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Memex: An Autoscopic Exercise

Bristol Diving School & Third Belgrade

14 – 29 Mar 2013


MEMEX: An Autoscopic Exercise is a merging of two collaborative disciplines, platforming the negotiation of crosscultural discourse and mediating the processes of this exchange through mechanisms of exposure, association and motif.

A weblog traces the development of the project, displaying transactions of sourced imagery, articles, studio documentation and annotations. It constitutes a framework for collating associative knowledge, akin to Vannevar Bush’s concept for the Memex device, and publicly reveals backstage processes pertaining to an often shrouded artistic methodology, from conception through to production.

Next, the Internetbased exchange transposes into a physical encounter, a performance staged privately by members from both collectives at KARST, prior to the culminating exposition of works. This collective ritual acts as a device that unites, vivifies and directs the form of the exhibition. The documentation and stimulus created through this performance introduces the final phase of the project, the public presentation of MEMEX…

MEMEX: An Autoscopic Exercise is a merging of two collaborative disciplines, platforming the negotiation of crosscultural discourse and mediating the processes of this exchange through mechanisms of exposure, association and motif. The gradational collaboration between both groups stimulates circular modes of reflexivity that blur distinctions between form and function, public and private, individual and collective.


MEMEX… points toward the simulated experience; upon entering the exhibition space the viewer encounters a confluence between the physical and the virtual. Presented is an amalgamated heightened sensory scene of pulsing units and oscillating modular motifs. The replicated image of the Temple of Nodens adorning the pillars imitates the aesthetic of a digitally generated environment, often associated with virtual spheres, but paradoxically displaying an archaic physical platform. The spatial-grid pattern emblematises the artificial landscapes of cyber gaming spaces, such as Minecraft or Second Life, where the user repeatedly encounters reduplicating motifs, systems or terrains.

Calcified prop structures of cast pillowcases punctuate the space, some embedded with aromatising Air Wick Freshmatic lavender scented air fresheners. Lavender is used in integrative medicine as a remedy for a range of ailments, including insomnia, and its scent, when inhaled, produces calming, soothing and sedative effects. These Freshmatic air fresheners are a comical gesture towards a marketed emulation of smell and function as absurd, futile and repulsively pungent oddities. The OASIS® Floral Foam Bricks situated in and around the sculptures and beds mirror this language of emulation and artifice. The sculptures harbour an anthropomorphic quality that is exaggerated by the titles attributed to each piece; a family of BUSH’s individually identifiable by their namesake to differing delusional psychiatric disorders.

The design structures of MEMEX… facilitate engagement with a self-reflexive state and construct an architectural funnelling of a route or passage. Initially translating as a simple framing device, the screens simultaneously pertain to a twofold vision as content reverberates with fleeting glances of the self. The reflected glance is a reminder of the passive contribution of the self, portrayed and participating on the Internet; our Google searches transpire into data traces, collected by algorithms, augmenting future search results and perpetually tailoring the panoptic network.

The films Dream Island or the dream about the island and An Autoscopic Exercise allude to the idea of an elevated ‘visuo-spatial perspective’, undergone during the sleeping performances. The works reflect a simulated meeting space, analogous to the function of the weblog, where associative information and collaborative working models intersect. The complexity of the interrelations of human knowledge is what hypertext pioneer, Ted Nelson, terms as ‘Intertwingularity’ stating that ‘subjects’ cannot be categorised and divided up methodically; there is only ‘all knowledge’. The dynamics of MEMEX… mimic this complexity and the layering of information nodes. The categorisations of the elements on display remain unfixed and fluctuate between definitions of animate or inanimate, virtual or real, collective or individual, private or public; an indeterminability that is emphasised in speculative hypotheses referring to ephemeral states of consciousness.

We are being buried in our own product.

Memex is a theoretical machine devised by Vannevar Bush, which was the subject of his paper, ‘As We May Think’, first published in The Atlantic in July 1945. The article details a possible future trajectory of technological advances and postulates a collective memory apparatus, referred to as Memex, functioning as a hypothetical proto-hypertext system for organising and annotating information libraries, a speculative precursor to the World Wide Web.

Bush’s vision was to change the post-war scientific arena from one of militaristic destruction (Atomic warfare) to utopian humanitarian ideals, investing in the development of an accessible and democratic information hub, ‘mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility’, akin to the modern day web browser. The Memex was designed to create interactive links between knowledge archives, a function for which Bush took inspiration from the ‘intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain’. With the ability to access and view two items at the same time the user would be able to exercise a more cognitively intuitive method for sourcing and collating information, with the added possibility of transferring linked information sequences to other Memex devices.

2 The subheading: An Autoscopic Exercise refers to the rare phenomenon of Autoscopy, where an individual visualises or experiences a veritable hallucinatory image of his or her double. It is most commonly known as a disembodiment whereby the individual, believing themselves to be awake, sees his or her body positioned outside of themselves. Autoscopic experiences are most prevalent in hypnagogic stages of sleep and are definable to the following three traits:

>>>> disembodiment, an apparent location of the self outside one’s body;

impression of seeing the world from an elevated and distanced visuo-spatial perspective or extracorporeal, but egocentric visuo-spatial perspective;

>>>> impression of seeing one’s own body from this perspective (autoscopy).

3 The works An Autoscopic Exercise and Bed seek to replicate the attributes of the Internet and newly emerging technologies, in which virtual and physical planes converge through haptic and mobile based platforms, creating an augmentation of the elements of both environments.