Pad.ma Preparation: Archive Fever and the Delirium of Copyright by Lawrence Liang
Duration: 01:32:16; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 42.007; Saturation: 0.145; Lightness: 0.296; Volume: 0.285; Cuts per Minute: 3.186; Words per Minute: 151.688
Summary: In the early days of pad.ma in October 2007, the collaborators meet in Mumbai. Lawrence Liang from the Alternative Law Forum made this presentation at the Majlis cultural center to a small invited audience, mostly pad.ma crew and some peers from the film-making community. The intention was to inspire, to have us question our own ideas about what constitutes publics and archives, and confront our own enemies: ego, authority and copyright.
LL begins the second half of his presentation on Archive Fever and the delirium of copyright.
Welcome back to the second half of the presentation. And I promise you the second half will not be as long as the first half. So it's a much shorter portion and...Most sequels are poor imitations of the first half. Except the Godfather, the Godfather 2 was definitely better than Godfather 1 and hopefully we shall repeat what Coppola tried to do.
Majlis, Kalina, Mumbai
I'm gonna look at the idea of archive fever and the delirium of copyright. And I've already spoken about in some senses the insane and kind of mad expansion of copyright over the years. I've also posed the structural problems in terms of the political economy and the cultural economy in which copyright actually currently works in. I have gestured towards some of the ethical and philosophical challenges that are emerging, particularly in terms of this kind of shift in in the nature of our relationship to the world of knowledge,culture and creativity.
LL does a quick recap of the topics he had covered in the first part of the presentation which basically dealt with tracing the expansion of copyright over the years, it's structural problems and it's ethical challenges.
And I'm sure to now link the project that we are trying to collaboratively initiate on kind of the movie image archive with this delirium of copyright. I'm trying to look at these two madnesses or two kind of ailments: Archive Fever, in the words of Derrida and the delirium of copyright. I'm trying to look at how they're connected. Now it's interesting to speak of the archive coming from a background in law because in many ways the archive and the law are critically linked; the law not necessarily in terms of the black letter of the law but the law as a particular kind of a commandment. The reason being that if you take the etymology of the word archive, the word archive comes from 'archeion' and archeion actually referred to a particular house, the house of the magistrate. Because it was in the house of the magistrate that all the official documents were actually stored.
LL traces the connection between archive fever and delirium of copyright from a legal point of view.He says that 'archive' and 'law' are undeniably linked as the etymological genitor of the word 'archive' is 'archeion' which meant 'the house of the magistrate' because it was here that all official documents were stored.
Slide being projected reads: Archive Archivum Archeion Arche Arcanum Archaic Acheron
And the house of the magistrate is not just a store house of the official documents but also serves as a particular kind of official interpretation of what is available in the form of information itself. And this kind of coming together of the commandment of the law by the site of the magistrate's house and the commandment of the control over meaning making is what has informed a lot of debates on the archives. Because from the house of the magistrate to the idea of the national archive that begins to take place from around the 18th century and in the case of a lot of the post-colonial countries the 20th century, the post 1950 where the archive becomes a particular site for the imagination of the nation itself. It's interesting for me because this is exactly the site of contestation at the moment that we are interested in.
LL opines that the archive doesn't just serve as the official store house but also serves as an indicator of what is available in the form of information.And the metamorphoses of the ' house of the magistrate' to the 'national archive' and peoples interest in it is what interests him.
Because the other words that find a similar etymological history or that go back to the 'Archeion' is of course the idea of the 'Arcanum'. The 'Arcanum' which is the root word for the 'Archaic' shares this kind of etymological history of the 'Archive', is interesting because the 'Archaic' as that where the ' Archive' and the 'Archaic' were kind of almost quote on this. The 'Archive' always stood for a kind of dead information from the past or a certain kind of information that was inaccessible to most of the public. And how do we now in the 21st century reimagine our relationship to the idea of the 'Archive'; how do we move in other words from the 'Archeion', the commandment of the law to the Idea of a public archive.
LL traces the etymological link between 'Archive' and 'Archaic'. He says that a reassessment of the public's relationship with previously inaccessible information, in the form of an archive, is due.
And I think this is an interesting kind of set of challenges that are there. Derrida begins his account to Archive Fever by saying that 'There is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory. Effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion; the participation in and access to the archive , it's constitution, and it's interpretation.' And this is interesting because if you look at, as I said, a number of critical revolutionary moments where there is a transfer of power, one of the transfers also involves the reconstitution of the archive itself, and a number of the battles of the 20th century have shown us this.
The slide being projected reads:
'There is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory. Effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion; the participation in and access to the archive , it's constitution, and it's interpretation.'
Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever
LL talks about how the transfer of political power often involving a reconstitution of the national archives is an indicator of the link between political power and control of the archives, as a form of memory.
LL further illustrates the undeniable link between public memory in the form of archives and political control by citing the example of the US invasion of Iraq and the unification of Germany. In both instances the national archives were targeted first.
The most recent one with the US invasion of Iraq, one of the first buildings that was destroyed was of course the national archive. In the unification of Germany where East Germany and West Germany were unified one of the first buildings that was attacked again was the archives of the secret police. And the SS museum is a fascinating monument of kind of you know crazy terror that we had a chance to go to when we were in Berlin; but it's incredible that it was the first building that was attacked with the unification of Germany. So the archive as a site of eternal contestation of power between those who constitute and control political memory and those who have very often been the subjects of political memory. Attempting to rewrite or erase the kind of public memory that actually exists.
In the context of the 21st century this is particularly acute, because one of the questions that emerged this morning, particularly Paromita asked this question that ' Why is there a Will to archive, why a Desire to archive?' and I think that the desire to archive or even the possibility to archive in the 21st century speaks to an older kind of debate. You know if in the 18th century or the 19th century the most vibrant form that emerged was the idea of the encyclopedia, the most vibrant form of the 21st century is the database. The reason for this again is you know with a particular experience of modernity and a particular experience of viewing or understanding the world and Foucault has documented this brilliantly in Archeology of Knowledge. Where there is this kind of challenge of how do you constitute or how do you create the terms through which you know the world.
