Haunted by last season’s video letters­­

amateur films performing spectrality

by Lisa Stuckey


I have been haunted by the archive; I summoned its ghosts, or the other way round; I have been haunted to analyse.


Hauntologyi (between haunting and ontology) is a critical figuration rather than a metaphysical metaphor. It emphasises the potential of non-linear memory, connected with various others, eventually including spectres. Haunting is usually imagined as a movement similar to a stream of images that move in a liminal vibrating stage of simultaneous presence and absence. A living archive is thought of as one that can be engaged with, even though ‘the structure of the archive is spectral. It is spectral a priori: neither present nor absent’.ii Film and archival theories, with which reflections on amateur film frequently come into touch, seem themselves to be haunted by their own psychoanalytic notions (e.g., of Freud or Derrida).

Media practices imply the loss of the image that is constantly transforming and ‘becoming spectre’ – the blurring of the pixel – they oscillate between the desire to mediate and affix memories and the desire to make them disappear, which Braidotti expresses as becoming imperceptible, ‘what we humans truly yearn for is to disappear by merging into this generative flow of becoming, the precondition for which is the loss, disappearance and disruption of the atomized, individual self. The ideal would be to take only memories and to leave behind only footsteps.’iii Footsteps here surely stand for the notion of trace. How can a spectral subjectivity of becoming be imagined? By shifting from representation to performance, or to spectrality as a ‘non-present(ational) figure?’iv


Instead of placing archives between the poles of present and absent, haunting is a dominant characteristic of archival arrangements (public, private, or secret ones) and engaging with these means slippage has already occurred before the non-linear time of the virtual regime has been introduced. The spectrality of the exposures implies not presenting them merely in a light of nostalgia, which is a common attribution in filmic Super 8 ‘flashes’, nor attributing them as purely authentic. Rather, by reframing media artefacts, their digital ghostly appearance is addressed as a structuring influence onto the family up to the present. Thus, spectrality in this context signals a ‘spectral logic [that] is de facto a deconstructive logic’.v

i See Derrida (1994).

ii Derrida (1995: 54).

iii Braidotti (2013: 136).

iv See also Blanco and Peeren (2013: 7).

v Derrida and Steigler (2013: 39).

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‘there could be no archiving without titles

(thus without names and without the archontic

principle of legitimization, without laws, without

criteria of classification … )’.

  Derrida (1995: 30)