Chris Dercon "Attention can be re-directed, but not memory."
for Cristina Barroso
We know how to form long- lasting memories. But how do we look after them?
We create memory-palaces and all sorts of maps.
These are ancient techniques that give each memory a place of its own: they combine spatial and visual systems into the service of learning more abstract information, in order to remember things and facts of life. That is: to translate these images back to their original meaning.
Memory palaces are said to be the brainchild of the ancient greek Simonides. After these early mnemonic devices, travelers and explorers developed other 'tricks' to store and recall description and detail.
Many of these are beautifully commented upon in the 'theatre of memory', the Renaissance essays of Frances Yates and more recently in Jonathan Spence's account of the journeys in China of the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci.
When historian Tony Judt, in 2010, got at the midpoint of decline of amyotrophic lateral clerosis, he reconstructed his life and ideas, inspired by Ricci, in the form of a mnemonic trigger and a storage device: a 'memory-chalet'.
The pictures and objects of Cristina Barroso, remind me of the objects and maps used by early modern thinkers, medieval travelers and contemporary memorizers such as Tony Judt.
Likewise, Cristina Barroso invents narratives, turning data and facts into fiction. She does apparently so, in order to understand better the complexities of her own world in which, through family and work, the southern and northern hemispheres are interwoven. Indeed, she likes to draw up long lists, enlisting through visual abstractions, her experiences, as a woman and an artist.
More often than not, her ideas take on the forms of maps, globes and scientific models, referring to the alchemy of Athanasius Kircher, the colorfull geopolitics of Alighiero e Boetti but also to game-plans and pharmaceutical formulas.
Barroso charts and reproduces her life, through inverted, autobiographical materials as well as intimate notices, which all show and tell of order and disorder. As such Cristina constantly arranges and re-arranges her memories, mapping out her own being. Indeed, Marcel Proust once wrote: 'remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were'. Attention can be re-directed, but not memory: that is why Cristina Barroso, makes art about it.
Chris Dercon, London 26 February 2012.