Archeology of Knowledge
Slide being projected reads: If Encyclopedias were the form of the 19th century, the Database as the form of the 21st century
Archiving the Internet or the Problem of Funes the Memorius
Technological Memory and the Archive - Zizek's VCR
The Archive Post the Internet and materials born digital
Archivization (Freud's Letters and Psychoanalysis)
The Contingent nature of the Archive and its relation to Social, Political and Technological forces
And now increasingly.. Legal Forces
Right so the encyclopedia was one of the most vibrant forms from Diderot's Encyclopedie to Encyclopedia Britannica but what is interesting is that the form of the encyclopedia was never a given. That which we now know as the A to Z of the world, you understand the enlightenment slash modernist assumption of capturing all of the world's knowledge within the confines of one book or within the kind of various volumes of one set of encyclopedia, you know that is a particular kind of a fantasy. And it's interesting that this idea of the encyclopedia as a particular reference work that starts from A to Z something that we've completely taken for granted was absolutely fluid in it's originating moment. So within the 18th century for example the number of encyclopedias were written not as reference works but as works that were to be read from cover to cover. Ironically the Novel which we take as the ultimate narrative that is to be read from cover to cover was
often written as a reference work.
A to Z
cover to cover
The fluidity even of form of the encyclopedia and the novel took around 200 years to actually stabilize. The book as an object of knowledge as the ultimate guarantor of knowledge took 200 years to be what it is. And in the 200 years that it took there were immense questions and battles over questions of the authority of knowledge. You know in the same way that Wikipedia for example in the contemporary, one of the big raging debates is how can you trust the Wikipedia where everyone can kind of peer review and edit it, if someone can just go and change anything in the Wikipedia how can you trust it. This is the question that haunted the very project of the encyclopedia. You know the encyclopedia was immensely kind of troubled by various competing claims of knowledge of the world .
Now this kind of similarity that I see in the 21st century when you are looking at really at a time where the world is constituted as much by the flows of knowledge or the flows of information as it is by material flows . You have a scenario where all of a sudden the challenge of what it means to order your sense of the world in a hyper mediatized and an increasingly kind of alienated form of experience in the world. You know this kind of condition of post modernity where everything appears to you as though it were a set of images, everything appears to you as though it were a set of information and data. Where your own life is constituted by various interactions with data, whether it is the passport or it is the ration card, whether it is the surveillance camera that you encounter on the street or it is the biometric chip that is now increasingly available for personal identification. The reconstitution of an accelerated modernity marked by this hyper mediatized world has also opened out the challenges of what it means to constitute a particular world view.
flows of knowledge
And I think that it is in this kind of context that the idea of the archive has suddenly become all important. Because an archive, not in the sense of the 'Archeion' but really in the sense of a public archive, because one of the interesting things about the 20th century was that the history of the 20th century in many ways is the history of the photograph. You know the 20th century was the absolutely photographed century and a lot of what we know of the 20th century as a vicarious history emerges to us through a combination of text but equally of the still image. And this is particularly true of the post World War context , how we know
Vietnam for example are these still images, how we know Cambodia is the image of the guy holding the gun, or the killing fields, Vietnam we immediately have the girl running you know after the Napalm bombing etc.
Post World War
You know that this entire reconstitution of this field of visual history itself as being integral to our sense of public memory, but a public memory which also interfaces at a very personal level with our experiencing of media. Right I mean in the context of the contemporary I'm interested in what this technological memory means for us. Because if the 20th century was the photographed century we know that the 21st century will be the videographed century. And what does it mean for us to participate in these technologies of memory. If the 20th century was marked by a certain kind of democratization of the visual field in terms of the camera,this opening out in recent times of the moving image and the ability to participate in the production of the moving image opens up a whole range of questions of what does it mean for us to constitute an archive which is both in opposition to and contests the official imagination of archives and what does it mean for us to be participating in the making of a public memory itself.
There is of course the technological dilemma of how do you actually archive something which is so vast. Right and this is you know the example that inspires me again is this story from Borges and this is a story of 'Funes the Memorious '.Which is a story of a youth, I think an Uruguayan youth called Funes who is riding a horse and suddenly had an accident and he fell from his horse and landed on his head. Now instead of the usual problem of the loss of memory or amnesia, what afflicted Funes was a sharpening of his memory. And all of a sudden Funes could recall in the greatest censorial details everything that happened to him. He could recall for example the taste of a particular meal that he had had when he was 8 years old, he could recall the sight of an image he had seen walking across the street when he was 12 years old. Now this became a huge problem for Funes because in other words Funes now had the possibility of reconstituting or creating an entire archive of his emotions and sensations. But the problem that was there for Funes was this; if you want to reconstitute starting from the time he was born till his current position every sensation and emotion that he had he would require many many lifetimes to achieve or to record one lifetime.
Funes the Memorious
And I think the problem of technological memory of the contemporary seems to be marked by this problem. If on the one hand there is this kind of proliferation, absolute proliferation of the moving image, of the sound, of the still image, of the internet in other words; how do we the inheritors of the problem of Funes the Memorious archive our contemporary or how do we even create the conditions of speaking about the creation of a public memory. There is an interesting story that Zizek has of how you know, and I completely relate to this I'm a complete victim of the photocopying machine, the VCR and the DVD burner. Because there is this great anxiety of not having, coming particularly from a resource scarce country we're always marked by the anxiety of not having enough information or the scarcity of information around us. And Zizek says that this kind of imperative of recording for example on the VCR every programme and film that came saying that I will watch it at a later date or constantly photocopying books saying I will read it at a later date. Zizek poses a question of who reads this and he says there seems to be this division of labor it's as though the photocopying machine reads the book for us when we are photocopying it( laughter from the audience).
division of labor
...As though he VCR watches the film for us the moment we recorded it. Now it's not important whether we've seen the film or not but we've recorded and it we have a copy of it. And this is again very typical of the Japanese syndrome of this kind of drive of having to take out your camera wherever you are (laughter). There is a very amusing story that someone told me once of how they had gone to the Eiffel Tower and in a package tour and they had very little time to spend in the Eiffel Tower so the family is watching and admiring the Eiffel Tower while the father takes out his camera and starts clicking away madly and then says come come come we're running out of time. They said but we want to see the Eiffel Tower and the father says no no I've taken a photograph of it we'll watch it at home(laughter from the audience).
This kind of disjuncture between a certain affective immediacy of experience, marked by or mediated by media on the one hand and the imperative of documenting or the imperative of recording, knowing that you are in the time where it may be of historical importance later. This is an affliction that we are all kind of aware of and we are all trying to sort it out and it's a problem that we'll constantly... constantly return to but I think given... you know despite the problems of this kind of technological memory it's important to constantly remind ourself that this technological condition is also the possibility of what one could argue as the process of an 'archivisation'. Archivisation in Derrida's work refers to how the archive is not just descriptive of an existing reality or documenting an existing history but that the creation of an Archive is a productive act that generates an entire discourse or generates an entire field or creates an entire field, and the example that he uses is that of Psychoanalysis.
LL says the issue of a disconnect between 'immediacy of experience' and the 'imperative of documenting' is a problem which is part of the process of 'Archivisation'. LL says that creating an archive involves generating an entire field or discourse not just describing an existing reality.
