[-empyre-] November 2007 on -empyre- : Memory Errors in theTechnosphere: Art, Accident, Archive

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina gabyvargasc at prodigy.net.mx
Wed Nov 14 10:25:36 EST 2007

I think that a lot is lost when the 'recording' live events becomes
'documentation', an archival present perfect that appears disjointed from
the before and the after.  We cannot really understand written texts from
the past, because all the hidden meanings, which perhaps were the most
important ones, become impenetrable to us.  It is the same with video, which
when raw is even difficult to watch and then when edited is very obviously
construed; or with music, where the feeling of the performance does not get
imprinted on the digital recording (maybe the analogue used to be a bit
better at that, but not much).  We all perform but we live in the here and
now, and then when that is past the traces we leave behind are no more than
that: traces, even if they are big ones like books, videos, art pieces and
so on.

This is something we have to deal with all the time in anthropology: by the
time a book or an article are published what we are describing has changed,
often quite dramatically.  Then, the 'natives' we so 'documented' make use
of these documents to re-create themselves in the present, taking those
documents as 'true repositories' of their past.  First our documentation and
writing 'fixed' the 'real' and then it all gets entangled in weird ways with
the re-enactment of the 'real past'.  In anthropology we made the mistake,
for over a century, of thinking we could actually understand 'what is going
on' and distinguish 'the real' from the constructs.  Fortunately we are
beginning to grow out of that arrogance; but as in art, it is difficult to
see where exactly we are now going.

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina

On 11/13/07 5:09 PM, "Norie Neumark" <norie5 at mac.com> wrote:

> Hi Mickey,
> On 12/11/2007, at 4:46 PM, Madeleine Reich Casad wrote:
> ....
>> Desire for constructive interference doesn't necessarily mean
>> elimination of difference, but it may nonetheless lead us to
>> valorize certain kinds of mediation.  I'm wondering how this
>> relates to Norie's remarks about memory and the transforming
>> presence of cameras?  It's interesting that both of the examples
>> you mentioned, Norie, have to do with small groups performing some
>> kind of cohesion:
>>> I remember the moment when difficult family holidays suddenly
>>> turned into fun family holidays when I finally learned to
>>> "perform" fun family holiday by "documenting" it with my camera.
>>> In those analogue days,none of us ever looked at the family photo
>>> archive much (except to perform nostalgia).
>> and
>>> something my students told me about -- one way they use their
>>> mobile phones socially is to take photos of each other, look at
>>> them, but not necessarily send them. seems to be something about
>>> taking the photo and making the memory.
>> Performing mythos in real time... and inspired more by the fact of
>> documentation than by the document itself?  I guess it's open for
>> argument how the increasing ubiquity of the observing lens shapes
>> our behavior.  The presence of a camera at a family holiday might
>> create a frame of reference that connects the collective family
>> experience to a particular kind of visual archive.  Or it could act
>> like a superego, making sure that everyone is on record as enjoying
>> themselves.  Not that these are the only possibilities, of course,
>> but I wonder if these two functions are even separable, or to what
>> extent?  At any rate, I think the (analog) 'camera-ready' events
>> and memories created for a family holiday differ greatly from
>> ephemeral (but potentially retainable) cellphone shots at a party
>> or bar.  In the latter case, taking and viewing a photo marks the
>> event's passage into the interpretive framework of dominant visual
>> culture, but whether or not to 1) circulate an image beyond the
>> immediate gathering or 2) save it as a 'document' would depend on
>> other considerations....Maybe primarily social ones?  What else is
>> going on in the cellphone camera case?
> I think it's not so much the "fact of documentation" as the *act* of
> documenting... which is what Maria discussed in relation to
> peformativity. Which is why i was interested in bringing these
> examples up in the context of John's energy discussion -- because
> there is a palpable energy in those mediated performative encounters.
> That is, in the family photo instance, and in my performative
> encounters works with Maria, there is something like an energy shift
> at the moment when the relationships, with family or strangers, are
> mediated. It doesn't feel like a framing or superego thing, but like
> entering a zone *together*... we experience it as a zone of play...
> it's like there is an energy created together when we all enter that
> zone, and the invitation to enter is the invitation to document the
> moment which is about to happen. I suspect a similar thing is
> happening with the cellphone cameras events...
> norie
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