Exhibitions

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

Posted on: May 23rd, 2014 by libby

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.

brain

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.