Selective Memory at the Chocolate Factory

Selective Memory is described as a real time video performance but somehow that only scratches the surface. From a technological perspective it is impressive, from an aesthetic perspective it is stunning. It puts you into a slow and focused state of consciousness that hovers between hyperawareness and revery. Brian Rogers, Madeleine Best and the rest of the creative team have made a beautiful and meditative multimedia art object that is wholly immersive and transporting.

The space as the Chocolate Factory has been transformed into a kind of mini movie studio with a huge white scrim gently curving throughout the space. The performance is staged in such as way that the performer (Madeleine Best) is visible only from the neck down, her face is shown in close up on a large rectangular screen that obscures her actual face. For the first five or so minutes that is all we see, her face, in close-up. Gradually the cameras shift and we see her face from different angles. As the piece progresses we slowly see her from more and varied angles as she moves through a series of understated but meticulously choreographed gestures. If you pay close attention you can see that Madeleine is holding a remote control, and is simultaneously choosing the shots as she performs.

The action – as it were – is accompanied by a live soundtrack performed by Brian Rogers. The soundtrack is also meditative and complex, kind of like some compositions by Sigur Ros, Mogwai or Spiritualized, it alternates between drone and music, sometimes just blankets of white noise.

In a sense what they are creating is more like a living multimedia painting than a performance. One has to encounter the work from the same place of observation. Offering just the barest suggestions of what might be or have been, Selective Memory invites the observer to fill in the blanks, to fill up their imagination through their own reflections on the images offered.

Gradually the video representations of the performer become more complex, we see her full body, we see her in more “active” postures. As the piece grows in complexity the images of the performer replicate until there are three life-size images in addition to the actual performer and it is hard to discern which is real and which is projected. In the culminating sequence we are in a nameless forest, alone with the performer as she slowly and determinedly walks into the distance and off the screen.

Selective Memory is a fascinating, methodical and hypnotic meditation on the power of film on memory. It calls on the audience to fill in the blanks by offering only the barest essentials of what can be conceived of as “plot” or “action”. Go check it out and see for yourself.

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