Memory, archive, anarchive
Many say we live in a world which has been saturated with images. As if our eyes were not able to open themselves, before all the light, before all the intense luminosity of the screens, for such a huge amount of images. The informations which their surfaces hold seem to become a shapeless mass, indifferent in its diversity. It is as if the diversity of images lies there, in full correspondence with the diversity of reality, waiting for more open, more numerous or more attentive eyes. But we must not forget saturation is associated with a censorship effect: the diversity of images does not correspond to the diversity of reality. There always remains something outside, without representation, some reality which does not become image, some image which does not represent any reality, in short, a remainder which, be it reality of image, escapes the obfuscating light of spectacle and inhabits some place out of frame.
The diversity of images which surround us like windows to the world remains marked by an irreducible blindness. In its redundancy, contemporary visual culture appears as a form of erasure of difference: the light of absolute visibility obfuscates the drifting eyes and domesticates our look, that is, it seeks to contain and to control its savage potency, subjecting it to demanding routines of attention and distraction, of movement and rest, which operate to turn looking into a disciplined, docile, controlled resource, within an economy of images which is captured by the economy of capital.
Thus, the saturation of images does not amount to a richness, but to an impoverishment of experience and to a reduction of the potency of looking, which is revealed in a crucial way in the precarious images which - inconstant, restless, indecisive - make up the film Pacific (2009).
Marcelo Pedroso’s film takes place within a cruise ship destined to Fernando de Noronha. In december 2008, a production team boarded the Pacific. Inside the cruise chip, during its travel itinerary, the team identified people who were making videos, but nobody was effectively approached until the end of the trip, when the team invited those people to give their images for a documentary film. Pacific is not, however, a documentary about a trip, but a documentary about images, and above all about the looks and the memories, the relationships and the sensations, the dreams and the times intertwined in its weaving.
By appropriating images already produced by others, Pacific demands we ask ourselves about what the cameras registered and about what was left outside - the question of representation - as well as about who controles them - the question of mediation. Although images can be understood as representations of the world in which we live (in its reality and irreality), the actual understanding of the complexity of the lives of images involves the acknowledgment that their surfaces codify traces of some sort of common experience.
Often, the mediation of experience (not its representation) is what reveals the lives of images and its persistent pulsation, even if the lives they represent seem reduced to the repetition of empty scripts and programs. The use of video by tourists imposes the need to consider both representation and mediation, since most of them holds the camera and talks about that is being recorded, but the passage between two different regimes of visibility is what makes the recorded images radically change their status.
If the videos were intended for personal, domestic and familiar uses, their inscription in Pacific - under the signature of Marcelo Pedroso, which operates by means of montage - determines the passagem to a public and open regime of visibility, characteristic of film. The sense and meaning of personal record and remembrance, which initially invested the images, become rarefied with their accumulation and their play as they are concatenated in the film’s montage, which invests them with other senses and meanings.
Pacific is a post-production documentary, in the sense that it is constructed with and from already existing images, which belonged to others. But to whom does an image belong? To whom does the film's images belong? Firstly, they belong to those who produced them (and who show up in the film’s closing credits as cinematographers), as tourists eager to keep, through the mediation of their experience in the apparatus, the trip’s memory, delimiting the domestic and familiar regime of its visibility. Secondly, they belong to Marcelo Pedroso and his signature as the mark of a place of enunciation, that of the film as cinematographic product, where the images are rewritten in their disseminated encounter, in the public and open regime of visibility which corresponds to film.
In the cinematographic rewriting of the images made by the tourists, their values of subjective memory are lost, as well as every form of personal investment - video as record of the travel experience and its many moments, as remembrance of the parties and entertainment activities programmed in the cruise, as meaningful trace of the ephemeral being together of friends, couples and families. All of this is a little more than ghosts to the cinematographic spectator's eyes: we do not know every character, we remain at a distance even if we so closely see everything, and every spectacular light recorded by the tourists seems like a ghost to us, including the moonlight, which, at a certain point, someone tries to point out, saying it’s pretty, but which, on the surface of the image, confusedly merges with the cruise’s artificial lights.
At a distance, in Pacific, we discover the ruins of spectacle and of the obfuscating light of the poor saturation of images in which we live. They’re the ruins of tourism’s spectacle - which makes occasions for fun proliferate during the trip (like the parties’ settings and the musical presentations, such as The Phantom of the Opera and Girl from Ipanema, always accompanied by theatrical staging) and which codifies the landscape as “nature”, selling the Fernando de Noronha’s controlled space as a commodity. They’re the ruins of today’s audiovisual spectacle - which we carry in our eyes for more than a century, as film, though we experience it more and more as television. Ruins of the spectacle we mimic, day after day (just like a couple consciously does, by parodying a widely known sequence of James Cameron’s Titanic), which we shelter in unconscious form (and it would be possible, by the way, to make a study of the tourists’ forms of self-enactment in Pacific, comparing them to specifically cinematographic forms of character construction and enactment). They’re the ruins of the spectacle of the self - which every one of us constructs endlessly, just like the tourists who film themselves and seek (sometimes almost obsessively) their own reflection on mirrored surfaces.
At a distance, finding no memory in any of its images, which only disclose ruins to our gazing eyes, we discover, in-between Pacific’s images, the work of memory of the apparatus itself and of its programmed play, which precedes and conditions every possibility of using video to supplement subjective memory. If the tourists’ subjective memory refer to the past of the audio-visually mediated experience, the apparatus’ memory extends into the future, demarcating every imaginable form of experience by means of its mediation. As if the future imaginable forms of experience were already recorded in the apparatus’ memory (just like a computer's memory virtually records all the possibilities of the program it runs). Nevertheless, in the passage from the domestic and familiar to the public and open regime of visibility of film, the revelation of the ruins of spectacle finally leads us to the most important question, which escapes the film: how is it possible to read under the erasure of diversity? In other words: how is it possible to see the fragmented and haunted lights of difference - its firefly light, its vague luminosity (to play with the Portuguese word for firefly, vaga-lume) - against the obfuscating light of spectacle? Finally: in which way is it possible to desaturate the experience we make of the world, through the uncountable image apparatuses which surround us, which permeate us, which inhabit us? How is it possible to reveal, in the endless image archive that saturates our eyes, some remainder of the anarchivic art of living?
Sou professor de história e teoria do cinema da Faculdade de Comunicação da UFBA, em Salvador, desde maio de 2017. Criei o incinerrante em setembro de 2009, e desde então o site abriga alguns traços das minhas atividades como professor, pesquisador, crítico, curador e programador. Também criei, junto com a minha companheira, a Juliana (<3), um projeto chamado a quem interessar possa, que a gente começou em abril de 2016. Se quiser saber mais sobre mim, pode começar com a breve apresentação e os links que coloquei aqui.