Re: Place - Mandy Williams
We have followed Mandy's work for some time now, and when we saw her latest project developing via twitter, we reached out asking if she would allow us to share this work in progress.
"When I was 13 my parents and I drove down from London to Worthing to visit my great aunt and uncle. We pulled up outside a house in another road and my mother said, ‘This is our new house. What do you think of it?’ Three months later we were living there.
My teenage diaries documented this new life in Sussex in forensic detail. I’ve re-read a few of them - it’s uncomfortable to be reminded of our teenage selves. Most of the time the emotional distance between that past and this present is another world away but sometimes there’s a strange familiar loop of thought and behaviour. For this work I’ve picked diaries from when I was 16 and 18, the years of leaving school and leaving home for university, and which looking back was a time of increasing independence and optimism."
"Many of my previous projects have been about place – places with a personal history, or places that have been compromised by past narratives. This work in progress is also about place, centring on the different locations that were mentioned in these diaries, many of which were significant in some way. Not surprisingly some of them no longer exist – they’ve been demolished and rebuilt – but mainly still remain. Though curious about these places after such a long time, the project is not about nostalgia, more the need to create a small action to acknowledge the passage of time, to overlay the past with a gesture from the present.
In six months I’ve revisited over 20 locations. Before I leave for Sussex I tear out the selected pages, roll them up and tie them with colourful silk ribbon. I want them to look inviting, to provoke somebody’s curiosity. Each page mentions a particular place and when I go there I’m thinking about the story that was written all that time ago but also experiencing it in the present – seeing a new film, eating a meal, walking along a stretch of beach. I take photographs of the location, the people passing by and the diary pages as I leave them – new visual memories replacing older written ones. "
"Sometimes there’s apprehension in going back to these places. Leaving my last day at school tirade tied up with ribbon beside the school’s promotional material was an adolescent thrill that seemed fitting. Details about wrongly reporting my car as stolen made its way back to the police station. Studying at the library found a home in the history of Worthing books section. One of the most frequent locations was a pub in the centre of town, renamed but still operating. I returned there with my oldest friend – neither of us had been for decades, a surreal experience. "
"Some of the diary pages aren’t meant to be found, they’re swept out to sea or placed deep in the landscape. Some have been left very publically – on a park bench, inside a beach shelter, at a shopping centre - and each time I would wait to see who would find them and whether they’d be curious enough to pick them up and read them. I would document this too.
This project is about overlaying the past with the present but it’s also about closure. Even though I left Worthing years ago, my parents returned to the area in 1990 and it continued to be associated with family and home. My father dying in late 2016 and the sale of the house last summer meant that my close physical and emotional ties to this place had finally ended. This project has allowed me to pull away slowly, to have a renewed awareness of my past there and to celebrate the present. "
Thank you to Mandy Williams for allowing su to share this work.