The Method of Loci

The Method of Loci is an example of how my installation work draws on different disciplines for its impact. The project takes the ancient mnemonic system “Ars Memoriae” as the inspiration to create an interactive environment about memory. My interest in creating a physical analogy for memory began with the study of Giulio Camillo’s Theater of Memory, famous during the Renaissance but an ephemeral work now faded from public awareness. That interest is paralleled by a recent revival of interest in “Ars Memoriae” among computer engineers studying memory. In the installation were three separate channels of interactive video running from three MacPro computers, and several other channels of video running as loops on media players that animated the entire 2,700-square-foot gallery space of The Art Gym near Portland, Oregon. The portable walls of the Gym and specially fabricated dual sided screen walls were used to divide the gallery into several distinct spaces that flowed into each other. Like the inner architecture of the "Ars Memoriae," The Method of Loci had passageways, alcoves, rooms, hidden peepholes and niches. As viewers moved through darkened corridors into a series of rooms with various-scaled projections, the mood and scale changed. Programming in Max MSP Jitter and Arduino allowed the projections to respond differently to the presence of an attentive viewer than to a hurried passerby. As more attention was given, more layers of time were revealed. Some viewers spent hours exploring the space, reading the texts, climbing into a "Life Guard" chair" for a different vantage point in one room, or listening to a recorded voice on an old fashioned dial telephone in another. The ancients found that the more dramatic the image the more lasting the memory. The video imagery chosen for The Method of Loci underscored the dramatic albeit fragile and flickering qualities of memory and reality. Years of field recording and recent work commissioned from dancer/choreographer Linda K. Johnson formed an archive of dramatic loops to mix and remix, placed strategically in the different rooms of the multi-chambered space. Underwater recordings, ancient texts, centuries old fire rituals in the Italian countryside, faces in attitudes of contemplation, migrating cranes, and a burning house are examples of the dreamlike imagery of "The Method of Loci." The Method of Loci investigates ideas that have driven Western culture for millennia using cutting-edge 21st century technologies.

© 2023 Fernanda D'Agostino