Sonya Rapoport

piero scaruffi's visual poetry

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Sonya Rapoport: "(in)AUTHENTIC" (2008)

(Copyright Robert Edgar and Sonya Rapoport)

"Il Teatro della Memoria" ("the memory theater") was devised in the sixteenth century by Giulio Camillo Delminio (1480-1544). The idea was to store in the rooms of the theater the entire body of human knowledge and to provide connections among the concepts via allegorical images and combinatorial techniques. The goal of the Memory Theater was to allow anybody to speak of philosophical or scientific subjects like an expert. The theater was a seven-tiered auditorium (each tier representing a level of knowlege). The "user" was not a spectator sitting on the steps, but the protagonist, standing on the stage. The show, on the other hand, was not on stage but on the tiers of the auditorium. Tiziano's "Allegoria del Tempo" (Allegory of Time), painted in 1565, was possibly originally conceived as one of the images of Camillo's Memory Theater. He implemented two theaters, one in Venezia (Venice) and one in Paris (1530), and left a short instruction manual, "L'idea del Teatro" (published posthumously in 1550). The Memory Theater was, in many ways, a predecessor of the World-wide Web: a storage of all knowledge with links and cues to navigate through it. The way Camillo organize the knowledge base also reflected a cosmic-spiritual vision, as he blended astrology, mythology, art and science. Since medieval times Italians had produced works of encyclopedic knowledge that, given the state of science at the time, incorporated everything from alchemy to magic. Dante's "Commedia" itself (the "Divine Comedy") was, after all, such a compendium of universal knowledge. Camillo's theater, though, pushed the boundaries towards something that resembled an automaton and embraced architecture. His ideas were largely forgotten until the most celebrated semiologist of the British historian Francis Yates rediscovered him in his 1966 book "The Art of Memory" and 20th century semiologists such as Umberto Eco found affinities with his "theater".
Robert Edgar (1951), experimental film and video maker, created the first computer implementation of a memory theatre, "Memory Theatre One", (1985), on an Apple II personal computer (with just 64K of RAM and a monochrome monitor). It was designed like a three-dimensional adventure videogame in which the "user" was able to move from room to room to "interact" with Robert's network of images and texts. It was, per se, an interesting adaption of the encyclopedic utopia of the Renaissance to the computer age. (It was also a pioneering work of computer art).
Sonya Rapoport (1923), an interdisciplinary visual artist who turned to electronics in 1976 and to interactive audio/visual installations with "Objects on my Dresser" (1980), and later created pioneering works for the medium of the World-wide Web such as "Digital Mudra" (1998) and "Redeeming the Gene" (2001), combined her own images and texts with Robert Edgar's web-based "Memory Theatre Two" (2007) to craft her "(in)AUTHENTIC" (2008), a Memory Theater representing her own psychological and historical cosmos. The accompanying audio is an imaginary dialogue among feminist Luce Irigaray, psychiatrist Sigmund Freud and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

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