entry 03 - sept 20 2023

Sarah Sze's "How do we experience time and memory through art" —
Some notes and thoughts —

This sparked a lot of intense curiosity and reflection. I'd like to focus on a few ideas and questions Sze raised I found the most compelling.

  • Sze, on her work: "If experiencing time through materials, what happens when images and objects become confused in space?"
    • A moment expanding in our mind to fill an entire space
    • Playing with the idea of how one image can actually grow and haunt us

  • Sze's After Image series:
    • Thinking of painting as an interior image (interior images as something universal)
    • How we store memory in our mind

  • According to Sze, the real 'point' of her pieces "is that they end up in your memory over time and generate ideas beyond themselves"

"If experiencing time through materials, what happens when images and objects become confused in space?"

Here I was reminded of Henri Bergson and his work Matter and Memory (1896) in which he writes: "Matter or mind, reality has appeared to us as a perpetual becoming. It makes itself or it unmakes itself, but it is never something made. Such is the intuition that we have of mind when we draw aside the veil which is interposed between our consciousness and ourselves [....] Consciousness, being in its turn formed on the intellect, sees clearly of the inner life what is already made, and only feels confusedly the making." I think this formlessness between the materials which surround us and our unconscious, the images we produce in our minds based on the images around us (which are never perfect, but mere flashes or shadows)— and which we in turn transpose, transform, and attempt to represent again materially — is also exactly how our memories function as well.
Every time we remember a memory, we alter it; we infuse the memory with the (un)conscious images of our current circumstances, our emotional state during the moment of remembrance. Sharp edges and contours of the memory smooth and fade with time — like a jagged rock that becomes smooth after it's been subjected to the force of another object or element (waves of water, our fingers).

We are always imposing ourselves on the image. Even in the images of Sze's own mind (and work) that she says "haunt" her are filled by the spaces and objects of our own memory when we experience them. Even this slide that Sze used during her presentation is completely distinct and mine. In this way, there is no real limit or demarcation between us and others' memories, the objects around us, the images we see.
This is a principle that Bergson also addresses in the same work, writing: " All division of matter into independent bodies with absolutely determined outlines is an artificial division."
Sze's After Image series:
  • Thinking of painting as an interior image (interior images as something universal)
  • How we store memory in our mind

The unreliability of our memories does not stop with us — those gaps and spaces are filled by the people who interact with them. Indeed, every moment is an exchange — the messenger is also always the recipient. As I reflected on this idea, I considered: When a lover describes a previous romance, or shares a memory of themselves with another lover — do we not construct flashes of images and scenes that can become ingrained in our mind about our lover's past? Do we not create "memories" of a relationship we have never seen and that no longer exists? Can we not see the landscapes, the rooms, the objects —even the expressions on their face, the contortions of their two bodies — without any visual references or descriptions of those things? Are we not then in turn haunted by those very images we ourselves conjured?  I shared the pictures and videos I captured of Timelapse  with some friends the same evening after our class trip to the Guggenheim. In those moments, my memories of Sze's work — which were still so fresh and vivid — became confused and changed according to the reactions of my friends (positive or negative), and my own retelling of what I saw, and how I felt about the pieces. In writing this blog post, I have come to believe that we vastly overestimate the resiliency of our memories. But why? Egotism? Ignorance? — Or, as I suspect: out of fear? Are we not desperate to be attached and confident in the memories of our life that we feel are important to recall with accuracy? Isn't betrayal — an act which forces us to question and re-evaluate closely treasured memories — one of the most disorienting and painful psycho-emotional experiences in existence? Nothing exists in a vacuum.  There is no stasis anywhere in nature. Entropy, change are laws of the physical world. So too does this extend to our consciousness, our intellect, our emotions. Who are we if not our memories? How can we understand ourselves through what we have remembered — and what we have forgotten? How others have remembered us? The ways in which they've forgotten us? In my own work, I have explored this subject. Here is an excerpt from an episode of my show That Intimate Feeling I made about memories:
According to Sze, the real 'point' of her pieces "is that they end up in your memory over time and generate ideas beyond themselves"

Sze can consider her stated objective successful as far as I am concerned.
The pangs of envy, inspiration, ideas for projects or themes to explore in my own work, the possible pathways or forms for creating them —  even how to think about them, and the ambition to really challenge myself conceptually, intellectually, etc. are integral my experience and memories of Timelapse.

Next to "Diver," Sze describes the Guggenheim's "void [as] an incredible piece of non-architecture.” Once again, Bergson: "A being unendowed with memory or prevision would not use the words " void" or " nought; " he would express only what is and what is perceived; now, what is, and what is perceived, is the presence of one thing or of another, never the absence of anything. There is absence only for a being capable of remembering and expecting."A void can only exist if marked by the absence of something that used to previously be there or the expectation of what we will find there and are disappointed to find unfulfilled. And in this way, among the "void" of the architecture, Sze — and my own consciousness — conjure the presence of something new that will transcend themselves. And thus, in the spirit of Sze's initial question in the Ted Talk: ""Where does an artwork begin?"  — I follow with this:
Where does a blog post begin?
A sample of my notes and references for this reflection:

I didn't even touch on my thoughts about the similarities between what Sze expressed about the limits of a camera's lens and the images we create in our minds with Andrei Tarkovsky's writing in his book Sculpting in Time (1984).

Also, this dissertation which was hugely interesting: "ARTWORK AS NETWORK: A RECONCEPTUALIZATION OF THE WORK OF ART AND ITS EXHIBITION" — and its exploration of objects and materials in the work of artists like Sarah Sze as a response to the digitisation of culture.

Okay — I'm going to stop the blog post here. Thank you for altering the image and ideas of this post with your own experience of them. I am imagining your images and we are creating something new together.
Thank you to Sarah for her work — and if you made it this far: thank you, too.