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In this digital age,
we back up all our memories and our knowledge,
our private and collective history,
and we store them in a virtual cloud.
Learning by heart seems archaic, even futile.
Perhaps we're losing our ability to remember.
As a writer and as an artist,
I'm fascinated about the storytelling around objects
and the memories that they can hold,
so my Artsnight is all about the creative power of remembering -
even those memories that we might rather forget.
Memories of porcelain tend to be of the everyday,
the intimate stuff we surround ourselves with -
plates and cups and bowls...
but at the heart of this strange white material
is another kind of secret.
It's one of obsession and power and purity,
and it takes us to the worst moment of the 20th century.
It took hundreds of years
before we worked out the secret of making porcelain in Europe,
and when we did, it was here in Dresden.
Augustus the Strong, ruler of Saxony, was a man possessed.
He even built palaces to house his mammoth collections.
So, here we are, surrounded by 30,000 pieces
of Augustus the Strong's collection of Chinese porcelain,
Japanese porcelain, and then his own porcelain he gets created here.
He has, he says, porcelain madness - Porzellankrankheit.
This extraordinary display,
made from the most difficult of materials,
is all about power.
Augustus was filling the world with porcelain,
and in doing so, he was building his own mythology.
This isn't even the full collection.
And here in the vaults, on trolleys, they've produced a whole army,
a regiment of porcelain soldiers.
So, this one is incredible,
because this is the representation Augustus the Strong -
and here he is, looking like a great emperor.
This porcelain quickly became synonymous with a Teutonic ideal -
pure white substance made from German earth.
It was named Meissen, after the town where it was produced,
and it's still being made here today.
This is the big door into the factory and the archive.
Really heavy door.
But there's a part of the Meissen story that's rarely talked about -
and that's its connection with the Nazi Party.
This is what I've really come to see.
This is the...1930s and 1940s material,
and this is the daybook -
and this just shows you how profoundly embedded
this factory is in the life of the Reich.
Here is the 6th of August 19...
This is at random, I'm opening this up - 6th of August 1941,
number one - Goering, who wants a tea service
in...in...Kupfergrune, in copper green.
That's what Goering wants.
The Reichminister Frick wants things...
Goebbels orders a porcelain platter.
Of course, actually seeing orders from Goering or Goebbels
is pretty shocking.
It couldn't be more immediate, this synergy between...
the material and the people.
But the Nazis' obsession with porcelain doesn't end at Meissen.
So, as I'm looking into this whole extraordinary period,
the 1930s and '40s, and the German obsession with porcelain,
I keep coming across this strange name, Allach,
which is a factory I'd never heard of.
And my default position with anything is to buy a book,
so I ordered this on the internet, and it arrived.
It's a small black hardback from the 1960s called Porcelain Allach,
and I open it up and the first photograph,
the first illustration is of Hitler, with Himmler,
looking avidly at a whole table full of porcelain figures
that look like they could have been made at Meissen.
They have that same quality of Augustus' porcelain figures.
And then it says it was "the unique concentration of talent
"made available for its production"
that made Allach so special and so desirable -
and that's a really tough phrase to read,
because it became clear quite quickly that this porcelain
was actually made in Dachau concentration camp.
The Allach factory is the project of Heinrich Himmler,
the leader of the SS.
In fact, he calls it his "favourite child".
Allach is producing a new mythology for Germany -
but the circumstances of this porcelain's creation
are beyond horrific.
Dachau is the first concentration camp.
It set the template for the thousands more that were to follow,
and for Himmler it provided the perfect home for his project -
a steady supply of prisoners to replace the skilled workers
lost through the war.
This is where the prisoners arrived.
This is their first sight of the camp -
this guard tower here and the gates.
And this is the gate into the camp, and "Arbeit macht frei."
"Work makes you free."
And then you're here.
All around here, all around the camp are these SS factories,
these places where all the people who were here were forced to work,
so they would leave in the morning, first thing in the morning
after their roll call, and march out here towards the factory.
Hans Landauer is one of the survivors of Dachau.
He arrives in the camp in 1941,
and a small sketch gets him
assigned to the Allach factory.
It's a small moment, but one that proves crucial.
Hans starts work modelling simple candleholders,
but he becomes irreplaceable when he masters the riders
that Hitler and Himmler love so much.
Inside the factory, the prisoners are given leather shoes
to prevent them from falling while carrying their work.
Allach comes above everything.
The factory is the first stop on the tour for visitors to the camp.
It's over there. It's just beyond the chain-link fence.