LL continues by citing ' psychoanalysis' as the example of a field based on the archivisation of Freud's letters. And he conjectures as to how the field would have developed if Freud would have existed in contemporary times, given the transitory nature of communication today . At the same time he also says that there are many technologies available for more effective archiving in our times.
The discipline that we call Psychoanalysis in Derrida's work is actually created from Freud's letters. It is something that was retrospectively given a theoretical shape and form, using the communication of Freud and all the letters that he'd written. The question that Derrida poses is 'What if Freud had worked and lived in the contemporary?', where communication is so ephemeral; whether it's the SMS(Short Message Service) ,the telephone call or the Email; none of which actually survive documentation. What would happen to the field that we now call psychoanalysis which is dependent on the letters of Freud. If Freud lived in the age of Email, SMS(Short Message Service) and the mobile phone how would the archivisation of that happens. At the same time it is really... the possibilities for example; using video editing or using video storage , of an archivisation which was earlier never possible.
A interensting rejoinder to the idea of electronic communication being ephemeral. Bruce Schneier on the Death of the Ephemeral Conversation in the digital age.
LL speaks of how his film collection has evolved from having 13 VCR cassettes and rerecording films on it to having 2260 films as an indicator of the evolution of archiving with the advent of new technology.
You know I remember with great pride my VCR collection, I had thirteen films on cassettes carefully and lovingly recorded because there was a time when Doordarshan on thursadays used to screen foreign films right . So I remember recording Fanny and Alexander and watching it and then rerecording over it later. So your archive changed every week because you had thirteen blank tapes at the end of the day. And so some of them lived for a longer time because of the kind of cult value that they had and so Battleship Potempkin lasted for a much longer time Fanny and Alexander gradually died after three weeks and made way for a new film. But I still remember 13 films that I had with me, thirteen tapes. At the moment my DVD collection at home is 1300 movies and one terabyte of films provided by Sebastian and Yann who are watching or listening.
SA: 960 films.
LL: Ya 960 films plus 1300 DVDs but I'm sure my DVD writer will watch them for me(laughter from audience).
LL speaks of how the existence of an archive is contingent on contemporary social, political, technological and legal ideas. He starts to talk about an instance where the fear of destruction of information by fire led to the creation of two great archives.
So there is this kind of... set of these diverse problems that I've kind of played around with or thought around with, of the archive, it only points to in some senses the very contingent nature of the archive itself. And the contingency of the archive in relation to the ideas of the social, the political and the technological. And in the contemporary ofcourse one of the important components of this is the legal and how the legal also shapes the imagination of an archive.I want to now move from the set of opening remarks to a story of two archives and then return back to the archiving fever and the delirium of copyright. My story is about two archivists and the fear of fire and how the fear of fire or the fear of an impermanence of information and the destruction of that information, because of a lethal weapon called fire actually helped create two incredible archives.
In 1968 Charles De Gaulle the President of France asked the question 'Who is Henri Langlois?' in a very angry manner, a very irritating Henri Langlois who had caused all these students to come on to the streets and start protesting. Of course he knew who Henri Langlois was becauese André Malraux the culture minister had just sacked Henri Langlois as the founder, president of the Cinémathèque Française. Right so he already knew him but the conceptual question he was asking was 'How can this librarian, archivist gain such importance?'. And a lot of clues might be, to look at the answers that other people kind of gave of who Henri Langlois was, to glean the efforts of what made Henri Langlois so important in the history of the New Wave . Jean Renoir for example said, ' We owe to Langlois and Mary Meerson the development of a certain passion for films... I am sure that many young people who are more or less interested in me would have never heard of me without the Cinémathèque. The Cinémathèque is the church of movies and the best school for young directors. All the good directors of the new wave spent their young years at the Cinémathèque watching films to learn how to become a director.'
LL demonstrates the importance of archivists by citing the example of Henri Langlois the Founder, President of Cinémathèque Française whose Cinémathèque was a hub of learning for many New Wave French filmmakers.
Slide being projected reads: Two Archivists and the Fear of Fire
Who is Henri Langlois
We owe to Henri Langlois and Mary Meerson the development of a certain passion for films& I am sure that many young people who are more or less interested in me would never have heard of me without the Cinemathque. The Cinematheque is the church of movies and the best school for young directors. All the good directors of the new wave spent their young years at the Cinematheque watching films to learn how to become a director"
Charles De gaulle, 1968
Charles De Gaulle
LL quotes Bernardo Bertolucci about his opinion on Henri Langlois. He says that the foundation of the Cinémathèque archives was remarkable because it was formed at a time when cinema was not considered historically important.
The slide being projected reads: "The best and only school for the cinema is to go to the cinema and not waste time studying theory in film schools. The best school of cinema in the world is the Cinematheque in Paris. And the best professor is Henri Langlois"
So there are these other answers where Bertolucci says ' The best and only school for the cinema is to go to the cinema and not waste time studying theory in film schools. The best school of cinema in the world is the Cinémathèque in Paris. And the best professor is Henri Langlois.' So a very strange answer to De Gaulle's question of who Langlois was. Because Langlois as you all know was the founder of the Cinémathèque but what is important is the time at which he founded the Cinémathèque. In the 20's when film was still an early form, 1896 to the 20's, so film was still in it's early thirty's which gives Meena and me a lot of hope because we can still talk about ourselves as being young then. You know film was still a very early form, it's value as a historical object was completely zero. No one ever thought that film could be considered important for history or even for an understanding of history.A lot of the films that were made from the 1896 to the 20's had been lost, had been destroyed, had been kind of contaminated because of the rust in the cans or had just been neglected completely to the point that they had become extinct.
And Langlois in the 20's articulated very strongly a kind of philosophical vision of the importance of film in the making of modern experience. And he argued very strongly for the need of setting up of an archive for cinema. An idea which was laughed at by most people because they thought it was ridiculous that he would want to archive something like cinema a vulgar, crass, popular form. Because the only thing that was worth archiving were of course the great letters and the great communication and the great books written by the 'lettered men'. And outside the lettered city there was no space in the archive for something as trivial as film.
LL considers Langlois a visionary who saw that cinema constituted an important part of the modern experience and hence thought of archiving it in a time when film was considered a trivial, popular form.
But Langlois almost singlehandedly with a group of extremely committed people started creating an archive and he set up the archive as a cinema... as a film club. Right and one of the interesting things that he articulated was of course the idea that the best way to preserve film is to show them. And he said that films are like Persian carpets they have to be walked on, so the preservation films wasn't dependent on the location that they were placed in, of course that was important too but the best way to preserve them was to show them. Because once you had shown the film, they lived in the memory of the person who had watched them and that was a form of an archivisation.
