[-empyre-] Memory Errors

Madeleine Reich Casad mir9 at cornell.edu
Tue Nov 13 13:21:42 EST 2007

Hi all,

Thanks again to Tim and Renate for inviting me to take part in this  
discussion of "Memory Errors in the Technosphere: Art, Accident,  
Archive."  Just a few rather abstract words about me and my work to  
start:  my academic project looks at the intersection of new media  
and literature around questions of narrative, identity, and "the  
virtual" as an endlessly fascinating construct that takes different  
names and shapes in different contexts but that (to me) points to  
imagination, embodiment, intersubjectivity, and the "lag" we've been  
talking about these past few days.

In my dissertation, I look at narrative as one way that we perform  
virtual relationships to the archive (understood either as 'the  
archive,' writ large, eg something like 'discourse,' or as specific  
cultural or individual archives of memory), and thereby produce  
things like subjectivity and identity as emergent phenomena of these  
performances.  My readings focus on ways that new media and literary  
artworks stage interactions between the representational logic and  
deferred temporality of writing, on the one hand, and the  
instantaneity and emphemerality of digital media, on the other, and  
how these interactions circulate around questions of identity and power.

I'm also involved in the curatorial project of the Rose Goldsen  
Archive of New Media Art, where preserving digital memory is a  
practical as well as a theoretical concern.

So, drawing on a few threads from the discussion last week,  
especially Maria's mention of Tehching Hsieh's yearlong performances  
early on, I wanted to reconsider the relationship between original  
'analog' performance documents and their re-publication on dvd as one  
manifestation of "digital memory" and its vagaries...

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a talk on performance, event and  
documentation by Sharon Hayes, during which she showed the 6-minute  
film of Sam Tehching Hsieh's Time piece, where he punched a time  
clock every hour on the hour every day for a year and exposed a  
single frame of film each time he punched the clock.

For me the film recalled Lev Manovich's arguments that cinema is  
already somehow a digital art of sampling and simulation.  In this  
case the film creates an event archive as a database of information  
(time punches, still frames) that could be unspooled cinematically in  
time, or else reorganized according to other criteria.


The DVD includes a statistical analysis of the punches Tehching Hsieh  
missed (supposedly only 134 out of 8,760 punches) and the reasons why  
he missed them--a supplement to the film itself, as the missed  
punches would be invisible during a linear 24 fps runthrough.  All  
together, these various documents point to a kind of obsessive and  
exhaustive 'proof' that the yearlong event took place.

Different structures of registering and saving information influence  
and feed off each other within the work:  the punch clock, the  
camera, and the parameters of the documentary project itself, which  
demanded that Tehching Hsieh arrange himself in the same place in the  
same posture 24 times each day for 365 days in order that the only  
trackable sign of the piece's duration--the growth of his hair--would  
be clearly readable.

If we think of meaningful memory as requiring some kind of narrative  
context and narrative closure, then in a way the film performs the  
opposite of that: the punches amount to something more like a  
cumulative register with no sense of movement toward an end, no way  
to track progress toward the one-year limit, just the hand of the  
punch clock pulsing the identically mechanical hours of each day as  
the artist gets shaggier and more haggard-looking.  It was kind of  
horrible to watch in the way it set up this conflict between... I  
don't know: endurance and entropy?  All the while defying the idea of  
meaningful duration?

So my question is about digitization and supplementarity, about how  
these dvd supplements might further complicate the relationship  
between event and documentation by opening up new spaces of  

Take care,

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