Paper heist

Memory e

Nausica Manzi

The fold exalts the paper, making it precious and bringing out its memory value through the dimension given.


 In a desperate search for a true dimension, in a desert of a memory to be restored, stern clocks of a venerable and terrible time melt away like snow under the sun, while artistically disturbing masks conceal the faces of an existence belonging to fragile and rebellious thieves who, like ants in their steady and unsubdued work, devour them by stealing valuable paper to attain a brilliant revolution. 

Memory and dimension merge between the surrealist details of Salvador Dali‘s iconic Persistence of Memory and the strategic masks and striking red suits of the TV series Money Heist. Indeed, the entire outcome of an ingenious theft from the bank of ‘humanity‘ depends on these two concepts: memory and dimension, in their intertwining, unexpectedly giving rise to a modern-day definition of ‘human being’. But what will it be? What are memory and dimension? 

Memory is an intellectual medium capable of storing actions, places and people from the past in our conscience, making them present, with new links and forms, through recollection. Hence, it is an innate ability, both unconscious conscious; it is a container that photographs and imprints a dimension on the soul: “suppose there is a susceptible wax within our soul […], let us say, a gift from Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses: everything we desire to preserve from our memory, what we have heard, seen or conceived is engraved on this wax”[1]. The melting clocks in Dali’s Persistence of Memory represent the power of memory: it is a power that overcomes and expands time. In fact, it deforms it, it ‘subjectifies’ it to the point of melting it down, freeing it from its rigid nature and making it inconsistent and almost non-existent.

Memory is a ‘photocopier’ that traces reality in the soul but transforms it and thus gives life to a copy with a precise dimension, imbued with dreams, memories and hopes. Therefore, while emerging in the painting, memory is the means by which the outside world takes on the dimension of inner life, it is community’s ‘photocopier’ (external status) which, in its printing work, harmoniously merges with the internal world (state of mind). Memory is the photocopier that, when copying, causes confusion by merging the inner and outer world, which in the end, produces a precious paper made up of crises and hopes, wrinkles of a painful but happy existence.

Just like the limping watches in the artist’s painting, the masks of Dali’s face worn by the characters of Money Heist represent a metaphor of memory: they are a filter that welcomes external reality while concealing an inner world of memories and dreams. The masks combine the reflections of the exterior world that touches them with the interior breaths that dwell in them: they protect and deform, copy and transform; they let us glimpse but not capture and are a rebellious disguise, but at the same time, the key to transcending and discovering a further dimension. Memory  is the locus where the dream of each self can become reality.

A melting clock that erases time, a mask that both reveals and conceals, and a rebellious photocopier; memory thus prints a unique dimension of a sacred paper each time. Usually, dimension indicates the measurements that determine the shape and size of an object: it is a physical and mental space, portraying what is visible and what is not, a way of life and point of view. In Dali’s work, many dimensions collide: dreamlike and real-life scenes where nothing seems to be stable or true. This is just like the masks and red suits of the characters in Money Heist that conceal dimensions of life, shapes of different souls, sizes of sorrows or joys that have given them colour. Dimension is the set of personal ‘measurements’ of existence that make each life unique and great, that is, worthy. 


Dimension, therefore, represents the precious print to which memory – photocopier, mask and melting clock – gives life and which contains internal and external reality, sacred paper of immense value: humanity. Humanity is thus the fruit of the work of memory, sacred paper of unique and original dimensions, the sum of exteriority and interiority. However, such precious paper, representing humanity, is constantly being violated and transformed; and like ants swarming, it is slowly eroding and will eventually fall into the abyss of self-forgetfulness: the ‘sacredness’ of the mixture of memory and dimension of which it is composed will become a daily number to be classified, money or merchandise to be traded. In fact, in today’s society, paper is always at risk, eternally in crisis and forgotten each time. A paper of immense value that is stepped on, folded, or crumpled up and thrown away.

At this point, returning to the analysis of both Dali’s The Persistence of Memory and the symbolism used in Money Heist, a fundamental common element now emerges: the presence of ‘folds’. In Dali’s painting, in fact, the famous limp watches, the cliff in the background and the strange figure in the centre are characterised by folds, signs of fragility, of elastic and non-rigid dimensions, of memory that transforms reality; while, in the TV series, among his favourite activities, the main character, the artful Professor, makes origamis. Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper to make objects or animals and it combines tradition, religion and art. In this technique what is fundamental is the act of folding itself: the fold exalts the paper, making it precious and bringing out its memory value through the dimension given. In its folds, the precious ‘paper-humanity’ unites memory and dimension, and it is the folding itself that gives is value: in negativity, paper rediscovers and makes its sacred value shine through. When, therefore, in its delusions, contemporary society ‘folds’ paper, a precious and renewed print of memory formed by multiple and unique dimensions, a new definition of ‘human being’ emerges, that of ‘thief’. 

In Italian typography the word ladro (thief) describes a folding of the sheet that prevents perfect printing: the ‘thief’ is therefore the fold that, like an origami, makes paper sacred – that same ‘paper-humanity’, a robbed bank in order to reinvent, a mixture of memory and dimension. Therefore, human beings are clenched in the personal dimension of their own red suit of flesh and bones and in behind their own mask of memory that allows a glimpse and at times conceals, they are immersed in a reality of limp watches because the latter are mixed with the courage of their dreams. The human being is a thief, a fold that, claiming to care, to protect and bring justice, interposes and ‘steals’ part of that whole ‘paper humanity’, a bank of existential preciousness.  

Memory and dimension are therefore the tools that allow the fold of existence, unusual thief, to rediscover itself, to rob the ‘paper-humanity’ bank of all those false ‘cards’ of injustices, prejudices and delusions and to become an origami fighter in the brilliant revolution: paper thieves’ attack on contemporaneity!

[1]  Translated from Platone, Teeteto, 191 d.

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