[-empyre-] forgetting, oblivion

maria miranda maria at out-of-sync.com
Tue Nov 6 20:23:38 EST 2007

right on topic -- a recent conference in Belgium --Media, Memory and  
the Archive, with talks by Steve Dietz, Marleen Wynants + Richard  
Rinehart, Oliver Grau, Charlie Gere, Wolfgang Ernst, Josephine Bosma  
and Jean-Francois Blanchette...


snippet from Jean-Francois Blanchette's talk 'Waging the  
technological war on oblivion' where he's talking about forgetting,  
oblivion and preservation and the moving borders between. He begins  
with a story about George Bell, who, on joining Microsoft was invited  
to do whatever he wanted to do -so he announces that he will become  
the first person to be paperless. In order to do this he develops a  
project he calls Life Bits where he first digitizes all of his paper  
documents, then with the help of Microsoft he builds a small portable  
device that is actually a tiny camera - that he wears everyday  
everywhere. The camera takes a picture every 45 seconds or when it  
senses a change in the scenery. This data is then uploaded to his  
website or hard drive, to create a huge database of images -- with  
the happy conclusion that the hard drive, or something like it, will  
eventually replace faulty, fallible human memory. We need never  
forget anything.


On 05/11/2007, at 5:29 PM, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina wrote:

