speak memory

photo light boxes / mixed media
2010

The Art of the Archive - 2012

What is the relationship between memory and nostalgia? How do we recall our own ancestral past? How do family heirlooms and hand-me-down mementos help or hinder us in our process of remembering or letting go?

At the recent death of her grandmother, artist Tara Ernst received a shipment of family heirlooms; china cups and teapots, fur hats and fine jewelry, antique furniture and dusty photo albums filled with relatives she had never known. In an attempt to better understand her inherited past Ernst began to question relatives about the nature of the objects left in her care, only to be lead on a Sisyphus quest full of contradictory memories and conflicting tales.

Borrowing its title from the autobiographical work of Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory draws upon contemporary examinations of vernacular photography, autobiography and nostalgia. Through a series of photographic light boxes and refurbished heirlooms Speak Memory reveals our inherent need and natural desire to construct our own historical narrative out of the forgotten fragments and arbitrary objects left behind by the ghosts of our ancestral past.


This project was made possible through a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

tara ernst © 2012