Ah, the knowledge of impermanence that haunts our days is their very fragrance.


Our domestic lives are full of details that change constantly and signal the passage of time. Persistent change occurs on all levels: we change our buildings, transform rooms and spaces. The furniture comes and goes quickly, our bodies barely register. How might we find a reference point and a useful tool to understand and augment the process of continuous change over many years? Could this tool work in a way that is similar to the way that our minds and memories function? As months and years progress, memories will often become fragmented and episodic. Can a technology help us remember the past in a way that resembles our own mind’s ability to recall scenes from the past? Can we think about the past in a passive way that is somehow architecturally integrated? I am addressing these questions with my speculative Memory Mirror prototype.

The configuration consists of a two-way mirror with a screen that captures, and then at random intervals, replays scenes it has witnessed over the years. The timing of these captures are signaled by a glow emitted from behind the mirror’s frame. A few seconds later a photo is taken, “witnessing” the room for that moment. A second continuous replay cycle is ongoing and non sequential. Passersby will see scenes and people displayed from years past or perhaps just a few hours ago. By telling us a non-linear story about what it has witnessed over time, the Memory Mirror persistently augments and curates our own memories as a background function to the home. Always looking and always showing, functioning without direct user input, the project is an example of a non-command user interface, existing within a category of architecturally integrated technologies. In a calm way this technology is positioned to capture and recall without requiring direct input or interaction.


Another function of the project is to explore an alternative to the frantic and fleeting lifespan of “smart” devices. Provided with only a power source the mirror should not require an accompanying app or firmware upgrade, ever. Running counter to the gadget cycle that stamps out new plastic utilities (with accompanying apps of course), the Memory Mirror project aims to fill a neglected role in the object spectrum. It is a passive architecturally integrated device that is meant to be left alone for years, even perhaps decades. And the longer the better. Placed in a living space the Memory Mirror may record glimpses of the arrival of a child and occasions or, it may record empty rooms and in doing so take a snapshot of all of those fleeting furniture configurations that compose our interior lives. Played back intermittently and non-sequentially over decades the memory mirror will serve as an aide and companion to our own minds.

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