Identity and Memory as Art Forms. A Reflection on MEMENTO and Ricœur’s Narrative Identity. Presentation at the 16th Biennial Conference for the International Society for Religion, Literature, and Culture, “Cultures of Transition. Presence, Absence, Memory”, 19-21 October 2012, The Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
The terms “memory” and “identity” today are contested yet omnipresent in social discourse, especially in times of crises. What are we as individuals and community to remember and what is best forgotten? Is identity inclusive or exclusive? Christopher Nolan’s film MEMENTO portrays the struggles with and between memory, identity, and the reconciliation of past and present. Rather than something stable, Memento strikingly and visually compelling portrays identity and memory as inscription processes onto and into the body. Even if something might best be forgotten (or has been forgotten), life and life experiences leave marks on the individual and in society. Using MEMENTO as tutor text, this paper will discuss Ricœur’s notion of narrative identity and argue that identity, memory, remembering, and forgetting are forms of art that need to be practiced and nurtured. Following, Ricœur, it will propose that we have both, a duty to remember as well as a duty to forget.