Stage 1: Project Beginnings
While I was working through my thoughts about the first guided tour, I realized that the moments that I remembered most strongly were ones that were bound by words and interactions with other people. If someone made a strange comment, a funny joke, or uttered some sort of significant truth I did not understand until that moment – I would remember my surroundings very clearly. For me, my interactions with other people and different stories marked out special places on my personal map of Siena. As I began to think about initial ideas for my project, I wanted to focus on this connection between memories and relationships formed. I am very much afraid of forgetting my experience in Siena and I am looking for ways to hold on to my memories somehow. The dynamic between forgetting and creating new memories – mapping my memories, in a sense – is something I’m looking to explore with this project. The initial stage of my project development consists of interviewing and collecting anecdotes about other people’s experiences in Siena. I will organize and work through all of the anecdotes, then invite other people to go to different locations in Siena with me to “create memories” to act as markers on my map alongside the collected anecdotes and my own stories. Keywords: Binding, memories, forgetting, relationships, stories
Stage 2: Preparing interviews
A sampling of some of the questions I will be asking various people about their experiences in Siena: 1. What is the scariest memory you have of Siena? 2. An awkward interaction you had with someone in Siena? 3. Can you tell me about an experience that made you more aware of your identity? (e.g. foreigner, American, male/female, student, etc.) 4. Favorite spot in Siena? Why? and more!
Stage 3: Gathering stories
If and when these stories make it to my final project, they will be presented anonymously. The only other piece of information attached to each story will be an approximate location of where it happened. I have interviewed eight different people so far and have collected a variety of really interesting and eye-opening stories. I am taking notes on each person’s answers and re-transcribing them in a paraphrased format for now, though this may change. I would have liked to write in the third person, but I felt that it would be too awkward without using each individual’s name. Because I promised to preserve their anonymity, I will be writing from their point of view in the first person using my notes.
Here’s a few:
Q: An awkward interaction you had in Siena?
A: One time, when I was talking to the bus driver of my usual route, he asked me about my parents as a way of making friendly small talk. My father had passed away some time ago, so I tried to explain this to him. Unfortunately, I forgot how to say “he is dead (è morto)”, and thus followed a painful and awkward conversation. My father had passed away some time ago (not recently), so it wasn’t especially painful for me, but I felt bad for the bus driver because he was simply trying to be nice. Eventually, I told him that “my father lives in the cemetery (abita nel cimiterio)” and it finally clicked and he responded, “Ohhh, lui è morto (he died)! Mi dispiace (I’m sorry)…”
Q: Could you tell me about a time you did something “bad”, or maybe even illegal? Take “bad” to mean what you want.
A: I totally destroyed my lungs here in Siena because I started smoking tobacco instead of cigarettes. Cigarettes are so expensive – 5 euro per pack, per day is too much for me. Because I’m smoking tobacco, I don’t know how much I’ve been smoking and I’ve developed the worst cough ever. Plus, I’ve been eating a lot and I’m HUNGRY AS HELL.
Q: What’s the scariest memory you have of Siena?
A: To be honest, it’s probably when I first met my host dog. She’s a huge black labrador and I just didn’t expect to have a “host dog”…The first thing my host mother said to me was, “We have a dog. Is that okay?” My host dog was overly friendly and just barged into my room to jump on my bed and steal my Snickers bar. I had never had a pet before besides a goldfish, so this was a completely new experience for me.
Stage 4: Putting the stories together
Currently, I am considering dropping the idea of “making memories” as part of my project development as I do not know how much time I will have, but I think I will try to add a few events that were “created” specifically for this project. Some ideas I have of presenting these stories is to have a large map with various routes marked out. Each route will function as a tour of a series of anecdotes I’ve collected, as each story will be linked to a particular point on the map. I was originally thinking of having each story written on an index card so that viewers may be able to go on something like a “guided” tour with placards explaining each location – however, I’m thinking that this idea doesn’t provide much of a visual impact, nor is it particularly engaging. I would like to continue thinking about the mode of presentation while continuing to collect stories. Update as of April 25th: I will be collaborating with Anila Kondi on the visual presentation of this project, as our ideas dovetail together perfectly. While I have been collecting stories through my interviews of other students and staff, Anila had been developing an idea for visually presenting each story:
In order to reveal a different point of view about Siena, I decided to focus more on peoples’ stories about it. My intention is very simple, by those stories I want to create a post cards with the maps of the places that people are related with, places where they had not necessary good experience or story. However my main interest is the diversity of peoples’ points of views, sensations and perceptions.
We are very excited to continue this project together as collaborating will certainly make it stronger. I will write all of the stories in English, and Anila will then translate them into Italian. We hope that we will be able to accomplish much more together than we would have separately.
Stage 5: Creating the postcards
Eventually, Anila and I decided to use watercolors to create postcards that were definitively handmade.
Each card is individually painted with an abstract background:
Then, a tracing of the location related to the story is made (also with watercolor):
The story is handwritten on the back and even handmade “stamps” are attached for full effect:
Stage 6: Presenting the project
We chose to hang some of the postcards we made using monofilament to create the appearance of floating cards that visitors could pick up and read. At the front desk, we left some additional cards for anyone to take with them, if they wished.