Memory Marathon

Festival of ideas delves into the recesses of the mind

Serpentine Pavilion

12 Oct 2012 - 11:00 AM to 14 Oct 2012 - 11:00 PM

Memory Marathon

A two-day event inspired by the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, the Memory Marathon explored memory, archaeological excavation and historical recordings through overlaps and interactions between artistic practice and scientific enquiry.

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'At culture's bleeding edge... non-stop marathon of art, talks, music and performance' - The Guardian

Over three days the Serpentine Gallery staged the Memory Marathon, the seventh annual festival of ideas. This multi-disciplinary event featured a wide range of participants, including leading artists, architects, film-makers, musicians, scientists, theorists and writers in a continuous, performative programme of explorations, musical and theatrical performances, film screenings, discussions and experiments.

Specific events ranged from 15-minute solo presentations to 45-minute discussions or performances held throughout each day of the Memory Marathon, during which time they were transported on a deeply evocative journey through music, culture and history; consider the importance of memory in law and biology; learn what animal brains 'do' and how machines 'think' in the company of experts from a wide range of scientific fields; discover the impact an increasingly digitised world has on memory; learn tips on how to remember a 1,000-digit number in an hour; and experience first-hand the powerful links between the senses and memory.

The three-day event began on Friday 12 October with La Suite, a thrilling five-hour performance by acclaimed Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui, who together with fourteen internationally renowned musicians took audiences on a mesmerising journey through Tarab and classical Arab music recorded from the early 20th century onwards.

The more than 60 participants included former REM vocalist Michael Stipe; filmmakers Amos Gitai and David Lynch, who presented a new film; historians Jay Winter and Donald Sassoon, who together explored the theme of 'War Memory'; celebrated neuroscientist Israel Rosenfield, who introduced 'The Problem of Memory' with writer John Hull, robotics expert Luc Steels and Grand Master of Memory Ed Cooke; artists Olivier Castel and Ed Atkins on 'Deception and Self-Deception'; scent expert Sissel Tolaas on 'Sensory Memory'. Other contributors included Harvard astronomy professor Dimitar Sasselov; writer and critic John Berger; writer Douglas Coupland; poet John Giorno; writer and cultural historian Marina Warner; author and technologist China Miéville; artists Gilbert & George; architects Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Fumihiko Maki; composer Gavin Bryars with poet and painter Etel Adnan.

As professor, author and scientist Israel Rosenfield has noted, 'memory is relationship; on the one hand our temporal relationships and on the other our spatial relationships'. The 2012 Marathon approached memory as an active practice that can question received ideas - a probing of the old in the name of the new.

The Memory Marathon was dedicated to Eric Hobsbawm.

Four hours of the Memory Marathon were broadcast live on The Space.



12 noon - 2pm

Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Introduction

Israel Rosenfield,The invention of memory

Ed Cooke, Memory as a special form of perception

John Hull, Blindness and memory: being reborn into a different world

Luc Steels, Body image and memory - a robotic experiment


Marina Warner, Voices from the library: Sharahzad and the 1001 Nights

Mariana Castillo Deball, Something like the memory of a monument becoming heavier because it's a memory

Jean-Yves Tadié, Is there such a thing as involuntary memory?

Marcus du Sautoy in collaboration with Richard Rhys of The Pattern Foundry, Memory: the mathematical mind and the art of pattern searching

Ella Shohat, The Arab-Jew: taboo memories, diasporic voices

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, The virtue of forgetting


Donald Sassoon, Constructing historical memories

Jay Winter, The memory boom and human rights

Dennis Cooper, Gisèle Vienne & KTL (Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg)

Dennis Cooper reads texts from his collaborative work with Gisèle Vienne

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, M.2062

Gavin Bryars and Etel Adnan, Five senses for one death

James Richards, Surface tension

Ways of Listening: A conversation between John Berger and Tilda Swinton, directed by Colin MacCabe, followed by a conversation with John Berger


Daniel Buren

Sissel Tolaas, Smell and memory: what could happen if one tore down the visual and remained with the smell of it, with Jacques Herzog

Michael Craig-Martin, China revisited: a collaboration with my grandfather 1910-2012

