This past weekend, I attended my absolutely favorite annual conference, SLSA. This is a fantastic conference for HASTAC Scholars, and I urge you to apply to next years conference in Kitchner, Ontario. For next years theme, they're stressing the A in SLSA -- Art -- so this means we digital humanities folks can get even more creative.
Aside from the paper I presented (which I’ll talk about in a bit), I sat in on some excellent panels. Titled Animating Biophilosophy, this two-part panel was comprised of some very interesting and well known scholars including Richard Doyle, Adam Zaretsky, Thomas Lamarre, and Philip Thurtle. Biophilosophy is defined nicely by Eugene Thacker in his C-Theory article, Biophilosophy for the 21st Century: Whereas the philosophy of biology is concerned with articulating a concept of 'life' that would describe the essence of life, biophilosophy is concerned with articulating those things that ceaselessly transform life. Doyle explored the relationship between plant and human during a drug trip in Peru. The drug, Doyle explained, reversed the interpellative relationship between human and plant agency, calling for a new framework for interacting with experiences. Zaretsky, a bioartist, shared with the audience some of the projects his students undertake during the semester. For example, his students are asked to bring in something that has/had life (alive or dead). By combining all the items and blending them together, they attempt to discover a new strain of DNA. Whether this is for research or artistic purposes is for the students to figure out is there a definitive point where science ends and art begins (or vice versa)? Check out VIVOARTs website for some really cool stuff to think about/look at.
My panel, on the other hand, focused on the possibilities of articulating memory and time studies through the lens of loss and return. We emphasized loss and return by interrogating memory as a structure that holds onto moments that individuals oftentimes believe are lost, but instead the memory-structure folds those moments into the neuronal pathways that the brain constructs in order to build, strengthen, and maintain memory. For my panelists and I, the unconscious is a pivotal base in the memory-structure because it holds onto those forgotten memories, merely awaiting our return to what we believe was lost. As a means to resuscitating what is stored in the unconscious, we sought to validate and complicate the relationships between anamnesis (recollection), mimesis (imitation), and hypomnesis (mechanical devices substituted for truth). These terms are important for rethinking memory and the unconscious because they each exhibit the fact that forgetting does not signify an end of life per se (btw--ends of life was the conference theme), but the possibility for memory resurrection and resurfacing through various external systems and networks. These external systems and networks tend to bend the limits of time, unshackling chronology from the constrictions of linearity. At the same, however, such unshackling of time promotes decentralized emergence, produces new knowledge, and aligns memory with the political. We looked at the ends of life of memory not as a finale, but as way to return to unconscious memory as a means for new memories to be created through such external systems and networks.
I think we could get some really interesting panels together for next years SLSA. Let’s keep talking this year and organize a panel!