From calling someone’s name to finding our way back home, we rely on our memory on a daily basis. In fact, having a good memory is not only a valuable asset but crucial to our lives. However, human memory, by being subjective, fallible, and limited by nature, has its inevitable deficiencies. This is where the “development of technology” comes into the picture. The memory of “the machine,” or simply that of a computer, is often touted for its “hard-wired” accuracy and infinitely expanding storage capacity. This technology, commonly found in smartphones, now remembers important contacts, discovers the quickest route to a destination, or looks up information on behalf of humans.

Bora Kim, Carte à mémoire (Memory Card), 2022, Performance / installation, projection/ live feed, memory foams (3, 59X32 cm), camera, microphone, projector, speaker, headphones, Duration 2-30mins

No doubt, technology has become our trustworthy assistant who supports our daily lives to be more convenient and efficient. By sharing our burden of remembering, technology has quickly infiltrated our lives, resulting in a new era of cohabitation between humans and technology. We have reached a point where technology takes on more than a supporting role, creating a strange power shift where a machine’s memory is regarded as more reliable and accurate than our own. This new phenomenon causes us to view technological development in a binary manner: as a remedy for our “flawed” nature or as a disaster that will lead us into a dystopian future. Either way, it makes a distinction between us—humans—and them—the machines, casting the latter as our foe. Now we discuss how technology has a negative impact on our life, raising concerns about how our dependence on machines is impairing our capacity to think, to remember, and to create. Further, we question if our ability to remember is becoming obsolete as a machine’s memory has superseded our “too human” memory.

Jiyoung Son, Deux lecteurs (Two Readers), 2022, Sound-video installation, rectangular shape plastic water tank (100x50x20cm), 2 speakers (8 in), video projector, Duration variable

However, our relationship with machines cannot be reduced to a binary of pro or con, negative or positive. Recent technological advancements have passed the point of dividing into “us” and “them” and have entered a grey zone, where we must adapt to a new lifestyle of coexistence between humans and machines. Some high-tech firms, particularly Neuralink, have expressed concern about how technology and artificial intelligence is advancing at an alarming rate that may become out of human’s control. The solution they have proposed is, in fact, to blur the line between man and machine, ‘linking’ human brains with a computer interface via a micron-sized device. According to the researchers of Neuralink, this invention could be the cure for severe brain injuries and the key to overcoming the human brain’s previous “deficiencies” by upgrading our brain into a “digital super intelligence.”

Dasom Oh, La peau porte, 2022, Sculpture using black and white rice grains, organza fabric, bindex mat, projection mapping (computer, projector), Dimensions variable

Among all the “too good to be true” practical uses for this technology, “mind uploading” in particular drew my interest. Our memory, which was once thought to be unique to each individual and transient, may one day be uploaded or downloaded, shared, and stored in perpetuity, even after our bodies have passed away. Our memories will eventually take on a tangible shape that endures forever. It is more than thrilling news that we are evolving into a perfect form with technological advancement. However, I can’t help but wonder if correcting our “imperfect” nature—in this case, our memory— is the best course of action.

Knowing that our memories are fragile, subjective, and temporal gives us the joy of cherishing the moment. Though we are aware that our memory will eventually be swept away over time, we nonetheless wish for it to endure forever. Moreover, because our memories are prone to distortion and forgetting, each one is unique and special, which shapes who we are. This peculiar and odd nature of human memory is in fact a particularity and a privilege of being human.

Jiyoung Son, Couche de mémoire (Layer of Time), 2022, Installation, resin postcards (55x15x15cm), custom made shelf, light table, sand, water, Dimensions variable

The exhibition Memory Card: The Perk of Being Able to Remember brings together three artists who each take a unique approach to exploring the concept of memory, working across video, installation, and performance.

Jiyoung Son reverses the transient nature of human memory in his work Layer of Time (Couche de mémoire). Jiyoung plays with his collection of abandoned postcards, turning the frail and neglected items into something sturdy and long-lasting using a variety of materials, primarily resin. By making literal fragments of memory, the artist subverts the widely held belief that human memory is fleeting and breathes new life into long-forgotten and abandoned memories, transforming them into valuable archives. The rebuilt postcards are scrupulously archived and organised into a record shelf format, which will be accessible to the public for sharing and rearranging.

Dasom Oh, Série de l’épiderme, 2022, Sculpture (cooked rice grain, tea bag), 65 x 125 mm

In The Two Readers (Les Deux Lecteurs), these postcards recur in a different setting. Jiyoung analyses two readers—a person and a machine—examining the differences and similarities between them. The work draws inspiration from the reading process of a memory card, where a compatible reader is necessary to accurately read the recorded content. A sound-video installation features two films—one postcard read by a human (the artist or public) and the other by Google translation—displayed side by side. The audio is broadcast separately from speakers, each of which causes a reservoir of water to vibrate. As the two distinct sound waves collide, break apart, and tumble, they produce a singular wave. The artist explores not only the obvious distinctions between a human and a machine through this sound performance, but also reveals an unusual likeness between the two.

Dasom Oh, who has a keen interest in the human body, became intrigued by the “cellular memory” theory: the idea that memory may be maintained in bodily cells. Rice grains, which resemble the cells of our bodies, are used by Dasom to fashion a thin layer of human skin. The patchwork of various types of rice-made skin mimics human skin with scars or bruises. This illustrates how time and events can leave marks on our flesh and how memories accumulate over time, like layers of skin, leaving unique impressions.

Bora Kim, Carte à mémoire (Memory Card), 2022,Performance / installation, projection/ live feed, memory foams (3, 59x32 cm), camera, microphone, projector, speaker, headphones, Duration 2-30mins, Participants : Jiyoung Son, Dasom Oh / public

Carte à mémoire, is a performance by Bora Kim that explores the mechanical aspect of human memory, translates to “memory card” but also means “map of memory.” With the aid of memory foam, this interactive performance invites the audience to go through the process of remembering, including the phases of acknowledging, storing, and forgetting. Three pieces of memory foam are provided to three performers, which they will touch and make their own personal map of memories. The main performer, Bora, will interact with the audience and the environment, broadcasting both her point of view and the memory foam. A printer will be set up as an analogy for the “capturing process” of human memory mechanism, commonly referred to as a photographic memory, which will instantly print out screenshots of the performance.

Bora Kim, Carte à mémoire (Memory Card), 2022, Performance / installation, projection/ live feed, memory foams (3, 59x32 cm), camera, microphone, projector, speaker, headphones, Duration 2-30mins, Participants : Jiyoung Son, Dasom Oh / public

The artist emphasises the similarities between machines and humans, particularly the cognitive process and human memory system, by incorporating a number of mechanical aspects. The human and the machine are not divided into two separate groups; rather, each one works in an organic way to produce a variety of unexpected interactions and an ensemble of events.

In the featured works, humans and machines coexist in both competitive and cooperative ways, illuminating how intricately the two are connected. The peculiar dependence in terms of how our memories are formed, preserved, and lost is on view in the exhibition. The essence and beauty of memory, however, is found in its frail, subjective, and flawed form, independent of a complicated interaction with the machine. Thus, the title, which celebrates the perk of being able to remember as a “human”.

Sol Kim
Open Call Exhibition
© apexart 2022

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