Phillip George


Mnemonic Notations

Installation

3 x 5 meters

Collaborator

Ralph Wayment


Artist Statement:

TEXT BY GEORGE ALEXANDER

MEMORY

Can you remember what memory was? When your head was your hardware. A writhing sea of neurons kept constantly busy inventing what happened. You kept the past alive-images and words–in your brain, on a island called In the Beginning or Once Upon a Time. On it you kept track of everything that existed. You knew maybe a hundred names of family and friends and the powerful. Beyond the island was wilderness– no telling what creatures lived there, between reality and imagination. Fascinating and terrifying. Now the faces in the memory bank are public personalities, familiar strangers: people in Reebok ads, veejays and deejays, game-show hosts, the sons and daughters of game-show hosts. On talk shows people talk about others on other talk shows. People hold up placards for applause and you wish you could be there laughing along with them all on the Steve Vizard show. Nostalgia for the present in a culture of permanent playback. There is no there there.

HISTORY

Dragged along by the current of time what a hullabaloo of history–what shrieks, blood, kettledrums: homes flattened, statues toppled and empty ornaments curling in intense heat, melted telephones, the charred stumps of date palms, ledger pages flapping in the wind. The weightless narratives and heavy weapons that make up history, our history. Pages swirl into heaps–there's Paul the tentmaker of Tarsus spreading Christendom, and before that Pax Romana, and before that on that Meditteranean littoral, the cutting edge of the Fertile.

Crescent, Saladin the Kurd met the Crusaders, who were thrown back on Famagusta in Cyprus and later had swarthy Othello for governor. When any educated European would study Maimonides, Ibn Arabi, or Averroes. When Baghdad was Rome. Ottoman and Venetian architectures overlay the traces of Macedonian Greek and Caliphate Arab. Phoenicia, Petra, Baalbek, Gaza, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Damascus, Aleppo the birthplaces of primitive schismatic Christianity.

Before that the Palace of Knossos, and before that animal muzzles rowing impassively beneath a sea of peat. In the beginning there was no word. Two thousand million years to form lips, to give me these stubby, grubby fingers with which to write: HOMO (soi disant) SAPIENS.

Then writing: stelae, cuneiform rolls, papyri, books. Then maps, diagrams, architectural blueprints, geometric formulas.

Cultures-Celtic, Greek, Tantric working overtime for millenia to sustain by ritual and rote a collection of data that would have fit comfortably on a couple of CD-ROM discs.

TOTAL RECALL

Today the tools of global integration–the satellite media net, the multinational corporation–have created a genre of art style called technological sublime. It brings together wireheads, lit profs, psychologists, visual artists, slippery post-structuralists, SF writers, liquid architects, creative types on military payrolls, and cyberslackers. The mystic urge for total awareness and information control is as old as the Memory Theatres of Ramon Lull and Giordano Bruno. These were charts, systematized wheels of all available knowledge, celestial and terrestrial, run by mathematics. Now this urge is being actualized in Internet–that sprawling octopus of millions of computers swapping documents, providing data services, sharing bulletin boards; also MUDS (Multi-user dimensions) where role playing Daggers and Dungeons are as allegorical as Dante's Divine Comedy (1300), and allow users to explore as pace with a specific and expandable cartography: caverns, forests, sleazy bars.