No other time in history has reckoned so severely with our collections as the present. Our cultural depots are stocked to the brim with the achievements of the past. Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago, people have sought reassurance in history. The culture of remembering became the unofficial policy of a newly-reunited Germany and “memory” became the word of the day.
It seems like ages ago when the avant-garde advocated revolution and upheaval as a way of sparking innovation. Only by looking back do we feel a sense of security in the face of unforeseen events – from 9/11 to Fukushima. But in a world that seems to have gone off the rails politically, economically and ecologically, referring to the past will not provide the orientation we so desperately need. What we need today is a new culture that breaks with tradition. But how do we envision such a break – as loss or also as freedom?
As volatile as these past years have been, we have done very little to acknowledge the gravity of our times and re-evaluate our concept of “newness”. Our theories lag behind a rapid succession of events. Our views our influenced by a “retro-zeitgeist”, and our expectations are shaped by experience gained long ago. Instead of being agents of the future, we have become caretakers of the past. In times of uncertainty, the past has become a “bad bank” of sorts in which we store away our risks and our inability to decide. This is nothing less than a fundamental discussion about our intellectual and, in a broader sense, cultural situation. Can we break with outdated positions, terms and literature as we enter the open field of a new century? Or is the past an inescapable archive of experiences which must serve as the compass for our future decisions?
The Federal Cultural Foundation‘s Future of Cultural Memory conference assembled some of the most brilliant minds from the fields of science, art and politics to discuss the reasons and forces behind our passion for memoria and offer alternatives. A fundamental debate about the benefits and disadvantages of forgetting.
Concept and supervision: Stephan Schlak / Friederike Biron, Berlin
Idea: Friederike Tappe-Hornbostel
Production and advisors: Samo Darian, Katrin Klingan, Katja Sussner (relations projects GbR), Berlin
Schedule and venue:
28-30 June 2012, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Schaperstraße 24, Berlin
The conference was held in German.