November 10, 2003
Memory vs. Storage, chapter whatever

As is often the case, in the process of researching material for a thought I had, I find that someone else has expressed it far better than I ever will. In this particular case, it's Jim Lewis in Wired on what might be thought of as a new digital phenomenology.

"Mechanical memory - to its unexpected advantage - degrades. Colors fade, negatives crack, manuscripts grow brittle, grooves get scratched. What emerges from these depredations is a crucial sense of both the pastness of the past, and its presence. Time takes just enough out of acetate and celluloid to remind us of the distance between now and then, while leaving just enough to remind us of the nearness of our own history."

Posted by kevin slavin at November 10, 2003 03:40 PM

"Whence the rub: If life gets recorded in real time, it hardly counts as a record at all." see Kenneth Goldsmith's work, such as Fidget, Soliloquy, and that piece I saw at the gallery like six years ago, when there were still galleries in Soho but before we had a blog and could record things like that.

Oh, wait, that was Soliloquy, which has this nifty web version, too.

"Soliloquy is an unedited document of every word I spoke during the week of April 15-21, 1996 from the moment I woke up Monday morning to the moment I went to sleep on Sunday night. To accomplish this, I wore a hidden voice activated tape recorder.
I transcribed Soliloquy during the summer of 1996 at the Chateau Bionnay in Lacenas, France during a residency there. It took 8 weeks, working 8 hours a day."

Posted by: dbrown on November 10, 2003 05:12 PM

Kenneth Goldsmith's No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96 is a favorite of mine.

Posted by: hirmes on November 10, 2003 06:26 PM

Not to get all meta on your collective ass, but then maybe this is a good place to start keeping track of all the keeping track.

There are quite a few artists who deal with these issues, and I know it's useful to me to write them all down on something I can't lose, like the internet.

So to enter it clumsily, it's something about artists who deal with the gaps between what we are capable of storing, and what we are capable of remembering. And how we struggle to capture it all, and how we can't. And maybe how now we can, and struggle not to.

Just to capture it, there's a phrase among hifalutin technocrats, and that is (Google 11/10/03: 312) "memory augmentation." It can happen. As sure as we'll clone ourselves, we'll do something that's much spookier than cloning: replication, but without flesh. Replication without flesh.

Here's Adam Greenfield's articulate blog entry off V-2 about the experience of moblogging:

"Think about it: moblog your life even casually, and twenty years downstream (if the files are marked up properly!), you'll have a consolidated record of where you went, what you did, who you did it with, what it looked and sounded like, and how you felt about it all.

We are the first generation to have this ability to stop time and immediately semantically mark it up for later retrieval and cross-referencing, something which goes beyond Brownie snapshots, Zaprudered super-8 loops, or even the efforts of the most conscientious diarist. It's a pretty heady feeling."

This reminds me of nothing so much as the Josh Harris interview in Errol Morris' First Person, titled "Harvesting Me." The whole interview pushes uncomfortably at the furthest boundaries of clinical egomania, as Harris describes the 404 capturing every moment of his life so that it can be indexed, searchable and collectible. Life, cached. It may just be Josh Harris, and it might be the 404, but it sure seems a lot more attractive on the Microsoft Research Powerpoint than it does in an interview.

(To keep it all tight, I did the search on "memory augmentation" and sure enough, #12 on google is a saturation post about it that I wrote 18 months ago. I'd tell you that I don't remember writing it, but you knew that already.)

And here's a link to a conference that Jan Abrams organized in 2000. Who knew?

The artist who comes most readily to mind in this is On Kawara, who is still alive. It's worth noting that you'd probably have to say that his work is more concerned with time than memory, but there's something in it. Each of the paintings is wrapped in a box which is lined with the newspaper from that day and that place. It's the Collier Brothers but in flatfile rations.

I can no longer remember who the film-maker is/was, the one who made a film every day. Was it Jonas Mekas? And it's awfully different, isn't it, to make a 16mm film every day, than it is to take a digital photo? It's not just the effort and the expense, it's the way that film leaves the earth gradually, an experience far more comforting than a hard drive crash.

Then there's Hanne Darboven, who "asserts the presentness of time by marking its passage in a literal form that also takes up volumetric space when the writings are installed in a large gallery." But still. Like On Kawara, more about time than memory and storage.

I think Christian Boltanski did a piece once, in which he tried as best as possible to reconstruct the toys he had as a child. That's more what the question is about, that failure.

And then James Young deals with a lot of this quite well albeit from the particular (but not unique) perspective of the Holocaust. He's one of the first, I think? to give Shimon Attie's work attention. The stuff that's there and not-there, or there and was-there, or something. Or something.

Anyway, that's all I got off the top of my head, which may indeed be all I'll ever have. And I know, it's long, and it's probably boring, but at least now I have something to read 18 months from now.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on November 10, 2003 09:21 PM

I still have that copy of decasia I bought you a year ago. For that saturation get together. still TK.

