Time Capsule Project — Part 1
This is a project of collecting, remembering, and redefining objects that we have special connections with. After careful consideration, I divided my objects into five categories, which independently tell the stories in different periods of my life. The precious objects that carry on my memories and emotions are my mother’s watch, my guzheng’s picks, postcards I received from friends and family, my senior portraits and graduation photo, and souvenirs from New Orleans, LA.
And here the stories begin:
- Mother’s watch.
This is a watch that originally belonged to my mother. It is an elegant woman’s watch with a really simple design — delicate rectangular clock face, quartz movement, narrow wristband. When my mother was in her early 20s, she went on a trip to Europe with my grandparents, my aunt, and some of their mutual friends. I remembered she once told me they visited Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, then Norway all in one trip. I was utterly impressed by their immense energy and stamina in consistently traveling from country to country. While at the same time, I also learnt that it was when they were staying in Switzerland that my mother got this watch for herself. She told me she bought the watch probably few years before I was born, so the watch is almost 25–26 years now.
My mother gave it to me when I was around 13 years old. I remembered seeing her wearing the watch to work when I was younger, but she no longer wore it. I started to wear the watch to school and have since kept the watch by my side wherever I go. In the past 10 years, this watch accompanied me in different circumstances and it, too, underwent multiple repairs. Throughout the years, its original battery and parts were replaced with new ones, its clock face gradually smeared by the oil inside, and I can’t remember exactly how many wristbands I have changed till now.
It’s been more than 10 years since I received this watch from my mother — new watches come and go — but I have never forgotten about its meaning and existence. As an object whose memories belong to my mother and me, it was once a souvenir that bear witness to my mother’s journey in Europe and it was the very item that introduced me to adulthood and maturity. And to both of us, it beholds the passing of (our) time and traces of our life journeys. It will continue being passed down to the future generations and carry on each user’s unique touch, emotion, and memory.
2. Guzheng’s Picks.
This instrument I play requires users to wear picks on both hands to pluck the strings. The instrument is called guzheng, a 21-stringed Chinese zither. Among the other instruments (the 4 stringed Chinese pipa, the Japanese Taiko, and the Balinese suling) I play, this is the one that I’m mostly good at and have the deepest connection with. When I got into college, I brought my instrument along and practiced it in my tiny dorm room before I met the music professor who later kindly granted me access to the college music center practice room and became my academic advisor in my sophomore year.
During undergraduate, my instrument and I shared numerous valuable experiences in academics, music compositions, and on-stage performances. To me, my zither is more than a mere instrument, it is my friend, my attachment, my passion, my accomplishment, my signature, and my soul. Besides the instrument, the picks I wear to play are of the same importance to me. In a way, their relationships to me are even more intimate than that of the instrument to me. To wear the picks in place, I use tapes to wrap around my fingers and stabilize their positions — in this case, the indented inner surface of the picks should seamlessly meet my fingertips.
Because of the countless time I spent on practicing, rehearsing, and performing in these picks, they have soaked in my sweat, my skin tissues, and my fingerprints throughout the years. They have been used so frequently that my fingerprints are already imprinted on the back of the picks. This year, it will be the 10th year since I started playing the guzheng. My memories with my instruments and the picks will continue to grow and their values and meanings will advance more as they ‘age’!
3. Postcards from Friends and Family.
I was talking to some friends from high school and my cousin from my mom’s side when I just entered college. Not knowing any people in the new environment, they were people who made me less lonely during the transition. I couldn’t recall how it started but one day this idea of sending each other postcard just sprouted. I shared my college address with my high school friends and my cousin and promised to send out postcards to each other.
My high school friends went to colleges in different states. Sometimes they would send me postcards from the cities they lived in or from the places they travelled to. My cousin once sent me a postcard when she was travelling in Taiwan with her friends. I sent her one back, but it seemed she never received it. Finding postcards from friends in the mailbox became the joy of my day in my first year of college. Their greetings and sharing were signs of love and care that showed me even though it was a hard process to start a life and make friends in a new environment, there were always people somewhere who thought about and supported me.
When the first year of college passed, the incoming postcards started to decrease and eventually stopped coming in second year. I did not blame the reality, as I knew a lot of changes could happen in a year. I found new friends and communities in college and was getting more used to the pace and lifestyle day by day. I believed that friends from the past must have found new interests, meanings, and friends in their environments as well. It was just a fact that we were moving on, growing up, and becoming the persons we imagined ourselves to be.
