Braxton Soderman’s ‘‘Memoire Involuntaire No. 1” is a vignette of a child’s memory from church; it’s a simple memory of the child playing with t toys whilst at church. As the minutes pass, you begin to see different words begin to fade into obscurity while others take their place; similarly, other words become bolder and more visible than all the others. Words like ‘holy’ begin to fade away and become ‘dedicated’, only to have that fade away and become ‘holy’ once more. The background begins to fade and for a moment the entire memory has vanished, leaving only a choice few bolded words; and just as memories come back to us, the words begin to fade in again.
Even as the words fade back in they continue to change, never staying truly still. The piece becomes more of an experience and keeps growing and changing; it makes it difficult for you to be able to settle in on a sentence before it changes again. This technique keeps the piece alive, and helps establish its message of how poetic memories are; and that rather than tools to help us see the past, they are almost like seats that help you experience the theatre of what has already happened before.
At the same time, the piece focuses you to not focus on just a single word and try to capture it before it fades away, but to focus on the larger picture and enjoy the theatrics. It’s powerfully evocative in the sense that it forces you to realize just how fleeting memories are, and how little insight memories provide into times that have already passed.
The setting of church helps in exploring the innocence that the child loses as the memory is warped and begins to fade. Churches are often seen as buildings of purity, and redemption; you can enter a church and feel free and pure. As a child of a religious family, you are often taught that a bit of God himself is in every church, it’s a place of comfort and joy. This makes the memory’s susceptibility to change stronger; because as you grow older, your feelings towards something grow in intensity to one side of the spectrum.
As the words fade in and out, they change into more ‘memorable’ words, words that would stick out and stay lodged in your brain if you ever tried to recall the experience; words like ‘blasphemous’ and ‘enchilada’ pop up, but you are not offered the chance to make sense of them before they disappear. The fading of the words is directly linked with the character’s maturity; as they grow, their vocabulary changes, and the memory warps its way into what will be most convenient for that person.
What the piece does, whether on purpose or accidentally, is force the audience member to face mortality and change. It shows that even something that we think that we can rely on, such as our memories, will change over time because we’re constantly changing to. Memories aren’t an escape to relive the past, but a way to theatrically view the past, through the eyes that have been changed by the passage of time.
Andrey Lyle Patino was a student of Dr. Lisa Swanstrom for a course in Literary Theory taught at Florida Atlantic University in the Spring term of 2014.