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The Amnesia Forums

The Amnesia Forums were a series of cross-discipline academic roundtable discussions for artists, scientists, geographers, historians, writers and researchers to explore key directions and debates surrounding current scientific insight into memory and amnesia.

This contemporary discourse focussed on the themes of individual and cultural amnesia, and evolving constructions of place, location and identity. These forums formed a core part of artist Shona Illingworth’s research driven project, Lesions in the Landscape, which explored parallels between the isolating and disorientating experience of individual amnesia and the complex histories and broken cultural memory of a remote group of Scottish islands, and investigated the profound affect the traumatic experience of amnesia and cultural erasure has on individual and collective agency, identity and the capacity to imagine the future. This work will culminated in a major exhibition at FACT in 2015.

The second of the Amnesia Forums took place at FACT on Thursday the 24th of April 2014, with presentations from participants addressing the dynamic themes as follows…

Embodied Memory

Juhani Pallasmaa asserts “Human memory is embodied, skeletal and muscular in its essence, not merely cerebral” - what future impact could memory prosthesis have on our individual and collective sense of self?

For Pallasmaa, "the character of a space or place is not merely a visual quality…[but] calls for our entire embodied and existential sense, and is perceived in a diffuse and peripheral manner". How is embodied memory/perception integral to the functioning of a memory prosthesis?

Technological interfaces

As a society we are living longer, and are having to deal with a range of longevity related illnesses and conditions, which affect memory. How do we design interfaces to address embodied memory and the experience of amnesia?


How are the prospects of remembering and forgetting shaped by the increasing archival nature of everyday communications and what are the risks inherent in digital communications and digital archives to the prospects of a ‘right to be forgotten’?

Is there a growing alignment between memory processes in the brain and the spatiotemporal dynamic and connectivity of the virtual realm, and if so how do processes of memory and forgetting feature in this?

Prosthetic memory

Is the term ‘prosthetic memory’ too functional, disguising a great deal of human forgetting, so is it more useful to think in terms of ‘prosthetic interference’ to adequately capture the digital’s impact on human remembering and forgetting?

As the amount of data we produce outstrips our capacity to analyse it and synthetic DNA becomes the de facto storage device, will people become the cloud storage data centers of the near future?

Presentations were followed by open discussion, which gave attendees a great opportunity to share expertise and experiences from their chosen field, both contributing and considering insights into other practices and perspectives that they may not normally come across.

We would like to thank all the participants who took part in this thought-provoking, illuminating discussion. We hope that, individually, they found synergy with some or all of the others in the room as a tacit part of calling the Amnesia Forums is to create links with people working in parallel fields. Our hope is that some connections have been made that will enrich the practices of participants and possibly grow new activities; it was incredible to have such a collection of bright minds and ideas in the room at the same time.