Essay about memory and images.

The following text tries to cross the complexity of the image construction onto part of our memory.

As personal it does not intend to be clarifying.

collective memory and visual nomadism


zéNuno Sampaio

Sintra – 2005

More than a manifest, this text is a long inner talk that will never be finished as a question that will never be asked or solved.

Presented to you, assumes a public format that is an expected confrontation level, that in the end will evaluate it’s pertinence.

It’s not an existentialist or moral attempt to define a safer way but just a possible speech.

A possible different approach to life between images, projecting anxieties.

The Mobil, the attraction for the moving image, makes us observers, interpreters, participants, on sometimes dream and sometimes nightmare scenarios.

Considering this text we are too much involved to see it from out, so may this lines admittedly be resulting from playing the fantasia game, as a parcel on the equation, or just another loose fragment, actively suggesting analysis of the visual phenomena.

As a Light designer and video creative I try to suggest universes crossing, and to establish dialogues between artistic areas. Some of these I admit I am a specialist at, and others, like music and body movement I am not, but steel a statement against total specialization on art itself and on the applied art context, where I feel comfortable.

Writing as an art manifestation or just as a rhetorical exercise, but anyway, both again not my specialty.

I admit myself recycling my own memory, my own history, my own fictions and phantoms by remixing the dogmatic aura of television, cinema influences and contemporary art references. Maybe it works for me as a survival exercise on a catharses process of digging and “rewatching”. Remember is step forward to forget.

May this be not a fight against lose of memory but a way to admit that images deserve a second chance to be personally interpreted, a different point of view, and after that yes, maybe forgotten forever on a no hierarchy structure.

50 years ago we thought already was unbearable to stand so many information what makes me think we are not enough bombed with images everywhere, but we would like to be.

A lot has been developed and learned with the minds manipulation through image theme and about the power of the moving image. Since the Russian constructivists, and their propaganda, following futurists like El Lissitzky, to the notorious subliminal images from the publicity industry, both chronological as ideological extremes of contemporary times, again both invading the fragility of the subtle frontier between consciousness and unconsciousness of masses – we, moving targets.

Questions like those started by Newton, from Edison to Lumiére Brothers to Man Ray, to Dan Graham, Jesus Rafael Sotto, to Dali, to Gilbert and George, to Merce Cunningham, to Matt Mullican, to Nam June Paik, are present constant references hard to eliminate from our visual speech. Contradictory, as we may chose many others, but steel the principle that moves contemporary work: choice. Since Marcel Duchamp we have the choice not to agree, but the context becomes fundamental to any attempt to interpret.

There are enough references to the unavoidable market laws that sustains society as we know it. As every person has a price every image has a value.

We make part, primary as consumers, of an empty engine – democracy, and this reaches our contemporary context in deficit, applying the Neurology authors terminology, meaning, reduced or even incapable. It is very happy that I remember the Dogma fundaments for cinema as an attempt to bring democracy to movies making. But there must be around three countries around the world where this is applied and we verify working. Nevertheless, it is in it’s name that another war is sold. In a not so remote future, I believe the question will be close to the following idea:

is this the third world war or the final world war ?

We make part, secondly as individuals, as producers of statements and actions that have social character, political entity and communication ambitions.

At a moment when positions are everyday sharper, like there’s no neutral space there’s no action, no speech that is not political. And could it be different?

Is it possible not to be political and to go back to abstract expressionist motivations? I believe not. But this ‘not’ is also not refusing of any convincible version that is not autistic looking around.

Image and light are inseparable when we try to search deeper for basic links on fiction and reality perception.

Image and memory dependency when we try to explain relations between inner and relationship universes.

Image and politics obvious demagogical game.

Image and entertainment siamese brotherhood.

Image and corporations internal potential.

Image and sales.

There must be a market of images where a stock exchange predicts our dependency in near future. There must be a ‘offer and demand’ basic structure defining direction and a lot of speculation. There must be cycles. There must be an image Nasdaq defining who’s driving. Could we be playing with the unseen cinema for the first time as science investigation like who questions Einstein’s revelations?

Moving image and it’s immersive capacity that is based on a eye mistake, or limitation if you wish, 24/24 or 25/25 that must be an aware factor, not to build another dogma but a clear question. This may be one of the only ways that responsibility as a concept may become one of the elementary human characteristics.

The everyday images transmitted about occidental entertainment are too much lush floating around a terrifying uselessly morality. The documentary is necessarily dramatic. The more we don’t remember, the less we keep about the surrounding facts, the easier we become to be driven, we the auto-denominated occidentals, from the freedom flag point of view.

If this is not enough to illustrate our worst morality let us think about this: oriental is an occidental term, revealing that we are so afraid of the difference that makes us catalog the safety distance between insecure unknown and easily recognizable as familiar. Safety is a threatening feeling. Could we ever see this contradiction on the values we admit our daily existence.

