[-empyre-] Memory Errors

Madeleine Reich Casad mir9 at cornell.edu
Sun Nov 18 15:58:13 EST 2007

Hi Norie,

On Nov 16, 2007, at 9:36 PM, norie neumark wrote:

>> 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.
> Do you think the concept of performativity is relevant here? (yes,  
> i'm obsessed) Archivizaton as performative might be somewhere  
> between these opposing desires -- actualising a potential archive  
> that is not just a repeated archive but not having to obliterate  
> the existng archive to do so?

Yes, absolutely!  But here too I think about power, the constraints  
that make the performative 'readable' / meaningful / "felicitous" in  
the first place, and what makes a particular performative act  
desirable to us, why we gravitate to it, what kinds of vibrational  
resonance (to continue the energy metaphor-or-is-it-) we seek out and  

>> 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' Things Spoken,
>> http://www.mediaartnet.org/works/things-spoken/
>> 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.
> this is a great example and now i see where you're going (or is it  
> coming from?) in relation to the political and institutional  
> authority. i think what you say about the network being non-uniform  
> is really important... i sometimes wonder if that sense is lost in  
> network fever, whereas face to face it can be clearer that  
> different ( and the "same") stories perform different  
> interrelationships.
>>> 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.
> me too! though do you think he's presenting it as a metaphor? John?
> best
> norie
>> Mickey
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