Memory and history. This subject is about people, places, ideas and things. I broached this subject in an earlier post about a recent conversation with the great American artist John Nieto (actually titled “Memory and History”, linked at http://wp.me/pVUDj-8g on “RenaissanceRules”), and build upon it further here, least my memory become history and break the continuity of ideas!
Aldo Rossi was an Italian philosopher/architect/urban designer. He considered his work to be a part of a continuity of culture, respecting the past, but innovating for the future to respect the people and places that his work would modify in use and over time. In the preface to one edition of his book, The Architecture of the City (The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1982), Peter Eisenman focused on a most human aspect of the discussion of memory and history,
“In his personal vision of time, the same dialectic applies as in the city: history provides the material for biography but memory provides the material for autobiography; as in the city, memory begins where history ends.”
Aldo Rossi also wrote A Scientific Autobiography (The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1981), therefore a creation of his memory, not history! His “Opening Statement” revealed,
“I felt that the disorder of things, if limited and somehow honest, might best correspond to our state of mind.
But I detested the arbitrary disorder that is an indifference to order, a kind of moral obtuseness, complacent well-being, forgetfulness.
To what, then, could I have aspired in my craft?
Certainly to small things, having seen that the possibility of great ones was historically precluded.”
Indifference to order, to the past and to the continuity, the flow of human life is morally obtuse.
We need to correct “incorrect” history to identify error & restore to a rightful course – but not by applying the “historical critical” technique favored by nouveau-Rousseau Enlightenment “progressives” who emphasize the “critical” aspect to deconstruct meaning.
This is part of Recapitulation, but must continue through Reformation and Renaissance in order to maintain a proper understanding of the past and application of “lessons learned”.
Our memory may falter, beat back attempts at faithful access, or be based upon biased or clouded views of the past known through education or experience. History is not fantasy, and needs to be very carefully considered, also, since “the survivors” or “the victors” or “the implacable opposition voices” who write and proclaim history, just may have an agenda that does the same. Even when verified, we are not to be slaves to or worshippers of “history”, but to perceive, comprehend and utilize our knowledge of it as a powerful resource to navigate through contemporary life and to help us develop our work – infused from it, but always with a keen eye for the long future.
If what we first perceive of a person, place, idea or thing is the total acceptable artifact from which to work conceptually for a new creation of ours, then the new will be “more of the same”, and lack the elements that were missing upon the first perception. It will therefore be built upon false assumptions.
The past is beauty. It is also burden. It is where we go, many of us, to remind ourselves who we are and even sometimes to find out. Eddy L. Harris
Memory Begins Where History Ends!