Lynne Kelly, author of The Memory Code has studied the way memory is embedded in landscape in many cultures. Drawing on these techniques she’s developed her own memory code or Songline to remember swathes of information she was not otherwise able to do. As with many oral cultures, she’s used the environment around her.
Lynne Kelly: Well, I started with the countries of the world. So I started in my studio, my office where I work, and in each location around that office, the first 10, I’ve put the top 10 countries of the world, starting China, India, the United States. Then I go out, right around the garden, right around the house, down the street, pick up the bread and come back, and by the house not far from home I’m down to Pitcairn Islands with 66 population. Each house and each location represents a country. So now if I’m watching the news and a country comes up, like Reunion when they found the plane crash parts, my brain automatically goes to that position. It doesn’t have to go in sequence because it’s fixed in sequence by the landscape, and I can add that bit of information and it just grows and grows because there is a structure. So I’ve done all of prehistory and history. I start 4,000 million years ago, walk around, prehistory, takes about a kilometre to do that. Right around history, back to today, on a portable device, sort of like the Aboriginal tjuringa but modelled more on the African Luba, Western African lukasa. I’ve encoded a complete field guide to the 408 birds of Victoria.