Time Present, 2016, 35', two screen video installation.
Claire was 44 years old when she awoke from a coma to find that she could no longer remember much of her past, form new memories or recognise faces (not even her own). She returned to a house she could not remember as home, where she no longer knew what anything was for or how to use the objects that surrounded her. She could not recognise her children, her husband or close friends and family.
Time Present explores the very different shape of Claire’s world, and the maps and lists that Claire creates in order to structure her thinking and to ground her in time and space.
Building on over four years of working with Claire, alongside cognitive psychologist Martin A. Conway and neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday, this collaboration has led to some unique phenomenological and neurobiological insights into amnesia. Time Present explores Claire’s personal experience of amnesia alongside the cultural amnesia surrounding the depopulated Scottish island of St Kilda, located 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides in the North Atlantic. The last communities of St Kilda were evacuated at their own request in August 1930, ending 4000 years of habitation. A powerful analogy for the neurological experience of amnesia, this sudden interruption in human occupation of the island embodies the sense of lost connection with the past. St Kilda embodies a sense of isolation. The wild weather fronts that make access difficult ultimately contributed to the decision to depopulate. Similarly Claire lives with the perpetual isolation that comes with the loss of memory.
The two screen installation explores the dynamic role memory plays in enabling us to move through time and space. It reveals the daily feat of creativity, determination and commitment that Claire undertakes against the odds, in order to give meaning and shape to her world and to maintain connections to her past, her future, her identity and to those that are important in her life.
Supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Wellcome Collection