“up- and down- loading the memory” – experimenting with a performance piece

Earlier this year the BA Culture, Criticism and Curation course at Central St. Martins asked the first year MA Art and Science class to create some art work in response to an essay by Asimov of 1964, envisioning 2014.  The show was split into 6 categories and I was assigned to work in the Memory and Repetition category.  My interest in technology then led me to think about the ongoing integration of biological and synthetic memory…

The integration of biological and synthetic memory in fifty years time.

Already, the rise of the Internet has changed the way we learn and store new information.  Rather than having to learn facts by heart, semantic memories – a structured record of known facts that are independent of personal experience – can be accessed almost instantly using our laptops and iPhones.  This integration between biological memory and synthetic computerised memory is only going to increase.  Experiments have been undertaken that have shown how existing memories can be uploaded to the Internet and new memories can be implanted[1].  In fifty years, it is likely that our brains and the Internet will be ‘hardwired’ together in some form that is not yet imaginable.


My performance piece, “up- and down- loading the memory” explores these notions.  Performance art is intrinsically connected with memory in the sense that in its ideal fashion it is ‘representation without reproduction’.  Hence ‘ without a copy, live performance plunges into visibility… and disappears into memory, into the realm of invisibility and the unconscious where it eludes regulation and control’[2].   I believe that rather than trying to fit a given theme into my usual working practice of interactive sculpture and installations, I should adapt the media to best represent the concepts that I am trying to convey.  And so, after lots of reading, the following performance piece was conceived.

“up- and down- loading the memory” will be inspired by Marina Abramovic’s performance ‘Freeing the memory’ (1975), during which she went through the process of forgetting and cleansing herself of acquired language by reciting all the words stored in her memory.  Taking this as a starting point, I am interested in how I can create an internet-linked stream of consciousness expressing the ideas described above.  My performance will take place in two stages:

Firstly, prior to the exhibition (16th June at 9pm), I will ‘upload’ my existing memory to the Twitter account www.twitter.com/uploadingmemory.  In the spirit of Abramovic’s work, I will endeavour to keep tweeting words until no more come into my head, which will signify the end of the performance.   I am intrigued by how the audience will be present for this stage of the performance – rather than it being physically present they will be a virtual audience online.  Traditionally, performance art has been documented via video or photography, whereas in this case a record will be permanently available on the Internet and will be exhibited on an iPad throughout the show, 18th – 22nd June.

Secondly, I will then ‘download’ a new memory on the opening night of the show, 17th June.  For this performance, I will repeatedly Google words as they randomly come into my head and read out aloud the first line of text under one of the top hits.  I love the idea of creating a narrative controlled by my brain but whose content comes exclusively from the internet.  The performance will continue until I have run out of words or until the show closes for the evening.

The private view of the BA CCC degree show ‘Hysteron Proteron’ is 17th June and it is open to the public 18th – 22nd June at Central St. Martins, KX. 

[1] For example, http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/desney/publications/bcihci-chapter1.pdf

[2] From “Marina Abramovic   – Artist body – performances” 1969 -1998 Charta (1998). Pg 32.

it’s the last week of the spring term at CSM…

After our Interim show at the Bargehouse, I have decided to plunge right into a new project (I have to make the most of the workshops before Easter, you know).  I have challenged myself to make 100-200 10cm sized tetrahedrons in a week.  I will then use them in a new piece trying to capture the concepts in ‘God’s Dice’, in a purely sculptural way – through form and material only.    Obviously I have not learnt from the mild craziness that set in while I was creating my last piece a couple of weeks ago.    But now I am trying out a new method of ‘mass’ production and already after two days I have produced 45 of the little bad boys (+ 1 I gave as a gift to a workshop regular) so I think I will meet my target.

Last Import - 21

Doing intense, repetitive work has got me thinking about what it means in terms of my artistic practice and I have resolved that this work has turned into both a game and a performance (as well as the obvious nod to mechanical factory labour).


The game. 


When doing repetitive work, one tries to find many strategies to avoid a descent into boredom.  For me, it has been about trying to see how many pyramids I can build in an hour.  A simplistic game that has surely been used to get children to do menial task since the beginning of time, there is something strangely satisfying about trying to beat a personal record. My current record is 15… I’m not sure there will be much improvement from there.


The performance.


Now let’s say I could make 20 pyramids in an hour.  That means I would require 80 triangular pieces of wood each involving 3 cuts.  In total I would be making 240 sweeping gestures an hour with the circular plunge saw.  In addition, I am flipping over the wood each time I make a new triangle.  This lunging and flipping could be interpreted as some sort of ritualistic dance, or perhaps the early stages of learning a new, unusual martial art.

Last Import - 22

You all know how I like to relate my artwork to physics, so in terms of a well known system, I can declare that I’ve become a driven pendulum, oscillating back and forth.  The movements of my body refers to circular motion, to the orbits of the planets around the sun or to the energy levels of electrons around an atom’s nucleus.




In the end, I will have a collection of seemingly identical tetrahedrons that are marked by small imperfections that come from working quickly.  These imperfections are in fact a sign of my hand – the artists hand – and are demonstrable proof that each individual piece of the eventual puzzle has been created in this bizarre ritualistic ceremony and not by the arms of a robot on a production line.

Last Import - 23

What does this all mean?  Well the process of making and the conception of art are just as important as the final outcome (if one does even exist).  The fluid nature of my movements during the making process are prophetic of the envisioned wavelike nature of the eventual piece.  To align this statement to ideas in my general practice, I see my movement now as correlated to the form of the outcome later on.