Neighborhoods of Memory

Quartieri della Memoria is a public outdoor work that wants to be an interface to popular culture through oral memory and civic imagery.

Quartieri della Memoria is part of MNEMONIC SPACES

movie animation

I will soar, then, beyond this power of my nature also, ascending by degrees unto Him who made me.

And I enter the Neighborhoods of Memory, where are the treasures of countless images, imported into it from all manner of things by the senses.

There is treasured up whatsoever likewise we think, either by enlarging or diminishing, or by varying in any way whatever those things which the sense hath arrived at; yea, and whatever else hath been entrusted to it and stored up, which oblivion hath not yet engulfed and buried.

When I am in this storehouse, I demand that what I wish should be brought forth, and some things immediately appear; others require to be longer sought after, and are dragged, as it were, out of some hidden receptacle; others, again, hurry forth in crowds, and while another thing is sought and inquired for, they leap into view, as if to say, “Is it not we, perchance?”

These I drive away with the hand of my heart from before the face of my remembrance, until what I wish be discovered making its appearance out of its secret cell.

Other things suggest themselves without effort, and in continuous order, just as they are called for, those in front giving place to those that follow, and in giving place are treasured up again to be forthcoming when I wish it.
All of which takes place when I repeat a thing from memory.

St. Augustine, The Confessions X.VIII.12.

Quartieri della memoria is an artwork for public spaces, it focuses on oral memory. It sets up a theater of the memory as a cultural rite in the audience’s mind.

The relationship between the residents and the public place changes and renews it in a progress driven mostly by an economic policy.

Rieti, a town in the center of Italy, has been taken as case study.

The pre-design phase of this project is characterized by a cultural research focused on anthropological meanings, therefore on the history that builds the identity of social places. The research investigates on the social-economical aspect: on the documentation of the area and with many interviews among the citizens. The interviews allowed building a data collection of people’s old photos and audio stories.

Particular attention is played to the relationship of the river and the neighborhoods crossed by the river.

Strongly characterized by traditional occupations, in all the three chosen neighborhoods the floods (pianare in dialect) gave a rhythm to daily life:

there were up to thirteen floods per year

one citizen said, forcing the people in these areas to move in and out and to change jobs according to the season.

From the local dialect, the term pianara comes from the meaning of making flat, once the flooding happens, the water make the neighborhoods flattened.

The project aims to develop a working prototype able to sense the environment, therefore to gather real time data from the space itself.

Duchamp’s poetic sampling is a double component of this project, a set of off line data, interviews, is previously stored while the sensing system selects and clusterizes patterns. By using methods from architecture, computer science and the anthropological research the project breaks the disciplinary spheres of culture and technology with the goal of producing a distributed poetic narration.

By making the stories public the visitors share the ownership of them so that they are free to build new stories. In each selected public place the visitor can be recognized by a RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system, while he signs a guest book his memories are added to the place through screens and speakers. Motion images from an infrared camera are processed to track visitor’s flow on the space. The flow triggers the photos’ sequence projected and the audio-stories diffused. The experience includes also a pianara interval, which once again represents the flooding through sounds and images.

The prototype is reproduced for each of the spaces chosen to build a walking path among the public places. The camera system captures people motions as a surveillance tool and spreads motion images on the networked places. Surveillance is usually controlled by an authority figure such as the government or law enforcement. Here, the artwork empowers the viewer to watch his representation, the neighbors’ representation, both measured in their own space.

As an artwork, the goal is to create an experience of participation along the network of extended spaces. The work wants to be an interface to popular culture through a civic imagery. It is a temporary installation that aims to alter the dialog among residents and between themselves and the place, showing memories of a popular culture.
The project has been sponsored by the Fondazione Varrone and the Provincia di Rieti, it has been hosted and supported by the Center for Research in Engineering, Media and Performance, UCLA.

Three students: Sheila Starace, Luca Martellucci and Tommy Gentile were involved in the six months research and production, they won a scholarship to work on their thesis.

Luca graduated in computer science on July ‘06 with the thesis The sensible public place: a computer vision system for artistic installations (2.5MB), Tommy obtained the BS in computer science on July ’07 with the thesis The sensible public place: System integration of an art installation (802KB).

On October 31, 2006 the work has been showed at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles.

UCLA REMAP project webpage

Thanks to:
Fondazione Varrone e Provincia di Rieti
REMAP Center at the UCLA School of Theater, Film & TV
Archivio di Stato di Rieti
Archivio Fotografico Brucchietti
Ufficio del Catasto di Rieti
Alessandro Bissacco, Ph.D at UCLA, now at Google
Ass. Cul. Porta D’Arce
Giancarlo Cammerini
Simposio Pasolini and the city (125KB)
UCLA Experiential Technology Center (ETC)
Professor Paola Inverardi, Computer Science, Universita’ de L’Aquila
UCLA Getty Conservation Program