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5 Questions with Chelsea Voss

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YOU’RE about to lose all of your memories. Which one would you save?

That’s the central question of Chelsea Voss’ “Call for Memories,” an interactive multimedia experience that happens this Friday at Sulfur Studios.

Voss put out a call for participants to submit memories that define them, as well as a visual image that represents the memory. She’ll compile the results into an immersive, engaging exhibition that invites participation from its attendees.

We spoke with Voss last week.

1. Tell me how you got started with the Call for Memories.

My undergraduate degree is in sculpture, and during that time my work focused on the intersection between cognitive science and neurology structure of the brain vs. the psychology of what makes us the way we are. Ultimately, the inspiration came from my dad. When I was in high school, we started noticing the beginning of Alzheimer’s. Over the course of ten years, it progressed. After college, I stayed home and helped take care of him. It was really impactful.

So it’s very much thinking about the idea of what if we could encapsulate ourselves in one memory, and if we protect that memory enough, would we never lose ourselves? It’s fanciful thinking, but I think it’s poetic and beautiful to think about preserving ourselves like that.

2. What have the submissions been like?

They’ve been very diverse. There have been very happy ones focusing on the birth of children or getting married, and then of course there have been darker ones, stories of trauma, stories of loss. Someone’s outlook could define their most impactful memory, but I find that sometimes the most positive, loving, and optimistic people I know have a very traumatic memory that deeply defined them.

I always want to see more just because I love hearing people’s stories. I have more than enough to fill the gallery, and I’m going to have to be very careful with which ones I select.

3. What can we expect from the exhibition?

I’m so excited about that. The memories and the artifacts of these memories that people share with me will be on display. If that’s what you’re hoping for, you’re going to get that, but that is not the focus of the exhibit. I am going to be cultivating an experience you can participate in as much or as little as you’d like. I want people to come with an open mind, a defining memory they want to share, and the willingness to be vulnerable. I’m going to keep the rest a secret for now—you’ll have to come to the show to see what that’s like.

4. What feelings do you think these memories will inspire?

I imagine it’s going to help humanize others to us. It’s so easy to walk around this world seeing other people as non-player characters. I feel like all [the project] can do is inspire empathy, which is the one thing I feel we really need most right now.

5. What’s the one thing you want people to take away from this project?

There’s a barrier with the arts world for some people. There’s this stigma that the arts are for the educated elite. And if you don’t have that education, if you don’t know the history and dialogue with contemporary art, you don’t really have the language to read what it’s saying. How do you appreciate or understand a sports game if you don’t know the rules? I don’t think that’s fair. So my goal for this is to make this [exhibition] something anyone can enjoy, regardless of background. Of course people well-versed in art history will understand the Fluxus roots, they’ll see a bit of Allan Kaprow in there.

I’m really interested in art that isn’t tangible and doesn’t have commercial value. You can’t sell the experiences that I’m going to cultivate here. What is the value of art to society? The value is not directly financial. Art can help all of us grow as a whole, and I think when we have this stigma against the arts, that’s stopping us from doing that.

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