Mnemonic Devices

Micaela Benedicto, Structures of Unremembering at the Blanc

The past is another country. Simultaneously foreign and familiar, the past is irreversible yet permanently irretrievable in its entirety. Despite the multiple technologies that allow us to document our experiences, what gets captured is a mere selection. If “without our memories we are nothing,” as suggested by Luis Bunuel, then what testament to the self can be given by an instagram feed or a facebook timeline? Memory, these platforms seem to suggest, is not only a curated space but a flattened one; unless our memories are given any coherence through creative acts, memory remains a place of loss.

Between sculpture and image, Micaela Benedicto’s current series of work draws from documents of a recent past, producing structures that are simultaneously traces, reflections, and impermeable layers anchored to pristine surfaces. Like any object placed behind glass and exhibited in the white cube, these structures critique the practice of how easy it is to accept objects on display as fact, even if they too are products of reconstruction.

Occupying a single room at the Blanc on Katipunan Ave., Structures of Unremembering does not deviate from the minimalist aesthetic of Benedicto’s past works – both as an artist and an architect. There’s little color and aside from the photogrammed images transferred to mirrored steel, she makes very little use of curves; yet it is in the layers impressed upon the work that a story unfolds making Structures of Unremembering more of a literary gesture than an architectural one. This recourse to narrative, or to fiction, not only reflects the malleability of the past but the ease with which our memories can betray us.

The only source of softness to the work are the photogrammed images which form a hazy, almost gauzy layer over the hard edges of the steel. In her attempt at structuring that space between remembering and forgetting, the definitive product is a series of angles signifying the tensions between irreversibility and an openness to perception. These structures not only give shape to prior form, but give it height or a level of monumentality. Acknowledging the futility of recollection, we thus find potential in reconstruction, shaping the present and pushing forward into a future.

“Why not invent the past?” This may seem like a stupid question, but it has raised ethical concerns about the well-meaning initiatives that have since grown into the complex of institutionalized myth and meaning making that is the museum. Benedicto’s work, with its reconstructed objects referring to the production of memories, does not resolve this ethical issue; however it does point out these acts of invention and reconstruction as both necessary betrayals and instruments of negotiating our inherently multi-faceted histories. In this case, the question is not whether reconstructing or inventing a past is ethical, but whether it even makes any difference once it becomes of use.


Structures of Unremembering runs at the Blanc Gallery, 145 Katipunan Ave., until Nov. 18, 2014. Here’s the event page.
Structures of Unremembering Micaela Benedicto invite_hi-res

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

One thought on “Mnemonic Devices”

  1. I really wish I could see these. Translating such a complex interplay of ideas and emotions into actual objects has always fascinated me.

    For my part, I’ve always clung to the idea that preserving the past is if not important then certainly interesting. We are a species of patterns and narratives. It’s how we deal with the world. It seems that we must make a story of our past one way or another. One way or another, we knock out a point of view. Inevitable. But not, as you say, necessarily ethical.

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