Following this year's epic Memory Marathon, we sit here together typing the last words. The technical staff have begun to dismantle the dome around us. It has been a pleasure helping you to remember and now in the words of Rirkrit Tiravanija: "Remember to forget".
It is now the grand finale from Winnie Cott/Olivier Castel. Olivier Castel is a French artist based in London. Under the name Winnie Cott, he is presenting for the Marathon a new work that spills out of the Pavilion’s architecture. His participation, which will take place outside the dome is called Each fish is a pond full of fishes, as for the tree, it is also a forest. Everyone is invited to go outside to the Pavilion for this.
The lights dim. Gordon's arm steals around Julia's shoulders. He sings a Scottish folk ballad, Bonnie Glen Shee. "That's my memory." And with a kiss on both Julia's cheeks, the dome's activities for this year comes to a close.
Douglas Gordon joins Julia Peyton jones upon the marathon stage. They begin this very secretive presentation with loving thanks to Hans Ulrich Obrist and to everyone who has worked to make every aspect of the Memory Marathon possible.
Cults and brainwashing still persist today (Islamism, false memory syndrome). It's become a convenient journalistic explanation. But what's emerged is a vision of human being as weak, vulnerable, a negative idea that's got very deep into society. The point about this persistent belief in the idea of brainwashing, Curtis argues, is that it "pathologises anything that's new. It leads you to think that you're being manipulated. You're deviating from the correct way of thinking, the norm. Deviations from the norm are seen as pathological and dangerous. This is dangerous. It prevents us from turning to or believing in other systems of thought."
To quote Adam Curtis from last year's Garden Marathon: "I blame the hippies for everything"
Second clip - some rare archive footage. The first ever documentary on Scientology broadcast on British television from 1971.
Curtis continues to explain that in light of the growth of new religions and their gathering momentum within the American middle class. The wealthy parents of the 1960s America believed that their children were being brain washed to join fringe religions.
CIA gave up on depatterning, Curtis explains, because there was no evidence that they could restore memories once the original ones had been erased. Psychiatrists, however, persisted with the idea that it could work.
Excerpt of Curtis's film on depatterning, in which a patient was forced to sleep for 20 out of 24 hours and given various electric shock treatment. Patients would wake up with no memory of their previous life.
As a journalist obsessed with politics and power, Curtis talks of the relationship between them, especially within the period of the Cold war. Brainwashing, a concept that now has no scientific evidence that it can actually happen has led all of us to be suspicious of new ideas. Invented by an American journalist called Edward Hunter in 1951, who claimed that both the Chinese and Soviets had a way of placing ideas into the minds of people. Erased minds, replaced with new memories. The US thought that if they could harness this ability of Pyschic Driving they might be able to create human weapons to send into Communist countries. The problems came when they tried to implant new memories back.
It is now a great pleasure to introduce Adam Curtis, who recently collaborated with Hans Ulrich Obrist for an exhibition of his works at e-flux. Adam is the hero of many artists, his documentaries have had an enormous influence on the way in which we relate to archival footage, memory and history. Today Adam Curtis will be presenting a new film.
A nation’s loss of collective memory and ability for self-reflection is like immune deficiency in living organisms. The only difference is that the nation would not die, it will only lose its senses. - Ai weiwei
Dillon and Millar read passages from texts that Marker loved as, in part, a form of memorial. First Millar reads an exceprt from Funes the Memorious by Luis Borges. They continue alternating in speaker to read excerpts from the works of Proust, Tarkovsky, Bioy Casares, Boileau & Narcejac, Bouvier and Pound.
Millar quotes from Through the Looking Glass: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."
Jeremy Millar and Brian Dillon present a collaboration titled In Memory: Chris Marker.
I feel you, Johanna / I feel you / I was half convinced I'd waken / Satisfied enough to dream you / Happily I was mistaken / Johanna / I'll steal you, Johanna - 'Johanna' Lyrics from Sweeney Todd
Melancholy, illness, diagnosis, death, bodies, disintegrating matter, slicked skin. A blue screen in the background flickers epileptically. It's powerful work with a particular negativity to it. 'Johanna' from Sweeney Todd blasts through the air in random intervals. The writing harks back to China Mieville and Evan Calder Williams earlier - incredibly profuse; all substance and detail. It is very gratuitous writing. Polarities constantly interject and report themselves (at one point, the brain becomes a moon with two halves - beautiful image).
"We can never be close enough, you and I", Atkins says, to himself. Speaking of depression, as depression, to depression.
A theatrical piece from Atkins. Blue material wrapped tightly around his entire head, he recites DEPRESSION, a poetic essay with a roving intent, while snippets of musical and snatches of the cosmos are relayed on the large screens behind.
Ed Atkins arrives on stage, promently covers his head in a blue cover and begins to speak into the microphone. The monologue is accompanied with both video and constructed aggravated audio in this work DEPRESSION.
There is no portrait of Camillo, explains Taylor. We have to make do with this "alchemical and digital memory of a windowed soul".
A little bit about Camillo's Theatre of Memory: The structure was a wooden building, probably as large as a single room, constructed like a Vitruvian amphitheatre. The visitor stood on the stage and gazed into the auditorium, whose tiered, semicircular construction was particularly suitable for housing the memories in a clearly laid-out fashion - seven sections, each with seven arches spanning seven rising tiers. The seven sections were divided according to the seven planets known at the time - they represented the divine macrocosm of alchemical astrology. The seven tiers that rose up from them, coded by motifs from classical mythology, represented the seven spheres of the sublunary down to the elementary microcosm. On each of these stood emblematic images and signs, next to compartments for scrolls. Using an associative combination of the emblematically coded division of knowledge, it had to be possible to reproduce every imaginable micro and macrocosmic relationship in one's own memory. Exactly how this worked remains a mystery of the hermetic occult sciences on which Camillo based his notion. (Peter Matussek: The Renaissance of the Theatre of Memory)
This is a complex three-way work of art/presentation/art historical lecture. Still trying to untangle the threads. At its centre is a portrait of 16th century philosopher Giulio Camillo, famous for his uncompleted 'Theatre of Memory'.
Timothy Taylor Professor of Prehistory of Humanity at the university of Vienna presents A portrait of Giulio Camillo. The presentation is a collaboration between Taylor, his skeuomorphic alter ego Krysztina Tautendorfer and Cairn Raider.
The dome is plunged into darkness for the screening of Lutz Bacher's film Puck, looping the opening words from the final soliloquy of A Midsummer Night's Dream: "If we shadows have offended, think but this; and all is mended"
Winter has suddenly arrived in the dome. As the audience run out for blankets, Hans Ulrich reminds us of the year when there was a blackout and the Marathon continued by torchlight.
Antiques can show in a highly dense way what a certain people in a certain time and location were capable of in terms of thinking and making. It reveals what was really in their minds. If we look at history, nothing can give us more vivid a lesson than those pieces of evidence. - Ai Weiwei
Hollis wraps up his presentation with the quite wonderful observation, "The photograph exists in the present but it is essentially the past".
Hollis' talk moves through a series of associative thoughts on memory from madeleines, Chris Marker, Cartier Bresson, Alain Resnais to a photograph of himself in Kensington Gardens.
Proust's back. And we've come to him via Apollinaire's shrapnel-indented helmet - not sure exactly how. Now Chris Marker.
We're now venturing into the territory of the keepsake: which images allow one to remember, which images don't?
The program continues with a talk from designer and publisher Richard Hollis. He will illustrate his talk on Notes on Memory, Mainly Visual with slides.
What happens to the women in Kjartansson's lurid tales? Birnbaum's film offers one answer. Should also mention that Birnbaum's woman finds common cause with another put-upon woman, Marguerite, from the Faust legend.
Birnbaum suggests the main character of her film is both in a state of wistful memory yearning for something lost but also a state of contemplative reverie. Reverie coming from the obsolete French resverie, to be delirious. She suggests that in Will-O'-the-Wisp everything is distorted, even the memory of the past.
Dara Birnbaum is up now: "The memory of the debate of the two presidential candidates has me terrorised."
Dara Birnbaum arrives on stage to speak about the connection between her films and memory.
"The other day I made the mistake of reading this text to my girlfriend," a bravura end to this monologue from Kjartansson.
Ragnar Kjartansson recounts his life through a tragicomic circular tale of love, sex, nostalgia and despair. He suggests, on the words of both a Lutheran priest and the great Casanova that we should go on to create great memories as this is all we have.
