LIVED DIALECTICS, MOVEMENT AND REST

LIVED DIALECTICS, MOVEMENT AND REST (1 & 2)

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

CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND

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

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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

RELATED TALKS

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

GROPIUS’ OFF-CUTS

GROPIUS’ OFF-CUTS

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.

LO SCARTO

LO SCARTO

‘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’ .

Elena

https://i1.wp.com/rockfluid.com/wp-content/uploads/20150414_160937web.jpg?w=900

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

NAVIGATION DIAGRAMS

NAVIGATION DIAGRAMS

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 PIECE
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
 
CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
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.
RELATED PUBLICATIONS:
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
mkgallery.org/events/2013_07_04/scratch_night/
rockfluid.com/navigation-diagrams
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
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

U VERRUZZE’ (BALANCING)

U VERRUZZE’ (BALANCING)

 

DOPPELGAENGER 7/27 March 2014

including drawings, sculptures and a textile installation

From the press release

Balancing is the second phase of a site specific project developed in the context Radio Materiality, curated by cultural association Vessel in Bari in the summer of 2013. For the latter, the artist engaged through dialogues with mums living and working in the city, instrumental for an investigation into the sociological aspect of the notion of trust. The dialogues, translated in a collection of sound documents, have been presented at the Athens Biennale in 2013. The second phase, brings various elements of the project together as a performative installation. The artist has realized ten custom made wooded spin tops with a graphite finished point. The spintop – in the local jargon ‘Virruzzo’ – better than any other object represents a tension towards an alterable balance, never still, just like the one between a mother and her own child. The public will be able to participate in the performance as a game, allowing the spintops to draw their journey down a fabric made slide Cologni will construct on the two flights of the staircase in the Gallery. The project Balancing is manifestation of, and search for, equilibrium at the same time. It points at a social realm in constant evolution, where that very balance becomes unstable and precarious. Within this context mothers act as axes of rotation for taking history forward in new terms

CONTEXT

Balancing is based on a series of dialogues between Elena Cologni and mothers based in Bari. The project’s research was part of Vessel’s curatorial and artistic process of investigation Radio Materiality, started in  2012. At the heart of this is the European Mediterranean area, with the geopolitical and social dynamics. The Apulia region, more specifically Bari, is the starting point for a dialogue expanding on notions of sameness, proximity, conflicts and distances. A project opening up through narratives and alternative self referential stories, other’s voices at times discordant with the dominating discourse: voices of women, mothers, migrants, and from diverse sexual orientation too. All of these define a multi-centric and fragmentary landscape. The radio thus becomes a metaphor for a collective of diverse voices from individuals. This happens within a process of re-appropriation of the discourse and the ‘word’ therein, the very concept of expressing oneself

PUBLICATIONS

Balancing (Catalogue),  Doppelgaenger Gallery, 2014

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.

The project was supported by Arts Council of England, and VESSEL, Bari. The exhibition has been sponsored by Carvico SPA (www.carvico.com)

more

GEOMEMOS

GEOMEMOS

is the outcome of a residency at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2009. The resulting drawings and related sculptures are based on various maps of the place, and mark the process to devise a route for the performance journey and those elements brought into the conversation, to generate an overlapping of physical and conceptual contexts. The one to one performances can therefore also be seen as the act of drawing in the landscape as artist and audience move through it. More details here.

 

Conversation drawings: possibilities, (graphite on paper, 35×50 cms)

stills form video documentation
Conversations (open) (series of 10, graphite on paper, 60 x 80 cms)
Conversations (open), balsa wood (series of 10, 6 x 15 cms)

Acknowledgements. Many Thanks to Oliver Brown for liaising with the participants and supporting the project throughout; to the participants: Anna, Angie, Alan, Jo, John, Jeremy, Lesley, Lewis, Libby, Sally; rickshaw: Francis.

Geomemos was awarded the Grants for the Arts and  supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, York Saint John University and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

 

RE-MOVED

RE-MOVED

2008, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow international 08, Glasgow

The installation was developed through the Creative Lab Residency (2006) and tested through open studios. Visitors were invited to engage with her through a one-to-one installation in which the audience actively participated in the construction of the work’s meaning, generating a collection of video portraits. This is a two way corridor structure for a one-to-one mediatised performative installation designed as a site specific by making sense of the history of the place and people it is presented to. The work’s meaning is constructed together with the audience’s participation in it. With the use of archival footage and video delays, it tries to capture people’s moment of self-awareness in the present, here constructed as layers of representation of time.