I think this is very important when we are thinking about what we are setting out to do. When we are looking at fighting in some sense a battle on the terms of terrains of public memory, haven't we learnt from this idea that the best way to preserve films is to show them. Langlois preserved the first films that he kind of started saving in a bathtub in his house, because there was no other space that he could store it in. So literally the history of the moving image and the archive of the moving image emerges in the bath tub of Langlois. A very fitting kind of fixed symbolism for the fact that Langlois had started this project because of a fire that had destroyed a large number of films. So the only appropriate place was of course the bath tub for this kind of thing.
The slide being projected reads:A Bathtub, A Film Club and a Fire
World War 2 and the Preservation of Film
Film Archivists as Pirates
And in World War II when film was being completely decimated in different parts of Europe, Langlois created almost kind of a revolutionary,underground kind of a thing that preserved films in different parts of Europe. He distributed a large number of films to friends across Europe and asked them to bury the films, in cans, in their gardens, in their kind of cellars etc, where the films were completely hidden, so that they could not be destroyed by the invading Nazi forces. And it's after the war that Langlois and his team went house to house digging up literally in an archaeological manner all the films that had been hidden for the purposes of preservation. The other interesting thing about Langlois was the fact that all his efforts were always at the edges of legality. He was always kind of getting into trouble with the law for his archival purposes.Because all the ancient archivists of films were considered to be pirates because they were storing what did not belong to them or what they did not own.
World War II
Right so in other word the archivists were really in this kind of conflict with the official owners and the studios and the producers, because none of this actually belonged to the archivists and they were engaging in something completely illegal. And I want to show you an interesting clip from Bertolucci's movie ' The Dreamers' which looks at this moment, because one of the things that we often ignore is that Langlois's role in the making of the year that we call '1968' right and in the year which has created all kinds of tremors right I mean I was born six years later but I feel the tremors of 1968 in my bones. Because it kind of politicized the issue of an entire generation because of the events that kind of inaugurated 1968.
What's interesting to remember is the role that the sacking of Langlois had in this,because it was the sacking of Langlois that brought all the students on to the streets to protest and that then led across to the great kind of sit ins etc and the Parisian riots that happened. And in this kind of 68... Andre Malraux the Culture Minister had sacked Langlois and all the filmmakers students actors all came out on to the streets and there were violent clashes. Godard's glasses were smashed, face was smashed, blood all over his face, Rene Claire's hands and Bertrand Travenier's hands were fractured in the fights that were taking place with the cops. And Bertolucci has captured some bit of this in his film ' Dreamers' and there is a small documentary that merges the two, the archival images of Truffaut throwing the kind of paper clips condemning the government which has been captured in the film. So I'm just gonna play a small clip.
LL screens a clip from the Bertolucci movie 'Dreamers'.
And Godard has said rather beautifully of Langlois that,' Langlois has given each 24th of a second of his life to rescue all those voices from the silent obscurity, and to project them on the wide sky of the Louvre museum in which the real and imaginary meet at last.' Now Langlois is rather very documented as you can see. I mean he even received the lifetime achievement... the Oscar for lifetime contribution to films in 1972 or 1973. So a lot of well known archivists, even though the history of cinema has often ignored the role of the archive in the making of modern cinema. I want to move to a slightly lesser known archivist.
...from a slightly closer region in India. And this is a story of a painter of signs and a collector of books. It's a story of a man called Roja Muttaiya Chettiyar who came from a small village or a small town called Kottaiyur, around 135 kms from the city of Chennai. Roja Muttaiya came from the Chettiyar community rather well known for their deep investment in books and in the world of the letters. But Roja Muttaiya was essentially a painter of signs and he worked in Chennai as a painter. And this is actually one of the paintings...one of the covers for a popular romance that Roja Muttaiya had drawn. One of the very typical love stories printed in the 40's and the 50's that Roja Muttaiya had illustrated. Roja Muttaiya when he was painting in Chennai started frequenting Moore road, where old publishers and old booksellers were doing their trade, and he was particularly interested, since he was a painter of signs in kind of prints that were circulating at that time and he started collecting prints.
...And all the money that he made from his trade went into the buying of prints, but from prints he started moving into popular magazines, into collecting books, into collecting pamphlets, into a range of material all of the _______ cultures. And again it is the fear of fire that kind of motivates Roja Muttaiya to convert from the eccentric individual arbitrary collector, to being the archivist that he eventually became. And this is a range of some of the things that is now available from Roja Muttaiya's collection. The collection includes the oldest ever book printed in Tamil, it includes the widest collection of Karunanidhi's writings which Karunanidhi himself actually doesn't have. It has all the popular print culture of that period including pamphlets of dances, of performances the news paper material that had...
...Now Roja Muttaiya because he was spending all his money on all this kind of buying arbitrary useless stuff, suddenly found that his business is not doing too well in Madras. And he returned to Kottaiyur to set up a small little reading room called the India Library Services. Where for 1 Re you would be given coffee, Idlis and the opportunity to read one book or one magazine at a time, which he would personally bring for you. Roja Muttaiya also completely eccentric had no money to sustain his activities, and the rest of his family thought that he was completely insane and wasting all the money he had on all this garbage that he'd been picking up of the streets. So the only way that he would sustain himself would be that every time he ran out of money, to buy anything or to preserve the material he had,he would go to one of the old letters or old envelopes that he had and he would take out a stamp from it and send it to a stamp collector abroad and tell him that this is a precious stamp from India just send me the money for it and that's how he sustained this thing. So they would send him 20 dollars, 30 Dollars and this is how he sustained the India Library Services.
India Library Services
In 1990 Roja Mutthiah fearing kind of his health deteriorating, offered to sell his archive to the state, to the government of Tamil Nadu for the princely sum of 2 lacs, which the goverment of Tamil Nadu refused. They said 'Are you insane why would we pay 2 lacs to buy 'junk' that you've collected over the years? You know it's like paying a rag picker for his books.' C.S Lakshmi, a famous Tamil writer by then had discovered the archive and had started alerting various South Asian scholars of the importance of this archive. C.S Lakshmi was doing a fellowship at the University of Chicago on 'The status of women in popular print culture in South India in the turn of the century' and was using the archives. Initially Roja Mutthiah was a little wary of C.S Lakshmi using the archive but, over a period of time she gained his trust and she started using this library. So when she was in the University of Chicago, she alerted them to the importance of what she thought was one of the largest archive of print... popular print material from South India. And the University of Chicago acquired the archive, unfortunately a year or so after the death of Roja Mutthiah, for the sum of 1 crore. And the entire thing was shipped to Chennai and now the Roja Mutthiah Memorial Library stands in Chennai. The family earned 1 crore off the collection of garbage, of this man who had been doing this for 45 or 50 years.
