Memory Makes Us

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In 2013, if:book Australia launched the project Memory Makes Us, a live writing event that challenged a writer to create a new work using as inspiration collected memories from the public. The project pilot took place in July 2013 with a live writing experiment by Kate Pullinger.

The project first sought contributions from the public both leading into and during the event in a unique interaction between artist and audience. The project attracted wide interest from the community and support from audience and media.

Live writing events are always both exciting and unpredictable. For me, the theme of memory is very rich – lost memories, forgotten memories, memories that surface unbidden when triggered by the smell of someone’s perfume, the sound of heels crossing a floor… Memory Makes Us is an opportunity to explore what the city and its people choose to remember.

Kate Pullinger

Prior to the event, the project invited submissions from the public of memories in text or images. Fifty-four submissions were made via the web prior to the event, providing a rich background of source material. These submissions were also published to a standalone web site for the project. The site also provided a focus for live activities with embedded social media and the live document where Kate worked during the event.

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The project site is at http://memory.futureofthebook.org.au, which you’re still welcome to check out. Note that the site has begun the process of ‘fading’ and some text may be difficult to read.

Aspects of the project also took place in Melbourne, via the large dynamic screen in Federation Square and at The Cube (Queensland University of Technology).

Contributions from the public to Memory Makes Us have also been posted to the Federation Story project.

Postgraduate students from QUT assisted in the administration of these public-facing displays.

Staging

The live event for Memory Makes Us was staged in the Infozone at the State Library of Queensland.

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The author was set up at a table with a screen displaying her work in progress. Visitors were able to contribute to the project on a second table facing the author. Contributions could be made on one of three typewriters available or post-it notes. Contributors were invited to leave their work with the author. As the number of contributions grew during the day, the individual pages were added to a ‘stream’ that flowed from the author’s desk onto the floor.

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Contributions

In addition to the 54 online contributions prior to the event, the project attracted 129 contributions from visitors during the live event (48 by post-it note; 81 by typewriter).

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A team of students from Queensland University of Technology were also involved in the project gathering instant short term memories and submitting them via Twitter.

Quotes from participants and readers:

Loved Memory Makes Us, by the way. A surprisingly resonant and very inspiring project overall.

We love the @ifbookaus live writing art project.

Enjoying watching @katepullinger writing live online for #memorymakesus project in Brisbane.

Odd to watch @katepullinger writing live for #memorymakesus. Brave. Can’t imagine giving a window to my edits, my textual changes of heart.

Videos from the event have been archived here at if:book.

Twitter conversations around the project and the contributions from the short term team have also been archived at the if:book site.

The project was covered internationally in online and print media with stories in the Courier-Mail, ArtsHub, and Publishing Perspectives.

No, Memory Makes You

The theme of memory will run through if:book’s program for 2014 and we hope to expand Memory Makes Us into something even more extraordinary. We will announce if:book’s 2014 program in January.

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Kate Pullinger is Professor of Creative Writing and Digital Media at Bath Spa University. She writes for both print and digital platforms. In 2009 her novel The Mistress of Nothing won the Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. Her prize-winning digital fiction projects Inanimate Alice and Flight Paths: A Networked Novel have reached audiences around the world.

This is the future of the book, but not the one you were expecting.