Accepted Paper:

Memory, imagination, and montage  


Alyssa Grossman (University of Liverpool)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses the paradoxical difficulties of ethnographically conveying the visual qualities of memory through the medium of film. It investigates the use of live-action animation, sound montage, and extra-long takes as possible methods for filmically treating the vivid yet invisible phenomena of memory and the imagination.

Paper long abstract:

In my doctoral research on sites and practices of remembrance work in post-socialist Bucharest, I encountered a paradox while attempting to explore this subject through the medium of film. While memory, like film, is widely accepted as a visual phenomenon, deeply connected to sensory and material processes, it is only that way in the imagination. Although a memory may retain the quality of a photographic image in your mind, you cannot document that mental impression, or show it to someone else. Actually conveying memory through film requires more than literally lifting images from the mind and transposing them to the photographic realm.

To address this paradox in my current work, I have experimented with styles of filming and editing that aim to convey the feelings and textures of memories, rather than theoretical or academic descriptions of them. My goal is not to merely illustrate memory through film, but rather to capture its visual, tactile, and sensory properties. This paper discusses some of my experiments with live-action animation, extensive sound montage, and extra-long takes in order to ethnographically approach the subject of memory, and examines their implications for expanding upon more conventional assumptions and practices in visual anthropology.

Panel W086
Transcultural montage: the uses of filmic montage in conveying diversity and mutuality