Archaeology of Memory

14 minutes, 1992

Still from Archeology of Memory, 1992

Still from Archeology of Memory, 1992



Production, Camera, Hand-Processing & Toning, Editing and Image Manipuation: Gary Popovich

Musique Concrete: Randall Smith

Produced with the assistance of: The Canada Council for the Arts, Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto

Premiered at TIFF 1992

Beginning in scratches of light, Archaeology of Memory evolves through colour, rhythm and multiple images tracing a history of cinema from mythical beginnings to the thread of personal memory, peering into the everyday pathology of family, sex and death.
— Gary Popovich

Pleasure Dome series puts spin on family values

“It’s only ordinary pictures that yield a thousand words. One good family snapshot can be worth at least a month on an analyst’s couch.

There’s always been something especially rich going on between families and cameras. It’s that odd combination of absolute nakedness and absolute artificiality that most families display in home movies and family photos. Everybody’s acting—including dad behind the camera—but they’re all acting versions of the roles they play off-screen.  Is it fiction? Is it documentary? Absolutely.

And experimental. Home movies remain the single greatest archive for young experimental filmmakers; and it’s easy to see why. They’re cheap and plentiful, their formal qualities—grain, flicker, colour, saturation, fragility—render them aesthetic objects, and the images themselves are fraught with churning memories and power dynamics that make for nothing if not great material.

So it’s good to see the different ways home movies get deployed in a program of experimental films about family, running this weekend at CineCycle. Put together by Pleasure Dome programmers Kika Thorne and Chris Gehman, these nine short films and videos take many different approaches to the question of family, but almost half of them use home movies as one central element.

Gary Popovich’s Archaeology of Memory leads off the program, and it’s probably the most technically complex of the group. A kind of double history that intertwines autobiography with the development of cinema, it’s a stunning, enormously seductive array of images and sounds.

In less than 15 minutes Popovich zooms from scratches on celluloid through early pictographs, right up to an intricate multi-layered collage that weaves in home movies from his boyhood years.

Randy Smith’s score follows the progression of the film’s narrative—a kind of My Life Since The Beginning Of Time—with an equally complex sound collage. And Popovich distills the old home movies to those images richest in emotional ache—his mother’s face, himself at play with his toy movie projector, his cowboy outfit and his guns.

The effect is what critic Deborah Knight once called exquisite nostalgia, enhanced by the rush of colours through which all these images are glimpsed.”

Cameron Bailey, NOW Magazine, July 8-14, 1993 ingenious, autobiographical experimental film
— Steve Kokker, Montreal Mirror
…we are in a different cognitive hemisphere – far away from the processed eye-food of mainstream film…
— Katherine Monk, The Vancouver Sun