Video artist Lincoln Schatz‘s vision of a better world would be one where we could SHARE BRAINS. Trippy. In ‘The self and the future’ philosopher Bernard Williams looks at whether having the same body is enough to be the same person when your personality has been transplanted with someone else’s. If ever it did become possible to swap brains, I wonder exactly how much of a correlation there would be between our memory and personality and our physical brain. But what bothers me the most about all of this is the question as to whether Nick Griffin would still be a racist mofo if we swapped his brain with Nelson Mandela‘s for a while. And what would happen to poor Nelson…
I read somewhere that our cultural perceptions of memory are often linked to the technology of archiving and communication. When it was pen and paper, memories were talked of as being inscribed into the brain, in a digital age we think of our brains as big stores from which we can extract information, and maybe in a social/cloud computing age we will see our memories as attached to objects and networks and peoples as we move our memories from being individually remembered to being collectively remembered, in the process allowing us to forget less.
But what exactly are memories? Yes, dates and facts and numbers and images, and yes also smells and feelings but also movement and balance and a sense of ourselves in physical space. We think of memory as a function of our brain rather than actually being an integral component of our being, perhaps as a reflection of a wider cultural seperation of mind and body and self. But the process of remembering is part of us, it is an act of construction and of assigning value, that we seem to have little conscious control over. Someone once wrote (I think, Emanuel Litvinoff) that all memory is false, that remembering is the act of imposing a narrative on events that had none.
If remembering is important for us to build and grow then equally important must be the act of forgetting. Forgetting allows us move forward, to reconstruct, to reinvent and re-interpret – what we forget is as much a part of creating narrative as remembering. But I guess it is inevitable that if an essential part of ourselves is our memory, our record of our narrative, then forgetting is also dissolution.
In Billy Collins’ lovely poem ‘Forgetfulness’ forgetting becomes like someone you love going away forever, like parts of you slowly breaking off and slipping away into oblivion. This nub is of the former American Poet Laurete reciting the poem.
What’s most interesting is that unlike a lot of our previous posts, it doesn’t just visualise the ‘idea’, it performs it and therefore reinterprets it. The video heightens the poem’s air of melancholy and regretful inevitability, retelling the story in it’s own way. The written poem and the nub are essentially become two different versions.
I think what can be valuable about a nub is that it can add emotion and feeling to an abstract idea, or heighten and re-interpret the emotions where they already exist. This is where nubs can come into their own, far beyond the first basic steps of kinetic typography. I will post further about this soon, and about poetry nubs too.
This nub was created by the big advertising company JWT (NY). Whilst on a break from using their vast creative talents to “give the impression of solidity to pure wind”, they produced quite a few excellent nubs of Billy Collins’ poems, which you can find on our YouTube channel (eyes right). If you can manage to forget about who made them, they are quite lovely.