During our student visit to Bristol in October 2013 we had visited Motorcade Flash Parade, BV Studios and saw the resulting exhibition of our tutor Steven Paige’s 8 week residency there.
The piece on display was called Moral Development, 2013 and included videos, projections, televisions, furniture and publications. The title and influence of this exhibition was taken from from “a re-enactment  of the infamous Stanley Milgrim experiment  on ‘obedience to authority figures’” (Outcasting, 2013). The projected film in Paige’s work is a further re-enactment using the script of the experiment with an actor answering the questions and “the authoritative ‘voice’” is substituted by subtitles (Ibid).
I was particularly interested in this work in connection to my current CURA300 project. In Paige’s exhibition he has used an educational film as his inspiration and further highlighted the educational properties in his use of objects. By doing so, Paige has created an environment which may evoke feelings of familiarity within the audience. There were several recognizable classroom style pieces within the exhibition – including the plywood tables, projector stand, desk, factual publications and desk lamp. In terms of phenomenology and perception – one could make connections to ideas of learning and knowledge by simply looking at the furniture – without first witnessing the projection.
In a similar vein to Paige’s exhibition, I also wanted to create a classroom environment or feeling by using recognizable furniture. By doing so, I hoped the school desk and chair would create a sense of nostalgia and memory as well as complimenting the film I had produced and give the overall installation more context.
In his early 20th century book À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past) French novelist Marcel Proust describes having an unexpected childhood memory provoked by “dipping a madeleine into a cup of tea” (Bradley, 2013). This phenomenon is called an Involuntary Autobiographical Memory – a memory which is triggered by an everyday environmental cue. These memories often just come to mind without even consciously trying to remember and are often quite positive. The memories are sudden and can take one back to a certain moment in time (metaphorically speaking) within a few seconds. Proust believed that these involuntary memories “were the only way of capturing the past” (Berntsen, p47, 2009).
With my project, I hope that the objects used within the piece will evoke involuntary memories within the viewer – although perhaps they won’t necessarily be of a positive nature. However, I really like the idea of being transported back in time by an earlier memory and how time doesn’t seem to effect how vivid the memory is. Also, it’s interesting how a visual cue, phrase, song or smell can remind someone of a memory which they may not have thought was lost. I would be delighted if my work produced memories or thoughts of nostalgia within an audience member.
Berntsen, D. (2009). Involuntary autobiographical memories. 1st ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Edmund Husserl was a German philosopher of the 19th/20th century and thought to be the founder of phenomenology.
From what I understood, following my research several years ago of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s book Phenomenology of Perception (Merleau-Ponty, n.d.), phenomenology is based on how one perceives an object based on their past experiences. I thought it would be interesting to look further into this because my project uses recognizable objects which may be perceived differently by audience members dependent on their individual experiences.
Husserl believed that one should try to look at objects by not considering what we have learnt or been taught about the said object but rather by using our own “intuition” (Lewis & Staehler, p6, 2010) By doing so one would be able to experience the object without trying to interpret it (Ibid). Therefore, “we should not accept anything we have learnt, any particular ways of thinking we might have inherited from our culture and upbringing – we are to verify everything ourselves, individually, with our own intuition” (Ibid).
I feel this is an interesting concept with regard to my own work as I am hoping that the audience will be able to make up their own minds about my installation and interpret it as they see fit. However, I would also hope that they may be able to empathize with the work to a degree and find a shared experience and perception of the objects.
Lewis, M. & Staehler, T. (2010) Phenomenology An Introduction. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group
Merleau-Ponty, M. (n.d.). Phenomenology of perception. 1st ed.
BA (Hon) Fine Art, Critical & Curatorial Practices