2016, site responsive drawing (indian ink and graphite on tracing paper)

# 1, dialogic site responsive action: MuseumsQuartier, Vienna courtyard 7, in front of AZW (2 facilitators + elastic band, variable duration)

#2, dialogic site responsive action: to walk from MuseumsQuartier, Vienna courtyard 7 (in front of AZW) to Burgtor/ Heldenplatz (2 facilitators + wooden strauctures + balloons, variable duration)

Curated by Walter Seidl und Gülsen Bal

Performance: 27 July 2016
Venue: stroll from MuseumsQuartier, Vienna courtyard 7 (in front of AZW) to Burgtor/ Heldenplatz

“…a pre-reflexive corporeal awareness manifested through everyday’s gestures and behaviors and typically in synch with the spatial and physical environment in which the action unfolds….bodily routines as contributing to the lived dimensions of place, including attachment grounded in habitual regularity…  the simple act of walking with its movement and rest patterns….”

more here


The work was developed during a residency at Q21, Museums Quartier, Vienna and produced by Q21 and Frei_Raum, Architekturzentrum Wienand MuseumsQuartier Wien, Austria.


Many thanks to Q21 director Elisabeth Hajek and to the support team: Lisa Ribar, Suchart Wannaset, Kai Trausenegger, score  interpreted by facilitators: Daliah Breit and Kaan Ertaylan, filming: Suchard Wannaset.

Frei_Raum, Architekturzentrum Wien and MuseumsQuartier Wien, Austria


Indisciplined, London LASER program of talks at University of the Arts London on the in(ter)disciplinary approach in my work, on 23 October 2016; London LASER is hosted by University of the Arts London (Central Saint Martins MA Art and Science) and University of Westminster (Imaging Art and Science programmes) and supported by LENS Community of Practice at UAL and CREAM at Westminster. LASER is a project of Leonardo® /ISAST (the International Society for Art, Science and Technology). London LASER is organised by Heather Barnett and co-chaired with John R A Smith.

more here , a webcast of talk is available here



in the exhibition ‘A Modernity Which Forgets’ Festival of Ideas, Cambridge 2015, and outcome of the project Gropius’ Impington.

Most of the research for the exhibition focused on the historical moment of the Chivers’ family farm and jam business funding the Gropius’ project by donating the land and paying for part of its design by the Bauhaus Architect, with the condition that the education programme would be open to its workers. In particular by looking for more information about who they might have been, it became apparent how such an important business in the interwar period attracted people from around the region, country as well as overseas. In a journal published by the Chivers’ business a series of anecdots form a picture of a community created around the business, the identity of each person defined by their position within it. The war was also inevitably cause of growth for the local population as evacuees from London and Europe found their home in Impington, some 7000 children were sent to leave London a portion of whom came to find a new home in the coutryside, and study in Impington. But a lot of the information about their identities is missing, from the historical archives, like mnemonic lacunae.

During the Cambridge Festival of Ideas (2015) the program Cologni devised Gropius’ Impington, modernism and power, art and the rural opens up a debate on the importance of the connection between people and places, and the construction of memory, cultural (monuments) and communicative memory (live interaction, Assman). According to Paul Connerton (2009) this connection may be institutionalised, as in the case of the memorial monuments, such as architecture, but it is in often apparently anonymous places, experienced through the individual’s and everyday’s bodily actions that the individual’s memory’s grid is founded. Through the memories that these places evoke the individual can domesticate the surrounding world. However, Modernity has imposed a frantic pace to the transformation of human environments. The result is that memorials and architecture last, but the common, anonymous places that are the individual’s loci of memory (Connerton 2009) are often altered beyond recognition. In particular, with the continuous process of urbanisation of the countryside, an abstract ideal of the rural is often nurtured by our memories of how familiar places used to be.

‘The paradox of a culture which manifests so many symptoms of hypermnesia and which yet at the same time is post-mnemonic is a paradox that is resolvable once we see the causal relationship between these two features. Our world is hypermnesic in many of its cultural manifestations, and post-mnenonic in the structures of the political economy. The cultural symptoms of hypermnesia are caused by a political-economic system which systemically generates a post-mnemonic culture – a Modernity which forgets.’

Gropius’ Offcuts, the sculptures as architecture off-cuts of unused spaces between the bay windows at the front of the Gropius building, occupy the space of a crouched body, and are moved around the site, as from her drawings.

Cologni’s response is symbolically in memory of all people whose nomadic way of living inevitably shows paradoxes like cherishing their memories, while also erasing part of them to make room for new ones in the encounter of a new place.

more here

Acknowledgements. This residency and project is being supported by: Impington Village College, The East Anglian Film Archive, Cambridge Central Library Special Collections, Chivers’ Pensioners Association Histon and Impington Viallage Association, CIAN University of Cambridge, Cambridge Festival of Ideas, funded through the Arts Council of England Grants for the Arts scheme.



‘We tend to go through places without inhabiting them. The project tries to offer people the opportunity to understand that the space between us, as well as that around us, and its history belong to us, even if we inhabit them only for a short amount of time. The awareness of one’s own identity in relation to one’s own place must be cherished and nurtured’ .


