Text by Josianne Monette


Memory, by definition, is forgetful. In his work, Les lieux de memoire (places of memory), Pierre Nora describes it as being: "[…] in permanent evolution, open to the dialectic of remembering and forgetting . . . vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation, susceptible to being long dormant and periodically revived." We find in us a need to stabilize this memory, especially through the medium of writing and archive. For memory does not make any mistakes, we give it form, we register it.


We are in an era where we are able to conserve large amounts of information in computers as small as our hands. This new technology is seeking, year after year, to take up the memory space available. There is talk of integrated and extended memory. The palm pilot becomes essential in our every-day lives and whether we are business people or not, it reminds us of everything our own memory can not. However, we often forget that it is an artificial memory, a crutch that also has its limits. In fact, the constant change in technology and information makes it impossible to archive long-term.


Mike Patten presents in Lost Thoughts, a series of personal notes he wrote spontaneously on the screen of his palm pilot with the help of a stylus pen. Here the artist's hand is apparent. He intuitively imprinted his thoughts on the screen of the computer in order to register them, so as not to forget. However, the attempt fails. It fails because the artist decided it so. The audience will be tempted to reconstruct the letters, the phrases to decipher the deep thoughts of the artist, but it will be in vain. Mike Patten has, instinctively scratched out and erased words, phrases. He's censored his message so that no one is able to have access to his intentions and memory that could eventually be embarrassing or harmful.


What is left of the artist's thoughts is nothing but incomprehensive scribbles and bits of letters. This intimate unreadable journal, abstract even, is generally presented using large-scale numeric impressions. This is an older way, more traditional method to archive one's memory. He also displays his notes with the use of the panorama he projects on the wall. This way, we look at his thoughts as if we are looking at pictures from a trip. As a result of having the image blown up, the writing is pixilated and fragmented. The traces of the pen become nothing but dots that sometimes stick together, and are sometimes isolated. By erasing, the artist translates this need we all have, to exteriorize ourselves, to finally say what we think deep down, to let ourselves go. But how often are we prevented from doing so? Not by a person who doesn't want to hear us, but by ourselves when we suddenly get scared by the weight of our words. Therefore, is important to note that in Lost Thoughts, the artist did not erase everything: there are still bits of words and thoughts. That being said, the artist may subconsciously wish, secretly that despite everything, we will be able to decipher what he is trying to say.


1. Pierre Nora, « Entre mémoire et histoire : problématique des lieux », Les lieux de mémoire : I La République, Paris, Gallimard, 1984, p. XIX.

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