Photo by Emily Broad

Thymesis: A New Solo Exhibition

Learn about “Thymesis”, an exhibition in the Project Space.

Sep 28, 2019

The Project Space at the Arts Center witnessed the opening of “Thymesis” by Professor Laura Schneider, a lecturer of Visual Arts at NYU Abu Dhabi, on Sept 24. In the collection, Schneider plays with the theme of recollection and the subjectivity of memory and truth. A partially autobiographical exhibition, Schneider based her artworks which feature a conglomeration of mixed media drawings, sculptures and projections on sets of old family photos, depicting her aunts and grandfather who she was never able to meet.
The exhibition also includes an ongoing project called the “Earliest Memory Archive” which consists of anonymous recordings of people from all over the globe recounting their first memories. Here, participants can step into a phone booth to listen to anonymous recordings Schneider has collected over the past five years from around the world. Visitors to the booth are also able to record their own memories, allowing them to participate in Schneider’s reflection of our autobiographical memories.
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Photo by Emily Broad
The term “hyperthymesia”, which describes a medical condition in which some individuals are afflicted with remembering every detail of their lives, inspired Schneider. “Their autobiographical memory is just enormous and I found that fascinating because for a lot of us it’s the exact opposite,” said Schneider. The etymology of the word “Hyperthymesia” was also a source of inspiration because of its patchwork origins. “The word ‘hyper’ exists in English but not ‘thymesia’, which is Greek. And yet they both make up the word ‘hyperthymesia’ which does exist. A lot of the colleges that are part of the exhibition also draw from scientific journals and my own family photos which are interacting with drawings done by scientists before photography existed.”
The drawings Schneider refers to are, in the modern world, whimsical illustrations of animals which scientists had made only from memory or from the recollections of other individuals who had seen such animals before. As a result, the illustrations frequently turned out inaccurate, lending a fairytale like quality to the art pieces because of their slight displacement from reality. Schneider’s exhibition parallels this theme with subjective memory being an amalgamation of our own interpretation and reality.
“In the 16th century when these drawings were made, photography didn't exist yet,” Schneider explained. “So you didn't actually know what the natural world looked like. These artists would draw scientific illustrations of these images, but because they were drawing off of their own memory, they would draw completely incorrect images. So, in essence, they were searching for an objective truth, but creating a fiction at the same time.”
Photo by Emily Broad
“And that’s how I think we interact with our own memories and experiences, really,” she continued. “We go searching for this subjective objective truth but end up creating fictions of ourselves instead, especially when it comes to our inherited memories.” Through the drawings, Schneider reflects on the idea of inherited memories. She coins the phrase “Memories once removed” to describe memories which are inherited by an individual either because they were too young to remember or these memories were from a distant past.
The collage nature of the artworks featured within the exhibition echoes this idea patchwork nature of memory; that our memories are not entirely our own and unchanging, but constantly evolving with time and interpretation.
The exhibition will be in The Project Space Sept 24 to Oct. 7.
Ming Ee Tham is Deputy News Editor. Email her at
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