Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Memory Palace

Es Devlin

Lesson time 08:46 min

Es breaks down the inspiration, execution, and notable details of Memory Palace: a vast chronological landscape and 18-meter-wide sculpture mapping some of history’s most transformational moments over the past 73,000 years.

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Topics include: Memory Palace • The Inception • Mapping Human History • The Audience As The Protagonist


[MUSIC PLAYING] ES DEVLIN: Every map is an act of taking control. When you map something, when you mark it, there's nothing objective about that. Every map is subjective. And our maps are mirrors of our cultural point of view. It's a really good exercise. If you want to start building a muscle of translating thoughts you might have into objects that you might make, set yourself this task. Without thinking too hard, write down the 10 most important, most salient memories that most define you as a person. Just write them down. Don't think about it. Just do it. Do it now. When you've done it, then take a pencil and just draw anything, first thing that comes to mind that expresses each of those memories. And then with more time, once you've got the sketch captured, take time and make a small model. Or find an object. You don't even have to make it. Just find an object that expresses it, then put those in a row. And allow that to be the beginning of your reminder of your train of thought. There was a book that was written in the house that I grew up in in Rye on Mermaid Street. It was written by an author called Joan Aiken. And it was called "A Necklace of Raindrops." And it was exactly that. With every story told, another raindrop would add to the necklace. So make your own necklace of raindrops. "Memory Palace" was a large scale installation commissioned by Pitzhanger Manor Gallery. And it was a vast chronological landscape mapping pivotal shifts in human perspective over 73 millennia. When I was about 16 years old, an English teacher gave me a book called "The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci." And for me, who was interested in the coalition of things abstract and concrete, a memory palace was an invitation for exploration. And what I learnt from reading the book was about systems, mnemonic systems, that we use from the ancient Greeks, from Aboriginal cultures. So many cultures have these systems where you, as a human, ascribe an abstract memory to a concrete object, something that has no form, like a memory, except in your mind, some sparks and some ignitions between your synapses can be ascribed a position. For example, the way a memory palace would work is you would start in a room like this. And you would say to yourself, what do I need to remember? I need to remember the names of all the Kings and Queens of England. So I will describe Henry VIII to that box up there. And I'll figure out a little-- little rhyme in my head or a little note to myself. Why is Henry VIII like that box? Because there are six steps, and he had six wives. And thing by thing, you ascribe something you need to remember. And because you are hanging a new piece of information onto an existing piece of information in your head, that piece of information will stick. It'll glue, and it'll stay. And people have used this pre-computers to remember ridiculous amounts of stuff. And Matteo Ricci had studied these techniques. He took them over to ...

About the Instructor

For more than 20 years, Es Devlin has sculpted immersive experiences for opera, drama, and performers like Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, and U2. Now the artist and designer shares her process so you can cultivate creativity in any form. From sketching to collaborating to creating powerful visual stories, learn how to turn the abstract—your ideas and imagination—into art you can see, feel, and share.

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Es Devlin

Designer and artist Es Devlin teaches you her approach to creating powerful visual stories and cultivating creativity in any form.

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