Emma Kay at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay West) through March 6. $4, stu/srs $2, free Wednesday 5-8 pm. 416-973-4949. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Pundits who talk about the in formation age are generally referring to knowledge that is made permanent or recorded in print or media. Few people, however, have attempted to organically map out the information we carry about in our heads.
Emma Kay has devoted her entire career to this project. Working only from memory, she's recorded everything she could remember about the history of the world, the Bible and Shakespeare. In her current show at the Power Plant , she tackles The Story Of Art.
Her method couldn't be simpler. Once she's settled on a topic, she retells it entirely from memory, without consulting texts, the media or other people. The text is then computer-animated on a clean white background and played from start to finish.
The results are animated pieces of text that go against the aims of traditional writing. Rather than aiming for consistency, accuracy and completeness, she addresses the general shape and scope of her own knowledge. As she says herself, the gaps and missing information in her attempted recreations are as important as what is remembered.
Several things become obvious after sitting through a quiet half-hour of this piece. First, the scope of what we all know is staggering. The second concerns time and the compression of knowledge. Unlike media we can flip through or fast-forward at will, memory progresses in real time, and this piece bears the unmistakable imprint of that process. Unless you have a day, it's impossible to sit through all of The Story Of Art, which brings both the convenience and the distortions of the "information" age into sharp focus.
It is also unexpectedly charming. Attempting to remember everything about art from cave painting to the present is kookily audacious, and you can feel Kay straining to recall a few more bits of information about certain periods.
Her retelling of Western and contemporary art, however, is rich, and you might find yourself following discursively with your own questions, comments and corrections. In all, it's a smart exploration of how we think, represent and remember art.