Memory Loss

Memory is a precious thing, and film allows us to capture moments that would otherwise be transitory. We take solace in those captured moments because sometimes memories can leave us — sometimes they can fade away and never return. That last part is exactly what installation artist Michelle Given wants her viewers to explore. 

“Michelle has always been playing with the idea of memory and how we leave it behind,” Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) museum educator Lauren Suveges says. “What she’s done is engage the viewer on the topic of memory and how we catalogue it.”

Movin’ On, confronts her viewers with the destruction of memory. It’s a not-so-subtle kind of experience.

The installation is composed of a 16-millimeter film projector that’s hooked up to a paper shredder. On the wall is a button that starts the projector and shows 30 seconds of footage that is shredded simultaneously. Anyone who presses the button and watches the footage will be the last to see those images before they are destroyed.

Perhaps even more compelling is the content of Movin’ On’s film reel. It is all found footage of precious family movies. But not Given’s family, not any family that Given knows of. The footage was mysteriously sent to Given when she ordered the projector off of the internet, which is what initially gave her the idea for this project. What the viewers of  Movin’ On experience is brilliant and uncomfortable — the memories of a complete stranger’s family being revisited and destroyed, 30 seconds at a time with the push of a button.

 “Most people enjoy the installation, but they also find it challenging,” Suveges says. “They feel kind of guilty, because they want to see more of the story but they know the memory will be destroyed forever.”

This is an installation that forces the viewer to think, feel and appreciate, which is exactly what Given set out to achieve. 

Movin’ On runs through Aug. 26, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, UO Campus. — Dante Zuñiga-West 

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