Memory Ltd.

interactive performance & immersive experience
1 hour per participant
2001

This one-on-one immersive performance engages issues around identity and recollection in a technological society. In the context of a convincing retail environment, Isa performed in the role of the Certified Memory Technician, giving participants a “custom artificial memory” via storytelling, sensory simulation, and souvenirs. Isa would essentially implant a memory in the participant’s imagination by spontaneously spinning a story, a second-person oral narrative, customized according to the requests on their intake paperwork.

Upon arriving for an appointment, visitors would be greeted by the receptionist and given paperwork with which to choose their memory features and the identity of the persona they wish to be within the memory construct. They would also use a digital catalog of location images to choose the setting for the memory. They would be handed a mock-brochure explaining the “procedure” they would be undergoing and the “history of memory implant technology” upon which it was based, and given some time in the waiting room to read it.

The participant would then be called into a second room, a small photo studio with a “blue screen” backdrop, where a performer-technician  would take their photo. They would then return to the waiting room, and after a time, the artist would emerge from a third room. Dressed in a lab coat and with manila paperwork folder in hand, Isa would lead the participant into the “Memory Transmission Room” and sit them down on a comfortable couch, facing a projection of the location image they had chosen. While adorning the participant with technology props and making a big show of scanning their paperwork and “converting” it for  the “Visual Memory Inducer”, Isa would explain the “procedure” in convincing detail and encourage them to use their imagination to make the memory “take deeper among their natural memories”.

Then the artist would launch into her improvised narrative and full-on “artificial memory” experience. Using their paperwork as a guide to spin the story, Isa would supplement the narrative with appropriate background sound effects tracks. She would also select a physical “souvenir” from a collection of small items in the performance space, and weave the item into the story, giving it to the participant at the end to take with them. The participant would also receive a snapshot of themselves matted into the memory location image, further evidence that they had actually been there.

The artist based the details of the actual procedure on extensive research into the phenomenon of “false memory.” Although most participants were quite aware of the mock nature of the immersive experience, many commented on its surprising effectiveness and the manner in which it truly seemed they had gained a new memory of a real experience that had never actually happened.

link:
Project website and destination catalog  

credits:
Isa Gordon: Concept, performance, installation design, print media, website catalog, mockumentary
DEvan Brown: Props and set construction

Performing the Memory Technician: connecting participants to mock technology, with their destination projected large-as-life before them.
Performing the Memory Technician: calling participants into the Memory Transmission Room.
A performer-receptionist provides forms to a participant.
Participants in the waiting room, filling out memory request forms.
A performer-technician photographs participant in the digital blue-screen studio.
Selecting an object to weave into the memory narrative and give to the participant as “souvenier” and evidence of their memory experience.
Participant connected to the Visual Memory Inducer, while the artist explains the mock technology and performs a series of elaborate technology rituals.
Performing the Memory Technician: implanting false memories via second-person storytelling.
Four souvenir snapshots, showing participants in memory locations (see more below).

Below: Souvenir digital snapshots, showing participants in their chosen memory locations.

Below: Mock-commercial from performance documentation.