Jim Campbell. Human and Computer Memory

Video clip from “Jim Campbell,” Spark, KQED, San Francisco, May 2003. © 2003 KQED, Inc.

Beginning in 1994, Jim Campbell developed a series of deeply personal work that explored the analogy between human memory and computer memory.1 For Photograph of My Mother (1996) and Portrait of My Father (1994–95), photographs of the artist’s parents were encased in electrochromic glass that changes opacity with an electric current; the images fade in and out of visibility, synced to the rhythms of Campbell’s body. His father’s photograph appears and disappears at the rate of the artist’s heartbeat, which he recorded over a period of eight hours. Similarly, the image of Campbell’s mother appears to emerge from and disappear into a fog at the rate of his breath recorded over one hour. The rhythmic changes in the opacity of the glass are based on electronic signals passed through wire from a metal box where the artist’s heartbeat and breath are “stored,” as if in a computer. The technical memory of the artwork is fused with the artist’s physiological behaviors.

  1. “Jim Campbell,” Spark, KQED, San Francisco, May 2003 (posted August 25, 2011), video, 9:10 minutes, available at youtube.com/watch?v=wSJLOQMWmvk. ↩︎