The Institute of Lost Memories and Small Moments was created for Ersatzverkehr/Urban Lies' Sphären Versammlung, which was premiered at the Donau Festival in Krems in April 2007.
While the other artists in the Sphären Versammlung were in the basement bar of the Parkhotel in Krems on the festival main site, we were in Room 107, two floors above, taking two people at a time through the process of archiving memories and moments in the Institute.
We set ourselves the task of creating a memory palace in the room, a mnemonic space that acted as a prompt for us to recall the memories and small moments deposited there. A hotel room is a particularly apt site for this project as the transient nature of its occupancy juxtaposes the fixed state of its furnishings. Hotel rooms are host to countless small moments and lost memories while looking outwardly the same for every guest.
There was a camera in room 107 with a live video link to a monitor in the basement where the audience of the Sphären Versammlung could see glimpses of what was happening above.
On being sent upstairs to room 107 from either the lobby of the Parkhotel or from the basement, the participants were greeted by an invigilator and asked to fill in a consent form before entering the room. On completion, they were ushered into the room and asked to take their shoes off and leave their bags in the little entrance lobby of the room.
Each participant (there were only ever two at a time) was then interviewed about their answers on the form which asked questions like, what songs do you know by heart, what is your place of rest, and whose face will you remember? provoking thoughts of memory, mortality and self-reflection.
The participant was then asked to choose from a selection of miniature figures and told that this would act as their guide, helping them to fix on a memory or small moment. They were asked to name the guide and the guide was then given small silver wings in order to let the thoughts of the participant fly.
Next, each participant was invited to lie down and make herself or himself comfortable on the bed. Their guide was placed on their chest and the camera focused on it in an extreme close-so that the people downstairs saw a tiny figure rising and falling with the person's breath. They were given headphones and listened to us taking them through a process of relaxation, self-reflection and selection of a small moment or memory.
The participant was then asked about the memory or moment and prompted to remember in as much detail as possible, recalling specific colours, feelings, weather conditions and smells associated with the moment. They were then taken over to the window, the curtains opened and a collection of small objects were revealed on the windowsill. They were invited to choose two or three objects to act as prompts for the memory and then asked to locate this somewhere appropriate in the room.
For example, a story about being discharged from hospital on a grey day was placed in the bathroom for its clinical and alienating atmosphere. A memory of being in the Himalayas was placed as high as we could on a ledge above the bed.
When people were happy with their mnemonic object and its placement we brought the video camera over with its live link to the monitor downstairs and with the participant's help, framed up an image of the objects and recorded an image onto the camera's SD card. Each image would then collect sequentially on the SD card which was then replayed as a slideshow at the end of the evening.
After putting their memory into our palace, the participant was given the small silver wings from their little figure, which were attached with sealing wax to a kind of library card bearing their name and notes from their memory and thanked for contributing to the Institute of Lost Memories and Small Moments. They were told that if they ever lost that memory, to get in touch with one of us who would hopefully be able to recall it for them and that their picture would be uploaded to this site to download for them.
Finally a catalogue of all the consent cards was made. After filling out a consent form it was potentially possible to add other memories or small moments at another time, but due to the limited capacity and the duration of each participant's contribution (circa 20 - 30 mins) over the four days this was not possible.