Memory Loss: an Artist Book by Scott McCarney

The Australian Library of Art, held within the State Library of Queensland, is home to all manner of works that explore the scope of the human experience. One such work that has resonated with many researchers and viewers alike is Memory Loss, by Scott McCarney.

Memory Loss is, at first glance, an unconventional object for which the word "book" does not first spring to mind. Long, thin, and narrow when closed, this artists' book is best displayed when opened to its full, at which point one can see the effect of the venetian-blind style concertina and the complex and tightly packed imagery of the work itself.

Memory loss by Scott L. McCarney, Visual Studies Workshop Press, Rochester, New York, 1988. Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland.

The viewer is bombarded with words and images that are fragmented and overlaid with one another in a way that invites closer inspection. The images themselves are a highly symbolic collage of disparate materials, printed in red, blue and black on one side of the concertina, and in blue, yellow and black on the other side, with medical diagrams and phrases interwoven with personal photographs. An ongoing theme of shadow and light can also be observed in the image choices, and the unsettling proliferation of snakes provides space for a variety of artistic interpretations. 

This work, however, is perhaps best described by the artist himself:


Memory Loss" is about my brother who had an automobile accident in 1985 that left him with a traumatic brain injury. The book is meant to be experiential, putting the viewer in the space of having only sporadic access to a lifetime of memories. The book is an accordion structure with long pages held together with a cord which prevents it from opening to a flat sheet. The book can be seen from many angles: as a static piece of sculpture from a "clinical" distance, or close at hand where manipulating the pages reveals personal struggles of head trauma

Scott L. McCarney

This work is available for viewing through the Australian Library of Art upon request.

Memory loss by Scott L. McCarney, Visual Studies Workshop Press, Rochester, New York, 1988. Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland. 


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