University of Chicago
Ironically Roja Muttaiya died or you know in a kind of strange way... he died of DDT poisoning because of all the DDT that he had been spraying on the material for the preservation of this material. I mean heartbreaking story of an archivist but also an incredible story of the passion of individual archivists to the idea of the preservation for historical purposes. Because the fire that I alluded to, that kind of caused this fear in Roja Muttaiya's life...basically 1983...with the 1983 pogrom against the Tamilians in Sri Lanka one of the things that happened was that the Jaffna Library was burnt. Roja Muttaiya actually got money and went to Jaffna immediately after he heard that the library had been burnt, to see what remained of it and what material he could save and he found out almost everything in the Jaffna Library had been burnt. He came back completely determined to save whatever he could of what he thought to be Tamil popular culture and it's in 83 with the fear of the fire in Jaffna that Roja Muttaiya converted from being a collector to an archivist.
And if you take the Roja Muttaiya Memorial Library it's incredible the amount of care and concern that they have. The library of course has extended much beyond the material or the archive of Roja Muttaiya himself and now it's an archive that actually hosts vast amounts of information and kind of material. And the kind of preservation work that is going on in the Roja Muttaiya Library is incredible. And one of the people there, the current Director Sunder, is a person whose commitment to the process of archiving is just completely infectious. And I've even suggested that maybe tomorrow we could even have a chat with him if we would... or the next time we have a meeting we should definitely call Sunder. Because Sunder had told me about how he wakes up sometimes at 2 or 3 in the night with this nightmare of the archives having caught fire, and he calls up to just check whether everything is alright...years of preserving this material and suddenly a fire destroys it all. Of course everything is now microfilmed and stored but even the loss of the original material itself is a cause of great kind of concern for Sunder.
Roja Muttaiya Memorial Library,Chennai
Now this affliction for the present...
...'Interminably from searching for the archive right where it slips away. It is to run after the archive. it is to have a compulsive, repetitive,nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return of the most archaic place of absolute commencement.'
This affliction is interesting because if you contrast this with what we have seen as the delirium of copyright. And I think the delirium of copyright is best explained to me by a diary entry of Kafka of 20th February, 1912 in which Kafka writes about how he wakes up one morning to find...
The slide reads:
Kafka, Diary Entry 28th February, 1912
The spread of Copyright poses philosophical problems to our understanding of property and personhood
The Equation of the Self and Own in Western Metaphysics and the Rise of Possessive Individualism
A Contagious Affliction increasingly on the rise, which produces all kinds of delusions&..
...or he writes this story about a man who wakes up one morning, who finds that there is an article that has appeared in the newspaper and on reading the article he is convinced that the article was his. And he goes into this kind of a crazy delirium and he approaches the author of the article with his copy and says that you know ' You've copied my...' And they find that there is actually very little similarity between the two except a very general kind of similarities that may exist. Then he approaches the publisher, and all of them are kind of oblivious to his great sense of injustice that was caused to him. Then he goes in this kind of mad frenzy of convincing people about how everywhere people were trying to rob his ideas.
You know so this Kafkaesque invocation of the world of the musty offices and the paranoia of modernity... enmeshed with this fear of your ideas being stolen and taken by everyone else. This is what I would term as the delirium of copyright. and it's great that Sebastian is listening to this because he's the one who alerted me to this diary entry of Kafka and the live translation of it.
AS: His most recent message says Ha! Kafka and this winky.(Laughter from audience)
No because the spread of copyright in my view poses a whole range of philosophical problems to our very understanding of property and personalhood. There is a very western liberal theory and western metaphysical...the history of western metaphysics. A particular relation or correlation between the idea of property and personalhood, where within western metaphysics there is a very curious equation of a self and the own. And this is you know the theory that gives birth to the rise of what Macpherson calls Possessive Individualism. But this correlation of the self and the own where it is impossible to speak about my self and my own except in terms that explain each other.
Related Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke
This is a problem that emerges particularly in the writings of John Locke. Where the theory of consciousness in Locke is about a certain appropriation through personhood of a certain idea of the self. Now this is very strange because here is a scenario where the self is only articulable because you own it or it is a property that you can own. This kind of curious intermingling of the self and the own. I wouldn't even say within western metaphysics but particularly a problem that emerges in the English language and within the writings of people like Locke, which have been critical to the development of copyright jurisprudence.It is curious because ________writing about Locke or rereading Locke says that when he attempts to translate Locke into French and the idea of the myself and my own into French, he finds that there is no exact correlate. Because while 'myself' can be translated into 'Moi' or 'Soi', 'my own' the closest that is there in French is something like 'propre' or 'le propre'.which is actually a reference to property but not to 'own'. Where own in the English language very curiously straddles both the worlds of ownership but also the worlds of self identity or my own.
I tried a similar experiment and I tried to translate it into Hindi. You know where... to look at what would happen and I'll come to that. But this equation of the self and own in the purpose... in the case of copyright has completely been kind of fulfilled where an identification of a property and an identification of a self has become amazing. Because if you take for example a very typical recent case which deals with this and actually Vishaka and me were discussing another case which is very similar. This is a story or a case about Spandau Ballet whose only claim to fame is that they were Lady Diana's favorite band. So Spandau Ballet had a song called 'Glow' which was a big hit in the 80's. Much later after the band was disbanded the vocalist and the lyricist of Spandau Ballet were sued by the other band members for a share in the royalty of the song Glow,which Kemp the main lyrics writer had refused to share with them.
The slide reads:The Spandau Ballet Case as Typical Example
Three Distinct Claims of relations being made
Kemp's claim (affirmed by the court) that the song was written solely by himself and hence it is his own song (relationship to self)
As A result he owns it exclusively (relationship to the work)
And as an Owner he is entitled to exclude his collaborators from a share in the royalty arising from the song (relationship to others)
...And the reason he had refused to share it with them was ... he argued that the song was... solely originated in his mind and was not a collaborative product. The other band members brought evidence to show how Spandau Ballet actually wrote their songs or created their songs and it kind of showed that there was a strongly collaborative nature in the production of Spandau Ballet's songs. But yet the court affirmed and held in favor of Kemp and argued that given that Kemp had originated the main structure or the skeletal structure of the song, the other bits that had been contributed by the other musicians were merely decorative. And this was indeed a work that was exclusively owned by Kemp.
