In 2019, Z had an opportunity to have her first solo exhibition in Berlin and give a concert. Invited by the progressive curators of Savvy Contemporary (in collaboration with Deutschlandfunk Kultur and CTM Festival), she produced a four-part exhibition called Sonic Gestures.
One part of the exhibition, Memory Palace, involves a six-channel video installation with stereo sound. It is derived from an evening-length performance work called Memory Trace in which Z explored various aspects of memory using sampled text, gestures, voice and electronics.
Essentially, you see six videos of Z. One of the Z entities is questioning the five other Z entities with queries such as “Do you remember names, numbers or dreams?” or, “Do you remember where you parked the car?” The one who questions also asks: “Have you used this technique called Memory Palace?”
The Memory Palace technique is real. It requires you to imagine a specific place in your mind and you have to picture everything that is there—for example, it could contain a couch, a piano, a painting, a green vase etc… This place is one that you know very well and then you assign something you need to remember to an object in this place. For instance, your best friend’s address is connected to the green vase.
The Berlin exhibit required the visitor to step onto a specific spot (indicated with two small speakers hanging down toward the ears of the listener) in order to trigger the various entities of Z to come into focus on screen and to activate the audio. Z used an Isadora Actor to search for the presence of a person, i.e. it is looking for a mass of darkness in contrast to the white floor.
One of the sources of material for the larger work, Memory Trace, began more than five years ago when Z’s mother was dying. She interviewed her and tried to jog her memories of the past by playing music that she had listened to in her youth. Z made a film of these interactions. Her mother died in 2016, and Z used the footage as a section of the performance work. She also conducted video-taped interviews with several people in which she asked questions about their dreams and what they remembered. These, full-body videos were edited and projected on tall screens in the performance.
“The idea of Memory Trace comes from the fact that scientists have discovered there’s a path in the brain every time you recall a memory, but you are changing it as you recall it. So, the way you remember it now is NOT how it actually happened.”