Over the past several weeks, I have been in the process of digitizing all of my home videos. I felt that this was a perfect example of an artifact that carries very specific memories for me. The majority of the videos are from the early 80s, so I have almost no recollection of any of this happening. Through these tapes I am able to “recreate” memories. This raised several questions that I was interested in exploring: “Do I actually remember, or am I remembering the media?” “What is the correlation between watching and remembering?” “How is the degradation process of my memory similar to the degradation process of digital media?” “What is the essence of these memories?”
I don’t think that these digital representations of events from the past can constitute as my actual memories. However, I do believe that they assist me in remembering the past. What I find interesting is the idea that memory slowly degrades as time goes on, and essentially no longer exists as a specific event but more as an overall feeling. For example: I don’t specifically remember what I was doing in my grandparents’ backyard when I was 2 or 3 years old. What I do remember is the feelings of excitement and joy, the giant blue swimming pool, the green grass. The memory becomes a wash of emotions and landmarks.
I decided to look online to see if there had been any projects similar to this. Patrick Liddell, took this same feat upon himself, and uploaded/downloaded a video of himself to YouTube 1,000 times. It took him one year. His interests in doing this were to see how he could “eliminate all human qualities [that his] speech and image might have.” 2 Although our intentions are quite different, I decided to begin doing exactly as Liddell had done. I was more interested in emulating the vagueness of my memories, than voiding them of any human quality. By continuously uploading, downloading, and re-uploading the same video, I wondered if I would find the “essence” of the video. Would this “essence” be similar to that of my memories?
The process itself is extremely tedious. Even as I am writing this I am continuing to upload and download. I have been doing it for the past 3 days, and am currently at version 57. The quality of the video certainly degrades, but at very small intervals. When looking at two sequential versions, it is almost impossible to see any change. When looking at version 1 and version 57, the change is very obvious. The images begin to become more amorphous, resembling human figures and objects, but the details are completely lost. Even the audio becomes distorted. It is clear that we are hearing people talking and singing, but much like the images, it is unclear exactly what they are saying. It becomes more of a soundscape than dialogue. Much like my memories, I am left with a feeling of the experience rather than an accurate account of what was recorded.