Posts Tagged ‘memory’

The Philosophy Of Dreams Re-Visited

August 10, 2015

Shortly after the last post (The Philosophy Of Dreams) serendipity found me overhearing a radio interview. It was a doctor/psychiatrist/researcher (Dr. Rachel Yehuda speaking with Krista Tippett “On Being” NPR). The doctor said something along the lines of people say they are a changed person after a trauma. And in a way they are. Although genetically they are unchanged (DNA), how their genes interact changes noticeably (what On Being describes as epigenetics – “genes can be turned on and off and expressed differently through changes in environment and behavior”). Originally from Cleveland, Dr. Yehuda returned to study the holocaust survivors she grew up amongst and their offspring. She discovered epigenetic changes within the offspring that expressed the original survivor’s disposition. Studies done of pregnant women who survived 911 found the changed interactions carried over to their infants. These studies would support Turcke’s assessment of the physiological connection of the experience of trauma and the psyche. People don’t “bounce back” but rather replay under changed conditions. A different consideration was expressed with a more recent interview (David Freudberg’s “Humankind” NPR). A writer named William Powers, former staff writer for the Washington Post, was making the rounds for the release of his new book “Hamlet’s Blackberry”. He said self-contradictory things that he wasn’t aware he was mouthing (in light of Turcke’s insights). Powers repeatedly advocated for a digital Sabbath, a time set aside for shutting down the screens so folks can reflect, do the “homework” (Turcke references Benjamin as saying was needed in the age of technical reproduction), refresh and restore their “persons” (in terms of experience). One proposal was from Friday through Sunday, etc. Powers claims large corporations have recognized this need and already are implementing such policies (he referenced Intel as being one). Powers glibly says that people need to rediscover this space (of reflection, homework, replay – what Turcke bases as foundational to the ability of the psyche to defer and repress, an ability developed over millennia that made human culture possible). The vast majority of current college students starting back in a couple of weeks will have been born during the Clinton presidency. All will have grown up with the concentrated distraction Turcke describes as becoming increasingly pervasive, directly or indirectly, cultivated or initiated on their own. What Powers said sounds comforting (that we can draw upon a time of experience that is non-digital). He references a bunch of his favorite philosophers, saying enthusiastically “we need to remember” that ultimately this is about us, who we are, etc. Hearing this, these same students, who have never known a time of non-digital experience, will immediately reach for their ever present smart phones. If Powers says “we need to remember” something, they will look it up on their phone. This existence of a function or work of the psyche being done better by a machine than the humans who created it is what makes for the radical change in culture and the de-evolution of human psychology that Turcke writes of. To remember is to recall. Plato’s Socrates considered knowledge already present, to be a function of recognition, recall, replay much as the way memory operates, which presumes a functioning repression or deferral. All of which a machine can now do faster and more efficiently. This underscores what Turcke points out, that what took millennia to achieve can be undone within the next hundred years.

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Rosebud

December 26, 2014

We were in the man’s apartment. The walls were covered with paintings, prints, and drawings created by him as well as others – abstractions and figurative representations of people, places and objects. There were also sculptures and found objects, knick-knacks and fragments along the same lines. My friend asked if the man had any photos of his family, past, etc. There was not a photograph to be found displayed anywhere. He was surrounded by family and past. Each of the works resonated with what had passed, was gone – never to be retrieved. His memory must not have been digital or in color, Kodachrome or even black and white. Yet living vibrated there through these disparate creations. While there I noticed a nuthatch had landed on a feeder outside the window. Seen head on, its “face” appeared as some carved image on a Northwest Native American totem. These massive objects pre-date photography, let alone digital. Those carvings that have survived continue to resonate an affect. What is to be done with affection? It is not a document, so how could it be a memory? Are memories documentaries? Perhaps the document is the 21st century version of a fetish, an idol set aside (and above) to insure that a specific outlook continues homogenously throughout; an ideological ADT guaranteeing the security of interpretation from intrusion or tampering.

It is said that capitalism always eventually appropriates and subsumes everything, for which there is no alternative. The plethora of global struggles to elaborate an alternative (“As we walk we dream”) rely heavily on an appeal to what folks like Jacques Ranciere and others elucidate as “capacities”. Here was a man who managed to not be identified by a photo ID. Like the nuthatch outside his window, identity was created through his vitality, moment to moment.

Deja Vu All Over Again

October 1, 2013

What serendipity! This blog’s annual anniversary re-posting of the very first essay coincides perfectly with the times. Makes one wonder…

“Last night I had a dream about reality”
October 25, 2009

Last night I had a dream about reality.

It was such a relief to wake up.