40 sculptures for hands (7 x 12/15 cm) + 10 drawings (28 x 35 cm)  + 10 wooden studs (240 x 6 x 4 cm) + workshops



more details here

related publication

Cologni, E., ‘Reciprocal Maieutics: An Approach For The Artist As Interface In Intercultural Society’ (2015), in International Handbook of Intercultural Arts Research, London, New York, Routledge Publishing


Acknowledgements. Funded by Unesco and European funding through IArt, supported by: CLAC, Museo Civico Selinuntino and Comune of Castelvetrano Selinunte, CRESM, Belice Epicentro della Memoria Viva Gibellina, la Rete Museale e Naturale Belicina, Liceo Classico Giovanni Pantaleo and the ‘Akkademia del Teatro Selinus, as well as all people who gave their time, passion, dedication, culture and experience thus activating the exchange vital for the realization of the project



2013, site specific performative outdoor installation (100×100 cm x variable, 14 sculptures, plywood, caster wheels, solid wood)
MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, curator Simon Wright
The public is provided with a set of parameters and props to navigate the space opposite the gallery. One word on each platform from the sentence:
is    city    a    place    for    trust       is     trust    a    place    in   the    city
Navigation Diagrams, is    city    a    place    for    trust       is     trust    a    place    in   the    city (19×21 cm, graphite and ink on paper + inkjet print)
Trust is also a central issue in participatory projects based on dialogic approaches. The public is provided with 14 unbalanced platforms to navigate the space opposite the gallery. Their action in space and interaction with each other create meanings within the context. The exercise creates the physical and psychological conditions to enhance an awareness of the perception the body in space and interaction of the participants with each other to create meanings within the given context. Cologni was here introduced by Caterina Albano.
see the related documentation on vimeo
This is the final outcome or a series after a period of interaction with the people of Milton Keynes within the umbrella production project rockfluid. In the project (from a residency at the) Faculty of Experimental Psychology at Cambridge University, memory is considered in its ‘fluid’ and ‘solid’ states, as Dr Lisa Saksida suggests referring to the recollection of events. Memory in its archival state would be solid, and, when in the process of resurfacing would be fluid.
In this sense this transitional quality of memory can be a metaphor of Cologni’s way of working, as she considers art in a similar way, neither only matter related, nor only ephemeral: its manifestations can vary and feed into each other.
In RockFluid the artistic activities aim at looking at how places influence the way we remember and who we are. This includes a series of interconnected tours, map drawings, urban interventions, in different places in and outside the UK. Dealing with the relationship among perception, personal and social memory, and various ways of understanding place, it has involved the public throughout in the making and delivering of its outcomes.
Calvi, L. (2013) A Performance-based Approach For Interactions In Public Spaces, volume 10, issue 2, November, Participation, Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, NHTV University of Applied Sciences, Breda, The Netherlands.
MK Calling, Catalogue, MK gallery, 2013
Supported by MK Gallery, University of Hertfordshire, School of Art, funded by Grants for the Art, Arts Council England, produced by rockfluid, documentation credits: MK Gallery and Charlotte Nichol



2012, at Wysing Arts Centre, curated by Elionor Morgan with participants (here Becky, Elionor, Elisabeth) event of exhibition Wysing Arts Contemporary: Recollect 

Helena Blaker in coversation with Elena Cologni at Wysing Arts Centre

2012, MK Gallery, Curator Simon Wright

2013, Bergamo Scienza, Italy,  in conversation with Caterina Albano


This event is based on the multidisciplinary approach of Elena Cologni’s current project Rockfluid, where site specific art practice is underpinned by elements of geography, cognitive psychology and philosophy.

To walk through places involves kinaesthesia, memory and our awareness of where we are in any given present moment. SPA(E)CIOUS is a form of collaborative peripatetic practice, where produced and shared knowledge informs the artist’s  creative process. For participants, it creates the physical and psychological conditions to enhance an awareness of the perception – and illusion – of time and space in the present. Cologni inserts a variable element of interference in our experience, which varies every time Spa(e)cious takes place (e.g. an unstable platform). As the series develops from this, a dialogue with art critic  and film maker Helena Blaker also shapes the contextualisation of the outcomes.

Consciousness Literature and the Arts Conference, University of Lincoln, 2013



First presented at, How Performance Thinks Conference in 2012 (PSi Performance and Philosophy working group and Kingston University Practice Research Group), as a practical investigation of overlapping aspects of Philosophy and Psychology with Art, it was then presented in Art Museums and Gallery as well as a hybrid format.

