My first response to Alex Wilkinson’s article, “Remember This?”, on Gordon Bell was of complete sympathy and understanding of Bell’s project. I find myself obsessed with the past, constantly wondering what it would be like to relive my life and look back on distinct moments in time whenever necessary. I’m always afraid of forgetting and as an anthropology major, know the importance of considering the past as the basis for all future events. However, Bell takes this to the extreme by scanning his entire life from paper, photographs, certificates, files, and miscellaneous documents, into the computer. While I love to look at old photographs of my mother at her Montreal cabin and medals from my gymnastic days of prepubescent glory, it seems excessive to transfer EVERYTHING into computer archives. The computer becomes yet another filing system through which personal history is lost and forgotten, albeit the occasional screen saver slide show. Bell’s sensory camera worn around his neck also is excessive and meaningless. In one day, Bell takes about 1200 photos and considers saving 1000 photos or so “clean living” by deleting the “redundancies”. Doesn’t the individual photograph lose its significance when coupled with 999 other photographs from the same day? Where is the activity of the photographer? Where has human agency and visual interest gone in the excitement of technology and A.I.?
I’m not saying Bell’s project isn’t interesting, amazing, and valuable… to him. I give him a pat on the back. All I’m saying is that I’m content sorting through old photographs and memorabilia on my closet floor, frustrated with chronology, but struck with a sense of awe, history, and a never-ending quest to reconstruct the past.