[-empyre-] screen and desire

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Wed Jul 25 01:32:39 EST 2012

Thanks so much, Sean.  This is really an interesting summary of screen media's relation to screen memory.  One reason that Renate's been so quiet on the list this summer is because she's preparing work for a multimedia show at the Freud Museum in London in September, with one piece being entitled, "Screen Memories."  This is a piece that toggles between digitized Super 8 footage of home movies, various narratives about the paternal relation to home movies, and sound tracks that include the whirling of the Super 8 projector (a sound that in itself is becoming something of an historical enigma) and the disintegration of the brittle Super 8 footage as she screened it one final time for digitization.  Here the effect of screening was literally to enact something akin to the death drive through which the marvel of artistic production resulted.

I think I might have mentioned on the list earlier in the month that I've been inclined to draw a parallel between the uncertain internalizations of digital scansion (which often doesn't recognize the symbolic system being scanned into the machine) and the procedure of what Laplanche calls 'traumatophilia' through which internalized 'enigmatic signifiers' [that is, we know that they signify but not what] are regenerated artistically and symbolically with new energy and force.  But the result might skip a beat or a register from the initial internalized sign.  The screen provides the mediation of passage for this translation.

Regarding the relation to the future, I like to think of this result not as the production of a "possible future" with utopian potential but, in your words, as more of an alternate world awaiting inscription in the future.  In his sense, rather than screening us from trauma and anxiety, screens facilitate the production of emergent symbolics deriving from the energetics of "traumatophilia."  

I apologize to the non-theory members of the list since I realize that this is all rather dense and abstract, and a very brief summary of 4 long seminars of Laplanche, but I think it's very cool how our thoughts about the virtual nature of screening seem to converge.


Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York. 14853
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Sean Cubitt [sean.cubitt at unimelb.edu.au]
Sent: Monday, July 23, 2012 9:19 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: [-empyre-] screen and desire

A brief aside on scott's brief aside

There's certainly something psychoanalytic; and it certainly involves the
screen metaphor: but it may be that our screen architectures are more
involved with the repetition compulsion, the entropic side of the instinct
to order our environments. The repetitive iteration of pixels is noise,
like any repetition: in this it is a map of Flusser's idea of human
photographers as functionaries of the photographic apparatus; only now
each pixel is subject to the logic of running through all possible
options. The process is only abbreviated by reducing 'redundant'
differences through codec organisation in blocks, macroblocks and Groups
of Blocks. This is how to understand the screen metaphor as akin to
Freud's 'screen memories', which in psychoanalysis stand between
consciousness and traumatic repressed memories.

In some respects, screens operate on our behalf the same repression of
trauma as would otherwise be done by the unconscious. One question then is
about the socialisation (and automation) of unconscious processes

The second concerns the reaction against socialised and automated
repression. The cost of repressing traumatic memories is, as Agamben
argues in the book on Method, is to repress experience, repress in effect
the present. The reaction, from Heidegger to new age 'mindfulness', is to
return to presence. But the presence to which we return  is (newly)
anthropocentric, shaped by its passage through automation, and deprived of
both memory (because it is the fruit of repression) and therefore of the
kind of processual temporality which creates virtuality - orientation
towards the future.

In response to this reaction, screen media have seized upon a limited
conception of the virtual as their proper domain: the production of
imaginary scenarios, as ever a proper function of consciousness, but in
contemporary media presented increasingly not as possible futures but as
alternate worlds - ie without the utopian potential (which would of course
require the kind of future-orientation which produces also anxiety).

Screens screen us from trauma and anxiety, but in doing so can only filter
the imagination of perpetual presence.

(it isn't the grid as such, though that is a challenge, but the
transitions between ubiquity and universality that are the problem

On 23/07/2012 04:52, "Scott Mcquire" <mcquire at unimelb.edu.au> wrote:

>A brief aside to Sean
>"In the scanned screen, completion is permanently held out as presence,
>permanently denied -- a dialectic of the unstable attept to construct a
>permanent present."
>Sounds a bit like the screen as desire in the Lacanian of lack?

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