Memory Palace Redux

© Stefanie Posavec 2013

Hari Kunzru’s novel is reimagined in an exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Dystopias are the kind of literary invention one might hope remains imaginary; the disorienting worlds of Orwell and Bradbury stay, thankfully, confined to the page. But author Hari Kunzru invites readers to step inside the grim future he’s envisioned in his newest work, Memory Palace (V&A Publishing). The book, to be released in June, envisions a London overtaken by a dictatorial regime that outlaws writing and books in an effort to eliminate memories themselves, and for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibit “Sky Arts Ignition: Memory Palace,” Kunzru transformed the novel into a three-dimensional storybook. The tale begins in the Porter Gallery’s central space, designed by architect CJ Lim as a “palace of memories.” A series of rooms visualizing different memories surrounds the viewer, each designed by an artist in collaboration with Kunzru. In one, Némo Tral’s spectral drawing, The Limpicks, depicts a dilapidated Olympic Park overrun by nature; in another, graphic designer Stefanie Posavec fashions typographic trees and globes into the stark, monotone infographic The Withering and the Wilding. Kunzru’s isn’t the first novel to be turned into an exhibit: Nobel Prize–winner Orhan Pamuk’s avant-garde experiment in Istanbul, the Museum of Innocence (Çukurcuma Caddesi, Dalgiç Çikmazi 2; masumiyetmuzesi.org), is an immersive tribute to the love-stricken couple of his novel of the same title. Memory Palace explores something darker than the vagaries of love—something we might wish still existed only on paper—but we can’t help but be transfixed. “Sky Arts Ignition: Memory Palace” runs from June 18 to October 20; Cromwell Rd., London; vam.ac.uk.