mémoire involontaire no. 1

This text begins as a short, composed memory. Periodically and involuntarily its words are replaced in real-time by synonyms and coordinate terms extracted from the Wordnet database using the RiTa library for Processing. As time progresses the memory becomes unanchored from its original significance, drifting into new configurations as the old words are replaced by similar words with their own semantic associations and currents. After a certain amount of time has elapsed the text enters a second state where it attempts to “remember” its original form, where the text longs to reconstruct the original memory as it was first remembered and composed. In this state the text attempts to cycle back through the replacements, exfoliating the changes that have accumulated in order to recall the words of its source. During this stage (in which it ceaselessly remains) the text is more likely to “remember” than “forget,” although there exists the possibility that the text will drift toward new replacements, new significations. As Walter Benjamin once wrote, “Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre.” Indeed, this text is an experiment in the involuntary performance of memory – forever departing from the moment of its inscription while forever attempting to return to the script and source of its unfolding.

The text begins as a wall of white words. The words that have been replaced by the processing of the text will fade toward blackness, and words being “remembered” will veer back to white. Yet, as time changes so does the background on which we stage the work of memory: forgetting is never as simple as words fading forever away, but it concerns the slow shift of legibility, the languid disappearance and reappearance of the language which captures us on its way away.

The original memory was actively composed in relation to the algorithms which swim gently into the sea of wordnet. Just as we learn the currents of the sea to better guide our “craft,” one must learn the drift of our “nets” and “databases” and “algorithms” in order to know in what direction we are headed. Such a process is both a giving up of ourselves to the winds of the symbolic, and simultaneously a struggle to find a map that will lead us back to ourselves. Such is also, the work of memory.

“mémoire involontaire no. 1” uses Processing and the amazing RiTa library developed by Daniel Howe.

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