> I read once a piece by Umberto Eco where he said that since  
> photocopies were
> invented he accumulated more things to read but read much less.  He
> explained that when he had to look for actual books he had to make  
> time to
> go to libraries and bookstores, browse and figure out if he would  
> carry the
> book away; however, with the xerox machine he felt he could pile up  
> things
> to read them later, and he often did not read them because he  
> preferred
> books to photocopies.  My husband and I started buying books from
> alibris.com and then from amazon.com in 1994, and we have probably  
> bought
> twice as many as we had before.  You just click and the purchase  
> has been
> made.  We've must have had some 5.5 thousand after 20 years of each  
> of us
> having started our personal collections, and now we have now some 12
> thousand books.  Yes, speed matters a lot in terms of how much  
> memory we can
> accumulate, how fast we can catch frozen thought and intentions  
> (books, cds,
> xerox copies, art . . .) and how we store it, in increasingly smaller
> artifacts; but also those memories are more fragile and fleeting in  
> their
> current forms than before: the hard drive crashes, the paper of  
> photocopies
> decays very fast; the technology we used for digital art changes  
> and what we
> remember is only in our embodied memory, changing as we also change  
> between
> each moment of recall.
> This is something that interests me very much because I am a  
> musician, and
> time is a key element of music; now with computers you can  
> accelerate the
> music and create sound sculptures made out of very fast pieces that  
> can be
> treated together as a singular piece at regular speed, like sound  
> artist Bob
> Ostertag does.  Or slow down existing music and treat and even  
> copyright the
> mixed segments as your own, like Brian Eno did with the Pachabel  
> Cannon and
> Moby does with all kinds of things.  You can even accelerate the  
> creative
> process between two people at a great distance, like guitarist  
> Jimmy Page
> and rapper Puff Daddy did for the Godzilla soundtrack, each playing  
> in a
> different place of the world and mixing in real time through a  
> satellite
> connection . . . Brian Eno is part of a foundation that has created  
> 'the
> clock of the long now', a clock that takes a whole year to move  
> between each
> two marks and plays a little, randomly-generated tune when it hits  
> the next
> mark.
> This all makes me think: who has access to more or less management  
> of speed
> and under what conditions?  Some people talk of a 'digital divide';  
> this is
> a simplistic idea because there are all kinds of digital stuff around
> everybody nowadays, even when we can't see it.  But certainly there  
> is a
> differential access and control of the digital, and there is equally a
> differential access and control of speed.  Speed has become a  
> resource.
> Virilio would say it has always been a weapon, but it probably has  
> become
> many more things than that.  We are at this paradoxical moment  
> where the
> speed of memory has increased so much we find ourselves needing to  
> forget
> more and much faster . . .
> Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
> On 11/4/07 6:13 PM, "Norie" <Norie.Neumark at uts.edu.au> wrote:
>> Dear Gabriela,
>> Thanks for your post and for raising the issue of speed -- which does
>> certainly seem to inflect memory, in art and everyday life.
>> Do you think that the speed-up-of-speed factor comes from and fuels
>> the sense of information overload that  makes
>> people distrust their own memory's ability (ability to absorb fast
>> enough) and therefore turn to computer
>> memory -- only to feel more overloaded? It seems a bit like speed in
>> its drug form -- the more you have, the more you need.
>> What you said also reminds us how within everyday life, memory is not
>> just about the amount of information remembered (stored) and the
>> speed of access to it, but the relations between memories and what
>> triggers them in the present. And it also resonates for me in
>> thinking about art, where working with an archive is about
>> contextualing it, the aesthetic issues of how elements are brought
>> forth, their timing and their relation to each other and to what's
>> not said...
>> So, as you described, accessing digital art at the wrong speed at
>> best disturbs its carefully constructed time-space subtlety. Which is
>> something that quite a few artists work with directly. Often, from
>> the angle of slowing rather than speeding, as with Douglas Gordon's
>> 24 hour Psycho -- which is a work that I 'remember', from
>> reading much about it though I haven't yet seen. (I'm really
>> fascinated with memory of things never actually encountered!) A film
>> like Psycho, which I have seen and which most viewers probably know
>> quite well, would create a sort of drag on memory -- our memory
>> rushes ahead faster than the film itself. I'm curious to hear from
>> people familiar with that work, or similar works, about how speed
>> (fast or slower) work with memory in those works?
>> best
>> norie
>> On 04/11/2007, at 12:15 PM, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina wrote:
>>> While I was a fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell
>>> Tim Murray
>>> tried to show us some digital art that had been stored on CDs years
>>> ago.
>>> The  pieces were absolutely crazy, moving at a speed that made it
>>> almost
>>> impossible to understand what was going on.  Pieces that had been
>>> made for
>>> the bandwith of a decade ago became these vertiginous moving things
>>> that
>>> were difficult to discern and even more difficult to appreciate in
>>> their
>>> artistic intention.  What does speed have to do to memory?  What  
>>> does
>>> technological change do to memory?  When Derrida wrote "Archive
>>> trouble" or
>>> whatever his book about archive memory was called in English he did
>>> not
>>> anticipate the matter and importance of speed, the way Paul Virilio
>>> did.  At
>>> Tim's presentation I was startled and began to think about speed  
>>> as an
>>> important element of flux, Deleuze and Guattari's important
>>> category.  David
>>> Harvey discussed the idea of 'time-space compression' as a key
>>> element of
>>> recent human history (from the 16th century to our days).  I wonder
>>> what you
>>> all think of speed as intrinsic to art, and of time as a key  
>>> category
>>> related to memory in our times?
>>> Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
>>> Autonomous University of Yucatan - Anthropology
>>> Cornell University - Music
>>> On 11/3/07 4:29 PM, "maria miranda" <maria at out-of-sync.com> wrote:
>>>>   " The interruption of digital memory error accentuates what  
>>>> Thomas
>>>> Hobbes lamented in a much earlier age of technological  
>>>> revolution as
>>>> the fragility or "decaying sense" of memory."
>>>> ... but  digital memory is not the only medium that errs. I'm
>>>> reminded of a thought provoking work by the always entertaining  
>>>> MTAA
>>>> called the Updates --http://turbulence.org/Works/1year/-- that
>>>> appeared a few years ago -- it was a series of online performances
>>>> where the Art duo remembered/remade seminal performance works from
>>>> the 60s and 70s using digital forms and automating processes  
>>>> that had
>>>> involved time and endurance.
>>>> One Update worked with Sam Tehching Hsieh's Cage piece (http://
>>>> www.one-year-performance.com/), where Tehching spent a year in a
>>>> cage. MTAA transferred the task of doing time and enduring for one
>>>> year to the viewer.  That is, they created a video as if  
>>>> documenting
>>>> their time spent in solitary confinement, in a room --matching  
>>>> rooms
>>>> in their case - that recreated Tehching's original cage, as if  
>>>> it was
>>>> for a year.
>>>> While MTAA work with the way that the digital archive can fake the
>>>> present time and space, for me their work also throws light on the
>>>> analogue archive, that is, the black and white photographs that
>>>> documented the orginal piece - - and that shape our memories  
>>>> (proof)
>>>> of the time and space that Tehching spent in his cell. As I watched
>>>> this performance  online it had the weird effect of making me
>>>> question the original piece by Sam Tehching Hsieh. Did he really
>>>> remain in his cage for one year with nothing to read, listen to or
>>>> even talk to!! How do we know? Photos of course. But may he not  
>>>> have
>>>> slipped out occasionally for a quick bite and jog around the
>>>> neighbourhood to clear his head or taken in a movie -- and slipped
>>>> back into his cage in the morning?The only documentation of this
>>>> original endurance piece is  the photos - grim black and white  
>>>> photos
>>>> of Tehching in his cage. In understanding the artifice of the  
>>>> digital
>>>> MTAA have thrown open the possibility for all media to be fakes and
>>>> therefore all media memory to be fundamentally in error.
>>>> best
>>>> maria
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