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Amnesia Atlas


Interactive Immersive Research Prototype. 2014.

Volker Kuchelmeister, Jill Bennett.

This project aims to identify the qualities that make digital ‘lifelog’ photographs effective memory cues, and to establish how this new form of automatic photography may transform understandings of the relationship between images and memory.

Amnesia Atlas is a prototype 3D browser for the viewing of photographs taken by SenseCam (a wearable automatic life-logging camera). Using geo-location data the browser relocates the photos into a 3D spatial setting, representing the sites at which they were taken.
Six SenseCam photographic sequences, scripted and recorded for this prototype, trace separate pathways, sometimes intertwining, across the headland and beaches at Botany Bay, Sydney.

SenseCam photo-sequences have proven to be highly effective memory cues. This is due to their cognitive compatibility with human memory (they are compressed, fragmentary, temporarily ordered, formed outside intentional awareness, and from the perspective of the individual). Amnesia Atlas provides a platform for investigating whether self-movement and kinaesthetic experience affect the viewing of photo archives and our remembering of places and events.

Unlike a conventional 2D browser, Amnesia Atlas adds a spatial dimension, recalling the Ancient memory theatres or spatial maps constructed to aid memory retrial. Those imagined spaces facilitated the recall of large numbers of items, which could be retrieved rom memory by ‘walking’ through the locations within a memory theatre. Amnesia Atlas enables a similar sense of spatial orientation and navigation – of walking through places.

The image-saturated landscape of Amnesia Atlas on one level evokes the current obsession with exhaustive life-logging. The relocated images remain incongruous in their rectangular frames, rather than blending into a seamless reconstruction. All shot at ground level from a human-eye perspective they evoke subjective pathways through the landscape but also challenge some of our assumptions about memory: Do we always remember events from such a located optical perspective? And what would be a more ‘realistic’ image of memory anyway? In the current iteration of Amnesia Atlas, filter may be applied to suggest the cognitive processes of memory retrial and loss. The question of what memory looks like is an open one.

  • FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool UK. 18 September 2015 – 1 November 2015.
  • Hong Kong Science Park. Dec 9-12 2014.
  • Interactive Media Lab (IML),  Interactive Media Symposium & Showcase Event. UNSW Art & Design. 9 Sept 2016.
  • Amnesia Museum Forum, UNSW Galleries. 4 March 2016.
  • Kaldor Public Art Projects, Meeting of Minds: Prototypes and provocations at the intersection of art and neuroscience. Pier 2-3, Walsh Bay, Sydney. 27 June 2015.
  • Signs of Life: UNSW Galleries. 6 September – 8 November 2014.
Funded by:
  • Mnemoscape: a study of digital lifelog images as memory cues. 
Bennett Jill, Kuchelmeister Volker, Conway Martin, Loveday Catherine, Davies Alexander. ARC Australian Research Council Discovery Project, 2016.
  • Amnesia Atlas: a photographic media interface as memory prosthesis. 
Volker Kuchelmeister, Jill Bennet. UNSW Art and Design Faculty Research Grant 2015.
Related Publications: