COMPOSITE MEMORIES -V-
Updated: Oct 14
Jean-Francois Podevin's Time Machines by Colin Gardner
(continued from part-4)
Voluntary memory thus proceeds by sequences of frozen snapshots which form a series of former presents that now happen to be in the past. What escapes the spectator at this primary stage of the images’ construction is the past’s being as past. We proceed as if the past could only be constituted after it has first been marked as present. Each past-present moment constructed through the postcards has to wait for a new present to arrive so that the previous one can pass by, much like the way we mark duration by tearing off the days of a desk calendar.
For Podevin, like Proust’s Marcel, the past can only preserve itself as a virtual series of past-presents which haunt the actual present without transforming it into something different. Their problem is the same: how to save for themselves the past as it is preserved in-itself so that they can actively transform it in the act of narration?
The answer lies in the harnessing of memories as a form of apprenticeship in order to transform them into art. Podevin mines his past not by attempting to consciously and wilfully capture it as it really happened (or by falling into the black hole of involuntary memory that, in the form of biting into the Madeleine, threatened to overwhelm the unfortunate Marcel), but by transferring it into the higher form of collaborative art. For, as Deleuze argues, Proust’s work is not oriented to the past and the discoveries of memory, but to the future and the progress of an apprenticeship. What is important is that the hero does not know certain things at the start, gradually learns them, and finally receives an ultimate revelation. Necessarily then, he suffers disappointments: he ‘believed,’ he suffered under illusions; the world vacillates in the course of apprenticeship.[iv][v]
This higher form can only be accomplished by unleashing the connotative (and by extension, immaterial) power of the Stochasticons – the horizontal axes of free-association. By giving up his personal and subjective memories to the (re)constructive powers of the spectator, Podevin doesn’t relinquish the power of his creativity but rather unleashes it to the extreme, for it is only by expanding the composite qualities of memory that true art can be attained – i.e. art as mutual transformation between producer and receiver. ‘What is an essence, as revealed in the work of art?’ asks Deleuze. ‘It is a difference, the absolute and ultimate Difference. Difference is what constitutes being, what makes us conceive being. That is why art, insofar as it manifests essences, is alone capable of giving us what we sought in vain from life.’[v][vi] This is an internal, qualitative difference: where monads are transformed into multiplicities, machines into metonymies, and memories multiply into as many worlds as there are artists like Podevin (and his audience) to conjure them.
Colin Gardner is Professor of Critical Theory and Integrative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he teaches in the departments of Art, Film & Media Studies, the History of Art and Architecture and the Comparative Literature programme. Gardner’s monographs include Chaoid Cinema: Deleuze and Guattari and the Topological Vector of Silence (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), Beckett, Deleuze and the Televisual Event: Peephole Art (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Karel Reisz (Manchester University Press, 2006) and Joseph Losey (Manchester University Press, 2004). He has also co-edited two anthologies with Patricia MacCormack (Anglia Ruskin University): Ecosophical Aesthetics (Bloomsbury, 2018) and Deleuze and the Animal (Edinburgh University Press, 2017) as well as Damaged Romanticism: A Mirror of Modern Emotion, with Terrie Sultan and David Pagel (2008).
[i] Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs, trans. Richard Howard, New York: George Braziller,1972, p. 39
[ii] Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. James Strachey, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1991, p. 685.
[iii} Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, New York: Zone Books, 1991, p. 40.
[iv] Deleuze, Proust and Signs, p. 56.
[v] Ibid, p. 25.
[vi] Ibid, p. 41.