Touching Texture, Weaving Traumatic Memory, Art and Death: Thinking Research into Teaching
The preface to James E. Young (Young, 1993) begins with an account of writing in Berlin at the point of the fall of the Berlin Wall; this is writing that conveys an immediacy - it begins with ‘As I write’. What is given to the reader in the first sentence is a description of ‘being here’, a description of birdsong that can be heard across the city. This is pivotal; for what is addressed within the preface is a journeying, the visits to, and contemplation of, Holocaust monument and memoria. In this text, past and present are brought together outside of a binary, linear idea of history. Rather, what is conveyed is a sensitive attendance to memoria, as offering sites (both physical and psychic) through which to construct memories and consider histories, in response to utter devastation. What is it to contemplate, and try to give response to experience beyond understanding? This is the start of a weaving, an enmeshing of space, place and history. In placing ‘As I write’ in conjunction with memory, what becomes apparent is a condensation. The term that Young uses to convey the unfathomable complexity of traumatic event and the will towards representation through memoria, is ‘the texture of memory’. With the construct of ‘textured memory’ as a frame, this paper begins with the consideration of research into the structure of traumatic memory via an artistic practice informed by psychoanalysis. It reflects upon artistic practice, theoretical framing, and how a complex practice may seek, and possibly find other registers within the context of teaching. It is to texture and to weave threads together in a reflection upon artistic practice, research and teaching. Specific reference will be made to teaching about arts practices on the MSc Death and Society, University of Bath, UK.
Keywords: Research, Teaching, Memory, Art, Trauma, Death
Dr Jane Calow
Artist and Lecturer, Centre for Death and Society (CDAS)