Forget who?

“While the collective memory endures and draws strength from its base in a coherent body of people, it is individuals as group members who remember.”


– Maurice Halbwachs  The Collective Memory


A project, come and gone, leaves a certain mark on you. The kinetic character of the progress and action is suddenly still and you are left with the remnants and marks of movement. I’m sitting at my desk looking at the bags of remaining buttons, all mixed up, the leftover printouts of AIDS resources pages, button assembly instructions and press releases. I wonder how the physical abluvion of these past few months will be kept, organized and interpreted by the next intern, fellow, archivist or artist to come. Will we create a clear lexicon and a concise abstract to guide the investigator towards our ideas and concepts or will these documents be left to fend for themselves with no signs to combat their investigators subjectivity. In all likelihood, given my experience with past projects housed here at the ICI, I would think it will be somewhere in between. I imagine the buttons displayed in a row of unassuming boxes, organized by name, color, and “Forget” or “Remember”, obituaries on small filing inserts at the front of each box; maybe a small diagram on the wall next to them which maps a person’s potential digital pathways from button to tag to web page to obituaries. There is something to be said about letting the person who is seeking an understanding of something wander through it a bit without instruction; something to be said about having to make sense of it yourself. Like navigating a new city with a good intuitive sense of North, South, East and West, and maybe an outdated map from a local gas station, instead of a GPS with street by street instructions. Getting lost can be fruitful in ways that we, the project creators, might not have anticipated.


While this archive will function as a kind of stamp of the project, the digital web linked to the project will be more like a planted seed. We will wait to see if it will get the necessary inputs to germinate and grow. I am interested to see this living archive has the kinetic energy of the project. Does the project continue through this modality? Is it a mirror? Or is it a separate channel breaking off from the first? I’m curious how it will function and whether it will ever join the physical archive as a still document.


Forget Foucault has interesting implications about which ideas, people, and systems we choose to resurrect, remember or forget. While so often pseudo-poststructuralists like myself (and sometimes Foucault) want to discuss the fact that we have little ability to overcome our taught predispositions towards memorial, faddisms and our strategic propensity to just put things out of mind, FF offers (or demands) that we assume a little agency. By wearing a button with the statement of forgetting or remembering we assume responsibility for our actions…at least that is the hope.


I saw only a few people actively concerned about the prospect of wearing the wrong statement. These people were upset when we didn’t have the button they wanted. Most of these wanted to remember someone, and found it an awful proposition to forget. Though these were the most impassioned people, I have a sense that it was due to a conditioned belief that remembering people is “good” forgetting people is “bad”. Though I had originally wanted more people to actively engage me, I now have a suspicion that the ones who could get the most out of the project might be the few, who in realizing that they just grabbed a button at random, will find themselves considering the implications of their mindless act. Disappointed in retrospect that they didn’t take the time to consider their options. That is my sincere hope.

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