The documentary treated as cinematographic goes through our perception, directly to a category of imaginary fiction, where there’s supposedly no pain and where we can rest our minds even when the world is collapsing.

Well, maybe me being too much pessimist. If this is true, my apologies from the start. Or maybe I am just calling for our surreal influences when it comes to moving image and perception of real.

Referring Luis Buñuel : ” … we need to start loosing memory, even if just fragments, so we realize it’ is the essence of life. life without memory it’s not life… our life our coherency, our rationality, our feeling, even our actions. Without memory we are nothing… ”

Dramatic human condition of constant contradiction keeping one foot on the touchable and the other on the everything else around.

In the end of the day, who are we and what have we become? What moves us from the inside? What are our expectations on the other, as different? … shall we be condemned to a constant threat ? I believe not.

Naturally the human kind is much more than memory, it has feelings, sensitivity and moral consciousness as defended by Alexander Luria, to whom historical changes and economical activity influences memory process, perception of self , but what will become those that lose this principles ? .. what about a society where effectively this distracted mass is the governing majority ?

Virtual-Reality starts with an etymological contradiction itself maybe as a metaphor for humankind. Translated to Portuguese language, my native language, Realidade-Virtual deserves an elementary look even is not aiming for no solution, even if not admitting any resultant problem. It carries a subliminal message I believe, making reference to our vocabulary. Virtual-reality is not some digital landscape we see through glasses. In my opinion, Bloomberg display is our best construction of virtual. And we live it.

A few months ago, a member of the English government (feel happy to have forgotten his precise name) defended that there was no direct relation between the involvement on the war to Iraque and the series of bombing that last took place most recently in London. Resultant from his distance to reality, this government member does not realize that is suggesting/ revealing, if truth, that the reasons must be even more cruel than we imagine. If the Iraque war involvement is not enough what could be a good reason?

The daily images are no doubt too much shocking but, how much are we not televising at this precise moment?

As Portuguese I keep in mind that was in our territory that this war was announced. A few months later the new European Comition president was elected with the US support.

As images deposits we seam to be trusted. That we are living memory archives. For our own sake, better that we use that function as a sixth sense – proprioception , taking the risk if not, to close ourselves on a time capsule, devastating to our individuality first , a blindness when we trust our path to the wind after, a constant doubt that turns our criteria incapable, an atrophy in the end, an absence, an incoherence, a constant let go, resuming ourselves to a sequence of compulsive gestures, or even turning ourselves to a big big misunderstanding, when we don’t distinguish the self from that . Even more interesting as devastating, in the end surprising the lyrical, which one of these two will we refuse?

It was always like this, let’s call it a lot of the technological development nowadays, on every directions, takes place resulting from investigations motivated by military and war principles. What is called the science steeping forward to mankind. Not even Einstein trusted that much blindly in science. About this, João Magueijo clearly wrote in Faster than speed of light ” .. at the moment that we receive an image of an object it is not like that anymore, maybe already not existing anymore .. ” defending, this Portuguese scientist, that like Einstein himself questioned his Relativity Theory, there is a visible part of the universe when the light arrives at a precise moment transporting information, and a complete unknown as invisible part, so another universe.

How many wars will we have to witness so that the memory materials reach the everyday design at our industries and our homes ?

The question goes beyond the oil when we are struggling violently already for the reserves of this substance, source of rubber and artificiality. What about beverages multinationals buying as much water as possible?

Rui Namorado Rosa, Portuguese physician, alerts to the fact that the price is irrelevant when the source is extinguished, and that we should realize that a simple mobile phone incorporates many oil barrels, putting us on a responsible position. The way I see it: coherency is fundamental and i am not a good example.

At the human memory level, the ampaquines, like CX717 molecules, show up like the miraculous solution on the stimulus of the gluten neurotransmitter activity, essential on the memory building and learning process. If now available to the common citizen that falls asleep when driving, before, this have been tested with the military crew on battlefield, transforming them on a war machine, mission after mission always alert, until the last one of his young life. The other way around, reminds me the medicine development sustained by experiences made on war prisoners. We take advantage of that nowadays.

We are an animal kingdom species, the human being, which manifests a not anymore surprising self-destructive necessity, better implosive, resulting from a general life-phobia. Difference means target to be shot and not cultural richness. Some say that when the differences are over and every one has access to the same, consequently will be the end of injustice. But the truth is that we don’t necessarily need to go though Wittgenstein and his propositions about mental images descriptions, to see clearly that there is no same needs, and that millions of people simply don’t want what we have to offer them on this process of so called globalization, where the image is a powerful weapon, for selling ideals or for no ideals selling. The same millions of people that from out clearly identify the resilient danger on the model we are trying to impose people, by force.

