1998 memory and its illusion
Memory and Its Illusion
I have been thinking about the experience of deja vu; defined in the dictionary as paramnesia: a disorder of memory, the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time. The illusion? The first time? How would one know?
Life is a sequencing of events in the field of time, informed by what has preceded, filtered through the device we call memory: selective, seductive and censoring. The sculptures all seem to engage this recall; not nostalgic nor in the form of romanticism but rather as a participant in the act of cognition. When you meet someone whom you feel you’ve known before, it may be simply the experience of coming face to face with something inside you. Something you didn’t exactly know until that moment. It feels familiar because it is; it is you.
The objects are recognizable, a sequencing of the familiar as one walks around the work—and yet not. There emerges an increasing sense of the inexplicable awkwardness in the associations; cross references slightly off; not a place inhabited by the linear rational mind. The way memory recalls, trying to get it right, exact, but inevitably failing because it is impossible to reconstruct anything other than one’s slipping perceptions. The mind cannot be trusted. It keeps shifting from moment to moment, thought to thought. It is polygynous. It is a distracted partner.
It helps to have something standing still, there to be considered as material evidence, unmoving and concrete. I tried to do this with flood. What appears to be a narrative style is in fact a complex of non-linear moments. It was an attempt to record visually a matrix of emotive experience. Not in a literal sense rather understood metaphorically, flood was intended to give form to chaotic emotional flow. In concept, flood was perceived as evidence of a fluid state, but in the result, when I was done, when it felt right, it was frozen. Still and silent. Despite my conscious efforts it seems I needed unconsciously to contain and control.
In flood you keep being brought back to a physical relationship to the work, to an awareness of being there, to a concrete experience of the moment located in real time. There is a direct relationship between the body and place: ladder, sink, foot holes, and to process: the drains in the floor, the need for a place for things to go. Psychologically, the drain, the release down into the unconscious. In the encounter you feel you’ve met the thing you know or at least it keeps suggesting so through familiarity. A concrete manifestation, there to be considered as long as you like or need—the frozen moment . . .
I’ve been told there’s violence in the work. How could there not be? Being born is violent, being forced into consciousness. We have that as common experience, present in the locus of collective memory. Hence the subliminal reference to the womb: the use of vessel, of container and my apparent fixation with internal space. The passing of one moment to the next is violent, with time come innumerable deaths. We cannot control it. We cannot stop it. We have no choice but to move with it. Proportional with the passing of time is the increasing loss of memory, containers filled, then overflowing.
In dunce, there is no particular logic to the narrative, the sequencing came to me and it felt right. The work evokes a sense. It is suggestive: the chair, a singular experience; the roots, what is seen, unseen, inside, under; the hearts, multiple events, tangibly present, tangibly dislocated; the cone, the funnel, the personal, the collective, the historical. It seems to acknowledge how, awkward and unprepared, one takes risk to show one’s heart again and again. It speaks of an experience we have in common. Modest in scale, it does not seek to presuppose.
I am aware of a tangible, almost visceral presence of emptiness in the work. Is it perhaps that once I have focused so intensely on trying to recall, to conjure, to give evidence to—that what I was convinced I would find to make things understandable and fixed is just not possible— not true? That ultimately it is the silence; it is the space between the objects; it is the stillness in the recognition of the unexplainable and the impossibility to make what is constantly being lost stand still, that is at the core of the work.