Now there are three kinds of claims or three kinds of distinct set of claims about
relationalities that are being made. Kemp's claim which was affirmed by the court ,that the song was written solely by him and hence it is his own song. So this idea of a certain property as well as a certain idea of an ownership, in other words a certain relationship to the self that Kemp has articulated.As a result of his you know being... having written it by himself and it being his own song he owns it exclusively. There's a certain relationship to the work and a relationship of exclusion of everyone else of the social world around him... and he is entitled to exclude his collaborators from the share in royalty arising from the song, or a relationship to others mediated by this idea of ownership that Kemp is articulating about. And I think there is a deep problem here because the emergence of copyright consciousness cannot be only explained or criticized on the grounds of political economy or cultural economy there is a much deeper philosophical problem here of a certain transformation, of a relationship to yourself, to your work and to others that is actually under way. And this I think why we need to intervene.
So my grounds for intervention... Did I talk about the Hindi version of... the equivalent to that.
O.K I think I'll come to that later.
So this has been problematic this 'self' and the 'own' that has been articulated in western metaphysics. Now how does the collector or the archivist help us to think of other ways of owning. And in what terms does the act of the collector which actually enable us to look at an act of owning which was not so exclusively defined in the way that copyright consciousness kind of talks about.
So the figure of the collector of course emerges in the writings of Benjamin, looking particularly at a time, you know the 19th century. Where the collector mediates between the public and the personal Benjamin of course talks about the 19th century as the proliferation of commodities right and of commodity form. All of a sudden mass industrialization, production of new commodities, circulation of commodities all over the place, and the Arcades Project is a mad book, it's a brilliant book which looks at this kind of crazy circulation of commodities, and urban experience of a kind of magnus of Baudelairian modernity along with this hyper visibility of commodities itself. Right so there is a re-articulation of public experience in the 19th century that Benjamin is interested in, but he looks at the figure of the collector as a curious figure that emerges in the 19th century which mediates between the public and the personal.
The slide reads:The Figure of the Collector in Walter Benjamin mediating the Public and the Personal;
Between the Collective Ideal and the Collector's Ideal
"The figure of the collector, more attractive the longer one observes it, has not been given its due attention so far. One would imagine no figure more tempting to the romantic storytellers. The type is motivated by dangerous though domesticated passions"
The Collector mediates between memory and materiality through a sensuous engagement with objects;
A sensuous account of the object that narrates its social life beyond its status as commodity (The commodity phase of a life history of an object does not exhaust its biography)
So the space of the public was the space of the collective ideal, he looks at the personal as space of a certain a collectors ideal, Where the collector was a... range of kind of collectors, you have the rag pickers you have this kind of a collector where the collector was constantly picking out commodities,but picking them out in a very strange manner where his relationship to the commodity was a very peculiar one. Because on the one hand he had this kind of criticism of the fetishism of commodities that was happening at the same time the act of collecting was also an act of super fetishization. Right I mean an absolute fetishization of the commodity form, which at the same time is resistant to, or in conflict with the universal logic of commodification that's happening.
...Why? The reason that Benjamin says that ' the collector is a curious figure of this period' is because the collector is collecting outside of the circuit booth of use value and of exchange value. Right so in collecting for example an old discarded photograph which may not have a value in the commercial market, somehow the logic of the commodity itself is being challenged, or is being subverted where the collector sees in that photograph not use or exchange value but a fanciers value. Right and there is a peculiar relationship...that for example someone who collects pictures of marionettes or for example someone who collects pictures of mannequins_____ and you've seen it people who like to photograph incessantly, mannequins . Now this is a very very different circuit altogether. Of course it may then later be re-mediated through the art market, and the grant of a certain antiquity, and the reintroduction or the re-absorption of this within the logic of the commodity form. But the moment that the collector is collecting is this kind of crazy super fetishization but a super fetishization that is not collapsible within the internal logic of the commodity alone.
The slide reads: One of the arousing and finest memories of a collector is the moment when he rescued a book to which he might never have given a thought, much less a wishful look, because he found it lonely and abandoned on the marketplace and bought it to give it its freedom,the way the prince bought a beautiful slave girl in The Arabian Nights. To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves.
And Benjamin says' The figure of the collector more attractive the longer one observes it, has not been given it's due attention so far. One would imagine no figure more tempting to the romantic storyteller. The type is motivated by dangerous though domesticated passions.' And this 'domesticated passions' a beautiful way of thinking about what the collector does or the archival fever that afflicts the collector. He says ' There is in the life of a collector a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order. Naturally, his existence is tied to many other things as well and to a very mysterious relationship to ownership.' Now I want to understand what this mysterious relationship to ownership is, compared to the kind of you know collapsing of this idea of the 'own' and the 'self' within western metaphysics.
Domesticated passions and a mysterious relationship to ownership too close for us to think about the act of archiving because as I said that the troubled resistance of the collector with the commodity is that the collector refuses to treat the commodity as a commodity. And this is Benjamin's reworking of Marx... you know
Marx began and focussed on the commodity but Benjamin brought back a certain theological subtlety by reworking Marx's words again into the idea of the commodity, transforming it into really an object. And this is kind of interesting because this kind of struggle between fetishization and universal commodifization
or commodification is something that can help us return to the contemporary. Let me take three instances of how Benjamin articulates his relationship of the collector to the act of ownership.
'For a collector ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects.' Now this is very strange because Marx had told us that commodity fetishism was about the erasure of social relations to the act of production. But Benjamin is suddenly talking about this in terms of intimacy. 'Collecting as a way
of telling, and transmitting experience through objects', is another statement. And the final one 'The collectors attitude to his possessions stems from an owner's sense of responsibility towards his property.'
... Now three very interesting kind of clues that I want to connect. Because what it seems to suggest to us is the possibility of thinking of intimacy as a way of rethinking of ownership. And thinking of ownership via the terms of Relational Proximity rather than exclusion. Relational Proximity in terms of how close you are to an object in terms of how you relate to the object itself... as a way of completely reworking it. So I come to my own crude attempt at translating 'myself' and 'my own'. When I had to translate 'my own' into Hindi the closest that I came to was Mere Apne
does not refer merely to an act of exclusion but to an act of relationality, or an act of closeness or a proximity. In other words a relational proximity so if you were to consider for example these three statements; 'This is my Pen.' An act, an assertion of exclusive ownership. The pen belongs to Me and to no one else. But when you think of relational proximity and you were to try and translate it you would not say 'This is my mother as I own her.' or 'This is my friend as I own him or her.' So when you say this is my friend you're really talking about an apnapan
or an 'ownness' or of feeling of an 'ownness' which is not a feeling of ownership.
