History

Confabulation:

A fantasy that has unconsciously emerged as a factual account in memory. A confabulation may be based partly on fact or be a complete construction of the imagination.

                                                                                                                                                    The Skeptics Dictionary

Several years ago, I started a portrait of my aunt with the intention of placing her into an 18th century composition.  As I was studying her features from a photograph, I realized that I had memories of her that simply did not make sense.  The longer I painted, the more I realized that I had compiled years of memories of her that were geographical and historical impossibilities. After contacting my family for confirmation, they verified that she couldn’t have been present at the times and places I distinctly remembered her being.

Through placing my aunt into the fiction of an 18th century painting, I came to see that my subconscious mind had done something similar – It had created a fiction that masqueraded as a memory.  This confabulation left me questioning all of my “memories.” 

Since then, I’ve learned that every time we retrieve a memory we destroy it slightly; memories that are preserved most perfectly are those we never retrieve.  We like to think of our memories as unchanging, immovable, rooted facts.  But the mind is capable of uprooting memories and constructing elaborate narratives of consolation.  This subconscious construction of fiction created a detour around memories far too painful for me to integrate.  I had lived by these creations and accepted them as facts.  This subconscious creation of narrative mirrored moments when I would lose myself in the act of making, driven by conversations with the characters in my paintings.  I chose to allow myself to follow these characters, who I might otherwise have tried to lead.  Thus began the Vesper Project. 

After five years I'm finally beginning to share the "objective" reality of this experience – a reality that I find difficult to articulate, or even discern.  Over the course of the past five years that I have been engaged with the Vesper Project, I felt much of my process needed to be hidden.  I fear now that  those who experience this exhibition might believe this project to have been merely an unnecessary lie, engaged in for the sake of manipulation.  It was not my intention to deceive, but rather to explore the subconscious deceptions that our minds engage in on our behalf and the work that is born out of that process.  It is about listening to the characters that spoke to me, in some ineffable creative state, and getting lost in their story.

Titus Kaphar

October 2012