Photograph of man giving school children and parents a tour of an art exhibit. He is pointing to the artwork and the children and parents are surrounding him.


2022 Exhibitions

Memory Traces: Artists Transform the Archive

February 5 – May 15, 2022

Artwork from Memory Traces exhibit of a girl with long hair holding a cell phone. Mostly yellow, orange and brown colors.

Memory Traces: Artists Transform the Archive

Memory Traces: Artists Transform the Archive uses the La Jolla Historical Society’s holdings to consider the archive in its traditional function and reimagine it for contemporary times. The exhibition features seven San Diego artists, working across mediums, whose practices investigate memory, history, and how meaning is created from fragments of the past. These artists will mine the Society’s archive of photographs, ephemera, and objects, and select material to take as a point of departure for making new work. Their resulting projects will be installed in the galleries alongside this source material. The exhibition draws its title from a 1925 essay by Sigmund Freud, in which he explored the way remembrance functions. Observing memory’s natural inconsistency, Freud used the term “memory trace” to signify a note made to serve as a future reminder, an aid to maintaining a clearer picture of the past. An archive has, traditionally, been considered to function similarly; it is a collection of materials, compiled over time, thought to constitute an accurate representation of history. Together, these materials —or memory traces— establish a kind of collective memory. And yet, we have increasingly come to understand that the archive is always assembled by individuals, canonized from a particular perspective and set of experiences. Memory Traces operates from an understanding of memory, and the archive, as unstable, and the impossibility for such records to represent an absolute “truth” about the past. The exhibition proposes that the archives’ contemporary value may, in fact, lie in its malleability. It can be a site for critique, for expanding understandings of experience and of history, for transformation, and the creation of new narratives. The works in Memory Traces activate the La Jolla Historical Society’s archive with imaginative and diverse interpretations that affirm the fluid relationship between past and present.

Curated by Elizabeth Rooklidge

Funding for this project generously provided by the Sandy and Dave Erickson, Bo and Anita Hedfors, and the Florence Riford La Jolla Community Fund at the San Diego Foundation. Institutional support provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and by the Members of the La Jolla Historical Society.