— I have a terrible memory for names, and often faces too. It seems that my brain memorizes someone I come into contact with through something other than their physical makeup. What my brain does remember often has very little to do with the person but more with the entire scene in which I am interacting with that person. So the color of the wall behind someone I meet for the first time might become the color of their eyes, a high ceiling could come to stand in for tallness. I’m exaggerating, but something close to this–I believe–is happening in my brain. I have likened people who look nothing alike, had a name burned into my memory for someone who is called something else, and then with others, the name is solid, fixed in place correctly, never to be lost again, and it has nothing to do with the nature of the relationship I have to that person. I have once forgotten my own family name for at least one minute.
I am fixated on what I do remember. How an instance that is conjured is slipping away the moment that instance has passed with something else materializing in its place. Ever since I can remember, any memory I have lingered on that has come to replace an event grows more and more distant from the original event that it no longer even bares a resemblance to it. What is replaced is sometimes dull, others times red, milky, pulsing, bright, black and white or slow with all kinds of smells and surfaces, and from time to time I have the ability to observe an emotion as pure action.
Sitting across from someone I was having a conversation with at a bar recently, it occurred to me that I was day-dreaming. That I had taken a nose dive into a memory that had been triggered subconsciously and was swimming deep in it’s oceans but I could neither remember the faces that belonged to any of the people in my hallucination in a space that was meant to be the outdoors but felt like a vacuum with the air still, the sky flat, the roads unpaved, the sounds distant. It was neither urban nor rural, and when I emerged above water in what must have been under 10 seconds, I picked up the conversation to casually drop on the table that perhaps no conversation was ever a direct exchange but that each participant was in their own world.
The four videos below are four of my memories.
Basma Alsharif is an artist and filmmaker of Palestinian origin. She was born in Kuwait, raised between France and the United States, and is currently based in Los Angeles. Basma’s work centers on the human condition in relation to shifting geopolitical landscapes, natural environments and history. She works in cinema, photography and installation. Major exhibitions include: les Module at the Palais de Tokyo, Here and Elsewhere at the New Museum, the Jerusalem Show, Yamagata Documentary Film Festival, the Berlinale, the Sharjah Biennial, Videobrasil, and Manifesta 8. She received a jury prize at the Sharjah Biennial 9, the Marion MacMahon award at Images, and received the Marcelino Botin Visual Arts grant. Basma is represented by Galerie Imane Farés in Paris, distributed by Video Data Bank and Arsenal.