is the creation of narrative. Left up to the path you take, this story can take many forms, although none will end by way of conclusion, only mood. So we are thinking about connections rather than closure: between the ‘you’ and the ‘I’, the ‘you’ and the work, the work and the work, the work and the place, the place and the ‘you’.
Maggie Nelson wrote that “fucking leaves everything as it is,” which is to say fucking does not equate to being together forever, even when we promise it does. Moments, and in turn memories, mark time but cannot define it. Similarly, language exists independently from what it describes, which is the crux of Eade’s work: her borrowed phrases resonate because they can never quite encapsulate the feeling they try so hard to convey. Sourced from the subreddit r/relationships, “I can still feel your lips”, “I cried and cried”, “together forever”, and “skin on skin on dirt” are phrases isolated from longer quotes. These are stories only glimpsed.
skin on skin on dirt
We can consider intimacy as central to loneliness, which craves that closeness, but it is more difficult to discern how these anonymous fragments can convey a feeling which surely requires a knowable identity. The intimacy of Eade’s work comes by way of transformation: the digital becomes reality and, in turn, reality becomes an act of imagination. What happens to reality as it enters the work? The trick is that the signs exist in the subjunctive until memory is activated, at which point their physicality is exposed as device. The “markers of memory”, as Eade has described them, are representative of a new kind of confession which has manifested in the digital age: knowing without knowing, intimacy without touch, an identity built on code. Our memories are, like the internet, built on a process of encoding. skin on skin on dirt plays with these associations. From within the park a new landscape is created. How long you linger is up to you.