Life on the Roll

Life on the Roll: The Toilet Paper Diary.

Imagine living life without memory. Not remembering those fleeting experiences which define us as a person and anchor our sense of belonging to the world. Imagine to gather and stockpile those sensations, perceptions, etc externally in an evergrowing, materialized archive...

Life on the Roll

For 24 hours straight I recorded every interaction on a roll of toilet paper that became my means of external memory

PROJECT ARCHIVE
photosProject photos

Within Jeremy Beaudry's Exterior Memory workshop at Transart Institute's summer residency 2006, I set out to use a roll of toilet paper as a memory recording device. To painstakenly record each and every single verbal transaction I engaged with consciously during 24 hours. Each perforated sheet of the roll that I carried around my waist was dedicated to a piece of communicative transaction. I simply wanted to use something close to my body (and therefore highly mobile) as a recording device and to explore how much exterior memory can affect the actual experience...

Life on the Roll

Timeline installation at the O.K Centrum in Linz, July 2006

My understanding of 'transactions' was any kind of incoming interaction with individuals or entities, in any forms of exchanges and thoughts with my immediate environment. Any media that could be imprinted, attached or otherwise integrated on toilet paper was deemed suitable.

In an effort to involve others I had every recorded statement verified by the people who interacted with time, location and their name (my poor memory for names...). The performance stirred a good amount of public attention but eventually people realized that interacting (and writing it on toilet paper) became somewhat bothersome and dialogs got increasingly shorter and fewer.

24 hours and one depleted toilet roll later I was looking for ways to make the accumulated data retrievable and searchable (the challenge of archiving external memory...). Following the idea of a multilayered timeline, I created in an all-night effort (with sore fingers and 23 school chalks used up) a large-scale, site-specific, memory-reciting installation at the O.K Centrum in Linz.

Evocative of visual literary Edward R. Tufte, I used simple chalk lines and graphs to structure the complex mnemonic information that had accumulated. Along the 30 meter long timeline on the floor (representing the 24 hours performance) I placed the single sheets of paper (instances of communication) and connected them with chalk lines to the persons and entities represented on the wall. The installation also displayed the contents and intensity of transactions and indicated my proximity to the source of transaction (including email messages from abroad). It resulted in a three-dimensional archive that made external memory into a spacial experience for the audience.

Header photo: Virgil Wong

Transart Institute
Transart Institute offers an international low-residency MFA program for working artists in a highly individualized format.


The program consists of three intensive summer residencies with lectures, workshops, critiques, seminars, performances and exhibitions in Europe and two shorter, optional winter residencies in New York. In the four semesters between residencies, students create their own course of study realizing individual art and research projects with the support of faculty and self-chosen artist mentors wherever they work and live.

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