Guest Blog: Miriam Gould on Memory and Loss

In our latest Guest Blog, Miriam Gould writes about how we react to memory and loss. Do not miss Adventures in Black and White, their upcoming show as part of The Shape of Things to Come; two weeks of hot-off-the-press projects from CPT’s favourite artists, here 21-22 Nov at 7:15pm. Click here for tickets.


Some thoughts – both abstract and verging on the concrete – on memory and loss.

A displaced world
Traces of those lost – lost to the waves, to gas, to cold starving winters…
Traces left on clothes – their smell, their perfume, their last meal…
Their faces frozen in youth, in black and white, in simpler times…
Their words half-remembered in a voice more your own than theirs…
Your heightened retelling of their embellished stories of their patchwork memories…
Your reading of a translation of their diaries where they lied to themselves about the pain they were in…

Creative remembering 1.
They were born in a place and a time which no longer exists. When they told you about this place and time – if they did – it was filled with sunshine, with nourishment, with young, carefree love.

The lost/drowned/gassed
The people they remember have gone. They were lost decades ago to the human storms that tore through their homes. They did not survive.

Creative remembering 2.
Now, all you have are scraps, shreds, snippets. I think this photo is of a young girl named Martha. Or was it Magda… This word, it must be Viennese. Google Translate isn’t helping… I heard she died in Auschwitz. It says Theresienstadt here.

A (story-teller’s) conundrum
Who owns the truth? Who owns their truth? These things really happened. But how did they happen? Does it matter if I make up this fact so the story makes more sense? What kind of sense do I want it to make? Who am I trying to please? Am I shaping their lives to suit my own ends? Would they agree with my ends, my intentions?

Judi and I go skinny-dipping
The voices come and go, shaped and unshaped. They are illuminated, like dust in a ray of light. They make some sort of sense for a second, but then they slip back into darkness to join the soup of human consciousness, where all the memories that ever were swim together, colliding, joining up briefly or repelling one another.
We dive into this soup. We have some landmarks we are looking for along the way, but because we keep looking, and hearing, and smelling, we find all these other currents that penetrate us, possess us. As we swim, we encounter some of our own memories. They are just as unpredictable as all the others. We change. We swim and we change.

Genetic memory
Our own pain and suffering is put in perspective, again and again. Yet, also, their pain and suffering is still echoing in our genes. Perhaps this is how we are able to make the comparison.

The empathy of pain
Through pain, you connect to those in other times and places. Suffering is the great equaliser. Grief is the same now as it was in the 40s. The words we use may have changed, our facial expressions may have loosened, but grief is grief. And if you hold your grief close, keep it locked inside you like a precious gem, then it can last far beyond your death.