That's where the Allach porcelain factory was,
and for 18 hours a day, the prisoners would come and work.
Hans Landauer says it was a piece of luck - it was a piece of luck,
because at least working in the factory,
they weren't subject to the total terror of being in the camp.
In the final few months of the war,
over 14,000 people died at Dachau -
but even then, the factory was still producing work.
By the time the camp was liberated in April 1945,
all the moulds and all the figurines had been destroyed or removed -
but the memories of this place live on.
I mean, this is a very strange place to be,
I mean, it's the archive in Dachau.
It starts out with a catalogue of Porzellan Manufaktur Allach,
the catalogue that was produced.
There's Hitler's words,
"Kein Volk lebt langer als der Dokumenter seine Kultur."
"No people live longer than the documents of their culture."
This is Hitler saying that culture, this pure, Aryan culture,
is going to live forever. And there's his bust, for 76 Reichmarks,
and you turn over the page,
and a white, springing stallion in porcelain.
This is the thing that they could never do in Meissen.
Himmler said, "They tried to do this everywhere else,
"but through our will, through our will, we've managed to create this."
And then a bunch of flowers -
and then, SS figures, all-white figures.
And then a fencer.
This wasn't for sale - this was only given by Himmler.
There was a painting of Heydrich -
the Heydrich who masterminded the whole of the Holocaust -
and there's a picture of Heydrich with this figure next to him.
Six months ago, apparently, a local woman - her father died,
and she was clearing out his house,
and found that he'd been secretly collecting Nazi memorabilia
and she didn't want it.
And there's the Allach mark.
You've got people making porcelain who were living in conditions
which are literally unimaginable,
and going every day to the factory to make things for this regime...
..and you end up with Bambi.
Something which is profoundly kitsch.
"Kitsch" meaning sentimental, over-emotional,
and totally alienated from the circumstances in which it's created.
For all the same reasons that these objects are disturbing,
they're also collectable.
The memories and stories that they carry with them are now worth money.
A short drive from Munich, I find a dealer who's agreed to speak to me.
I was going to ask you, who collects?
So, most of the clients come from Russia.
Russians, and United States.
-England, er, Great Britain. So, most are the Russians.
If I was a Russian, how much would one of these figures be?
Um, that one goes to a Russian for 28.
Could be more.
-A small crack.
Without, over 50.
And... And this bowl here?
I've never seen this bowl.
And the evening before, that was a present for some people.
So, the Nuremburg rallies -
-they presented these the night before?
Mm...little moment, I show you something.
Do I... I wait here?
Perhaps you will see it never again.
So, tell me about this.
I didn't even know that there WERE Allach chess pieces.
That was produced for a present.
-For a present. From Himmler, or..?
-Do we know who?
So, this is a present from Himmler to someone
-and this would have been made in Dachau.
-I think so, yes.
Where did you find this?
What do you think about the collecting of...? Because...
I am collecting because it was from Allach.
-That was history.
What do you think that people are collecting,
when they're collecting these very difficult historical pieces?
You know, the...
Like, over here, the Nuremburg bowl or the drummer boy -
what do you think they're thinking when they collect?
There are some people I know, they want to save for money.
Because when the rouble goes down, the prices in euro will be the same.
And in America?
I hope, history...
and nothing other!
The story of Allach is barely mentioned in the history books,
but these fragile objects continue to change hands
amongst the few that know their secret.
you know, dealing in this stuff for 20 years,
and the material, the kind of...the stuff is there on glass shelves,
and it's, you know, commodified "stuff" -
but, of course, it's made by slave labour,
under the edicts of people who are...just are profoundly...
I'm intrigued by the nature of memory when it comes to my own work,
so I put vessels up high where it's out of sight,
or I put it in frosted cabinets where it's blurred.
I want to capture the sensation of memory.
Claudia Hammond went to Tate Liverpool,
where a new exhibition explores how works of art
can live on in our memory long after they've disappeared from view.
Several years ago, I visited the 4,000-year-old city of Palmyra -
a living museum reflecting the stunning art and architecture
of all the civilisations who've passed through it.
But Palmyra is in modern-day Syria,
and in May this year, so-called Islamic State started to destroy it.
We have footage, of course, and we have photos,
but I know that I'll never see Palmyra again, as it was.
All I have now are my memories.
Memories are so much richer than mere reproductions.
They involve peoples, cultures and experiences.
The art world, above all, is saturated with reproduced images.
It started with the Industrial Revolution,
machines, the advent of mass production
and, most recently, the ubiquitous screen.
