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Memory Trace at the Wellcome Trust


1 June 2012 - 1 June 2013

London landmarks take a cerebral twist in Gayle Chong Kwan's 'Memory Trace', a newly commissioned photographic work displayed in the windows of the Wellcome Trust headquarters. Delicately sculpted from historical illustrations of the brain found in the collections of the Wellcome Library, Chong Kwan's landscape presents a sinuously beautiful account of the city. By featuring landmarks used by taxi drivers as navigational points, the artist links the capital&rsquo s urban topography with connections generated by memory.

'Memory Trace' is inspired by the research of Professor Eleanor Maguire of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, which shows that the process of acquiring 'the Knowledge' - the complex layout of central London's 25 000 streets - causes structural changes in the brains of taxi drivers.

During the day, Chong Kwan's panorama presents the familiar skyline of the buildings and attractions that make up the city, but a closer inspection reveals an intricate collage of historical drawings and paintings: attempts to record and visualise the workings of the brain. At night, LEDs map out the journeys frequently taken by taxis and reflect the creation of new neural pathways. The landscape, photographed from models put together by the artist, carries the life of the city and the physical matter of our apprehension.


Image: Gayle Chong Kwan, 'Memory Trace', 2012 (detail).