Performing Memory: Art Community, Archive & St Ives

Posts Tagged ‘Leach Pottery

WRITING: The Archive II

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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
vice versa.

Written by JS101092

April 21, 2011 at 10:40 am

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