Posts Tagged ‘Tate St Ives’
The past is not simply there in memory, but must be articulated to become memory. The fissure that opens up between experiencing an event and remembering it in representation is unavoidable. Rather than lamenting or ignoring it, this split should be understood as a powerful stimulant for cultural and artistic creativity. The temporal status of any act of memory is always the present and not, as some naïve epistemology would have it, the past itself, even though all memory in some ineradicable sense is dependent on some past event or experience. It is this tenuous fissure between past and present that constitutes memory, making it powerfully alive and distinct from the archive or any other mere system of storage and retrieval. [Huyssen 1995]
My aim is to explore this gap between an event happening, and remembering it in representation.
Working with Memory Bay and the St. Ives Archive, I am looking at ways of rethinking the history of the creative community in St. Ives, uncovering hidden networks and connections. To do this, I have been exploring ideas of what an archive is, and how it can be disseminated.
How can a creative exploration of the archive articulate narratives of memory, identity and place to communicate notions of what constitutes an art community? What exactly is an archive, and can the split between experience and remembering be used to creatively articulate ideas of individual and collective memory related to place? What is an ‘art community’? Is it shaped by and understood through memory and place?
My work aims to rethink notions of what an art community is from within the community, using the space between experience and memory to creatively examine narratives of history, place and identity. It draws on theories of individual and collective memory, cultural history, the phenomenology of memory, cultural geography and new media practices, and uses the Memory Bay archive in St Ives (a collaboration between UCF, Tate St. Ives, St. Ives Archive, Leach Pottery and Porthmeor Studios) as a case study to explore how art and cultural practice, past and present, connects individuals and communities, and how memory and identity is intertwined with and performed through space and place.
Using space, real or imaginary, as a tool for memory is an ancient idea. In medieval times, imaginary cathedrals were built by monks to remember theological ideas as an aid to contemplation. By attaching things to be remembered to peculiar and exotic icons placed around these cathedrals, they could then journey around this space in order to create narratives of devotion. This is the same technique used to perform feats of memory today, like remembering Pi to however many decimal places.
The archive contains memory. But it does not operate in the same way as the mind.
Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing… The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature. [Vannevar Bush, 1945]
So, is it possible to create an archive of the imagination, a kind of reified version of Borges’ Library of Babel, where memory can be encountered by association? Or perhaps an emotional archive, where memory can be accessed by feelings? Or, could memory be put back in place, relocating memory in space, reflecting Bachelard’s suggestion that ‘space contains compressed time. That is what space is for.’ [Bachelard, 1958]
Instead of a cathedral, in St. Ives we have the freedom of a whole town in which to place icons and attach memories. These memories, once placed, can ‘hyperlinked’ to be encountered by moving through space, creating intimate or collective narratives of place. From this point, anything is possible.
To make this possible, to create an invisible archive that litters the town with memory, I am exploring different kinds of technology. Pervasive media is a broad term that is defined by Bristol’s research centre, The Pervasive Media Studio defines it thus:
The simple explanation:
Pervasive Media is basically any experience that uses sensors and/or mobile/wireless networks to bring you content (film, music, images, a game…) that’s sensitive to your situation – which could be where you are, how you feel, or who you are with. Oyster Cards are a simple pervasive device: so are audio guides at tourist attractions, which can give you extra information according to where you are and which bits you’ve been to already.
The more complex explanation:
Pervasive Media is Digital Media delivered into the fabric of real life and based on the situational context at the moment of delivery
The two defining features of Pervasive Media are:
1. Uses technology to understand something about the situation and
respond based on that information;
2. Uses digital media to augment (bridge) the physical environment, and
The St. Ives Archive is housed [housed; where the memory lives; the dwelling place for the memories; where memory sleeps until it is disturbed and rearranged to become history] in the Upper Chapel Room, St. Andrew’s Street. If you walk along the seafront towards the train station, you’ll find the St. Ives Society of Artists clinging to the very edge between land and sea. If you walk the other way, past the cafes and shops, weaving in and out between the holiday-makers in the summer, or trying to escape the penetrating winds in the winter, you’ll find the 15th Century church, and the harbour, and beyond that, Porthmeor beach and Tate St. Ives.