In the garage where Ragnar Kjartansson lived in 1994 he apparently had a lost and found box full of earrings.
"I will talk of memories of old sex and love affairs... This may sound like bragging. It is." - Ragnar Kjartansson
I try to do material, which are associated with a certain history, memory, status or class. In my opinion the status that those kind of materials reflect is problematic. So I try to find subjects that are immediately recognizable but at the same time denounce the old value judgments. - Ai Weiwei
Fragmentary bits of speech are still ringing around my brain like lost satellites:
"And so we start again in a space of perpetual starts"
"It's 2011 and speaking is decline"
"There's nothing worse than a moralist"
Spooner's script moves through moments of reading, footnotes and splices of information. The group explain their attempted action. Trapped in a strange Becketian reality where a reading group read about the possibility of different texts to explain the existence or reality of the reading group itself. It ends. "Remind us why this is OK?
"I want to talk about the difference between didactic space and a paradox" "Really?" "Not really"
We're channelling Gertrude Stein, Robert Wilson and early Greenaway in this. Difficult to explain or quote to be honest.
A reading of It's 1957 and the Press Release Still isn't Written by Cally Spooner, performed by Am Nuden Da.
A cast of characters are arguing in a looping multi-logue, almost like a musical arrangement. A reading group is trapped in a plotless event. They frequently recourse to philosophical discourse. It's a disjunctive, semi-determined performance. It's also very funny.
"Nothing is more boring than looking at old love letters" - Jacques Herzog. A strict contrast to Gilbert & George earlier.
Gitai, after John Berger: Utopia is necessary even if the circumstances are pessimistic. If we want to evolve we need to inject utopian vision, in art, in cinema, in images, any ingredients against the current reality.
Herzog follows through: Utopia is finding a way to the future, of inventing the future.
"Rival Middle East forces have understood that the media is important so it's constantly being manipulated. The only thing that cinema can do is install time. It's the only instrument we have. Do not accept speedy editing. Take time." - Amos Gitai
Herzog and de Meuron: "Films about architecture are super difficult. I haven't seen one that isn't kitschy or boring. I'm enthusiastic that we might go somewhere interesting but we don't know".
In light of the collaboration with artist Weiwei and a possible future project with filmmaker Gitai. Together they discuss the concept of collaboration in general. It is suggested that working alone would not be possible for Herzog and de Meuron. That they are always working in collaboration.
Enveloping a sobbing Natalie Portman in Middle East song, Gitai's second film excerpt of the weekend is another bravely unvarnished portrait of personal distress.
In this treacherous place there is only one way to help the abandoned souls out of their misery. That is to demand the truth, and to refuse to forget. - Ai Weiwei
Hans Ulrich Obrist introduces the next presentation by describing the current pavilion by Herzog, de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. He touches briefly up the memory of archeology that it embodies. Today is it's last day before it will be dismantled.
As a prelude to this section Amos Gitai screens an excerpt from a recent film
Lewis doing the Wrangler stretch, a classic 60s dance: languid, suggestive. Couldn't have happened, she argues, without the Wrangler jean revolution.
The Sichuan disaster is not the first, nor the most wrongful. But all the details of this tragedy will be forgotten; and once again it will be like nothing ever happened. Eventually all these disasters will together create a bizarre miracle called civilisation and evolution. This ancient game is simple and direct. It has longstanding rules. It encourages lies and alters memories. The disaster-makers always get away, while the innocent are always punished. - Ai Weiwei
Lewis continues breathlessly: "Headbanging knocks the head off its pedestal". It undermines proper posture. It reorders our understanding of body language.
The body retains information on the form of memories. Is it possible to be aware of all that has been imprinted or can we harness a skill set of ways for imprinting such memories. Isabel Lewis suggests social dance and choreography could be a way of creating communal storage systems. Through mimicking and also modifications this dance is akin to open source technological software.
Lewis describes her musical preference is for hip hop nevertheless begins to demonstrate her ability to head bang whilst some extremely loud electro/rock plays through the dome.
Amercian artist Isabel Lewis presents an exploration about physical memory titled Mountain grass, mountain hare: bodily imprinting and social dances
Ok, give me a second to wrap my head around that one
One for the Marxist, sci-fi cognescenti this. China and Evan, dressed like natty anchormen, give us a manifesto, an introduction to 'salvagepunk', a hyper-prolix, pseudepigraphical vision of a pre-apocalyptic present world where the chasm between rich and poor has reached catastrophic levels and reduced human kind to the level of a used commodity strewn atop an "empire of rubbish and rejectamental death". Ash, junk, trash, garbage, rubbish winds, chaff - detritus becomes a metaphor for present existence. The world is an endless junkyard, they tell us, an endless mechanistic zero point, a labyrinth devouring all in all paths. The language has its own messy coagulated clank to it, an almost cobbled together quality, as the pair spin out stream after stream of poetical poultice: "vomit-glue", "insect-foulled narration", and so on. It's hard work, I must say, like a post-punk, Mad Max style philosophical rant (without Tina Turner). But it's cooly delivered.
A thick red stripe of socialist irrealism runs through the performance. All the classic Marxist touchstones are there: sustainability, labour, capital, production, the banking crisis, psychogeography, the militarization of urban spaces, and recycling as a form of civic industrial enslavement (no, really). There was also about 10 minutes on the semiotics of flypaper. Oh, and something about ampersands.
What's it all about then? I don't really know. Materials outlasting the body, exchange and property outlasting us, a conspiracy by market forces to unbind us from our identities to other broken things? "Salvagepunk is an effortful effort to scree away the garbage". But why walk across hell and rise above the pit to recuperate what is already lost?
"The sky was so full of flies that you could not start and/or put out a fire." Evan Calder Williams
Further reading from Evan Calder Williams blog Socialism and/or barbarism. "What a fitting destiny for the Costa Concordia, having impaled itself on the sea, to open out its hull, halls, engines, kitchens, toilets, glass, pools, brass, and halogen to a different traffic. If a boat gets a funeral, let it be a funeral amongst eaters of the dead, a burial in the desert to become a brief, restricted, ridiculous, sad, and - thankfully - inadequate oasis in these years of simultaneous flood and drought."
"This world is a chaotic dump .. garbage always follows us. A theory of this world might be a theory of garbage"
I think we have too much history. It’s not so important. I think people should have fun and enjoy their own time. I haven’t done much, so why should I waste people’s memory? - Ai Weiwei
Three take-away thoughts from Maki:
"Time offers a fertile ground for personal memories and experiences. Time is a mediator between city and architecture. Time is the ifnal judge of architecture."
Fumihiko Maki has given an incredibly personal recollection of his past architecture and how memory has played an important role over later works. He has stressed the importance that public architecture is at once home to the individual and to the crowd, comfortable to the spectator and the lone figure. Introducing the new buildings he is creating at ground zero and the conversation these buildings will have with the plaza Memorial Park. Concluding on the architecture of the Kaze-No-Oka crematorium and how it contains such intimate memories.
Jan Szymczuk takes down a pictorial police statment from Serpentine Director, Julia-Peyton Jones
It's important to remember, when engaging in public architecture, that you're dealing with crowds as well as individuals, explains Maki.
Legendary Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki talk upon Memory in Architecture.
Born and raised to live in Tokyo. He describes his first encounter with modern architecture, showing a slide of a building of a friend of his parents. The architect a student of Lloyd Wright, had encountered modernism during a trip through Europe.
Fumihiko Maki continues to talk of his studies as a student at Harvard and his early work drawing palm trees on architectural plans. He recollects the chance encounters of his life that have made up his personal journey which led him to become an architect and that have effected his work.
You missed a few, Will:
Gilbert & George read the Brussels Alphabet:
Hans Ulrich asks Gilbert and George about their recent trip to Brazil
On the trip to they were asked if it had changed much in the twenty years since Gilbert and George were last there. Their answer: "Yes, the cemetery is much bigger".
Gilbert & George on the joys of collecting old postcards and photographs, the obsessive need to collect human documents and living history. The cumulative effect: an iconography of the past. These documents speak for themselves, tell stories. All forms of "thought transference", in fact - letter, postcards, photographs, scratches on buildings. They are 'ghosts' reaching across time.
