Press release

Pattern Completion: Trust-funded installation explores how brain cells recall memories

An evocative installation exploring the ways in which brain cells recall memories debuts at Gimpel Fils this month. Created by an artist, sound designer and neuroscientist, ‘Pattern Completion’ is the outcome of a collaborative research project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a short 'in conversation' event where the collaborators - artist Michaela Nettell, sound designer Tom Simmons and scientist Hugo Spiers - will be joined by philosophy lecturer Dr M Peg Rawes, artist Helen Maurer and poet Andrew McDonnell. The group will discuss how artists, scientists, philosophers and creative writers study themes of memory and the ways in which our brain pieces together past information of places and events.

'Pattern Completion': 20-22 May 2010
Press preview: 19 May, 18.00-20.00
Artists, philosopher, scientist and poet in conversation: 22 May, 16.00-18.00, followed by refreshments
Venue: Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies Street, London W1K 4NB
Mon-Fri 10.00-17.30; Sat 11.00-16.00
T 020 7493 2488

When a memory is created, patterns of activity inside brain cells become inscribed in their connections, leaving a trace known as an engram. When the memory is recalled, it is thought that this trace is restored and the original activity pattern re-established.

At first, the activity of the cells is incoherent. But during the pattern completion process, the activity pattern is pieced together with repeated activation until the original pattern is complete. Sometimes it fails, leaving us unable to bring elements of the past to mind.

'Pattern Completion' echoes this process using sound recordings and photographic sequences captured in forests. The sequences are fragmented, shuffled and projected into constellations of suspended glass spheres.

The forest scenes, based on pathways, clearings and walking are purposefully empty of people and objects. The images and sounds provide cues for viewers to complete, or interpret, these landscapes with recollections of their own.

Dr Hugo Spiers commented: "Computer models of the brain are incredible tools for understanding what is going on, but are generally quite poor at conveying this information visually and don't use sound at all. This project not only does that, but explores deeper hidden themes of memory and its link to space and place".

Michaela Nettell said: "It has been fascinating to discover what actually happens inside our brain when a memory is pieced together, and to observe some of Hugo's experiments in the labs. By using neuroscientific theory to inform our approach to sound and image production we have pushed our creative practice in new and exciting directions."

The installation exposes the complex nature of memory, the ambiguities between remembered and imagined places and events, the transient qualities of our memories, and the ways we use our memories to define ourselves.

'Pattern Completion' will be on display at Gimpel Fils in London between Thursday 20 and Saturday 22 May 2010.

Website: Pattern Completion
Images: Download a selection of images