Bethan Huws

Galerie Luis Campana

In Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall, 1990, it is not material products that are sold, but immaterial values. The memories of a vacation rather than the vacation itself are peddled; instead of an empty frame—the location of the experiences—the seller offers a holiday image that is constructed from a catalogue and then transmitted by computer. Remembering supplants the danger or insecurity of experiencing. Naturally, one then asks how concepts such as individuality, experience, and, above all, memory can still be applied in such a—disembodied—situation. These reflections, sparked by the movie, quite unexpectedly found new impetus in Bethan Huws’ work. Here, she constructed a customized floor adjusted to a portion of the exhibition surface. No object stands in the space; no artwork is attached to the wall; the viewer is presented with only the minute gesture of the floor change, which eventually proves to be a monumental intervention. This parquet floor is, in fact, not an object. There is nothing to interpret, we can only experience—or remember.

Huws’ installation does not refer to the gallery system or the commercial aspect of the art market; instead, it speaks about the notion of memory and the related notion of immediate experience. The object of experience or the artwork is not for sale. The memory of the installation is in the form of two transparencies and a certificate, which serve as the documentation, or the memory of the memory. Later, one may speculate on the purchase of the transparencies and of their subsequent transmission—typical of the art market but independent of the exhibition. These ruminations lead to the question linked to Total Recall: can one buy the memory of something one has not personally experienced and therefore cannot remember?

A second part of Huws’ exhibition is the series of small grass boats she has been constructing since her youth. As opposed to the floor piece, these objects are highly individual works charged with memories. While the floors neutralize the space and construct an indifferent surface for the viewer’s experiences and memories, the boats are laden with memories, exposed for all to see. And here is where the contrast between Huws’ work and Total Recall lies: so long as there is no model into which a computer-transmitted memory can be integrated, no remembering can occur and hence be sold. A mechanical repetition at a different point in time does not suffice for remembering. However, it is questionable whether this work, which aims at immediate experience, will actually disrupt the course of the market, for what counts in the marketplace is not so much the intended experience-memory as the value, which is independent of intention.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.

#image 2#