From: Input Volunteer 255738
Date: 15 October 2012 17:55
Subject: Re: Prime Volunteer Opportunity
I’m sorry I can’t help you further. Please remove me from your records.
On 6 May 17: 43 <email@example.com> wrote:
Our client has requested further data submission for this transaction. While our budget does not permit further compensation for your participation, it will distinguish you as one of our prime volunteers, which may secure further participation in our clients’ recall requests. The client has requested particularly personal information, emotional sensory input and events in your private life leading up to the event in question.
This may include:
From: Input Volunteer 255738
Date: 15 October 2012 17:03
Subject: Re: EXTENDED SERVICE PO E4436580
Please find below my ‘expanded event report’ for submission. I hope this might satisfy the client this time:
I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for. I’m too aware now that the ironies of providing recall details for an event about memory are readily at hand. My initial notes towards this report – my expectations of some of the speakers, particular songs and musicians I was listening to that marathon weekend, as well as a count of how many times the word ‘madeleine’ was said – are lost when my computer is wiped. The dome of the marathon closes with Douglas Gordon leading a go at the Scottish folk song ‘Bonny Glen Shee,’ singing like a wistfully out of tune school boy, ‘with their broadswords on their shoulders and….damn.’ Forgetting the next line: With their muskets on their shoulders and their broadswords hanging down. But the particular, and maybe predictable, gaps, lapses and failures of talking about memory aren’t nearly as interesting as their textures. I guess that’s what you guys want. John Giorno might have left out the last line of his impeccably long recital of ‘Where were you in ‘63 when JFK died,’ but recalling the death of William S. Burroughs, I see the way he steps back and forth on the balls of his feet, and though he is born in New York, all I hear is a Midwestern accent. They buried Burroughs with his .38 snubnose revolver; ‘The gun,’ he says, ‘was my idear.’
I take photos throughout the weekend, with my iphone and my Canon AE-1 (the roll of film in the camera is half spent, images taken on a trip to Brazil a year and a half earlier. I hadn’t used the camera much in the year or two before that. I imagine the trip as a return to- something; just sketching, writing by hand, using film. To stay away from computers for the whole trip, de-digitise. Of course, even on the ‘Law of Time’- abiding permaculture farm where I was working for some weeks, the four-year old son is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, watching endless You Tube clips on a battered PC, stuttering with whatever bandwidth is available. The Canon shutter gets caught at random times, spoiling most spontaneous attempts of catching a photo. I’d taken it in to repair just off Great Portland Street, the man taking possession of the camera for a week, coming back to him casually saying there’s nothing wrong with it, depressing the shutter button and rolling the lever along in quick repetition. I try to explain that when there’s actually film inside, it gets caught, releases at unexpected moments. He doesn’t believe me. The same roll is still inside the camera, with six images left on a roll of thirty-six.) trying to record various glimpses. I have only four images on my phone. Two are bleary shots of the underside of the rows of chairs, legs and coats peppered with coffee cups, water bottles, and breakfast debris. The other two are of a group of people standing out front of the gallery, a sort of non-protest gathering of young women wearing sandwich boards. Two are legible in the images. One reads, ‘You are the patient, I am the real person.’ The other, ‘For God’s sake, you’ve made a note of everything I’ve said.’
Images I’m sure are on the SLR, or rather on the film: a young tree, just on the western side of the dome, imprinted by the sun onto the tan material covering the wood and metal geodesic structure. I might have taken more than one picture of it, as the shadow shortened with the sun’s rising. (The flushing autumn light, its coming and going on the taut skin of the dome is one of the defining factors of the crisp weekend. At any one time it is a glowing bulb of a lightbox, to a dull diffusion, crossing to a dreary lead helmet. The web of branches hanging over the proceedings fades in and out of shadow with the passing clouds, timed to disappear as John Hull is speaking of losing his grasp on what he calls ‘the charismatic interplay of glances.’ The glare from the full Sunday sun blinds the images Richard Wentworth is projecting. ‘Forgive the sun,’ he says, ‘Remember the photo is this thing, it’s the sun.’) I also tried to take images of the crowd, in particular two people. The woman sitting in front of me to my left I noticed is rapidly running her fingers over a small hand-held device. The movement attracts my eye, and the peculiarity of its composition, never lowering her raised chin to what I see is a set of buttons on a screenless console. She is, I realise after a time, without sight and recording what she hears on a digital braille notetaker. Her motion is incessant, a precise, fluid dance staged on the confines of the object on her lap. The other is a father, who is sat up front near the stage, his wheelchair-bound son next to him. The entire day, the two of them are there. And for the duration of the Saturday, each time I see them, his right arm is kept raised to his son’s chin, a single finger from his hand out to close the boy’s mouth.
