12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art

Messy Glossary




Proposed by Yanka Smetanina

Amnesia is a disease of memory destruction caused by psychological or organic trauma. Because of the inevitable fear of memory loss, as well as its beautiful name, amnesia is often romanticized in society, which sells it as an easy way out of an unpleasant situation or the ultimate freedom. But even in the case of a temporary disorder, on closer examination, things do not look so romantic: when a person loses their memory, they also lose their skills and ability to communicate, a part of their personality, their self. So, what to say, for example, about social/historical amnesia, which can be not only a consequence of severe traumatic periods of history but also a constant subject of manipulation by dominant groups in society to build their narratives? Absolute rejection of the past threatens the repetition of historical mistakes, of which any war would be a classic example.

On the other hand, coming into conflict with this discourse, thinkers and artists wage a fierce struggle against the loss of memory, which results in musealization and the Global Archive, and faces a new phenomenon: digital memory and consequently digital amnesia, where people today lead a largely active electronic life, leaving behind fewer artifacts in reality than people of the past.