Stanislaw J. Lec

Last night I actually did have such a dream. It was as though a sentence had been imposed, a curse. The fellow in the dream was to live his life within the identical same context as his former had been, only without the history. In this case he was involved with some rural activity and found himself within a farming community where the various folk were identical to those he interacted with previously, only he had no historical handle, no myth with which to have a connection (i.e. a co worker was a different physical entity, yet the job and relationship were as before). His only connection to them, and they to him, was his function, their interaction. So while functioning with them, he couldn’t (or didn’t) animate them with any stories or background, no shared experiences or memories. The functioning and interaction was matter-of fact, with the all encompassing (enshrouding?) pall of “who are these people? What am I doing involved with them? Shouldn’t there be something more, something significant in our interaction?” Everything was done as it ought to be done, as it was meant to be done, by definition in terms of how things function, as though according to a mathematical description of a function. Yet it was likewise totally and completely meaningless. What more, to even ask that it have meaning was meaningless for there was no history, no myth with which to relate it to, connect it to, by which to reference it. People acted with each other, within the functions we have grown accustomed to, that are taken for granted, that we have all come to expect. Yet there was no reason to be had for any of it. What was even worse, there was nothing exchanged within the interaction; as though it is really history and myth that are all that can be exchanged, the only things possible or of value, the exchange of which constitute the only sustenance of meaning. It was such a relief to wake up.

Antigone

May 11, 2013

Recent events continuously in the news brought Antigone to mind. “We’re better than that, aren’t we?” The jury is out on that and well it should be for western culture has maintained many of the same funerary dispositions prevalent at the time of Sophocles. Being one of “them” and having threatened “us” justifies Creon’s decree in the hearts of many.

“In a Critical Inquiry essay (The Idle Idol, or Why Abstract Art Ended Up Looking Like A Chinese Room) Robert Morris stumbles along, page after page considering theoretical explanations for the state of abstract art today (Morris has taken to making outdoor labyrinths). The last two pages are memorable. Here he dispenses with theory (though he knows that what he writes is still theory). He describes what he considers to be the current art scene in the NYC area where he resides (the real reason for the state of abstract art today). My own interpretation of his description would be that the scene is a group ethos without the “idol” of authorship. The individuals contribute to what is taking place within the group, with the entire group participating as well as experiencing (celebrating) the outcome ( the outcome being the participation or rather, the act of participating). Morris describes it as singing. Artists sometimes are curators or show organizers, and curators are considered as artists. There is a fluidity, a constant exchange and interaction with an emphasis on the connectivity of networking. It is curiously analogous to the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy (if you can stretch your imagination enough). It “sings” its art, its message, its ideas, etc. But there is no claim to individual ownership or origin. It is in a communal sense (much as the chorus embodies the community within Greek tragedy) with a heavy emphasis on networking and belonging (which can only be done by actively singing; singing along with everyone else, not counter, questioning or critiquing, but going with the flow). To sing with the chorus is to go with the flow, one way only. The chorus is univocal though it may be polyglot.” (this blog’s December 2009 post entitled Making The Signifier)

Antigone does not sing with the chorus.

Creon’s decree also encompasses memory and memorials. Brief and eerie glimpses of our un-advertised, un-celebrated selves tacitly materialize. Charon is to ferry Sandy Hook Elementary to the nether world to join the Kent State shooting site along with oh so many other tragedies by disappearing, “getting paved over” so that life can go on without the memory being indexed to any concrete material. In many parts of the world the tragedy itself is precisely memorialized by the preservation of just such material — the destruction, the trace, the residue of wrong. Here we want it to disappear, for a return to a normalcy that denies aberration, relegates it to a “them, they or those”, putting it outside the distribution of sense (for the abomination was so sense-less). Ai Wei Wei’s 5,000 names of children buried under earthquake rubble or Maya Lin’s list of names only half buried under the earth defy Creon’s convenient and easy bifurcation of what is to remain of Eteocles and Polyneices.