Why do you feel that someone is 'your own' or Mere Apne
because of a proximity that you may have to him or her, rather than the fact that you own him or her. The problem I would pose of the contemporary is that the language of intellectual property and the language of copyright attempts to convert a relational proximity to, an act of exclusive ownership. So if you were to consider the third statement 'This is my poem.' intellectual property believes that ' This is my poem.' is the same as ' This is my pen.'Right so in other words that collapses within the logic of the commodity form whereas in actuality it might be closer to ' This is my friend.' So one can feel extremely possessive about one's poem, or about one's image, or about one's song. But does it necessarily then mean that one has exclusive ownership above that image.
The slide reads:
Intimacy as a way of Rethinking Ownership as a Relational Proximity rather than exclusion
This is my Pen
This is my Friend
This is my Poem
Mere Apne/ My Own
MD: The 'My' changes everytime... In relation to the object and the type of
position.the 'My' the 'self' itself is changing.
LL: And this is something I actually want to open out particularly through other linguistic routes. Because my limitation is Hindi, Chinese, English, Kannada you know, so I want to know in Bangla how it works, in Gujrati how it works etc. When we take this in the collective logic of thinking through you know what is the philosophical implications of this change of concept. Not just the linguistic change but a complete conceptual shift. And how does this relational proximity return us to the intimate act of owning that Benjamin had talked about. Benjamin's intimation of the intimacy of owning... to the ... in relation to the collector and the objects that he collects might actually be much closer to a certain idea of a relational proximity which is different from an exclusion.
Right. So in contrast to Benjamin is Daniel Defoe. Daniel Defoe writing in the 17th century, chronicler of the great evil of piracy says, " A book is the author's property, it is the child of his inventions, the brat of his brain, if he sells his property, it then becomes the right of the purchaser, if not, it is as much his own, as his wife and children are his own." So Daniel Defoe is writing at a time when wives and children were indeed your 'own' in the sense of them being shackled, that you 'owned' just like everything else. And this is fascinating because here is precisely the violent conception of ownership, as an act of violent exclusions and appropriations, which does not have an account of an intimacy to the act of owning. Which does not have any relation to a certain owning, which emerges from the closeness or the Apnapan
that you share with the objects you create, as much as it does with the rights or the juridical rights that are granted to you. And this seems to be the problem.
And for me the collector and the archivist, actually allows us or opens a way for us to work through this entire problem. Because if you looked at what one of the quotes that Benjamin had said, it's about responsibility to that thing that you own. And if you look at the life of Roja Muttaiya or Henri Langlois, or the Roja Muttaiya Memorial Library and Archive, the first thing that strikes you about their relationship to the various knowledge and culture artifacts that are there in their archives, is the immense amounts of care that they have for it. And the immense amounts of responsibility that they feel for it. A responsibility to the words, songs and poems and memories of someone else. Our discussion of the Kashmir archive in the morning showed that, right, and the afternoon. The sense of responsibility to the photographs and the words of another. Because you are a custodian, or you are a trustee of a particular privileged information that has been given to you, on a relationship of trust. And on a complete ethical bond, that has been created as a result of this sharing of another's words songs memories or poems.
Now this is very interesting because the domain of copyright is also about the domain of memory,songs,poems and images. But none of them actually articulate a relationship of ethics or trust in the manner that collector and the archivist seems to. So the collector and the archivist, for me returns ethics to the copyright debate and moves it from a debate about property, to a debate about propriety. You know Nietzsche has famously asserted that to be done away with the question of morality is not to be done with the question of ethics. Coming from the Copyleft movement I'm acutely aware that, the Copyleft movement's assertion of an opposite of copyright, is not just to run about property.To be done away with the question of property is not to be done away with the question of propriety. And this is something that constantly has to be at a dialectical kind of relationship with eachother .And I think it is really the archive and the imagination of an archivist that can inflict this into a public discourse on knowledge, access, culture and ethics.And it actually brings them interestingly together.
Because the figure of the archivist stands at the threshold of two domains. On the one hand as a trustee of information that he has collected, and at the same time committed to a larger idea of public knowledge and access. And the challenge of the archivist between these two, often competing, impulses. Where greatest access for the material on the one hand, is often tempered by the challenge of being the trustee of that information, and how that information circulates. And at the same time the role of the trustee's possessive and intimate relationship to the material that he or she has collected, not being informed by a larger idea of public knowledge will always haunt the archive.Right so the archivist is an interesting figure to look at when we think about the debates on knowledge and culture of the contemporary.
Because this kind of returning of the ethical, where the archivist moves or expands the idea of ownership, away from owning a work to owning up to a work. Foucault has famously remarked that to be an author is not just to own a work but to own up to a work. It's a very different relationship of ownership. Relational proximity to your work is similar, I own up to the words I write, I write a really bad essay it is in my name. The signature is not just about my ownership of the work but it is about my relationship to the work. In the same way that if I write a particularly good poem or I write a particularly good thing... it is again in my name. But this idea of ownership as an act of owning up to, creates a certain kind of tension of responsibility towards your work. What then does it mean to take care of your work. What does it mean to take care or have a relationship of care to the work, in the way an archivist and the collector cares for the words, songs,images and poems of another.
So as a person who attaches a signature to a particular work, is it only in relationship to an act of exclusion or is there a wider ethical imagination that actually informs this signatorial act is the question. And as you can see by now I'm extremely fond of etymologies. The etymology of the word 'own' very interestingly emerges actually from the same group word as the word 'owe'. So the idea of the 'owing' or the 'obligation' that one has, being brought together to the act of owning itself might well be a way of thinking about how... a different way of thinking about knowledge and culture in the future.Because intellectual property is about the imagination of how one owns the future.
But reworking it via the figure of the collector and the archivist, one might even think about it in terms of how one 'owes' to the future. And the ethical obligation of the archive is always, to a future that we can never either predict or may not even inhabit. I want to kind of end with a story from the 'Little Prince'.I want to really... all of us have read the 'Little Prince' when we were growing up and if we haven't then it's a really important text that we should all read now. But the Little Prince in his various tours and travels around the different planets, in his fourth or the fifth visit ends up in the planet which is owned by a businessman, and he lands up there and he asks the businessman what he does.And the businessman says,' I collect stars'. And he says,' Why do you collect stars ? And what do you do with them?'. He says,'I sell these stars for profit and I make a lot of money.' And he says,' What do you do with the stars...what do you do with the money that you make from the selling of these stars?'. And the businessman says that,'I buy more stars.'
