Rehearsal of Memory is an interactive program that took place over several months in 1995. Harwood's program was a provocative and realistic re-creation of lives of inmates at the Ashworth Maximum Security Mental Hospital, near Liverpool, England. (The program used an anonymous computer personality to reflect the collective experience of the group.) These patients include serial killers, potential suicides and other casualties of society considered either a danger to themselves or to others. Harwood also worked with experienced, trained nurses and orderlies in the facility.|
According to the artist, this work is about "the recording of the life experiences of the client group that [is] a mirror to ourselves ('normal society') and our amnesia when confronted with the excesses of our society. This forgetting is a dark shadow cast by plenty; a nightmare for some that constructs misinformation and fear about insanity, violence and victims. This mental space is occupied by the psycho, the nutter, the mad dog and Bedlam. This is the space where strong fictions lie and invisibly glue together the mirror from which we view our own sanity. This work is about people everywhere who are trying to remember the faces of the extras in the cinema of history. This Artwork is a rehearsal of memories not quite forgotten."
Harwood's description of the piece boldly contrasts the actions of these patients with those of war veterans who have killed and feel little remorse, thus raising important questions about good and evil, the normal and the abnormal. Rehearsal of Memory also demonstrates that technology plays a key role in social control, that "computers as a primary technology can give us a safe distance from difficult decisions: whether they be deciding which patients to treat, which to leave to die, or which employees are surplus to production. Whether we agree or not, the modern machine is currently perceived as a neutral decision-making space. This image of anonymity creates a sufficient distance from events to create a situation in which we are ritually free to give up our ability to feel the consequences of our actions."
--Barbara Lee Williams,
Leonardo/ISAST Awards Committee chairperson
Date of birth:
Date and location of your first major exhibition:
VideoPositive 95, Liverpool, U.K.
Location where you currently work (city and country):
Camberwell, London, U.K.
How do you see technology changing art for the good or ill in the next decade?:
Before 1995, I saw technology as a window of opportunity for the activist in me and so did not mind being employed to prove its power and universality when dealing with social problems. After all, I could get inside intellectual properties and places from which I had formerly been banned, take a few things, rearrange a few more and get out unscathed, hidden by technical knowledge. This mobility was a new experience for me and proved very useful in projects like Rehearsal of Memory. Even if I was spotted, boss culture would give me a pat on the back for being creative with such a dull, old space. However, now it seems that [research] in the wider context is over and the creative types must be shown the door. Now boss culture wants mastery --- political, cultural, social and creative mastery. Now is the time for Labour's workfare movement as opposed to its movement of labour for fair work, which itself has had an enormous impact on the U.K. media arts organisations...
I still support organizations training people in new technologies, as this activity is one of the only places I know where you can get a step up if you come from the bottom of the barrel. I wish all organizations well that work to achieve this, but leave them with these chilling words from Philippe Queau (IMAGINA '97): "The power and universality of digital and virtual technologies no longer need to be proved. The Web is turning into the meta-media, a ubiquitous, integral crossroads. Now that the time of pioneers and prophets is over, it is time for mastery --- political, cultural, social and creative mastery. We must lay the bases for the cyber-civilization which is about to be born. The task is a difficult one. We must pool our strengths to buffer and temper the inevitable chaos of the maelstrom currently being provoked by a generalized short circuit."
to learn more about Graham Harwood's work, visit these websites: