“All that Freud says is that we are receptive to an analogy between the two types of transgenerational memory or archive (the memory of an ancestral experience or the so-called biologically acquired character) and that ‘we cannot imagine [vorstellen] one without the other’[SE 23: 100]”(Derrida 27). A lot, right? But doesn’t it make sense. Allow me to present this sentiment in a different form:
Most families these days have a group chat, in said group chat a bunch of things can transpire. For example, my family likes to share pictures – screenshots (Yes we will screenshot you too), memes, pictures we just took, really any still image we can find that we thought worthy enough to introduce to the group. Recently, my mother started sending old photographs of my immediate family to the group, to which my response was “Are you cleaning or going through pictures?” (She was supposed to be cleaning her room.)
The old Girl Scout cookie box that has been sitting underneath her TV for years collecting dust represents the “archive”. The photographs are “the other.” Without the physical representation of the moment in history, it would be psychologically impossible for me to recollect – I hesitate to use remember because instances in an archive do not necessarily come from the person viewing the contents of the experience, but from the transgenerational memory referred to in the opening quote, but we will explore the irony of this as well – falling asleep in a car seat even though I was the person who physically did it.
Where the concept of archiving becomes muddied is when the archive becomes self-destructive in itself defeating the purpose it was intended to have in the first place. In a basic sense, the archive is supposed to become a museum of a moment in time. However, the authors lament “In an archive, there should not be any absolute dissociation, any heterogeneity or secret which could separate (secernere), or partition, in an absolute manner. The archontic principle of the archive is also a principle of consignation, that is, of gathering together.”(10) Basically saying (referring back to the instance of my family’s group chat), if the box and its contents can be considered an archive, likewise the text message transcript is also an archive. The consignation of these two archives recreates the archive, now comprised of text and image, that have no connection what so ever when examining the context of it’s contents. Furthermore, within that new archive are smaller, possibly infinite (depending on the amount of space in a phone) archives that are associated with specific instances, not necessarily a collective ideal.
All of this goes to depict that the structure and definition of an archive is circumstantial. If examined closely enough, an “archive” (quoted because it is now an ambiguous concept) is defined by the experience one is trying to perceive. The medium through which the archive is presented also changes the overall experience of the archive. Had I physically been given the pictures my mother sent to us, I could examine the picture: how it was developed, the weathering of the image, the coloration which can present another history, the writing possibly on the back, and so much more. Experiencing the image through technology limited me to only see a digital reconfiguration of the image and not the archived history that went along with the picture.
All this being said, I now give you a chance at the pen: Knowing that an archive has different mediums and an ever changing definition, how can one fully experience the contents of an archive in the way the author intended? I also challenge you to consider, was there ever an intended experience an author wanted when they created the archive?
*Here is the picture in case you were wondering. Bria circa 1995