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Flat memories

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Flat memories, 2013

Prints, tape, video, sound

Installation in a dark room of five giant black and white pictures made of A3 pasted together, hanged on the walls. Some pieces of the images are missing, they look like unfinished puzzles. They show elements of architecture, windows, plants, furnitures, objects. Black tape designs rectangles on the floor, like a plan. Two beamers project videos; one is projected on a wall and the other on the ceiling. They show moving lights and shadows on a white background. Those videos bring the only lights in the dark room, lightening indirectly the fragmented pictures. A surround sound of waves is displayed.

How can we remember of a place, more specifically a flat, which has disappeared for years? This particular apartment was chosen because it’s the first one I lived in. The hypothesis that the first place where we live lasts in the mind as the strongest and more archaïc memories is at the roots of this work. It is a personal archeology of the concept of « home ». This project’s aim was to explore in a subjective way how this flat, this non-existing anymore space, is surviving in my head. The reconstruction obtained in the final installation showed a new space built with traces. Pictures are coming from old family albums. These pictures where printed in the « real size » to give the impression of a decor. Their division in A3 shows the tentative of reconstruction from fragments, with possibilities of missing pieces. Blank spaces in the pictures indicate places where some people were. Without characters, the images become a decor, a stage set. Their black and white tone was motivated by the idea that lost memories remain in the dark, light can reach only traces. The black tape on the floor indicates the emplacement of the flat’s rooms. It shows « conceptual » spaces, like in theater where the space is symbolic. This setting was also used in cinema by Lars Von Trier in Dogville. Both videos show a ceiling where animated lights and shadows pass over the surface. On the first video, moving lines of different thickness and colors indicate the cars of the outside traffic. On the second, we see the moving shadows of a city landscape, produced by the reflected light from some water surface outside animating the shadows of some books disposed on the edge of a window. In this way, lights and shadows from the outside world are projected in the flat’s room (the inside world), as the physical process happening in the eyes or in a camera. Those shapes are only traces from the world, like in Plato’s Cave. The sound is made originally by the noise of moved bed sheets, progressively slowed down to become like the sound of the waves of the sea. This sonority follows the reflexion that home would be like a first universe (in the childhood, everything in our environment looked bigger – rooms were lands). The creation of this « soundscapes » reveals that if familiar sounds from home are just slowed down, they become sounds of a landscape. The final choice to use the sound of the sheets becoming sea is linked with the liminal state of falling asleep and the image of the sea as a primitive environment.

The notion of « architecture of the mind » comes from the hypothesis that we could organize our memory in a visual – architectural way. This idea was firstly developed by orators of the Roman Empire, that were using it as a mnemotechnic tool. Their method was to construct an inner palace in their head, to remember the structure of a discourse. This technic was used later by the christian kabbalists, themselves inspired by the mystic jew tradition. Giulio Camillo (1480- 1544) developed this idea  in an almost physical way in the Renaissance, with his « amphitheatre of memory ». He had the utopian idea to elaborate an universal mnemotechnic system, where all humanity’s concepts would be linked in a same and organized visual system. The theories of early psychoanalysts meet in a way this concept, as they described the human mind as a visually symbolic structured universe (Freud) and developed the concept of collective unconscious. Carl G. Jung notably depicted the human soul as a house in Problèmes de l’âme moderne (1935). Furthermore, the french philosopher Gaston Bachelard  states that the first « primitive » house we’re living in is our first universe in his essay The poetic of space (1956). Henry David Thoreau developed in Walden (1854) a reflexion on the notion of « shelter », as a primitive human need. In Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, we go throughout the inner thoughts of six characters during their whole life. The rhythm of the novel is led by the recurring image of the sea’s waves and the shades of a passing day upon the characters’ common « primitive » home. This last novel inspired the sound work of Flat memories.

If we have retained an element of dream in our memories, if we have gone beyond merely assembling exact recollections, bit by bit the house that was lost in the mists of time will appear from out the shadow.
Gaston Bachelard, The poetic of space, 1956

 Still images from the videos:

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