The Training of a Fragile Memory

Media InstallationCo-created by Mark Alice Durant & Jeanne C. Finley
New Museum of Contemporary Art 1993
The Training of a Fragile Memory explores how words and pictures serve as the glue, the mystification, the validation of seemingly contradictory points of view and create the matrix for personal and public experience.  Imagery and language confront our memory, fusing with it, twisting it and redirecting it.  Through a combination of photographs, video and text this installation serves as a site of reading and contemplation about experience which has been induced by social narratives, yet redefined by individual ideals and memory.

A velvet-covered magenta bench along one wall opposes 6 unfinished straight-back wooden chairs situated against the opposing wall.   Behind each chair, a single photograph of a tiny sailboat constructed out of twigs, twine and newsprint, floating in a bucket hangs on the wall.  The newspaper publication hangs on library newspaper holders which are mounted on the wall referencing flags and emblems.   The viewer is invited to participate in the site by taking a newspaper and sitting in one of the chairs or on the bench.  The newspaper publication is the foundation of the exhibition and its design is based on the striking similarities between the design aesthetics predominant in Soviet and American journals from the 1930's which suggest times of great ideological optimism that crumble into dogma and intolerance.  Image and linguistic motifs that are presented in the newspaper are echoed in the video and photographs. 

Mounted above the bench will a large monitor showing a videotape of sometimes pastoral, sometimes ominous images that create an atmosphere of portent.   There is a feeling that something is about to happen, yet in fact nothing specific occurs.  Some of the images include a fisherman slowly casting his nets;  a mechanical arm waving a flag;  a cluster of moths, brightly illuminated at night hovering around a generic public statue.

Narrative is humanity's basic device for keeping chaos at bay, it is a compromise we make in the attempt to hold our individual and cultural psyches together.  But it is the seamlessness of personal and historical narrative that continues to obscure the turbulence and chaos that is at the heart of many events and perhaps at the heart of ourselves.  This exhibition will serves as an elusive document to the ephemeral shifts in power between a government and its people, between nation and nation, between the document and the documented, between our training for stability and the fragility of our memory.

In June, 1992, Artist's Space in New York was awarded a Special Exhibitions Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to develop and exhibit a new collaborative installation by artists Mark Alice Durant and Jeanne C. Finley entitled The Training of a Fragile Memory.