Volume 2 - Issue 7 - Editorial

By Vertigo

Memories of the Future: Some Stations on the Road

"I claim for the image the humility and powers of the Madeleine". – from Immemory (Chris Marker, 1997)

Film is memory. Still, life is there, in the pixels, grain and motes. The moving image writes...

"The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." – Milan Kundera, from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

A man, Brian Haw, stands against power in the nation’s common, so-called Parliament’s square. For three years and still, he stands against all pressures, all brutalities and courts. He endures; like the memories he embodies he refuses to yield to power’s wind. He reminds power of its past and the seepage of its acts through lives in and on the ground. He offers himself and his deepening protest as a screen on which are projected realities, consequences, effects. We remember, he says, so that we might stand a chance of remembering tomorrow.

Memory is a kind of tenderness, and resistance, because it rescues time for human life. The impulses of the agents of consumption work towards the erasure of time, towards generating a market that renews itself perpetually outside of history, veering towards a constantly displaced future of material arrival. A market that, by promising ‘freedom’ and abusing the genuine imperatives of desire, eradicates the real liberation that comes from a made, not bought, relationship to things.  

"This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees ne single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward." – Walter Benjamin, from Theses on the Philosophy of History, IX  

"History is amoral: events occurred. But memory is moral; what we consciously remember is what our conscience remembers." – Anne Michaels, from Fugitive Pieces  

"We want to hold on to this moment. The part of the project which concerns our memorial is based on that: how to keep hold of a moment to keep it for a time yet to come? So many things we’ve seen have not been recorded..." – from Prime Time in the Camps (Chris Marker, 1993)  

From the window of this writing, the women of a Sunday morning family, neighbours in this city of the world, are laying out rolled breads in the yard, breads like wheels of the journey they have made, from place to displacement to a new site anchored and hued in a memory of the hands and their making, shaping of food. Present lives given carrying texture by a tasting of their past in new streets. In living memory.  

"Brooding at the end of the world, on my island of Sal, in the company of my pouncing dogs, I remember that month of January in Tokyo, or rather, I remember the images I filmed of the month of January in Tokyo. They have substituted themselves for my memory; they are my memory. I wonder how people remember things who don’t film, don’t photograph, don’t tape. How had mankind managed to remember... I know, it wrote the bible. The new bible will be the eternal magnetic tape of time that will have to reread itself constantly, just to know it existed." – from Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1982)  

With digital technology, it has become easier, cheaper – and quicker – to remember. The instantaneous digital has become the tool of a global opposition, by the marginalised, the threatened, just as much as it has become the agent of incursive power. Memory has become a certain kind of local glue, adhering to other specificities and creating an alternative map of reality, against a globalisation that can tolerate no roots, geographic, intellectual, emotional or historical, in its swell and spread.  

Now we remember as we experience. Now we risk not experiencing, because the keenness to record (but not automatically to remember) is so strong. The tree falls in the forest. Or does it? The particular environment of image overload in which we find ourselves is not conductive to remembrance. To achieve resonant memory, it is becoming increasingly necessary to forget... yet, who enacts the forgetting?  

"The directors of the Experiment tighten their control. They send him back. Time rolls back again. She is near him. He says something. She doesn’t mind, she answers. They have no memories, no plans. Time builds itself painlessly around them. As landmarks they have the very taste of this moment they live, and the scribbling on the walls." – from La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)  

And who enacts the remembering? Who preserves the reels, who decides on the contents of canisters and tape? What if that task, that mission (the safeguarding of ancient light and shadow should fall beyond the merely rational) is not supported, what if the state, as the guardian of a certain scale, steps back from its responsibility as a parent to the future, to the future’s home in the past (see www.filmarchiveaction.org)?  

We remember, to grow. We grow towards memory. Every birth is the birth of a new engine of memory. Memory is a place, and a weather, and a kind of blood. It is a tool, and a blessing, a weapon even, a barricade. A gift and a reason to go on. To seed memory like the footsteps of a path. Imagine that we step out together into the evening, with the twilight over the river like a torch in mist. There is something behind the moment, and we move towards it, and soon we become a part.

Thank you again, writers and readers alike, for your continued support. So that we might add to the Vertigo memory banks, we invite you to join us for the launch of this issue at the Curzon Soho cinema, London this 17th September from 6pm, for short films programmed by Esther Johnson, for drinks and for conversation. There are many more moments to be made, many more lives we might live...