SPA(E)CIOUS, is one of the outcomes of the project ROCKFLUID. This develops from a residency at the Faculty of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge (since March 2011), with a collaboration with scientist Lisa Saksida, with whom Elena shared a research interest in the relationship between memory and
perception. The dialogue evolved and is highlighted by open events in front of an audience (e.g. Science Festival 2011, Science Festival 2012 chaired by Caterina Albano), to inform the artist’s creative process


Cologni, E., SPA(E)CIOUS PRESENT, Dynamics of collective and individual experiences of space and duration within specious present, adopting technologies for enhancing audience engagement, while producing forms
of documentation, in ed. Julia Minors, How Perfomance Thinks conference-performance-thinks-proceedings


Arts Council England

University of Cambridge





Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding #3, 2005, video live installation (3 projectors + 1 live video feed+ 2 video delay video feed + 3 screens + paper + 2 trestles) Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo

This is one of the 2 versions of the piece presented in 9 venues, and part of the project PRESENT MEMORY AND LIVENESS IN DELIVERY AND RECEPTION OF VIDEO DOCUMENTATION DURING PERFORMANCE ART EVENTS, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and conducted as post doctoral Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London.


action: I fold the paper, stop, recollect and describe places I lived in

projections: the three live projections are live feed with a progression of 8 second delay


…. #3 was presented and supported by Alessandro Rabottini and presented by Giacinto di Pietrantonio, then Director of the GAMeC Museum, who stated

‘Her work, combining various techniques and artistic practices, aims at analyse the relationship between memory and past not only through the use of the sense of sight, but also trying to stimulate the multiplicity of the senses of our body, referring to the totality of the human being. A human being looking for the sense of life within the places of life, places activated or re-activated through art. In this sense, she belongs to that thread of research proposed by artists like Bruce Nauman, whom, in the relationship technique-body-action-psyche, wants to understand the the essence of beings within a world where there is the need to reactivate archaic energies and react to the superficial society of spectacle’


Performance Transcript (translation from Italian)

The spoken text (as is all following italics) alternates with the action:

the main entrance with a glass door and steel, the yellow glass door

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

As I walk in on the right a staircase two flights

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

Walking up the stairs, on the right a door to the bedrooms, through the door on the left a bedroom, on the right another one, on the left the bathroom and in front of me a bedroom

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

With an orange carpet, two beds very low in relation to this massive white wardrobe with golden reliefs

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

That wardrobe, before going to bed at night, would get enormous and I had the impression of it being like a wideangled photograph falling over me, it isn probably just a dream, and not even so

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

My bed was next to the window, my sister’s close to the door

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

Norsi Isola D’elba

At the top of the stairs a door to the left, as I walk in on the right the living room

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

Where the was a sofabed on the right the television, a table in the middle, a small balcony in front of it, then going tot eh left a room with two ..beds, three of us used to sleep in there

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

Walking out of our room on the left there was a bathroom and ahead my parents’ room with awindow onto the balcony with a beautiful seaview

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

77th Street Upper East Side

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

A three floor townhouse, walking in there is a staircase in front going tot the first floor, on the right hand side the entrance door,

As I walk in there is a large empty space, a folding bed in the corner, in front of me a door tp a bedroom without the bed and there is a bathroom,

on the left of this room  there is a bowindow connected to the upper floor from where you can look down

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

This large room have green walls and to walk up to the upper floor one has to go out and walk up stairs where there is another big room which I believe is now the living room

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

I can’t remember the walls’ colour

Entering through the main door of the upper floor in front of it there is the kitchen,

a lot of space, my own space is tiny

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

Lincoln Square

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

A very tall building, as I walk in I go straight to the elevator andto the 8th floor, out of the elevator: on the right the main door, walking in on the left the very small kitchen with things I don’t know  and in front the living room with a sofabed and a table for eating

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

On the left, no on the right of the hallway there is a bedroom with roughly half a metre around the bed and on the left…. there is the bathroom with shower curtains with  ehhm… the shower has got a transparent plastic shower curtains with little fish and sea waves

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

Warren Street, Warren Street

A five floor townhouse with no lift, as I walk in the staircase is… red carpeted, walking up to the fifth floor, the door on the right, very small corridor, the first door on the left is the, the first on the right is a studio and bedroom,the second on the right is my bedroom, in i ton the left there is a fitted wardrobe with no doors, but a curtain hiding what’s behind, on the right a comfortable bed, and two windows overlooking the street, very noisy, walking out there is a living room with a kitchen

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

…a little old

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides

Going back to my room from the living room and on the left there is a bookcase and two stones: one is a quartz and the other has got a blur which looks like a sunflower

Action: folding the stripe of paper from either sides



Arts and Humanities Research Council (Grant for Creative and Performing Arts)




video live installation, 2016 (10 mnts, canvas + pigment + minidv + sound system)

Territories of Duration, Karsi Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey 22 June – 19 July 2006
(with Cengiz Tekin, Dilek Winchester, Elena Cologni, Genco Gülan, Karl Ingar Røys, Nasan Tur, Shezad Dawood, Sophia Kosmaoglou, Turan Aksoy, curator Gulsen Bal)

