Memory Palace a new exhibition at London’s V&A Museum brings together a new work of fiction by the author Hari Kunzru with 20 original commissions from leading graphic designers, illustrators and typographers to create a multidimensional story. The way we read books is changing. Memory Palace explores how a story might be imagined in a different format – as a walk-in book.
Hari Kunzru’s story is set in a future London, hundreds of years after the world’s information infrastructure was wiped out by an immense magnetic storm. Technology and knowledge have been lost, and a dark age prevails. Nature has taken over the ruins of the old city and power has been seized by a group who enforce a life of extreme simplicity on all citizens. Recording, writing, collecting and art are outlawed.
The narrator of the story is in prison. He is accused of being a member of a banned sect, who has revived the ancient ‘art of memory’. They try to remember as much of the past as they can in a future where forgetting has been official policy for generations. The narrator uses his prison cell as his ‘memory palace’, the location for the things he has remembered: corrupted fragments and misunderstood details of things we may recognise from our time. He clings to his belief that without memory, civilisation is doomed.
The chosen practitioners work across a variety of fields, from comics and editorial illustration to advertising and typography. The broad selection of contributors demonstrates the exceptionally diverse and expanding worlds of contemporary graphic design and illustration.
Kunzru’s story is written in a series of short passages that move in a non-linear way through the dystopian world he created. Each of the designers and illustrators worked on a different passage of text from the story, responding freely to the text. The resulting commissions vary dramatically in scale and format, from intricate hand-drawn works to large three-dimensional environments.
Memory Palace 18 June – 20 October 2013 V&A