In the long-term dimension, is memory real? With my experience of false memories, This Artefact is about the possible expression and development of this phenomenon.
produced by: Xinyu Sun
Memory shapes our experience. Memory is the core of our "existence". Around memory, we form our own identities, relationships, expectations and dreams. Memory is volatile. Everyone may have been influenced by false memories, and our brain would easily believe that those fictional memory fragments are true. For instance, people may suddenly remember that the stove has not been turned off, or the keys have not been pulled out of the keyhole, but actually, the situation is the opposite. This shows that sometimes memory is not reliable.
Julia Shaw is a psychologist who specialises in false memory. In her book The Memory Illusion, she advocated the idea of rethinking our past as a story, and where we find we may not be the ones that we think we are. People are told a large number of stories or the experiences of others in life, and bombarded and influenced by a massive amount of information from society. The stories of others are always very emotional and intricate. People might consider that their own memory also tends to involve themselves in it because the stories will become vivid and full of detail after the stories' repeating narration by other people sharing on their own initiative.
People's memory can be distorted, contaminated or changed when they are fed misinformation about some experience they may have or have not had. Elizabeth F. Loftus is a cognitive psychologist, and she has studied memory matters for decades. In one of her famous experiments, which investigated the effect of leading questions on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony with JOHN C. PALMER, she examined the influence of inducing problems on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Loftus and Palmer’s sample consisted of 45 American students who were divided into five groups of 9 people each group. All participants watched a car accident video and were then asked a specific question about the car's speed. Loftus and Palmer manipulated the verbs used in the question, such as: "How fast were the cars going when they smashed/collided/bumped/hit/ contacted with each other?" They found that the estimated speed was affected by the verbs used. For example, participants who were told the verb "smashed" reported an average speed of 40.5 mph. In comparison, participants who were told the word "contacted" reported an average speed of 31.8 mph, with an overall speed difference of 8.7 mph. Moreover, that leading "smashed" question caused students to likely tell them that they saw broken glass in the accident scene when there was not any broken glass in the scene at all.
The results clearly show that leading questions affect the accuracy of witness testimony, and a word in the query will significantly affect the accuracy of people's judgements. So when people recall something subconsciously, they are affected by the keyword and fragments that are already stored in their memories.
Truth versus Lies, Fact versus Fiction
Elizabeth Loftus said, "In real life, as well as in experiments, people can come to believe things that never really happened." Nowadays, humans live in an info era, and people are increasingly not able to distinguish between things that are recorded in memory, engendered by imagination and things that actually happened. Our memories are more subject to social influence; memory is constantly being rewritten every time we recall memories, and we share and exchange with others. In terms of memories, they are not entirely black-and-white. The false memories are like the grey area between truth and lies, fact and fiction. People often think that memory is like a video that records all our memories intuitively. Our brain builds memory basing on some key plots. Whenever we recall a certain experience, we may forget some details and create some new details. Therefore, it is difficult for us to tell when these memories start to break away from reality because in people's cognition, memory is reality.
At the beginning of a sentence and the end of it, the brain looks different. The human's brain is constantly in motion, and people may connect the things that are not supposed to be together, which cause the distorting of memories. Everyone has a unique perceptual filter, which is specifically manifested by each person's different sensory systems. We bring our different sets of memories into different situations, as we live in a simulation that only exists within ourselves. We absorb new information and weave it into our memory, and we ceaselessly remember, forget and misremember things. We tend to describe the experience by our sensorial impression. Those multi-sensory details are actually stored in different parts of our brain depending on the responsibility for different sensations. We are connecting various parts to form our memories. The false memory is when we connect memory pieces that are not supposed to be together. After all, I regard my false memory experience as the illusion that is fluid. It seems like my brain is flexibly and creatively reconnecting the memory fragments stored in different functional parts.
