Haunted by last season’s video letters
amateur films performing spectrality
by Lisa Stuckey
BIOGRAPHIC ENGAGEMENT WITH A LIVING ARCHIVE
The notion of family as mother, father, and child is a definition frequently promoted by psychotherapy, especially at the beginning of the twentieth century and, later, by National Socialist propaganda. The genre of family film is both symptomatic and performative, as it produces what it depicts. Perhaps it even leaves out conflicts, while knowing that they also integrally define the family.
My position and intention
Feeling both fascination and uneasiness towards these digitised 8mm and Super 8 films, this assemblage or collection of thoughts and documents will be full of an ambivalence that I am eager to celebrate. Only after two years am I able to claim what my artistic research interest in Four Siblings has been – which sounds much like a confession that draws on the evidence of experience and is drunk by negative media theory:i How does mediality occur? This assemblage acts as a process of dissection and diagnosis, speaking in terms of psychoanalysis. As a discipline slightly out of fashion, it is to be further defined as performative, to pursue another course of argument, while staying close to the material in a practice-driven way. Nodding to feminist materialism, this mappingii of thoughts on Four Siblings acts as a complicit,iii affectively involved, and immanent critique – it is transformative to the criticised and is itself subject to transformation.
Travels, festivals, and playing children are depicted in multiple variations: We tend to approach the filmic material through the idea that it opens to us, while we might not know what goes on beyond the filmic surface; in the Lacanian sense we are the butterfly (the separation of the eyes and gaze). Much is revealed by the people involved.
In this exposition the four siblings (my two aunts, uncle, and father) are abbreviated as A, C, M, and S.
What I did was separately to visit the four siblings in their homes, thereby already creating an intimate situation. Before translating the footage into another media milieuiv it is, as a production strategy, reintroduced to the private rooms of the four siblings – as the familiar site of home movies. Showing them images of their childhood and youth, they were able to recall and freely associate. To record their narration only in audio was a conscious decision as a way not to re-represent them. They seemed not to notice how I slightly manipulated them by choosing segments where the particular sibling appeared most of the time.
The change of milieu (from offline to online, from private to public) arrives with a reflection on the idyllic imagination of the family unit in the twentieth century and the re-enforcement of such an ideal promoted through migration.
i ‘Besides all ontology of the medial with its question “what is the medial”, it should rather be “when” and “under which circumstances does the medial occur”’ (Mersch 2014: 24, my translation).
ii Mapping is understood in the sense of a critical cartography: ‘A cartography is a theoretically based and politically informed reading of the present. Cartographies aim at epistemic and ethical accountability by unveiling the power locations, which structure our subject-position. As such, they account for one’s locations in terms of both space (geo-political or ecological dimension) and time (historical and genealogical dimension)’ (Braidotti 2013: 164).
iii Haraway ‘signalled the complicity with the cyborg as a resourceful way of changing research such as society from within’ (Åsberg 2009: 35).
iv Weber (2013: 107) describes the notion of ‘media milieu’ as an ‘interplay of various actors in different media milieus (production, distribution, and audience reception)’.
INTRODUCTION – HAUNTOLOGY OR OF BEING HAUNTED BY VIDEO LETTERS
A BIOGRAPHIC ENGAGEMENT WITH A LIVING ARCHIVE
THE UNCONSCIOUS ON THE FILMIC SURFACE
S.: It was said afterwards: Why did you fool around so much? At least my mother thought my behaviour devalues the recordings, but in reality that’s not what it was about.
A.: To not participate in such a festivity was inexcusable unless you were on another continent or planet.
And you always had to be in a great mood and at best appearance.