Where Our Vanished Days Secretly Gather is a performance using oral and material mnemonic technologies. The performance shares my mother’s experience and the continuing effects of the 2003 alpine bushfires that took place in South-Eastern Australia. On January 7 and 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 experience, along with those of myriad of other critters including kangaroos, kookaburras, mycorrhizal fungi, 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" (Sandra Cisneros). These voices must be lifted, listened to and cared for if we are to work towards a "multispecies flourishing" on terra (Donna Haraway).
The performance is built from interviews with my mother and father which are then transcribed and memorized using the method of loci, a mnemonic that assigns information to place through images. The objects that rest between speaker and listener are a 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 the knowledge systems of nonliterate and preliterate oral cultures.