Jo Pryde

Above: A photo by Jo Pryde (detail). Credit: Simon Lee.

Jo Pryde's Memory

Jo Pryde's recent short text titled Memory, is rather poignant, and worthy of comment.


If you take a course in Photoshop, the teacher may talk to you about Photoshop and memory. It could be the very first thing the teacher says. It’s thrilling. Photoshop remembers the pixels and where they are. It’s a map. The first verb the teacher uses to introduce Photoshop is 'to remember.' Not the verb 'to depict,' 'to demonstrate,' 'to represent,' nor 'to show.'

I think of my body (again) (after the computer). How it takes memory.

The computer. The rocks. The 3D object. How they all take memory.

Taking up memory.

It takes more memory than Illustrator, Photoshop. Because Illustrator works with vectors, and remembers outlines. What is it that Photoshop remembers, if it is not outlines?

Pryde reminds the reader that saving or memorizing the order-and-colour of each pixel in a photo is the single most basic thing that Photoshop does--every time the user alters or "manipulates" an image the software uses computing memory to store a list of at least twelve million or more co-ordinates that refer to the position-and-colour of each picture element or pixel. (We tend to forget that for a human with no access to a computer, writing out long-hand, any such list of twelve million co-ordinates, would take a few years to complete--just for one photo.)

Pryde highlights the fact that the term "memory" has generally been appropriated by the tech industry so that the ordinary meaning of the word--the faculty by which the human mind retains knowledge of events, information, feelings, etc.--tends to give way to the principal meaning in digital tech, which is simply, and blandly, "storage space." This appropriation could easily be construed as a masculinist project by which the meaning of a word once replete with complexity and subtlety tends to be replaced by a block-headed and dull one. Of course nobody in the tech industry would be consciously aware that this act of appropriation is a form of masculinist control that can be linked to a wider masculinist totalizing project.

Pryde takes this idea of memory-as-memory (nostalgia, daydreams, all sorts of thoughts, etc.) and reintroduces it, or substitutes it, whenever the term "memory" is used in a tech context (this is the game that is thrilling, as mentioned in the text). So, when the digital tech teacher says, say, "this image takes a lot of memory," the Prydian-feminist enjoyment is to simply accept that sentence at face value: this image takes a lot of thought; it requires a lot of imagination; it needs much reflection, etc. One could say it is just being fatuous, or one could see that what Pryde is doing is very poetically re-appropriating language with the purpose of an activist.

(2 December 2018)