Sgoran san Àrainneached | Lesions in the Landscape by UK/Danish artist Shona Illingworth is a powerful new multi-screen installation, exploring the impact of amnesia and the erasure of individual and cultural memory. Revealing the devastating effects of amnesia on one woman and the striking parallels with the sudden evacuation of the inhabitants of St Kilda in the North Atlantic in 1930, the work examines the profound effect and wider implications of memory loss on identity, space and the capacity to imagine the future.
In collaboration with neuropsychologists Martin A. Conway and Catherine Loveday, Illingworth has worked with and filmed Claire, who, following a trauma to her brain can no longer remember most of her past, create new memories or recognise anyone – not even herself. However the new sensory operated camera technology worn around her neck can help reactivate access to some of her ‘forgotten’ memories, in rare bursts of intense recollection.
The sudden end to Claire’s access to her memories echoes the evacuation of the inhabitants of the remote Scottish archipelago of St Kilda on 29th August 1930, ending over 2,000 years of continuous habitation. Both mark an abrupt and irreversible lesion in a cultural landscape. Accessing or reconstructing the past is a process fraught with difficulty and both share a sense of isolation. They are both now the subject of scientific inquiry, St Kilda as an outdoor laboratory for scientific investigation, a carefully preserved heritage site and a radar tracking station for complex military weapons testing, and Claire as the subject of major neuropsychological study. And in each case, the past is continually constructed by others.
For the project, Illingworth took Claire to St Kilda, where she filmed her in this intense landscape. The installation presents three video projections and an array of up to twenty loudspeakers to create a fully immersive sound environment of voice, engineered and ambient sounds. They form a richly layered composition where the sounds of thousands of calling gannets is underscored by intermittent sounds of EEG signals which capture the desolate internal landscape of Claire’s amnesia as she struggles to search for her own memory of this environment.
An ongoing series of Amnesia Forums examine the politics of memory, amnesia and cultural erasure through discussion between invited artists, scientists, writers and researchers. This feeds directly into the Amnesia Museum, a growing body of works which map out the landscape of amnesia. It draws together film, photography, drawings and documents, and will be shown alongside the installation. Amnesia Forum #5 took place at Taigh Chearsabhagh on Saturday 18 June
Thursday 30 June 7pm – Hand Memory Talk
Thursday 21 July 7pm – St Kilda Archive film screening event
Wednesday 27 July 7pm Folklore & Song of St Kilda with Margaret Bennett.
Thursday 25 August 7pm A Natural History of St Kilda – John Love
Thursday 8 September 7pm A Collection of St Kilda Memories with Alasdair MacEachan
Tuesday 13 September 3.30pm Shona Illingworth – Artist Talk by Skype.
This exhibition is produced by FACT and is supported by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust. With additional support from University of Kent.
Born in Denmark in 1966, Shona Illingworth was brought up in the Highlands of Scotland. She trained at Goldsmith’s and is now based in London. She creates evocative video and sound installations that explore the experience of memory and the formation of identity in situations of social tension and trauma. Her work has been exhibited widely, including at the Museum of Modern Art, Bologna, the Wellcome Collection, London, the National Museum, Tirana and Interaccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, Toronto, screened at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Modern Art Oxford and Museum of Fine Art Lausanne and she has received commissions from Film and Video Umbrella, the Hayward Gallery, London and Channel 4 Television. This is Illingworth’s first solo Scottish exhibition.