Against house arrest: Digital memory and the impossible archive

Domietta Torlasco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This article interrogates the relation between memory and creation in Monica Bonvicini's installation Destroy She Said and Agnès Varda's film The Gleaners and I, both involving the adoption of digital technology and the simultaneous appropriation of analog materials. It is my claim that, as gestures of reinscription rather than of neutral recording, these works not only expand but also confront, disturb, and ultimately reconstitute the memory of cinema we have inherited. Beyond the opposition between continuity and discontinuity, what I propose to call "digital memory" is a memory that originates from the future - one that remembers not only what happened but also what did not happen in our cinematic past (and yet might have, under different conditions), what "will have happened" by virtue of these archival interventions: a memory of, and in, the future anterior. As it draws on psychoanalytic theory, this article also constitutes a preliminary response to Jacques Derrida's Archive Fever and its question about the future of the archive. If the archive (both of cinema and of psychoanalysis) still privileges the lineage that runs from Oedipus to Freud, here I turn to the figure of Antigone, Oedipus's daughter, the marginalized and yet inerasable point of departure for another psychoanalysis - perhaps for another theory of the archive. In light of what Judith Butler calls Antigone's "scandalously impure" claim, a claim that appropriates the very language of the power she defies, I maintain that the archives of the digital age can help us imagine an unruly, incoherent legacy, one in which the women of modernist cinema tear to pieces the enunciation that had initially decided their destiny (Bonvicini) and in which the gleaner's camera reconfigures the path marking the anticipation of one's own death (Varda).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-63
Number of pages25
JournalCamera Obscura
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 30 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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