A long stripe of elastic cloth draws an arch in the performance space, the lowest part being kept off the floor, hanging from the opposite sides of the ceiling. In the middle of the space, on the floor beneath the white material a stripe of yellow powder. The artist abandons herself onto the canvas till this touches the floor and rolls on it, so that the canvas picks up the yellow dust as this continues. A background voice tell about recent research done on the origin of pollen on the holy shroud and its journey from Palestine, Turkey through Europe. There is no religious statement behind the work, but a conscious decision to work on traces of the roots of the artist’s culture, in an almost distant and detached way. And yet, by enacting such piece, the artist wants to find herself in the position of the person leaving a trace of a journey. Even if it’s a 15 minutes one. The technology employed allows the audience to view close ups of the action from viewpoints that the artist has selected. One of which is the artist’s own.

extract from the text in the installation:

The plants whose pollen is transported by wind are said to have “anemofila” pollination, and produce a higher quantity of pollen if compared to the species called “entomofile”, whose pollen is transported by insects. On the shroud there are better possibilities to find anemofilo pollen type than the entomofilo type. A study was conducted on the intrinsic characteristics of pollen including: dimension, shape and weight, and also the ones coming from plants of single territorial zones and their anemofilo aspect thus determining speed, direction and periodicity of winds. Once those information were collected, the next step was to compare the samples of the pollen taken form the shroud using special masking tapes. Two fundamental considerations are to be made: numerous entomofili type pollen typical from Palestine, Anatolia are present; whereas less numerous are the anemofili type pollen coming from central Europe. The results confirmed though, that the journey was from Palestine to Anatolia and Europe: Jerusalem 33, Constantinople 944, Lerey 1353, Chambery 1453, Turin 1578.


The project curator Gulsen Bal brings forward artist responses by asking where borders and in-between spaces exist in trans-local and/or trans-national boundaries in re-locating European space in order to delineate dynamic answers to static structures.

In this context Territories of Duration explores the temporary mediation systems with its practical ramifications where the new ways of being in the world are re-read to follow unfamiliar routes by questioning ‘difference of identity’ and ‘difference’ which inhibits transitional interactions, and therefore it aims to create a cross-border dialogue at existential territorial boundaries within an interdisciplinary artistic approach.

For this group exhibition, Cengiz Tekin, Dilek Winchester, Elena Cologni, Genco Gülan, Karl Ingar Roys, Nasan Tur, Shezad Dawood, Sophia Kosmaoglou and Turan Aksoy have been invited to present works addressing the questions of new European space and articulation of re-building geographies.

related article Negotiating the In-Between? Karen Edwin, 19 July 2006 on MUTE





action 1out of 3(1’36”), 3 stills from DVD, 30×40 each;
London 2004.

part of the exhibition LA POLVERE NELL’ARTE,
Curator Elio Grazioli,
Assab One, Milan, Italy,
July 2004 with artists:





2002, video live installation (1 live feed projection, one video projection) in solo show at neon campobase, Bologna, based on a previous version took place at Toynbee Studios, London.


I explore the environment through touch, while being blindfolded, focusing on the possible new connections between touch and absence of vision, and associate a tactile sensation to colours, thus mapping the place. On show is one projection of a prerecorded action taken place in London, opposite to one projection of a live action taking place in a separate room.


The overall context investigated in the work is the relationship body-environment: how this influences my perception of myself in delivering a piece. I believe that the awareness of the bodily experience (here through touch) of the environment enables me to reposition my self within a particular place. The apprehension is subject to the changing conditions of the context; from the juxtaposition of present and past action the space/time in between seems to arise as a possible answer.


The surfaces present certain characteristics that I try to visualise with my eyes blindfolded, and by saying colours I draw a map, neurological as well as one that indicates urban places.

The audience simultaneously in two projections perceives the two dimensions a relationship between two representations of myself in different dimensions of time and space takes place.


Cologni, E., ed. Public Private Perception 02, texts by Malcolm Le Grice, Marina Wallace, Elio Grazioli



by Marina Wallace

“I came to the fields and spacious palaces of memory, where are the treasures of innumerable images, brought into it from things of all sorts perceived by the senses. There are stored up,….either by enlarging or diminishing,…those things which the sense hath come to. ”

St Augustine, Confessions (357-400AD)

In response to the body of work and related research that comprises Elena Cologni’s video/live installation, “Public Private Perceptions” (2001-2002) – (originally performed at the Toynbee Theatre in London on 21st of October 2001, and presented by the artist at the PARIP symposium at the University of Bristol, 10-11 November 2001 as a paper entitled ‘Private action becoming public. A practical investigation on the performer’s reactions to the environment’) – I shall reflect on memory, and consider its complex relationship with the five senses, particularly vis-à-vis images and vision. The subject is vast, and much has been written on it. Here, I only propose to offer some reflections, thinking about one of the crucial advances of the last century: the use of photography in art and in life.

