Archival form and/as content

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 2 First, however, I shall address the theory supporting my multi-modal approach to art history. Hayles’ attention to literary materiality is part of a recent theoretical trend which emphasizes the relations between knowledge formation and actual things. As Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka explain in their jointly edited volume on media archaeology[i], this focus derives from certain largely Germanic critiques of Michel Foucault which locate materiality as an important contributor to discourse. Central to this model is the work of Friedrich A. Kittler. Kittler meticulously mines cultural products for traces of media-related metaphor which he finds illustrative of the ways we think through (that is, both via and about) technology[ii]. Such work has been partly inspired by Jacques Derrida’s problematization of Foucauldian archival theory wherein he argues for a reciprocity between the ways we think and the ways we might record what we think. He suggests that Freud’s use of a child’s writing toy as a metaphor for memory is not apt so much as indicative of the relation between the fabric of our archives and manner in which we are able to mobilize meaning. His argument implies that aspects of media are already part of our experiential framework from the moment they exist. He states:

[…] archival technology no longer determines, will never have determined, merely the moment of the conservational recording, but rather the very institution of the archivable event. It conditions not only the form or the structure that prints, but the printed content of the printing: the pressure of the printing, the impression, before the division between the printed and the printer.[iii]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Much of Kittler’s work therefore demonstrates the mutation of the symbolic as coordinated by various archival factors including media.


4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Image of #arthistory rapid prototyping source file in production. (Creative Commons licensed image courtesy of Rob Myers, 2012)

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 [i] Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka eds. Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications, (Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001).

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 [ii] Friedrich A. Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer and Chris Cullens, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990).

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 [iii] Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 18.

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