Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Bergson, Deleuze, Lury (and Mead)

Bibliographic and 'cybergraphic' notes on Bergson and Matter and Memory, Gilles Deleuze on 'attentive recognition', Celia Lury on 'prosthetic memory' (and George Herbert Mead)

I just came across an online publication of Henri Bergson's Matter and Memory (originally published as: Henri Bergson. Matter and Memory, translated by Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer. London: George Allen and Unwin [1911]), courtesy of the Mead Project (see below). It can be accessed HERE. Direct access to chapter 2 ('Of the Recognition of Images. Memory and Brain'), wherein the concept of 'attentive recognition' is discussed, can be accessed HERE.

I also discovered that Celia Lury uses the concept, infused with Deleuze's reworking of it, in her book Prosthetic Culture: Photography, Memory and Identity (Routledge, 1998 - nicely reviewed by Jeffrey Pence at Film-Philosophy). HERE's a Google Book link to some of Lury's exploration of Bergson/Deleuze. And HERE's a link to Deleuze's discussion of attentive recognition in his book Cinema 2: The Time Image (Continuum, 2005). The concept of 'Prosthetic memory' is very nicely applied in a discussion of one of my favourite films - Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, USA, 2001) by Bjorn Ekeberg in the online peer-reviewed journal Image [&] Narrative: a direct link to Ekeberg's article can be found HERE .

Here's how Ekeberg defines 'prosthetic memory', following theorist Alison Landsberg:
In a seminal 1995 essay, Alison Landsberg [*] discusses the implications of what she calls 'prosthetic memory' - memories which do not come from a person's live experience in any strict sense. "Although memory might always have been prosthetic," she writes, "the mass media - technologies which structure and circumscribe experience - bring the texture and contours of prosthetic memory into dramatic relief." In particular, Landsberg contends, cinema has for roughly a century had the capacity to generate experiences and memories of its own - "memories which become experiences that film consumers both possess and feel possessed by." (191) The essential assumption of prosthetic memory as a theoretical construct is that reality always has been mediated, as a consensus upheld through narrative and information cultures - or indeed through the very structure of language itself. The concept of linear time is precisely such a cultural narrative, institutionalized in the grammar of Indo-European languages - a past, a present, a future - and perpetuated by film as a medium. In postmodern theory, the real as an unequivocal condition can be seen to have retreated from its previously uncontested inhabitation of grand structures and narratives, into the realm of the individual - effectively turning reality into a highly (and dangerously) relativistic enterprise. As such, the systematic and proliferated use of prosthetic memory leads to a conception of what we may call 'prosthetic culture' - roughly describing the ways in which culture, seamlessly or not, weaves together individual realities. From this point of view, culture is little more than the standardizing process of individual psychologies.

[* Landsberg, Alison. "Prosthetic Memory: Total Recall and Blade Runner" in David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy, The Cybercultures Reader . New York: Routledge, 2000. Pp. 190-203.]

Obviously the notion of 'memories which do not come from a person's live experience in any strict sense' is a very useful one in considering questions of 'false recognition' and déjà vu, as this is blog is wont to do.

[As for the Mead Project, mentioned above, while I'm more interested in Bergsonianism at present, George Herbert Mead's work, and symbolic interactionism generally, is also fascinating, and relevant to explorations of recognition in culture and I hope to return to it in later.]


Ron C. de Weijze said...

I do not see why the connotation of 'prosthetic memory' should be so negative. I am a Bergsonian myself and my project I call 'constructive recollection'.

Nicholas Galvin said...

Very nice application to Mulholland Drive.