Our memory of the visual world is fed by a wealth of images that populate our visual field. Some of these images are projections of “live” and “real” things, of the three-dimensional “moving” objects that occupy our world; some are two-dimensional renderings of “life”, they are transcriptions of the “real world” produced in various graphic forms and by different media, such as painting, film, and photography. Our emotional and psychological responses to two-dimensional images are quite different from those we have when looking at three-dimensional images. Equally, we react differently in front of moving or still images. Post-modern writing on the history and theory of photography and film, which had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, epitomised by Roland Barthes and Laura Mulvey, deconstructed the two related forms of art in relation to our perceptions, using, as a point of reference, psycho-analytical theories, from Sigmund Freud to Jacques Lacan. Here, I should like to proceed from premises that are more connected with the neuro-sciences, with our every day experiences, and with the artist’s point of view, than with the much cited post-constructivist writings on art theory.


The common vocabulary now used to describe the operations of our minds is closely related to the terminology used for film and video, and, of course, computers. We “focus” on things, life events and their objects are “viewed”- sometimes in a “distorted” way – and they are “recorded” in our minds, “stored” up in our memory, and we “access” them by “scanning” our “mental filing system”. These terms give us the impression of being fully in control of what may seem an ordered and systematic process. However, as the neuro-scientist Antonio Damasio observed, “only a fraction of what goes on mentally is really clean enough and well lit enough to be noticed, and yet it is there, not far at all, and perhaps available if only you try.”[1] This “trying” is what forms so much of our wakefulness, and it is aided by an array of visual devices.

The “trying” was different in ancient times, in a world without printing, film, television or computers, when “artificial memory” techniques were used to aid the art of rhetoric (at least since Cicero’s time), and were linked to ideals of ethics and prudence. Memory was deemed to be a natural gift, that could be assisted by the especially constructed “art of memory”, a system based on a few rules, but requiring a great deal of exercise. [2] Within the particular context of a classical world, a world without an advertising industry based on a world-wide mass production of manipulated images, words themselves were considered to be highly important social and political tools, and had to be memorised. The “art of memory” was devised for this specific purpose. Martianus Capella, a pagan orator writing around 450 AD about the benefits of this newly formed art, stated that its great advantage was that it enabled words and things to be grasped quickly and firmly. Martianus distinguished between “memory for things, and memory for words”. However important, words were not always to be memorised, as this was felt to be a demanding skill for the human mind “Unless there is plenty of time for meditation, it will be sufficient to hold the ‘things’ themselves in memory, particularly if the memory is not naturally good.”[3]

 Image result for Day with the genius of light, Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1815, marble, Thorvaldsen Museum,

ILLUSTRATION: Day with the genius of light, Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1815, marble, Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen

It is interesting to note that metaphors used in the 21st century to describe consciousness, are not dissimilar to those used in ancient days to describe memory. Damasio talks of “clear and well lit images”[4]. Useful rules for artificial memory, in classical times, included the visualisation of “well lighted places” (locis illustribus), filled with “images of things” (species rerum) and “striking agents” (imagines agentes), such as a memorable (human) figure in an unusual pose. Cicero speaks of images as “active” and “sharply defined”, setting them within what we can visualise in our modern minds as a sort of photographic studio:

“One must employ a large number of places which must be well lighted, clearly set out in order, at moderate intervals apart, and images which are active, sharply defined, unusual, and which have the power of speedily encountering and penetrating the mind.” Cicero, De Inventione…..

Damasio, writing about the extension of “core consciousness”, to which he refers as “extended consciousness”, describes two “tricks” which aid its emergence and storage:

“The first trick requires the gradual build up of memories of many instances of a special class of objects: the ‘objects’ of the organism’s biography, of our own life experience, as they unfolded in our past, illuminated by core consciousness. Once autobiographical memories are formed, they can be called up whenever any object is being processed. Each of those autobiographical memories is then treated by the brain as an object, each becoming an inducer of core consciousness, along with the particular non-self object that is being processed. ….The second trick consists of holding active, simultaneously and for a substantial amount of time, the images whose collection defines the autobiographical self and the image which defines the object. The reiterated components of the autobiographical self and the images whose collection defines the autobiographical self and the object are bathed in the feeling that arises in core consciousness.”


Thinking of objects and images that may aid the recall of our autobiographical self, it seems that photographs can be best suited at performing the second “trick” that Damasio describes: they hold active, simultaneously, and for a substantial amount of time the images whose collection may define the autobiographical self. However photographs are not images inside our brains. On the contrary, they are two-dimensional graphic devices, external to our minds, which portray reality in a convincing and illusionary manner, giving us only the impression of viewing our past, or the past of our friends and relatives.

ILLUSTRATION: black & white photograph of two children by an old well

However, photographs re-enter our consciousness in a process of psychological displacement, common also to painting, film, and now computer-generated images. Family photographs shape our own views of events, past and present. In the process of replacing the memories of our childhood or past events, they also take the place of the “well lighted” places with orderly objects, which the ancients recommended we should create in our own minds in order to remember. Furthermore, press and other publicly used photographs shape our expectations of every day social and political events. Images and, in particular, photographic images, have a power that has been well-explored and widely recognised.

