From Memento to Before I Go to Sleep, the case of Henry Molaison holds an enduring fascination for artists. SJ Watson, whose bestselling fiction explored lost memory, asks Kerry Tribe about her video installation H.M. and what we can learn from the worlds most well known amnesiac
What does it mean to be conscious? Its the state of being awake, being aware, being alive. Its that thing that human beings have that rocks dont, even though both are composed of the same raw materials. But its more than simply being alive, isnt it? Consciousness is our self, our spirit. Its the ghost in the machine, the feeling that were more than just our bodies, the conviction that theres a subjective I with thoughts and feelings and memories, and its this that stimulates us unique, stimulates us us, in fact. But what is it, this consciousness, and where does it come from?
Im interested in this because I am a novelist of fiction. When I write, Im attempting to render on the page the personal experience of people who dont exist. The terms I prefer should create a doorway to another ego, they should allow the reader to briefly set their own consciousness to one side and experience the world through that of another.