Pandorum: The Persistence of Memory

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This little essay is still something of a work in progress but I hope will act as an aid to understanding the work, and possibly my practice in general.

The roots from which Pandorum evolved are alluded to in the title:

Pan-dor-um: A disease founded by emotional triggers, a feeling of fear. Thinking you can’t be saved, you may find yourself in a state of Pandorum, or extreme fear of being alone. Thinking there is nothing left, usually causes craziness.**
Hopefully this, when combined with the Persistence of Memory sub-title, gives the spectator an indication of the that which lies at the heart of the work from my perspective as the creator as I will expand upon below.

The opportunity to install this work in the Stairwell Gallery in Durham was too good to miss: the stairwell space provides the perfect metaphor for a journey. The objects from which Pandorum in comprised can be seen as representative of memories, as alluded to in the title of the work, suspended at marked points in time throughout the journey through the stairwell.

Although representative of a journey the stairwell does not itself dictate the direction of the journey. The path is defined by the boundaries established around the stairs but the direction of travel, whether forwards and backwards, or up and down, is in the control of the audience. The objects with which one engages whilst traversing the stairwell are static which is befitting their role as metaphors for the memories which they represent as their place in time is fixed.

Using hair was important to the fabrication of this work and compounds the idea that these objects serve as being symbolic of memories. Although these locks of hair are of personal significance to the maker,they also offer the audience a key in to the themes which underpin this work. It has been well documented that in times gone by locks of hair were often kept as a tangible reminder of the deceased; in Victorian times, for example, these would be kept inside a devotional object such as a locket or woven into a necklace or bracelet. In a similar statement these synthetic locks of hair have been fused into the the lumps of clay from which they hang.

The suggestion that this act has been undertaken in order to preserve these memories is challenged by the removal of the hair from the context of the body. When detached from the body hair is one of those substances that becomes abject, it is perceived as being more gruesome, disgusting even, as it brings our attention the fine margin between dead and living. Being that this hair is synthetic causes the any abject impact upon the spectator to be dampened but the implication is still apparent.

These locks of hair are not just supported by the pieces of clay from which they hang; upon climbing the stairwell spectators will find themselves in a position from which to examine the objects more closely whereupon they will find that the locks are firmly embedded in their clay bases. At the point where the earth and the hair meet the boundaries between the self and the other are blurred reaffirming the abject nature of the work.

In understanding that the Romantic approach that I take to my work could lead to some spectators finding it impenetrable I always endeavour to create work that is visually engaging, that rouses the viewers conciousness. Of course Pandorum is multi-sensory as it engages spectators physically as well as visually; it is almost impossible to negotiate the stairwell without coming in to contact with the work.

The encounter between the beholder and the Pandorum is heightened by the tactile quality of the work and it’s overwhelming physical presence in the exhibition space. The tactile relation between the spectator and the work in this instance is intended to facilitate a greater understanding of the role of the maker in the work as this tactile experience is shared by both parties.

Like much of my work Pandorum’s abstract appearance allows for a multitude of interpretations. This analysis of the work is not intended to be prescriptive, to dictate to spectators what they should think about, or take away from Pandorum.

** This definition was obtained from the Urban Dictionary. This may not be considered by some as a valid or reliable source of reference, but this is an artwork not an academic paper. It’s a source which reflects the fact that I am immersed in a post-modern world of pastiche and popular culture.