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"When Memories become Form"
[The Memory Model Project] (started 2016)

[To download Working Papers and for visuals, please scroll down]

The Memory Model Project investigates the capacity of three-dimensional models to trigger and monitor memories and it suggests a new domain for the application of models. Standardly, they are used (both in professional and hobby contexts) to represent objectively verifiable referents. By contrast, a place in a person’s memory is a subjective, unverifiable referent. As an autobiographical practice, it is hypothesised that making models from memory can supplement the verbal report, which is the dominant format to share memories. Models, it is further assumed, lend themselves in particular to conveying/interpreting spatial (as opposed to episodic) memories. The extent to which memory models can be a novel medium for the retrieval, self-presentation, specification and communication of personal recollections will be explored. The exploration is intended to be conducted through the practice of model-making and it will be contextualised by existing works of visual art, architectural models, psychological and sociological/anthropological research as well as philosophical considerations. As an exemplary theme, model-makers’ former homes are chosen.

The Memory Model Project is in its initial phase. At present, I pursue this project as a private investigation, making memory models myself and establishing the theoretical background. In the midterm, I intend to continue the project in an academic environment. For anyone interested in the idea – and especially for potential collaborators – I have converted the notes and catchword lists that assembled over the last couple of months into some working papers. In part, the texts have taken the format of scholarly essays or parts of a very detailed project proposal; however, they do not yet raise claim to meet the standards of ‘academic writing’. Also, I cannot claim to have identified and summarised the most pertinent research in areas in which I am not an expert – most notably, psychological and sociological/anthropological studies of memory and concepts of domestic space. Anyone wishing to comment, criticise or present ideas for a collaboration is cordially invited to do so. Get in contact.

Joerg's Memory Model
I have started to build a new memory model of my boyhood room in late June 2017. There will be more information on this work after its completion. For a documentation of its progress, click the image on the left.

Working Papers

Click to download or open pdf in new tab Abstract
Click to download or open pdf in new tab Part I: Introduction - The Idea
Memory and Models
The ‘Memory Approach’
The ‘Model Approach’
Document, Trigger, and a Precarious Referent
The Theme of ‘Home’

Aims and Objectives
Mapping the terrain
Click to download or open pdf in new tab Part II (a): Models: Enchantment and Utility
Models of Home
Model Epistemology
Scientific Analysis
Art Appreciation
Practice-based Experience
Click to download or open pdf in new tab Part II (b): Models of Homes in Contemporary Art
Model-making as Research
Time Frames
Building Materials, Analogy and Abstraction
Photo-based Works
Summary and Implications for the Memory Model Project
Click to download or open pdf in new tab Part II (c): Model-Making as a Theme in Arts-Based Research
Click to download or open pdf in new tab Part III: Memory: Models as Catalysts and Monitors of Recollections
Catalyst: The Memory Model as a Memory Trigger
Therapeutic Perspectives
Private Memorials

Monitor: The Memory Model as a Document of Personal Memories
Obstacle 1: The ‘Faultiness’ of Memory
Obstacle 2: Skill and Medium
Obstacle 3: What one Knows and what one Shows
Click to download or open pdf in new tab Part IV: Home: Domestic Space ‘through Memory through Model’
Domestic Space as a Research Topic
Types of Home
The Home as a Formative Place

The Model as a Medium of Home-related Memories
Model Homes: Social Aspects of the Home, Remembering, and Modelling

Related precedent projects

The idea to re-create a former home from memory in model format is, of course, not entirely new. A variety of related practices is discussed throughout the working parers (see in particular Part II (b): Models of Homes in Contemporary Art). Many of these examples touch on ideas and problems concerning specific aspects of the memory model; only a few, however, reflect the distinct combination of objectives pursued by the intended Memory Model Project. The examples below show the 'closest relatives' that could be identified so far.
Michael Paul Smith's re-creation of his childhood home Works from architecture workshop, Trier, Germany
Michael Paul Smith: Re-creation of the model-maker/artist's childhood home in Pittsburg (USA). 2011 (made). Foam board, plastic, wood, paper.
The work is a part of Smith's
Elgin Park project.

Photos courtesy of the the artist.
Works by architecture students of the University of Applied Sciences in Trier, Germany. 2014. Mixed media.
As part of the workshop
‘Be a Demand' (led by Prof. Stefan Dornbusch) the students were asked to model their childhood room from memory and document the results photographically.

Courtesy of S.Dornbusch/Hochschule Trier.
Michael Grothusen. Scale Model, from memory. 2008 Hopkinson house. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Michael Grothusen. 'Scale Model, from memory'. 2008 (made). Wood, window screen and aluminum.
Description from the artist's website: "This is an attempt to reconcile early spatial memories with a structure that conforms to architectural logic. From memory, I tried to recreate a house (at half scale) I lived in from 1974 to 1977. ... Installed at the Gray Area, Crane Arts Philadelphia 2008." The work is based on a plan drawing made from memory by trying to remember all of the spatial relationships of the rooms and location of windows, doors and furniture.

Photos courtesy of the the artist. Images 2 and 3 by John Carlano.
Roma Hopkinson's dolls' house. Late 1980s to late 1990s (made). Painted wood, plastic, paper. Given to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London by Claire Hopkinson.
V&A's description: "This house is a replica of a real house in Surrey where Roma Hopkinson lived with her family during the Second World War. Roma built this house in the 1980's, paying incredible attention to detail, reproducing ration books, identity cards, newspapers, and photo albums by reducing copies of the original versions. The photographs show her family as they appeared at that time. Each doll is also modelled on a family member with Roma appearing as one on of the children in a school dress. The house accurately reflects the wartime era, showing popular products, foodstuffs, games, and furnishings from the time."

Photos © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Wan Morshidi. Kapong Dagang childhood home Wide shot of the project's final exhibition at Agora Rollberg, Berlin
Malayan hobby model maker Wan Morshidi rebuilt the entire village of his childhood from memory. ‘Kampong Dagang‘ was overrun by the expanding city of Miri in the 1970s with no visual record left.

Photo: Juriah Morshidi. Courtesy of the the artist.
Casa Mia was a community art project, run by the art and culture initiative Schlesische27 in Berlin. It has offered children and young adult refugees the opportunity to recreate their former dwellings and favourite places as well as model their dream homes. Mostly based on souvenir photographs and assisted by professional artists, participants have built models using recycled materials – “witnesses of the various life stories that the participants [came] up with” as the organisers state..

Photo: Jörg Jozwiak, taken at the opening of the project's final exhibition 'Weltstadt' on May 11th 2017 in Berlin
The maker's former children's room. Unfired clay. Still from stop-motion video Remaking home from memory
A student's rendering of her childhood room in Vienna. 2016 (made). Clay.
The work was created as part of a stop-motion video project.

Photo courtesy of Julia Franye.
An example from fiction: In Tom McCarthy's 2005 novel Remainder (Alma Books, London), hero Tom Sturridge tries to reconstruct the memory of the house he used to live in before having an amnesic accident. Images taken from Omer Fast's 2015 film adaption..

Stills used under the assumption of falling under the Fair Use legal doctrine.

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