Thoughts on: The Remembered Image

by Beauchamp Art

Although it may seem straightforward to describe “the remembered image [as being] archived like a microchip in the psyche,” [Helfand, 2001: 131] this perspective only offers a incomplete metaphor to the structure of the mental image, for the microchip is fixed with set parameters, its content unalterable without instruction, where the memory is always active open to new information, thus new context for corruptibility. Like a photo the memory is framed; limited, but it also is interconnected with sensory experience beyond the static visual image; it is subject to the emotive inference of further phenomenon; a picture on film or digitally cannot tell you what temperature the image was as it was taken [though as GPS and time-stamp features are default on most commercial digital cameras, it could be calculated approximately from this data when combined with meteorological data], or what sound came just out of earshot a moment before it was taken, even motion pictures and montages offer tunnel vision. Photographs flatten what is depicted, compromising the most important and intangible assets: light, shadow, dimensionality, and most importantly, time. [Helfand, 2001: 132]

Moreover, as the memory is susceptible to change, the mental image may alter with revisiting the same place or seeing a face aged, with the individual’s fluctuating relationships with the depicted persons also a considerable mitigating factor. Nevertheless, the photograph or JPEG may be subject to decay, the film could be contaminated or washout by solar burn, and the microchip could short circuit, the file compress, glitch and become corrupt forming a new image, a false memory; an involuntary Stalinist ‘unpersoning’, done out of no spite or propaganda, only mechanical failure.

The Facebook profile picture is like “a company’s signature, an emblematic stamp of authenticity […] firmly [communicating] the qualities with which it seeks to identify itself publicly.” [Helfand, 2001: 143] It implies that the user has identified the single image that summaries the external persona that they wish to communicate most strongly to those immediately know to them for a given period. It accompanies every communication, shared interest group, and page connected to the social network. Users’ remediate themselves on countless websites and are imprinted on by these websites in the form of cookies, and a two-way exchange of meta data and un-deletable browser history.

Helfand, Jessica (2001). Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture. 1st Edition. Princeton Architectural Press.