There is an inexhaustible fascination with the extraordinary and the unknown. From families crowding around a television set to witness man first setting foot on the moon, to the fear and bewilderment created one day in 2001 as New York and the world ground to a halt, the unexpected and the astonishing certainly captivate us. What emotions do such momentous or traumatic events arouse in those directly involved? How are memories of the event triggered? Can the brain repress horrific memories in order to protect the individual? This work attempts to address these questions in relation to an accident within the walls of an aircraft that occurred in 1985, the year of my birth.
As well as providing the reader with insight into the horrifying nature of the event in which 55 people lost their lives to fire and toxic fumes, this body of work explores the distance between the surviving passengers and myself. My attempt to gain further insight into the event and develop an affinity with survivors was unsuccessful, as my correspondence fell on seemingly deaf ears. Perhaps people’s silence is due to the sensitive nature of the subject in question. Maybe those stating they had no involvement in the accident are burying the truth in an attempt to lock memories away. Whether or not this silence is worthy of contemplation is questionable, but this perception grew with each attempt I made.
It poses two fundamental questions: what kind of relationship can we have with historical events? What part can photography play in this? Significance lies in the spaces between the event, the outcome and the hush of aftermath. For the three and a half minutes it took to evacuate the plane, 131 people’s lives were in limbo and regrettably handed over to fate. An individual’s perception of what occurs in the time between the initial realization of the event and the outcome is often blurred or distorted, a distortion that can increase over time.
The book hints at triggers and how the smallest of objects and most insignificant, mundane environments can hold a tiny resemblance to an element of the event. Regardless of the size or inconsequentiality of the trigger, huge visceral reactions can be generated from the subtlest prompt, leading to vulnerability, panic, fear and a crisis of confidence. Clear distinction can be made between object and memory, and despite the truth that memories diminish over time, some things are forever mentally embedded. These things are inexorable; the past still weighs heavy.
The word Vivarium, when translated from its Latin origin, means 'place of life'. These glass structures are used to contain live animals or plants in an attempt to simulate a natural environment. The species within can be observed for the purpose of study or research, allowing the outsider to peer into a world that is normally inaccessible. The non-specialist viewer becomes a 'voyeur' of the space, drawn into the traditions of anthropomorphic storytelling in order to make sense of an alien world.
This notion can be applied to the work here, which explores the underlying impact of nature on our psyche, a place where nature operates paradoxically as both haven and threat. The viewer is invited to engage in an interpretative process fuelled by the imagination.