1. Approach the handmade vessels
2. Choose one that will be yours
3. Approach the artist for a drink and benediction
4. Talk to a stranger. When a moment arrives that you want to remember, hold out your hand.
5. Drop the vessel & let it shatter.
Certain abstract ideas come with images and specific aesthetic properties that arrive before any rational thought occurs. This exhibition focuses on the visual, rather than associative, properties of one of those abstract ideas: memory.
Now here's the problem, as soon as you put the aesthetic experience of abstract ideas into prose, you invite the reader to dismiss everything that follows as coy lyricism, or worse, intellectualizing--both of which are mindsets which make it all but impossible to communicate the sensory impressions of a word like 'memory'. My hope is that the specific visual imagery of the evening will better articulate what memory means to me.
I am not presenting porcelain vessels as a metaphor for memory. Rather, this object fits because it shares a few aesthetic properties with memory. Memories are glazed and reflective. They catch strange and unpredictable glints of light. Some are shrapnel sharp and will cut you. Some are thick-lipped smooth and a comfort to drink from. All memories, however, are defined, and of use, only because of they hold. Each of the cups that participants choose was made with four ounces of clay, but each has a unique volume.
There may there comes a time when a memory must be let go. And once it is let go it will no longer be the cup it was, precious and whole and useful. It is fragile. It will probably break. And once it breaks it will need to be mended.
Here is perhaps the most arresting aesthetic quality of a memory: the fracture becomes the feature. It is the break, the jolt from the ordinary flow of life, that we see first. The gold seam is everything we do to avoid splintering into a lost mosaic. The effort to hold our memories together is visually, not intellectually or metaphorically, what I hope this work shows.
The entire night is being recorded with a heat-sensitive infrared camera. As participants interact with the work, their bodies emit heat. All of the heat lost into the gallery forms a negative of a memory. The vanishingly small amount of energy that stays in the body, and is not released into the gallery, is each mind's war against entropy, the fight to retain something amidst the natural tendency of things to dissolve and fly away. When looking at the video of tonight, a viewer will see everything that is not a memory.
-- Will Chancellor
Will Chancellor is the author of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, which was listed as one of the best novels of 2014 by Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, Largehearted Boy, and Kirkus Reviews. His writing has appeared in Book Forum, Tin House, The Scofield, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, The White Review, Fiction Advocate, Buzzfeed, Interview Magazine, and the Brooklyn Rail. He is currently finishing his next novel, To Test the Meaning of Certain Dreams, which looks closely at one family’s notion of time and memory.
Alaska McFadden is a Brooklyn based multi-media artist with work in numerous university collections and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is a recipient of the 2014-15 Center for Book Arts Residency, and Co-founder of A Wrecked Tangle Press. Her work explores ritual, ephemerality, and belonging.
Ben Okaty is a neuroscientist and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. His research explores the relationship between gene expression, brain function, experience, and behavior. His work has been published in Neuron, Journal of Neuroscience, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PLoS ONE, Cell Reports, and Developmental Neurobiology.
Special thanks to Brooklyn Brewery and New York Distilling Company for their support.