Gilbert & George: "People often say things like, "Do you remember we met at that great party in Melbourne in 1974?" George always says, yes. I always say, no. Always at the same time embarrassingly."
Gilbert and George: We believe that art is a matter of freezing time, stopping to think and feel. As students, we watched 1/4 million people streaming over the bridge into the city daily. But if you grabbed one of these people by the arm they'd remember that moment forever. Freezing time is our art.
Gilbert & George
Marathon favourites Gibert & George have arrived. This is their fifth Marathon. Wouldn't be a Marathon without them. They'll be discussingn the importance of lists in the question of memory. Huge cheer from the crowd.
Tradition is only a readymade. It’s for us to make a new gesture—to use it as a reference, more as a starting point than conclusion. Of course, there are very different attitudes and interpretations about our past and our memory of it. And ours is never a complete one, but is broken.
Rawsthorn concludes that new technologies will foster new memories each as important as they were in the past.
The pinnacle of utilitarian design, argues Rawsthorn, is the printed book. Think of John Berger's Ways of Seeing, she explains waxing lyrically of its elegant ways. The book was design by Colin MacCabe, who also directed the new film about Berger, Ways of Looking, that we saw yesterday.
In a world where we have new technologies that take on many functions. We keep some of the old technologies for example watches due to nostalgia.
Rawsthorn tells us these objects need to offer us something so special that we will fight to keep them. Any object without functional advantage is at risk, for example the once radical pocket calculator.
Brilliant story about how Robert and Sonia Delaunay would rally together modernist friends to cheer whenever another street in Paris obtained electric lighting. Not many doing that today when each new cell tower is erected, notes Rawsthorn.
Design critic Alice Rawsthorn begins her talk on design and memory. Specifically on the role played by design on forming our memories.
Design she suggests is very very slippery and elusive topic. It is an agent of change. We engage with it both instinctively or strategically. Digital technologies emerge to create new memories.
Digitisation has a radical impact upon our lives as the electrification of society had a century ago.
No one better qualified to do it but got to hand it to our next speaker, Alice Rawsthorn, for attempting a definition of design - brave woman.
Sasselov in summary the: Life - as small as it is in the whole, seething universe - is long lasting, as old as the universe, because all matter contains a written memory of its past in its DNA.
"The tree of Life is a Memory, well kept & shared....and Alien Trees of Life might do the same." - Dimitar Sasselov
The memory of the cosmos is stored in life itself. In the DNA and RNA of livings organisms. The tree of life has a memory of both species but also the planet itself.
Question: What form of ordinary matter - as old as the planets and stars - can remember the distant past of the universe? Life, says Sasselov.
Sasselov explains that when we look at the starry sky or the sun today we can only see the past. He shows galaxies on slides in which we see galaxies 2.5 billion years ago as well as simultaneously others 0.5 billion years ago. This is not memory, but the way we see the past.
Geologists read the earth's history by studying the layers of history recorded in the layers of rock. We can do this elsewhere - on Mars. Nevertheless can we relate this record to a form of memory? Rock is durable in the short term but not reliable. Like the cosmos, planets are changing and immutable. Stone is no good for keeping a memory of the cosmos.
Not content with surveying recollections merely from our own planet, we're now exploring the memories embedded within the landscape of Mars and the distant stars.
Hans Ulrich Obrist introduces Professor Dimitar Sasselov and Director of the Havard Origins of Life Initiative. He will address the marathon on ideas on Cosmic Memory.
"The art of forgetting is perhaps the most important part of the art of memory" - Jacques Roubaud
The way this mnemonic device works is plain to see, says Roubaud. He's chosen 53 places on his right hand (and he's chosen his right hand and not his left because, due to an accident, there are numerous important details on his right hand, namely, scars). If he wants to memorise a poem, he simply associates each line with one of the 53 places. The difficulty comes when it is necessary to erase the words associated with each place to use his hand to memorise another poem. I'm trying this one out.
Now an explanation of that blue hand many of you will have seen on our website: the mnemonic hand.
Roubaud: Suppose you want to memorise a poem, say, the first canto of Byron's Don Juan. imagine the house you live in and know very well. Order a sequence of places within it. Associate a line from Byron's poem to each place in this house. Once the lines are securely tied to each place in the house, your work is done. When you want to recollect the poem you make the imagined journey from place to place. You could even do it backwards.
Roubaud explaining the basics underpinning the venerable art of memorising - an art that began in the Middle Ages and continued until the era of Leibnitz but then disappeared.
Alberto Garutti has distributed flyers throughout the Memory Marathon dome. Upon the flyers is the sentence "every step I have taken in my life has led me to be here, now." Every step we have all taken has led us to all end up here in this very spot together today. Garutti explains he is interested in the possibility of creating a work that will instigate in each viewer a sentimental map that has led them to end up here today. The work is a machine for the production of infinite memories. The work is not the sentence or the pieces of paper though it is made and created by all of us in the present. The sheet of paper with the printed phrase bears no signature or date in order to be present and personal for all of us. Both now and in the future. It is always present. It is anonymous and addressed to everyone. It has no origin or destination. It attempts to reconstruct the steps of our lives. The work is an attempt through its very inability, to express the pain in loss.
Weizman: "Memory is the hinge on which the modern era turns"
Interesting questions raised on the ethical position of taking individual voices against the arbitrary state and non-human witnesses, such as forensic evidence. Weizman also picks up on the sacralisation of catastrophic events. Oral history tends to focus on the victims, but this leads to depoliticisation of events, replacing polical action and agency with compassion and the purely human.
Eyal Weizman illustrates this presentation with a series of slides.
Eyal Weizman continues to illustrate the relationship between human rights and war crime investigations. Citing a forensic investigation in Brazil as an example, Weizman suggests the trial of the bone is a trial undertaken not by law but by science. The most important methodology of this is osteo-biography. The bone is a register of the environment upon a live and growing substance, like photographic film is a register of light. The memory storage capacity of objects are in transformation and are a continual register of the environment. The substance of this materiality is always under transformation. In his methodology as an architect he tries to interpret the archeology of, and the politics imposed upon, architecture.
Weizman showing us what he calls the pyramids of Gaza, created when bulldozers attempt to demolish the four-, five-, six-storey high concrete flats so common to Palestine. This demolition squad is only ever able to topple the outer frame, always leaving the middle pillar in tact, which creates a kind of saggy concrete tent.
Following the in Jan Szymczuk's presentation we have moved onto the next participant arhitect Eyal Weizman.
Eyal Weizman presents ideas on the relationship between memory and Human Rights. He suggests now that Human Rights are now becoming interpreted through science for example satellite photography. Human Rights are both testimony and memory. He talks of how material memory comes not only to corroborate human memory but to supersede it.
A moment of high drama: a female accuser rises from the audience, denounces Jan Szymczuk ("I can't believe you're f***ing here with what you know!") and storms out of the dome. The audience gasps. Silence. Confusion. He seemed so lovely, we think. "Did anyone get a close look of that woman's face?" asks Szymczuk calmly. It slowly becomes clear that we are guinea pigs in a clever little set up to test our powers of memory when we're under stress or in shock. Julia Peyton Jones volunteers to reconstruct the image of the girl with Szymczuk back stage.
"Basically I'm a thief," explains next speaker Jan Szymczuk, former senior police artist in the metropoliatn Police Service. "I have to steal people's memories. I have to steal a traumatic memory from a victim of a crime, where we have a small window of opportunity to retrieve that memory."
Hans Ulrich questions Goldblatt on memory in general without specific examples. Han Ulrich points to the past and memory as an issue in photography. Goldblatt answers that his whole life is concerned with memory that each photograph becomes part of the bank of memories, part of the archive and part of what he is doing. He suggests this is memory in a condensed form though also contemporary. Part of a continuous stream of thoughts that move between the photograph he made then, who he is and what he sees now. It is a complex and difficult process. Memory for Goldblatt is a difficult subject for him to speak of.
Goldblatt on his photographs of rehabilitated prisoners, often at the scene of their own crimes: not interested in sensationalising their lives, nor is he motivated by a sociological interest or commercial gain. He has one steer that pilots his art: Are they monsters or are they human people? Goldblatt believes affirmatively in the latter: "They could be me, they could be you, they could be your children."
