Layers of Memory

Part of: AG: Virtual Versus Real


Layering Memory within the Contemporary City

Two trends which we have found interesting in the modern-day metropolis:

1) Migrating Populations. The majority of the population of the contemporary metropolis is comprised of people who have been born and raised outside of that city’s borders, in other cities.

2) Virtualization. The internet is playing a larger role in the life of the city-dweller, transforming the rituals of daily-life.

These two trends, among other things, reflect the relationship of a person with memory. A city for an immigrant does not carry information from the past, it does not seem familiar, nor can it simultaneously contain the different eras of a person’s childhood, adolescent and adulthood.

On the other hand, the virtual space has become an enormous archive which documents even the most minute details of the daily lives of millions of people. Non-extant webpages are kept in the internet archive, The Wayback Machine, so that one can look back through pages which have changed or no longer exist. The internet offers a person such an inordinate volume of operating memory, the likes of which have never been possible in the history of man. This is a memory that cannot be suppressed.

The phrase «I need to erase this from my memory» now belongs to an earlier era. At this present moment, it is practically impossible; even if you try to block something from your memory, your friends can remind you, or the friends of your friends, employers or acquaintances purely from online social networking sites. The citizen of the contemporary city spends much of his or her time in the virtual space, the space of memory. He remembers a lot, as he does not have the ability to forget. It makes for a strange picture – the virtual space and a person’s head, both filled to the brim with memories and communications, contained within the city, the urban environment in which memories and communications are afforded as little space as possible, as if they never existed. There is a colossal disjunction between a person and his environment, between a person and the city in its physical embodiment.

Proposed tasks: Bring layers of memory into the city. Drawing from visual information of the past, create a harmony between a person and his or her environment, by finding a space for memory in human life.

Material : Films and visual materials from various moments of the 20th century Russia, for analysis. Objects which either preserve or represent the collective memory and culture. Computers, paper, cardboard, scissors, glue, pencils – any instruments for representing, which would allow the participants to create models and drafts in the studio.

The workshop is conducted in Russian.