Conference Theme

Memory

Shaping Connections in the Arts Therapies

 

One of the hallmarks of the nomadic biennial ECArTE conferences is an endeavour to listen and respond to the genius loci of the place. In other words, to listen to its spirit and history and ask how this might influence the nature of the conference itself. Vilnius is a city of cultural and artistic depth, heritage and complexity. It has an extraordinary University committed to education in the sciences, humanities and arts. Founded in 1575, it is one of the oldest in a middle and Eastern Europe https://www.vu.lt/en/about-vu. But Lithuania is also a country trammelled by conflict, enduring a changing fate between Russia, Poland and Germany, and suffering a heavy toll in the Holocaust and the Soviet Regime. The conference theme of ‘Memory’ was borne out of the stirring feeling that Vilnius carries within its buildings, people and art these many memories.

Questions of memory go to the very heart of our making sense of the world, in terms of a capacity for reflection, whether bidden or unbidden. Plato’s orginal epistmology presented memory as a recollection of an inherited knowledge. A kind of storehouse of the soul. His idea of anamnesis is a calling to mind of a previous existence as well as a term adopted in psychiatry for a case history of a psychiatric patient. This question of memory therefore invites a philosophical approach to arts therapy and debates its influence on pedagogy and clinical direction.

How does art shape our collective memory of the past? Moreover, how might it inform our experience of major events in our own time? Many artists use the arts to tell stories about personal and cultural memory that are open to interpretation, reframing the past not as a fixed narrative but as a multiplicity of voices from diverse points of view. This allows us to think twice about our history, how it has been shaped and how we might best document things to come.

The arts have historically offered a means for memories to move away from literal narrative, or positivist tropes, into symbolic and aesthetic forms. This opens up the opportunity for investigation of memories as artefacts, materials and spaces and how these contain and elicit stories of the past, present and future. It invites a performative rendering of memory in all its forms. The arts can move memory away from sequential time and causality, asking how memory presents itself; through the body, capturing attention through the senses, kindling a recollection through a momentary assemblage of impressions or the capacity to remember songs and music even when cognition is impaired. Memories are sometimes written, but they are also carried; in smiles, traumas, paintings and musical notes.

Memory can also become memorial and an act of remembrance. What are the rituals, markers and symbolic moments of performance, which mark events from the past? Further, what of the forgettings, the capsules of time and experience which have been lost and may be waiting in the wings to be recalled.

Psychologically, there are questions of individual and collective repression, distortion and denial, along with the well documented consequences of such pscyhodynamic processes. The ways in which the arts link with such psychoanalytical ideas offer many routes of enquiry, such as Freud’s notion of ‘afterwardsness’ (Nachträglichkeit), the nature of dissociation and questions of trans-generational trauma. In analytical psychology, there is the research carried out by Jung into cultural memory, leading to his formulation of the collective unconscious as an ancestral or inherited memory observed through dreams and the cultural narratives of myth and story. There is also contemporary research into memory in the fields of neurology, neurobiology and neuroscience, disciplines that are increasingly collaborating with the arts. How do these disciplines connect with the arts therapies in researching and developing practice in treating different presentations and conditions, such as trauma, dementia, and physical conditions?

The conference Directors hope that these initial reflections on the conception and nature of memory in relation to the arts therapies will prompt your own ideas. We invite you to respond to this call with an abstract containing ideas for papers, workshops, posters, performances and panel discussions on this theme.