"I wanted to bridge the gap between the person with the pistol against my heart and ordinary life" - David Goldblatt
While Goldblatt was working photographing the black townships in Soweto he was also photographing people in their homes in Johannesburg. Goldblatt would photograph most people who responded to his call out adverts, with few exceptions like people simply looking for a wedding photographer. He continues to introduce the moment colour arrived in his personal work, a moment Hans Ulrich Obrist suggests arrived with Mandela. Before Goldblatt describes that what he was capturing had to be in black and white, that this was the way it needed to be recorded. In post-arpartheid South Africa Goldblatt felt he needed to be more free. This saw the introduction of colour.
Interesting to hear Goldblatt talk about apartheid, and how racial segregation enforced the denial of the knowledge of the other's experience, or each other's experience. Photography becomes a moral act. Reminds one of Sontag:
"Some photographers set up as scientists, others as moralists. The scientists make an inventory of the world; the moralists concentrate on hard cases"
Hans Ulrich and Goldblatt discuss human values in relationship to his work. Goldblatt speaks of a photograph of the Old Mine taken in 1963. The Mill close to his childhood home is a remnant of the world he grew up in that is no longer there. These are poignent and significant childhood memories for Goldblatt. Photography he sees as way to possibly monumentalise the past. For example the vast human labour that was involved in creating these places.
Meanwhile, our roving reporter Igor will be attending a memory walk around Kensington Gardens with Ed Cooke and Joshua Foer, speaking on 'memory as a special form of perception'. More on that in a bit. Back to Goldblatt...
Next up a presentation by photographer David Goldblatt. Since becoming a full-time photographer in 1963 his work has been instrumental in forming our visual memory of South African Society.
Hans Ulrich introduces a Proustian Madeleine break. Meanwhile another musical interlude.
The XX Teens, The way we were, 2008
Yiadom-Boakye: People are stories and this has influenced how she does what she does, ideas about how people come together. She concludes with a tender admission about how much she misses her family gatherings.
Now 'Memorable Nights I Remember Even Thought I Can't'. Interesting to consider things you think you can remember. Yiadom-Boakye has inherited memories from a time before she was born. More family photos - early birthdays, christmas parties, weddings, housewarmings. Yiadom-Boakye beginning to work out who these people are, who's missing, memory in action. Everything is gradually coming into focus, moving from the numinous to the luminous (and a toy hippo called Kenneth).
In talking about memory and our history, I think our humanity, especially in China, is cut. Cut, broken, separated. If we have a character from our history and memory, the character is broken, it’s shattered. - Ai Weiwei
"As a child, anyone who is older in your family and you don't know who they are is automatically an aunt or an uncle" - Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, discussing her extensive Ghanian family.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye has separated her family photographs into piles. First up, events she can't remember because she wasn't yet born.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is now going to take us through her family albums, a reliquary of family gatherings. A good segueway from Wentworth's talk. First section: Nights And Days I Can't Remember Because I Wasn't Born
Wentworth: stuff changes and it changes around you and we're all in it. We want to recognise things but they moving all the time so we want to capture them. But ultimately attempts are a failure, so we should try to enjoy ourselves.
A lot of similarities here with John Berger's (yesterday's distinguished guest) idea of 'the burden of memory'.
Richard Wentworth continues to describe the display photographs as impossible conversations between family members drawn through space and time over the past century. He concludes talking about the branches of families. These branches which do not necessarily communicate or even have the chance to meet.
Wentworth on photography. Makes a fascinating point: is there anyone now who hasn't taken a photograph or been photographed. Is this the new standard for memory? We're only the third generation who can do this. Is there any folkloric space left, or are we now too technologically organised?
"Families are an invention. But I won't bring Thatcher into things today" - Wentworth
Richard Wenworth holds up a photograph of himself. In it he is bending over tending to his mother's ankle bracelet. The photograph has almost gone, almost a reliquary. Taken sometime after Walker Evans great work. Possibly eight years of so. His mother at this point is old, but alert. He will now show us his family album...rephotographed on/corrupted by his iphone.
Have to say that video of a dendrite interacting with the spine was compelling stuff. Richard Wentworth now. A lot of talk of the dendritic-ness of things.
Bliss: We can abolish memories, but soon we will be able to (theoretically) insert them. It's all getting a bit Inception
Tim Bliss concludes with the second science joke of the marathon. "There are 2 sorts of memory. Short-term memory, long-term memory and short-term memory."
What is memory? Tim Bliss breaks it down: "Memory is distributions of synaptic strengths across changes in the brain ... neural activity that changes its own components on a physiological level". Catchy.
Tim Bliss describing himself as "a scientist thrown amongst artists", talks about the neuroscience of memory. He explains the understanding of the way memory works through synapses. Synapses are separated by a gap called the synaptic cleft across which nervous transmission occurs.
In the 1950s scientists found these synapses in the hippocampus. The Hippocampus is responsible for our memory. "If you want to destroy your memory remove your hippocampus." The hippocampus is very simple. Apparently
Thanks to David Lynch, we ended last night with the sight of a potato colliding with Vincent Van Gogh. Today began with a discussion of Christ Rock Hudson, Heidegger and the virtues of forgetting with Siah Armajani. Now for a little light neuroscience from Tim Bliss.
After navigating the story of Christ and the existentialism of Heidegger, Satre and Camus via a tale about Armajani's terrible driving (which saw him land in court), Armajani, I have to admit, has lost me. But he seems to have lost himself too: "What was the question?"
Armajani continues to describe his works of Tombs of people who have influenced him including poets, writers and philosophers and anarchists. So far he has built eight of the series of twenty four tombs. There are only five in existence as Armajani destroyed three. The last of the series of tombs he will make will be his.
Despite all this talk of lobtomies, Armajani makes a compassionate case for the historical importance of memorising poetry as a way of avoiding the dialectic or directive of the time by considering what has happened before: "Reciting poetry is the fastest way to remember your past, the beauty of your past". I wondering if he's been talking to Michael Gove?
"After everything that happens to us fades away, our memory remains. Without memory, what will we have?" -Ai Weiwei
"To live in America was amazingly refreshing. You don't have to remember anything. In fact the less you remember the greater you become. That's why I became interested in lobotomy" - Siah Armajani
Siah Armajani has just brought up Rock Hudson and the Prophet Ali in the same sentence. Didn't expect that.
The presentations today begin with a conversation between Hans Ulrich Obrist artist Siah Armajani.
"Even the past achievement can be oppressive. I didn't understand that until I went to the United States. All we had in Iran was memories." -Siah Armajani
Armajani talks The Theatre of Civilisation. The tickets were sold, people seated and the screenings would be begin. It would be introduced as a serious and macabre story. The projectionist would say, "do not hesitate to cry." The movie would begin. Western movies with different images, stories. The movie would last 30-45 minutes and then he would draws ethical questions upon right and wrong. This is when the debate would begin. Armajani explains that the host would never back down. The movie would change once a month, Armajani would go there with a friend, in the poor section of Tehran. "All we knew was memory, there was nothing else."
We're being treated to some sandwich-board art from Ida Applebroog. Volunteers are filing past us draped in the following statements: "What is lovely never dies", "First enslave mankind", "I will masturbate later darling" among others.
Hans Ulrich precising the talks we heard yesterday. A pretty awesome list of names and ideas.
Hans Ulrich at the lectern, explaining how the Marathon is dedicated not just to Eric Hobsbawm but also to Cedric Price who famously wished to create, if not a memory palace as this dome has become, but a similarly multi-disciplinary forum, Fun Palace (1961–74).
Julia Peyton-Jones gives a sterling introduction, touching on a lot of core topics for today: inter-discipliniarity, sensory memory, pre-history, networks, our perception of time, the memory of sites (an idea beautifully enacted in this year's Pavilion).
Julia draws particular attention to the many fantastic means of documentation and dissemination available now (such as, I don't know, a live blog), the myriad ways of recording, documentating and retrieval, riffing on Israel Rosenfield's idea of the 'remembered past' as she goes. She finishes para-phrasing Rosenfield, again: "Memory is a movement between internal changes and external stimuli - and exchange between two spheres in the realm of the sensory". She wishes us all well. Should be an extraordinary day.
My neurons are firing
The backdrop to the Memory Marathon was created by architect Alison Crawshaw. Made from linen on silver scrim, the backrop draws inspiration from Herzog and De Meuron’s Ricola Storage building and the empty shelves of Kensal Rise library. The wooden horizontal at its top is made from wooden shelves taken from the now closed Kensal Rise Library.