The building itself is constructed in granite, its walls almost half a metre thick. The Upper Chapel Room is found by going through a small set of blue double doors at the side, ascending the steep carpeted staircase and at the top, turn right and go through the glazed wooden door off the small landing. The space itself reveals its construction, white-painted beams hold-up the Methodist‘s architectural simplicity, the attic-like space filled with light by the large windows at each end [three per wall, two small with four sections, two with eight panes, two with six, and a larger window in the between, three instead of two wide, and an extra row of two-by-six windows on top].
It’s not an very big space, neither is it small. The room is the whole of the floor, save for a small landing with a toilet and a cupboard, and at the far corner, a latch door leads to a little kitchen with its assortment of mugs, tea-bags and tea-towels, and a kettle that seems slow to boil [though not as slow as the one in the kitchen in the house in which I live].
At the kitchen end, is a computer that stores the oral history archive and slide-shows of photos, and next to it is the microfiche machine. Microfiche is still an esoteric thing of great mystery to me. I only partly understand it. We need to become better acquainted, the microfiche and I. Working clockwise around the room from the microfiche on the back wall next to the kitchen, there is the Family History Corner. This is for actual genealogy, rather than the genealogy of ideas or knowledge. Along the long wall that faces the door, are cupboard-topped shelves that reach from floor to ceiling, except because the roof is sloped, there is a gap. I’ve often thought it might be a good place to sleep [sleep with sleeping memories], rather than just daydreaming.
On the shelves are a rainbow of ring-binders, filed not quite according to their position on the spectrum. They are filed according to subject, and to each subject a colour is assigned. It starts with blue for Family History at the far end, then red for Buildings, purple for History, green for Maritime, and yellow, for sun, sand and Tourism. Black ringbinders are for the serious matter of the arts. Grey archive boxes contain monochrome memories in black and white photos. See-through plastic boxes hold precious glass plates and photographic negatives; look through to see.
Turning to face in the opposite direction is the other wall with the big windows which face the sea, with St. Eia’s Church to the left and the Society of Artists to the right. You can just see the see in the middle, between the rooftops opposite. You can also see Godrevy, dunes, sand, but no lighthouse. Along this wall are computers. These are necessary for lots of reasons, yet the data stored in the memory of the volunteers is far easier to access, and can be retrieved using simple voice activated commands. This is much more user friendly, and needs no special training to use. The search results are filtered, and come with intelligent metadata, and recommendations for further searches. Apparently, this is also how the Semantic web, or Web 3.0 will work. There are no accession numbers, or filing systems required. However, the system of memories is unique, sophisticated and individualised.
Turning again to the other long wall, there is a fireplace, not in use for fireside tales, with a sign above that says ‘THIS IS A DISUSED MINESHAFT it has been fenced for your protection PLEASE HELP TO KEEP IT SAFE’. Next to this there are three filing cabinets, two brownish beige and one royal blue. From left to right, they respectively contain administrative things, Artists and Sculptors and General Art (A-Z), and Volunteers and Displays and Writers and Poets. Next to filing cabinets is a dividing wall of desks and photocopier at ninety degrees to the wall, ending in a display table with local history books and postcards of local views for sale. The door to the stairs is on the other side of this half-wall. This divides the volunteer’s working area from the public’s working area. This separation is further defined by the difference between the assorted proper desks on the one side, and smaller tables, each with two assorted chairs, on the other. The visitors’ side tables, three of them, are an interwar shade of lemon syllabub. Modern red and black chairs sit in pairs with the lemony tables. The half-glazed door leads out on to the landing again, and on the landing is the cupboard where books are stored, and not unlike in Borges’ Library of Babel, the toilet.
But as Bachelard said, one never goes downstairs from the attic.
From Tate Research.
Art museums, however, also need to engage with the increasingly diverse practices of contemporary artists, constructing new narratives from the complex and unresolved histories of contemporary culture. Their functions of collecting, conserving, displaying and interpreting art are now being reframed in the light of new art practices and a rapidly evolving vision of the relationship of art museums and their publics.
There has been a wealth of research into the nature, experience and expectations of museum audiences in recent decades, with attention focusing particularly on the complex relationships between culture, community, learning and identity, and on issues of enfranchisement and social inclusion. Tate Learning has a long and distinguished record in the field of gallery education. However, there remains a strong sense within museums that much more remains to be understood about the changing nature of visitor experience, learning and expectations, and about how to view the place and future of the art museum in relation to non-visitors. At the same time, visitors are increasingly seen to interpret material and construct meaning in their own way, and to hold conversations among themselves using social media, leaving museums with the challenge of finding new ways of connecting with a broad public.