Memory Palace - Brooklyn College MFA Thesis Exhibition 2011
The ‘memory palace’ is an ancient memorization technique, one which exploits the fact that our visual/spatial memory far outperforms our verbal and numerical memory. To memorize a long text or string of numbers, you can use a remembered architectural space (like a childhood home) as a mental storehouse for the new information. You can transform each to-be-remembered item into a dramatic, eccentric, unforgettable image, mentally insert these images into specific locations within the remembered space, and later ‘find’ it right where you left it.
This show resembles a memory palace, in that it is idiosyncratic rather than unified, and endeavors to make a virtue of this heterogeneity. The differences between images, experiences, personalities are what make them visible, meaningful, and memorable. We can’t help but categorize artworks, but when we do we inevitably obscure what most compels us about them. It is particularity--not generality--that arrests our attention.
The idiosyncrasy of visual expression renders art a perpetually uneasy collaborator with academe, since schools necessarily prioritize rational, categorical thought. But the title of this exhibition provides an analogy for how this collaboration can function productively; the memory palace technique requires both wildly varied imagery and a framework to anchor and link that imagery. In an MFA program, the school supplies the quantitative structures that order the experience--the space, the time, the schedules, the deadlines--and the students furnish the bureaucratic boxes with color, with strangeness, with life.
When the palace fragments, when the menagerie vanishes and the walls of the studios are once again whitewashed clean, these sundry art practices will likely find themselves in more isolated rooms. But while at Brooklyn College, this group of artists built a home from their differences, a place to which they can always return in their mind's eye.