Gervane de Paula, “Art here I kill”, 2016. Photo: Karina Bacci.

Pfor medical science and, more recently, neuroscience, in a very simplistic way, memory comprises complex processes by which the individual encodes, retains and stores and, finally, retrieves information. When retrieving information, two mechanisms are important: rescue and recognition, which involve comparing old and new stimuli. This would help, in the mechanism, to avoid false memories.

However, at the end of the XNUMXth century, with the advent of Freudian studies, the memory apparatus took on other contours. Freud introduces the importance of remembering and forgetting as a focus in the treatment of patients, as opposed to a mechanical theory of memory. The memories would suffer the action of opposing forces, those that seek the memory as it supposedly was and those that exert a resistance, producing a “false in the memory”.

Mechanisms of the psychic apparatus — the displacement, the repression, the refusal of memory traces — will form part of this “falsification of recollection”.

Memory will play a fundamental role throughout psychoanalytic theory.

In 1914, Freud writes the text entitled Remember, repeat and elaborate, where he more precisely articulates the mechanisms of the remembrance/forgetting binomial, and adds one more application to psychotherapeutic practice. Freud introduces “transference” and the importance of the psychoanalyst in the process of working with the patient's memories, with his memory.  At the same time, he perceives, in the “repetition” of unconscious psychic traits, acts and representations of patients, an attempt or way of remembering. In some way, a “new memory” is created, of what “one does not want to remember”.

The content of this repetition is all inhibitions, pathological traits and their symptoms. Lacan, in turn, in the Freudian line, says: “Analysis came to announce to us that there is a knowledge that is not known”. The analysis would have the purpose of enabling the truth of the subject to emerge.

But the human being is built in the relationship with the other, is socially established, and in a symbolic order that precedes the subject himself. A psychic or memory device is never alone. It is through the findings of psychoanalytic theory that we can also consider the theory of memory, in Freud, as a theory of “social memory”.

Today, contemporary challenges demand new avenues of research. Specialists from different disciplines, for example, created the Postgraduate Program in Social Memory at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), where they investigate the concept of memory inserted in a field of struggles and power relations, configuring a continuous clash between remembering and forgetting, understanding “social memory” as an inter or transdisciplinary field. At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, social memory was understood as the study of value systems that unified certain social, religious, class and territorial groups.

However, now these issues are totally subverted by technology, migrations, gender issues, information overload, media, etc. “Researchers in the field of memory, among which we include our students, bring up questions that cannot always be answered with the traditional concepts of this area of ​​study: questions related to intangible heritage, new uses of language, the crisis of institutions, new strategies of resistance, subjectivity and artistic creation”, say Jô Gondar and Vera Dodebei in the presentation of the book What is social memory? (Back Cover, 2005).

Currently, we witness facts and statements from various sectors of our society interested in not remembering, social groups that, on the contrary, insist on forgetting.

Art, as we have already said, is not dissociated from the social body and, in this edition, allows these issues to appear as concerns in textual or visual representations, debates, interviews and analyzes that our collaborators investigated in this last period.

Institutions are looking to their archives to talk about the present. Artists, historians and archivists are searching documents and photographs of the past for what doesn't want to be remembered and why. The montages are concerned with preserving sound effects and legibility to improve visitor understanding.

Art allows us to build a “fighting memory” against oblivion and barbarism.


GONDAR, Jô and DODEBEI, Vera (eds.). What is social memory?, Rio de Janeiro. Back cover Livraria Ltda. Postgraduate Program in Social Memory at UFRJ, 2005.

FREUD, S. Remember, Repeat and Elaborate (New Recommendations on the Technique of Psychoanalysis II). In The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1999.

HALBWACS, Maurice. the collective memory. São Paulo: Vertex, 1990.

JUNIOR, Gabbi; FARIA, Osmyr. The theory of the unconscious as a theory of memory. Psychology USP 4.1-2, 1993.

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