PFOM Installation

PFOM Entrance

PFOM Scanning Station

The Wall of Images

Scanned Object and Data


Pockets Full of Memories, 2001
Commissioned by the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Conceived as an installation on the topic of the archive and memory, "Pockets full of Memories" was exhibited on the main floor of the Centre Pompidou from April 10 to September 3, 2001. During this time, 20000 visitors came to view the installation and contributed over 3000 objects in their possession, digitally scanning and describing them. This information was stored in a database and organized by an algorithm that positioned objects of similar value near each other in a two-dimensional map. The map of objects was projected in the gallery space and also accessible online at where individuals in the gallery and at home could review the objects and add comments and stories to any of the them.

The archive of objects consists of objects that museum visitors carried with them, for instance, such common items as phones, keys, toys, clothing, personal documents, currency, reading material, and others. The size of the scanning box was the only limiting factor that determined what could be added to the archive. Surprisingly, the database includes an unusual number of scanned heads, hands and feet, extending the archive from simply being a collection of objects to encoding it with the corporeal presence of the contributors.

The 2D map on the internet consists of 280 objects selected from the total database by the Kohonen self-organizing map algorithm. The ordering of the objects are based on the ways that the audience described them through the touchscreen questionnaire. The map of objects continuously organized itself until the end of the exhibition and the order of the final map is a consequence of all the contributions from the duration of the exhibition. This phenomenon is called emergence as the order is not determined beforehand but emerges through the large number of local interactions on the map. This is why the system can be called 'self-organizing'. Accessibility on the internet has provided a means by which to extend the dialogue for visitors, as the internet audience has the opportunity to add comments and stories to any object, and from anywhere in the world. Many visitors who have traveled from other geographical areas have used this as a means to make contact with friends and family back home who then have added their own responses.

Produced in collaboration with Dr. Timo Honkela, Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki, (Kohonen self-organizing neural-net algorithm); C3 Center for Culture and Communication, Budapest (touchscreen data collection, hardware and software); Projekttriangle, Stuttgart, (design and visual identity); Dr. Brigitte Steinheider, Fraunhofer Institute of Research, Stuttgart / University of Oklahoma, Tulsa (questionniare and data analysis); Andreas Schlegel, (visualization programming); CREATE lab, UC Santa Barbara, (web software development). With the financial assistance of The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, Montreal, Canada, the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Office of Research, UC Santa Barbara.

"Pockets full of Memories" is the latest installation work in a series begun in the early 1990's dealing with the topics of archive, cultural identities, audience contribution and technological processing of information. Two works that closely relate to this current project are "An Anecdoted Archive from the Cold War", first exhibited in 1993 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco and "Equivalents II", first exhibited at the International Center of Photography, NY in 1994.


Table of All Exhibition Contributions