What a strange process it is to sift through the remains of an anonymous person’s photographic trail. You look for clues of authorship, economic circumstance, and their loved ones who emerge through their images in repetition. You try to stitch together a narrative when there may very well not be one to consider. This is part of the job of the anthropologist, the social commentator, and the historian. Each respective discipline relies on clues, forensic information, and an intuited sense of making order born from chaos.
We digest, infer, and we sift creating a parallel possible universe based on very little affirmation of effort. Think about finding a thumb drive, lost computer, or phone. You find it, recharge it, turn it on, and hope to be able to navigate past the password. On this device is a world of information both obvious and hidden between the various binary lines of code. Given access, you open the pictures on the device and begin to wade through the thousands of images stored on it. In the case of the phone, you ignore ‘pocket shots” and multiple frames of the same subject that were repeated over and over, These are the hangers-on, the stubborn images never made it to the deleted stage. You ignore the video for a later date and begin to make sense of the images of food, unknown locations, and obscurant mistake photos in an effort to read the framework of a person’s life.
The phone has become an intimate treasure trove of information for most people. Aside from its ability to define our local or position on a map, it allows our inter-communicative function to be present at all times. Its overall usage is much less about the voice and is related to scrolling, culling, and paring down the vast amounts of information that the world offers to the individual. It is also a repository for the daily. Images of events, images of food, friends, and the obligatory selfie are part of the device’s manifest. Imagine sifting through the photo app of any phone without the context of the person who had owned it.
The extension of the phone as a technological organ of significance cannot be overlooked. The phone has become an extension of memory, of sight, and it functions as an instrument for the cognitive associations (in images) that we draw from the world that fits in our pockets. How often do we make photographs with the phone that are meant as memory markers or that function as a simple form of collateral document for our experiences-perhaps daily? These photographs are not always meant to be significant, and yet we rely on their taking and storage to recall any given moment when our reality or memory fails us. We “pull up” images to explain something to our familiars. We do this habitually as if in doing so, we are able to broadcast our interior thoughts and lives as something that can be conveyed on a 6×3.5 inch screen. The phone becomes a memory and a testament at once.
And what if we lose our phones? Do we lose a piece of memory? Do we lose a piece of this …organ? Aside from the slight inconvenience and expense of the matter, there is the potential to lose our tele-graphed experiences. Components of our memory become corrupted without the images shared from the technological organ if they have not been backed up on “the cloud”-another concept/archive/memory storage/organ that acts as a placeholder for our cerebral life and images. When we lose our ability to recall images and when we insist that the technological device or cloud act as part of our cognitive being that we entrust our memories with, we are asking the technology to function as an extended organ.
In the case of Marco Marzocchi, the artist had this very experience of losing the photographs on his phone through re-formatting it. His images did not survive the upgrade and he ended up losing 3 years of his photographs/memories. These images culled from daily life reflected an intense period in the life of the artist. He had been hospitalized and a number of the images on the phone reflected that experience. No matter the wish to forget, images in sickness and in death equal and sometimes rival the happier images of our life in terms of importance. They become the lasting impressions from the lows we suffer or they become a bulwark against forgetting someone dear. To lose those images is to drop away pieces of our lives that are uncomfortable, but necessary in order to anchor our common problem of complacency when things are only “so-so” grey, or even. They are reminders of struggle. To lose them means to lose our perspective.
Marzocchi’s How to Destroy Everything (Studiofaganel, 2020) is a reflection of what it means to move forward without recall of the recent past found in our saved/stored/archived images. It suggests rooting one’s experience in a new optimism born from replacing the automatic need to photograph with a re-evaluation of experience, memory, and technology. Marzocchi incorporates screen images from the computer in his quest to understand the dichotomy between our life and lives lived through the screen. He attributes his loss of images/memories to something momentarily blinding like an explosion in which shapes and memories are only recognizable in silhouette before they form haphazardly without clear edges from the periphery.
The zine is published in a small edition of 100. Visually, it features an almost un-cooperative amount of singular images that reference how we assemble images in our phones-a patchwork if you will. They seem unsympathetic at points to the whole of the sequence and the reader is left without much context. In this sense, it feels random to a degree, but that is exactly the point. Our memories recalled through images in our phones feel similar-we skip time back to events without any sense of inter-linking of their significance to the other images stored. In this sense, what looks chaotic in Marzocchi’s work is instead undergirded by a conceptual framework in which these singular and sometimes disparate elements are combined and upheld by the use of computer screenshots of bombs, new photographs, and other reference imagery.
The book is a summation of parts/memories and offers us a way of investigating what we believe we store in our devices as somehow defining our experiences. Instead, we are left to challenge their removal and its consequence. It is successful and a highly enjoyable “read” and uncovers more about our disposition towards technology/memory than it does about Marzocchi’s singular life. It would be worth pointing out that this is a logical extension to the deeply personal narrative found in his last book Oyster published by VOID. Recommended.
(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Marco Marzocchi.)