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March 8, 2005

introducing the Gates Memory Project blog

What are we building? How are we going to build it? How should it be organized? What should it look like?

An integral part of the Gates Memory Project is a public space for discussion of these meta issues. Everyone will have a chance to suggest possible directions and designs for the project. Some will bring technical knowledge to the table. Others will advise more on our conceptual bearings. Others will just come along for the ride. We'll also examine the process of building a work of collective memory in digital space, using the Gates as a pivot point for larger contemplations. How do we use social software (like Flickr) to create works that are in the spirit of the "infinite game" of the web - i.e. free-form, ad hoc, always evolving, and driven by people's enthusiasm to share - but are also edited and shaped into something of lasting value?

It could be argued that the web is itself one enormous collective memory. Like memory, it is in a constant state of growth, transformation and decay. Like memory, it is layered, it sprawls, and is traversed both by brightly lit boulevards and shadowed alleyways. To cope with this enigma, humans have always created works that help fix or focus the memory. An obvious example is a book, painting, photograph, or film. Similarly, in public space, we have museums, memorials, and monuments. Certainly, there was something monumental about the Gates. But while some monuments fix a spike in the earth, as if to say "here it was," others establish a frame, or space, in which memories can move and reverberate. This second sort of monument, much more like the Gates, is a good place to start thinking about what we are trying to build with this project: a work with defined dimensions that still allows for unpredictable movement within, and which, like a great acoustical structure, is designed to resonate.

And of course, the blog will also serve as a forum for discussion of the Gates themselves - their design, their politics, their message, their role in the life of the city, their place in the larger mediascape.. And it will be a place to offer stories and personal meditations on those sixteen days when the Gates stood.

Posted by ben vershbow at March 8, 2005 4:02 PM

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Wonderful idea... I'll be sure to follow this closely.

Posted by: Christian at March 9, 2005 2:02 PM

I'm sure these ways to organise the site have all been thought of already, but here's some ideas:

1: By day. Media sorted by the day that it records, accessible from a calendar or similar. Were there significant changes over the 16 days? Were there special events on particular days?

2: By area of the park, accessible with a clickable map. Did "the gates" create new landmarks & special areas in the park? Are some areas the most visually striking?

3: By the weather (snowy gates / windy gates)

4: By kind of media (images / video / text)

5: By media source (newspapers / TV / blogs....)

I'll keep checking back to see how the project is going. I have nothing to contribute in the way of media, but I'm v. interested in the theme...

Posted by: jrfj44 at March 9, 2005 6:18 PM

Memory screens, gate(way)s, and dynamic pages seem to be completely in line with the organic and temporal nature of The Gates and the world wide web. The art of memory and scene making has, in the past, been a skill utilizing the overlap of rhetoric or information onto real or imagined space. Stories and traditions are often carried along like faint, rippling memories that attach themselves to a new branch or frame each time.

The web is one enormous collective memory indeed, with searches that lead one off into unexpected places and "googling" digressions that simulate brilliance to the user exclusively.

Visitors to The Gates responded to the anarchic nature of the project, despite the seemingly direct course of following a saffron fabric trail marked out by the artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Freedom arose from the associations that were not programmed into the event and the global encounters that were surely not anticipated. With the safety net of The Gates, wanderers were allowed, as they are in front of the glow and hum of their computers at home, to experience the beauty of the unpredictability of what might happen if they simply logged on and participated in the stroll, searched deeper for connections and meaning, and in turn accessed the archives of their own past and present skins while also shedding and skipping forward to the next screen
or fabric panel.

Who can deny that we do not feel a chrysalis- like experience each time we complete a search or transaction on the web? Why must we carry around our memories - both collective and personal - like a cloak that feels as heavy as a gray day in February? And who had the right to brighten Manhattan's late winter atmosphere with splashes of saffron pixelation like pop up windows on a screen we call home?

Posted by: abigail doan at March 9, 2005 7:10 PM

What struck me so completely while editing orange you glad, was how many organizational metaphors the gates called to mind. Obviously a wall, or fence marking a labirynth, or path, but also pages of a book, frames of film, military standards, signal flags, and most dramatically in panning in video: musical notations.

I'm imagining a sort of synesthesia model, where the visual shapes are organized as sounds, or vice versa.

Posted by: alex itin at March 10, 2005 12:59 AM

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