Lost in the Memory Palace – Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
at AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario)
There are seven installation events on the 4th floor of Toronto’s excellent AGO. They’re theatrical, immersive, dramatic experiences. Cardiff and Miller use sound as their main instrument. In one piece their two voices introduce us to strange repeated telling of mysterious fragments from lives as we pass through a dusty room full of old forgotten far off things. In another piece we go on a road journey alongside worn out slides, accompanied by a soundtrack of the two artists trying to work out a story from what they’re seeing. In a toy cinema we view a film which accompanies some sort of violence in the auditorium. A storm room immerses us in an old tornado; rain drips into buckets, thunder and lightning whirl round us. A symphony of loudspeakers responds to the movement of our shadows. 2 robots operate on a blanket covering a dentist’s chair while filmic music plays.
Downstairs, surrounded by huge Henry Moore plaster moulds, 40 speakers play individual voices picked out from a choir’s rendering of ‘spem in alium’ so that we are caught up in something that’s both together and separate.
Our own individual memory stores are teased and jogged and added to. The experience is enriching to us as individuals, but also becomes one which we share – with the artists, and with all the other visitors who come and take part alongside us. Installation art at its best.