We don't need to remember visual images in the same way any more,
so are some types of memory becoming redundant -
and does that mean that we don't look at artworks
with the same urgency?
Tate Liverpool is taking this idea as the basis
for their bold new exhibition An Imagined Museum.
The show asks the public to imagine a world
where all art has been removed,
and all we have left are our memories of those works.
The idea of the show is this idea
that we want the audience to remember work by heart,
to take a work that they find meaningful, emotionally charged,
so they can tell others and bring the work into the future.
And why do you want them to remember it?
There have been times in history when art has been under threat -
and we're thinking about the idea, actually,
if you had to save a work of art,
if you had to take a work into the future
to tell others about why it's important,
why it has sort of meaning, what work would you choose?
So, it makes you imagine a world where there's no art,
no culture left?
Yes. Thankfully we don't live in that culture.
So, what do we have here?
It's a painting called Warhol Flowers,
but it's by an American artist whose name was Sturtevant.
She's known to make works from memory.
So, is it slightly different, in fact?
Once you examine the work and think about the variances in colour,
it's not quite right.
This pink, this kind of salmon pink flower at the bottom right,
-I don't recognise that as being a Warhol colour.
You know, she's somebody who's asserting the power of memory,
and really the power of pop art at the same time.
All of these works of art are here, and the people can see them,
so how are they going to get the experience of them being gone?
At the end of the show, we're going to de-install the entire exhibition,
all the painting, the sculpture and the film,
it's all going to be removed,
but we're going to leave the screens and the exhibition labels in place,
and the works will be replaced by people.
-And you get to see what they remembered.
The average time a person spends looking at a work of art
is just 17 seconds.
I'm going to see what I can remember about a work in that short time.
Right, time's up.
In recent years, neuroscience has shed some light
on how our brains process visual images -
perhaps how we remember works of art, too.
So, how much do we know about what goes on the brain
when we look at a piece of art like this?
When we look at figurative art,
specific areas of the brain will be activated.
If we would measure the activity of our brain,
we would see activity in the fusiform gyrus -
underneath the cerebellum there is the fusiform gyrus -
and the gaze, so the eye movements would focus
on single specific features like faces, eyes, in the picture.
-So, we like picking out those features.
-We're drawn to those and want to look at those.
So, when it comes to abstract art,
our eyes move all around the painting.
They don't really stick to one single spot.
So, is that because it doesn't really make sense, necessarily?
-You don't know what to look at - you can't look for those faces.
The brain, let's say, doesn't recognise anything
that it's accustomed to,
and if we would measure the activity in the brain,
you would see an activity more widespread all around the brain.
-Does that make it harder to remember a piece of abstract art?
-Cos there's less to focus on, in a sense.
It's not just the type of art that affects your memory of it,
but how much you like it.
What happens when we see a piece of art that we really, really love?
We would see a high activity
in an area called our orbitofrontal cortex,
which is located here, in the middle, here.
So, it is our reward centre that is involved in our appreciation of art.
And presumably, if we love it, it makes it easier to remember.
Yes, it is, because the anatomical connection and functional connection
with the hippocampus, or with the storage of memory,
is very tight, and widespread,
and therefore the activity in the orbitofrontal cortex,
so, what we like, can influence what we memorise.
And, yes, therefore we memorise better what we like.
So, memory test time - what I can remember about the work
of art behind me is that there are two figures lying down.
The one on the left is silver and the other one is stripy,
and over on the right there are these three orange things.
There was something else very distinctive...
Oh, there's big blue shoes -
one of them, maybe the one on the right,
has got big bluey-green shoes.
And... I can't think of anything else.
So, there they are - and I got some things right, I can see.
But I totally forgot that they're lying on an enormous mirror,
which does take up about a third of the scene.
I got the shoes. I forgot that she - I think she's a she -
has glasses on, so, I got some of it right, but some not.
But if I'd been looking at this normally,
I might have just looked at it a little and then gone away,
so I have remembered more than I usually would,
but perhaps I need to pay more attention to detail.
When you go to a concert,
you expect to see the conductor and musicians
barricaded behind sheet music, but one extraordinary group,
the Aurora Orchestra, have done away with all that.
They're using their memory to unlock complex pieces of music
in new and very powerful ways.
MUSIC: Gotham by Michael Gordon
In just over ten years, Aurora has established itself
as one of the most innovative orchestras working in Britain today.
Their vigorous physical approach is always concerned
with exploring new ways in which classical music can be performed...
..and they collaborate with film-makers, choreographers
and artists from all walks of life.
