Gropius Memory Palace

Ben Thorp Brown’s “Gropius Memory Palace” video still

Ben Thorp Brown’s “Gropius Memory Palace” is a meditation. The film starts in darkness. A male voice asks the viewer to focus on breathing, guiding him step by step to focus on his body, on the here and now. Slowly the view opens to a series of historical photographs, carefully taken from archival folders by a white gloved hand. The pho- tographs show the Fagus factory, located in the small German town Alfeld. Completed in 1911, the factory is one of Walter Gropius’ earliest de- signs. The archival material is followed by stunningly seductive architectural shots of window fronts, spiral staircases and historic factory halls. Thorp Brown leads us from the famous glass curtain wall to the interior of the factory. The male voice in the background speaks about the architecture of the building, of its history and what distinguishes it. The Fagus factory is still in use, manufacturing shoe lasts - “a wooden shaped foot, used in the production of shoes.“ Shots of this peculiar and at the same time unusually aesthetic, almost nostalgic object appear throughout the film, forming a strong contrast to the building’s strict, clean lines. The voice-over breaks off suddenly as a man ap- pears behind the glass window of the factory. The subsequent footage of contemporary factory workers on high-tech machinery and computers is accompanied by New Age beats by Gryphon Rue intermixed with short historical recordings from the 1910s. Here, too, the old-fashioned shoe lasts form a clear contrast to the modern ma- chines. As so often in Thorp Browns work, this contrast does not feel threatening, but rather like a peaceful and somehow natural juxtaposition. The title of the work refers to an ancient tech- nique in which existing architectural structures are used as mnemonic devices: by linking rooms of an actual building with certain memories, those memories can be accessed via an imaginary passage through the building. In his film, Thorp Brown asks the viewer to use the Fagus factory as a personal Memory Palace, connecting his imagination to an external icon of modern architecture. At Display this connection between the physical body and architectural space is amplified through the ramp, a custom furniture system that positions the body of the viewer both in the filmic space and in the actual space. The artist describes the intervention as an invitation to the viewer, “to recline and to experience the effects that architecture can have on our body and memory.” Ben Thorp Brown’s “Gropius Memory Palace” is a meditation. The script was developed together with hypnotherapist Daniel Ryan. It is Ryan’s voice that guides us through the film. Accompanied by exceptional cinematographic architectural shots, the film creates a network between human body, machine, object, archive and archi tecture. This network draws a picture of our society - how we have become who we are, but also who we can be. Text by Lea Schleiffenbaum

Fri, 8 Feb, 18.00h
8 Feb 201917 Feb 2019

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