Memory Palace (2013)

“18 June – 20 October 2013. If you could keep only one memory, what would it be? This summer the V&A presents a dramatic vision of the future. Memory Palace is a walk-in story that brings to life a new work of fiction by the author Hari Kunzru. This narrative world is visualised through a series of commissions by 20 internationally acclaimed illustrators, graphic designers and typographers.”

I wrote a 10,000 word novella set in London, several hundred years after the world’s information infrastructure has been wiped out by an immense magnetic storm. The resulting social breakdown has led to a dark age in which much of the world’s technology and knowledge has been lost. Nature has taken over the ruins of the old city. The people in charge 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 a member of a banned group that has revived the ancient ‘art of memory.’ They try to memorise as much of the past as they can, in a future where forgetting has been official policy for generations. He uses his cell as the ‘location’ for the things he’s remembered: corrupted fragments of things we’d recognize from our time. He clings to his belief that without memory, civilization is doomed.

The show was up through the summer of 2013. The V&A also produced a beautiful hardcover book with the full text of the story, an essay by the curators, and concept drawings by the artists.