Hyperthymesia: the Art of Remembering | Tara Barnett
The term “hyperthymesia” is derived from the Greek words thymesis meaning “remembering,” and hyper meaning “excessive”. While researching for my most current series, Waking up from Anesthesia, I came across this definition and was fascinated by the stories of individuals with hyperthymetic memories.
“Memories recalled by hyperthymestic individuals tend to be personal, autobiographical accounts of both significant and mundane events in their lives. This extensive and highly unusual memory does not derive from the use of mnemonic strategies; it is encoded involuntarily and retrieved automatically. …Hyperthymestic recall tends to be constrained to a person’s lifetime and is believed to be an unconscious process.”
One particular scientific study, [documented in an MRI scan] shows considerable activity in the occipital lobe, located in the back of the brain which is responsible for processing visual information. This information seems to reinforce the belief that many “see” their memories as distinct pictures.
Unlike my other work that relies on drawing from life and photographs, I tapped into my memory bank while sketching ideas for my series. I became so engrossed in my theme and remembering moments from this specific time in my life- that I would be able to close my eyes and enter into a different landscape. My senses were in tune with this new thought process, I could not only see, but smell, taste, and feel the exact way I remember it to be. I knew that if I could concentrate, I could see that glimpse of a memory again and re-live it.
I would not call myself Hyperthymetic, but I would say I am an artist, I see and feel through images. For this series, I can recall the patterns within the woven blanket, the placement of the pieces of small green tile in the bathroom and the sight and smell of damp, sea salted wood grain in each door and door frame. I can remember these intricacies and am attempting to depict them in my paintings…along with some symbolic surrealism, namely a sick octopus.
Here are some current in-progress photos: