Originally commissioned in 2015 by curator Charlie Levine as part of a year long arts programme marking 50 years since the formation of the Borough of Camden Council as it stands today, (#Camden50). It is fabulous to have the chance to air these ‘Encounters’ in the form of voices, photographs and videos again via Historypin. The people I met for the project ranged in age from fifteen to nearly 90; had lived or worked in Camden all their lives, or for part of it – but in any case they had memories that have become embedded (/‘stuck’) in specific parts of the urban environment: parks, cafes, private homes, clubs, bars, street corners… I called these memories ’sticky memories’ – memories that are forever stuck to those particular locations, no matter how much the area changes, or how much time passes. Which of course is what underlines what Historypin is doing.
Encountering and Capturing Sticky Memories
First published 5 Jun 2015
So far, I have had a total of 17 Camden Encounters with people aged 15 to 87, who live and/or work in Camden, or who have lived and/or worked in the Borough over the past 50 years. I have found my Encounters through a variety of sources. Some were suggested to me by Camden Council – people who are already under the radar of the Borough for things they have done or achieved, individually or for an organisation, – whilst others have come to me more organically, via word of mouth, through friends and other networks. I and my assistant Kaajel Patel have also pinpointed places and, in some cases also organisations or communities we want to see represented.
No two Encounters are alike. I’ve climbed Primrose Hill on a windy day and swum in Hampstead Ladies Pond on a very rainy one. I’ve had the sleek silhouette of a family cat called Batman pointed out to me, and witnessed the last mannequins being sold from a shop that’s been on Kentish Town road for three generations. I’ve been taken back to the rave scene in Kings Cross in the ’90’s and to the Scala back in its all night cinema days. And to a lesbian bar called Mildreds. And I heard, from two separate sources, about watching the events of 9/11 unfold on a tiny telly in a tiny Portacabin in the car park of the Roundhouse.
Sticky Memories, the material I am gathering, is the term I use to describe those memories that are stuck – both to a specific place (park/street corner/shop/cafe/bus stop) and also to the present. Sticky Memories keep part of the past continually in the present, and shape the way places and spaces are experienced. By gathering these memories, as described by the people who have them, my intention is to create collectively a kind of portrait-cum-memory-map (or ‘Screengrab’ as Charlie Levine put it) of Camden and her people and places that are of significance to them.
￼There are three components to an Encounter. We meet in the location of their Sticky Memory. I take their portrait there. I record them talking about their sticky memories. And then, together we make a 1 minute long (approx) video. These videos are made at the very end of each Encounter, which lasts, usually between 1.5-2 hours. The camera is held by me, but directed by the person I’m with – to try to capture the memory they have just shared. There is only ever one take on this video.
Before we part company, I try to get a photo of both of us together. This is taken either by a passerby, if someone agrees to it, or on self timer. Sometimes I forget to do this.
We meet with a handshake and part, almost always, with something much more familiar.
Coming away with many photos, and usually up to about an hour of audio, the next task is to edit it in a way that best re/presents the Encounter I had, and the Sticky Memory that brought us together.
The edited Encounters will be added to the project page one by one, over the next few months.
Author: Elly Clarke