7 ± 2
For RESORT (May 2012)
In collaboration with Tom Watt
7 ± 2
Seven 440 x 10 cm timber planks
turned into twenty-five 60 x 20 cm steps
Taking the core idea of the RESORT residency as ephemerality, Miller's theory of itemizing memories was adapted to try and make permanent those that would normally be temporary.
A physical object and exercise was used to preserve something abstract: a memory. The physical object degrades – the wood by wear and tear, and the text on it disappears immediately with the rain swelling up the timber. The memory remains, imprinted in my brain from the repetitive and tedious exercise.
The sentences are purely observational banalities of something that happened on each day of the residency. These ideas have no value, they are notions that would otherwise be forgotten almost instantly.
According to Miller there are 7 ± 2 short-term memory items that the brain can hold at a given time. Therefore there was a different sentence for each of the 7 planks, for each of the 7 days. Also, as a rule, every memory starts out as short-term, including the memories that become long-term.
Memorizing for memorization's sake is a purely unproductive action. Making important something that has no significance, that is equivalent to nothing, that will pointlessly be added to long-term memory. The futility of keeping waste on one's mind registers the futility of making something that will be taken down or destroyed.
The planks becoming stairs gave function to this piece as compensation for being conceptually aimless. They were a necessary precaution built to aid the audience on their descent down to the cliff path where the exhibition continued. A rope was still needed to descend the steps and it was intended that the user would abseil down backwards. They were built with a lack of a plan other than they had to reach the bottom. This meant that they were of uneven heights and quite difficult to negotiate.
The planks used were far from adequate strength and thickness for a sound set of stairs. It was intended that a few of the steps would break whilst being used on the day of the exhibition. It was important that the stairs were not built to safety regulation as it became apparent that there was a running theme of slight danger throughout the expedition/exhibition.