H.M., 2009

H.M. is a two-channel presentation of a single film based on the true story of an anonymous, memory-impaired man, the famous amnesiac known in scientific literature only as “Patient H.M.” In 1953, when he was 27 years old, H.M. underwent experimental brain surgery intended to alleviate his epilepsy. The unintended result was a radical and persistent amnesia. Though he was no longer able to make lasting memories, his short-term recall, lasting about 20 seconds, remained intact. He lived anonymously in this condition for more than half a century until his death on December 2, 2008, in a Connecticut nursing home. His case is widely credited with revolutionizing our understanding of the organization of human memory.

 

H.M. consists of a single 16mm film that plays through two adjacent synchronized projectors with a 20 second delay between them, so the viewer sees two simultaneous side-by-side projections of two different parts of the same reel of film. The structure of the installation and the nature of the material together produce a sensation of mnemonic dissonance much like that experienced by Patient H.M.

The roughly 18-minute loop weaves together reenacted, documentary, found and animated elements and lies somewhere between an experimental documentary and an independent narrative film.

 

Several ancillary projects were produced in conjunction with H.M., including a series of letterpress prints, drawings, and photographs.

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H.M., 2009
Double projection of a single 16mm film, color, sound,
18:30 minutes