Where memory detains itself
The punitive expedition of Decimus Junius Brutus to the Hispanias arrived to the southern bank of river Lima in the summer of 135 b.C.. The weather would be unusually warm. And the soldiers profoundly weary. There was a rumour among the legion: that river was the river of oblivion – the one who would cross it would lose remembrance of all things lived and learned. The Lethes river.
S. would say: whenever I think of forgetting what I want and what I need to forget, the retainment of what I want to forget grows bigger and becomes stronger. Slowly, my memory turns into a patchwork of recollections over recollections of oblivion attempts. It is as if even more sand would run in my veins, draining them of blood. And the memory of remembrance defeats the science of forgetfulness.
All the legion of Decimus Junius Brutus refused to cross the river. Nobody wanted to forget. At the general’s command, not a single soldier moved forward. Some went back. Brutus then had the troops observe what he would set himself to do. He crossed the river and from the other bank he called his men by their names, one by one.
In the summer of 2006, N. destroyed 5000 hours of video tape where, for six years, he had recorded the time of the places he lived in or went through. I want to document the history of my time, and memory is the only way of going back - he wrote, as he began his vast collection. By having disposed of everything he recorded, N. dived into Lethes. He anticipated the moment when everything is forgotten, when the memory is erased in the world disintegration.
At the slow instant in which Decimus Junius Brutus let himself be bathed by the Lethes water, as he started his crossing of the river, he thought: what does await me on the other side of memory?
Auggie Wren is the owner of a tobacco shop in New York. Everyday at 7 a.m. sharp he photographs the corner of 7th Ave. and 3rd St.. We are inside Smoke, the film by Wayne Wang. Throughout dozens of years, Auggie filed and catalogued more than 4000 photographs of that very place, filled with thousands of people on the move. When he shows his collection of images to Paul Benjamin, the latter glances through it in a fast, almost automatic motion. Auggie says: you'll never get it if you don't slow down, my friend.