Time Unwrapped: Memento

12th January 2018 19:30
Kings Place
90 York Way, London, N1 9AG

In January 2018, Poet in the City and Aurora Orchestra joined together with a new and exciting partner- Bionano Consulting. Together, we created Memento, an artistic commision and programme that sought to explore the connection between physics, memory, music and poetry.

In a time when technology is so rapidly changing our relationship to memory, we leapt at the opportunity to delve into such a fascinating subject. We were introduced to Bionano Consulting through the Knowledge Quarter, a partnership of academic, cultural, research and scientific organisations based in Kings Cross. Bionano has developed a new technology called PETMEM* that aims to reduce power consumption in memory devices such as laptops or phones, and will someday have a significant impact on society's relationship with technology. Bionano wanted to share this exciting information in an interesting and palatable way, and chose poetry and music as a compelling translator to animate and dissect the information for a wider audience.

Together with Aurora Orchestra we commissioned two artists, poet Frances Leviston and composer Martin Suckling to create new work that mirrored the science of storing data at even faster speeds and the impact it has on us as humans. They were invited to research sessions at the National Physics Laboratory, where they studied advanced scientific processes and used them to influence their art. The artists also looked at their personal relationships with memory, and paid homage to the artists whose legacy inspired their own work- Emily Dickinson and Franz Schubert.

Frances’ work in particular was highly influenced by Dickinson, and also pivotal women in science, including those at the centre of the project. She began to draw parallels between the concept of energy and compression in science, and that of it in poetry. Her final collection of poems draws from a combination of scientific information, pastiche, imagery derived from raw materials in their different states and under microscope and metaphors commonly used in the scientific world.

Martin was intrigued by the ‘otherworldly landscapes’ he observed under the microscope, and how a material would change form if it was put under enough pressure and concluded that many of the same processes could be noticed with music. As a musician you can squeeze material into different size timeframes and squash the pitch space around a note, increasing the density of the sound. He created a quintet that highlighted the point of extreme pressure and the change the body of work encountered as a result. The quintet also drew delicate references to Sucklings favourite piece by Schubert, an Adiago in C Major.

The collaboration allowed all three partners to experience new and dynamic territories, and expand their own horizons. It brought poets inside laboratories and allowed scientists to work alongside composers, it celebrated the similarities between different sectors. The work developed featured on BBC3’s Memory Weekender, in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection, a weekend of live music, discussion and one-off programmes on musics unique capacity to be remembered. It was also presented live at Kings Place with additional speakers experimental physicist Dr Markys Cain and author and editor Simon Barraclough. The work produced as a part of Memento has gone on the be included in such publications as the London Review of Books.

*Piezoelectronic Transduction Memory Device

Discover more:

Martin Suckling poetically reflects on his new work and shares a playlist of musical inspirations.

Commissioned by Bio Nano Consulting Ltd for the dissemination of PETMEM (Piezoelectronic Transduction Memory Device), a European Commission-funded project which brings together universities, research institutions and companies to explore low-voltage memory technologies.

This event is presented as part of Kings Place's Time Unwrapped programme

Watch the whole event below:

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