Stage 2. Fragments is ongoing and currently comprises five interconnected sound works, a complex layering of voice and sounds that suggest the breaking down of the full memory into stuttering segments. This second stage of the research examines the ongoing belief, contained within the journal and throughout the past twelve years, that the day’s events unfolded silently. Through the excavation of the memory I was to discover – or rediscover – the noise and loudness of 11 September 2001, of which Memory that I am, yet that I also wait for… marked the beginning. Moving on from using the unfolding events of 9/11 to understand differing concepts of remembering and memory retrieval, Fragments begins to explore ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ memories. Hard being the traumatic memory of brittleness and resistance that ruptures the present, soft as in non-traumatic memory that moves or transforms with emotional liquidity into a narrative of the past.
The layered sounds were collected from the sites of the previous installations and fragments of the recording from the original journal: constructing memories before erasing and destroying them; taking away the words; breaking down the sentences into spaces, sounds, and utterings; using the notion of language games as an active part of remembering where the memory comes to life through the voice, the tone, the words, and the space between the words. Each sound piece plays with the notion of flashbacks where repetition, fragmentation, and echoes become the memory returning repeatedly, making full use of the slippage discovered from the research in Stage 1. Noisy, dangerous, painful intrusions from the past, the ‘hard’ memories that surface from the tension between the desire to forget and the necessity of remembering, where ‘articulat[ing] the past historically […] means seizing hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger’ (Benjamin (1970) 1999: 247). The layering of the text and the sounds trace the ebb and flow of the event (11 September 2001), forward into the present and the present future, in auditory and textual flashbacks, and in intrusions from the past into the present.
The repetition of the voice here is memory’s ghostly echo, perhaps ‘to conjure away, as if by magic, the “thing” itself, the fear or the terror it inspires (for repetition always protects by neutralizing, deadening, distancing a traumatism, and this is true for the repetition of the televised images we will speak of later)’ (Derrida and Borradori 2003: 87). For Derrida the spectral notion of trauma is that which is both inscribed on the body from the event and that which is yet to come: it is a body possessed. In ‘Of Spirit’ Derrida (1989: 457) wrote ‘I shall speak of ghost, of flame, of ashes’, where spirit is a ghost that returns, the material that is left within the traces of memory and representation after the event, or the resonance of an echo within the haunted space, within the accumulation of the fragments of traumatic memories. Out of this conflict, out of the body’s reordering and disordering of time and replaying of the past, unfiled memories disrupt the present by reproducing the past or returning the individual to the traumatic event. For the traumatic experience divided from the beginning is never just one event that is experienced: trauma ‘splits time (being neither a “then” nor a “now”) and meaning (being neither significant nor nonsensical); it is neither pure fact nor pure fantasy, it comes both from within the subject (the endogenous fantasy) and from without (the original scene of seduction, and the second, possibly quite banal event that recalls it)’ (Brown 1992: 239).
Freud writes about this state as Nachträglichkeit, or deferred action trauma constituted by the relationship between two events or experiences and two competing impulses (see Freud 2015). Laplanche refers to it as a time of latency or ‘afterwardsness’ (Caruth and Laplanche 2001). It is a shadowy place of survival where the trauma awaits revelation, a challenging place of defence strategies and theatricality where life is lived on the outside to protect the haunted interior. Such a body/event would live as an unbearable interconnection of matter and potentiality, of organic aesthetic sensitivity and inorganic mechanical reproduction, a body steeped in conflict carrying within itself an impossible history, where the traumatised themselves become ‘the symptom of a history that they cannot entirely possess’ (Caruth 1995: 5).
For Derrida ((1994) 2006: 6–7), ghosts are not just emanations from the past they are very much of the present and of a time to come, inhabiting spectral moments that no longer belong to time. Cut out of time (and consciousness) the spectre remains invisible from this place it witnesses our inability to see it; unable to identify the ghost we must fall back upon its voice in an attempt to familiarise ourselves with its ghostly qualities (ibid.: 12). This notion of spectrality as part of deconstruction highlights the difficulty in reducing text and therefore memory to conditions of presence and absence. As Derrida wrote just five-weeks after 9/11, ‘we do not know what it is and so do not know how to describe, identify, or even name it’ (Derrida and Borradori 2001: 94), which characterises the paradoxical dimension synonymous with understanding trauma and its representation. The traumatic experience can be thought of as the return of what nevertheless remains to come, a ghost of or from the future, or the ghostly effect of what is never present. Within the nothingness, or this place of absence, perception is blinded and narration challenged, memories are the ghosts returning to haunt the body and the field that the body occupies creating opportunities within this work for the voice and sounds to navigate new directions forward as well as backward.
The four audio works of Fragments are held together by a separate sound piece, which is the explosive noise of the towers falling, the loudness of which cannot be contained with an intensity from which there is no escape. Words have diminished entirely to the pulsating and elongated rawness of sound. There is now no choice but to listen. This artwork marks the beginning of a different kind of remembering where the falling of the towers – too loud to hear at the time, despite my close proximity to the site, and inaccessible to memory systems – now becomes important to represent. Remembering has been a slow process, piecing together disparate fragments to prevent being overwhelmed or swallowed up entirely by the memory. The total destruction of the speaking language into these explosive sounds marks the complete unravelling of the fabric of memory and opens up the potential to reweave the journal writing into a new form that removes the text, and places its erased form into the present. Current experimentation with the explosive sounds links up sound with visuals that are divorced from the actual footage of 9/11 and marks the beginning of a new direction for the research and the beginning of an exploration into Baudrillard’s tangled mess of reality and fiction.
The collapse of the Twin Towers is unimaginable, but that is not enough to make it a real event. A surplus of violence is not sufficient to make an opening onto reality, because reality is a principle and this principle has been lost. (Baudrillard 2002: 413)