Where Our Vanished Days Secretly Gather is an intimate performance using (oral and material mnemonics) mnemonic technologies rooted in the knowledge systems of preliterate oral cultures. The performance shares my mother, Jocelyn's, experience of the 2003 alpine bushfires in Eastern Victoria, Australia. On January 8, 2003, lightning ignited eighty-seven fires, eight of these fires joined together burning approximately 20,000 square kilometres of land in the largest fire in Victoria since the Black Friday fires of 1939.
Fire is a vital part of Australian ecosystems, however, in a time of anthropocentric climate breakdown warming temperatures and decreases in rainfall are creating conditions for excessively fiercer and more frequent fires. My mother’s voice, along with the myriad of other critters including; kangaroos, mycorrhizal fungi, kookaburras, orchids, eucalypts, beetles, and emus are often not heard, their stories move quietly through and around them. As Arundhati Roy states, “there's really no such thing as the 'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard." It is in these times of precarity and unknowing, of bodies unheard and in pain that "the stories we tell are a social responsibility." These voices must be lifted up, listened to and cared for if we are to work towards a "multispecies flourishing" on terra.
The performance is built from interviews with my mother, which are then transcribed and memorized using the method of loci, a mnemonic that assigns information to place through images. The physical photograph that rests between speaker and listener is a visual and physical mnemonic that supports the retelling of the narrative assigned in the mind. Lynne Kelly states that these technologies are often "associated with the classical orators" but more accurately have their roots in pre-literate oral cultures. These technologies are rarely taught or used in our education systems, yet, "no more effective memory has been found." Western science rooted in colonialism has been incredibly slow to learn from traditional and indigenous science.
Lynne Kelly "While knowledge was the predominant source of power, the mnemonic structures and objects were the predominant sign of the culture." p.233