On October 13th 2011, Brent Council closed six of its twelve libraries - including one in Kensal Rise. The library in Kensal Rise has had a long history: it was opened 112 years ago by Mark Twain on land gifted by the fellows of All Souls College, Oxford, and built with funds from the local purse with an extension donated by Andrew Carnegie. It is a striking Victorian landmark in a modest setting, and the community has been working tirelessly to save this local treasure in the hope that it’s doors will reopen one day soon.
Day two. We are already here in the Memory Marathon Dome preparing ourselves for the immense day ahead. The Dome looks resplendent in the striking morning light. We have just been treated to a most delicious breakfast from The Modern Pantry inspired Proust's idea of Involuntary Memory. The brunch consisted of sumptuous scones. One of Cheddar cheese & spring onion with goats curd cream and another of Matcha green tea scone with gooseberry & vanilla compote with clotted cream served up alongside fresh fruit smoothies. Igor has gone to the atmospheric heights of the place we now know as Smoothie.
Hello, and we're back
First off - thank you to The Space yesterday for our all day live broadcast. To our users online, I hope you enjoyed the show.
Sunday is now SOLD OUT - tickets holders please come early to avoid queues. For those who couldn't get a ticket, there will be a live feed in the Pavilion throughout Sunday. Or - alternatively - follow us on the live blog or on Twitter
Fantastic soundtrack to this Lynch short: ear-singeing machine gun fire duetting with 1930s Parisian cafe music.
Many of Lynch’s characters suffer with dissociative/psychogenic fugue. This rare condition brought on by things such as trauma, psychoactive drugs or depression. The state is characterised by reversible amnesia for memory and sometimes also identity. The disorder can also involve the adoption of a new persona. There is often no memory for the period of the fugue state. The subjective reality of Lost Highway is the fugue state of Fred Madison (Bill Pullman).
On being questioned by a the police on why he has no camera, Fred Madison states, "I like to remember things my own way...Not necessarily the way they happened."
Hans Ulrich introduces David Lynch's new film.
Footnote: In the epic Lynch television series Twin Peaks the character Nadine Hurley suffers memory loss after a failed suicide attempt. She is trapped in a fugue state in which she assumes a new more youthful identity student until she receives a blow the the head.
A very welcome mention of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach, which provided the backdrop to one of Stipe's early loves: "I was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket and there were all these aisles and there were these bathing caps you could buy that had these kind of fourth of July plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue and I wasn't tempted to buy one but I was reminded of the fact that I had been avoiding the beach."
Philip Glass - Trial 2 (Prison) - Einstein on the Beach, 1979
Michael Stipe sharing some beautiful, intimate memories about childhood and growing up. He's now onto the weekly challenge that he and his friends set themselves as children: attempting to fill a jar with pee. There's rather alluring ambient visuals in the background.
"I wanted to be exotic so I told my classmates that the birthmark on my left leg was the shape of the island I was born on" - Michael Stipe
Michael Stipe's first memory: a scarlet fever-induced hallucination.
"It is my belief that memory is our only real contribution to the universe after our death. Memories, however banal or meaningful gather throughout our lifetime that memories become the fuel that powers the energy that allows the universe to be as vast and fantastic as we imagine it is" - Michael Stipe
Stipe now relating on hairstyles of the rich and famous, male baldness, and being one of the first male pop stars to shave his head. Douglas Coupland once told him that if you want to be remembered then invent a hair style (James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol). Stipe again exclaims his willingness to shave his head: "I hope that I am remembered in a 100 years and if that is my contribution then there it is"
Micheal Stipe: "In one of the surreal highlights of my career I once shared a dressing room in Italy with Mikhail Gorbachev and Cher". What on earth did they talk about, I wonder?
Fact: between Mikhail Gorbachev and Cher, they have won exactly half a Nobel Peace Prize
We've refrained from exclamation marks so far but you might have to put up with a few over the next few hours. Michael Stipe next. Then David Lynch.
Douglas Coupland concludes: "I used to think the internet use to be a metaphor for life, but now i think that life is a metaphor for the internet"
Coupland: Flow of life being stripped away - life no longer feels like a story. Over-exposure to the cloud de-narrates our life stories. But there is - since the print era - a residual need to present our lives as stories.
Coupland: We consume more than we create. the age of devouring. 1990s felt like an accelerated culture but acceleration is accelerating. Brain needs gaps, it needs time to process time - 'interruption driven memory'. Putting in the gaps makes your life feel longer. Our new memory brain - the cloud - is not organic memory. The more you use it to remember the more your memory becomes artificial. Access to all this new, extra information does not make us god-like - it makes us more boring.
Coupland: There's nothing now to say you're in one era or another. We've entered an age where all eras coexist - the age of atemporality. No one look or idea dominates the culture. The zeitgeist of the 21st century has a lot of ziet and not much gist. Present moment is very sparse.
Here's one of the Ai Weiwei's texts that will be projected tomorrow in the Serpentine Pavilion:
"The worst thing about Beijing is that you can never trust the judicial system. Without trust, you cannot identify anything; it’s like a sandstorm. You don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go. You have no memory of any material, texture, shape. Everything is constantly changing, according to somebody else’s will, somebody else’s power."
Hans Ulrich reminds us to catch the Ai Weiwei/Herzog & De Meuron pavilion tomorrow, in which Ai's text interventions will be projected.
For those of you who missed John Berger's excellent reading about the London Riots earlier here's the full text
Jacques Herzog in conversation with Hans Ulrich explains how he believes we should clean our world of the smells that are all around. For example the heavy disgusting smells placed into hotel lobbies. He goes on to suggest he would prefer we smell the things that are naturally around rather than artificial products. To make our perception more critical and perception more complex.
Well have to say that was a pretty easy challenge for Herzog. Tolaas bottled the smell of his cork-lined Serpentine Pavilion. No mistaking that smoky smell.
Tolaas is now testing Jacques Herzog's nose. Can he recognise his buildings through the scent they give off.
Sense is the first memory stimuli, Tolaas is elaborating, be it through touch or, in her instance, smell. All memories enter the body through senses, and are altered by them: "The first time you smell something is the most important as it it will smell that way for the rest of your life".
"The more horrible the smells were. The more the kids had fun" - Sissel Tolaas on her work in China
Sissel bottled the smell of each and every area of Berlin (north, south, east and west).
Tolaas laying out the case for the importance of smell on our memories: "We breathe 24,000 times and inhale 7 cubic metres of air a day. Even when we sleep we smell."
A hauntingly prosaic evocation of war from filmmaker Amos Gitai in his first clip. Really captures the chaos and rupture
Gitai introduces the second excerpt from one of his films with the voice of Jeanne Moreau, dedicated to the story of his father.
How do you transfer a wounded man's body across muddy ground? With immense difficulty. Gitai's fictional film showing the process in detail.
Hans Ulrich introduces filmaker Amos Gitai, son of a Bauhaus architect. He is presenting short excerpts from his films.
While we're on Burroughs, a quick detour. Possibly the finest thing he ever committed to audio:
According to Giorno, the contents of Burrough's coffin is as follows. A 38 snub nose special, a grey fedora, a cane, blue jeans (the least worn pair), a red bandana, Jockey underwear and socks, black shoes, his best white shirt bought in Beverly Hills in 1981, a neck-tie blue handpainted by William, a Moroccan vest given by Gysin, two rosettes, one French, one American, a gold $5 piece, glasses, ball point pen, a joint of really good grass and a small white paper packet.
"Where were you when Kennedy was shot? I was with Andy Warhol... Andy and I grabbed each other and hugged and hugged, pressing our bodies to each other. Andy began crying. I began crying big sobs... We kissed... Andy sucked my tongue. It had the sweet taste of kissing death. It was exhilarating. Like when you get kicked in the head and you see stars. I didn't particularly like kennedy. And I had never voted for him. But I thought, "They shot my man!"" John Giorno has begun - and how.
To be honest these photos are great even without the specs. There's a lovely tremor to them.
A lot of oohing and ahing at these 3D photos. Can't comment on them personally as they've run out of specs.
Michael Craig-Martin introduces family pictures taken by his father around a hundred years ago. The audience are ready with their 3D glasses.
Whilst the dome prepares for Michael Craig-Martin
an interlude: The Silver Jews, I Remember Me, 2001
In conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Buren speaks of the photo-souvneirs and how they are not sold/placed upon gallery walls/exhibited as works.
