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

Madeleine Reich Casad mir9 at cornell.edu
Wed Nov 14 14:25:57 EST 2007

> 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...

Thanks, Norie.  You describe that energy beautifully here, and you  
and Maria 'play' it beautifully in your work as well.

And these energies are totally real; I don't mean to suggest  
otherwise.  But I'm also interested in thinking about how such  
energies open onto larger structures of power.... in the hope that we  
might learn to dissuade them from doing so, I suppose.

You write that:

> the invitation to enter is the invitation to document the moment  
> which is about to happen.

I'm reading this invitation to document as also an invitation to  
become part of a document; I think it points to the uniqueness of the  
moment and also the way that, when we're aware of the moment's  
uniqueness we agree somehow to document it with our very selves, to  
be irretrievably changed by it, in ways that may not be predictable  
before the fact.  And accepting that unpredictability and the risk it  
entails is probably an essential element of joining the energy of the  
moment in the first place.

Maybe it takes some shift of awareness to draw the "magic circle"  
that differentiates (if only partially) the zone of play from that of  
non-play, and the presence of a mediating or recording device like a  
camera is enough to prompt that shift in awareness.

But I think it's also important to ask what forces we bring into the  
circle (desire, ideology, expectation...?) and how they shape the  
kinds of interaction that unfold within that zone.  (Eg, what defines  
the field of possibility, what options are available to us when we  
Play Together?  How do we know?)

So that's one reason why I wanted to think about specific recording  
devices as active 'players,' with characters, lives, and contexts of  
their own, which they actualize in us and bring into our interactions  
with each other.  The camera for example belongs to certain (image)  
economies of valuation and exchange, and certain cultural practices  
as well... The analog camera by its very nature points to after-the- 
fact-ness, and on some level that influences our interactions with  
it: our awareness of the after-the-fact, our anticipation of what the  
after-the-fact image might be, what it might look like, how it might  
relate to other photographs, how we might *want* it to relate to  
other photographs, etc.  But cellphone cameras, especially in your  
students' example, seem to do something different.

Which is how I ended up with all sorts of questions about the  
scenarios you described.  Like:  What does one customarily do with a  
cellphone camera, or how does one pose for a cellphone camera?  If  
after-the-fact is an option you can take or leave as you like, what  
possibilities do you have for using or circulating the potential  
after-the-fact images?  These are fairly new cultural developments,  
but it seems like customs, practices, and economies are emerging  
already....  So I wondered: if you're recording an image in  
anticipation of one day performing nostalgia, do you use a cellphone  
camera for that?  Or does that ritual of memorialization demand a  
different instrument?

Take care,

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