‘When we think of the present as what ought to be, it is no longer, and when we think of it as existing, it is already past…all perception is already memory’ (Henry Bergson, Matièr et mémoire, 166-167)

The work was based on research on the redevelopment of areas where once the Tenements Houses stood, the Gorbals area of Glasgow. They were taken down in the 80’s causing a tear in the city and collective memory. The research was carried out at the Scottish Screen Archive and Peoples Palace, were the installation was initially thought to be placed.

The final installation was presented at the Centre for Contemporary Art, part of the biannual Glasgow international 08, directed by Francis McKee

Structure and piece for CCA. The two way corridor structure shown in the pictures is for a one-to-one mediatised performative installation and is designed as a site specific by making sense of the history of the place and people it is presented to. The work’s meaning is constructed together with the audience’s participation in it.  The interaction over a period of 3 days and the information recorded and played back. These will be between 12-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, allowing for 4 people per hour (booking organised accordingly). The environment is an mdf/wood structure. Two small corridors of 1 x 2 mts each (2 mts high), the partition in the middle would have to raised from the floor of a couple of centimeters to allow for cabling to go through. The two corridors are: one for myself and one for a member of the public. We were sited in front of a screen connected to a camera recording and playing back our own delayed mirror image. At times this was  interfered by selected footage about collapsing/rising buildings in Glasgow (National Library of Scotland and Scottish Screen Archive kindly provided video footage). During the dialogue with a member of public I asked questions such as: what is memory? what are you looking at now? and they overlapped aspects of the past with their experience of the present.

Technical. The following equipment were used: 2 video cameras (high definition minidv), 2 monitors, 2 video delay systems, 1 dvr, 1 video switch, 1 video splitter. Microphones to record to cameras.

(installation view, stills from Scottish Screen Archive footage and video of participants)

“The recent experimentation of gaps, scotoma (in the visual field), apnea (of breathing), amnesia (gap in memory), time-gap (transmission), is introduced to allow the audience to participate in the event because, just like a spot on a blank page, we/audience fill it in with our brain/life experience/imagination. Process which, if contextualised in relation to the Baudrillian concept of punctum and the perceptual Kaniza effect (a perceptual gap is where the eye goes to compensate for a loss): it enables me to define a strategy for the creative process in which the designed perceptual lacuna asks to be filled in by audiences.  These are adopted, implied and experienced in my work in relation to the condition within which they happen: in liveness as site for continuous present, where performance art and live installation interchange take place. I specifically use various digital technologies postulating that continuous present can be constructed by perceiving reality as collapsed layers of its representations and time (i.e.: memory, live documentation). In the Mnemonic Present series, Apnea and Re-Moved for example making the audience aware of the passing of time as they are experiencing it (time gap in video), by being faced with an element of past experience in the present, allowed them to participate in its construction; this also mirrors the everyday life condition of relating to the world by referring to our memory archive in the perception of reality, and ourselves, in any given moment.”

(from 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)

 

further documentation

http://www.gsa.ac.uk/research/contemporary-art-curating/the-glasgow-miracle-materials-towards-alternative-histories/

http://www.glasgowmiraclearchives.org/individual/elena-cologni/

About Glasgow International

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

POLLEN FORECAST: ANEMOFILA

POLLEN FORECAST: ANEMOFILA

 

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)

THE PIECE
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.

CONTEXT

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 

http://www.karsi.com/sergi_detay.php?id=72

AKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

 

PUBLIC PRIVATE PERCEPTIONS

 

PUBLIC PRIVATE PERCEPTION 02

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.

THE PIECE

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.

CONTEXT

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.

PUBLICATIONS

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

EXTRACT

IMAGES OF KNOWING

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.

CLEAR AND WELL LIGHTED PLACES

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.”

MIND AND LIGHT TRICKS    

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.

FORGET ME NOT

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

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

METTERE OGNI SIGNIFICATO…

METTERE OGNI SIGNIFICATO SOTTO-SOPRA, DIETRO-DAVANTI, ALTO-BASSO

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.

THE PIECE

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.

CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND

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

PUBLICATIONS

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

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Soprintendenza alla Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

more here

ANCORA CERCA

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 PIECE

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

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

National Portrait Gallery, London

Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London