Anne Ooms

Theatres of Memory

Adelaide Biennale - Art Gallery of South Australia - 1998


In entering the work of Anne Ooms, we are presented with a mise en scene that is nearly theatrical: chairs, tables, lamps and books, and perhaps, actors on this stage (people reading;) When we (in another viewer's eyes) ourselves become an actor through sitting down and reading a text, we are translated to other spaces and watch other players elsewhere, in sites that have geography and geometry but no specific situation. The room around us fades away.


When the reader (the actor) shifts from chair to chair, from individual text to individual text, the reader is not only changing locations in the gallery space, but travelling to different places and times in the narratives. Essential to the understanding of the work and the events unfolding before us, both in individual texts, sentences, and in the larger arena, is memory, the absolute precondition of thought in ancient Greek understanding, where Mnemosyne was not only the goddess of memory, but of wisdom, and the mother of the muses, and therefore in the last analysis the progenitor of all the arts and sciences. It is equally privileged by St Augustine as the fons et origo of all intellect. In his Confessions memory is crucially described as a vast 'hall' or 'palace' in which 'the whole treasure of our perception and experience is laid up.' In Renaissance times this space became the site for a complex art of mnemonics, interior (occult) mappings which through our journeys through their specific architectures and construction, were able to encapsulate the world and more: memory theatres that offered 'a vision of the world and of the nature of things seen from a height, from the stars themselves and even from the supercelestial founts of wisdom behind them.' (Frances Yates: The Art Of Memory) .


Such Mnemonic landscapes are irresistibly echoed in the current project. However, in the work of Anne Ooms, (or indeed when we read a novel, be-it Jane Austen or science fiction) the text is also a generator of other worlds as well as bridging and containing our world: setting up complex and spectral relations between our orderings of understanding. Borges in The Aleph, creates a fictional writer Daneri, who 'had in mind to set to verse the entire face of the planet, and by 1941 had already dispatched a number of acres of the State of Queensland, nearly a mile run by the river Ob (and) a gasworks to the north of Veruca...' Word as fiction, rather than as logos (the word that formed the world), or maybe, the word as logos only for the specific place, space and event . "The modernist use of language calls attention not to the material existence of a world lying beyond and outside language but to the world making capacity of language.." (Susan Stewart. On Longing). These worlds in turn contained in the theatres of our memory. The work of Anne Ooms, through its complex plays with the protean qualities of the imaginary, the real, the fictional, and the historical; conjures and describes these many layered spaces and a mirrored infinity of others.