blegved lion

Peter Blegved

from Memory Failure and Imagination

This experiment is part of the Imagined, Observed, Remembered project begun in 1976, an attempt to shed light on the murky world of interior vision. By ‘murky’ I mean subjective. The project is an attempt to objectify subjective phenomena, to find languages, visual and verbal, to describe it.

Is inner vision transparent to itself? Will mental imagery submit to interview? Investigation of these questions is hampered by a kind of uncertainty principle: as Sartre says, we can’t verify the mental image at the same time as we’re producing it. But the challenge is somehow irresistible to me.


While we don’t receive mental images through the retina, it’s not purely metaphorical to say that we ‘see’ pictures in the mind’s eye. Mental imagery is processed by the same part of the brain that deals with vision. As long as your visual cortex is intact you’ll have mental imagery, even if you were born blind. Asleep, with our eyes wide shut, in pitch darkness, we dream images which likewise bloom in the visual cortex.

Artists work from memory and imagination as readily as from observation. The following experiment is, first of all, an attempt to observe the image of an object REMEMBERED over time, as my memory of it fails. To document the process of this failure. But it’s also intended to be a practical demonstration of the symbiosis between FORGETTING and IMAGINING. Memory merely ‘recognises’ an object, but imagination leads us further, to a ‘vision’ of the thing. Imaginative vision involves a failure of memory in that we can’t really see anew until we forget what we know.