Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Do crystals have a memory?

Not too long ago, sayraphim invited me to be part of an exhibition called Echo's Lost, where a glass-fronted cabinet tucked away in an antique shop window will become an almost secret art gallery when the Melbourne Fringe Festival rolls around in September.

I've taken to the project willingly- not just because I missed out on doing the last exhibition Omnific Assembly were involved in, but because the brief was something that I connected with. Essentially each work that is displayed in the case must deal with the question 'what is left when the memory decays?'

As someone who has her memory regularly purged by epilepsy I know what it's like not to have memories of something. I have big, black murky patches in my past where all memory has been erased. I rely on photographs in the family album, old Livejournal and Blogger entries, my paper notebooks by my bed and family stories to piece together a memory of my past. My Mum jokes that my most oft-repeated phrase in childhood was 'I forgot'. Often it's like having amnesia, and I think it's my decayed memory that keeps me from forming a true identity of myself. Time and time again in my private notebooks I question who I am.

I started the theory work for the project by arming myself with a notepad document and writing down random things that came to mind, researching it online when I found myself asking a question. The two questions that interested me the most were 'do crystals have a memory?' and 'what happens when the memories we have aren't real'?

Most of the memories in my head seem real enough, but on looking into them- either by asking other people who were there or finding out release dates of films etc- they are often revealed to be little made-up fancies of my brain. I have a very distinct memory of certain events occurring in particular places, only to find out later that this was impossible. This reveals something disturbing - I can't trust my mind to keep my memories real.

Getting tired of questions, I decided to figure out what kind of object I'd be constructing. For some reason the motifs of hexagons and crystals kept coming back to me (no surprise given my sudden and recent space/sci-fi fascination), so I went with it. Via a lot of reading and researching I learned that hexagonal are the most efficient method possible to store information (memory), that computers can store infinite amounts of data in crystal slices, there are theories that state places like Stonehenge could be like ancient computers, holding the memories of our ancestors, until we find the key to unlocking it.

I thought maybe this was stretching my research a bit far, but then I thought about it. When we were a young race, we kept all of our memories in oral tradition. Our very early days were a drip-fed system of trickled information, passed through the generations in story and song. When that was lost, we no longer knew why the old ones did things, and so our scientists and archaeologists were forced to detect, assume, hypothesise, theorise.

In short - a lack of memory information from the past results in a lost knowledge of who we are. This is pretty much the same compact statement as what I said above regarding my problem with my identity. I've lost my own tradition.

And so with all that in mind, I went to my studio and gathered everything in my studio that spoke to me along the theme, whether I'd previously noted it or it just came to me when I saw it.

I started with a small Victorian photo album I bought on eBay last year. I'd been wondering what to do with it for ages. When I remembered that the finished piece needed to have a vintage look, coupled with the fact that it was a photography album that had broken (photographs = pictorial memory, broken album = damaged memory) it seemed perfect. The cover is geometric in design which fits with patterns and connecting circuits.

The inside of the album had a long-rusted wind up music box in it, so I took that out, leaving a hole in the middle- a great metaphor for the 'hole' in my identity. A pyramid of Amethyst sits in quite nicely, if a bit too deep. I don't know what the symbolism of the pyramid fits into things at the moment, it just happen to be 'speaking' to me (I'm researching more on pyramids and memory keeping). I'll make a sunken floor of computer circuit board for the pyramid to sit on, raising it up higher and bringing in the digital memory element. The length of connected chandelier crystals have yet to be properly appointed- I'd like to keep them connected because it's like connecting individual elements to make a whole, which is perfect symbolism for memory recollection when the original record is damaged.

I'm not sure if it's finished yet. I wanted some sort of panel, maybe from a broken ipod- but they're surprisingly hard to come across and it might jeopardise the vintage feel.

And a big thank you to everyone who read all that. ♥


JanetDavies said...

I enjoyed this post. Your musings are great food for thought and your altered album is lovely.

Brenda@ **Dragonflys and Stars** said...

Very interesting post. I am glad I came upon it. As a graduate student, one of the topics that really interested me was memory and research related to memories (and how much memory is often fabricated as much as it incorporates bits of truth). Love your ideas and your art!

ArtPropelled said...

Impressive piece! I enjoyed the post very much.

Bri said...

I also enjoyed this post a lot, really interesting and lovely artwork as well!

RowanDeVoe said...

wow, this is all so fascinating. i love your thoughts and ideas about all of this and your piece for the exhibit is just so amazing. i really love it. i am reminded of my 2 boy cousins and how we often(ok always) played with crystals and and made control panels for space ships and also aligned crystals in someway to be able to time travel. it was fun but we also really thought it was all real and we still do!

my twin visits the pyramids in egypt a lot for her job and she says there is just something really profound about them that she can't explain-i believe it!

your memory loss is also profound. i am a person who has a form of photographic memory and i have found it to be equally frustrating. no one remembers anything! i remember everything and want someone to share these memories with but i am alone. often people tell me that certain things could have never have happened or that there is no way i that i could have remembered them. ugh!

i saw my grade school music teacher last year at fancy museum event and proceeded to sing and dance out every big recital we had done from 1st grade all the way through high school. his mouth dropped open and he just asked me how i could remember all those songs and dances. i asked him how could i not? they were so much fun!

my brother in law call me "encyclopedia merle" because i can "access" all this information. it is a funny thing for most people but really lonely and it made my ex husband so mad-he said it wasn't "fair" that i could remember all the mean things he said to me. i told him that perhaps he should think before he spoke. i am not really getting ahead because of being able to remember everything.

anyway, i think all of this is just so interesting and love these photographs as well! can't wait to see how it all goes!
take care,

ArtSnark said...


Sayraphim said...

Oh, that's so beautiful! I love hearing about the processes behind the artworks, I'm always fascinated how other people come to make the work they do. And your photos are beautiful. I can't wait to see it finished!
Thank you so much for sharing your thought process


TheNikiProject said...

Wow, simply amazing. The wording you use makes the whole post sound so... honest, like a glimpse deep into your soul. And the art that came from those thoughts, utterly awesome! I did a science project back in middle school about the power of pyramids to preserve things under them when one of the corners is pointed directly north. (mummies and such) So I made an experiment where I made two pyramids, one with a corner facing north, and one not. And I cut up an apple and placed a piece under each pyramid and observed the spoilage over the span of a week. And can you beieve it worked! The apple under the pyramid with the north-facing corner was only half as spoiled as the one that wasn't! Anyways, a bit long, but I thought I should share. And again, fabulous post.

Secret Leaves said...

Hi. Wonderful post. A couple of things you might be interested in: Have you ever heard the song "Epilepsy is Dancing" by Antony & the Johnsons? Beautiful. Their is a video available on YouTube if you care to view it. Also, I'm sure you've seen the movie Memento. If not, check it out. It deals with exactly the topics you are exploring here. It also stars the always excellent Guy Pearce, so how can you go wrong?


Claire (ethel loves fred) said...

I read all of your post! And it's so fascinating. I find it hard to put into words, so I tend to describe things very briefly. Such a great theme this year, very emotive.