Here lies everything we can’t remember but should never forget*

The deeper I get into this project, the less I seem to understand my father.

If my keeping Michael’s stuff around is a way of also keeping him around, an unwillingness to let go just yet, what does it mean that he carried all this around himself as he accumulated it? What did he think on his trips down to the basement, winding through the shelves that swallowed the footprint of the house? Was this his definition of himself, an accumulation of effort he couldn’t let go of? And what of the years passing as his homes and partners changed and the collection became thinner (as did he)? And what is it now, now that he’s no longer here to reflect on it? To reflect it? What is it now that I stand among the boxes, interpreting labels and order? Imposing my own order. Does it become something else now?

Calling this an archive implies a truth that doesn’t really exist. It’s a snapshot, but not really. More of a portrait, deliberate in its strokes and structure. In a vain effort to offer up the material to anyone who wants it, I can’t help create a narrative that isn’t mine. It’s not fair, really. Of course, he trusted this storytelling job to me, even if he knew no one would ever quite be up to it. Certainly not me, who always struggled under his standards, fighting them screaming and kicking.

Yet here I am. In a 10’ by 10’ storage space full of boxes, trying to make some sense of his mess. Anyone who knew him or me knows how unsurprisingly fitting this is.

So box by box, folder by folder, I inventory. To know what’s here is perhaps the best I can hope for, rather than know what it means.

* From What Should An Artist Save?

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