The presence of the past

How the Past Creates Our Present


According to McLuhan’s ‘rear-view mirror theory’, we can only see what has already happened.
The past has an instant influence on our perception.
We create images according to our experience.
In fact, we don’t behave exactly as we want to, but as if the past has shaped our minds.

Warsaw is a city full of people who are trying to forget their past everyday.
People from small villages, workers in large companies.
Each time they enter shiny, aluminium offices dressed in white shirts
and polished shoes, they erase from their minds the memories of the
places they come from – dirty streets and public toilets – and enter
their world of luxury and financial operations.

At the same time, the city forgets itself, its structure and history.
The most characteristic element of space in Warsaw is – that it has disappeared.

Magda’s memories from her childhood in Warsaw create a pure mixture of nonsense:
– pictures with a man in a bear costume (white bear in winter, brown in summer)

– taken in front of the Palace of Culture every year
– awful paper flowers, which every child has to make for the May 1st demonstrations
– lemons, which I could only see once a year, in a package from my parents’ work on New Years Eve

Playgrounds change. Nowadays children have complete different
experiences than we had. Those born after us in the nineties, play in
unsual spaces like: train tunnels, parking at supermarket, cementary.
As to be seen in recent polish films: "Jestem Zly" (I’m bad) and "Czesc
Tereska"(Hi Tereska).
It’s obvious that children often play in unexpected spaces, play with
unusual objects . The reason is that they don’t always have space to
play in, things to play with. So they use their imagination. They can
create an exciting world from banal reality, but the playgrounds shape
their minds and personality as well.

These are Adam’s memories from his childhood:

– a very old iron with a spirit/soul inside – zelazko z dusza
– a spoon with a metal container for tea
– an old metal pot-lid

Two young boys discovered the items in the attic. Some of the
objects were used like a shield or a sword in the young boys’ wars.
They became the most favoured objects in their games.
But the history of these objects is much more surprising then their
function in the children’s minds. They used to be the utensils in a
German house in the last century.
After the Second World War, the inhabitants of the house had to move
out very quickly and other people from eastern Poland moved in. Then
after 8 years, they had to move back again. Their belongings made a
long journey in wagons about 700 km to the east. Then they were
forgotten.
Set in a different context, people didn’t understand their former destination (their past, their use).

Last month, one of those boys was asked by his grandmother to buy some
goods in a shop. She gave him old notebook to make a shopping list:
2 kg potatoes, 1 l milk, sugar… he was curious about the peculiar
paper in the notebook: a very old kind of paper. He turned the pages
and was really shocked. It was a diary, written in german, with the
last entry made 35 years ago.
Most of the pages had been already been torn out, and on some of those
remaining he even saw his own drawings, made 20 years ago.
The next day, he decided to ask his grandma about the diary but the
only thing he saw in the house was a packet of biscuits wrapped in one
page from the diary. In range, he found the ashes of the rest.

 

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