“…the issue is not freeing ourselves from representation. It’s really about being enlightened witnesses when we watch representations, which means we are able to be critically vigilant about both what is being told to us and how we respond to what is being told.” (bell hooks, “Cultural Criticism and Transformation.”)
“Brooding at the end of the world on my island of Sal in the company of my prancing dogs I remember that month of January in Tokyo, or rather I remember the images I filmed of the month of January in Tokyo. They have substituted themselves for my memory. They are my memory. I wonder how people remember things who don’t film, don’t photograph, don’t tape. How has mankind managed to remember? I know: it wrote the Bible. The new Bible will be an eternal magnetic tape of a time that will have to reread itself constantly just to know it existed.” (Chris Marker, Sans soleil.)
« 27 octobre
Qui sait? Peut-être un peu d’or dans ces notes ? » (“Who knows? Perhaps a bit of gold in these notes?” Roland Barthes, Journal de deuil.)
I’ve been told that when I was very, very young—so young I practically consider the period pre-cognitive—I had an eidetic memory, like my father. There was a period of tests and appraisals, of which, ironically enough, I remember very little. I don’t even know if I believe the story, memory having so much to do with faith, after all, and the notion of eidetic memory being highly controversial in the first place.
What I can remember is occasionally frightening other people with recall of particular landscapes or interior layouts—my memory having mostly been limited to perceiving objects in space, not information or sounds—and thereafter quietly, and only partially-consciously, training myself not to remember things in this way. Not to hold onto things in this way. (This is also what I meant by pre-cognitive: to member something, to hold something—all of these were enfleshed gestures, synesthetic, anti-dualistic. Memory was something that happened to your body, to the mind of your body. The opposite of remember wasn’t forget, but dismember. Pulling the limbs of memory apart.) And if I couldn’t help but hold onto things, I made sure, at the very least, not to talk about the things I held with anyone except my family, the only people I trusted (have ever trusted). And so, in this way, the “ability” (which had nothing to do with ability) mostly disappeared, although to this day I still find myself regularly lying to other people about not remembering things that I do remember in detail.
When I think about the memory of the Internet, and especially of the memory-repository of sites like Twitter or Google Books, I often think about what an eidetic memory would feel like for an amnesiac. The opposite of Ireneo Funes in Borges’ “Funes the Memorious,” the man who remembers everything and can’t forget anything—instead, someone who remembers everything and must forget it all. Someone for whom memory might be like Chris Marker’s eternal magnetic tape, but faulty; everything being remembered or recorded is at the exact same time being erased.
I read “previewable” texts on Google Books; often I come across that line, “Pages XX to XX are not available for preview.” When I do, it begins to appear to me that Google is now assuming the work once performed by time, by environmental disaster, by neglect, by zealots hovering over papyri: which is to say, all the persecutions, accidents, customs and habits that have historically removed pages from manuscripts. Frequently it even occurs that a page I have definitely read, only seconds before, will no longer be there when I click back—I, as a reader, having exceeded some mysterious page viewing limit whose parameters I have yet to identify.
It’s true that Google is making a global library, but its model is Alexandria. Google Books makes every book you read a ruin. Every act of reading, a glimpse into a book’s destroyed and partial future.