The emergence of photography as an “art” caused much debate in academic circles in the 19th century. From its beginnings, photography shaped the standards and expectations of artists. Those training in art in Europe and the USA in the 1860s were aware of the fact that established painters made use of photography. Nevertheless, debates about the possible relationship between photography and painting raged on. Deeply rooted prejudices were set against the appeal of photography’s aesthetic qualities, and its applications in art. Questions were raised about the relationship between artistic talent or genius, and academic skill in observation, above all recollection (the memory and mental record of the seen), composition, and drawing. Thus, whilst the increasingly common use of photography by painters in the 19th century was widely recognised, it was rarely condoned unreservedly.

The greatest trick of all in the game of visual remembering, “drawing with light”, was received with scepticism and, for a long time, it caused much controversy, as it does, paradoxically, even now through David Hockney’s famous attempts to relate the use of optical devices by artists to their creative skills and artistic production.

The relatively straight forward implications of resorting to using two-dimensional photographic or projected images for the purpose of aiding our visual memory, has been buried under mountains of theoretical and technical explanations. It would be worth taking one step back to reflect upon what the ancients were formulating and envisaging. The “well lighted places”, with ordered objects and significant figures in unusual poses, could be paralleled to many of the images which we can now print and view outside of our minds. Without falling into the trap of creating equivalent amounts of theory in a different direction, I should simply like to point out that, looking at a three-dimensional, “real”, moving section of reality (the real world), is a very different business, psychologically, from looking at a still, two-dimensional printed image. Artists who paint, draw, or make art from a projected image or from a photograph, distance themselves intentionally from the “real” world, from its many stimuli, thus reducing and selecting the stimuli for the purpose of a more focussed representation of the visual experience as it is remembered and recorded by the senses. Vision, only one of the senses, is correlated by the other four senses, and smell, touch, hearing, and taste contribute to the images we create in our minds more than we immediately realise or concede. (Homer’s exquisite poetic sensitivity was focussed not least by his proverbial lack of sight.)

The “tricks” of extended consciousness, analysed by neuro scientists, and those which the ancients devised to aid and extend memory, ensure that the complex and fundamental functions performed by our minds are retained and used again.

Elena Cologni’s “tricks” of her artistic activity include performing her relatively simple actions blind-folded, repeating her performances in different environments, switching perceptions, and alternating between private and public spaces, conceptually swapping places with the audience. Her work reflects a preoccupation with mental processes linked to cognition, vision and touch. She is interested in the contribution of all the senses to vision. Her action and project of a video installation in two parts,‘…going to the bedroom from the dining room’ (April 2001) and ‘…going to the rear garden from the side entrance’ (May 2001), represents her way of “apprehending a part of the domestic space”. She controls her perceptions and stimuli by controlling the environment in which these take place. “The background is almost silent, the visual space tightly shot. I wanted to record the tactile sensation of these places with the aim both of remembering and encountering them for the first time.”

She often performs in front of a mirror, and treats the lens literally as a reflective surface (applying her morning make-up in front of the camera lens, simultaneously recording her own image electronically and mentally). Her special interest in synaesthesia – the particular condition according to which some individuals have a multi-sensory experience as a reaction to different stimuli – derives from her autobiographical memories of her childhood (to which she refers in her work in the form of a diary). Synaesthesia, which is found to be common in babies, gives way to more specialised and exclusive sensory perceptions as the cervical cortex develops. In some individual adults, sensory perceptions continue to “blend”, and they go through life attributing smells to shapes, colours to sounds, or shapes to words. Since the art of memory relies on skills of association, often across the senses, it shares much in common with synesthetic experiences – as, for instance, when we associate a particular smell or taste with a particular sight or sound.

Cologni’s autobiographical self is defined both in relation to perceptions of a synaesthetic kind, and to the physical space that surrounds her. Her “mental maps” – her actions and video/live performances – contribute to reveal how very complex and articulated mind processes are. The surfaces the artist touches blindfolded in her attempt to recall different sensations appear to be  irregular, porous, and rough. “Blind-folded, I try and visualise these surfaces.  Calling out names of colours, I create a drawing which both is a neurological map, and a map which points to a physical space.”

During one of her live performances, she showed a video of herself at home. To her private image, projected in public, she added the projection of a coloured screen as a marker of perception. “Exploring the environment through the sense of touch with my hands and keeping my eyes covered, I register the information of the space which was, until then, known to me only through sight. I associate a colour to a tactile sensation, in two different situations: at home, without an audience, and in the theatre, in front of an audience.”

In a way, Cologni’s autobiographical video image is treated, by the artist, on a par with her actual presence in the performance space. Each recording, and each performance, adds to the store of images of herself and of her experience of self. Elena Cologni’s diary, which is directly related to her performance work, includes present memories of her past childhood, recent interpretations of what may have been her actual past memories. A wardrobe in the artists’ childhood bedroom is remembered as if it had been viewed through a wide-angle lens. The image becomes “stored” amidst other “archival” images of her past. However the sum of the artist’s performances and video recordings, as well as of the extracts from her personal diary, do not add up to a final and ultimate knowledge of self. As in the case of the human brain, the information is not stored for later retrieval, but what is remembered is continually changed by new learning, and new connections. The visual archive is complemented by new visual and sensory experiences. Thus memory is actively and continuously at work.