Hans Ulrich suggests the way that the photo-souvenirs could be further exist is to collate them into a retrospective-like book. A retrospective of Buren's work is not possible to exist, only in memory and through photo-souvenir.
Buren refuses to exhibit or sell photographs of his sited works because, he explains, he believes this photographic memory has the ability to mask the original pieces.
Hans Ulrich quoting Buren: "If consideration is given to where a work is sited, it cannot be moved. It must perish."
Buren now showing us his piece for the Grand Palais last year. Looks like an act of three-dimensional pointillism.
The third piece Buren recollects was at the Grand-Palais in Paris last May and June.
The problem for Buren was not the size of the vast 12000 metre square building nevertheless it's extraordinary beauty. Using circles as a key form Buren introduced a very imposing work throughout the complete space of the Grand-Palais.
This selection of Buren's works describe and interpreted the architecture of the museums from the interior to the limit of the perimeter fence.
The Minimal perforated architectural works exist now only though memory in the mind and also the photo-souvenir.
Buren has selected three works to describe his relation with memory. He has used the word photo-souvenir to describe any photograph of his works. These three works, all destroyed are memories of things that do no exist anymore.
Berger reciting a text, the name of which I missed, but it's beautiful and deserves to be quoted at length:
"To be empty, free. Doing nothing. Yet not quite. Little blessings arrive which they collect. For the most part these blessings are memories yet it is misleading to say this, for, at the same time, they are promises. They collect the remembered pleasures of promises which cannot apply to the future which they have gladly vacated , but somehow do apply to the brief, empty present. The promises are wordless and physical. Some can be seen, some can be touched, some can be heard, some can be tasted. Some are no more than messages in the pulse. The taste of chocolate. The width of her hips. The splashing of water. The length of the daughter’s drenched hair. The way he laughed early this morning. The gulls above the boat. The crow’s feet by the corners of her eyes. The tattoo he made such a row about. The dog with its tongue hanging out in the heat. The promises in such things operate as passwords: passwords towards a previous expectancy about life. And the holidaymakers on the lakeside collect these passwords, finger them, whisper them, and are wordlessly reminded of that expectancy, which they live again surreptitiously."
Hans Ulrich asks Berger to explain the moment in th film of him recollecting the memory of his father cutting apples as Tilda Swinton cuts apples."
"No. What i can say is this... If we think about the question of story telling. The first thing we learn about my father is the way he used to cut apples for me...It changes the way we think of him as a father and a soldier who suffered those four years of trench warfare. If we begun with trench warfare it would be different".
In conversation with Hans Ulrich, Berger explores why his father was silent over his war memories: "Why was he silent? He was silent for two reasons. First because it is very difficult to talk about traumas. That is difficult in itself. Secondly, he knew that what he might describe would simply not be credible to those listening."
"Memory is what we think the past should be, rather than what the past was. It is an unconscious interaction between reality and the mind." -Ai Weiwei
"What is labelled the death of Communism dates back at least 30 years. At the same time there was a certain realisation of that dream of equality in the Soviet Union that came about by a curious historical trick because it was an equality among people that have so little that it is very easy to share" - John Berger
Tilda Swinton on the war generation: "They fought so that our children wouldn't know. But history cannot have its tongue cut out. Silence doesn't work. It's not the going into battle that I find so hard to imagine, it's the coming back."
Berger and Swinton discussing how their fathers, who were both ranking officers in the army (they fought in the First and Second World Wars respectively), recounted and remembered their experience of conflict.
Screening for one of the first times is a film conversation between Tilda Swinton and John Berger. Ways of Listening makes us think whether there is the possibility of shared memory.
According to this on the BBC ants do indeed have collective memory for the scent of their enemies. The collective memory of Ants
"The market forces have almost no sense of history. They don't even live for the moment. Because the moment can be absolutely vast. They live for the next deal. And the next deal is a few seconds or moments ahead. And that one is made and then the next" - John Berger
LED Message from Ai Weiwei
Although he is unable to travel to be there or to see the pavilion he created with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron - it will be dismantled following the marathon event - Weiwei will participate throughout the weekend via messages sent from his home in Beijing. A series of the artist’s thoughts on the subject of memory are being displayed in the Memory Marathon dome via an LED screen. We will place some of the quotes here as and when they happen.
“Like an anchor in the ocean, memory holds us in place when we face the waves of shifting ideas and expressions.” - Ai Weiwei
John Berger: "I'm here because of Eric, who was the godfather of this discussion about history. We were friends for more than half a century. We used to have supper once a week. Maybe it was from him that I first learnt about history as something mysterious not something that one learns in history lessons or something that one reads. He contained all that."
Big cheers. John Berger is about to present his new film Ways of Listening starring Tilda Swinton.
We think we've deciphered the words in the Wyn Evans film: "On the banks of the Venza(?) silver willows are growing in wild profusion their boughs dripping into the drifting waters."
7.Cerith Wyn Evans. Pasolini Ostia Remix, 2003. 13’00’’. Courtesy of Jay Jopling/White Cube.
The film Pasolini Ostia Remix is set on the beach of Ostia where Pier Paolo Pasolini was found dead, murdered in 1975. A group of people are installing a handcrafted wooden structure holding a text composed of fire devices. The sentence that can be read says “on the banks of the Livenza silvery willows are growing in wild profusion their boughs dipping into drifting waters”, a phrase from Oedipus Rex (1967), the most autobiographical of Pasolini’s films. The dusty thick evening on the shabby local beach where Passolini was murdered becomes a site for a brief memorial – the erection of a plywood structure with fireworks that illuminate then burn out quickly against the evening sky. The camera circles around, the gaggle of people standing to watch. The local bathers. The light dims and burns out. A second take from a different angle, a last shot of the sun setting. The fragility and makeshift structure performing perfectly this act of remembrance.
6. Stuart Marshall. Arcanum, 1976. 7’00’’. Courtesy of Lux London.
“Under the table make no sign / wrapped in clouds and nobodies the wiser”. Two lines slowly interlacing each other. Silky soothing voices – the sheen of open reel tape – the line repeats and repeats. A study in electronic voice interference, whereby sound from one signal blocks out the sound of another signal. The video opens with the frame locked around the mouth and the sound totally out of sync, and gradually the stuttering parts of other consonants puncture and interrupt – the second line breaking through the pauses in the first.
5. James Richards. Rosebud (excerpt), 2012. HD video, 2’00”.
Sequence of images from an ongoing project. Video documentation of the marks on censored art books found in a library in Japan. Books containing indecent images are held in customs and the offending parts are sand-papered back to the paper stock. A full frame of black and white. Passionate act, flattened back to paper. The camera holding on just a bit too long – filling the frame with the obscured image.
Lots of loving detail in these films. In the first the camera is trained on a toy man floating head-down in a bath, the last gloried in the scratched photograph. Now a mouth with a moustache, the sound carefully out of sync with the lips.
4. Steve Reinke. Three Act Play (excerpt from The Tiny Ventriloquist), 2012. HD video, 0’30’’. Courtesy of the artist.
Act One. The voice forgets who is speaking. Act Two. The voice forgets its speaker. Act Three. The voice leaves its speaker behind.
3. Shahryar Nashat. Knee Bruise Left Edged, 2012. 3’08’’. Courtesy of the artist and Rodeo, Istanbul.
A video shot in a single take of a young man taking his shoes and socks on and off. The action is performed in a highly controlled way, with a constant doing and undoing. Set in a sports hall, there’s a tight choreography between camera, hands and shoes, looping in an impatient palindrome.
2. Paul Wong. 60 UNIT: BRUISE, 1976. 4’30’’. Courtesy of the artist and V-Tape, Toronto.
Part-performance, part-document, Paul Wong’s friend Kenneth Fletcher withdraws 60 units of blood from his own arm, then carefully injects it via syringe into Wong’s naked shoulder. A Purple bruise spreads slowly over the artist’s skin, a little sweat glistening on the surface. The high pitch of the synapses and the low hum of blood, the murmur of the TV next door. A performance between two boys, blood brothers, a party for two. Six years before ‘gay cancer’ was reported, and almost a decade before the identification of HIV, 60 UNIT: BRUISE portrays a homoerotic blood-brother ritual with allusions to drug culture. The audacity of its play between youth and decadence, pleasure and danger becomes a document of irretrievable innocence. It evokes nostalgia for a present no longer possible.
