When aspects of life are lived as a narrated story, the story itself creates the potential for questions of identity, self, and consciousness to be conceptualised and communicated through the various methods of art production. Michael Schwab (2014: 99) addresses the ‘first gesture of writing in the context of exposition’ as a ‘design gesture and making of space’, which is an interesting proposition when writing about trauma. I am aware of this as I place the first markings upon the empty online exposition space, markings that have the potential to navigate a pathway through a traumatic event. Traumatic memory occupies neither the past nor the present but the place of near death that exists beyond the normal, in the realm of the non-ordinary, the mystical, where Bergson’s ‘pure duration’ and the supranormal exist alongside each other. Here, image, text, or word have the potential to rupture the exposition space and engender ‘a clutch of interconnected discontinuities in the milieu of what preceded it: a disruption of the previous space–time consensus […] an altered relation between agency and embodiment giving rise to new forms of action, communication and perception’ (Rotman 2008: 6), where the gesture of the traumatised body is followed by traumatised action and therefore has no choice but to leave a traumatised trace upon the empty space. Such a rupture marks the beginnings of a pathway for representation of the traumatic memory.
The starting point for this research, which began in 2012, was my memory of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on 11 September 2001, as explored through a journal written on the day of, and days following, the disaster – a journal that until a couple of years ago had remained closed and unread. This personal remembering or recollection is layered upon a well-established collective memory of the event and a vast array of literature, art, and theory written in response to that day. For this exposition I have addressed the different stages in navigating this pathway backwards to meet the traumatic memory. Rereading the journal, revealing its contents, and making work around it functioned on two levels: first, the exploring of trauma from the inside out, where my memories and my body existed as a site of trauma; second, the externalisation of trauma where I – my body and so my memory – became a vehicle for further understanding the collective memory. The gradual excavation of this traumatic memory, breaking it apart, becomes a way of determining its affective nature, reflecting on the implications of remembering when the cultural and global memory is already so historically fixed. Deconstruction from this premise led to questions that address how fragmented a memory and therefore an artwork or body of text can be and still engage, and therefore communicate, something of the affect, ‘the element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow and pierces me’ (Barthes 1981: 27, 53), and whether Schwab’s (2008) claim that deconstruction is capable of delivering a finding or being used as a substitute for such a finding is correct. Research is therefore ongoing and still open to shifting, to changing, and to discovery.