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Austin Museum of Art Explores The Art of Memory in Exhibition
Dinh Q. L, Untitled (From Vietnam to Hollywood), 2003, C-print and linen tape, 38 x 72 in. Private Collection. Courtesy of PPOW, New York.

AUSTIN, TX.- Family photo albums, Road Runner cartoons, the works of Shakespeare, and Barack Obama’s presidential primary campaign are just some of the subjects explored in AMOA’s upcoming exhibition, The Lining of Forgetting: Internal & External Memory in Art. This international exhibition, opening to the public on May 30, 2009, explores the ways we remember, both as individuals and collectively, and highlights how we often forget, rewrite, and even fabricate memory.

The exhibition features sculpture, photography, works on paper, installation, video and computer-generated works by fourteen international artists including Edgar Arceneaux, Deborah Aschheim, Louise Bourgeois, Janice Caswell, John Coplans, Pablo Helguera, Emma Kay, Dinh Q. L, Scott Lyall, David Rokeby, Mungo Thomson, Cody Trepte, Kerry Tribe, and Rachel Whiteread.

AMOA Executive Director Dana Friis-Hansen commented, “Memory connects us to our past and to each other in a way that is unparalleled. It is a very prevalent topic in the news these days due to scientific studies on the brain, our concerns about aging, and recent advances in technology that allow us to store huge amounts of information. The artists in this exhibition explore those aspects in addition to the human side of memory that every visitor will be able to relate to.”

An uneasy reliance on electronic storage, an unprecedented number of aging adults, and a certain cultural amnesia have worked to increase society’s preoccupation with memory. The exhibition focuses on the function of memory itself and the way that artists have examined its mutable nature. Issues explored include our increased reliance on digital technology to record and store our past, and the mediation of memory through popular culture. Works explore our evolving perception of history in the age of the internet and globalization, and the way that individual memory works to support personal and collective identities.

For example, Bourgeois used fragments of antique household linens and clothing that the artist has collected since the 1920s to create Ode L’Oubli (2004), a completely different kind of scrapbook. The book pages, individually framed for the purpose of exhibition, include many of Bourgeois’ signature shapes and symbols that, for her, are a catalogue of emotional triggers to her past. Bourgeois has long used memory as a springboard to examine issues of gender, sexuality, and subconscious desire. Her work from the 1960s onward consistently references childhood memories that have been indelibly imprinted upon her psyche.

L’s large-scale woven photographs literally intertwine archival images documenting the Vietnam War with stills from popular Hollywood films about the conflict, such as Apocalypse Now. To create these works, the artist made large printouts of the photographic images, cut them into strips, and then, using the tradition of grass-mat weaving that he learned from his aunt in Vietnam, wove them together. Works from the series From Vietnam to Hollywood (2003), elucidate how personal experience can fuse with the fictional memories created by mass media to result in new remembrances.

Whiteread’s Surface (2005), is a part of a series of plaster casts of cardboard storage boxes that she started sculpting soon after packing up and moving the contents of her mother’s home. She began to think about how the outside of an old box—its shape, the color and imprint of logos, etc.—can evoke particular emotions and memories in one person, but for someone else remains completely anonymous, just another box among many. Whiteread is known for her ghostly casts of negative spaces of such common objects as a bed or bathtub and such architectural spaces as a staircase, or even an entire house.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by the narrative of French filmmaker Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983): “I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten.” Exhibition curator Xandra Eden explains, “This concept of memory as a process that is, first, mostly about forgetting, and second, forever in editing mode, is central to The Lining of Forgetting: Internal and External Memory in Art.”

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