Here at the Royal Academy of Arts,
they're performing a piece of new music as part of my project White -
an exploration of the colour white
and the impact white objects have on their surroundings.
The Aurora piece is by the brilliant young composer Martin Suckling.
With Edmund's installations,
there's something almost musical about the way that they're arranged.
Just looking at them almost creates a rhythm,
a sort of a breathing, as your eye trains along the shelves,
so obviously that appealed to me as a composer to try and capture
that sort of sense, that kind of breathing through my music, as well.
One of the things Aurora are really well known for these days
is playing without music,
and some people might think that's just, well, a party trick,
but what I think is fantastic about it is that allows you
to perform the music in a completely new way.
It's not just playing without music,
it allows a new type of interpretation to be possible,
new relationships with the people you're playing with,
much more direct and spontaneous.
MUSIC: Symphony No. 40 by Mozart
This might look like an ordinary classical music concert,
but there's one special difference.
These musicians are playing an entire symphony by heart -
no score to rely on.
No safety net, just pure memory.
You've got a Prom, you've got the whole of the Albert Hall,
you know, packed to the rafters with people -
what the hell does it feel like to have it all in your head
and nothing on a page in front of you?
Well, I remember, the first one we did,
the players came off the stage
and I've never seen players in such a sense of...
not just relief that they'd achieved this challenge,
cos I think it was more than that -
a real sense that they'd done something quite special together.
That we'd created this thing and allowed us, collectively,
to rely on each other's memory,
which is a very sort of special dependency on each other.
Definitely, everybody playing from memory
means that everybody feels a sort of ownership,
and, of course, the danger aspect is there -
that you could come in at the wrong point,
you know, at any moment.
And I think that definitely gives the performance
a certain added edge.
My father has been to both Proms,
and said he didn't enjoy either piece
because he was terrified throughout,
but I don't think that's shared by most audience members,
it's probably particular to him.
For me, the idea behind it was to ask everyone to throw themselves
into this music in a deeper way
than they have ever done so before,
to internalise every note,
to be able to communicate every ounce of every bar
in the way that they want to,
and to mould something quite special.
By forcing us to take a step back
and actually to have to memorise it, there's no short cut to that,
so we have to pour this music this inside us.
There's something in this whole project
which is kind of beautifully countercultural,
-which is saying...
-..which is saying, actually,
one of the things about being a human being is about memory,
is about trying to work out what we remember and how we remember.
When it comes to the 21st century, music is so readily available -
you can just, online, find a score.
You can download music in a nanosecond.
That, in a way, the idea of Aurora in the memorisation project
is to show absolute commitment to one piece.
I think the audience responded to the fact
that we'd gone to all of that effort just to see
if we could find something new in presenting Beethoven's 6th Symphony.
MUSIC: 6th Symphony 'Pastoral' by Beethoven
Counterintuitively, sometimes music that looks very simple on the page
is the most difficult to memorise,
-because muscle memory...
..in terms of repetitive physical movements,
-is in many ways the strongest.
-That's right, yeah.
So, like many people sit down at a piano and can play Chopsticks,
it's the muscle memory that they're remembering -
they're not analysing the notes that they're about to play,
and they remember structurally how it goes -
their fingers just automatically know it.
And that's a danger?
That's a danger when it comes to longer pieces,
where repetition is key.
For example, the last movement of the Beethoven
is roughly a rondo form,
so, when the initial material, when the A section comes back,
you have to know that you're on the second repeat of the A section,
so that you take the right exit.
More than that, it might be exactly the same music that you lay
a tiny different...
You switch round notes with the other clarinet in the chord,
or something small like that.
The danger of muscle memory is that if you stop thinking
and you just use that,
it can take you by surprise.
Freed from their music stands, the players and the conductor
can make visual connections to each other - and beyond, to us.
And when you're conducting, you actually were smiling -
you seemed to be much more cheerful
than I've ever seen any other conductor before!
But it seemed to me that what you were doing
was that you were connected to with other people's eyelines.
Suddenly aware of this extraordinary sort of theatre of looking
that's going on between all the musicians,
and we're involved, too. We look at you looking.
I think the interplay between musicians in an orchestra
is one of the most complex and moving things
-that I can think of in all of art, or...
..any genre of entertainment, in fact.
It's a kind of sixth sense that belongs to...you know,
-elite football teams...
..that they will know as they make a move
that they are going to do this and this and this.
It's an incredible thing.
I think when you memorise that, it takes it even further,
and I think being able to see into that process, as well,
and see some of the interplay, as an audience member,
is even more illuminating.
-Thank you very much indeed.