Art History 2 – (In) Voluntary Memories

On Thursday, February 23rd, a showcase of the works of Alysia Kaplan was displayed at the Bret Llewellyn Gallery. This exhibition was titled, (In) Voluntary Memories, and focused on her more recent works. Alysia was there to discuss and answer questions about her art and her background. Alysia Kaplan uses old-fashioned photography and film techniques that aim to develop a narrative from disparate sources. In one of her films, she utilizes projected clips from unrelated origins such as an educational video or an old movie. When edited together, the viewer develops a personal story to make sense of the images. For Alysia, she realized that her work is reminiscent of her relationship with her mother, but she also encourages others to find their own personal interpretations. She tends not to have a narrative in mind prior to editing, and this way her work is mainly unplanned; the process of creation can surprise her along the way. Her art is deeply rooted in nostalgia, especially considering her antiqued photography techniques on 16mm film, and through the aged and worn texture to her images the viewer is reminded of faded memories. Definitive truth tends not to exist in memories, as they are easily misremembered and deformed. Even the most vivid memories are still flawed, much like the decomposition of a film. This ancient texture is a quality which encourages the viewer to engage with their individual experiences.


Alysia Kaplan (2017)

Alysia’s work is most effective when it deals with themes of narrative and memory. A lot of people tend to reject modern art because they expect a clear narrative or meaning. Our shared storytelling tradition expects that a work serves as an inanimate orator, and that surely a story must exist inside of everything. (In) Voluntary Memories encourages the viewer to develop a meaning for themselves, and serves as a sort of blank-canvas. In one of her works, Alysia portrays a composite black and white image which is run through a projector. In the middle, the film’s sound strip runs across the image adding an element of visual noise to the piece. I would love to see this experimentation with visualizing sound taken further. By presenting the sounds as an image, it becomes an additional quality to the scene that is left to interpretation.


Post-Modern art is unconcerned with strict truths or definite meanings in art, and Alysia’s work is a great example of this. The fact that these edited films remind Alysia of her mother doesn’t mean the film is necessarily about her mother. Post-modern art tends to be subjective, and refuses the existence of singular truths. Historically, (In) Voluntary Memories uses traditional mediums to join a rejection of traditional modernist ideals. She was inspired by the work of Joseph Kosuth, and filmmaker Norman McLaren, who was well known for his visual music pieces.

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