Tag Archives: Memory Landscapes

Memory Landscape Audio Work at National Museum of Art Osaka


Laurie says:

This is the second post about  my work being exhibited on three continents in January and February . The first was “Staged” at the PH 21 Gallery in Budapest. The second is “ZEIGEN – An Audio Tour through the collection of the National Museum of Art Osaka,” as part of “Travelers: Stepping into the Unknown,” the NMAO’s 40th anniversary exhibition. (Jan 20-May 6, 2018)

In Osaka, I have an audio piece evoking my work in progress “Memory Landscapes:  A Feminist Memoir.” German artist and curator Karin Sander invited artists whose work was  part of the musuem’s permanent collection to describe their work for the Zeigen exhibition. Museum attendees listen through headphones while facing a blank wall. Sanders has done similar installations in  Berlin, San Francisco, Vienna.

I loved her concept of “a piece of acoustic information about your work or your working process. You may really think of any kind of sound, description, reading, music, or whatever can be listened to, an audio piece that would translate your work into sound and thus make it ‘visible’. Your audio piece must not necessarily relate to your work in the museum’s collection, but more importantly should reflect upon your work in general. The exhibition: The names of the participating artists, accompanied by a number, will be displayed on the white walls of one of the larger spaces within the museum. Visitors will each be given an audio guide… which they will use to listen to the audio files by entering the number next to each artist’s name.” 

I wanted to evoke the work rather then describe it. I used a mixture spoken work and poetry to create an audio work that would stand alone as art. Here is the audio piece I created.

This what people see on the wall when they hear my words. (Thanks to Hiroko Hagiwara for sending me the image after she saw the exhibit.)

I was already working on audio pieces in Memory Landscapes when she asked me, mostly my stories and poetry.

If you follow this link to “Shawl,” you’ll hear some of the pieces as part of the sequences of memory association. Like real memory, it is somewhat randomized, so a particular audio piece or image won’t come up every time.

Using audio as part of my art has been both interesting and exciting, since all the work I had done previously was visual. When Karin Sanders invited me, I was very glad that I had already added audio to Memory Landscapes, so that I had some experience and had put much thought in working with it. Creating the Osaka audio piece was challenging, enjoyable and conceptually very useful for my work.



Old Stories Told in New Ways: Memory Landscapes Revisited


Laurie and Debbie say:

Last weekend, we were both at FOGcon, and Laurie presented her Memory Landscapes project in a Saturday evening panel, which Debbie (of course!) was on. Attendance was small, which gave us the gift of intimacy. “Audience” and “panelists” gathered around a table with the artist, to look closely at the work and talk about what we were seeing.

Laurie says: “Since the election, I had been thinking that I would have to put Memory Landscapes on hold, or at least move much more slowly on it, because I felt such a drive to focus on directly political work. What this panel reminded me is that the Memory Landscapes project is political work. It’s about my life, during which I have always been deeply involved with politics and the world. It’s also about the things that have changed in my life and the things that have not changed. It’s about political struggle, and political pain and joy, along with all the other aspects of my life.”


One Memory Landscapes image we looked at was “Handkerchief,” which speaks directly to the murder of Emmet Till in 1955 and the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012. By linking these two deaths, Handkerchief invokes the never-ending stream of young black men’s violent deaths in the intervening years, and links both murders to Laurie’s world, to the political struggles of the 1950s, and much more.


Here’s Laurie again: “Watching the people at the panel interact with these memories, I realized I can’t stop working on Memory Landscapes. Not only is this shared political work, it offers people an opportunity to allow and access their own stories (personal and political) in an entirely new way. When we tell stories in any form of text, or in a linear narrative such as film, we impose a structure on them. We change them by their nature from an associative chain to a structured tale with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In this work which I invented to be the best mirror of my own memories that I could devise, something more happens than my being able to express my own memories in the way they work. Other people start experiencing their memories this way too: they take my framework and apply it to their own lives and to the interaction of my political history with theirs.”

We are both huge fans of narrative, even though we understand the ways in which it is false by nature. Narrative is one thing that got us where we are today. False but compelling narrative is one of Donald Trump’s great strengths, and one of the great strengths of his surrogates, who are our enemies.

Suzy McKee Charnas, in her first novel, Walk to the End of the World, said “New stories must be told in new ways.” Audre Lorde said “The master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house.” What the panel reminded Laurie, and perhaps taught the rest of us, is that Memory Landscapes is a new kind of storytelling which applies to old stories as well as to new ones. And perhaps it will be a new tool to dismantle the house that cannot stand.