Data, Memory & Grief


I’ve just returned from a good 3 hours communing with the techs at Apple to try and save my hard drive and data. Last week I opened up my mac only to see a screen I’d never seen before. It is called the ‘recovery screen’. Things went downhill from there. After several phone calls and several rebooting attempts the system still couldn’t get back up and running in the familiar way it had usually done. The ‘recovery’ screen still floated in front of me like an ominous gatekeeper.

I won’t go into the lengthy processes one has to go through to get an appointment with the ‘genius bar’ at Apple, suffice to say it was painful. In the midst of this several day long process I began to analyse what information, documents, photographs I had on the mac. It was after all, only new to me since Feb 2016 so there wasn’t a huge amount on it but it was a significant period of work including all the documents relating to my exhibition at Leeds Gallery in May 2016. Most importantly though and the one which caused me the most sadness was the lovely photographs of my daughter especially the time spent with her on holiday over the summer and the photos of her first day at school.

To be honest I had no idea what was wrong with my computer except that I could no longer get ‘into’ it. I had been shut out.

So today I finally had an Apple tech look into it. On the positive side the hard drive wasn’t damaged physically. On the negative side it could only see the recovery partition and not the operating system. It was looking unlikely that my data was recoverable unless willing to pay a few hundred for it.

So what happened? My hard drive was erased. All gone. Not accessible again. Memories wiped out. And the operating system reinstalled. This means I have a working computer again with nothing on it.

So on the train home (and luckily it was the most bright of autumnal sunshine days) I mused on the notion of ‘erased’. What did it mean to loose all the information? I felt like I was grieving especially for the photographs and the time spent yet I realised also how memories really remain in the heart and in the mind. Our time together hadn’t vanished. Our shared moments had still happened. Since she was born I’ve rarely printed out a ‘proper’ photograph from a digital record. I’ve no hard copies of written work (except for my research proposal luckily). And so it brought me to a state of ‘letting go’.  I really questioned what I needed to keep hold of and mused over how many multiple copies of work images I’d had. Then I was thrown into a state of realising many of my research proposal bookmarks would also have been erased. How many websites could I remember? Which resonated the most in my memory and which would be forgotten? How often do we keep so many bookmarks and be incredibly overloaded with information and resources only to never refer to them again? It’s feels like a form of deconstructing. Of stripping back all the layers to reach only those which are present for us right now.

In essence I was starting anew. Learning to take better care of my data. To work more efficiently. To only keep what is essential to both the creative process and to memories of life.