Themistocles is supposed to have refused to learn the art of memory by saying that he preferred “the science of forgetting” to that of remembering. His contemporaries warned him against the risk of not exercising the newly conceived “art of memory”. Once invented, this art could not be forgotten.

In a similar way, once someone has seen a photograph, and realised how it is made, they cannot forget photography. So compelling has the photograph become in our minds as a trace of a past time that our view of memory itself has been transformed. We instinctively sense that the fixing of the image is akin to an act of memory. In fact, the acts are basically dissimilar. They share a certain level of selectivity, but the photograph nowhere comes close to the extraordinary plasticity of memory as the object becomes transformed in form and meaning, both as it is laid down and as it is later recalled.

Through two-dimensional images, which are placed outside the artist’s minds, and through actions and words, performed and spoken by the artist and by her interlocutors, Elena Cologni is in a continuous process of construction and re-construction of memorable events, judiciously joining life and art, movement and stillness: “My work is the result of my instinctive interest in understanding the importance, the symbolism, and the limits of the sense of sight.”

Memory and forgetfulness, seeing and not-seeing alternate in a seamless process which moves from life to art, and back again. In this process, remember to keep the camera rolling…and do not forget to turn on the lights…


[1] Antonio Damasio, The feeling of what happens, Body, emotions, and the making of consciousness., London, 2000, p. …?

[2] Frances Yates, The Art of Memory, London, 1996

[3] ibid. p. 64

[4] Antonio Damasio, The feeling of what happens, Body, emotions, and the making of consciousness., London, 2000, p.129

neon campobase, Bologna
London Underground
University of the Arts, London



video live installation, 2006 (typewriter+ tracing paper+ videocamera+ 2 projectors + live delay system)

in Dissertare/Disertare, curators Associazione START, Gaia Cianfanelli & Caterina Iaquinta, at Centro Internazionale per l’Arte Contemporanea, Castello Colonna di Genazzano, Roma, June/September 2006

Artists:  Elisabetta Alberti, Alessandra Andrini, Elisabeth Aro, Atrium Project, Fabrizio Basso,  Sara Basta,  Bianco&Valente, Annalisa Cattani, Silvia Cini, Elena Cologni, Francesca Cristellotti, Simona Di Lascio, Christine De La Garenne, Simonetta Fadda, Mariana Ferratto, Valentina Glorioso, Ulrike Gruber, Alice Guareschi, Goldiechiari, Koroo, Lorenza Lucchi Basili,  Sabrina Marotta, Libera Mazzoleni, Amanda McGregor, Dessislava Mineva, Motaria, Sabrina Muzi, Sandrine Nicoletta, Valentina Noferini, Anita Timea Oravecz, Paola Paloscia, Benedetta Panisson, Laurina Paperina, Arianna Pecchia Ramacciotti, Chiara Pergola, Luana Perilli, Maria Vittoria Perrelli, Michela Pozzi, Giada Giulia Pucci, Moira Ricci, Cloti Ricciardi, Francesca Riccio, Fiorella Rizzo, Stefania Romano, Anna Rossi, Ivana Russo, Nika Rukavina, Erica Sagona, Lucrezia Salerno, Guendalina Salini, Maria Salvati, Monica Stemmer, Federica Tavian, Adriana Torregrossa,  Francesca Tusa, Sophie Usurier,  Marta Valenti, Marcella Vanzo, Anna Visani,  Elisa Vladilo, Cristina Zamagni.


Sitting down at one end of the bridge I write on a piece of paper as long at the whole bridge (about 30 meters), using a typewriter. I transcribe from my breastfeeding diary recordings, reawakening memories of the attachment to my baby back then. The live video is played back through two projections indoors: one is live and the other is delayed by 8 seconds.

The piece refers to my interest the time in live documentation of performance, its reception and processes of memory construction.


(the curators referring to the project in the book below)


Jill Fields (2012), Entering the Picture: Judy Chicago, The Fresno Feminist Art Program, and the Collective Visions of Women Artists, Routledge, page 303



Soprintendenza alla Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

more here




2003, video live installation, Performance Art as Practice in Research (PARIP, Bristol University 2003), also in Border Crossing (with Ingar Roys and Gulsen Bal), Galley X Istanbul, and ‘Fra Autoritratto e Percezione di sé , neoncampobase, Bologna (with Alessandra Andrini, Luca Barzaghi, Anna Valeria Borsari, Emilio Fantin, Flavio Favelli, Maurizio Finotto, Horatio Goni, Alice Guareschi, Ulrike Gruber, Mala, Eva Marisaldi, Maurizio Mercuri, Dörte Meyer, Sabrina Mezzaqui, Lorenzo Missoni, Sandrine Nicoletta, Susanna Scarpa, Sabrina Torelli, Maurizio Vetrugno, Cesare Viel)


‘Tracing’, was performed as follows:

