Memory Palace

A collaborative and Interdisciplinary exhibition

What is the role of the unconscious mind in creative processes? What are the possibilities of creating artworks that are devoid of critical thought?
Relying on the improvised, instinctual and illogical, the Memory Palace searched for the potential in bringing together different art forms and creating collaboratively and intuitively.

Memory Palace was a collaborative project that brought together 7 international artists from various disciplines. At its core, the project questioned the source, forms and limits of human creativity, and—first and foremost—a quest to experiment with the creative processes. The project was initiated by the Scottish artist-run collective Captain Lightfoot (Anneli Holmstrom, Emma Pratt and Kadie Salmon). They invited four students from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague: Christian Henninger (photography) , Nitish Jain (scenography) , Bára Anna Stejskalová (animation) and Eva Urbanová (choreography) for a period of collective research, creation and exhibition between April - October 2018.

The collective artistic research drew inspiration from Dada’s rupturing of the link between art and the artist’s controlled decision making; Surrealism’s automatic writing and focus on the unconscious; Moholy-Nagy’s idea of the art object as the catalyst of an interactive event; and David Lynch’s technique of "transcendental meditation”.
The artworks on show consisted of a series of fictive audios, photo montages and assemblages of found materials and objects collected by the individual artists during their meditative walks. The architecture of the exhibition was structured as a “memory palace“—an imaginary location in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. It followed a path created in order to store creative inspiration, memories and visual imagery.
Some artistic processes that were followed and the resulting creations are elaborated below.

Exhibited at: Galerie AMU, Prague. Exhibition concept and curation: Captain Lightfoot. Co-curator: Eliška Žáková. Exhibiting Artists: Kadie Salmon, Emma Pratt, Anneli Holmstrom, ​Christian Henninger, Bára Anna Stejskalová, Eva Urbanová and Nitish Jain.
Supported by: Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Ministry of Culture Czech Republic, STEP Beyond (European Cultural Foundation).

Photo Montages

Using one 35mm film camera and one spool of black and white film, the artists each took it in turn to photograph their environment and daily lives in their respective countries. This film was rewound and then passed on to the next artist to use; going forward, back and forward again and again until all artists had documented their lives individually without the others present. It is only in the resulting artworks; nine multiple exposure images, that these solo documentations overlap one another; physically exposing the shared nature of the experience. For the exhibition, each image was screen printed on specific surfaces and objects to bring attention to the tactile, three dimensional and collaborative nature of the work. The materials ranged from sandpaper, paver stones, metal sheets, to found pieces of plexiglass , fabric etc. Each material became an artistic collaborator in its own capacity; their ink-retaining capacity and behaviour yielding surprising results.

Assemblage via meditation

Each artist in their own country and environment did twenty minute walks scouting for materials and objects. The rule was to walk twenty paces at a time, then change direction; all whilst listening to a shared meditation soundtrack. During this relaxed state of mind, walking in environments which included Spanish beach resorts, childhood bedrooms, bustling city centres, junkyards and woodland, the artists collected found objects.
Returning to the studio they then transformed these objects into assemblages, relying on intuition and avoiding critical thought or analysis.
The assemblages are not artworks that conform to a formal language of fine art but instead exist more like artefacts; tools to tell a story. Each artist then gave their assemblages a title. It is the title that applies meaning to the object; an interpretation or story. However the interpretation and story does not end with the maker; instead each object has multiple interpretations, bestowed on it by the collective. We revealed our assemblages to our co-artists only a day prior to the exhibition and, using the tool of Automatic-writing-in-60-seconds, each artist gave a title to each other's object(s). When read together, the titles make haikus, short stories or fragments of dreams, the interpretation left to the imagination of the reader.

Automatic Writing and Audio Works:

At a pre-decided date and time, all the participants of the collaboration interrupted their daily goings to write automatically for 5 minutes-allowing the unconscious mind to fill the minutes. Located in different time-zones, this exercise varied from 6pm some days to 3am on others; writing in the middle of a restaurant, a house party or concert or waking in the middle of the night- still in a dream state of mind. With each artist, the texts reveal a rambling stream of words and sentences, where the nonsensical is crudely interrupted by the intrusion of the conscious voice; questions, self-reflection and awareness. Here the unconscious and conscious mind overlap; feeding one another through creative process.
An important part of this writing process was the feeling of being connected with the other participants and to know that they were also doing this at the same time in their respective countries. This body of automatic writings was then shared; with each participant selecting 3 lines from each other's writings. Each artist then re-structured these lines to create their own version of the collective memory/narrative.
These narratives now exist for the viewer as recorded audios. Each audio was housed in an individual 'tent' like structure constructed by each artist. Here the viewer was invited to enter an intimate space, shut off from the gallery surroundings. Listening on headphones, this narrative unravels and memories are conjured; emphasised by sounds, tactility and smells such as rain or a crackling fire. Check out our tent Belly of the Two-Headed Beast.

Pictures: Oskar Helcel. Graphic design: Jan Slabihoudek. Sound design: Robin Holmberg. Sound Recordings:Vojtěch Zavadil. Special thanks to: Matěj Šenkyřík (technical assistance), Viktor Dedek (set-up). Text by: Nitish Jain with acknowledgement to Eliška Žaková and Captain Lightfoot for permission to quote from the GAMU press release and the exhibition handout.