On 15 October 16:22 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
But what happens? I’ve been thinking about it so often, that I now understand the future more like the guy in Philip K. Dick’s ‘I hope I shall arrive soon’: a man, trapped fully conscious in suspended animation for ten years, is induced by his space ship’s sentient computer to imagine his arrival on the new colony planet. When he finally gets there, he thinks it’s just another hallucination. We have imagined the future so many times, over anticipated its arrival, that once we actually get there we will just go nuts, unable to comprehend the difference between our repetitive hallucinations and the new territory that lies before us. It’s already tainted. More we’re so blinded by our own conjectures, we can’t see what’s actually there. The point is, we don’t see what’s going to come, but by relentless speculating on it, we rob it of its essence of actually being the future. It just becomes the conjuncted present.
Or maybe it’s also the fact that the future is so much like our conjectures, its always arriving, and we defer as if it will always be something else, when it is actually right there under our noses. Dick recognised the sickness. Saw it for the endlessly arriving nightmare that it was. Is. But of course, with all this talk about comprehensive remembering, you don’t see cryogenics anymore, it’s off the contemporary wish list. You don’t need to freeze someone, merely upload a personality.
We speak of the coming entity that bears all of our mark, a crowdsourced non-identity, as if it is omniscient. Forgetting the things that escape any photographer, any writer. The illusion of the comprehensive fisherman’s net, the paranoia giving way to simply thinking that blogging is being, that these photos are being, direct and whole. Then we speak of noticing the un-noticed, calling attention to the things not normally seen, forgetting that by focusing on them we automatically create a further set of discarded liminal things, endlessly. As if constantly turning in circles to catch the things seen from the side of your eye.
You will ask what you saw, and of that what came to pass in some form or another, as if there were a causal relationship between the two. And you will construct an explanation retroactively, building a bridge back from a land you were never connected to. Perhaps at some point between us, you will see that what you think of as memory is merely a conversation between the present and the future, just a go-between of experience and hardened potentialities.
Once we began ‘cracking’ knowledge – not in the sense of your terminology of web developers and hackers, but in the chemical, Shukhovian sense of the word—we found simply that some things were missing. Of course we can track everywhere you go, monitor brain activity, conversations, purchases. But the personalities we ended up with were fairly two dimensional. They could tell you what was the better restaurant, and but they couldn’t tell you what it felt like to be there, about the gristle trapped between their teeth.
We have revised our parameters for this project. We would like to invite you to continue your submissions in this expanded vein, as we have found limiting our focus has resulted in incomplete data.
On 15 October <email@example.com> wrote:
I’m not sure I can break it apart in the way that you ask; a list of names hanging over the weekend, and beforehand all you can do is pick out the ones you’re already familiar with, as if you know what they’re going to say. Leaning my ear in to someone speaking over the music at a party, years ago: they’re telling me that I’ve found something incredibly potent, and that I should look after it carefully. It is a weathered card from a monastery, one side embossed with the details of the place and on the back, in faded cursive pencil a list of names, of the fathers. Several of them are crossed out with a single line. Of course I don’t know what happened to that piece of paper.
To: Input Volunteer 255738
Date: 6 May 2018 15:36
Subject: Re: RE-SUBMISSION PO E4436580
Please find below a message from our client we were asked to forward on to you.
6 May 15:35 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
On 15 October 15:33 <email@example.com> wrote:
Could the client specify what form of submissions they are expecting? This might facilitate the process, particularly if they keep refusing my entries.
On 15 October 15:33 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Please find below my re-submitted ‘instances’, and again my payment details.
The weekend bears the tone of an extended elegy seeing off the 20th century brain, some to dissolve it into a liquid of binary code, others to simply give it the full military honours before entombment. I keep thinking of my uncle, outspoken, impatient and exuberant, what he might have made of the proceedings. He passed away in May, and the ‘funeral’ was simply a BBQ; not until 3am, with us drunkenly slathering over memories of him, did it feel like an appropriate tribute. With his wandering eye glancing mischievously around, I don’t think he would have sat still. I’d like to think it wouldn’t have been enough for him to simply watch Isabelle Lewis headbanging. I can see him demanding the Scissor Sisters or the Black Eyed Peas, pumping his hands in the air, wearing white tube socks as always. Lewis shows us a jumble of video clips of dances, in one several Iranian men popping and throwing down. I flush, thinking of a summer when I was 19 spent learning to breakdance, practicing in the patch of grass behind an apartment development, doing handstands on the side of the building.
To: Input Volunteer 255738
Date: 6 May 2018 15:03
Subject: Re: PURCHASE ORDER E4436580 – FURTHER INFORMATION REQUEST
Thank you for your input.
Our client has indicated that your submissions were insufficient. This refusal could be because:
- a) The data provided did not correlate to the event
- b) Your submission content was corrupt
- c) It is information that the client did not wish to include in their recall package
You are invited to re-submit your data. Please follow the guidelines specified as before.
