This until the renaissance period, a time in which

This essay
will investigate and consider the ways in which memory and dreams have been
progressively explored across the eras in a multitude of forms. The ways in
which artists express both distant and present memories within their works, and
the ways in which it can be expressed are variant and interminable and is
therefore a topic in which I would like to deeply explore. The way in which we
express our emotions is limited and repetitious however art is a universally
recognised method of expression within the sensual world we live in and can
have numerous interpretations. Antonymy and the human brain has been the focus
of scientific curiosity since ancient Egypt, however dissections of the brain
didn’t become regular until the renaissance period, a time in which major
discoveries involving the brain were made. Artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci
became increasingly more interested in the functions of the brain and
kickstarted the exploration of this theme in the art world and even performed
dissections himself in the early fifteenth century. Artists, to this day, find
the theme of the brain, memory and nostalgia an intricate topic in which is
stimulating to study. Recalling the past is an ever-present occurrence in most
of our lives, and the way our memories can become distorted over time as we are
overloaded with new information is an area in which I find fascinating. Our
experiences through life are constantly readjusting the way in which we see the
world, and does this therefore impact upon the way we recall old memories? To
further explore this topic, I will also be considering the enigma of dreams and
our ability to regurgitate details from them upon awakening. I will also consider
the philosophy of dreams, considering philosophers such as Sigmund Freud and artists
such as Jane Gifford.

Do Ho Suh,
a Korean artist considered his memory of two significant staircases in his instillation
in the Tate Modern, titled; Staircase-III. (1) The instillation is a visual
representation of the staircase from his parents’ house in Seoul, Korea,
combined with the staircase that connects his own apartment to his landlords in
New York. Do Ho Suh’s installations often feature transitional spaces,
including bridges, doorways and archways, made from Nylon stretched over wire
frames to create intense, almost ethereal sculptures, that take up entire
rooms. He finds these transitional spaces interesting due to how they both
connect and separate two spaces. This connects with his childhood growing up in
Korea and the sudden change of moving to New York, where he felt a strong sense
of cultural displacement. He views his life as a peripatetic journey, and his
use of categorized spaces in his works represents his different stages in life.

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Memory in
a Global Age (discourses, Practices and trajectories) by Aleida Assmann, and
Sebastian Conrad touches upon the cultural displacement Ho Suh feels here. It
claims we all possess our own individual identities based on our upbringing of
belief systems, political systems and families, and there for the communitive
and cultural memories we uphold are equally diverse. (2) Assmann and Conrad claim
memory is an open system but despite this, there are always fragments of
memories that relate too identity on an individual, generational and cultural
level. Therefore, Globalization and memory work opposing to one another, where
memory brings a sense of identity and individuality, separating us from one
another, globalisation works to blur all the lines together. Do Ho Suh Submerged
himself in an entirely new culture and had to work under the pressure that his
work could not have been as well received in England, when he exhibited in the Tate,
as it was in Korea or New York, where he was familiar with his surroundings and
belief systems. Regardless of this, Staircase-III seemed to be a success, and
his feelings of cultural displacement appear absent in this piece.

Staircase-III
folds down from the ceiling, hanging upside down, with the skylights above the
piece shining through the red translucent material to make it appear, to me,
like a hologram being projected into the space. Its inverted nature makes me
feel uneasy in the sense that it’s an unusual way to portray a mundane object,
however I feel he purposefully done this for effect. Due to the skylights, the
atmosphere of the piece will change throughout the day, with daytime it being a
bright, inviting piece, and by dusk it perhaps shifting to more haunting and
distant. The bold red colour of his entire piece is an interesting selection to
me as it often relates to emotions such as anger and deceit. Perhaps Ho Suh’s
choice of red relates more to memories of love, and a positive relationship
with his parents. The choice of nylon enables Ho Suh to physically transport
the instillation in the same way you can transport intangible thoughts and
memories throughout your life. The title of the piece; Staircase-III could
perhaps be due to it being the combination of the two staircases that were most
significant within his memories.

