Boris Buden is a writer and cultural critic based in Berlin. He received his PhD in cultural theory from Humboldt University in Berlin. In the 1990s he was editor of the magazine Arkzin in Zagreb. His essays and articles cover the topics of philosophy, politics, cultural and art criticism. He has participated in various conferences and art projects in Western and Eastern Europe, Asia and USA, including Documenta XI. Among his recent books is Zone des Übergangs: Vom Ende des Postkommunismus (Zone of Transition: On the End of Post-communism), Suhrkamp 2009.
This lecture takes place in the context of the Politics of Memory program
PERFORMING THE END OF HISTORY
In modern times, history was an ignorant master. It was not a story of past events, but an event in and of itself, which is why it was impossible to learn from. Yet for Roman historiographers, the Greek word historia still implied testimony—a personally experienced history, whether our own or someone else’s—thus rendering it a teacher of life.
Is memory today, for which history itself has become a past to be remembered, not an expression of longing for the lost experience of history that one was able to learn from? Could this be why memory reaches out to the realms of art and performance, to re-enactments and body movements, so as to teach without possessing, sharing, or transmitting any knowledge—striving, that is, to be the cause of knowledge and not its owner? Indeed, art does not produce any knowledge of the past. But could it possibly turn the past into a teacher of life, a magistra vitae?