Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Seven Seconds...The Art of Memory

Jorge Lizalde and Mathilde Lopez Gomez are the brilliant minds behind a unique project I ran across this year, called Mnemonic . I was drawn to it immediately, inspired by their process of taken images and tying them to memories of complete strangers. I queried Jorge and I submitted one of my turning point memories as a child.

This memory is now called, Memory Number 009.

Here is the script I provided and the work they produced.

One of my earliest memories is of my mother awakening us in the middle of the night, with her finger pressed to her lips in a shushing motion. “Let’s play a game of hide and seek.” , she began. Her hair was long and dark, her blue eyes penetrating mine. “But we must not make a sound.” I saw suitcases in the corner, and our clothes were put on in a hurry. Silent dressing of three children, as I was the oldest…I looked at my younger sister and put my finger to my lips as my mother had done to me. My baby brother with his sparse blonde hair peeking through the the crib rails.

“Shhhhhh…we are going to hide, and now don’t make a sound.” The quiet whispers as we went down the stairs…with my little sister in tow. A low rumbling sound of an awaiting cab as we made it out the door, In the dead of night, with amber street lights…swishing by. Feeling the rocking motion of wanting to sleep, during this game of hide and seek, leading us to a bus terminal the crowds not so thick, and tired blinking eyes of flourescent blindness. Climbing the steps with toddler legs to feel the stiffness of false comfort of a seat…as I looked out the window to see the flashing of the streetlights as we drove out of Chicago that hyponitized me into a deep sleep.

That was the night my mother left my father when I was barely four years old.

7 seconds with Jorge and Mathilde
Mnemonic - The Art of Memories

Why have you focused on the early memories?

Both our work focuses on images and memory, Jorge as a principle of work as his pieces are always based on an inward investigation about memory, family and loss.

Whereas my work is often orientated towards our memory’s selection and deformation, and therefore its great potential of mythology.

As an image-maker, Jorge wanted to recreate his own first image-memory and became quickly conscious of the difficulty, confusion and eagerness it triggered and the impossibility of doing it on his own. Memories are not stored with more or less precision but recreated each time we remember. Early memories are even more so the results of multiple layers of invention, sometimes ours but also others, therefore any attempt to define them becomes an archeology-project of oneself. And as early memories are often remembered with and through disparate data, ours and other’s, they also should be recreated with others.

While working on The Motherland Project, a performance research with actors and dancers about images, origins and memory, we have experienced their re-creation with others but also discovered their common ground. Through out the rehearsals, however false, embellished or extremes, these deformed memories were highly personal and truthful while remaining very generic too, like tapping into some common fond.

In parallel to these projects we were both interested- and scared- by the enormous flow of images and videos living on the web. Scared as it does challenge your legitimacy as an artist, a photographer or theatre maker but also fascinated as the juxtaposition of this infinite amount of individuality/knowledge/beauty is incredibly exciting and hold huge potential.
We felt that something as intimate, sacred and defining as early memories could be created and live in that web format: A common memory database, very personal and generic at the same time, the compilation of all of us in its essence.

We looked for a format to open the process to people creativity and channel the multiple images and video available on flickr, you tube and other common database.

By extracting, re-cutting, re-shuffling online data we attempt to be as close as we can to the early memory written and offered by the authors.
There are many subjective people involved:
-Authors’, who recreate at the moment they remember, organise and shape their text.
-Ours, while we read the script, imagine it then find and choose online data-themselves infused with everyone’s particular image, look, grain, genre- then cut and shape the memory.

And this very fragile, secret, unformulated souvenirs, somehow come to light helped by everyone to stand on its feet.

Mathilde and Jorge provided brief biographies about their past work and present vision for themselves.

Jorge is a photographer and video maker. He is currently completing an MFA in Fine arts at UWIC, Cardiff, UK.

He previously trained at Universidad of Salamanca in Spain, where he obtained a Ba in Fine Arts and at EFTI in Madrid where he completed a professional course and master in photography.

Since 2005, he has been living in London and most recently Cardiff where he has been working as a freelance photographer for different companies (theatre, dance and marketing) and published on varied newspapers and website notably the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent and varied e-magazines.

His artistic practice is rooted in memory and stillness.
He has taken part in different group exhibitions in Spain (Alumni Master Exhibition at Photoespaña) Argentina (Festival de la Luz) and the Uk (Relics at Art Salons and Make it a good experience at Eight Club and Millar Rosenfalk) and also worked along actors and dancers creating stills, videos and searching live image system for The Motherland Project.

Mathilde is a theatre director and scenographer, currently Creative Associate at National Theatre Wales.

She trained at Central Saint Martins in Performance Design, worked as a designer for ITV, BBC, Channel 4, The Knitting Company, and Ex-Machina, assisting Carl Fillion on La Celestina and 1984, both show directed by Robert Lepage.

She founded The Knitting Company with actors from Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier Schools and directed Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy by Witold Gombrovitzc, Hotel Europa (La Suspension du Plongeur) by Lionel Spycher and Prometheus (extracts of Aeschylus Prometheus Bound) at the Cochrane Theatre and Hoxton Hall; Cien años (series of devised episodes based on One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez) for theatre and non-theatre spaces in London and Prague.

From 2006-8 she completed Birkbeck’s MFA in theatre directing and assisted several productions at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Theatre Royal Stratford East in London.

She also worked as literary manager for Theatre Royal Stratford East, then devised Crosswired, a dance piece developed and presented by East London Dance and the Barbican Centre and started The Motherland Project, a performance project on image and memory.

Where do you hope you can garner an exposition?

We would definitely need more time, resources or/and recruit artists to work with us to generate enough material (maybe 100 memories) for the work to have the impact we want for an exhibition.

Also, we feel that the strength of this project is in the process and the making, therefore can only conceive it in the real world as an exhibition/performance, a working Mnemonic factory with script writing tables, data selection bureaus and montage ones.

More over, to legitimise its place in the real world and respond to the actual ground where it stands, the real exposition of this originally web project will need to create the memories of the actual people coming to the event or living in the area.

The Mnemonic Factory could take place in commercial, private galleries or arts fair where the project will approach visitors and invite them to participate. We are also approaching an Alzheimer foundation in Cardiff as we thought of co-organizing workshops with Alzheimer patients to recreate their first memories and then create a projection/performance with and by them.

Another option is to keep it on the web where it originated and recruit more artists, memory makers and programmers to create a software that does what we do, encompassing its complexities, but quicker.

If anyone out there is open to the challenge, we are open to proposals.

How long is this project going to be in development?

Our first aim is to find the time and resources to cope with the demand as we are only 2 and the whole memory-making process takes 2 weeks which is much too long for the web pace and the patience of many subjects.

Jorge during his year at University of Wales (Institute Cardiff) will explore the possibilities of rooting the project in the real world and making it accessible to those who don’t have access nor inclination to the web. He is particularly thinking of direct mailings.

If you would like to participate in this project, I encourage you to be a part of this journey. I believe it is going to be something incredible and you can be a part of it too. Contact Jorge and Mathilde at memory landscape with a short script of one of your earliest memories. I will tell you, based on my own experience, they are an absolute pleasure to work with.

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