Memories from the dark heart of postmodernity

blog post

“In the film studio the apparatus has penetrated so deeply into reality that a pure view of that reality, free of the foreign body of equipment, is the result of a special procedure, namely, the shooting by the specially adjusted photographic device and the assembly of that shot with others of the same kind.”

Benjamin, ‘Work of Art… (Third Version)’, p. 263

Facebook yesterday, not for the first time in recent weeks, reminded me to remember.  What exactly it was I supposedly remembering – however – is far from clear.  That I had posted, on this day, three years ago?  This was no great surprise, particularly if we are – and I certainly have been – given over to dressing-up our prosthetic selves on a regular basis on its algorithmic soul.  What strikes me about Facebook’s new little tool is not that it recalls something in particular – which almost everything does anyway; rather, that it puts a stake on recalling for recalling’s sake (an art for art’s sake derivative?).  In nice frilly colour – shades of pink, light blue, and mandarin, reminiscent of a birthday party – I was being asked to suggest something particular to my ‘friends’: that I was piercing past time with the ordination (for there is something religious in this whole procedure) of an event, while also saying that it was somehow unfinished, and must come back as a present reminder of our tie to an ever unfolding temporality.  That the picture it suggested I ‘share’ again was quite so abstract (it was taken with my mobile on a sweltering train from Nice to Marseilles) struck me as ironic: surely part of the Facebook memory-machine’s endeavour is to resurrect what used to be called ‘transparencies’ (using reversible film to have ‘positive’ instead of negative images – used for slideshows etc.), allowing us to re-show miniature past showings, but here through the medium of flexive promptings from the perverse sacred core of Facebook’s spleen.  Kind of like going to the doctor to check muscle reflex with a little hammer on a wearing joint, our memory is now part of what Michael Taussig called a ‘nervous system’ of affective social emotions.

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