What is the past to me and why it matters?


This audiovisual essay is a site of memory that unveils several layers of my understanding of time, memory, and identity through moving images and sound. It engages in conversations with historians, anthropologists, philosophers, and writers like Pierre Nora, Martin Amis, W.G. Sebald, E.P. Thompson, Carolyn Steedman, Chandra Bhimull, as well as my peers from my class from Anthropology, History, Memory. (Special quotation to Delaney McDonough on her approach to mathematics).

The Past Matters is supposed to be played more than once due to its contemplative nature and mesmerizing narration. The images are highly condensed in meaning with sprouting metaphors in the slightest details of edition. This essay exposes my position about the past and its undeniable importance in the present, while questioning the construction of memory in a world of shadows and reflections. Naturally, I do not attempt to impose my ideas to anyone. The Past Matters seeks to start an internal dialogue that would remap the importance of personal and collective stories in a spiritual self-acknowledgement. The latter is something we don’t generally do, unless we become obsessed with memory and history like some people I know, including myself, and for that reason is important to consider it.

My approach on this film is to explain the past through our use of time, which we understand through cultural abstractions, creating the meaning we give to a cloud in the sky or a star in the universe in an imaginary ever-changing world; nevertheless, that doesn't mean that time doesn't exist and thus we should be wary about its usage. Furthermore, it would be naïve to think that if I don’t remember my past, no one will (“If a tree falls and I don’t hear it. Does it exist?”). Someone is rendering an interpretation of my past right now: the government of my country decides what to write about the history of those who left Nicaragua, the government of the US creates huge abstractions of my life with relation to my immigrant status, and my parents and those who surround me constantly tell their version of my story in various ways. Those stories are re-told over and over and in time and they become chaotic interpretations of my version of the past, detaching my identity from it and becoming in simple instruments of implicit power. Despite this, those versions are not the past per se, instead they are interpretations of it through the use of memory.

For me, the past is unattainable and unreachable, like water in all its states at the same time (you just can't). However, I believe we can remember reflections of the past and, in a world of power, we should at least be entitled of remembering and telling our own stories. I believe my story matters and its bounded with other stories that form part of my life both directly and indirectly, like a Historical account or a generational memory. The memory is constructed in a subjective time and hence they are both relative to their spatial and temporal positioning. In simple words, the past matters because is a game of power in which time and memory are the only rules.

Amis, Martin. 1991. Time’s Arrow or the Nature of the Offense. NY: Vintage.
Nudelman, Franny. 2004. John Brown’s Body: Slavery, Violence, and the Culture of War. Chapel Hill: U. North Carolina P.
Sebald, W. G. 1995/1998. The Rings of Saturn. Trans. M. Hulse. NY: New Directions. Steedman, Carolyn Kay. 1986/1997. Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives. New Brunswick: Rutgers U. P.
Nora, Pierre. 1989. Between History and Memory: Les Lieux de Memoire. Representation 26 (Spring): 7-24.
Trentmoller - Snowflake
Nicolas Jaar - John the Revelator
Gorillaz - New Genious (Brother)
2 second clip from the film Pi.

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