'THE MEMORY PALACE PROJECT' from 2006 to 2016 by Birgitte Moos
The Memory Palace, a place to remember
Being born into the time of no future generation pondering over how to visually manifest an idea of tracking events back to that era. Remember being impelled towards a fascinating system. A Memory Palace... An ancient technique used for almost total recall, a technique to remember vast amounts of information, before the age of universal writing ability, available to everyone.
The method of loci or “ars memoriae" (the art of memory in Latin) was an implement used by the scribes of the Ancient Greek World. The idea has been reused in literature and film. This learning system is based on allocating physical locations in the mind, used most often in cases where long lists of material had to be remembered precisely. Familiar buildings such as churches, temples, or markets, places one has physically visited are ideal, for the task. The Library of Alexandria was often used as and referred to as a Memory Palace.
To use the method one has to go through (physically) a building repeatedly and in the same sequence whilst looking at the same places as before. Then one connects the item one has to remember with the places in the building, for example, the parts in a complicated speech. To recall that speech you visit the places in the building with your mind, with which you have connected your speech. The method is to ensure that you have associated ideas with pictures and objects, localizing these in a spatial place. A vast compound of space, filled with memories connected with definite places in a building. A Memory Palace.
The Memory Palace Project as an artistic storage space for memories
The system is fascinating. Not only just as a tool for remembering, but also as a new artistic concept, a product for the imagination, and a fount to store abstract memories: Paintings representing emotions, thoughts and memories, stored in a labyrinthine system in a house.
In order to visualize the idea of this mental construct, and to provide storage space for the myriad impressions stored in the inner world of the mind and the feelings associated with it, the intention became to construct a wooden tower (the mind), where paintings (memories) are hung on the inner walls (the Memory Palace). The whole construction is to be constructed as a ramshackle house, a symbol of a scattered brain full of information. The wooden construct will have an entrance, where one can walk into the palace for a brief secretive glimpse. A perverse peep, of the creative and complex atmosphere inside the memories of someone’s mind palace. On the walls, inside the construction, is an organized series of visual representations of memories: Paintings overlapping each other sometimes, as if containing uncontrollable information in underlying patterns. Every painting is a repository of memories within memories.
The visual and spatial representations of the paintings are accorded their logical and/or psychological connections. And The Memory Palace Project weaves layers of psychological narrative into separate versions, represented by each individual painting, of an inner biography. The paintings store their repertoire of spells in an unpleasant temple of revelation. A brain, a storage space, in which “Dangerous” insights sets that world apart from our own reality.
Driven to Abstraction (written by Birgitte Moos in 2011)
Since the early 80’s neo-expressionism, painting was in the latter part of the same decade declared, dead. In Europe, the movement was labeled ’The New Wild Ones’ and in the US either ’Punk Art’ or 'Bad Painting’. Later, in New York, neo-expressionism influenced graffiti art, exemplified by Jean-Michel Basquiat. 'Bad Painting,’ opposed the idea of a piece of art as a unique 'accessoire' for the bourgeois circles. Neo-expressionist painters typically commented on the isolation of man and alienation created by modern society. The paintings were often aggressive and 'ugly'. A response of protest and despair and pure simulated confusion. Bad Painting rejected 'good taste!'
I personally do not reject ’good taste!’ I do not believe there are such fixed definitions as good taste anymore. The contemporary world consists of, sliding outside the concepts of nationality and presupposed identity politics. A decentered world without fixed signifiers and national symbolic forms.
If 'new painting’ is seen in a broader perspective than the meaning of policy, they can be interpreted with far more complexity through an angle which shows, that we live in an era where global cultural signs and codes are constantly available, especially in a universal software supermarket inside the computer. Receivers may even according to John R. Hall be so international, that they cannot identify with visual stereotypes recognized by a homogeneous group. I guess the same counts for the Artists.
These are some of the challenges which painting is facing today. One way to gain insight into the paradox is to be updated and aware of visual communication, and that artists study linguistics. In that field, cognitive linguistics is highly relevant to explain how paintings, through visual metaphors, can make the complex understandable.
My task has been to re-examine the style of neo-expressionism, and as a female artist from a younger generation, to respond to an art movement dominated by male artists. My approach to form is painting formless forms, reminiscent of decorations that indicate a subliminal sense of an underlying threat: The newer hyper-globalized landscape incorporating references that no longer have specific cultural reference points. I find this landscape extremely fascinating, and a new infinite ground for creating hybrid forms of visual expression. The question is, how to integrate these opportunities into an ’altmodisch’ medium such as painting?
My perspective in the artistic practice is spatial negotiation and traces of thought. Combined with an interdisciplinary approach to painting, where the painting should not be a piece of an art installation but an installation of art. Painting becomes a performative act more than a finished art-business object. Its content is depth in the surface and style in its substance.
New painterly forms applied interdisciplinary art, across disciplines in the humanistic sciences
Humanity is in the intermediate stage of a new system, which questions previous centuries of humanistic values and traditions. Some scientists believe that we are now on the threshold of new forms of existence and interaction. Changes that without a doubt will transform basic human living conditions. These changes will provoke very deep ideas in the humanistic sciences: The past inventories of cultural material that has taught us about the humanistic values. The Australian Artist Stellarc states, that new modes of high-tech interaction could break cultural memory and the old ways of Western thinking. This scenario would have been a relevant solution to fx Hamlet's schism; mankind still functioning on memory.
I am not on a mission to neglect humanistic traditions and values. On the contrary, the experiment is an attempt to find new painterly forms and to explore how the painting has its eligibility, and why!
Paintings contain an option to move people's awareness. A painting can both inspire and be inspired by intercultural communication, support the development of global networks, transcend age, experience, social, religious and cultural backgrounds. Simultaneously a new cultural landscape emerges - a mutually synergistic interaction communicating between the surrounding society, paintings, and viewers.
In order to achieve these states have I in a constant interaction between research and practice explored and worked with painting, new visual forms of communication, digital media, interdisciplinary set designs, spatial and installation art. And return passionately back to expressive painting, as the most direct medium to express a network of content and codes, that I constantly seek out and meet in my everyday life. An every day, where I try to avoid the tedium and ignorance. A life composed of choices and involuntary events, where the multiple forms of inspirational sources are not above, but a foundation for painting.
Overall I assume that my paintings consist of consciousness, sociological reflections, cultural commentary and memory, collective work across disciplines, applied interdisciplinary art forms, and transformations of words and action into spatial painterly solutions.
© Birgitte Moos Chalcraft 2022