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The Trickster of Memory

There is a scene in the film of Bridget Jones Diary where the character of Bridget makes a fool of herself at a Law Society dinner during a quiz – she swears she knows the answer and confidently stands up in-front of the esteemed assembled guests swearing she will eat her hat if she gets it wrong. And yes, she proceeds to get the answer excruciatingly wrong. But Bridget's memory has played tricks on her.

I was originally going to start this post by talking about Janus the ancient two faced god of the Romans who had the ability to look simultaneously forwards and backwards – from the past into the future; a god associated with thresholds, of beginnings, openings and doorways. I have always been fascinated by Janus and I guess as this month is named after him it is not surprising my mind should turn towards him whilst I stand on the threshold of the year and assess what I have achieved and also as I plan my work for the year ahead. However, memory or misremembered memory has somewhat derailed this plan.

One thing I enjoy about memory is the way music, a picture, a smell or sound triggers it, and the shared joy of familial memories. Within collective memory of this type the Trickster is sometimes found lurking and is revealed when reminiscences are shared, something I will write about again in other posts in relation to my current recorded memory projects.

In a recent car conversation with my sister we started talking about our holidays in Malta as kids, an island we visited on countless occasions. One place which I can still conjure in my mind and even remember the smell of the fusty interior is Mosta Church. As a child I was enthralled by the shell of the unexploded bomb on display and its evocative narrative as well as the vaulted cool airy interior of the church itself. As my sister and I talked I reminisced about the carving of Janus decorating the outside of the church, describing in detail the image that played upon my inner eye of memory. Yet like Bridget, the Trickster of memory had tripped me up.

As I sat down to write this post I thought I'd try and find a picture of Janus on Mosta church. Not surprisingly I couldn't find any such image as the carving does not exist. As the Trickster of memory sniggered away in the background at the duplicity I suddenly realised my mistake. I had misremembered, confusing one duality and object steeped in symbolism with another. There was no Janus only two clocks, like those found on many other Maltese churches; clocks each set at different times so as to confuse the devil.

What had in-fact captured my imagination all those decades ago as a child was the wonderful weaving together of the spiritual with superstition, reality with fiction and the medieval concealed within the present. When I reflect on this now I realise that the threads which twist and twine through my artistic work have their roots firmly enmeshed in those early childhood encounters in Malta, and the catholic church in Mosta.


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