Image 03: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) 20’W x 17’H x 16’D, Installation. Partial overview of VP2: left center. Artist Studio, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Image 03: John Naccarato, Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory (VP2) 20’W x 17’H x 16’D, Installation. Partial overview of VP2: left center. Artist Studio, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada


Vertebrae, Part 2 (VP2) Installation

“Machine and human have begun to fold onto each other. In turn, this has created what I refer to as a ‘second skin’. It is through this new skin that we have begun to access memory and identity. A possible endgame to all this may be less dramatic than we had originally thought. For it is not the machine, which will rise up to embrace and simulate the complex nuances which define humanity, but the exact reverse. We will, in turn, succumb to the machine’s own limitations, adapting to its own vision and language of what it means to be human”. (Naccarato 2009)

The Installation

Forty-nine years later, after my first encounter with Paladin, I developed a large-scale installation work entitled Vertebra, Part 2: The Skinning of Memory or VP2 (see Image 03 above). VP2 was completed during the second semester of my Master’s Degree in Fine Arts at the University of Ottawa, 2009. VP2 was meant as an exploratory extension of my first childhood chimerical experience, as well as the possible chimerical and transformative outcomes of technology’s relationship to memory through objects.

The Methodology

The methodology behind the construction and development of VP2 encapsulated a sort of archeological and anthropological research of objects in and around the campus and the city of Ottawa. As the objects were being unearthed and discovered, my intent was to examine and understand their past and present socio-cultural significance, as well as their relationship to my own personal past and present identity.

The Photograph

The photograph my father had taken of my brother and me in front of the television set (Image 01, Part 01), would also act as a conceptual blueprint for VP2. It was after all this particular black and white photograph, which evoked my recent realization of how the transmutable intersections that exist between memory, objects, technology, and humans, could trigger chimerical experiences.

The Influences

The thematic and structural approach to VP2 was partially influenced by the American Neo-Dadaist artist Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) who explored the possibilities of combining found objects and materials in his Combine Series (1953-1964) (see Image 04 below).

Image 04, Robert Rauschenberg, Canyon, 1959

In an interview with Rosetta Brooks, Rauschenberg speaks of his process

” (I) wanted something other than what I could make myself and I wanted to use the surprise and the collectiveness and the generosity of finding surprises. And if it wasn’t a surprise at first, by the time I got through with it, it was. So the object itself was changed by its context and therefore it became a new thing” (par. 2).*

This juxtaposition of objects towards an accumulative surprise and a new thing as Rauschenberg suggests occurs around us on a continual basis and is something which also intrigued me while developing VP2.

Installation Overview

However, unlike Rauschenberg’s Combine Series, where the juxtaposition of objects were restricted to self-contained works, VP2 incorporated the objects into a site-specific, immersive, installation which encompassed an area of over nine thousand cubic feet (25’W x 15’H x 18’D) – integrating walls, ceiling, floor, windows, ceiling lights and radiators as integral parts of the accumulative surprise.

The merging of these elements made it difficult to distinguish where the intended real – the building’s architecture and fixed objects began, and where those fictionalized and/or inserted by the artist ended.

Electrical wires were also embedded into the studio’s floor which weaved their way across the hall, connecting to VP2’s sister installation the x-Series (VP1).

Also important to note is that VP2 was never meant to remain intact and was later dismantled on September 6, 2009.


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


The Skinning of Memory: Vertebrae, Part 2 (VP2) – Mediating The Real

Rosetta Brooks Interviews Robert Rauschenberg, accessed 2010, 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