Notes on Memory and Philosphy…

May 7, 2010 — Leave a comment

Notes from…

Hamilton, Paula; The Knife Edge: Debates About Memory and History in “Memory and History in Twentieth Century Australia” (ed. Darian-Smith, K and Hamilton, P) Oxford University Press, Mebourne 1994 (pp 9 – 31)

“In recent years, the frequently voiced concerns about ‘inaccuracy’ of memory have given way to a more sophisticated understanding that what gets remembered and how is of critical importance in the process of remembering. Now oral historians are coming to understand that the collaborative act interviewing can often be the point of intersection between memory and history, a contested terrain, frequently the knife edge of tension between the two.” (p15)

“The interview can become then a site of struggle or negotiation between the story the interviewer wants to hear and that which the participant wants to tell.” (p15)

Something about the occurrence of a group memory that will inevitably be unequal, undemocratic. In this way, a filmic approach to an individual’s perspective is more honest. In terms of the interview being a site of struggle, I would have to say that the film Forbidden Lies (Anna Broinowski: 2007) is probably the best, most well formed struggle between film and subject I’ve ever seen. This film is highly sophisticated and leagues away from anything to do with what I’m trying to achieve with biography documentary, but it fits into these ideas coming out of theory around memory. Reflexive documentary seems to continuously creep up as the most integral form, as far as the Nichols definitions go.

“Nancy Wood, in a review of some recent works on memory, has argued that in the post-war world, popular culture, rather than scholarly debate, has become the principal site for the politics of memory. Wood speaks most about the power of film in this regard, particularly in relation to film’s mass audience and capacity to influence public contestation of narratives about the past.” (p25)

“A teacher recently confided to me with a laconic tone that he always thought the First World War happened in black and white. This seemed an apt description of the end product envisaged by those who fear the colonization of memory by mass media – that even our memory would take on the conventions of filmic representation of the past.” (p26)

“Edgar Reitz, the filmmaker, says, ‘the camera transforms everything we film into a thing of the past…the camera is our memory…we reassemble the fragments of memory in new ways.’.” (p26)

“Cultural forms, he says (Ulric Neisser), ‘create conditions of possibility’ for audiences by informing the present with the past and the future.” (p27)

Ulric Neisser was an American psychologist, who’s most important conclusions in his theories with regards to themes I am exploring were that memories are the most direct influence on the ways in which we perceive and take in information, and hence the ways in which we behave. This seems to acknowledge that there are limitless ways in which memories are constructed and that they are based in narrative forms.


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