[-empyre-] story-time and the archive

monica notebook at justfornow.net
Fri Nov 23 06:16:48 EST 2007

dear norie, renate and all,
what i want to try and do in this mail is to begin to respond to 
norie's post about the untimely with reference to accident/ and the 
uk data accident...

norie wrote:
can you say more about... how "untimely" may be more productive? 
(intuitively I agree but would like to know more how you got to this 
place in your thinking... and where you think 'untimely' could take 

Re; untimely /timeless': re-thinking what these terms mean can be 
conceptually and strategically useful in thinking about how the 
significance of an event / artwork at the time when it happens 
relates to how it will be positioned or operate (or not) 
subsequently, yes, Mickey's mail (Nov 18) does point to this:
<But here too I think about power, the constraints that make the 
performative 'readable' / meaningful / "felicitous" in the first 
place -and - D. also describes the (present) moment of archivization 
as a virtual moment, a moment of play between the opposing 

this conflict of opposing desires seems to go to the heart of the 
matter of how what,when and why something happened and how the forms 
of its archivisation/ preservation are reconciled.

if our relation to time is largely constructed by chronologies which 
are partisan to the investments of prevailing power structures and 
this determines what is relegated, both in the present and the 
'past', then a system of consignment may be said be at work which 
induces oblivion for anything contra-indicatory, or untimely, to 
maintaing the authority of those interests.

So, to try and be brief,if we think of the desires of archivisation 
as being polarised between the priority of preserving the 
artwork/object per se, and the priority of enabling its significance 
to endure, i'd suggest that the extreme desire of preservation is to 
establish an incontrovertible status of value at the time and 
maintain it subsequently: i.e. predictively (to be timeless: 
unchangeable status quo/monumentalisation / stabilised form and 
value) - whereas the desire for an event/artwork to have duration is 
primarily concerned with unconstraining the artwork from its 
chronological assignment (to become untimely) so that it has the 
potential to continue to be to communicable within a continuum whose 
parameters of form and value are not predictable. ( transmissibility/ 
transformation- the kind of processes Tim describes in his mails 
about the Goldsen Archive as resource 19&20 Nov).

<storytelling is integrally woven into the archival event so that the 
archive is less a repository, in the traditional passive "document" 
bound sense, than a site or collection of ongoing exchange and 

finally,this gets me to the accident as the quintessential example of 
the 'untimely'. the 'untimely' power of the accident disrupts what we 
perceive as our personal/public status quos by erupting from 
co-existent parts of our continuum to which our norms, more or less, 
generally render us oblivious. ( the accident reminds us as benjamin 
suggests,that we shouldn't be surprised- or maybe forget- 'that the 
state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the 

the shock generated  by the uk data accident is because it wasn't 
supposed to happen, it rocks our personal security and the status quo 
of the uk government unpredictably.

even if , at some level we were aware that this was an accident 
waiting to happen,the 'untimely-ness' of the accident's disruptive 
energy provokes a crisis  which unexpectedly jolts/ contradicts held 
values ( an authoritative functional governing system is revealed as 
dysfunctional) and brings another kind of  'timely-ness' to come to 
our attention. here, the accident has returned questions of the issue 
of mass data management/ the relation of individuals to the 
electronic State/ to the centre of public debate because it is no 
longer about distant bureaucracy, for 25 million people it's suddenly 
a potential  identity and financial security problem which is 

Hello Monica, and all,
I've been away from the computer again and just catching up... I 
realise you've moved on a bit from here, but would still like to 
respond to this because there's so much here...
On 20/11/2007, at 12:42 AM, monica wrote:

Hello to everyone on the list,
this is Monica. first of all thank you to Renate and Tim for inviting 
me to take part in the discussion. i've been a little slow to join in 
due to my current recalcitrance about writing 'biography' and 
therefore in fulfilling Renate and Tim's completely reasonable 
request to provide one before joining the list. eventually i did 
manage a paragraph and Renate and Tim also sourced an existing 
version on the net.... (apologies and thanks here on both counts).

