‚Wohin das Erinnern uns trägt‘ – ‚Where remembering leads us‘


(note: “remembering”, not "memory")


“Memory” evokes a more passive moment, assigning to the observer the role of

passenger taken along for a ride.  On the other hand, memory also

“transports’"as well as emphasized in the painting's title, like the river

Mnemosyne that carried ships and their occupants.  While the river Lethe gave

the gift of forgetfulness(Virgil) to those who drunk of it, Mnemosyne, the

goddess of memory, bestowed absolute certainty. She was the daughter of Uranus

and Gaia and, most importantly, mother of the Muses.


Memory has an overwhelming aspect.  Recalling, on the other hand, holds the

possibility of overcoming, possibly even in terms of affirming one's own

identity.  If the present can thusly be completed by remembering, then this act

of reminiscing holds the prospect of mending wholeness, not in the sense of a

complete whole, but as a process. The painting initiates this process, but also

lends its incompleteness to the conversation between image and observer. Perhaps

it even adds to the communication of the observers among themselves.


The unguided associative reflex and the intuitive plausibility of the observed

can, by a consciously induced change of cognitive level, become an arrangement

of associations with immense atmospheric diversity.


“Yes, I can see a moving body of water.  I don't know if it is moving away or

flowing towards me. Mnemosyne or Lethe? I “recognize” an island on the left-hand

side, a dark depth, placed to the right like a counterpoint. Something powerful,

floating and thus exalted, dominates the foreground. It is in motion.  Where is

it turning?“ The light that I am perceiving in the image is coming and going. Is

it illuminating an island? What is rising on its shore?  What is it there,

floating and gargantuan, yet still weightless?  Do I need to fear it, or yearn

for its arrival?  Mnemosyne or Lethe?”


Can the act of remembering also reach into the future?  Is it anticipation of

the future?


Hölderlin’s poem “Mnemosyne“ shows a possible answer to this question, an answer

so rife with a purity and unyieldingness that is only particular to perfection:

Time is long, but the truth will come to pass.


Manfred Zimmer-Valentini