Monnington House, Herefordshire February 2014
In February 2014 we brought together a small group of artists to develop ideas for a new project ‘Afterlife’ during a residential R&D week in rural Herefordshire.
‘Afterlife’ will be a 3 night residential retreat for 12 participants, where they are supported to select ONE memory from their life so far that would like to live in for eternity, and to receive artistic interpretations of the memory to take home that will act as memory triggers.
Our aim for the R&D week was to creatively interrogate the idea, and explore ways in which we could create this kind of experience for our participantaudience.
The artists all kept a journal during the week to note reflections and insights. Extracts from these are quoted below to help tell the story of the week.
We arrived at night, so none of us had a real sense of where we were, the look of the land nearby, if there were any houses, animals, etc… All this was unveiled the next morning. Having a secret location where participants arrive by cabs at night, might help with the sense of being retreated or in another dimension.
MONDAY : INTRODUCTORY EXERCISE: MAKING & WALKING A LABYRINTH
Every Monday should be labyrinth day! This was our first activity and one that I’ll keep in my mind forever.
The Labyrinth for me was a very apt introduction to what we are exploring. The group got together pretty fast and devised a way to make the shape of the Labyrinth collectively. The way these group dynamics worked contributed, I found, to the overall experience. The participation of everyone in the making of a common “game” with specific rules, and then the experience of walking the Labyrinth, helped me enter the right state of mind for thinking about the memories I would visit, and for sharing the space with the rest of the group.
TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY: CREATIVE EXERCISES TO SURFACE & REFINE MEMORIES
We tried out a variety of creative techniques to find ways to unlock our memories, using smells, music, meditation, writing exercises, and visual prompt cards.
I like the more tangential sessions, approaching memory less directly: so, meditation and images are good and fruitful, the ‘think of a happy memory’ questions less so.
One writing exercise was based on our five senses: smell, taste, touch, sound and sight. What I found surprising was that every single sense brought completely different memories to the ones I had over the week. Five brand new memories.
Next we experimented with ways to get inside the memory and flesh it out, using drawing and writing exercises, and describing the environment of the memory to camera, then watching the films back.
Feelings and emotions are a key to this retreat. As a participant I was asked to delve into my past memories and pick one. This process, apart from bringing back these memories as images, brought up feelings and emotions. In some cases more intense than others.
THURSDAY: CREATION OF IMMERSIVE MEMORY EXPERIENCES & CREATIVE MEMORY TRIGGERS
We created immersive re-enactments of two artists’ selected memories, and sought theirs and each others’ feedback on these.
Members of the team also created artistic interpretations of the two memories that would act as memory triggers: a haiku, a short piece of prose, a design for a trinket, a short film, an audio clip.
What worked for me was the interaction with other people’s memories.
The act of making the memory is a form of mythmaking. This has the power to make the participants feel like they really are the heroes of their stories if only momentarily.
We learned that the immersive experience is a powerful thing and valuable. It creates a new memory, linked to the original one.
Seeing her reaction [to the immersive reenactment of her memory] made me a little emotional, but in a very positive way as I felt we’d nailed her memory recall experience. I felt proud of our work as a team and could imagine the sense of achievement we’d get from helping other people to relive their memories and experiences.
Presentation to each other of artistic interpretations of our memories: micro films, creative writing, and designs for trinkets.
Creating something symbolic/impressionistic is more effective than something realistic. Also fragments are more successful as they allow room for the imagination. A sequence of fragments works well.
The team produced some beautiful things and experiences: films, immersive sensory experiences, poems, creative prose, designs for bespoke objects (drawings), tastes etc.
We found that the ‘metaphor’ of the memory is really helpful for creating the artistic memory triggers.
FRIDAY: A FINAL WALK & DEPARTURE
The difference with the sort of performance approach we have is that it puts the audience at the centre of the performance experience. The participants become directors of their own memories.
Katie Day | Mark Day | Chris Keenan | Jorge Lizalde | Katherine MaxwellCook | Xristina Penna | Louise Platt
Producer: Thomas Wildish
Director: Katie Day
Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England