[-empyre-] Memory Errors
Madeleine Reich Casad
mir9 at cornell.edu
Thu Nov 15 13:51:49 EST 2007
Hi Norie, and apologies for the delay; I thought your question
merited a more thorough response than I had time for last night.
On Nov 13, 2007, at 6:18 PM, Norie Neumark wrote:
> HI MIckey,
> On 13/11/2007, at 1:21 PM, Madeleine Reich Casad wrote:
>> . 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.
> this sounds really fascinating. can you give us an example? also
> i'm curious about how you find this works differently with new
> media and with literary artworks?
I wanted to back up a bit, since a few people have mentioned
Derrida's Archive Fever so far this month, and say something about
how I understand that book and how it influences my work. (It would
be interesting to hear from others about this, too.)
For me the most relevant and interesting aspects of Archive Fever
concern the "future anterior" aspect of the archive: according the
archival selection process, you store information with the future in
mind, and the selective filter of the archive thereby projects its
own authority into the future; that's how both the information itself
and the selecting authority of the archive manage to endure in time.
For Derrida, this "deferred obedience" relates to the system of
deferral inherent in writing itself: the idea that you write to an
absent party and read in the absence of the writer, and the authority
of "the archive" is one way to describe the forces that stabilize
meaning across that absence.
D. also describes the (present) moment of archivization as a virtual
moment, a moment of play between the opposing desires to simply
repeat the archive, on the one hand, and to obliterate it completely,
on the other. He connects this tension to the Freudian death drive,
a kind of energetic movement or vibration between two states of
quiescence or certainty. The self-preserving archive in that sense
is related to a subjectivity or identity that seeks to establish its
own self-unity by mastering or excluding its 'others' (ie a
subjectivity that desires certainty and quiescence).
This desire held in tension between endpoints is a common way of
talking about narrative pleasure or narrative engagement, too. But
that's obviously not the only way to think about the performative
aspect of media art, especially when you're dealing with artforms
that are nonlinearly or chaotically time-based, interactive and
emergent rather than pre-scripted, etc... I suppose that's one of
the things I meant by 'instantaneity and ephemerality': that
performative time, which isn't necessarily oriented toward a definite
end or projected future, but which nonetheless might take on that
orientation under certain circumstances. For me the most interesting
circumstances to think about here are political ones, ones having to
do with identity and the power of "the archive" itself
> can you give us an example?
One example I'm closely involved with at the moment is Agnes Hegedüs'
which engages Archive Fever directly. It invokes and undercuts
various kinds of institutional authority (eg museum, national
treasury, the myth of coherent identity itself) and, I think, likens
narratives to virtual objects that act like nodes in a network of
subjectivities. And then the stories and objects have their own webs
of interaction and affiliation, which raises questions about
ownership and selfhood and construction of identity within the
broader network. To me the most interesting thing is that the
network is non-uniform: different stories seem to be told in
different ways; they perform different kinds of interrelationships
between people and institutions, between the occasion of telling as
virtual interactive moment (one that also includes the user) and the
act of telling as self-projection into the future.
> also i'm curious about how you find this works differently with new
> media and with literary artworks?
Writing is one of many technological systems we engage with, and it
imports its own particular material and structural and medial
characteristics and limitations to our interactions and our
imagination. I do think writing entails externalization, a bid for
duration, a projective relationship to time. And literary prose has
a distinct relationship to the symbolic, certainly--writing is one of
the most abstract communications media around. But I think this
grants it its own flexibility, too: by virtue of being more abstract
than other media forms, it's somehow more plastic.... and by
extension more open to an emergent virtual and more responsive to
changes in the cultural imaginary than it often gets credit for.
I wouldn't really want to declare an absolute or binding
differentiation between media forms; I think they're all responsive
to each other, and that their interrelationship is always in flux.
But I also have the sense that the critical practices associated with
media art and literature don't always overlap in ways that do justice
to the artworks themselves, which I think should be the primary goal
of any critical engagement. That said, literary theory has ways of
talking about memory, loss, and identity that are still quite useful,
and new media have ways of engaging the space and the moment of the
virtual that are much subtler and more complex than (for example)
Derridean deconstruction can easily recognize....
I like John's metaphor of amplifying wave interference patterns to
describe what we might make of this relationship, too.
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