Memory and Materiality Abstracts

Course Conference December 12,  4 – 7, Rhode Island Hall 108

R. Rowson – Cultural Production, Residual Memory: A (Media) Archaeology of Traumatic Landscapes

A nomadic, ostensively omnivorous methodological approach for unearthing alternative media histories, media archaeology is a research subfield in a state of seemingly perpetual emergence. Decreed by proponents Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka as free to “roam across the landscape of the humanities and social sciences and occasionally leap into the arts” (2011: 3), media archaeology is nevertheless defined as explicitly discrete from its disciplinary namesake. Framed by an analysis of Nigel Kneale’s 1972 BBC television play “The Stone Tape”, and a long overdue reappraisal of British archaeologist-cum-parapsychologist T. C. Lethbridge, this paper argues that the discursive and material concerns of media archaeology and archaeology itself can be productively aligned. The story of a mysterious stone room which projects a recording of a Victorian maid in her death throes into the mind’s eye of those who enter it, “The Stone Tape” sits at an intersection of tensions and concerns for (media) archaeology: between internal and external forms of memory storage, the material and the immaterial, the desire to comprehend the past paired with the incessant drive of cultural production. Further arguing that Lethbridge’s use of television broadcast as a functional analogue for haunting acts as an inadvertent rhetorical precursor to the spectral turn of the 1990s, this paper aims not to ossify the characteristic flux of media archaeology, but rather to encourage modes of fruitful cross-disciplinary exploration, augmentation, and re-evaluation.

T. Murphy – Memorializing Antifascist Resistance (or, the Berliner Ensemble tricks us into thinking that Naziism is over)

Bertolt Brecht’s anti-war play Mother Courage closes with a song: “The war moves on, but will not quit. / And even if it lasts forever, we shall get nothing out of it. … Let all of you who still survive / Get out of bed and look alive!” It’s 1939, and, as Mother Courage reminds us, survival is resistance. After the war, when Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble moved to the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Helene Weigel-as-Mother Courage sings this song on a rotating stage panel, powered by wheels she herself had taken from Soviet tanks.

In postwar East Berlin, Mother Courage and other works by the Berliner Ensemble memorialize the antifascist resistance of World War II. Brecht’s many cosmetic changes to the theatre, like the mechanized tank wheels, seal in a particular history of ideological development: the War (and, awkwardly for Brecht, fascism) destroyed the bourgeois, and now, in its absence, Marxism can flourish.

In this narrative, resistance is memorialized and survival is no longer radical. With revolution “achieved,” Brecht’s theatre conceals ongoing violences by framing war as past. Now Marxist art in a Marxist state, Brecht’s theatre remembers rather than agitates. In Soviet Berlin, Naziism happened, the bourgeois happened, the resistance happened. In the promotion of Brecht’s proletariat, who gets left behind—and what gets forgotten?

M. Averkiou – Material Speculation: ISIS; Artifacts and the Proliferation of Aura(s) in the Age of 3D Reproduction (and Cultural Heritage Destruction)

Material Speculation: ISIS is a project by Iranian media artist Morehshin Allayhari. She rematerializes twelve artifacts destroyed by ISIS through 3d printing and implants in their diaphanous shells object biographies- images and information compiled in collaboration with Iraqi and Iranian academics. The studies will all be released online, in the public domain, alongside their digital models. The ethics of 3d reconstructions, especially of demolished monuments, have been contested, with critiques ranging from problems with digital colonialism, cultural fetishism, and an inability to reproduce aura. Allayhari, acutely aware of the issues at stake, constructs replicas with the capacity to share in the potency of their originals and with similar affective and evocative qualities! Benjamin’s aura is the emotive authority of an object derived from continuous existence and multi-temporal experiences- for those interacting with objects, it forges proximity to past people. With Latour and Lowe’s notions of a migratory aura and Stuart Jeffrey’s application of their ideas to digital 3D models and material counterparts as stepping stones, it seems aura doesn’t entirely disappear after destruction and is at least partially transmitted to reproductions, which acquire new efficacy and power as more and more interactions and stages are added to their life cycles. Community participation with downloading and printing 3d models has the potential to change valuations of objects based on traditional Western epistemic understandings of authenticity. While an original object itself is lost and with it the initial aura, new memories are constantly being created and the result is, as Sarah Kenderdine puts it, a proliferation of auras.

K. Moss – Remodeling or Remembering? Hybridity in Spectacle Spaces of the Roman Imperial Cult

Rome’s construction of amphitheaters in eastern Roman provinces and adaptation of Greek theaters and stadia suggest the importance of the imperial cult in Roman colonization. Canonized amphitheaters, such as the Flavian Amphitheater, symbolized Rome, and by citing Rome architecturally, imperial control was solidified in provincial towns like Corinth. Roman adaptations to Greek religious spaces, like the inclusion of the parapet wall to the Theater of Dionysus, illustrate that the Greek memory of these spaces was being exploited by the Romans to fit the imperial cult into Greek culture. By contrast, the construction of new amphitheaters could indicate the erasure of Greek memory. Through architecture, Roman administration relied on both religion and spectacle to maintain control in the provinces.

