Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The art of memory - 9

X Marks the spot: the spaces of memory

Wollen, P. "Vectors of Melancholy" in Rugoff, R. (ed.), Scene of the crime, Cambridge, Massachussets: MIT Press, 1997.

Perec, G. "Space (Continuation and End)" & " The work of memory", Species of space, London/Newyork: Penguin, (19740 1999.

"Space melts like sand running through one's fingers. Time bears it away and leaves me only shapeless shreds:"

I find Georges Perec's quote from "Space (Continuation and End)" quite chilling with a sense of hopelessness. It suggests to me, that in memory we have no safe place to stand, no sturdy point of reference on which we can base our recollections. Not only is the sand running through our fingers, it is also slipping away under our feet. With no rock solid starting point how can we be even half way sure that any memory linked to that instance is reliable. The built environment or the natural environment seems so fixed and unchangeable (especially when young) that when it deteriorates or alters, our memories that involve those spaces seem 'even older' and lose even more corroborative evidence to support our claims of events.

For example, travelling back to the UK I visited the small town I used to live in. On the outskirts a bypass had been built. This vast object utterly ruined any memories of the old country lanes that used to be there, of travelling back home or even the vista of looking out from within. All those memories were suddenly much older and less reliable because the space that they had formed within had so changed.

How can we reliably create memories? Do we rely on our visual memory too much? Do photographs count as evidence?

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