Besides, I realized we were in an age of technology. Sending letters or postcards were acts that might have already fading out of the public practice, as our communication methods were heavily replaced with texts, emails, and other social media platforms. However, till today, I still keep these postcards with my other precious items. After all, they are evidence that belong to my past memory and youth.
4. My Senior Portraits & Graduation Photo.
It’s been over two years since I took my college senior portraits and it’s weird that when I look at those photos now, I don’t feel like I look like what I look in those photos at all. I also don’t remember I looked like this in my senior year. I thought my face was smaller, my nose was narrower, but in those images, I found my face was rounder and my nose was bigger. How interchanging and forgetful memories were! Or maybe deep down, unconsciously, I imagined myself in a perfect image and chose to believe in the memory I created for myself.
I used to take pride in showing people my senior portraits after graduation, but the ones I showed people looked so essentially different from the original ones I took in the front of the camera. The ones I was so excited to show others have perfect facial proportions, less tiring expression, and more genuine and confident smile, but then I realized they were later edited in a way that I liked.
To think of that, it is interesting how photo editing app can change one’s appearance and create a false memory. Photos before the age of technology were more honest since people back then didn’t have photoshop or other editing apps. Therefore, even people lost their memories, items such as photos bear evidence and the pasts could still be preserved in the truest form. Nowadays, with the power of technology, we are able to create and preserve memories. Nonetheless, I could help but wonder, what is real and what is not? And what kinds of even more intriguing tools will come out in the future to rewrite our memories?
Based on the fact that in today’s world we can easily manipulate our images on social media and ‘rewrite’ our memories to trick ourselves into believing what our faces and bodies should look like, I explored the Pop Art filter app Abstract You! and transformed one of my senior portraits into 9 different forms of looks (inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop art Marilyn Monroe) and put those interpretations in a collage through using the app PicCollage. While it was the same image being used over and over again, the differences created by the color filters rendered the image multiple meanings and expressive visual contexts. The questions being asked during the process are: which one is the real me? Which one is your version of me? How is that the ‘me’ I remembered different from the me in photos? Is my subconsciousness leading me to believe what I want to believe?
5. Souvenirs from New Orleans, Louisiana.
It was during January in 2020. My boyfriend and I went on a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a memorable trip because it was the first trip we went together since we started dating and because it would become the only official trip we went last year when the pandemic broke out not long after in March in the States. I remembered the times when we were sitting in the uber or when we were just relaxing in our Airbnb at night, we would hear news coming out of the radio or read news on social media talking about the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak in other countries and the sporadic cases sprouting in the U.S.
All the devastating medical conditions, losses, and deaths in other places seemed to be all so distant from us at the moment. We were worried about its expansion here soon for a bit, but the emotion was quickly diluted by the joy and excitement of being on a vacation and spending time with love ones. Never did we know that the virus would soon spread across the globe and everything would never be the same.
Our time in New Orleans, though, was happy. We got to enjoy ourselves to the fullest — we saw the beautiful views, ate the delicious Cajun cuisines, and walked on lands that upheld different culture and tradition. Being able to travel to different places signified our freedom, mobility, and promises to ourselves.
This past weekend, I was searching over places — cabinets, drawers, closet, boxes, suitcases, corners, etc. — in my apartment to find objects I wanted to include in my Time Capsule Project collection. It was a very learning and reflective process to me. Personally, I did not have a habit of keeping different meaningful objects all in one place or to be more precise, I have never intentionally tried to figure and define what are considered as precious, valuable, and important. A lot of things that I possess are just common stuff. I took their existences for granted because they were so easy to obtain in daily life. Somewhere in my mind, I believed that items that were counted as valuable should live up to their monetary and aesthetic values. However, it was not until I started collecting and defining the objects that I wanted to put in my time capsule that I realized the things that I value the most are not necessarily expensive or rare but certainly serve significant emotional and memorial purposes that remind me of my life experiences. On top of this layer of understanding, I also found the beauty in creating my own precious collection. In a way, it is almost like establishing a life that is uniquely customized to myself.
P.S. In my documentation process, I used Canva to create social media posts (compatible in FB, Instagram, Twitter) that emanate a straightforward storytelling atmosphere. Other app tools used are Abstract Art! and PicCollage.