The Lost Toy Archive

As dreamworld symbols of alienation and enchantment, then, the toys of my youth are both a sign pointing to certain social and personal wounds and a reservoir of potentially revolutionary energy. The answer to the question of how to liberate this energy from the obscurity of shoe boxes and eBay pages was stumbled upon accidentally when, instead of going through the trouble of scanning a cache of family photos assembled by my mother, I decided to make hand-drawn copies of them. In the meditative process of tracing these photos, of translating them into a new medium through the filters of consciousness and motor effort, the anecdotal material for much of this essay resurfaced. Just like the model builder in Stewart’s example, or the imperfections of the hand-made Russian toys in Benjamin’s, my tracing of the toy translates it from a product of alienated labour, a reified simulacra of the social, into a more humanized, imperfect and accessible copy of the past. […] To this extent, the process fostered Stuart’s redemptive nostalgia practice, making “further inscriptions on the landscape of encoded things” which “reopen cultural forms to history” (Stuart 232). The reclaiming of the personal and historical context behind the spectacular simulacra of my youth was one of the most exciting products of this entire process, brought to realization, it should be added, due to the maternal principle of preservation inherent in my mother’s photo archiving practice.

This paragraph best sums up the project of the Lost Toy Archive, the critical unpacking of which took me most of the weekend to revise. I suppose that near endless revising is the name of the game in academia, but this section made me feel that the process of trying to communicate ideas might be worth all the effort.


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