A composite photograph of tourists in Times Square capturing the scenery.Credit “Memory Lane,” 2008 from “Babel Tales,” by Peter Funch (NYTimes)

I have had a poor memory most of my life, at least this is the story I tell myself. As I have grown older, I have seen several parts of my memory shrink, including my ability to remember how to spell. Although, the latest scientific info places the blame on bad spelling on the reliance on spell check, that has never been my Shtick. I noticed several years ago a loss of spelling. But, mostly I believe my memory is serving me just about as bad as it has always done. Which leads me to an article by the novelist Walter Kirn in the NY Times Style magazine (April 12, 2015)  He makes an observation about the use of devices by his boy and his friends to capture the moment on their video recorders from a ski trip and edit and replay it in the car, the video becoming the memory of the event instead of talking about what they liked most, they edit together a reel of best of moments and that becomes the memory. This memory is in high-definition, clear, never fuzzy, never not trustworthy or suspicious. Having a poor memory and knowing it causes one not to trust memory. This high def memory takes the place from the actual event. We have a fascination with resolution, we love high-def. (including myself) we love realism, we love 3D animation, clarity is the opium of the masses. But it loses the softness of mystery, of the subtle. It is within the realm of memories, shrouded images, shadows and fog that imagination exists. Within a twinkle of an eye, an object can become one thing and transform to another. In a high-def. world we substitute the pornographic clarity for the seductive mystery. Porn is safer than the risk of relationships, physical contact or the confusion and struggle of trying to understand one another. Memory is like this, it provides an illusion of knowledge or a fog of vague remembrances. Having to rely on it rather than a device means we are challenging and struggling to build and maintain a relationship with memory.

When we secede memory to a device, we also let the muscles of memory atrophy. We loose ambiguity. Art lives within the edges of the seen and unseen. By forfeiting our memory, ” We are living, in effect, amongst pure forms, in a radical obscenity, that is to say, in the visible, undifferentiated obscenity of figures that were once secret and discrete . The same is true of the social, which today rules in its pure – i .e ., empty and obscene – form. The same for seduction, which in its present form, having lost its elements of risk, suspense and sorcery, takes the form of a faint, undifferentiated obscenity.” – Jean Baudrillard (Baudrillard, Jean. Seduction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.)

How far can we carry the idea of memory as seduction? If video becomes the way we remember our lives, does the opposite of actual physical memory housed in our minds become its opposite, a faint, undifferentiated obscenity, immoral and eliciting suspicion on the character of any who would rely on it?