Posted by: dbrown on November 10, 2003 10:05 PM

Add also Jim Campbell's work, which I only just learned of tonight. He has all kinds of work, but his "memory works" involve photoelectical manipulations of images that provides the kind of blur and mediation that we associate with memory. The movie file of Anonymous Photogaph of An Electrocution is a good example, fluctuating the "layer" of memory based on the vicissitudes of the power line over a specific day.

I'm not sure if a layer is enough, or if it's meaningful to represent loss by the additional opacity. That has more to do with obscuring than forgetting, maybe. But up for grabs, and maybe nothing to do with what he's getting at. I quite like the use of external dynamic systems to affect a frozen moment, especially one like the electric chair, and maybe that's plenty.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on November 11, 2003 12:53 AM

I changed careers a few months ago, from one that allowed me to be online all day long to one in which I am chained to a very physical, very offline station, cranking out plates and bowls of Ultimately Ephemeral Stuff.

Which is why I haven't been around much.

I had thought of documenting my tumble into the food world on a blog (duh) but, as you can see, I either haven't gotten around to it or the endeavor doesn't stand up to the "who cares?" test.

I do have a daily record of sorts at and/or in my disposal, though: a series of lists written on messed up paper, lists of items that have to be bought, recipes, receipts, phone numbers of distributors, to do lists, notes to self. But I really feel that to record it/post it/remember it publicly would somehow taint the purity of the original experience. Am I 100% in the moment or am I 80% in the moment, 20% staking out mental territory to blog the moment later?

Posted by: tmonkey on November 11, 2003 01:33 AM

we miss you, Irwin. I dreamed about the Wired issue last night, it arrived in a special limited edition packaging that included, for some reason, a working wintel system...

as to food memories, please post one to-do list.

Posted by: dbrown on November 11, 2003 09:33 AM

do kitchen schedule
prep for wok, noodle stations
soup stocks
pork belly -> sm hotel pan
beef stew -> brisket cubed
2 flats eggs (upstairs)
pork cubes
potatoes, carrots, daikon cubes for stew
3 chix deboned cubed
cut water spinach, wash
debone seabass
baby bok choy cut quarters
clean walk in
secure liquor

Posted by: tmonkey on November 11, 2003 10:50 PM

I miss Irwin.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on November 12, 2003 12:52 AM

Sorry this is going to be a long comment, but I had stored this text somewhere and it's no longer available as a link. Appropriately enough.

Computer-mad generation has a memory

Cherry Norton and Adam Nathan

GROWING numbers of people in their twenties and thirties are suffering from
severe memory loss because of increasing reliance on computer technology,
according to new research.

Sufferers complain they are unable to recall names, written words or
appointments, and in some cases have had to give up their jobs.

Doctors are blaming computer technology, electronic organisers and automatic
car navigation systems. They claim these gadgets lead to diminished use of
the brain to work out problems and inflict "information overload" that makes it
difficult to distinguish between important and unimportant facts.

A preliminary study of 150 people aged 20 to 35 has shown that more than
one in 10 are suffering from severe problems with their memory. Researchers
from Hokkaido University's school of medicine in Japan said the memory
dysfunction among the young required further investigation.

"They're losing the ability to remember new things, to pull out old data or to
distinguish between important and unimportant information. It's a type of brain
dysfunction," said Toshiyuki Sawaguchi, the university's professor of
neurobiology. "Young people today are becoming stupid."

One high-flying 28-year-old salesman treated by Dr Sawaguchi was forced to
give up his job when he found himself forgetting where he was going, who he
was supposed to be seeing or, when he finally got there, what he was selling.

Although no formal studies have been undertaken in Britain, experts are
increasingly recognising the problem. Professor Pam Briggs of Northumbria
University, who recently chaired a British Psychological Society symposium on
the effects of technology, said: "I think increased use of the internet and
computer technology is starting to have an effect. Everyday memory might be
at threat if you are using the computer as a kind of external memory."

Dr Takashi Tsukiyama, who runs a private clinic in Tokyo, said he had seen an
increase in severe memory problems. "In the past two years, more people in
their twenties and thirties have presented themselves with memory impairment,"
he said.

One sales assistant aged 28 said she suddenly found herself unable to recall
written words and was dismissed from her job. "Ageing affects the brain's
hardware, but errors may occur in the brain's 'software' that have nothing to do
with age but are related to someone's lifestyle, such as not using your brain
enough," said Tsukiyama.

Dr David Cantor, director of the Psychological Services Institute in Atlanta,
Georgia, who has treated patients for memory and attention problems for more
than 20 years, said: "Many experts believe information overload is making it
difficult for some people to absorb new information, as they have reached a
limit of what they can store in their brains. These people forget things because
they were too distracted to absorb them in the first place."

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on November 12, 2003 01:16 AM

"LifeLog is a program that steps towards that goal. The LifeLog Program addresses a targeted and very difficult problem: how individuals might capture and analyze their own experiences, preferences and goals. The LifeLog capability would provide an electronic diary to help the individual more accurately recall and use his or her past experiences to be more effective in current or future tasks."

all of which is cool until you hear the voice of who says all this.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on November 12, 2003 01:20 AM
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