Embroidered text messages, stitching virtual memory

Ginger Anyhow

Are we in danger of losing our memory? Lynne Brindley, Head of the British Library, has warned that as websites come and go, the memory of the nation may disappear too, leaving historians and citizens of the future with a “black hole in the knowledge base of the 21st century”. On a more personal level, many of life’s major moments now transpire through digital codification, often in the form of text messages. If you don’t have a phone with a high storage capacity you probably have to frequently clean out your SMS. Which means you don’t get to keep a record of all of those interesting moments. Artist Ginger Anyhow has found an inventive way to translate impermanent SMS communication into handmade souvenirs. In her series Embroidered Text Messages, received 02/06-04/07, Anyhow recreates each SMS stitch by stitch, archiving digital messages in the analog world, giving physical status to virtual personal journals. She can then display a love/hate relationship evolving via digital media like a series of paintings on a wall. But is it really true that people need to translate digital into analog to preserve their memory? We might be surprised to find out that human nature is more flexible and adaptable than expected. In Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo, comparing a book with his old cathedral, says: “Ceci tuera cela” (The book will kill the cathedral, the alphabet will kill the images). McLuhan, comparing a Manhattan discotheque to the Gutenberg Galaxy, said “Ceci tuera cela.” But probably ceci (text message) won’t tuera cela (love letters). Human relationships will simply use different tools and memory will adapt to them.

Valentina Culatti