Exhibition Director: Fang Yiling
Curators: Hu Bin, Fan Baiding, Guo Weiqi, Fang Lihua
Artists: Gu Dexin, Jiang Jie, Jiang Zhi, Ni Youyu, Peng Zuqiang, Shang Yang, Sui Jianguo, Song Dong, Wang Guangyi, Wang Jianwei, Wen Hui, Xiang Jing, Yan Shanchun, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhan Wang, Zeng Hao
Spatial Design: Wang Hui
Graphic Design: Wang Xu
Venue: OCAT Shenzhen Hall A/B, OCT Loft, Nanshan, Shenzhen
During the ages when paper was of deficiency, classical mnemonic, with the help of imagination, built up the unique spatial order to settle visualized knowledge, striving to accurately store what needed to be remembered, and thus to memorize well what had been told From monuments, paper to digital media, we fight against time and oblivion in many different ways, and try hard to keep information complete and balanced by storing memory by various media. Yet, the retrospective memory acquiesces to the deviation between the ends of the recording and receiving. Alternation of subjectivity manifests itself rather evidently in this type of memory-depending on individuals, communities, cultural environments, ideology, and other factors, what has been remembered will change and will then generate new meanings. The ways we memorize have turned into decisive power of moulding the materials of memory. The question is then not only about what to remember but how to remember. Classical mnemonic which aims at “duplication” is a technique about memory; yet, “the arts of memory” as the exhibition titled hope to observe the world of human mind, to hint at the relationship between memory and knowledge, experience, commemoration oblivion, identity and time, hence our own contemplation of memory.
Memory is the root of almost every civilisation. However, it is not worth talking about without oblivion. Matters dissolve in oblivion and reform in memory. Aleida Assmann once said: “Oblivion is an opponent of storage, but an accomplice of memory.” In this regard, oblivion constitutes one of the qualities of memory. Oblivion not only indicates the downfall of losing the past, but also brings out the chance to investigate, and thus to create. Memory constructs a grand labyrinth in the art world, and also acts as Ariadne’s string. Just like Theseus following the string, we step into depths of memory, going back and forth from the past to the present, and the pathways for looking back are formed.
Mnemonic starts from location while interacts with the concept of Pierre Nora’s lieux de mémoire. In the story of the appearance of mnemonic, the sudden collapse of the banquet hall crushed down onto all the guests except for Simonides, who, with divine help, survived the disaster. Simonides identified all the guests by memorizing the seats of them all. In this initial account of mnemonic, location has undoubtedly played a vital role. Except for the replay of mnemonic, location can also be the place for evoking individual and collective memory. Relics, cities, landscapes, rivers, hometowns, or former houses can all be the meaningful places in artists’ experience.
To mnemonic, sometimes the carrier of memory is more important than the content of it, for it not only affects the ways of input and output, but also decides memory’s functions and presentations
to a large extent. The carrier itself is equipped with certain meanings. In other words, memory, through metaphor, has turned into a medium or a carrier. There has been a long tradition of using stones to memorialize. The story of “inscribing achievements on golden stele” of Xia Yu in Master Lü's Spring and Autumn Annals, and the records of the mnemonic’s inventor, Simonides, on ancient Greek “Parian Marble” exemplify the belief that stones, due to its toughness, can fight against time’s erosion and can preserve the eternal memory. Rubbings, drawings, photos, books, data and even our bodies... various carriers are adopted by humans for storing memory. The choice of carrier has already become a part of mnemonic, implying our attitudes toward memory and intentions of processing memory. In the past decades, memory has become a motif that artists would willingly take on. Memory, through artistic practices, has turned from passive information transmission to active construction of minds.
The theater of memory might be the earliest installation artwork about mnemonic. Giulio Camillo, based on the principles of mnemonic, designed the “Theater of Memory” to cover the visualized knowledge by systematic order. The theater of memory points to the reconstruction of systematicity, processing the materials with the help of memory’s power. The builders of the theater acquiesce the spatial and temporal distance between themselves and memory’s materials. As observers, they build up the stage for memory. Within the re-defined logic, they organize and edit the experience and knowledge from the past, and thus complete the reproduction of memory and rediscovery of knowledge. Artists construct today’s theater of memory by using image recording of computer games, installations, videos and diverse media, enhancing the sense of theatricality. If the conventional memory system for subjective knowledge is the theater where audiences are absent, in this exhibition then, we hope everyone can bring one’s own personal experience into the vitalizing theater of memory.