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. - Vladimir Nabokov
For now, my false memory experience is composed of the memories fragments of the past. As time goes by, it will be composed of the past memories, the present and additional memories. Our memories are in the process of updating, storing and recalling every moment. The memories and stories in my mind can bring me back to that specific moment, and I can abstractly relive those events. Video recordings are the primary part of my concrete memory archive; some details of a specific event differ from the video or photo I filmed and took in a random recollection. Sometimes, those particular minutiae may be replaced by something else or changed by a memory error. It is like the evidence I trust has been distorted by the memory process. Therefore, the artefact takes the moving image material as the object that is, the archive that I rely on and trust, and will continue to be distorted, in the past and the future.
I was inspired by the artwork Passage created by Eliza Bennett. The Passage reflected here is the tangible act of committing landscape to memory. This work represents how most current forms of communication work by singling information out and displacing it from its original context. The installation is composed of multiple books lined up, side by side, and the same repetitive process applied to each individual unit. Their page corners fold one onto another. The co-dependency of its aggregate parts culminate in a continual,
rhythmic line that represents a journey. It is fragile yet kinetic, like the movement of a heart rate monitor signalling a lifeline. The Passage simultaneously questions the human trace left upon the landscape, and how the landscapes we inhabit leave a trace on our memory.
 Passage; Install shot
I used the slit-scan photography as the form for the simulation and made it dynamic by TouchDesigner and Webcam by setting the rectangle as the recording area at the middle of the screen. The object was stretched and distorted to both sides of the screen. The effect was generated by shifting the slit capture to the edge of the screen at a certain interval. The illusion effect produced by the 'displaces' and the vertical fluid fluctuation was set through the 'texture 3D' and the 'time machine' in the platform. The audience can show their moving image material or do some movement in front of the webcam. Then the programme will generate the frames in real-time.
The site-based exhibition I envision divides the artwork into multiple screens for display. The audience can interact with any single screen and pause the image generated by the physical button. For future development, abstract processing may be another concept. In addition, exploring how to add audio to the installation would be an exciting challenge — collecting environmental sound or superimposing the audio of the moving image material from electronic gadgets, and distorting the audio based on the frequency of the action.
 Eliza Bennett (2019). Passage. Available from: https://www.elizabennett.co.uk/ 4fhyzkulwilsi4ad6rkb4kj7wnhq9g.
Shaw, Julia. The Memory Illusion : Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory / Dr Julia Shaw. Paperback edition. London: Random House Books, 2017.
Loftus, E. and J. Palmer. “Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory.” Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 13 (1974): 585-589.
Korva, Natasha, S. Porter, B. O'Connor, Julia J. A. Shaw and L. Brinke. “Dangerous Decisions: Influence of Juror Attitudes and Defendant Appearance on Legal Decision- Making.” Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 20 (2013): 384 - 398.
Holtzman, Anna. “Harvey Weinstein's ‘False Memory’ Defense and Its Shocking Origin Story.” March 16, 2020. https://medium.com/fourth-wave/harvey-weinsteins-false-memory- defense-and-its-shocking-origin-story-2b0e4b98d526.
FilmmakerIQcom. “The History and Science of the Slit Scan Effect Used in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.” August 4, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=KhRo2WbWnKU.
Kaplan, Robin L., Ilse Van Damme, Linda J. Levine, and Elizabeth F. Loftus. “Emotion and False Memory.” Emotion Review 8, no. 1 (January 2016): 8–13. https://doi.org/10.1177/ 1754073915601228.
Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Speak, Memory : an Autobiography Revisited. Rev. ed. New York: Putnam, 1966.
TEDtalksDirector. “How Reliable Is Your Memory? | Elizabeth Loftus.” September 23, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB2OegI6wvI.
AspenInstitute. “The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.” June 26, 2019. https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLGNd_xBDhc.
RugbyBoroughCouncil. “Alun Kirby False Memory.” June 29, 2020. https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLAix42Kdos&t=150s.
FilmmakerIQcom. “The History and Science of the Slit Scan Effect Used in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.” YouTube. YouTube, August 4, 2013. https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhRo2WbWnKU.