“a final comment on the will ‘to connect what cannot be connected’ in archival art. again, this is not a will to totalize so much as a will to relate—to probe a misplaced past, to collate a misplaced past (sometimes pragmatically, sometimes parodistically), to ascertain what might remain for the present…it assumes anomic fragmentation as a condition not only to represent but to work through, and proposes new orders of affective association, however partial and provisional, to this end, even as it also registers the difficulty, at times the absurdity, of doing so.
this is why such work often appears tendentious, even preposterous. indeed, its will to connect can betray a hint of paranoia—for what is paranoia if not a practice of forced connections and bad combinations, of my own private archive, of my own notes from the underground, put on display. on the one hand, these private archives do question public ones: they can be seen as perverse orders that aim to disturb the symbolic order at large. on the other hand, they might point to a general crisis in this social law—or to an important change in its workings whereby the symbolic order no longer operates through apparent totalities. for freud the paranoiac projects meaning onto a world ominously drained of the same…might archival art emerge out of a similar sense of a failure in cultural memory, of a default in productive traditions? for why else connect so feverishly if things did not appear so frightfully disconnected in the first place?
perhaps the paranoid dimension of archival art is the other side of its utopian ambition—its desire to turn belatedness into becomingness, to recoup failed visions in art, literature, philosophy, and everyday life into possible scenarios of alternative kinds of social relations, to transform the no-place of the archive into the no-place of utopia…this move to turn ‘excavation sites’ into ‘construction sites’ is welcome in another way too: it suggests a shift away from a melancholic culture that views the historical as little more than the traumatic.”
—hal foster, “an archival impulse.” there has been a lot of work recuperating paranoia for feminism. philosopher sandra bartky has noted that paranoia is the essential feminist affect or mode: you are looking for sexism, racism, classism, etc. everywhere—and it IS everywhere! they really are out to get you or, at the very least, they don’t care that they are getting you, or they don’t care enough not to get you. but i think transforming paranoia and trauma—not doing away with them—is relevant for many reasons.
“if it is the accident which pursues the witness, it is the compulsive character of the testimony which is brought into relief: the witness is ‘pursued,’ that is, at once compelled and bound by what, in the unexpected impact of the accident, is both incomprehensible and unforgettable. the accident does not let go: it is an accident from which the witness can no longer free himself.
but if, in a still less expected manner, it is the witness who pursues the accident, it is perhaps because the witness, on the contrary, has understood that from the accident a liberation can proceed and that the accidenting, unexpectedly, is also in some ways a freeing.”
—shoshana felman, “education and crisis, or the vicissitudes of teaching” in testimony: crises of witnessing in literature, psychoanalysis, and history
sara ahmed, queer phenomenology
cathy caruth, unclaimed experience: trauma, narrative, and history
ann cvetkovich, an archive of feelings: trauma, sexuality, and lesbian public cultures
shoshana felman, the scandal of the speaking body
sianne ngai, ugly feelings
stanley cavell in the forward to shoshana felman’s super-important and well-quoted the scandal of the speaking body. endlessly redescribing is all i want to do in life and, mostly, is.
karen finley, a certain level of denial