Friday, January 23, 2009

Memories Failed, Memories Disciplined

Robert Mapplethorpe (1987) Chest

In the beginning of the “camera”…it did not produce the photo…it produced an image that could only be captured by tracing the image… The images of the camera then were fleeting, rarely saved, rarely archived as they are in our postmodern world of scrapbooks, facebook photobooks, myspace accounts – archives of our lives. Yet, the fleetingness of the image is the same today, for the image captured is of but a moment, a moment caught in time and (re)produced in the hopes that in such production our memories can be captured just like the image itself. Yet, our memories are not our own. They are always, in part, those of the Other and what story, what memory the Other seeks from us or allows us to tell. I cannot reveal certain memories to you because they may be inappropriate, traumatic, inaccessible and therefore are disciplined from being told, hidden from view. My “photo” then is not “my” photo. That above is not, even if I would like it to be, my chest, my six pack, my pec. It is not me above. Rather, it is an image of someone I do not know created by a famous photographer, made famous by capturing such images – producing photos, producing anxieties, outrage, passions, desires. Yet, it is an incomplete photo, it is missing a part, but in missing a part is a “complete” piece of art, a complete piece of work provoking and evoking reactions.

My interest is in this absence, that which is not present, and the possibilities to be imagined. What will “we” imagine and will “it” in part be what we hope to be there, a normal mirror image of the pectoral muscle already present, for that is often the story that “incomplete” photos allow us to tell. That story makes the subject of the photo complete. Yet, what if we imagine it to be something else, a pectoral muscle “disfigured” by a burn, a tattooed pectoral muscle – tattooed with the image of a name - the name of a lover, a mother, a child, a lost love, a lost mother, a lost child? What possibilities does this incomplete image provide for the stories that the “image” can tell…perhaps illustrating that any photo whether complete or (in)complete illuminates that the memories constructed in the telling of such memories are always incomplete, failures because of the partiality of language…that language cannot tell us all that we wish it could tell. Does this incomplete image then perhaps allow us to explore our own anxieties of what is absent, what we wish was present, and how in such failure, such incompleteness we can encounter the Other in new ways?

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