forgetting


Heidegger’s scandal is not that he was attuned to the appeal of Being but that he was deaf to the lamentations of the earth.

– Anson Rabinbach, In the Shadow of Catastrophe (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997/2000), p. 117.

… I am certain that the greatest evils we know are not due to him who has to face himself again and whose curse is that he cannot forget. The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back. For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur—the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.

– Hannah Arendt. Responsibility and Judgment. Jerome Kohn, ed. New York: Random House, 2003.

I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars. Absorbed in these illusory images, I forgot my destiny of one pursued. I felt myself to be, for an unknown period of time, an abstract perceiver of the world. The vague, living countryside, the moon, the remains of the day worked on me, as well as the slope of the road which eliminated any possibility of weariness. The afternoon was intimate, infinite. The road descended and forked among the now confused meadows. A high-pitched, almost syllabic music approached and receded in the shifting of the wind, dimmed by leaves and distance. I thought that a man can be an enemy of other men, of the moments of other men, but not of a country: not of fireflies, words, gardens, streams of water, sunsets.

– Jorge Luis Borges. “The Garden of Forking Paths.” Trans. Donald A. Yates. In Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. New York: New Directions, 1964, p. 23.

More and more the mnemonic function of the museum is given over to the electronic archive, which might be accessed anywhere, while the visual experience is given over not only to the exhibition-form but to the museum-building as spectacle – that is, as an image to be circulated in the media in the service of brand equity and cultural capital. This image may be the primary form of public art today.

– Hal Foster. Design and Crime (And Other Diatribes). New York: Verso, 2002: p. 82.

… if the medium–whether print or television–is the cause, all other causes, all that men ordinarily see as history, are at once reduced to effects.

Raymond Williams. “Effects of the Technology and Its Uses.” In Television: Technology and Cultural Form. [Middletown, Conn.] Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press University Press of New England, 1992: 127.

… the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner. Even though public collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful academically than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter. I do know that the time is running out for the type that I am discussing here and have been representing before you a bit ex officio. But, as Hegel put it, only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight. Only in extinction is the collector comprehended.

– Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library.” In Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968: 67.

Any cancellation of history, in the sense of real times and real places, is essentially a cancellation of the contemporary world, in which, within limits and under pressures, men act and react, struggle and concede, co-operate, conflict and compete.

Raymond Williams. “Effects of the Technology and Its Uses.” In Television: Technology and Cultural Form. [Middletown, Conn.] Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press University Press of New England, 1992: 129.

… whenever thought for a time runs along an accepted groove—there is an opportunity for the machine …

– Vannevar Bush. “As We May Think.” Atlantic Monthly (1945).  (Last accessed June 10, 2009.)

One simply cannot expect more from photography than it can deliver. Its detailed impressions of the surface of events are like the impressions left behind in stone of the existence of certain strange creatures.

– Ernst Jünger. “War and Photography” [1930]. New German Critique 59 (1993): 25.

America, you have it better
than our continent, the old one,
you have no ruined castles
and no basalts.

Your inner self is not troubled,
when it is time for living,
by pointless memories
and futile strife.

Use the present fortunately!
And if your children write verses,
may a happy fate protect them
from tales of knights, brigades and ghosts.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “To The United States”(1831), Franco Moretti, trans. In Franco Moretti. Modern Epic: The World-System From Goethe to García Márquez. London ; New York: Verso, 1996, 35.

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