'Fluent Aphasia' Lydia Meehan, TestBed at Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown. 16 November 2013 - 22 January 2014.
BEGIN OPENING SCENE
The film is a VHS recording of an anniversary party. Carrie beams in a sequence of opening shots. Narration begins.
"I saw Carrie…" (pause)
"…down there, with her pram, and I said “Oh, that little girl down there, she’s got a lovely dolly’s pram you know”, (laughter) and eventually we got together."
The narrative jumps between time; the home-video as if pulled from its ragged cardboard slip which has yellowed and torn at its edges; Carrie’s time as caught on camera celebrating her golden wedding anniversary amongst friends; and the narrator’s almost-present time, recounting a series of scenes from memory. For the viewer there is a jump from real time into these accounts, an initial disorientation that slowly resolves as the portrait unfolds…
INT. EVENT HALL. The hall is large with tables and guests grouped around the wooden dance floor. Carrie stands in front of the stage, dressed in a purple frock. She holds a microphone and some notes on paper.
CARRIE (into microphone)
"I used to be friendly with her but she was just a little bit older than me and she used to help my mother sometimes when we had visitors, and one day my mother said to me; “Caroline!” (crowd laughter) I knew there was something coming when she said that… “you’re not to go, your not to go out with Nina anymore”, or ‘Nyna’ we used to call her. “You’re not to go out with ‘Nyna’ anymore. I said “why not?”"
CARRIE pauses briefly.
CARRIE (punch line)
“Oh” she said, “She’s beginning to get interested in the boys”.
(Laughter reverberates around the hall as CARRIE points to a person off-screen.)
The film is an evocative remembrance, its central character bound to every layer. Though memory skips a beat, its jubilant nature perforated at intervals by the wistful recollections of its narrator. A metaphorical slippage, like the inability to grip sand with your fingertips, reveals the underlying sense of loss.
Snapshots of Carrie’s laughter and amusement play.
"She used to be a scream. She’d lay down on the carpet – she’d lay down on the carpet and she’d say “I do my exercise like this Nelly!” And she’d throw her legs up in the air, you know and she was a scream, we used to laugh so much."
INT. EVENT HALL, DANCE FLOOR. Spirited music plays from an accordion, the room filled with dancers.
The accordion’s tune is instantly familiar, reminiscent of the traditional English seaside where it might have once accompanied a summer fête or perhaps a children’s Punch and Judy Show. Like a tardis it quickly transports the viewers imagination back in time and place, prompting personal recollections to surface.
The spoken narrative continues but shifts in emphasis. Silent clips of Carrie dancing continue to play in the background.
"It’s funny that…that, Arthur had to go first. It was so funny, ‘cause I went to her ninetieth birthday and I said: “Carrie” (pause) “Nyna Norman, Herston School” and then she said “Nyna Norman, Herston School” and not another word."
"I was so pleased that she said it but the next time I go, I said: “Arthur…” I rang up Arthur when I came home and I said: “I’ve upset myself so much Arthur, I’m sorry, I cannot go up to the home again. Poor Carrie” I said, “I can’t, I just can’t stand it” –"
"‘cause I couldn’t understand a word she said."
A final shot.
The initial disorientation of the film is brought full circle, its central character, Carrie, brought back into poignant focus, for who the distance of memory has grown too great.
‘Fluent aphasia’ alludes to the essential nature of language, both as an articulation of self in the building of relationships, and as a device in the function of memory. The exhibition positions two conflicting notions encompassed within the film, that of fluency, alongside an inability to understand.
Lydia Meehan is a recent graduate of Fine Art at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Her cross-disciplinary practice often explores the memory of personal relationships, in particular knowledge, stories and anecdotal recollections of her Grandmother before and during her decline into Alzheimer’s. http://lydiameehan.tumblr.com
Curated by Jess Mathews.