26 September 2019 - 12 January 2020
Following the success of the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the newly-restored Pitzhanger Manor comes Es Devlin’s Memory Palace, a new commission specifically for the gallery space. The work is essentially a map of memories – marking moments of major change spanning the past 78,000 years. It’s laid out as a kind of model village but instead of being geographical it’s led by ideas (or moments when our thoughts around something eg. slavery, votes for women etc. shifted), then by time (left-right reads oldest to newest), then by place. Devlin’s cartography encourages you to remember ‘the cave in the Southern Cape where the first human hands made their mark’ to ‘the railings in Parliament Square to which Pankhurst is said to have chained herself’ and onwards to ‘the steps where Greta Thunberg sat each Friday until she began to be heard’.
You can only enter the room one person at a time – and this undoubtedly holds some of the power. ‘Think of it like a chapel, like a space for meditation and reflection,’ she says. The white mirrored space carries a certain atmosphere, and feels almost like walking into someone’s imagination – or memory – where you project your own colours and thoughts. Women are given particular prominence in Devlin’s work which is unusual in the historical discourse; in the library upstairs there’s a selection of books that correspond with each of the chosen memories so you can find out more. Of course, which moments resonate will be different for different people – outside there’s a stack of blank maps which we’re invited to take to create our own ‘Memory Palaces.’ In a time of immense change and when there is ‘a sense of hopelessness about the environment, this is a chance to remind ourselves of all the times as a species when we have changed our minds and shifted our perspectives – for the better.’