On Tradition and Cultural Memory in Contemporary Art: Theoretical Considerations


This paper starts with a detailed analysis of Jan Assmann’s qualitative distinction between cultural memory and communicative memory. The purpose of this analysis is to highlight both the strengths and the limitations of this seminal distinction, and to also reflect on what cultural theorists and contemporary artists could learn through Assmann’s distinction since artistic production also employs cultural memory formats that do not exclude cultural traditions in their materializations. In line with these considerations, this paper aims to disentangle what “tradition” means to contemporary artists. Following Edward Shils and Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophy of “tradition,” the paper argues that cultural tradition does not necessarily have an oppressive character and the rebellion and suspicion against it is at the heart of tradition itself. Thus, the traditional/contemporary binary can be precluded by reconsidering how “tradition” and “traditional” are conceptualized considering philosophy of tradition and artistic memory.


cultural traditions, cultural memory, communicative memory, contemporary art, tradition, artistic memory

How to cite:

Asavei, Maria Alina. “On Tradition and Cultural Memory in Contemporary Art: Theoretical Considerations.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 5, no. 1 (2021): 126-139. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2021.0008.


Maria Alina Asavei
Institute of International Studies, Charles University, Prague
Pekařská 10, 158 00 Praha 5 – Jinonice, Czech Republic


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