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Small Memory Drifting 

Memory is a crazy woman that hoards coloured rags and throws away food AUSTIN O’MALLEY 




Bloody Sunday - sometimes called the Bogside Massacre - was an incident on 30 January 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland. British soldiers shot twenty six unarmed civilians during a protest march; fourteen people died. Jackie Duddy was running alongside a priest, Father Edward Daly, when he was shot in the back. Daly put his handkerchief inside the boy’s shirt to try and staunch the bleeding, then administered the last rites. Waving the  bloodstained handkerchief he walked in front of a group of men carrying Jackie away.


A ghost town in the Namibian desert / the 18th century memories of Gilbert White from Selbourne, England. 



Peter Sutcliffe murdered thirteen women. The youngest victim was Jayne Macdonald.


On Saturday, June 25th, 1977, 16 year-oldJayne MacDonald  went to meet friends at the Hofbrauhaus, a German-style ‘Bierkeller' in Leeds. There she met 18-year-old Mark Jones, with whom she danced. At 10:30 pm, the two set off in the direction of Briggate, the main shopping street. They bought some chips and sat on a bench until about midnight...they agreed to met again later in the middle of the week. She walked along Chapeltown Road in the direction of Reginald Street, and her home at 77 Scott Hall Avenue. WIKIPEDIA


This information is now accessible from Reginald Street, Leeds or Macquarie Street, Hobart, with equal ease. The distance remains the same. The details, once particular to Jayne and Mark, are now available to over three and a half billion people. As are the recollections of a lorry driver.

I saw this lass walking along quite slowly towards the crossing near the Hayfield pub in Chapeltown Road …I took my hammer out of the car. I think it was the claw hammer. I also had a knife with me that time, it was a kitchen type knife with a black ebonite handle and a thin blade.

I followed her for short distance, she never looked round. I took the hammer and I hit her on the back of the head and she fell down. I then pulled her by the arms face down into a yard behind a fence. I recall that her shoes were making a horrible scraping sound on the ground. PETER SUTCLIFFE POLICE CONFESSION


Sutcliffe's first victim had been Wilma McCann. Richard McCann was five years old when his mother died. Wilma also had three young daughters, Sonia, Angela and Donna. When Wilma had failed to return home, Sonia and Richard had gone out in their pyjamas looking for her.

Memories are initially encoded by the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and perirhinal cortex before being stored in the temporal cortex of the brain. Proust and Freud separately observed that a taste or smell may unexpectedly trigger old memories. Through involuntary memory the past can come alive in the present. 


Repression means choosing not to remember and choosing not to remember that you aren't remembering. Repressed memories still exist. Wilma McCann’s eldest daughter, Sonia, killed herself in 2008.



The names are sculpted from metal, wood, fabric, stone. The materials reference clothing, murder sites, weapons.


They drift past the otherwise inconsequential places with which they are now associated; waste ground, gardens, a playground.


Sutcliffe had strong, visceral recollections of these brief fatal encounters, recalling tiny details. Josephine Whitaker (victim no.10) was a nineteen year old building society clerk.


She was wearing a 3/4 length skirt and a jacket. I parked up in this street with terrace houses and started to follow her on foot, and I caught up with her after a couple of minutes... I started talking to her. I asked her if she had far to go. She said, 'It's quite a walk.' She didn't seem alarmed by my approach ... she started speaking to me about having just left her grandmother's and that she had considered staying there but had decided to walk home. I asked her if she had considered learning to drive, I think she said she rode a horse and that it was a satisfactory form of transport. PETER SUTCLIFFE POLICE CONFESSION


The thirteen women have been inadvertently immortalised by their killer. Wikipedia has been remembering the Yorkshire Ripper murders since 2003. The women's digital afterlife is enshrined in huge sterile buildings in Ashburn, Virginia, San Francisco, Carrollton, Texas and Amsterdam. The internet’s memory is spread across seventy-five million computers.

The image of Peter Sutcliffe is well known; it was first assembled from the memories of those who survived his attacks. After his arrest, numerous photographs from different periods of his life appeared in print media and television.


To 'remember' an image, different mental processes in several brain areas rapidly stitch together a mental photofit as required.


In one sense, there no such thing as memory, only the act of remembering. Wikipedia memories are continually in flux, endlessly reconsidered by the hive mind which forms it. The entry for Peter Sutcliffe has, to date, been edited 2,460 times.


Digital visions

An omniscient  360 degree camera captures the place where half a century ago a girl was stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver. Jacqueline Hill, a student, was Sutcliffe’s final victim. How does Google see? 


For reasons of privacy, Google Street View automatically blurs faces and registration plates. As voyeur and censor, it simultaneously reveals and conceals. To the modern eye, steeped in crime shows, every car driver and pedestrian feels like a victim or criminal. This was precisely the situation in Yorkshire at the time; the police questioned motorists who were acting suspiciously and warned women not to walk alone at night.


Google's lens introduces distortions and smears, wounds in space - time. As it navigates past the garden where Marguerite Walls died, the images move backwards and forwards in time. Light changes, objects abruptly appear and disappear, winter becomes spring then winter again. A bird hangs in the air caught between wing beats. The viewer moves left and right, circles round, but the bird remains frozen. 


Street view images are digitally stitched together. What appears to be one moment actually  consists of many fragments. It remembers across time. This recalling on-the- fly mimics the way human minds work ; constantly bridging potential existential gaps. Individuals with certain types of brain damage have to constantly 'mind the gap', confabulate (fabricate imaginary memories) in order to make sense of a mentally precarious world. 


People with dementia may also flick backwards and forwards in time, replacing a son with a grandson or a partner with a parent; the mind constructs meanings, whatever the cost to reality.

There is no indication that Peter Sutcliffe was ever haunted by his memories; humans with certain personality disorders tend to dissociate emotionally from their actions regardless of how terrible those actions may be.  

Gathered together by circumstance, the names are always in motion. Existing in the minds of others, they fragment over time, gaps appear, they become mixed , muddled, fade slowly. In time, all memories become small.


Alma Mortimer was my mother. At the end of her life she was both immobile and wandering freely in time and space. Dementia and Midazolam freed her. She remembered the places of her youth, then and now coming together. I listened to (and recorded) her breathing.