Editor's Introduction

We stand, as always, on the brink of history: the nation's first African-American president seeks re-election amidst an economy recoiling from the most precipitous free-fall since the Great Depression, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that show few signs of abating in spite of their real and invented causes having been long since neutralized with extreme prejudice, a ten-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon buildings that are still invoked whenever the next round of civil liberties is up for erosion - all historic events, to be sure. The question is not whether they will they be remembered, but how and by whom. Too often memory is conceived in binary terms that obscure its entangled relations to social and cultural practices. In truth, memory is in a constant state of flux and contestation, continually being rescripted and regenerated to conform to the needs of any given present. Indeed, it would not be too much to argue that memory is what is at stake in the writing of history. As Michael Frisch claimed, "What matters is not so much the history that is placed before us, but rather what we are able to remember and what role that knowledge plays in our lives." Yet memory continues to occupy a marginal space, somewhere between an evil twin and a neglected stepchild, in relation to History proper.

It has been more than twenty years since Ronald Reagan delivered his farewell address to the nation after two terms in office. In his speech, Reagan warned against losing our collective memory, and with it, our sense of national identity. "If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit." Reagan's call for national pride and unity seemed anachronistic even 20 years ago but he pulled it off with an avuncular wink that would have been unimaginable from any of his successors. The world seemed closer to apocalypse in those days but it's hard not to look around and feel that things have only gotten so very much worse.

Like our own century's George Bush, Reagan's immediate successor had been in office only a short time when the bombardment of Iraq began. The elder Bush characterized the war in terms of healing the national psyche, "By God, we are going to kick the Vietnam syndrome once and for all." By "Vietnam Syndrome," he meant the nation's aversion to wars in far-off lands with dubious goals and no viable exit strategy, not the human toll of post-traumatic stress taken on a generation of this nation's youth. Of course, the first Gulf War resulted in its own syndrome, a combination of chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, headaches, dizziness, and yes, memory loss. As the death toll continues to rise in the middle east, the illusion that we are simply watching a more expensive but less competently produced sequel have given way to painful reminders of Vietnam. The mendacious revenge narrative of 9/11, it seems, has finally worn thin. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought the Vietnam syndrome full-circle as those memories "lost" in the first Gulf War come back to the surface with a vengeance. A lesson, perhaps, that is worth remembering.

This issue of Vectors spins uneasily around the conjoined axis of memory and history without attempting the impossible - and arguably undesirable - task of reconciling the two. What draws the projects in this issue together is the interplay between objects of study that are both concrete and ephemeral and investigations that bleed across disciplinary bounds to explore the relevance of memory to questions of time, media, narrative, politics and space. More so than for many Vectors themes, Memory seems to have inspired a range of formal and methodological experiments that stretch our comfortable definitions of scholarly practice. This issue of the journal also includes a final project designed by Vectors' longtime Creative Director, Raegan Kelly, who worked with Mark Hansen on shi jian: time. Her very first project for Vectors was Alice Gambrell's Stolen Time Archive, a prototype that sought to prove the concept behind Vectors, and which has rarely been surpassed as an exemplar of what we hope to achieve in terms of depth, nuance and genuine collaboration between designer and scholar. Throughout her five-year association with Vectors, Raegan brought passion, intellect and rigor to every aspect of the design process. Her influence on Vectors has been incalculable, and we continue to miss her in ways that are impossible to express. Finally, it should be noted that many of these projects were completed some time ago (as the clever reader will note as she reads the project introductions.) The delay in taking this issue live reflects the effort of the Vectors' team on other fronts, as we continue to build new spaces for scholarly interaction with digital platforms that extend the lessons learned producing these projects.

In the mean time, history has continued to move forward, with new historical narratives and new firsts yet to be recorded; memories will continue to be conjured, contested, scripted and contained. Personal memories will grow entangled with cultural ones and the past will increasingly seem to explain the inevitability of the present. We will remind our now seven-year-old daughter that the first (and practically only) time she saw live television was in 2008 when Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for President. No matter how clearly etched this moment may become in her mind, it is not the event itself she will remember, but our retelling of it, inextricably woven with her own imagination and the narratives of anticipation, however fleeting, that allow us to keep looking forward as well as back.

— Steve Anderson