Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Memory and the body: "you are not the stuff of which you are made"




Last week you may remember Silbi talking about looking at a picture of herself and realizing that the person in the photo is no longer in existence. That comment immediately reminded me of this portion of a lecture by Richard Dawkins (in which he quotes a book by Steve Grand). Dawkins underscores this idea that the temporal continuity of one's body (i.e. the "you" that exists through time) is not really a fixed material but rather something closer to a wave (or chain reaction). I think this point is incredibly interesting in relation to Barthes ideas about photography and memory. The photograph not only freezes motion, but it freezes a (false) representation of the body as a fixed material entity. Do you remember how we talked about Peircean signs (symbol, index, icon)? Indexical signs are often associated with notions of "evidence" (i.e. smoke is an index of fire). Yet the indexical footprint of the personal photo seems to represents a sort of false evidence: an illusory connection to one's former mind and body. Feel free to check out the whole lecture here. And more TED (Technology Engineering Design) lectures here.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Irene Chien said...

Perhaps the non-fixity of our material bodies makes the moment in which this light bounced off of this configuration of matter to press upon this light-sensitive photographic plate makes the frozen moment of the photograph even more relevant as an index of presence. Precisely because this presence is so fundamentally ephemeral and in flux.

2/21/2007 5:02 PM  
Blogger Dan Ben-Nun said...

A short film called "The Hill" deals very nicely with themes of memory and its complex and subjective nature. I am trying to find an internet link or a spare copy that I can give to Irene to view. I will keep you guys updated when I find one!

2/25/2007 5:01 PM  

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