15 October 14:30 <email@example.com> wrote:
Please find below my three ‘instances’ from the event. Please also find below my payment details.
Snapshots of parties with parents and unremembered relatives, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye talks of the kids being separated into another room for the night, given only Nightmare on Elm Street to entertain them. With my own weak fear constitution, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. At one overnight church lock-in I was taken to by a friend, for some reason the organisers saw fit to show a nave full of pre-teens a supernatural gore fest, that only years later I figure out was one Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm films. In my own house, it seems Three Amigos was the child-distraction film of choice. I know I passed at least three New Years’ to the dialogue of Jefe et al.
It is World Zombie Day, I find out afterwards. The undead myth, traced back to its African origins, has come a long way. Recently I heard the theory that it was a notion promoted by 17th century slave masters, in order to prevent their ‘property’ from committing suicide. Today, people are gathered in public spaces to march around the city dressed in torn clothes, fake blood, and the semblance of rotting flesh. Most promoted Zombie Walks on World Zombie Day are raising money for health research charities in their respective countries. Marina Castillo Deball calmly talks through her month-long experiment of drawing objects by touch, then by sight, then from memory. ‘This is a piece of paper that had a print,’ she says, pointing towards the broken set of lines on the screen behind her. As she speaks, shrieks and screams come from outside. ‘So sometimes the two experiences of the object were completely contradictory,’ as ape-like wooping and groans pierce in from a distance. She speaks slower, keeping a straight face through the yelps and ‘Garrrr!’s, halting only slightly between words: ‘of course they are just completely different objects if you experience them through these senses.’
Jay Winter tells us we are in a site of memory, that ‘Symbolic sites are the moral compasses of our contemporary social order.’ Just as he says this, the whopping roar of what sounds like a military grade helicopter flies close overhead. We are amidst the suffocating sea change presented in the debates leading up to the Obama – Romney election, and the first legal allegations being openly made against Lance Armstrong. This same weekend, an Israeli court rules that Kafka’s manuscripts must be handed over to the Israeli National Library.
6 May 14:15 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Dear Input Volunteer 255738,
Thank you for your response to the ‘Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon’ Questionnaire. Our client has chosen you to continue with the research.
The research is to supply exigent data required to supplement the video feed captured of the event. Our client has paid for a Premium service, which requires a high level of detail. Incidental occurrences, sensory impressions, and aspects not likely to have been captured on video or photography are of particular value.
The client has provided the following:
“Thank you for your participation in supplying us for this recall. With your help, we would like to have a full, immersive experience of the event to look back on and treasure. What we are now looking for to complete this purchase are those elusive moments that make a memory complete. We are able to account for and catalogue many of these moments drawing from the extensive video footage and brief textual quotations published online from the event. These include ‘unmissable moments’ and ‘highlights’ such as the artists Gilbert and George singing ‘Underneath the Arches’, and ‘comedy bloopers’, such as Dara Birnbaum’s example of ‘orgasm’ rather than ‘organism’. What we would like, as a first hand supplier, are your accounts that might exceed this. What was special about the event? What made it different to other experiences?”
Please provide three such instances. Phrase your report in the present tense for greater recall transition facility.
From: Input Volunteer 255738
Date: 15 October 2012 14:10
Subject: Re: ‘Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon’ Questionnaire
Please find below my responses to the questionnaire.
1) What was your overall impression of the ‘Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon’?
6 May 13:54 <email@example.com> wrote:
We are recruiting a new project and based on the information you gave us when you registered with Koan, you may be able to take part. The project consists of a questionnaire, followed by a potential follow-up session. The payment will be £20 and the research is about your experience of the event ‘Memory Marathon’.
Below is a questionnaire which will determine whether or not you are part of the targeted audience our client wishes to consult.
General eligibility is as follows:
You must be male/female aged 18+
You must have attended the ‘Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon’, October 12-14, 2012.
You must NOT have participated in a focus group or any other form of recall assistance service on the same subject before.
With kind regards,
Koan Timecapsule Services
– A creative recall sourcing company –
Who wants to forget?
In 1974, Andy Warhol began his series of Time Capsules, boxes into which he began putting things that at the time were considered useless, throwaway—letters, cards, notes, various odds and ends. With everyone busy living their lives, and the increasing record that exists of those lives, Koan recognises the value of what used to be thought of as ‘trash’: these are the details that make any recall complete. Founded in 2013, we began collecting those forgotten bits of life so you don’t have to. Details for any event, occasion or interaction can be purchased to supplement your mainframe memory downloads, giving you the joie de vivre of any moment.
You have received this email because you have signed up as a potential recall sourcing volunteer. Registration is irrevocable.
Do not print this email.
Text commissioned for the book documenting the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon 2012.