keepsake, n. anything kept or given to be kept for the sake of, or in remembrance of, the giver.
Baha Görkem Yalim is a Turkish artist residing in the Netherlands. Amongst Others, his graduation thesis, intertwines fiction and academic reflection. Setting out from his grandfather’s glasses and experimenting with object-oriented ontology, it reaches a rift that surrounds objects. Amongst Others is an attempt to look at objects again, differently and intimately. This article aims to continue its line of thinking.
How does a keepsake, an object that seems so highly subjective, articulate a specific gathering, a gathering that not only opens up to a border between subjectivity and objectivity, but makes manifest how they actually fold together?
‘Are you still wearing his training jacket?’ a friend asks me. ‘Is it not years ago that the two of you broke up? Shouldn’t you buy one your own size?’
A keepsake is formed when the person it belonged to no longer keeps it for herself and passes it on to someone else. This could happen by decision, it could also happen by fate. The ones involved may still keep in touch. Yet the keepsake seems to gain meaning significantly as they become distanced, detached even, in such a way that it seems that they may never willingly relate again. Brutal and complex, the keepsake thrives on the coming together of these two subjects: connected in the sense that they may never connect again.
In becoming-keepsake, subjectivity no longer confines itself to one subject, but detaches and latches onto an object. Transformed, it has now become a configuration of memories: the particles of someone’s life and the particles of someone else’s life, together through the keepsake. To see the keepsake is to see the presence of both subjects, yet being unable to distinguish between them. This is a fold to another form of subjectivity: a subjectivity that divides and breathes memory among two. Memory for two.
Sometimes, one decides to keep the keepsake for oneself. At other times, one decides to share the keepsake. I told some friends I held on to the jacket because I grew attached to it - how his grandparents bought him the jacket in Paris, how he used to wear it, how he gave it to me - and these lines of memory interwove with the fabric of the jacket. This cannot be undone. For my friends to see me wearing the jacket is to witness me wearing the jacket of an ex-lover, a lost friend.
I did not realize I wore the jacket so often until someone in my Thursday seminar told me he saw me wearing it every week and felt like I never wore anything else. The keepsake not only wanders in the spaces I share with my dear others, but is also transmitted unconsciously. To see the keepsake is to feel both matter and memory, its intensity seeps into vision, opening up to incessant spaces. In fact, the keepsake draws in others as a matter of accident. This is a fold to another form of subjectivity: a subjectivity that extends to others, becomes memory shared by others. Memory for several.
A hand holds the glasses and moves them throughout the film. Stained, they reflect the light. In their motion, the glasses relate to the scenes of the other layer of Görkem film Fatherland (2015).
Having read his thesis, in which he investigates the ontological status of these glasses, I can no longer just view them as ordinary glasses. I know they are a world to Görkem, after all, it was only after his grandfather was shot and killed that he became their keeper. He writes: ‘When the keepsake was born, he wasn’t there anymore. He never looked through the glasses of the keeper.’
The glasses through which his grandfather looked at the world changed as his grandfather was shot. Because of this change, the glasses Görkem owns are different glasses than when his grandfather owned them. This paradox is not a contradiction that limits. It attends to more qualities; it includes its excess.
A keepsake is more than just an object upon which subjects project their memories. A keepsake is more than different forms of subjectivity gathering and communicating. The process of becoming-keepsake is also a process between objects. Just like in the film, the keepsake folds out and no longer is matter within the object. It is matter relating within and through other forms of matter. The matter of the glasses touches the scenes of the voice-over, the celluloid, the camera, the spectators, all aspects of the film.
The mechanism of the memory involved is no longer tied to the psychological conditions of one, two or several subjects. Rather, memory insists on much more complex ecologies of consciousness, including objects. And perhaps the shapeless outweighs the actual. This is a fold towards memory that brings subjects and objects together, suspending their distinctness altogether. We fold towards world-memory.
Just like my jacket, just like these glasses, sometimes consciously, sometimes accidentally, memory becomes different rhythms for others. These rhythms are relations of matter, determining how memory affects us. Memory articulates different folds, all just as real, all just as manifest. Reconfiguring history, matter wanders through memory-ages of the world or how we live amongst others.