In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag dismantles the notion of collective memory by arguing that the concept is just an artifice of the power structures that propose an idea of a shared memory when in fact is just an act of collective instruction. This is certain: History is a product of fiction; a tale winner’s decide to tell and to establish as truth for future generations.
But what if a new definition of collective memory could be proposed?
Some recent research studies in quantum physics hold that time is an illusion reinforced by the linguistic base of human thinking, that time flow is just a way of perceiving our existence in the world. Along with this idea of simultaneity of all events, they propose the notion of “non-locality”, which refers to the existence elements start to share after interaction despite their separation in time (quantum entanglement). Those ideas have triggered very interesting hypotheses in fields alien to physics; one of them, framed in the field of quantum cognition, addresses the nature of memory: It proposes memories as a human strategy to get free from the strings of time, and it speaks about a sort of shared “cloud” from we can pull elements to remember:
“Rather than viewing memory as the accessing of information stored in neural-chemical traces, the quantum mind uses the technology of the brain to direct us to information patterns stored in entangled electrons produced by past interactions. Neural pathways could be thought of as literal pathways that point us to past information states that remain enduring realities in time-space (…) If it is true that information about our experiences is stored in the structure of time and space — rather than the hardware of our brain — an analogy to cloud computing is natural. Brain synapses are like routing software in a personal computer that accesses information stored “in the cloud”. Weaknesses and errors in our memory are caused by limited capacity or “bugs” in the software of the personal computer of our mind. All the information is safely stored in the super computer of the cosmos if we can properly access it.” (Gillespie, 2014)
With this in mind, Quantum Memory proposes an exploration on the blurred boundaries between individual and collective memory. It invites to rethink the latter no longer as a discourse of power, an imposed one, but as a dynamic structure that is built from interactions and in which time no longer exists.
As the collective memory we currently know, this piece will use language as vehicle to explore events. However, instead of proposing a canonized, untouchable discourse, it will allow interaction and transformation. It will offer a version of Guatemalan collective memory that gathers all versions, that refuses to be linear, and that will help people understand Guatemala’s reality and their own.
Quantum Memory and Guatemala Después
Quantum Memory is a project that stands aside Saturno-Guatemala-USA, a digital project from Julio Serrano and Enrique Pazos that will use Saturn’s calendar system to revise the last 30 years of history in Guatemala and pose some questions on the content of history and time as a fundamental organizational structure in society.
By exploring the relationship between arts and science, both projects support on scientific principles in order to deal with social issues, each one in its own way: While Saturno-Guatemala-USA demonstrates the weight of the notion of time in understanding history, Quantum Memory proposes an alternate version of collective memory that diverges from hegemonic discourses; a possibility of a dynamic, shared memory, accessible to all both in terms of “reading and editing”.
How will Quantum Memory work?
This is still a work in progress. The basic idea is to gather some individual multi-media memories from Guatemala and to have a tag cloud as main interface that allows users to travel between events and that also gives them the opportunity to build upon that new paradigm.
This project hopes to be the genesis of individual reflections not only about Guatemala history, but also about reality as a fragmentary and dynamic notion.
Gillespie, G. (2014). Window to the Past: The Role of Quantum Entanglement in Memory. Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research. Volume 5. Issue 4. United States.
Sontag, Susan (1993). Regarding the Pain of Others. United States. Picador.