For those of you not under the gently curved boughs of Memory Marathon Dome, here is a list of the films being screened as part of James Richard's Surface Tension. Films are numbered in order of appearance.
1. Josh Tonsfeldt. Swimmer, 2009. HD video, 02’23’’. Courtesy of Simon Preston, New York, and Franco Soffiantino, Turin.
Video of a wind-up toy in the bath with a woman. There is a precision to this piece – to the light, the clarity of the water – the tender, singular focus. Soft fade from black. Half-light bath-time. Toy diver bobbing in the meniscus. Pause. The rhythm of breath, the water rising and bobbing. Moored and lost, the toy flaps through the water then comes to rest on her breast.
Ah. Home-made blood transfusions. This is a definite don't-try-this-at-home type video.
The next section will not be broadcast live, Nevertheless we will be back on the Space soon. Meanwhile...for all those following the live stream
Joy Division, I Remember Nothing, 1979
You've had speech, performance, opera and song. Now it's time for film. James Richards presents experimental videos by Shahryar Nashat, Paul Wong, Steve Reinke, Josh Tonsfeldt, Stuart Marshall, Cerith Wyn Evans and himself.
As slight footnote to Etel Adnan touching on the idea of happiness. Happiness is described by Garcia Duttman in The Gift of Language as "by definition, that which has yet to be born: birth and language go together. Happiness abandons itself to language because it is essentially an abandonment; it abandons itself to that which abandons it to become memory. By expressing itself in language, happiness remains attached to the past.“
Chromaticism entering Bryars music, thorny complexities bubbling up through Etel's poetry.
Bryars channelling both jazz and minimalism in this slow, atmospheric score, Etel engaging a semi-surreal free flow of memories over the top
Hans Ulrich Obrist Introduces a collaborative work between Etel Adnan and Gavin Bryars titled Five Senses for One Death
We're now being treated to a Gesamtkunstwerk, Gonzalez-Foerster typing up her libretto in green text while Hermann's pregnant operatic score bursts forth over us.
And from Dennis Cooper's crotch to Bernard Herman's opera Wuthering Heights with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Only at the Marathon.
Dennis Cooper in summary: wonderful/creepy. Pre-watershed crowd seemed to adore it. Definitely a highlight (the performance, not the stuff about killing children)
"So many evil people have designs on my crotch" - Dennis Cooper #MemoryMarathon— Serpentine Gallery (@SerpentineUK) October 13, 2012
A vague flashback occurs. A drink one sunny afternoon with Dennis in run down pub just off of Old Street. It was around 13 years ago, I cannot recall it in any detail other than the idea that it happened.
This is a presentation of a collaborative work that includes images from the book 40 Portraits. The dolls you are seeing on the screen were made by Gisele Vienne between 2003 and 2008.
Hans Ulrich Obrist introduces Gisele Vienne, Dennis Cooper and KTL (Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehlberg).
"I am not an advocate of forgetting" - Jay Winter making a passionate appeal for memory as a moral act, of the importance of commemoration and collective remembrance. Symbolic sites help us contemplate social order.
Jay links the memory Boom and the Human Rights Movement. The boom has had important consequences for example the public sea change to the effects of war itself. Thus at the heart of the Human Rights revolution.
"Memory is a human right" - Jay Winter
Jay Winter taking issue with memory. Memory never captures everything, and therefore the truth can be hidden. It can also be manipulated, things can be made to look like they're not. Winter configures these ideas in relation to war remembrance and the 'sacred questions' we ask about our common past.
Jay Winter speaks of the Memory Boom. The Memory Boom includes the three fold increase in the amount of students going to university between 1960 and 1990. Over the last fifty years the Memory Boom has focused on many subjects, central to this is the memory the victims of war.
And now a segment on the memory of war with Donald Sassoon, Professor of Comparative European History at Queen Mary, University of London.
"All history and memory is constructed, but whoever constructs it has power"
Great many cross overs with Cory Doctorow's Park Night presentation THE COMING WAR ON GENERAL COMPUTATION
"Forgetting has been forgotten. We must remember to forget" - Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
Interesting Fact: Ideas contained within Viktor Mayer-Schonberger's 2009 book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age have since its publication have become policy in the European Union. It was also one of the major inspirations behind this year's marathon.
What happens when we are not permitted to forget any more? Perfect memory is a curse because it limits our ability to make a decision in the present. Perfect memory pushes humans to get lost in details, no ability to generalise or abstract. We lose what makes us human. We need to live and act in the present.
Mayer-Schönberger: the internet is a sinister, temporal panopticon with perfect digital memory that can be viewed by everyone and anyone. We're all documenting our own lies obsessively, taking us away from what humans are used to. History has been abandoned.
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger on The Virtue of Forgetting.
Remembering is hard and time-consuming and expensive, historically speaking. What we chose to remember was chosen carefully. Forgetting was the default, remembering the exception. This is no longer the norm. We've moved towards comprehensive remembering, which is facilitating the end of forgetting.
Ella Shobat shares some interesting personal reflections on memory and bi-linguality (Arabic and Hebrew in this instance). Bi-lingual people, it seems, appear to encode and organise their memories in a different way. It also seems to engender a form of bi-culturality. Memory effecting perception again, the schism between the stories we tell and how it actually happened. Stories become more real the more we retell them.
Shohat's explaining how Iraqi Jews like her were expected, when they fled to Israel, to erase not just the Arabic language of their birth but also their Arabic accents when they spoke Hebrew:
To know Hebrew was to be Hebrew which meant the erasure of anything Arabic.
We are moving to Taboo Memory. Ella Shohat presents a talk connected to her recent research, titled The Arab-Jew: taboo memories, diasporic voices.
"Patterns and symmetry help us navigate the world" - Marcus Du Sautoy on how understanding patterns is the key to how we perceive the world. Perception is not promiscuous - it has deep formulas.
Now time for self-confessed pattern searcher, Marcus Du Sautoy, Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of science.
Now Marcus is taking us down a new thought path, not so far explored. The art of memory does not rely solely on words or images, he argues, but also patterns. Maths, he says, is a good subject to go to if you have a bad memory: you find a seed and use a simple forumla or algorithm to extrapolate something extraordinaryly rich from something simple. All complexity has a mathematical key beneath the randomness, and maths is the scope that helps us to find these invisible patterns. So, in effect, all complexity is a concatenated series of simpler, divisible structures.
It's interesting to consider that Proust thought he had a bad memory. A lot of our guests so far have admitted to this (except Ed Cooke, understandably). I wonder what we mean when we say that? Is memory quantitative?
Tadie's rich discussion of Proust's involuntary memory ends on a question: do memories compound repressed thoughts or liberate them? That's unlikely to be the last we hear of Proust or his madeleines.
Some memories serve the purpose of resistance. It is easier to return to the past than to deal with current conflicts - Jean-Yves Tadie
Artist Mariana Castillo Deball has presented her work making drawings of objects drawn from both visual and sensory touch memory.
"The touch was more relevant than what i could look at…Sometimes the vision was more dominant and sometimes the memory of touching".
She explains in the context of archeology. Archeologists are interested in imprint, through drawings and paper moulds. British archeologists would make moulds in the Mexican jungle. These moulds are used to make casts from which a drawing is made to understand the Mayan inscriptions. A very lengthy multiplication of form.
Artist Mariana Castillo Deball showing us several incredible photos, in which the roots of city trees fight against the concrete confines.
Dazzling talk by Warner on the links between recursive patterning and story-telling - how woven architecture resembles plot structure - coming to an end
"The act of memorialisation fixes a story" -
Marina Warner speaking on memory and storytelling
From earlier: Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Israel Rosenfield, John Hull, Luc Steels and Ed Cooke
Warner speaking of the enticing metonymies of rug, carpet and fabric. We enjoy these patterned materials, she argues, through the stories that they allude to.
Warner quotes Derek Walcott. Walcott once said “a man lives half of life, / the second half is memory”.
Our next section has begun with the great Marina Warner, author, historian and myth chronicler.
If you want to experience more of Ed Cooke's kaleidoscopic world, be sure to take his Memory Walk tomorrow.
