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The archive of time regained. The form of imagination

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By Natalia Taccetta in July 2017

Image, imagination and memory make up the triptych that inexorably links the politics of memory with the politics of image, as if everything learnt about the former must also resist analysis in the latter. Much of contemporary thought that comes from this fabric seems to be linked to the search for what Jean-Luc Godard called “the just image”, that which brings together the visually responsible with the ideologically modulated. Considering the Argentinean post-dictatorship case, it would be an image that takes into account the lack of a body, the impossibility of grief and the absence of burial. Just will be the image that shapes the abjection of this trio.

Between September and November 2015 Albertina Carri exhibited her work Operación fracaso y el sonido recobrado (Operation failure and the sound recovered) at Sala PAyS near the Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism in the Parque de la Memoria, Buenos Aires. Through her work, the filmmaker (Los rubios, Géminis, Cuatreros) explores the field of installation or the so-called “expanded cinema”. Without trying to define or categorize, we could simply say that the work is based on a certain idea of heterotopia to conceive the image as a space in which it is itself transformed. “Space of otherness” or heterotopia would be a place diverted from its category of origin, which contains a logic of counter-placement, of inversion, of distortion of its first destination and its symbolic and cultural meaning.

Operación fracaso…is a dislocation in the canon of the image, a drift, a diverted path of a certain cinematographic and artistic hegemony to address the space-temporality of memory. Carri’s notion is imbued with cinematographic and literary references and feeds off a certain contemporary obsession with the archive, the result of policies held by the Argentinean State between 2003 and 2015 on ways of thinking about what is public. Her work expresses an intertextual poetics that considers her time and status as the daughter of desaparecidos, the disappeared. She does so by configuring five events that are deliberately not only framed within pain or melancholies but challenge the affective coordinates of her whole generation.

The fragments of Operación fracaso…recall the “dialectical images” with which Walter Benjamin conceived the articulation of history and the configuration of the collection. Without the continuity of the chronology, he favoured an erratic collection, unpacked like his library; an open archive of/to the living that transcends the personal and the self-portrait. In this respect, the installation forms part of a personal interdisciplinary story, which regards artistic experience as a network of emotions. Carri’s images can be questioned from multiple perspectives using anachronism as a methodological principle. To talk about the present, she goes back to the past of the 1940s, to the television news of the 1970s, to old, discarded material, to her mother’s letters towards the end of the 1970s and to her determination to continue a paternal research decades later well into the 2000s. With this dislocation, the work does not respond to genealogies or recognize antecedents, but is rather obsessed with the relevance of the question about time and how to shape it.

The heuristic potency of her images lies in the strength of the interstice, much like the atlas designed by art historian Aby Warburg in the late 1920s. With metaphorical clarity and a mise en abyme, the second plate of Warburg’s picture atlas Mnemosyne (designed towards the end of his life) is dedicated to the iconological motif of “Atlas”. As suggested by Georges Didi-Huberman, it personifies the figure of the hard work of Warburg himself and any artist who wants, like Atlas, to shoulder a task. With the body bent forward, almost on his knees, the young Titan bears an enormous celestial body that makes him incline his head forwards because he must hold the “world on his back”. Carri, perhaps, repeats the gesture with a version of the world beset with doubts and disappearance.

Warburg presented the atlas as a model of a writing of history that sought to escape chrono-normativities so that the images challenge the euchronia to return a patina of non-coincidence to time. As in Carri’s images, past and present come together and expel, criticize and transform themselves. Her archive is problematic when “the law of what can be said”, as suggested by Foucault in The Archaeology of Knowledge in 1969, is expanded in the gesture of imagination. The artist expands the rules of enunciation of everything it is possible to say and, in keeping with Friedrich Nietzsche’s second Untimely Meditation, takes on the need to consider the past-present relation in the figure of appropriation, conceived as affective experiences and assuming the power of the conscious praxis of the prevailing continuities and the need for flight.

Carri explores a critical iconology separating the unheard, unremembered, invented and traditional surfaces. She responds to all of them with the configuration of a space that allows us to wander around her map capturing a visual network of diversions linked to memory, disappearance and the need to make room for what is, strictly, impossible to remember. This immemorial takes the form of a trans-iconographic field that poses the question through the relationship between the strata of time based on the old brief duet of word and image. The words follow one another over images that no longer form precise graphic signs but experiences of recollection.

Carri’s atlas is an enormous repository of altarpieces convoked by a painstaking montage that destroys continuity and establishes links. She dismantles any traditional account and reconstructs historical-affective paths. The work makes possible an experience, that of the image as the consummation of the cognitive, that of transit and the reassembly, reframing and juxtaposition of the multi-channels, that of the disparity of the accounts, that of the account plagued by “dissociative approaches” like those that Didi-Huberman attributes to Warburg. The artist assumes a history a priori that submits her images to systems that shape events and objects through which we move with the emotional fabric itself. But the discursive logic of Operación fracaso… does not bear the same analysis as Foucault’s archive as there are no precise logics, although the subject remains on the margin like an empty point. She does so by linking the image to the deconstruction of the (unrecognizable) reference and the iterability of the disaffected voice that is not remembered.

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