The work reveals the devastating effects of amnesia on one woman and the striking parallels with the sudden evacuation of the inhabitants of St Kilda in the North Atlantic in 1930. It examines the profound effect and wider implications of memory loss on identity, space and the capacity to imagine the future. As part of an international tour and now shortlisted for the 2016 Jarman Award, Lesions in the Landscape comes to CGP London's two sites in Southwark Park, The Gallery and Dilston Grove. It runs from 13 October until 27 November 2016 and admission is free.
In collaboration with neuropsychologists Martin A. Conway and Catherine Loveday, Illingworth worked with and filmed Claire, who, following a trauma to her brain can no longer remember most of her past, create new memories or recognise anyone – not even herself. However the new sensory operated camera technology worn around her neck can help reactivate access to some of her ‘forgotten’ memories, in rare bursts of intense recollection.
The sudden end to Claire’s access to her memories echoes the evacuation of the inhabitants of the remote Scottish archipelago of St Kilda on 29th August 1930, ending over 2,000 years of continuous habitation. Both mark an abrupt and irreversible lesion in a cultural landscape. Accessing or reconstructing the past is a process fraught with difficulty and both share a sense of isolation. They are both now the subject of scientific inquiry, St Kilda as an outdoor laboratory for scientific investigation, a carefully preserved heritage site and a radar tracking station for complex military weapons testing, and Claire as the subject of major neuropsychological study. And in each case, the past is continually constructed by others.
For the project, Illingworth took Claire to St Kilda, where she filmed her in this intense landscape. The installation presents three video projections and an array of up to twenty loud speakers to create a fully immersive sound environment of voice, engineered and ambient sounds. They form a richly layered composition where the sounds of thousands of calling gannets is underscored by intermittent sounds of EEG signals which capture the desolate internal landscape of Claire’s amnesia as she struggles to search for her own memory of this environment.
Alongside the film installation, is the Amnesia Museum, which maps out the landscape of amnesia. It draws together film, photography, drawings and documents. Also included is a 32-speaker sonification of Claire’s EEG, as well as neuropsychological diagrams describing the impact of the lesion on her memory.
Invisible Architectures: Lesions in the Landscape
29 and 30 October 2016, Whitechapel Gallery London
This symposium brings together artists, scientists, philosophers, geographers, writers and researchers to explore how individual and cultural amnesia shapes the world and affects our capacity to imagine the future. Speakers include Shona Illingworth, Jill Bennett, Martin A. Conway and Catherine Loveday. Booking details here: Symposium
This exhibition is produced by FACT in association with CGP London and Dilston Grove, Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre and UNSW Galleries, and is supported by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust. With additional support from University of Kent. With special thanks to the National Trust for Scotland and Scottish Screen Archive NLS. The exhibition at CGP London is additionally supported by Arts Council England and Southwark Council.