Myken McDowell is a visual artist working primarily in photo-based printmaking and video installation. She completed her BFA with a concentration in Fibers and Material Studies at Concordia University in 2016 and her MFA in Printmaking at the University of Alberta in 2019. She has exhibited her artwork both nationally and internationally, including recent group exhibitions at the Jyväskylä Art Museum in Jyväskylä, Finland and the Strzeminski Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland. This summer she received a Visual Arts and New Media Project Grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to pursue research at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan.
Our bodies are in a constant state of flux. Skin cells get recycled every few weeks, blood cells every few months, liver cells every two years. Over the course of a decade or so, every atom is replaced, and our bodies are made entirely new. Despite this, most of us feel that we are essentially the same people we were as children. We remember being children. We remember extinguishing all five candles on our birthday cake. We remember running in fast circles on the front lawn midsummer. We remember picking wild raspberries—braving tall hills and thorny branches to enjoy their sweet taste.
Our bodies change, but the pattern of information we carry in our heads—the stories we tell about ourselves—remain. In this way, we are what we remember. This could be why so many of us work to establish a personal archive of photographs, films and mementos to commemorate the small, joyful moments in our lives and those of our loved ones. While these documents are generally limited to audiences with a personal connection to the material, they still fall within the parameters of the archive established by Michel Foucault in his seminal text The Archeology of Knowledge and Discourse on Language. Foucault defined the archive as:
“First, the law of what can be said…but the archive is also that which determines that all these things said do not accumulate endlessly in an amorphous mass … they are grouped together in distinct figures… maintained or blurred in accordance with specific regularities…” (145).
In my art practice, I draw from a personal family archive to both question and reconstruct memories of childhood. Paying special attention to the small moments captured on Super 8 film in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I carefully select stills from the original film, produce a series of photopolymer prints, and then scan the prints to create new animated works that act as an echo of the original footage. In doing this, I recast the stories these archives tell through successive iterations of the same image—the details of which are maintained or blurred in accordance with my own specific regularities. The source material for each piece goes through several filters and the end result is dramatically different: a new narrative emerges. In Homegoing I take a different approach—I return to the site where the Super 8 films were discovered to document, with a video camera, the process of emptying a home. Mementos featured in the resulting video work (some of which also make an appearance in the original Super 8 footage) are displayed alongside—another kind of archival document. My decision to focus on the home, and home movies in particular—films that may be deemed of little aesthetic or historical value—is deliberate. Whatever its aesthetic value, when a portion of this body of work was shown to one of its now adult subjects, his response was “I wish I were that happy again”—a sentiment that many others have expressed. While it is important to look forward there also is value in acknowledging these moments of joy in our personal and collective past. As Clay Routledge, author of Nostalgia, A Psychological Resource observes, “There is a big element of nostalgia that isn’t about us retreating to the past—it’s about pulling the past forward to the present and using it to mobilize us, to energize us and take on new challenges and opportunities.”
 Østby, Hilde and Østby, Ylva Adventures in Memory: The Science and Secrets of Remembering and Forgetting, Greystone Books, 2018.