Emblems for an Archaeology of Promises

 

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    Not only is the modern battlefield so spread out that no cinematic camera could ever survey it completely, but it also has the principal characteristic of offering nothing, or at most very little,‘to see.’

    Hermann Häfker, “The Tasks of Cinematography in this War” (1914), text no. 113

     

     

     

    Iraqi air defense (1993)

     

     

    Messter-Woche no. 9 (1915)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • How often we used to express the wish, in earnest or jest, that the doctor could see inside his ill patient—and now he can do just that! The unimaginable has come to pass. 

    Anonymous, “Cinema in the Light of Medicine” (1913), text no. 236

    Dr. Mackintyre’s X-Ray Films (ca. 1908)

    Live cell imaging using far-red DNA stain and superresolution microscopy

  • This is the new, objectified form of human consciousness. As long as these men do not lose consciousness, their hands will not loosen from the grip of the camera. Shackleton’s ship is wrecked by the masses of ice. It is filmed. Their last dog drops dead. It is filmed. The way back to life is blocked; all hope is gone. It is filmed. They drift at sea on an ice floe, which melts underneath their feet. It is filmed. Or Captain Scott pitches his last tent and goes inside with his comrades, as if into a tomb, to await death. It is filmed. Just as the captain on the ship’s bridge and the telegrapher in front of the Marconi instrument continue in their posts until the water reaches mouth-level, so too does the operator stay at his post and film until his hand freezes on the camera’s grip. This is a new form of self-reflection. These people reflect themselves by filming themselves. The inner process of accounting for oneself has been externalized. This self-perception until the final moment is mechanically fixed. The film of self-control, which consciousness used to run within the brain, is now transposed onto the reel of a camera, and consciousness, which has mirrored itself for itself alone in internal division until now, delegates this function to a machine that records the mirror image for others to see as well. In this way, subjective consciousness becomes social consciousness.

    Bela Balázs, “Reel Consciousness” (1925), text no. 23

    Shackleton

    Captain Scott

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