Salvador Dali, to me a closer and closer reference to the past, at certain point said: “…but …they cannot expel me from the surreal movement… I AM the surrealism ! ”

What many people don’t know is his experiences with cinema, his surreal universe applied to moving image. The arrogance and genius on the fusion from imaginary and real worlds, that he presented us. Spectacular, even when hated. Peaces like his exploring the cinema are references to me when time, space and order are pertinent to be manipulated. There is the need to subvert sense, direction, speed, hierarchy, velocity, so it’s possible to extract references of transgression and confrontation with the suffocating real. If it was already like this on the 20’s we are almost celebrating the first century of this unbearable situation. There’s a need to fantasia so it’s possible to live with the present, as a dream. To survive the present it’s imperious to these rising communities to transgress the order and live of the accepted codes as marginal.

Merce Cunningham based a lot of his chorographical statement on Einstein laws, like one of those: “There are no fixed points in space” . Cunningham developed for the first time a relation between the performative body and the image capture, with the camera, he later based choreographies on image projection, his dancers danced with dancing image for the first time ever. He choreographed for digital dancers for the first time ever.

He presented us an elbow solo peace, a knee solo peace, like John Cage presented us a peace made from the sum of different silences.

The moving image classics since Lumiere brothers (or even before there was cinema there was science), from cinema to the relatively recent video art or television, have a decisive role on the remixing and recycling of our visual memory, complexity that by being forgotten becomes unquestionable truth. This way we have the opportunity to empty trash and restart.

The TV context on the research takes place as a transversal line crossing different provenience of sources as social classes. When documentary and fiction events are remixed with no hierarchical distinction, the borderline is abolished and, in my opinion, confronting ourselves with this format, we may question our dogma aura of truth. Our idols no more mystified and our fictions deconstructed. Our elusions become just illusions.

The set is now hard-core, inevitably desert and arid, even breathless and tending to bland. My apologies again, now for the cheap analogy of seeing ourselves on the making of the classic movie MadMax. But now is real.

The parallel economy grows bigger when the number of ex-pats increases. Those that no longer stand to follow pattern rules, those that owe so much money that leave their children rather than face the fact, those that refusing to live in their homeland, search for the southern desert freedom to build dissidents communities and become the new XXI century nomads, not following grass and water to feed their animals but thirsty themselves of sound and visuals mainstream experiences, on as much sharper contrasts as possible situations, where the borderline is searched. A jump forward to escape. No future planning but the road, taking life as it comes, not building any expectations on anyone, suffering with that, missing a lot, taking advantage of as much.

Society, whatever that means, that is becoming prevalent, I still believe is naturally peaceful, but cold solving any problem out of control. Even if we have been confronted with examples of the opposite. The individual does not escape his condition of group member in a way cooperating with the group interests, simply because the survival is tending to be very fragile, and people will need each other. Nevertheless, many other dependencies start to establish resulting from new experiences sold on grams, every-time more extreme, and from new pathologies new universes, some healthy doors, some incompatible worlds. We have just entered the XXI century, hang on. I steel believe, against all indicators, that there will be an alternative to weapons.

Collective memory and visual nomads. When the mapping of the body-mind link, as presented by António Damásio, reveals that mental immunology, the best way we find to apply ourselves the advantages of the selective memory. Intentionally finding a way to avoid pain, reveals the defensive way how the human-being always faced life. In the name of some health becomes important to preserve our emotions, taking care of the roots of our feelings, the dorsal spine of our consciousness, the structure pillars of our memory.

In practice, we tend to suspension of our self, even if for short moments. During that pause on the conscious, it takes place the lost of independency, that lost that is not reversible. The conscience mind is a necessity to our uplife, and that conscience what allows us orientation sense, our individuality fundamental so we recognize ourselves as individuals.

The forget machine is inside of us on a advanced rhythm. To fight it or not. The next natural calamity will soon make us forget what were people capable to do to the community ideals in devastated New Orleans, on the most powerful economy of our world, scenes we didn’t see in the so called third world, on a clear called discivilization process.

The information excess that we avid search does not allow enough time to interpret, and feel it on the interior of thought. This is the beginning of superficiality and the end of intentionality. Bland arrives as uniformity of the maxima: ideally, one size fits all, mentally.

Comes the necessity of buying a rhythm and applying it to the experience of belonging to that mass of visual references, going through the experiences of a surreal frame to LIFE.

If we could stop for a second… what is done to the waste of time in our life ?

In truth must say, we live aiming to be foolished as we adore the idea of floating on the fallible.



C. Gerthsen , Kneser , H. Vogel – Fisica

Carlos Azevedo – Biologia Celular

Iván Izquierdo – A arte de esquecer – Cérebro, Memória e Esquecimento

Martin Heidegger -A origem da obra de arte

João Magueijo – Faster than speed of light

António Damásio – Ao encontro de espinosa -As emoções sociais e a neurologia do sentir

Oliver Sachs – O homem que confundiu a mulher com um chapéu

Ludwig Wittgenstein – Tratactus logico-philosophicus

Walter Bengamin – Sobre arte, técnica, linguagem e politica

Rodrigo de Abreu, Vasco Guerra – Relativity – Einstein’s Lost Frame

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Jose Nuno Sampaio

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