I create overwhelmingly dense images evoking mental landscapes, exploring the gap between experience and memory. My practice is informed by studying the physical nature of memory; pictorial organic forms coming together like neurons do when new memories form. My memories and experiences are contained by structures inside my mind. In turn my experiences and memories are pieces of information that are continually building that space. I think of the relationship between the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon: the water shapes the rocks and the rocks direct the flow of water.
The source material consists of photos I take of nature as well as found neurobiological and medical images. I isolate a photographic element and employ digital media to distill it into lines and shapes. The image is used as a modular unit of biological information, which I subject to a combination of photocopying, painting, printing, enlarging, projecting and collaging. The image acquires artifacts, loses definition or degrades. Information is added or deleted, evoking the unstable nature of memory. I’m compelled to revisit an image over time to mine its meaning, using pieces from my last project to form the next. Ultimately, I’m exploring how memory helps construct a continuity of self and how the process of memory can be flawed.
Memories are seemingly immaterial things, but are actually embodied in a physical space. There is no consistent truth in memory; it is a physical construct in the brain, essentially a series of connections. During the act of remembering something, the information accessed becomes fragile and must be reconsolidated with proteins into a new memory. This new reconfigured thing is different from the original, influenced by the present moment. We remember things through the lens of our current emotional state.
I pull from both scientific concepts and the Jungian metaphysical concept of the collective unconscious. The architecture of my neural landscape can have the appearance of things in the world outside of myself. Images from the brain reference forms in outer space, matter keeps forming the same shape across scales. I find myself having transformative experiences in extreme landscape environments. My work is formed from pieces of the Monterrey Aquarium, Arches National Park. It is in a desert that remembers it was once an ocean, a volcanic wasteland in Iceland where lichens are beginning to grow. It is formed from pieces of Inwood Hill Park, my backyard. It is formed from things which kill and things which are necessary for life.
-Michelle Orsi Gordon
Uncontrollable Force (detail) 2012
48" x 48" x 1.75", acrylic, digital print, silkscreen and tape on wood