The Story is the Thing is the Story

(Some opening thoughts from a presentation I recently gave with Helen in the GSoE that I am developing into a larger presentation for the Brunelcare Forum on 21 May):

In everyday language, we speak about objects and stories in very similar ways. Stories possess weight, colour, form, context, history/provenance, value and meaning, just as objects do. We can talk about “the object of a story” just as easily as we can discuss “the story of an object.” In both cases, we are referring to “the point,” or “the essential meaning or core” of the narrative or artefact concerned. Somewhat analogous to the universal variables of energy and mass, stories and objects are at least metaphorically interchangeable as signifiers. On the one hand, sometimes we acquire an object and build stories around it: the cherished gift, the inherited heirloom, the chance-discovered treasure. On the other, we can also create, seek out or find ourselves immersed in stories and build collections around them: the holiday photos, the handmade craft, the kitchy souvenir. Value may be attributed at any point, but it too is always open to change as our experiences, memories and ongoing interpretation and curation of our lives change over time.

What happens when we lose, or give away the storied object? Does the story remain as vividly and veridically remembered? Likewise, if we forget the story behind it, do we still value an object to the same extent? Do we invent new value around it, or does it seem absurd, and do we therefore rid ourselves of what no longer fits our perceptions? Later on, does the possibility of regret intrude –as the nascent blossoms of nostalgia– if we suddenly think of a meaning, a use or context for that now-lost thing? Will we share the story of the loss as we newly understand it, positioning ourselves as its agent, or will we attribute other forces as responsible for the absence? Will we imagine we still have it and keep the stories alive or vice versa? And will the imagined stories become brighter, better, more tangible and lasting than the “real” ones about the “true” object?