Cycles of Memory

Institute on the Formation of Knowledge
University of Chicago
October 24, 2018 through June 28, 2019

As we experience life events our memories expand and change. We accommodate new information by modifying older data. When we recollect previous events, our memories are modified by our current concerns. Memories cycle from current to past, with recollections being continuously altered. 

This exhibit consists of three parts. The Whirling Memory pieces rotate at three revolutions per minute. Each is 8 x 4 feet in size, printed on semitransparent media so that the images are visible from both sides. The uppermost piece is Donelaitis, the middle one is My Dream–deals with a transcendental dream that I had, and the lower piece is Beckett / Kafka—these two authors had a profound influence on my art. Their images were taken from mirror portraits that I made in 1978. These three pieces whirl, as our own memories cycle. 

The pieces were printed on a semi-transparent background in order to allow the environment, and other viewers, to be seen through them. Thus the environment is incorporated into each piece, and into the full ensemble. 

The whirling rotation refers, in part, to a human social interaction, that of dance. From recent large-scale installation pieces, I have learned that indeed, it take two to tango, and mirror neurons can do the swing. 

The rotation also refers to the Mevlevi Sufi religious practices which originated in Konya, Turkey, and are reflected in the mystical writings of Rumi. 

Finally, whirling refers to aspects of string theory where our universe may simply be a two-dimensional brane floating in multi-dimensional space. The use of neuronal brain images for this string theory brane, was intentional. 

On the second floor are three light sculpture diptychs from my Midwest Souls series. This series deals with cabinet photographs from the late 1800’s that I purchased at flea markets over the years. In all cases, the photography studio name is printed but the name of the individual does not appear. Yet, for all of these individuals, coming from all walks of life, going to the photography studio was a special occasion. They got all dressed up for this once in a lifetime event. Their facial expressions are always strained because they could not move for several minutes. 

Now nameless, they all had lives, families. They worked, provided for themselves and others, and participated in society. These are images of common people of the Midwest, who I am trying to cycle back into memory, to give them a bit of immortality.

The third part is Pillars of Thought—9 LED color-changing sculptures. They are free-standing, independent structures, paralleling our own human existence. 

The images consist of neuronal profiles, intertwined with my own MRI brain scans, electroencephalograms, and transformations of my own art work. It is from these extensive, overlapping neuronal networks that our consciousness, being, and independence arise. 

From this self-awareness we illuminate ourselves and others. We can shine, inform, educate and assist each other. Each piece is a portrait of human aspiration. 

In this installation, there are groupings paralleling our own societal structures. The Dreamscape sequence deals with the origins of dreaming, fantasy, and creativity. The Pillars of Writing include the hand-written texts, and portraits, by those authors who have had a profound influence on my art work, from Sigmund Freud to the existentialism of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett. 

Each Pillar consists of three layers of polycarbonate, back-light by a LED color-changing lights. As the transmitted colors change, the images change dramatically. 

The three layers of images correspond to our own three levels of awareness: consciousness, sub-consciousness and unconsciousness. 

“While scientific, then, these images are not antiseptic. The brain interacts with memory and perception, and what emerges is art. The formation of personhood and the absorption of information become striking images that merge the scientific, the personal, and the cultural. That is an unusual trio. This is another reason why we at the Institute fell in love with the art of Audrius Plioplys.” Shadi Bartsch Zimmer, Director of the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, University of Chicago, October 24, 2018