Architectural hybridity in theaters and stadia incorporated the imperial cult into the Greek religious tradition while legitimizing the emperor via the attendance of non-Romans at imperial cult spectacles. Architectural adaptations, including parapet walls and nets, allowed for the foreign cult to exist within the Greek religious framework. Further hybridizing violent spectacles, epitaph inscriptions reference Greek heroism and athleticism among gladiators, demonstrating a connection between the heroization of gladiators and that of Greek athletes and mythical heroes. This could suggest that stadia and theaters were adapted because were appropriate places for religious spectacles in Greek memory. Gladiatorial events were not purely a Roman cultural event nor a tool for Romanization. They instead became hybrid cultural events, meaningful to local Hellenistic Greeks and Romans, that both adhered to Greek traditions and reinforced imperial control.

M. Agostini – Quarrying Time and Memory: Images of the Past, Present, and Future in Solnhofen Lithographic Limestone

The quarried landscape of Solnhofen in the German state of Bavaria preserves a rare assemblage of fossilized organisms, including highly detailed imprints of soft bodied organisms such as jelly fish, and the well-known early feathered dinosaur – Archaeopteryx. The fine grained texture of the limestone, or “Plattenkalk”, has proven to be useful for a wide variety of socio-economic practices beginning in the Neolithic and continuing up to the present day. Drawing primarily on the view of Laurent Oliver, in which all disciplines concerned with the past are not comprised of history but of memory, this article explores the “repressed layers” of material memory in case studies at varying time depths in the Solnhofen quarry. Specifically, the paper charts out the diachronic history of the quarry beginning with the formation of the rock strata itself through a series of unique paleonevironmental and geological phenomena, the use of the limestone for prehistoric architecture and 18th century lithographic print making, and finally how the rediscovery and creation of new objects from the limestone’s material affordances in the 19th century advanced emergent epistemologies on evolution, global heritage, and the scientific value of artifacts in capitalist market systems. By reflecting on the geological, archaeological, and contemporary materiality of the active Solnhofen limestone quarry, this paper examines how artifact assemblages are situated in an endless cycle of material memory, where they are altered, destroyed, buried, and rediscovered as epistemology building examples of a past, only to be destroyed and forgotten once again as new objects are invented and discovered.

F.  McIntyre – Landscape, Collective Memory, and the Anglo-Saxon Execution Cemetery at Walkington Wold

How does landscape memory from a distant past help form a collective memory of a place, allowing for the performance of societal violence, such as execution? This paper examines how
Halbwachs’ concept of collective memory can be used to understand how a society’s memory of a more distant past is formed. This paper uses Tim Ingold’s work on landscape and materiality to explore the interactions between landscape memory and taskscape. Using the site of Walkington Wold, this paper explores how the presence of Bronze Age barrows shaped the Anglo-Saxon usage of this site. Walkington Wold is the site of two Bronze Age round barrows, which include secondary deposits of the remains of thirteen people who were executed and decapitated in the Anglo-Saxon period. This is the northernmost known Anglo-Saxon execution site, and the skeletal remains have been recently reexamined and radiocarbon dated to the seventh to eleventh century. Through the work of Halbwachs, Latour, Ingold, and that of archaeologists including
Bradley, Olivier, and Semple, this paper attempts to understand the formation of an Anglo-Saxon collective memory of Bronze Age barrows.

A. Marco – In Bloom: Epistemology and Ontology of Blaschka Verisimilitude

A recent turn toward ontology has allowed for an interrogation of the ways in which reality itself has been contextually constructed. The interpretive and representative tools of science, so long tasked with transmitting an (or rather, the) objective reality, have been highly influential in the construction of broader ontological frameworks. Scientific models, then, can be seen as constitutive agents in a number of significant cultural phenomena, including ways of seeing, epistemologies, and ontologies. Historically, such models have served as means of developing scientific practitioners through pedagogical engagement, especially where original specimens could not be directly studied. This study situates the Ware collection of Blaschka glass models in the Harvard University Museum as objects that both create and transmit epistemologies and ontologies, and explores the relationship between those phenomena and memory practices within the sciences. In so doing, this work will show Blaschka glass models as constitutive of new modes of scientific thinking, knowing, and remembering despite their intended purpose of standing in for natural specimens. Rather than achieving verisimilitude, glass flower study collections created new scientific subjects both within the classroom and in the world more broadly.