John Akomfrah

John Akomfrah, Memory Room 451

31 March – 6 April

Memory Room 451 (1997)

Originally entitled Hair, Memory Room 451, conceived by Black Audio Film Collective as a companion piece to last week’s The Last Angel of History, delves once more into ‘Black unpopular culture’ (in this case, hairstyles such as the afro, the conk and dreadlocks) to continue their exploration of the Black Diaspora and the nature of memory.  Set in a dystopic world in which dream raiders from two centuries in the future steal stories from ‘old wigs and hair…where the dead tell their secrets and desires’ to construct a history of their past that is simultaneously the story of our present, Memory Room 451 is a bitter science fiction fable in the manner of the ground-breaking writers featured in The Last Angel of History.  The film, shot in trade-mark neo-expressionist style, also continues Akomfrah’s exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of digital technologies.

“Who said that time heals all wounds? It would be better to say that time heals everything – except wounds. With time, the hurt of separation loses its real limits. With time, the desired body will soon disappear, and if the desiring body has already ceased to exist for the other, then what remains is a wound, disembodied.”
― Chris Marker

“I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?”
― Chris Marker

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

From Burnt Norton, T S Eliot