Serpentine South Gallery 12–14 Oct 2012 Free

A two-day event inspired by the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, the Memory Marathon explored memory, archaeological excavation and historical recordings through overlaps and interactions between artistic practice and scientific enquiry.

At culture’s bleeding edge…non-stop marathon of art, talks, music and performance’ –the Guardian

Over three days, the Serpentine Gallery staged the Memory Marathon, the seventh annual festival of ideas. This multi-disciplinary event featured a wide range of participants, including leading artists, architects, film-makers, musicians, scientists, theorists and writers in a continuous, performative programme of explorations, musical and theatrical performances, film screenings, discussions and experiments.

Specific events ranged from 15-minute solo presentations to 45-minute discussions or performances held throughout each day of the Memory Marathon, during which time attendees were transported on a deeply evocative journey through music, culture and history; consider the importance of memory in law and biology; learn what animal brains ‘do’ and how machines ‘think’ in the company of experts from a wide range of scientific fields; discover the impact an increasingly digitised world has on memory; learn tips on how to remember a 1,000-digit number in an hour; and experience first-hand the powerful links between the senses and memory.

The three-day event began on Friday 12th October with La Suite, a thrilling five-hour performance by acclaimed Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui, who, together with 14 internationally renowned musicians, took audiences on a mesmerising journey through Tarab and classical Arab music recorded from the early 20th century onwards.

The more than 60 participants included former REM vocalist Michael Stipe; filmmakers Amos Gitai and David Lynch, who presented a new film; historians Jay Winter and Donald Sassoon, who together explored the theme of ‘War Memory’; celebrated neuroscientist Israel Rosenfield, who introduced ‘The Problem of Memory’ with writer John Hull, robotics expert Luc Steels and Grand Master of Memory Ed Cooke; artists Olivier Castel and Ed Atkins on ‘Deception and Self-Deception’; scent expert Sissel Tolaas on ‘Sensory Memory’. Other contributors included Harvard astronomy professor Dimitar Sasselov; writer and critic John Berger; writer Douglas Coupland; poet John Giorno; writer and cultural historian Marina Warner; author and technologist China Miéville; artists Gilbert & George; architects Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Fumihiko Maki; composer Gavin Bryars with poet and painter Etel Adnan.

Professor, author and scientist Israel Rosenfield has noted: “Memory is relationship; on the one hand our temporal relationships and on the other our spatial relationships.” The 2012 Marathon approached memory as an active practice that can question received ideas – a probing of the old in the name of the new.

The Memory Marathon was dedicated to Eric Hobsbawm.

Four hours of the Memory Marathon were broadcast live on The Space.


Curated by

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Nicola Lees


Antonia Blocker

Lucia Pietroiusti

Stella Bottai

Associate Producer, Tarek Atoui, La Suite

Victoria Brooks

Public Programmes Assistants

Claude Adjil

Antonia Marsh

Tommy Reeves

Emma Gradin


Herzog & de Meuron

Eric Hobsbawm

Alice Rawsthorn

Israel Rosenfield

Saturday 13th October


Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Introduction
Israel Rosenfield, The invention of memory
Ed Cooke, Memory as a special form of perception
John Hull, Blindness and memory: being reborn into a different world
Luc Steels, Body image and memory – a robotic experiment


Marina Warner, Voices from the library: Sharahzad and the 1001 Nights
Mariana Castillo Deball, Something like the memory of a monument becoming heavier because it’s a memory
Jean-Yves Tadié, Is there such a thing as involuntary memory?
Marcus du Sautoy in collaboration with Richard Rhys of The Pattern Foundry, Memory: the mathematical mind and the art of pattern searching
Ella Shohat, The Arab-Jew: taboo memories, diasporic voices
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, The virtue of forgetting


Donald Sassoon, Constructing historical memories
Jay Winter, The memory boom and human rights
Dennis Cooper, Gisèle Vienne & KTL (Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg)
Dennis Cooper reads texts from his collaborative work with Gisèle Vienne
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, M.2062
Gavin Bryars and Etel Adnan, Five senses for one death
James Richards, Surface tension
Ways of Listening: A conversation between John Berger and Tilda Swinton, directed by Colin MacCabe, followed by a conversation with John Berger


Daniel Buren
Sissel Tolaas, Smell and memory: what could happen if one tore down the visual and remained with the smell of it, with Jacques Herzog
Michael Craig-Martin, China revisited: a collaboration with my grandfather 1910-2012
John Giorno
Liam Gillick
Douglas Coupland, This is not a cloud
Michael Stipe, Michael Stipe Michael Stipe Michael Stipe
David Lynch

Sunday 14th October


Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Introduction
Siah Armajani
Tim Bliss, The machinery of memory
Richard Wentworth, Rear view mirror (la voie périphérique)
Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Nights to remember
David Goldblatt
Jan Szymczuk
Ed Cooke and Joshua Foer, Memory as a special form of perception
Eyal Weizman
Alberto Garutti
Jacques Roubaud, Mnemonic hand


Dimitar Sasselov, Cosmic memory
Alice Rawsthorn, Design and memory
Richard Hollis, Notes on memory, mainly visual
Gilbert & George, Brussels alphabet
Fumihiko Maki, Memory in architecture
Amos Gitai in conversation with Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron
China Miéville and Evan Calder Williams, Salvagepunk, Yet Again Redux, Reduced, Rubble.


Isabel Lewis, Mountain grass, mountain hare: bodily imprinting and social dances
Cally Spooner
Ragnar Kjartansson, Smoke
Dara Birnbaum, Reverie: as an illusion of memory
Lutz Bacher, Puck (2012)
Timothy Taylor, Cairn Raider, Krysztina Tautendorfer, with collaborators, A portrait of Giulio Camillo
Brian Dillon and Jeremy Millar
Adam Curtis
Douglas Gordon
Winnie Cott, Each fish is a pond full of fishes, as for the tree, it is also a forest

And participations by

Ida Applebroog, What is lovely never dies (2012)
Geta Bratescu
Olivier Castel
Alison Crawshaw
Alice Herz-Sommer filmed by Ron Arad and Hans Ulrich Obrist
Jasper Morrison
Adrian Piper
Ai Weiwei

Memory Marathon 2012


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