Annual topic 2023/24: Amnesie // Amnesia
Amnesie / Amnesia
The term "amnesia" goes back to Hippocrates (ca. 460-370 BC), who is considered the father of European medicine. He used it to describe memory disorders and memory loss and laid the foundation for centuries of extensive research. In non-European societies, the "principle of forgetting" had already been studied in earlier writings.
Despite all this, questions remain to this day: Why do we forget? What do we repress? Why do we ignore facts, as individuals, as societies? And what narratives do we form, again and again, around the voids we produce?
In the 1990s, the postcolonial concept of "colonial amnesia" was developed. It critiques how former colonial powers and their societies often tend to repress, deny, or forget the negative aspects of colonial systems of power and domination and points to their selective memory following the end of colonialism. In doing so, the social, political and economic consequences are ignored. What is more, it is often "amnesized" that colonialism also extended to systems of knowledge and representation such as language, media, art, culture, and architecture and has a continuing effect in the present. In the process, not only non-European knowledge was lost, but also other forms of knowledge; above all, embodied knowledge.
The role of technologies in perpetuating fade-outs should not be underestimated - and is reinforced by the ubiquity of digital systems and artificial intelligence. Programmed by mostly young *white* men in Silicon Valley, artificial neural networks already enter the world with a form of amnesia. Trained with data from the Internet representing only fragments of the world's knowledge, this amnesia is passed on; stereotypes and biases are automatically amplified in feedback loops. But it is not only the machine that blanks out. We all use computers and suppress the fact that their production is based on radical exploitation of people and the earth and that the exponentially increasing energy demand contributes to climate catastrophe.
In 2007, the British-Australian writer Clive James coined the term "cultural amnesia," which he describes as a creeping process that occurs not only in the course of technological progress, but also in the case of generational change, globalization or unforeseeable events such as a pandemic. In the process, cultural memory is often lost, so that mistakes are repeated or lessons from the past are forgotten. Not an inevitable process!
In this academic year we want to devote ourselves to events, power relations, knowledge, bodies, places and times that are blanked out - individually or collectively, unconsciously or willfully. We search, we investigate, we map, curate and envision. Against forgetting we will experiment with different methods of making visible, audible and experiential, using complex forms of analytical and artistic documentation as well as exuberant speculative narration, fiction and objectivity.