Begging By The Way

February 17, 2013

“BILL MOYERS: To whom or to what do you owe that defining choice of Omar Khayyám over the Playboy calendar? Because that’s the story of your life.
MARTÍN ESPADA: I certainly owe those who came before me. In particular, I owe my father. My father did not have a college education. There were not books of poetry all over the house. But there was this book. It was significant and profound for someone to hand me a book of poetry. I was surrounded already by the images in that Playboy calendar. And they were not as meaningful to me as the images in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. And so I’m very grateful to my father for giving me that that book.”
(from the transcript of Bill Moyers’ conversation with Martin Espada, Moyers&Co. 2-15-2013)

“Tarde’s achievement, Lazzarato claims, is to have made memory the constitutive element of a social or economic quantity and to have understood memory as a production of time and difference.” (Ina Blom’s essay The Autobiography of Video: Outline for a Revisionist Account of Early Video Art, Critical Inquiry Vol. 39 No.2, Pg. 282)

And what if the person interviewed by Bill Moyers had said he encountered the Rubáiyát and the Playboy calendar within the same period of his youth? And that no one had introduced him to the one or the other? And that ultimately, it was (to paraphrase Donald Judd), just one thing after another? And what if “memory as a production of time and difference” is what accounts for what made one person’s experience “significant and profound” and the other’s just another in a continuum of events, without time or place, but only quality? And what if this likewise makes for why one individual’s poetry is received as, is considered as “significant and profound”, and the other’s not? And what if this accounts for why one poet, whose work is considered “significant and profound”, finds himself interviewed by Bill Moyers (who only deals with what is “significant and profound”) while the other will never appear? A previous blog post, Getting A Little Behind In My Work 12-13-12, considered “Video’s unique ability to describe or represent (sans words) and contemporary culture’s preference for being shown rather than told”. Another earlier post, The Deer Hunter 11-25-12, states that “A video documentation performs an event as opposed to a written literary narrative that relies on a timeline structure (this comes before that).” “Significant and profound” now begin to aggregate around the “production” of time and difference rather than the accumulation of time and difference (the historic perspective, the one favored by Moyers). “Significant and profound” begin to actively participate in and contribute to the mechanism of what Ranciere describes as sense. Memory performed as video can make no inherent claim of “significant and profound” quality; what is produced within video is just one thing after another. The video itself, as a historic event, may be described as “significant and profound” but this begs the question. Considering that video, like memory, can be understood “as a production of time and difference”, for whom is the memory (either as event or as video) “significant and profound”? And why?

Wisconsin Recall

June 6, 2012

Last night I had a dream about reality.

It was such a relief to wake up.

Stanislaw J. Lec

 

            Last night I actually did have such a dream. It was as though a sentence had been imposed, a curse. The fellow in the dream was to live his life within the identical same context as his former had been, only without the history. In this case he was involved with some rural activity and found himself within a farming community where the various folk were identical to those he interacted with previously, only he had no historical handle, no myth with which to have a connection (i.e. a co worker was a different physical entity, yet the job and relationship were as before). His only connection to them, and they to him, was his function, their interaction. So while functioning with them, he couldn’t (or didn’t) animate them with any stories or background, no shared experiences or memories. The functioning and interaction was matter-of fact, with the all encompassing (enshrouding?) pall of “who are these people? What am I doing involved with them? Shouldn’t there be something more, something significant in our interaction?” Everything was done as it ought to be done, as it was meant to be done, by definition in terms of how things function, as though according to a mathematical description of a function. Yet it was likewise totally and completely meaningless. What more, to even ask that it have meaning was meaningless for there was no history, no myth with which to relate it to, connect it to, by which to reference it. People acted with each other, within the functions we have grown accustomed to, that are taken for granted, that we have all come to expect. Yet there was no reason to be had for any of it. What was even worse, there was nothing exchanged within the interaction; as though it is really history and myth that are all that can be exchanged, the only things possible or of value, the exchange of which constitute the only sustenance of meaning. It was such a relief to wake up.

 (From the archives inaugural blog posting October 25, 2009)

The Most Varied Things May Happen

December 8, 2011

“Create great holiday memories.” So tout all the current ads for electronics and travel destinations (hard to tell them apart). Going through the mountains the fuel gauge showed E. It was at a quarter when I passed the last civilized outpost of motels and truck stops. Oh well, whatever comes up here in the wilderness will have to do since I also need to go. The only gas station in this desolation had a restroom with a flooded floor where one literally needed to roll up one’s pants to “access” it. A memory I’d love to permanently delete if I could, certainly not re-create. “if I say, rightly, ‘I remember it’ the most varied things may happen; perhaps just that I say it.” (Wittgenstein Philosophical Grammar courtesy Mark Seltzer/The Official World, Critical Inquiry Summer 2011 pg.746). But I digress.

