Eliza Bachkovsky, Graphic Designer
The “Stolen Dreams, Plundered Memories” exhibit found in the Gorham Art Gallery depicts how humanity is united under a universal and collective idea of memory that has shaped us all. The collection of items here will have you reflecting on your own childhood, and pondering the vague feelings and associations of memory that you may have with all the items present, and how it relates to everyone else’s collective idea of what they remember as well. The curator, Danny Evarts, has created and collected many different artifacts from many different people and finding interesting ways to display them with help from various USM alumni and staff. In his exhibits he has pieces that may give different people all walking through the same exhibit someone the same common memory we may all share.
Danny Evarts discusses this feeling of nostalgia and wistfulness, and the ability to never fully remember the past, with the various artifacts scattered throughout the exhibit, all building this narrative that you are part of this memory and general experience. These artifacts all aid in this feeling that the exhibit is a place that we used to once know and remember, because all these artifacts have been carefully selected to be things that generations from the 1900’s to present could all relate to.
The artifacts ranged from posters depicting movie classics, sassy bunny posters from the 2000’s, stuffed animals, old couches, old telephones, wedding photos, sewing kits, dollhouses, stickers, family photos, memory quilts, wedding dresses, a blanket fort full of toys to play in, books and vhs tapes that can be read or viewed that we may all find familiar or nostalgic.
Some of the favorite interactive experiences among guests appeared to be a photo op station where you could take a polaroid picture and dress up with provided hats, and a slot machine bringing you back to the movies, where instead of entering 5 cents for a prize, you can insert a personal memory in a plastic container in exchange for someone else’s.
These pictures illustrated this feeling of a shared memory, because you could see others engaging with this memory that we all share collectively. They would then get put up on the wall with many others, some people choosing to pose alone or with others. And although all these photos were not in any memory we truly and personally shared, it seemed to bring us all the same feeling of nostalgia of looking through a photo book despite not knowing anyone there. I attended this event with my boyfriend and even though he and I have taken many pictures together before, it appeared a bit more melancholic and nostalgic up there with so many other pictures. All the photographs of people seemingly sharing the same experience made us think about how quickly life passes and how beautiful and sad it is at the same time.
The childhood memories in a plastic container that you could get from the slot machine gave similar feelings of being in other people’s memories because of how much they seemed to relate to my own life, and reading specific details of people’s lives and memories was very touching and shed light on what it means to grow up and what it feels like to look back on childhood.
All these objects in combination gave the feeling that you were seeing all these items through the eyes of a child again, through the eyes of a past memory. But because of how universally these memories have been enjoyed, it put our own memories in the grand scheme of things, depicting how ellusive and hard to reach the past and memory are and how we are all bound to this fate of keeping only vague memories of our lives. A notable quote that illustrates this can be found next to a display of a wedding dress with memories and thoughts written on it, and it says: “On what was supposed to be one of the most important days of my life, you would think I would remember every detail. I only remember a few.”
Overall, this exhibit was a smash hit, bringing in a large crowd to the opening reception, and I have never seen anyone so successfully capture the mysterious and elusive headspace that is sifting through memories. Many people enjoyed the interactive events scattered throughout the exhibit and viewing all the tiny details and artifacts that built this exhibit. But most importantly, the meaning of it seemed to be well received and present with everyone in attendance, and will leave many still reflecting on this exhibit and questioning what their idea of memory is.