Simonides was stiffed. Castor and Pollux were affronted. They brought the banquet hall to the ground. From the rubbish a memory palace was born.
The origin story of the memory palace, likely apocryphal, resides in the biography of Simonides, Greece's first for profit poet. At a banquet for Scopas, Simonides recites a poem filled with praise for the twin gods, Castor and Pollux. Scopas refuses to pay in full, demanding Simonides collect the other part of his payment from the infernal twins. Shortly after, a messenger hails Simonides. He leaves the building, but no messenger is to be found. Upon his exit, the banquet hall collapses and those inside are disfigured beyond recognition. Simonides, the only surviving member of the party, is tasked with identifying the disfigured bodies. He imagines the table and the positions of each reveller, and in this way attaches names to those beyond recognition. From the death of Scopas and his partygoers, the memory palace is born.
Memory palaces use the strength of human spatial memory to record and retrieve memories. A specific space is chosen, and vivid symbols are placed throughout it. Each symbol is linked to a specific memory; the more absurd the image, the easier it is to remember. To retrieve the memories, one simply imagines walking through the space. My memory palaces are semi-permanent, public installations, open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week to those willing to imagine them. They contain the stories of different walks I have taken, both alone and with collaborators.
For more information on memory palaces, or to set up an appointment to view one, please get in touch.
• Former Fresnans, Fresno, California
• Slow Lunch, San Francisco and London
• Home: A Nomadic Exploration, Wallabout, Brooklyn
• The Bureau of Self Recognition, Astoria, Queens