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Memory Palace

1001 Nights Memory Palace

Imagining the 1001 Arabian Nights as frozen architecture, as an ancient, once-inhabited and now desolate city and as a memory palace of forgotten stories set in a cold desert where time, stone and art stand testament to a lost civilisation

This epic body of research uses the frame story and motifs of the 1001 Arabian Nights to generate 1001 paintings and artworks and proposes a new, visual reading of the Nights. Shahrazad, the storyteller, survives by telling King Shahriyar a series of 1001 nested tales that end on an interesting cliffhanger, so he is compelled to keep her alive. She relies on her memory and creativity. The transformation of Shahriyar mirrors the magical acts of transformation in the Nights.


Researching how memory operates in the Nights coupled with ancient and medieval ideas about memory I made my 1001 Nights Memory Palace as a mode of reading and engaging with the Nights through architecture. My memory palace, which will contain 1001 paintings and artworks, distils the world through art as Shahrazad presented her picture of life to Shahriyar. I base many of its architectural features on traditional Indian and Islamic architecture including the function of the column.


The 1001 paintings will include oil paintings, miniature paintings and Chinese paintings. In acknowledging the many cultural and linguistic roots of the Nights, I aim to raise awareness of the Indo-Persian manuscript painting traditions which were coeval with the Nights and my Memory Palace is an exercise in decentralisation and decolonisation. The work asks: Why is it important that Shahrazad is a woman?; What is the transformative potential of the Nights?; Can paintings and artworks function as Mirrors for Princes?

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