The Frustrating Complimentarily of Memory and Fantasy or ‘Huis Clos’

All our world, except the most recent couple of seconds are really memories. Memories from a minute ago mix up with those from earlier today, likewise last year and even our ancient childhoods. Labels on boxes of memories are scanned for relevance and opened; stuff is taken out, put back. And with this temporary collection of thoughts and images, brought to or near consciousness, we make plans as to what to do next, next week, the rest of our lives.

But these plans, fantasies really, become memories almost as soon as we create them. It’s chaos in there. Deterministic, yes, but way too complicated for us to really know what it is that we really want to do, let alone what the as-chaotic rest of the world will do to us. 200 years ago we thought our gods knew, 50 years from now we think our computers will know, but right now we know we will never know.

Metonym: Consciousness is a spotlight not a floodlight. The artist reflects on this by stepping back to see, not just what’s in those tightly focused lights, but the lights themselves. In his garret he sees, and here records, a sketch of his memory boxes and a summary of this moment. long and short term memories, respectively.

Below, at street level, one of the artist’s fantasies is just beginning to turn memory. He is trying to stop time, trying to defeat the frustrating complementarily of memory and fantasy. He’s trying to catch a fantasy with all hooves off the ground.

The garret is as real as it gets and as a consequence it’s both/neither good and evil. Here the artist can close his eyes for a moment and when he opens them, the same boxes, computer, bed are there. He can go away for a couple of days, then coming back find all is the same, too. He can even recall 20 years ago, –the fall of ’91– all was pretty much the same. Except for the older computer and fewer boxes, of course.

The street-level gallery fantasy is as ephemeral as the floor above it is real.  It begins as his art on exhibit at a gallery opening, it and he respected by critics and collectors alike. But the possible quickly gets knocked down by the probable, as memories of rejection intrude. Then there appears the crueler fantasy –the one the pleasant ones always become– where the art and artist are moved to a back room rejected by partying critics and collectors. That fantasy is surely more painful than the one where the art is kept upstairs, never offered, simply withheld.

Synecdoche: Did the artist stop time? Look at the gallery scene. The art on the wall in itself is an abstraction of the consciousness process. It’s a sketch of the upstairs scene, a scene in a scene. It’s being looked at, like the first fantasy. but by whom or what?  The partying critics and collectors here are replaced by empty uniforms, nothing in themselves. They are mere scraps of cloth that can’t see or touch, that can indicate nothing. They are held mysteriously in shapes that lacking flesh, eyes and voice, don’t resemble people as the artist remembers them.

Do they still signify something or someone to the artist? Are they something/one half gone from respecters to rejecters? Does he have indeterminate, superimposed memories of people causing both pleasant and ill feelings? As symbols, this they do and are. By cultural convention LBDs and tuxes replace respecters and rejecters alike. They are social-role specific drapery shaped like the critics and collectors, which his gestalt-bound eyes fill with rejecting flesh. They are, at the same time, harmless, existentially empty shells. Time does not stop for him, it loops. l’enfer, c’est les autres.


  • ‘complementarity’ —  A quantum physics term I, as many others do, generalize to non-quantum scale events; it means that an event can have pairs of attributes that the more you know about one of them, the less you can know about the other. so is I this mental event I am having a memory or a fantasy?
  • ‘Huis Clo’ —  The title of Sartre’s 1943 play usually translated as ‘No Exit.’ but the translation could also be the English of the French legalese of the Latin ‘in camera,’ or in non-legalese English ‘in a [secret] room.’ a vague, polyglot pun/paradox, is that ‘in [a] camera’ now means in public.
  • ‘all hooves off the ground’ — Another paradox In 1878 Eadweard Muybridge, in trying to settle a bet about horses running, used ‘moving’ pictures to ‘stop’ the horses gallop long enough to see if ‘all hooves off the ground’ is ever the case.
  • ‘good and evil’ — OK, may be happy/sad works better. I did read Freddy’s book years ago, and should read it again before evoking it. I do remember it took a sadistic stab at philosophers, though. So what is this philosophizing post, good or evil?
  • ‘indeterminate, superimposed’ —  more quantum terms up-scaled; an unobserved –but thought– event is all of several outcomes at the same time. Can such a thought be declared either a memory or fantasy, or must it remain both and neither?
  • l’enfer, c’est les autres. ‘Hell, it’s the others’ Sartre’s set is a room with the one door. In my drawing it’s two rooms and unconnecting stairs instead of a opening door. The quote says the cast is the hell not the set, people not a place. When I saw the play (c. 1968) instead of ending. it began again, repeating a couple of lines before lights dimmed. It looped.