Action – I draw the shadow that my body casts onto tracing paper, on the floor, I position each sheet from the pile in a fan shaped arrangement. 1st projection – live recording of a detail of the action: my hands drawing the shadow. 2nd projection -video with sound (also in Italian and overlapped), extract: ‘The supplement adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence. It cumulates and accumulates presence. It is thus that art, techné, image, representation, convention, etc, come as supplements to nature[…] Unlike the complement, dictionaries tell us, the supplement is an “exterior addition”’.[1] supplement, added feature, addendum, addition, additive, appendix, bell, codicil, complement […] tracing, copy, duplicate, archetype, carbon, carbon copy, cast, clone, counterfeit, counterpart, ditto, ectype, effigy, ersatz, facsimile, forgery […]

My hands were drawing the contour of the shadow my body was casting onto the paper. I was  constantly re-inventing the line as the body moved following the hands’ movement. It is not possible to trace one’s own shadow, and therefore it is not possible to document the movement of one’s own body while doing it.

[1] Derrida, J., Of Grammatology, tr Gayatri Spivak, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1978, pp. 144-145


The intervention at PARIP was titled ‘Tracing’. It was conceived to address the impossibility of fixing a moment in time (Derrida) and referred directly to the production of documents for research purposes. Amelia Jones states (in the live event) that the self is inexorably embodied, and yet she argues that the works suggest that this does not mean that the performed body/self is ever completely legible or fixed in its effects. ‘Body art, through its very performativity and its unveiling of the body of the artist, surfaces the insufficiency and incoherence of the body/self (or the body-as-subject) and its inability to deliver itself fully (whether to the subject-in-performance herself or himself or to the one who engages with this body).’

Derrida called the problematic of ‘the trace’ what splits seemingly identical reflections. He attributed the trace to the memory of an ever-receding origin that always remains elusively outside of what it produces in the present. The temporal spacing of the trace never leads to spatial simultaneity and full visibility, but rather to interminable delay (diffèrance as deferral). [1]


1- Cologni, E., That spot in the ‘moving picture’ is you, (perception in time-based art), ed. John Freeman. Blood, Sweat & Theory: Research through Practice in Performance  Libri Publishing, London, 2010, pp. 83-107


Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London, Practice as Research In Performance : 2001/2006


1999, site specific mediatised performance, National Portrait Gallery, London (still from one out of eight cameras recordings)

Eight channel Installation at Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, Brescia 2002, Curator Enrico Depascale


The screen of the monitors is a meeting point for myself artist and audiences in this following work, marked by a continuous change of position from in front and behind it. In the making of the piece Ancora Cerca, I was able to experiment with cctv systems, issues of documentation and time as well as self-representation.  The work was performed at National Portrait Gallery, NPG, London 12-14 March 1999 and presented  as an 8-monitor video installation at the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo in Brescia, Italy, between the 6 and 24 April 2002. For this piece I worked with the existing video security system of the gallery. After having done some research on the ideal location for the performance within the space, I looked at the monitors to which the video-cameras would send the captured video information and made notes.

Cologni, E.,

Floor plans of the top floor of the NPG with notes for production, 1999

‘…room 17-cam.24 -coming from18-stop between sculpture and entrance-watch camera; room 19- cam25 – stop watch camera between glass case and sculpture; room21-cam26 – standing behind sculpture watching camera; room 22-cam 28- walking from 21 in the middle and out; room 18- sitting on sofa…’.  This enabled me to visualise the space from the viewpoint of the cameras – the space I would physically enter while performing. The performance took place on the 12th of March, the recording of it from the documentation on the 14th.

12 March – performance: I would stage an encounter with the warden watching the surveillance monitors in the NPG, by walking towards it and watching the video-camera of each chosen room. As I address the camera in each room, I become a ‘picture’ in the gallery, yet the camera, fantasised as the Gaze of the Other is also, as it were, ‘pictured’ as the spectator sees me imaging what it is seeing and giving myself the things I lack and are looking for (meaning of ancora cerca).

14 March – video recording: I went back two days after (as required by the gallery for security reasons) and played back the tapes that were stored. I was surprised to find that the system reduced the footage by half, so that not all frames were kept. As a result the quality of the recording was poor. However, I placed the video camera in front of the screen to record the half an hour of the performance from each of the monitors: the recording of the action went through a number of filters. In the resulting video, the viewers see the evidence of the performance through the ‘eye’ of these surveillance cameras, that have videoed me walking from room to room barefoot, clad in a beige dress, and evoking a romantic spirit of the gallery by carrying a red rose. The spectators, at this stage positioned as the camera when watching the surveillance video or see stills from it, are pictured by myself as I look at the camera. The spectators project what I might have seen from my vantage point in the gallery space.  In this gallery dedicated to the construction of identity through picturing it, this performance makes the deep structures of that identity construction emerge, so we all become aware of how much both the artist and the spectator never fully or comfortably, inhabit the illusory space of identification.

Cologni, E. That spot in the ‘moving picture’ is you, (perception in time-based art), in Blood, Sweat & Theory: Research through Practice in Performance  ed. John Freeman, Libri Publishing, London, 2010, pp. 83-107


National Portrait Gallery, London

Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London