December 23, 2014, by Gianlluca Simi

Vital Theory 2014: Acknowledgements and Recap

December is never the best time to try to catch up with too many things at the same time. So, firstly, accept my apologies for the delay in writing some words about this year’s Vital Theory: The Meanings of Memory. Even though a couple of weeks have passed by since the symposium took place at the Nottingham Contemporary, on the 12th, I still get myself revisiting the day and excogitating some of the ideas and thoughts shared then.

This year’s topic was the meanings assigned to memory and, as was expected, Vital Theory really challenged and broadened the way we can think about memory in general and specific terms. From exploring ideas of commemoration of wars, understanding the role that memory might have in nationalism and reconstruction to simply indulging a discussion about memories triggered by everyday (or quite the contrary) objects, Vital Theory was, yet again, a sign that there is no topic which has been explored to its fullest. There are always perspectives which we might have overlooked or which we simply did not know of given our background. In any case, we expect to soon publish here all of the three position papers given on the day, as well as the two keynote speeches, and some of the anti-market stalls presentations.

In the morning, we took off with Dr Tracey Pott’s views on the recent Tower of London Remembers: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation in London, in commemoration of those fallen during the First World War. We then heard from Stefanie Petschick on the various meanings that memory is assigned as well as some of the problems involved therein. Later, I presented my paper on the contemporary commemoration of a mid-19th-century civil war whose flimsy memory is still used today to boost ideas of nationalism and regional identity. The morning section finished with Josh Bowsher’s paper on how the concept of memory from painful pasts can be used to underscore a neoliberal reconstruction of societies which overcame ‘totalitarian’ regimes.

The afternoon section began with Dr Andrew Goffey presenting his views on the presence and role of memory in Deleuze’s work. This was followed by our traditional Objects Roundtable, at which we shared objects that might mean nothing to other people but held an incommensurable value to us due to the fact that these objects somewhat materialise and eternalise moments and experiences from the past. In the final part of the day, there were eight Anti-Market Stalls, during which MA and PhD students as well as a lecturer presented new authors and theories or shared their own view on already-renowned ones: Gloria Anzaldúa, Karl Marx, Judith Butler, Jacques Lacan, Tiqqun, Michel Foucault, Henri Lefebvre, Critical Theories of Fashion, and Guy Debord.

Hopefully everyone left the day with some critical remarks on memory of their own. Thank you so much to everyone who attended this year’s Vital Theory: The Meanings of Memory. Thank you to the Nottingham Contemporary as well for providing all of the structure for the day. Feel free to keep in touch and to keep checking our blog for updates concerning Vital Theory 2015.

Gianlluca Simi

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