An artist
who also actively relives her memories within her artworks is Jane Gifford,
however her works are not of genuine happenings, but of dreams. Jane Gifford
has filled gallery spaces with her dreams including her recent exhibition
titled: Dream Diary, which she describes as; “A complete visual record of my
dreams over a year, including every person, object and place; in fragments,
close ups or long shots; drawn in Black and White except for images remembered
in colour; and shown in consecutive order.” (3) This concept immediately
sparked my interest due to her ability to recall every dream she has had. The
lack of detail in her pieces is honest, as she’s being true to her memory, and
not falsely visualising something that was not there. The choice to paint her
pieces, over sketching or drawing, seems to me, the natural choice. When
painting freehand, you are less likely to insert misinformed details. Her Piece
titled; Sex – a black and white painting of what appears to be two people
engaging in intercourse was perhaps the most prominent to myself. The woman, is
the only subject matter painted in colour within this piece, as if all the
focus lies solely on her, making the scene engaging and intense. Her paintings
are mostly monochrome, however can sometimes feature a singular woman painted
in colour, which I assume could be representing herself. Jane Gifford’s spin on
the ability of the human brain to recall memories which she didn’t experience
in the physical world is interesting. Can dreams interfere with our memories?
How often do you question if your memory of a certain event happened, or if was
something fabricated within your dreams? Gifford often questions the “creative
richness and unpredictability of dreams, those which are mundane as well as
those more personally significant.” (4)

Sigmund Freud
was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, who was also
fascinated in the assembly of dreams. In Prehistoric times, people often
believed dreams had connotations to higher beings, that our dreams somehow
showed revelations from God’s and daemons and were furthermore, a tell-tale of
what the future had to hold. (5) I question whether Jane Gifford’s Painting –
Sex, is an indication of the past, or perhaps her longing for a future event.
Dreams often take unexpected turns due to our lack of control over them, but
how influenced are our dreams by daily occurrences and thoughts in our lives?  Freud quotes Burdach, a physiologist in his
book, in which Burdach claims our dreams do not confine us to the common daily
labours of life, but instead, free us from it. He believes no matter our mental
capacity to digest information, or how vigorous our emotions, dreams will do no
more than enter our pre-existing mood and represent reality in symbols
throughout our dreams. If we can then remember and process these symbols,
perhaps we can then gain a deeper understanding of our thoughts and emotions.
In some ways I feel Gifford is perhaps attempting to achieve this with her
project. She has documented her dreams since she started to become an
established artist, in the beginning, with simple sentences and phrases, and
over time it became with symbols and pictures.

Its often
hard for the audience to gage the significance of her dreams, and many of the
symbols will hold a deeper implication to herself. This leads to an imminent
barrier between her audience and her works, perhaps the ambiguity of her pieces
is what leads to the fascination in her audiences, however I would perhaps find
her pieces more engaging with more background information. Her early works I
find easier to engage with, as her descriptive pieces are poetic and graceful
and sum up the general essence of her dreams, and I feel speak louder than the
scenes she paints which are only small snippets. Two opposing arguments are
that our dreams develop upon ideas in our consciousness shortly before falling
asleep, against the idea that the man who dreams has no connection to his
conscious thoughts and is cut off from ordinary behaviour of waking life. It
would be interesting to know in which way Gifford’s dreams drift, and if
anything from her dreams connects to her conscious self.

In
Conclusion, drawing upon your memories to produce artworks can work successfully
if worked upon in a considered manner. Do Ho Suh fought against his cultural
displacement and modern day globalisation to create an accomplished and well
considered piece. Despite a multitude of barriers separating us, religion and political
diversity and ethnic groups, we all have a same common value on cherishing memories
that are dear to us. Our memories and dreams seem to influence us in
multifarious ways. Our daily thoughts, actions and emotions can have a strong
hold over the dreams we experience at night, and can appear in discrete symbols
and images, to reflect upon these symbols I feel is an insightful way to learn
more about yourself and perhaps what your subconscious may be trying to tell
you.