The other day we had the opportunity to return to the asylum featured in Project Senium for the first time in several months. At first, it seemed like a pretty normal visit. We arrived, easily found entrances old and new, put on masks, turned on lights, traversed hallways, scaled roofs, and took it all in. Returning to the asylum as often as we do, and even just from creating the Project Senium film, bred quite the familiarity with the place. We even played tour guides for our visiting friends and family by highlighting brief histories, pointing out significant features, and leading them to some our favorite spots. We had no need for floor layouts on our phone or to look out the window to navigate the labyrinth of rooms and corridors because, like a neighborhood, we have lived enough of our lives here to know it inside and out.
That's when something new happened. This familiarity with the asylum brought unforeseen results. It's not really new, but a fresh occurrence of a basic aspect of the asylum. As we pointed out locations, we started pointing out locations featured in Project Senium and from our other visits. This is where we filmed that particular shot, over there is where we held the Project Senium premiere, up here is where I dislocated my shoulder, and that's the building we spent the night in. Pointing these places out made me realize it: The asylum houses many memories and stories and we had added our own fresh layer to them. The notion becomes melancholic because the asylum is already in worse shape than when we filmed Project Senium and only worsening every day. While we knew conditions would continue to decline, I didn't quite realize that by adding our own memories to the place that we would feel that loss even stronger and more personally. Our return had become something bittersweet, like returning to the home you used to live in, the town that you grew up in, and finding it changed, or in this case, destroyed.
This is something the asylum has always been: a fading memory palace. I suppose this is but a sliver of what some before us must think about the asylum's abandonment and deterioration. Before we had to use our imaginations regarding the slow fade of a place so full of memory, but now imagination is no longer necessary. We have the experience. But unlike those before us, we don't just witness it's emptying, closing, or abandonment from afar, we witness it's decay and destruction up close. While it is a sad thought, it makes me even more proud of Project Senium, that we did what we could with what we had to preserve a little bit of this memory palace before it was completely gone, even as we committed our own layer of stories and memories to these halls. It is and always was a melancholic thought, the pantheon of lives, experiences, and stories lost and fading away within these walls. Are the memories we made the most important or deepest and the loss of them most tragic? No, but sometimes it's the freshest wound that hurts the worst.