Oh yes, I was thinking of an author, someone who wrote a half century ago regarding colonialism. I remembered what he wrote about, his description of colonialism from the colonist’s standpoint. It had to do with Algeria under the French; the memory of descriptions of how the colonizer, by definition, is in all intent and action focused on deriving the greatest wealth from the colonized without necessarily consuming the colonized in total. The colonizer always must remember to allocate some residual vestige of wealth for the colonized to maintain the semblance of existence and autonomy in order to simultaneously facilitate the colonial process (much as one remembers to feed the horse that enables transit); all for the one, with only the least bit of the one for the all. So the colonizer recognizes the need for hospitals, institutions of learning, orphanages and charitable institutions to be maintained. The colonized are given the autonomy and authority amongst themselves to maintain and manage these from the residual resources allowed them for their everyday continuance (though the colonizers always retain the memory of all the wealth that has passed through their fingers and emphasize that it is their wealth that makes these charities possible).  I remembered the years this covered and the writer having been a doctor or psychiatrist, but I couldn’t remember the author’s name, only vague vocalizations of phonetic association.

I forgot to mention that all this was precipitated by recent criticism of Occupy, that it is misdirected and ineffective. That it would be better positioned to utilize its energy in actually doing “good” through some social or charitable work, like a walk for diabetes, or canned food drive, or maybe some colored ribbons of support. That these activities better reflect solving problems than the occupation of critical expression through performance; something more in line with Newt Gingrich’s “Take a shower and get a job”, maybe at Walmarts, thereby enabling that company to continue to be the number one business donor in America. All this created memories of Empire. I had forgotten that I actually owned a copy (instead of using the library’s as I am want). Certainly Hardt and Negri would have remembered to reference this 20th century African writer. My phonetic pronunciations proved pertinent. There it was in the index.

The titles of his work had escaped my memory but having the name allowed me to search the online interlibrary resources.  My memory of Franz Fanon’s work was of his writings being readily available, with little interest except for the marginal few. Now I noticed that a number of the volumes were listed as missing or checked out.  Truly “the most varied things may happen”.

Story Telling Time

November 27, 2011

            Monuments. The memorials, remembrances of a life, lives or events gone by. Works of will made to withstand the everyday that ultimately erases, erodes and obliterates what is deemed significant (the everyday of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera). The Column of Trajan, a 3D account of Trajan’s exploits from a time when the only 3D movie experience to be had was while sleeping (no glasses needed). Maya Lin’s list of names on reflective marble literally sunk into the real estate of our nation’s capital. GPS assists in accounting for ownership of each square meter of that real estate, as the Wall Street Occupiers have learned. Public space is not but it “belongs” to someone, even if it is the public’s in name only. And so recent memorials and monumental endeavors are scarce and few, for reasons as profound as agreement as to what is significant (to remember) to as mundane as the lack of financial resources to build and maintain the edifices. Recent memorials have been designed around chairs and benches (signifying the absence of the loss). One suspects it could also have as much to do with our culture’s emphasis on multi tasking and user friendly function.

            Memory today is about something else (other than the subject) embodying the significance, much as an icon or idol was once believed to “embody” a spirit or value (such as the flag of a country “embodies” that country’s vitality). A contemporary Column of Trajan would now be located online, virtual, in cyberspace. No disagreeing that texts, images, documents, photo’s, video, movies, technical readouts, etc. are all significant. Storage in the cloud is cheaper and easier to maintain (and, ostensibly, totally accessible). A recent Christmas TV ad for electronic communication devices capitalizes on the “absence” of the soldier father becoming a real embodied presence through his toddler’s interaction with his “being” on a tablet. One can almost imagine a perverse movie script about a child growing up believing that her father is an image on a screen (and not knowing any better).

            What of the unimagined, the elided when speaking of soldiers and war? Are they to be forgotten? A study out of Switzerland at the latter part of the 20th century (during the Balkan conflict) found that civilian deaths far outnumber those of the military in today’s armed conflicts (chances of survival favor those in the military. This says something depressingly accurate about the current conflict in Somalia). Prior to the American Civil War, military deaths outnumbered those of civilian casualties in organized armed conflicts. That war marked a stasis. With the First World War the balance shifted, with the Second it started to be lop sided, with Viet Nam and beyond it took on proportions like 100:1 civilian deaths to soldier’s. Today? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, were maimed or disappeared during the conflict that is now “winding down” with a final American withdrawal (save for “some trainers and advisers”). We mourn our lost, in countless local monuments and memorials to those who “have served and made the ultimate sacrifice”. But what of the Iraqi civilians? Again, disagreement over significance as well as the economics of a devastated country constrains such an expression of memory. The summer 2011 Critical Inquiry (Vol. 37, No. 4) features an article entitled Virtual Commemoration: The Iraqi Memorial Project. It is the contemporary monument, iraqimemorial.org by Joseph DeLappe (no glasses needed).

            Historic fact is determined by economic necessity. Little did Marx imagine the incredibly creative ways used to accomplish this. It all works as long as no one pulls the plug on the cloud. In that event, it is back to story telling time.