This note opened the programme of '35mm - A Musical Exhibition' by Ryan Scott Oliver. The piece played at London's The Other Palace in September 2017
I have a mixed relationship with photographs. They both scare and fascinate me. They show histories I’ve forgotten, people I no longer know, a me with more hair and fewer wrinkles. They feature people who have died and happiness that has since faded. But they also show the good times, the best times, the way we like to remember things: when the light hit the day just so, when we had our arms round each other, the moment that she smiled, their wallpaper, that toy, those glasses. Family, friendships, holidays, homes, parks, sunsets, parties and journeys.
Photographs freeze our lives at moments of infinite possibility. They also have the potential to outlive us. They overflow in attics and in filing cabinets, they flood as 1s and 0s onto our hard drives. They spill across the walls of galleries and museums. It is estimated that 1.2 trillion photographs will be taken this year.
Photographs force us to choose a section of the world. To exclude everything else. To make a choice, to convey an opinion, to sometimes bend the truth. And the choices we make are remembered. Photographs, like music and stories, are time machines. They throw us back in time, they give us access to a world at the click of a shutter.
It is such a privilege to get to work on this stunning and enigmatic piece. To be part of a world where photographs, music and stories collide. Each song by Ryan Scott Oliver is accompanied by a photograph taken by Matthew Murphy. The photos and songs while seemingly connected by tone and intention are not literal depictions of one another. Rather they seem to be in dialogue.
Also, while the songs and photographs might initially appear to be separate, closer inspection shows a series of subtle interconnections that seem to weave together the lives and stories of the five unnamed characters. Like a concept album or a long form poem, each part subtly juxtaposes with the next. Blending time periods, locations and tone, the piece fluctuates between ambiguity and specificity. It leaves trails of clues about its deeper meanings and correlations. We all know people who have gone through the moments found in this show. In fact we are all those people.
The novelist Paul Auster said that "Memory is the space in which a thing happens for a second time". Photographs are the same, and so are songs. Through both of them, we get to repeat moments that mean something. And while we can't change the past, maybe if we look at it the right way, it can teach us something about our future.