Memory and Forgetting

I’m in a rush right now, but I wanted to store these ideas. Anne writes about the relationships between human memory and machine memory, referring to Nietzsche’s discussion of “active forgetting.”

In the New York Times, artist Eric Fischl discusses the attempts to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site. He refers to his own mourning for a friend who died on September 11 and a sculpture he created that was briefly displayed at the Rockefeller Center. Fischl comments that

We need to learn how to tell the story of 9/11. After all, a memorial should be more than a marker at a grave site. It should be a narrative. Imagine if the Gettysburg battlefield were a sound and light show, or if the Alamo were a park with reflecting ponds instead of the remains of the old structure. Narratives help keep the meaning and significance of great historical events vital. They inspire us in their retelling. They reinforce our resolve.

I don’t have the connection I’d want to make in mind. Maybe the connection isn’t really there and I simply wanted to remind myself to return to these two interesting texts.

Update: Fabio’s post (which Anne references and I just glanced at) looks really interesting. More later.


  1. Byron Hawk Said,

    December 20, 2003 @ 5:01 pm

    Maybe an affirmative forgetting would be no memorial at all.

  2. chuck Said,

    December 20, 2003 @ 9:20 pm

    If I understand you correctly, I think you’re right. Do you mean that no narrative/representation/memorial is adequate to representing September 11?

  3. Byron Hawk Said,

    December 21, 2003 @ 2:57 pm

    That’s part of what I mean. I was also just specualting on the possibility that to affirmatively forget is to let it go. Perhaps building a new building that will house many of the old businesses and getting on with the business of life without narrativizing the deaths is a possible reading of affirmative forgetting.

  4. chuck Said,

    December 21, 2003 @ 3:40 pm

    I think I had understood that as implicit in what you were saying. I’m wondering, though, how much naming the new office building “Freedom Plaza” will work against that kind of forgetting.

  5. Francois Lachance Said,

    December 24, 2003 @ 10:56 am

    “Freedom Plaza” will likely displace the name “Ground Zero” for the site. I think you are trying with the references to Anne Galloway’s blog entry and Eric Fischl’s article to tap into a model of forgetting as displacement in an environment where machines are networked and human environments massively rewritable. A condensation might be in order where relics from the 9/11 site are distributed round the world. What would it mean if a shard of the World Trade Towers were housed in Mecca? Condensation and displacement, mourning and melancholy … just some works and terms, I’ve plucked from there to bring here. What would if mean if sand from the Arabian desert were incorporated in a New York 9/11 memorial?

  6. chuck Said,

    December 26, 2003 @ 4:19 pm

    Interesting questions, Francois. I think the ways in which the mourning of 9/11 has been transformed from worldwide sympathy for the US into something else entirely *is* a major cause for concern.

    I’ve been pretty frantic lately, so no time to really reflect on these connections. I did come across a reference to Fischl in a different context recently (somewhere offline, I think), but haven’t had the opportunity to put these ideas together.

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