John Giorno

Liam Gillick

Douglas Coupland, This is not a cloud

Michael Stipe, Michael Stipe Michael Stipe Michael Stipe

David Lynch


11am - 2pm

Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Introduction

Siah Armajani

Tim Bliss, The machinery of memory

Richard Wentworth, Rear view mirror (la voie périphérique)

Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Nights to remember

David Goldblatt

Jan Szymczuk

Ed Cooke and Joshua Foer, Memory as a special form of perception

Eyal Weizman

Alberto Garutti

Jacques Roubaud, Mnemonic hand


Dimitar Sasselov, Cosmic memory

Alice Rawsthorn, Design and memory

Richard Hollis, Notes on memory, mainly visual

Gilbert & George, Brussels alphabet

Fumihiko Maki, Memory in architecture

Amos Gitai in conversation with Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron

China Miéville and Evan Calder Williams, Salvagepunk, Yet Again Redux, Reduced, Rubble.


Isabel Lewis, Mountain grass, mountain hare: bodily imprinting and social dances

Cally Spooner

Ragnar Kjartansson, Smoke

Dara Birnbaum, Reverie: as an illusion of memory

Lutz Bacher, Puck, 2012

Timothy Taylor, Cairn Raider, Krysztina Tautendorfer, with collaborators, A portrait of Giulio Camillo


Brian Dillon and Jeremy Millar

Adam Curtis

Douglas Gordon

Winnie Cott, Each fish is a pond full of fishes, as for the tree, it is also a forest

And participations by

Ida Applebroog, What is lovely never dies, 2012

Geta Bratescu

Olivier Castel

Alison Crawshaw

Alice Herz-Sommer filmed by Ron Arad and Hans Ulrich Obrist

Jasper Morrison

Adrian Piper

Ai Weiwei


Related Events / Exhibitions


Serpentine Pavilion

Tarek Atoui's La Suite opening the Memory Marathon

12 Oct 2012 - 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Acclaimed Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui transported audiences through a lost world of Arabic culture with a five-hour performance to launch the Serpentine Gallery's Memory Marathon.

View Event


Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

1 Jun 2012 to 14 Oct 2012

The design team responsible for the celebrated Beijing National Stadium, which won the prestigious RIBA Lubetkin Prize, came together again in London in 2012 in a special development of the Serpentine's acclaimed annual commission.

View Exhibition


Serpentine Pavilion

Garden Marathon

15 Oct 2011 - 11:00 AM to 16 Oct 2011 - 10:00 PM

The Serpentine Gallery Garden Marathon was the sixth in the Gallery's acclaimed Marathon series. This two-day event was an exploration of the concept of the garden.

View Event


Serpentine Pavilion

Royal Geographical Society, SW7 2AR

Map Marathon

16 Oct 2010 - 12:00 PM to 17 Oct 2010 - 10:00 AM

The Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon, the fifth in the Serpentine Gallery's series of Marathons, celebrated a number of key anniversaries: the 40th anniversary of the Serpentine Gallery, the 10th anniversary of the annual architecture commission, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, and the 2500th anniversary of the first, original Marathon, in 490 B.C.

View Event

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Festival of ideas delves into the recesses of the mind

Monday, 1st February 2016
Memory Marathon 2012

Memory Marathon 2012

Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon 2012 (Friday 12 - Sunday 14 October 2011) Pictured: Dennis Cooper, Photo © 2012 Plastiques Photography
Memory Marathon Participants, 2012

Memory Marathon Participants, 2012

Memory Marathon 2012

Memory Marathon 2012

Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon 2012 (Friday 12 - Sunday 14 October 2011) Pictured: David Lynch, Photo © 2012 Plastiques Photography
Memory Marathon 2012

Memory Marathon 2012

Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon 2012 (Friday 12 - Sunday 14 October 2011) Photo © 2012 Plastiques Photography
Memory Marathon 2012

Memory Marathon 2012

Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon 2012 (Friday 12 - Sunday 14 October 2011) Pictured: Mariana Castillo Deball Photo © 2012 Plastiques Photography
Memory Marathon 2012

Memory Marathon 2012

Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon 2012 (Friday 12 - Sunday 14 October 2011) Pictured: Gilbert & George, Photo © 2012 Plastiques Photography