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LABORATORY FOR THE DISSECTION OF FOUND MEMORIES
Marco Montiel-Soto and Memory Games
José Antonio Navarrete
How is memory built? How does it work? What is the relation between memory and recollection as well as memory and the past? How do memory and forgetting interact? Marco Montiel-Soto has raised many questions about memory through one of the most important cultural practices dealing with the subject since the 1980’s: the visual arts. Nevertheless, he has eluded inserting the issue that he is developing into the context of his own life as has occurred in most social and political contexts which were once considered a priority in art until the recent turn of the century. It could be said that Marco Montiel-Soto is interested in focusing directly on memory first and foremost as a philosophic object: in other words as a problem to be studied in itself. Therefore, his approach is developed as a broad discursive speculation.
Marco Montiel-Soto’s point of departure could be summarized in the following phrase: a photograph is a memory device. This idea was incorporated early on into the understanding of the technology as a way to reproduce images, a concept that goes way back to the public recognition of daguerreotype, the first widespread “photographic” technique used as a “mirror of the memory”. It also quickly became an important element of its theoretical and historical background.
The artist works with a range of slides that are enhanced far beyond their actual physical worth. In his wanderings around flea markets, Marco Montiel-Soto came across this small collection that dates back half a century and has furnished him with a supply of iconic material that is both inspiring and thought provoking.
Based on these premises, Montiel-Soto shows the similarity between the processes that trigger memory and the processes involving the scientific method and the study of nature based on testing and physical-chemical experiments. To accomplish this, he gathers a variety of constructive resources that he then uses to assemble an installation symbolic of the place where both tasks are carried out: the Laboratory. In his case, a model emerges that is very sui generis which he calls “Laboratory for the Dissection of found Memories”.
The strategy used in this approach generates a positive reaction that effectively connects the playful aspect with the call for reflection. It requires the spectator to make their way around light boxes cunningly displayed as showcases and laboratory counters; try out reading glasses on scraps of photographic prints; inspect the visual fragments contained in glass jars and as the main activity, make the many possible connections suggested by the assortment of pictures cut out and/or pierced with holes that he/she will encounter along a path that interlaces an extensive network of communication and mutual contacts. All these interactions, one way or the other, enrich the photographs that are produced in the laboratory and end up displayed on the walls in an array of banners filled with mementos, a sort of portrayal of the key processes of memory. They also make us aware of how one’s own memory is shaped by collecting from others.
It is all about a game that hints at the fundamental broadening of our senses as a path to the existing world beyond immediate sensory experiences: it reminds us of the childhood fun of “cut-out and paste” or the objects that we naively used to take apart and put back together at our whim. It invites us to think openly and diversely about memory as a human function. It could be said that this laboratory with all its features is organized around the principal of montage: in other words, like a camera that explodes into a “new meaning” as pondered by Eisenstein, one of the main theorists of this concept. The result is the juxtaposition of the facts, phenomenon and objects contained within. The “Laboratory” where this game takes place is above all a conceptualized space even though at each and every turn we are delighted by our continuous discoveries.
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