Assembling the Metanarrative:

speaking prose, whiffs of the madeleine, and a bit of High Fidelity

Par ma foi ! il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose sans que j'en susse rien,
et je vous suis le plus obligé du monde de m'avoir appris cela.
(via Wikipedia)

The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it.
(see this for the extended passage from Swann's Way)

from the film:
Dick: It looks as if you're reorganizing your records. Um. What is it, um, Chronological?
Rob: No...
Dick: Not alphabetical...
Rob: Nope...
Dick: What?
Rob: Autobiographical.
Dick: No fucking way.
(but see this for the original passage from Nick Hornby's book)

31 July 2012
I woke up at 2 AM and started thinking about the photographic exhibit we're scheming for Lisa's shop, tentatively titled Rectangular Narratives and set to include a pretty broad variety of our recent projects. My contribution begins with four posters: the Home Kitchen panel (tentative title: Hommage à James Hatch), the Ripley Creek cycle (Winter Comes and Goes at Ripley Creek), the pottery people (Karen's Housemates), and the announcement of the website which contains Bluenose Physiognomy: exploring vernacular photographs from Nova Scotia junk stores.

And then it occurred to me that I preside over a vast domain of narratives, many of which are essentially chronological, and only a few of which have been realized in distributable forms. Perhaps my 'current work' is putting together that array to unpack the potential narrative by telling the stories in this medium, choosing the tools and modalities that best fit the various materials.

I realize (je dis de la prose sans que j'en susse rien...) that I've already got a good start on this vast project, thanks to a lot of digitizing of negatives and photographs, and that I've been producing tranches of the whole for the last couple of years, beginning with the video of images for Alice's memorial service. The four posters for the show at Lisa's are further steps along a path that now looks like it might traverse some really interesting retrospective terrain --and that's where Proust's madeleine comes in. Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer than They Are...

Chronological presentation has a lot to be said for it as an organizing principle, but it's not the only way to tell a story (that's where Nick Hornby is especially relevant). One of the ideas that coursed through my mind at about 3 AM was that I could make short audio clips (like 5 seconds each) of recordings that have especially riveted my attention, starting with my very earliest musical memories (Bach, as it happens) and assembling them into a collage that proceeds down the years... I've never heard such a thing, but once imagined it can't be unthunk and I just might try it out, drawing upon the records and tapes and CDs that surround me. Part of the challenge is figuring out the logistics of recording and database moves to facilitate eventual presentation as an online entity... and grappling with the copyright dos and donts of 5 second clips if I do make the result public.

And there are other resources that I might manage to repurpose, like my Library Thing catalog (which needs updating with recent acquisitions...), and the wherewhen and At Washington & Lee timeline and Logfiles timeline (all built with MIT's SIMILE, but not updated in far too long).

Now that the idea of a Grand Scheme has bloomed, and it's clearly already hurtling forward, all sorts of side projects will suggest themselves. For example, this image is just one of many in a saga that we put together for Kate's 30th birthday:

rasputin 1971

There are quite a few hundreds of rolls of negatives from the past, only perhaps half of them digitized. The State Street Bank project from 1964-1965 is digitized but not 'finished' (see Flickr sets of workers on the site, the building as it rose, and some construction details for starters).