[Appointments were made at an earlier time, and I meet the audience member at designated time and place. I take them on a journey towards the photo booth, stopping at street benches at times]
My family has a culture almost, of moving houses.
[With a google map of yishun]
When I was born, we were living in Block 202 but we apparently moved out when I was one. We were at Block 647 for nine years and shifted to Block 236 where we stayed for four years. We moved to Block 303 and stayed there for three years and moved to Sembawang. We lived here the longest. Eight years, and just in June, they moved out and we are waiting for the new flat to be ready in October. The new flat is right here, Block 362.
Somewhere in between Blocks 647 and 412, I lost my entire collection of my baby photos. Till today I still cannot place when I lost it since I only discovered the loss at the last house.
How much do we forget the things we keep to remember? How well do we remember what we forget?
I remember after a major break up three years ago, I was looking through the drawer where I had kept all the little gifts over the years. I re-read every word in every letter and card and looked through every photograph and I realised how much I had in fact forgotten. To begin with, the letters were usually kept into that drawer after a day or two of receiving them. I realised until then, I had never quite gone through them, as if I’ve even forgotten I had them.
A few months after that incident, one of my best friends decided that she could not stand how messy my room was and offered to clean up my room while I went away for the weekend. I gave her all autonomy over my belongings save for the few important documents which I had put aside, and other than that I did not even look through my stuff to keep anything. She cleared them all, the drawer too. In the last three years, I have not once thought of, looked for or needed anything that I might have missed out in that clearing out.
We forget also, the things we leave behind with these ex lovers. I remember asking for one thing in particular, if he could look for it and return it to me. It didn’t matter, the other things. The day came to meet, awkwardly, and return each other’s stuff. In my bag was filled with things I didn’t even remember leaving there, things I didn’t care for, things that didn’t matter. Everything, but the Polaroid camera I had asked for. He couldn’t find it, he said.
Somewhere after that, I stopped taking pictures. Instead, I took mental pictures of things that were beautiful and kept it in me for as long until I forget them.
We sold our flat just as I was coming here. This meant that I had to pack my most essentials into Emirates’ 30kg limit and then pack the rest into boxes and leave them to be moved to the new house. In one and a half of a suitcase, I brought enough two pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts and jackets and coats, two pairs of shoes and a couple of reference books I own. Since coming here, I have not once thought of, looked for or needed anything that I might have missed in moving here.
There was something in that packing. It was making a definitive decision of the things I needed and more so, didn’t need. It is things I possibly don’t quite remember I even have. And if I don’t remember them in that way, then quite possibly they are redundant things, waiting for day where someone like Joanne would come throw them out, or lost, like my baby pictures.
[Invite them into the photo booth to make new keepsakes of my memories in Melbourne}
[In the Photo booth]
If you put the pictures of two different faces side by side, you suddenly realize that it’s all just one face in many variations and that no such thing as an individual ever existed.
“Just imagine living in a world without mirrors. You’d dream about your face and imagine it as an outer reflection of what is inside you. And then, when you reached forty, someone would put a mirror before you for the first time in your life. Imagine your fright! You’d see the face of a stranger. And you’d know quite clearly what you are unable to grasp: your face is not you.”
What is your full name? Do you know why you were given this name?
“We got our names, too, merely by accident. We don’t know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don’t understand our name at all, we don’t know its history and yet we bear it with exalted fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration.
A face is like a name. It must have happened sometime towards the end of my childhood: I kept looking in the mirror for such a long time that I finally believed that what I was seeing was my self.
The discovery of the self must have been intoxicating. Yet there comes a time when you stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself: this is my self? And why? why did I want to identify with this? What do I care about this face? And at that moment everything starts to crumble.”
I was fifteen when we first got together. The letters and cards and photos were collected over the eight years we were together: I was very much shaped by growing up with him and it certainly felt like I was throwing away everything I had known myself to be along with all those things.
In Praise of Shadows by Jorge Louis Borges
…and so many things
Now I can forget them
I am coming to my centre
My algebra and my key
Soon I will know who I am
[I cut the photos and give the audience member 2 of the 3 photos and I keep one]
Maybe it is in forgetting, in erasing and in losing that we come to know?
*Quoted texts adapted from Immortality by Milan Kundera.