Ed Cooke quote generator
"You can have memories of memories"
"I can remember without even recollecting"
"Memory has contours"
"The principle of memory is it's easier to remember tactile sensory things, not abstract things"
"Memory enters us in exotic ways"
The man is a memory machine
Descartes, cricket, an African grey parrot. Cooke's rattling through quite a bewildering array of thoughts and images.
Pop cultural tangent: The Memory Palace technique is used by the fictional serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal. Throughout the novel Dr. Lecter is described as mentally walking through an elaborate memory palace to recollect facts.
Memory palace is a mnemonic device for remembering things through an associative spatial journey. The method is generally most effective the more elaborate the journey.
Ed Cooke now sacking his 'memory palace' of precious cargo to try and finish his speech on time. And the first mention of Pavlov's dogs. I expect this to come up quite a few times this weekend...
Ed Cooke opening with his idea of the increasing dehumanisation of memory. We tend to think of it as storage. The computer age has no doubt exacerbated this. We don't think about our bodies or language in this way, for example.
Luc Steels speaks of the memories conceived for robots. He explains that this begins with attempts to give the robots sense of their bodies. So they learn the connection between movement, the body and the world around them or their own movements in a mirror. These are tactile, visual and motor memories.
In summary then, John Hull is an incredible, charismatic speaker. He draws things to close with great compassion: "Most people don't realise that their world that is a projection of our sighted bodies, but the sighted world is not THE world. The sighted believe that people who don't live in their world are without a world. That blind people are 'world-less'. But we need to integrate the plurality of human worlds."
John Hull is arguing that his blindness could be seen as a gift, a whole new world, a way to discover old sensations new and more acoustically: "I will live in reality. I will become a blind person."
Just in case you're not in the Dome check out Into Darkness by John Hull hosted by Nowness.com
I began to use my hands to know things. Blind people see with their fingertips - John Hull
John Hull: much of our communication depends on visual communication, especially body language. If you can't see people, you can't 'hear' them so well. Reminds me of a seminal passage from John's book, Touching the Rock:
'When I was about seventeen I lost the sight of my left eye. I can remember gazing at my left shoulder and thinking, “Well, that’s the last time I’ll see you without looking in a mirror!” To lose the shoulder is one thing, but to lose one’s own face poses a new problem. I find that I am trying to recall old photographs of myself, just to remember what I look like. I discover with a shock that I cannot remember. Must I become a blank on the wall of my own gallery?
'To what extent is loss of the image of the face connected with loss of the image of the self? Is this one of the reasons why I often feel I am a mere spirit, a ghost, a memory? Other people have become disembodied voices, speaking out of nowhere, going into nowhere. Am I not like this too, now that I have lost my body?'
Blindness not just something that happens to your eyes, or to your brain, but to your whole body - John Hull
I thought I will take that image of my wife and I will nail it to the deepest part of my heart - John Hull
"I'm not the kind of guy who goes around hitting people - that's risky when you're blind"
- John Hull
John Hull speaking beautifully on losing his 'seeing brain' and visual memory: "I am not a blind person. I am a sighted person who cannot see ... but we all go blind in our own various ways"
I began to feel my face to reassure myself I was still there - John Hull on going blind.
We're now moving onto Professor John Hull, a theologian who has written a brilliantly moving book about his journey into blindness called Touching the Rock.
Tangental information on colour from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe "…light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of colour… Colour itself is a degree of darkness."
Memory is basically a combination of an immediate presence and an immediate past - Israel Rosenfield
"Colours don't exist" says Israel Rosenfield. "The brain invents everything - all sensory info - motion, flavours". In summary, nothing you think is real is real. The brain creates it. Further into the rabbit hole, we go...
Things I didn't know until today: Scientists are able to make people think they've met Bugs Bunny. It's possible to have real memories that couldn't have happened.
Things I didn't know until today #2: The human immune system has a memory, or 'memory cells'. A bit like these fellas http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/19846365
Quote from the television show that Israel Rosenfield has just screened "...the more recent memory contaminates the original" Elizabeth Loftus.
Rosenfield saying David Hume foresaw modern science's conclusion that memory is not mechanical. Clever bloke, Hume.
Israel shows us a video on memory fallibility and medical trials. Witnesses are not very reliable, it turns out. Memory is not a video recorder - that's just a metaphor we choose to use. It's malleable and susceptible to contamination.
Isreal Rosenfield discussing 'What is memory?'. A good place to start for a Memory Marathon. The general belief in an advanced technological age is that memory is something mechanical because we have lots of mechanical devices we rely on to remember. But Rosenfield argues mechanics has very little to do with biology, for example, evolution or genetics.
Rosenfield mentions flashback. Here's one of our own: “Willy Wonka: I'm sorry, I was having a flashback. Mr. Salt: I see. Mr. Teavee: These flashbacks happen often? Willy Wonka: Increasingly... Today.” Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1995
The Marathon's first participant is Israel Rosenfield:
Historians constantly rewrite history, reinterpreting (reorganizing) the records of the past. So, too, when the brain's coherent responses become part of a memory, they are organized anew as part of the structure of consciousness. What makes them memories is that they become part of that structure and thus form part of the sense of self; my sense of self derives from a certainty that my experiences refer back to me, the individual who is having them. Hence the sense of the past, of history, of memory, is in part the creation of the self.
Israel Rosenfield, The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness (1995), 87.
We're moving from the Proustian introductions to the nuts and bolts: the science. First up Professor Israel Rosenfield...
Hans Ulrich reading out Geta Bratescu on memory:
Which came first? Mother's story about it or my memory of it: the non-existent, imaginary white lamb, which went everywhere with me, which I fed from my high chair with the fold-out table, which slept under the bed, and which I wept for, sobbing uncontrollably, when I saw its flayed head floating in the soup tureen.
From the Interview Marathon as a protest against forgetting, to the Memory Marathon exploring this protest: the Marathon finds this year the ghost of its own past.
As many of you will know, the Memory Marathon is dedicated to Eric Hobsbawm. Nice Guardian piece here from his historian colleagues on why he was so widely respected.
Julia Peyton Jones speaks of involuntary memories of her 19 year old self in Florence brought on by a recent trip to Rome. Involuntary Memory was a term coined by Proust.
And we're off. Julia Peyton-Jones explaining how sad it is that Ai Weiwei hasn't been able to leave China to see his Pavilion that he designed in collaboration with Herzog and de Meuron. He'll be here today, however, in spirit. We'll be projecting text interventions from him in the dome.
The Memory Marathon began last night with Lebanese artist Tarek Atoui's five hour performance La Suite.
"Meaning literally connection or chaining together, the ‘wasla’ in the music of Egypt and the Near East is a suite of several vocal and instrumental pieces, both composed and improvised, both measured and unmeasured, anchored to the same ‘maqam’ or harmonic mode. La Suite’s structure and orchestration is inspired by the rules of the traditional wasla that combine and shift between musical forms such as the ‘dulab’ - a short melodic and rhythmic introduction, the ‘taqsim’ - an instrumental solo improvisation, and the ‘muwashah’ - song based on an Arab-Andalusian or Oriental poem.
La Suite is a five hour, uninterrupted wasla whose score and sections are revealed to each performer ten minutes prior to their intervention. The musicians sit amongst the audience and are ready at any time to go on stage and play."
Tarek Atoui, 2012
Good morning and welcome to the Memory Marathon live blog.
It's time once again for the Serpentine Gallery’s epic annual festival of ideas, the 7th in the series, exploring one idea at length in the company of the world's most original thinkers. 70 participants, 24 hours over two days, films, talks, performances, interventions, lots of questions, a few answers and a solar blackout (all will be explained).
Tickets are pretty much sold out for today, but for those who can't make it, anyone online will be able to watch every last second (excluding a few copyrighted minutes) on The Space. Watch it all live on The Space here.
Guiding you through this multidisciplinary mega-labyrinth of talks, films and performances all weekend are Giles Round, Will Barrett and Igor Toronyi-Lalic, giving you everything you need to know when it happens, as it happens.
- The views expressed on this blog are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Serpentine Gallery and project partners.
- If you'd like to leave a message please tweet us with the hashtag #MemoryMarathon
- Professional photography courtesy of Lewis Ronald and his team. Instagram by Will unless otherwise stated
Today's highlights include John Berger talking to Tilda Swinton, Michael Stipe, Grandmaster Ed Cooke and a new film from David Lynch, among many others.
The Memory Marathon is dedicated to Eric Hobsbawm
Off we go.