In the White Darkness

About the Fragility of Memory

By Chris Wilcox

The short, interactive piece In the White Darkness: About the Fragility of Memory is a picture based, multimedia interface in which the user develops a similar experience to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The work was done as a collaboration by Reiner Strasser and M.D. Coverley to give us a glimpse of what it might be like to suffer from such a disease.

The piece maintains the same screen that shows several waning and waxing, white dots on a veil. By clicking on these dots, the user is shown pieces of images which are sometimes accompanied with words or sound. As the user experiences more of the pictures and images, a common theme becomes apparent.

The actual title of the work almost ties in too perfectly with this suggested theme. Everything is shown on top of a white, polka-dotted curtain, giving it a surreal effect. Through the series of selections, pieces of memories are presented in fragments which give rise to the idea of fragility. More emphasis is given to this through the phasing of each memory as they enter and exit the screen.

An interesting thing to take note of is that some dots have lines drawn to one another and some do not. There are also dots in the background that can’t be clicked on; almost as if Strasser and Coverley were trying to show that some memories may never be recalled. This gives rise to the importance of the connection between each memory rather than what they contain. As well, there seems to be little relation between each dot, even though they may be connected. For instance, one dot may show a picture of a flower while the other shows a picture of water. It seems that all the dots are merely slices of memories that have lost their meaning.

While everything may appear surreal and white, there’s almost this daunting feel of dread or eeriness. Perhaps more so in the sense that everything is slipping away. As the veil and the dots present a surreal front, the feeling that everything is sinking into darkness is constant throughout the piece. This goes back to the title as everything is fragile and white, yet is a decent into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The memories may be pleasing and glazed, but not having a meaning between each one is truly dreadful.

What Strasser and Coverley have created is truly a unique way to present how one’s memories can be fragile and scattered.. The content of each memory seems insignificant in Strasser and Coverley’s view, but the relationship we create with each one is invaluable. The work is definitely worth-while and interesting to look at as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is not something that we can possibly try to comprehend. After going through the work, you really do realize how fragile each memory is and how important it is to know the meaning and connection within each one.

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