Tribe incorporates the physical mechanisms of moving images into the content of her work. H.M. is a reconstructed portrait of Henry Molaison, known in scientific literature as Patient H.M., whose case is widely known for having revolutionized our understanding of human memory. In 1953, at age twenty-seven, Molaison underwent experimental brain surgery to treat epilepsy. The procedure left him with a radical form of amnesia that affected his ability to formulate new long-term memories; his short-term memory was limited to approximately twenty seconds, while his memory of events before 1953 was left largely intact.
The work combines reenactment (Molaison and others who appear in the film are portrayed by actors) and voiceover (including commentary by Dr. Suzanne Corkin, a neuroscientist who worked closely with Molaison) with found images, text, and animation. A single film print is threaded between two synchronized projectors; through a modified looping system, two parts of the film (twenty seconds apart) are projected simultaneously, creating a dissonance evocative of what Molaison might have experienced. The fragility of film—which degrades each time its projected—resonates with the precarious nature of memory. The three accompanying photographs depict tests administered to Molaison, designed to measure his capacity to learn new motor skills, which he was still able to acquire.
Gallery label from Images of an Infite Film, September 7, 2013–March 2, 2014.