Andrea Thoma : The making of ‘place’ to enable memory


Identity is a construct, so is place; or there is ‘place’ as we might find it described in a tourist guide, and ‘place’ as we experience a site first hand with our thoughts and associations, as well as through the phenomenology of our perception.

The reflection on place and its interpretation in relation to time and space has been dealt with throughout the history of philosophy from the most diverse perspectives. My personal approach to place is that of an artist with a particular interest in how we physically perceive and measure ‘real space’ in a time-context which is defined by the movement of our own body through it.

The conscious ‘making of a place to enable memory’ involves a claim to belong, but also acknowledges other realities and other places. ‘Here the absolute is local, precisely because place is not limited.’[1] It could be here or there. The concentration on the local, immediate surroundings enables a temporary inhabiting of a place.

My identity is defined by a somewhat nomadic existence where various sites, cultures and languages coexist. This place is a construct, my biotope, where I observe and experience that which is near to reflect on Dasein (in the Heideggerian sense).[2] The notion of dwelling gives a focus to these inquiries and calls for related concepts such as repetition, duration and change. It seems adequate to investigate this being-in-the-world in a context, which might appear to some as banal and insignificant. It nevertheless allows an unmediated observation of a personal environment and a discovery of ‘immensity in the intimate domain’.[3]

The experience and documentation of everyday activities which contribute to the building of this place enable memory. In this project I am less concerned with the memory of a past than a memory of a here and now which I collate for future reference. In the context of this photography plays a crucial role. It allows for distancing myself from ‘that which is near’. The alienating effect of the medium helps to define a territory which, although drawn from the ‘real’, becomes fiction. The photograph creates a link between the imaginary and the objective world.

The role of photography as a tool to create memories has been widely discussed. I am particularly interested in its ability to isolate moments in time. The photographic image allows for a re-construction of narrative. Its relation to death (see Roland Barthes)[4] is somewhat liberating as it undoes any obligations to reality and its flow of events.

Photography provides a useful method to study aspects of Dasein, and alludes to one’s being aware of one’s own being.[5] This place is a construct, it is constantly being reinvented and its memory updated. It is always perceived in relation to other places. Identity in the making.

Artists that have influenced my work are, i.a., Gerhard Richter, in particular his work Atlas, as a way to map through photography the context of his pictorial thinking; Hiroshi Sugimoto, in particular the series ‘theatre’, where he reflects on the condensation of time in photography and its relation to the moving image; Sophie Calle for her documentation and ‘fictionalisation’ of everyday activities; Eija-Liisa Ahtila for her contribution to Documenta XI The House where she juxtaposes ordinary and extraordinary perception to reflect on notions of reality; and Chris Marker for his juxtaposition in La Jetée of still and moving images with sound and text to reflect on memory.


About Gandha

I am a London based artist, researcher and walker.
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