BLACKOUT: On Memory and Catastrophe
History is marked by catastrophic events that defy meaning and understanding. The 20th century was a century of prosperity and progress; it was also history's bloodiest. The death toll from war and genocide reached 140 million people. Trauma of this magnitude poses grave challenges to memory and thought. This work explores failures of memory and cognition - the blackout - as a condition that plagues history, and is particularly problematic in an era of media, in which memory is increasingly disembodied and virtualized, undermined by a Generalized Media Disorder. Technologies of media and war are creating a condition in which the virtual world is displacing the ethical world. BLACKOUT traces this phenomenon through a century of upheaval - from World War I, which exceeded all previous notions of destruction, to the War on Terror, a perpetual war in a realm of perpetual media. World War II is particularly significant in its deployment of previously unfathomable technologies of disappearance - extermination, nuclear weapons, and the massive incineration of cities in Germany and Japan. The blackout is a space of memory and thinking that collapses with catastrophe and falls into a stupor. Our humanity has been nearly extinguished by the tremendous violence it has enacted, pushing philosophy, language and ethics to their limits. Joan Grossman is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and video artist, based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been shown in more than 20 countries. She also teaches media theory and production, and received her doctorate in Media Philosophy from the European Graduate School in Switzerland.
Publication Program: Think Media: EGS Media Philosophy Series