although reluctant to divert the ongoing discussion by introducing a 
further topic i thought i'd just mention this difficulty in "reading 
oneself (or anything else) backwards' - as Benjamin describes 
autobiography in One Way Street -in case its an issue anyone else 
would like to discuss in terms of the biographical entry and the 

There are two other related aspects - at least- of the discussion 
which i 'd like to pick up on:  the figure of the storyteller and 
processes of storytelling which Norie introduced in an early post - 
embodied, rather than representationally or technologically 
configured means of reproducing past experience or events in the 
present -  and suggestions that the internet is, or provides, a 
renewed space for "oral tradition".

'story telling', it seems to me might be said to have a similar 
relationship to the material archive as performance art does to some 
forms of its documentation, or the 'hearsay' of an event to its 
authorised evidence. what interests me about the paradigm of 
storytelling, in relation to the archive, is that its structures of 
re-making are less concerned with accurate replication / verification 
of an original 'something' than with transmitting the experience of 
that 'something' in the now in which the 'story' is told and 
encountered. If the archive can be thought of as a repository then 
perhaps the 'story ' is more like an ark with the ability to travel, 
and carry both teller, listeners and readers, into expanded 
experiences of time which do not collapse it into partisan 

this is all really interesting. i like your figure of story as ark, 
both for its play on the arc of the narrative and for the 
foregrounding of the invitation to travel... that story telling can 
offer.The way of thinking about the relation of the ark to the 
repository, story to archive,  seems to tie in with Mickey's points 
(Nov 18):
  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 why...
I think Tim takes this up too, in his response to this post...

What also interests me about the 'storytelling'  paradigm is the 
productive use of the absence or loss of the original that it makes 
in converting this lack of an object into a renewed space of 
production and reproduction, and a kind of  fearlessness about 
reproducing the past quite permissively.
What do you think about the role of voice in this "productive use of 
the absence or loss of the orignal". Somehow it's as if having the 
'same' voice of the storyteller enables this...And also this inflects 
the storyteller's voice, playing with but revealing its own 
impossible authenticity?
- additively/ contradictorily as it passes from one person and 'time' 
to another, prioritising communication over replication or concerns 
about authenticity or definitive representation. i.e. the way in 
which its forms allow for a repetitiveness that tends away from the 
constraints of duplication towards transformation.
this repetitiveness that tends away from duplication also ties in 
with something Mickey said in relation to Derrida in that same post?:

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

So i've also been interested in the parts of the discussion  which 
have touched on 'time' and the digital  as potentially  'timeless'. 
When i first started to try and write about the relation of embodied 
experience/ performance/ time-based works to either their aftermath 
as documentation or their correlation and prolongation in other 
media, i frequently used 'timelessness' to describe the 
non-chronological potential of the internet as archive. But what i'd 
like to propose now is that re-thinking this 'time' as being 
'untimely' rather than 'timeless', may be more productive.
can you say more about this... how "untimely" may be more productive? 
(intuitively I agree but would like to know more how you got to this 
place in your thinking... and where you think 'untimely' could take 

i realise you've discussed this a bit in your next post, relating 
'permisiveness' to untimely-ness (which i'm permitting myself to copy 
out of your next post -- i'll make it green to signal it's 
'untimeliness' here):
what i want to suggest about the time of 'the-digital-archival-event' 
is that its 'permissiveness' comes from a capacity for 
'untimely-ness' rather than  'timelessness'. as e.g. in technically 
substituting for, and expanding, hearsay/ oral tradition/ word of 
mouth/, radio and sound recording permitted us to become accustomed 
to the uncanny experience of the voice as disembodied and the 
'untimely' event of being able to hear dead people singing.

it's the ways in which art makes use of 'untimely-ness' as 
intervention,    whether as an embodied action/ event or the ways in 
which the media/data of its   continuations reveals other continuums, 
that interests me... which could maybe take into us the accident part 
of the discussion

but i'd still be really interested in hearing more... about the above 
too... examples??


empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Monica Ross
00 44 (0)1273 381480

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