Image 05: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) Detail. Artist Studio, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Image 05: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) Detail

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Vertebrae, Part 2… Memories

Memory is not an instrument for surveying the past but its theater. It is the medium of past experience, just as the earth is the medium in which dead cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging”. (Walter Benjamin)

The Memories

Personal memories played a key role in the development of VP2. One such memory involved watching my mother knit. I remember on many an occasion, glancing over from my schoolwork, and being drawn to her subtle, yet precise gestural movements of her hands – magically weaving dollies, scarves, and sweaters for hours on end.

My mother’s gestural movements, which I would come to later identify as gestural memories were introduced into VP2 through the use of a red ball of yarn. The ball of yarn had been placed in the right bottom corner of the VP2 installation (Image 05).

Image 05: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) Detail. Artist Studio, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Image 05: VP2 – Lower Left Corner, Detail – red yarn, wood stretcher, painted floor and wall, electrical wire

The red yarn could then be seen unravelling – weaving and stitching its way throughout the VP2 installation, binding sheets of canvas, bed linen, and sewing (paper) patterns together (Image 06).

Image 06b: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) Partial Overview. Artist Studio, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Image 06: VP2 – Lower Left Floor, Detail – red yarn, wood canvas stretcher, painted floor, electrical wire

The Stitch

Besides the personal reference of the red wool to my mother, the red stitching could also be interpreted metaphorically on many levels.

Image 06: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) (Memories), Detaill. Artist Studio, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Image 07: VP2 – Left Corner Wall Detail -red yarn, canvas, gauze, tape, medical glass slides, paint and string

The gesture of the stitch and the wool’s blood red could infer that the human skin has been breached and then stitched back together.

Image 06x: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) Partial Overview. Artist Studio, University of
Image 08: VP2 – Left Corner Wall Detail -red yarn, canvas, gauze, tape, medical glass slides, paint and string

This gesture in combination with other objects in the work – various materials collected in glass vials, containers, and slides such as wool, electrical wiring, houseflies, virus stains and unidentified organic matter – could further infer some sort of critical intervention: perhaps medical; perhaps, related to biotech and genetic research.

The Gesture

Image 06: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) Partial Overview. Artist Studio, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Image 09: VP2 Partial Overview, Naccarato

Each of the gestural movement/s used in the construction of VP2 can, in turn, be transcribed and understood, as a series of gestural memories. These gestural memories originate and evolve in several ways within VP2.

    1. Organically – memories from my own personal past. Or during the experiencing VP2 as it was being researched, developed and constructed.
    2. Materially – the material itself (a skinned TV set, canvas, paint) and/or the placement and juxtaposition of materials, and/or the gestural actions used in VP2 such as brush strokes, stitching, etc.
    3. Sociopolitical – how visitors interpret and generate their own gestural memories from their experiences with VP2.

Next: The Skinning of Memory: Vertebrae, Part 2 (VP2) – Objects

Previous: The Skinning of Memory: Vertebrae, Part 2 (VP2) – Installation

Walter Benjamin, Berlin Childhood around 1900 accessed  2018

Text and ideas originally created and published as part of my MFA Thesis, 2010. Specific segments have been revised and updated for this post. John Naccarato, 2018