NXNE Art: Cardiff/Miller “Lost in the Memory Palace”

NXNE Art Blog: Kate Hollett, our Festival Director of NXNE Art, was recently at Toronto’s AGO to speak with Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller whose exhibit, “Lost in the Memory Place” opens April 6th and runs until August 18th. More on the exhibit, as well as the full interview, from Kate Hollett below…

In recent years, I have been exhibiting, lecturing and working in Berlin where over 50% of the population by profession call themselves artists. It’s an international melting pot of the best art the world has to offer. This is where I was first exposed to Cardiff/Miller’s work through conversation. People talk about great art. Once experienced, good art leaves one changed. Even if for a fleeting second, good art can shift our reality, transport us into the unknown and expand vision.

I was thrilled to be able to sit down with Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller during the installation of “Lost in Memory Palace” at the AGO. They make good art – very good art, world class – and they were Canadian. Even if there is a reality that suggests arts support sorely lacking without international recognition, there is a sense of pride hearing Miller say the couple are “deeply rooted in Canada”. Even more rooted was the sense that the couple enjoyed the isolation of small towns/cities in Canada for their creation over the expectations of big city art rules.

I left the AGO with a glow; the energy that bounced off of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller was transportive. In the same way their work transports a viewer into conflicting realities of memory; Cardiff and Miller play off of each other, offering points and counter points, using voice to navigate answers. One of the things Cardiff likes about voices: “With voice you can’t not be in the past, you’re forming sentences… with audio you have to use memory.” Without a break, Miller sassily adds, “And, we just like to mess with people.”

“Lost in Memory Palace” is a retrospective of many of Cardiff/Miller’s work. The work is placed in various galleries, shifting traditional traffic patterns and art experiences. The title got its name playing with a memorising technique where one imagines a Memory Palace. Memories are stored and filed in a visualised palace of rooms in one’s head. “You are not supposed to get lost in a memory palace” says Miller “but that’s exactly what our work does.”

I asked the pair what advice they could give emerging artists. “Don’t do bad art,” Cardiff quips, followed by an impassioned speech by Miller on the insignificance of success. “But you can’t live on love,” beams Cardiff to Miller. And their final word – “Our advice, don’t listen to us.”

They may not be clear on definition, but that is the point. They want you to come with no expectations. “… It’s a playful exploration,” says Cardiff. I would suggest you don’t take their advice; have expectations, expect to be transported into a reality altering sensory experience. This is good art – very good art – expect to witness the best.

In a somewhat school-girl daze I left the AGO feeling like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Cardiff and Miller reminded me why there really is no place like home.

Cardiff/Miller “Lost in the Memory Palace
Art Gallery of Ontario
NXNE Art Partner

Opens April 6 and runs thru August 18
NXNE Partner June 10-16