... And he says,'What do you do with them?', and he replies, ' I sell them and buy more stars.' And this completely perplexes the Little Prince and he doesn't quite understand what's happening. So he says that,'I myself own a volcano and I own a flower, and every morning I water my flower and I clean the four volcanoes, although one of them doesn't work, but just incase, incase one needs to... incase it works someday I clean that volcano too. So I'm of some use to the flower and the volcano that I own but you are of no use to the stars that you own .' A every different and ethical relationship of ownership that the Little Prince imagines.And I'll end, I promise with my last slide from a statement by Patricia Williams, that articulates for me what this move towards both the reimagination of the archive as well as the reimagination of property in the domain of the sound, the image, the moving image and the visual etc.
Because to move away from traditional set notions of copyright, which has a particular relationship between culture production and ownership is not to do away with some of the larger other questions. And Patricia Williams says,'The task... is not to discard rights, but to see through or past them so that they reflect a larger definition of privacy, and of property; so that privacy is turned from exclusion based on self regard into regard for another's fragile mysterious autonomy; and so that property retains it's ancient connotation, of being a reflection of that part of the self, which by virtue of it's very externalization is universal. The task is to expand private property rights into a conception of civil rights and into the right to expect civility from others.'
The slide reads: Archival Fever as an Antidote to the Delirium of Copyright
The Ethics of Care and Responsibility that marks the Collector and the Archivist's relationship to the words, songs, poems and memories of others
Returning Ethics to the Copyright Debate and moving from Property to Propriety
The figure of the archivist as standing between two domains; as a trustee of the information that he collects and at the same time, committed to a larger idea of public knowledge
From Owning a work to Owning up to a work
The Etymology of Own/ Owe and its implications for IP and for archiving
So thank you for your patience for this very long presentation(applause from audience). And if we have the time or the energy to have a discussion I'd rather have it as a open house... everyone.
Background sounds (Audience talking and laughing)
Which in certain science fiction context deals with the storage of personal memories and the havoc that happens for one of the chroniclers, or the person working as the archivist of other people's memories and he encounters his own. Similarly Eternal Sunshine...
NM: I know...
The slide reads: "The task . . . is not to discard rights, but to see through or past them so that they reflect a larger definition of privacy, and of property: so that privacy is turned from exclusion based on self-regard, into regard for another's fragile, mysterious autonomy; and so that property retains its ancient connotation of being a reflection of that part of the self which by virtue of its very externalization is universal. The task is to expand private property rights into a conception of civil rights, into the right to expect civility from others"
MD: You know Lawrence,after these two days of introduction where we stand now. Of course you also reinvented the archivist _______but when you talk about Cinémathèque, I think that is where we stand because we are talking about output we are talking about opening up the archive. Collection is one part that we are more or less comfortable with as we were talking about the whole romantic notion involved in this, especially in this post capitalist market scenario.But I think that now we stand upon... because you have not talked much about opening up the archive and the politics of that, and the problematics of that. Because this is more...except Cinémathèque most of the examples were about collections, about archiving but not opening up the archive.
LL: I thought it was implicit for me because the first half was actually a mapping of the entire problem of private property.
MD: But I'm wondering that what are the proactive strategies that we need to evolve, inorder to put the public archive into the public domain. Because now the public is also interested only in the private domain, I mean everybody is into the market format. So it needs very proactive strategies and theories...
LL: Which is what our project archive is.(laughter)
MD: No I'm also thinking aloud that what do we start now at the end of it.
NP: From... just a couple of things and they are all random, they are somewhere linked I think, I'll just have to think out loud. To me this is about attitudes
to archiving as you put it, but for me it's also a very... almost like a fine balance, a very delicate balance towards archiving.
NP: Just two things which immediately struck me, while you were presenting. Was one when you were talking about the Tamil archive.
LL: Roja Muttaiya
NP: Ya...Roja Muttaiya. Now the problem with that for me becomes that this personal experience stems from this sense of almost a sense of fear and a sense of loss...
NP: Almost making for me the crisis of the modern identity, to do with...The fear in that, somewhere archiving then also becomes related, even in an attitude towards a fixity and towards an inability to deal with erasure and loss. You know, now that to me is dangerous, even in terms of when we archive... as an attitude. The second thing that bothered me slightly was... and I forgot it(laughs)... I have to come back to that. No I'll come back to that, I did bother me I'll just have to remember what it was.
MD: Actually there is a sentence I was also going to ask that...I forget which one... one of the points was that... this type of archivist is dangerous though of the domestic kind...
LL: Domesticated passions...
NP: Domesticated passions...Yeah...that
MD: I mean kind of elaborate on that I think there is lot of potential...
NP: For me it was very interesting when you said that... the domesticated passions bit. Not that I had a problem with that, I had a problem with this whole ownership and owing sort of... immediately I thought of it. It's a principle on which a family is based as well, or it's a principle on which lets say the international community these days is functioning in which... benevolence... there comes in a responsibility to protect which is what the world which is what the western countries these days have as an attitude towards lets say African countries... when it...again in terms of attitudes to archiving it becomes a responsibility to protect. Sometimes the interventions like lets say the Iraq intervention they become problems for me so...
Even in terms of when we archive if we use that as an attitude it's hugely a problem. So what I saw of your presentation was fine but... it means for us that we always have to constantly balance ourselves so finely, in terms of archiving that it's almost dangerous sometimes potentially dangerous, it's just that.
LL: O.K such a complicated question but...
FA : It's also an issue of property and propriety and also the issue of ethics and morality. Ethics and morality the last point that you said...ethics and morality of a confluence which is given to you more in the nature of a private confluence... and archiving it and making it a public domain, to what extent can you push that kind of trust that was bestowed on you and when you enter a public domain then what are the other forces that will play upon this archival material? To make it an ethical issue for the person, who has reposed their faith in you, in giving that material. I think that these are the questions that we really need to grapple with for ourselves... that... when we say O.K this is archive of a public domain.
JM: But why would it be given to you as a personal_______if it is an... if you are an archivist why would you ever give the impression to...
FA: It's not in the public domain. I'm giving it to you I cannot keep it.
SA: No but if you shot it for a film...
JM: ...what did you expect me to do with it...
FA: No but that is something that should be negotiated at the time of giving.
JM: Yeah. I would imagine so...you know why would...
SA: We're also looking at a giving of an existing database of footage. That at that moment of trust, which ... on the broadest level is between the filmmaker... between the independent filmmaker and the subjects of her interview, that was to
factor into a film. Now the problem which we discussed, all of us was that the film itself is nuanced, the film is about the director choosing very carefully, what the representation is and the footage might not do justice. And you know those I think are the dilemmas. Because the filmmaker has no problem with the film that is public, the 90 minutes of 60 hours of footage that is public. It's about the footage now, the trust thing is coming with the footage it's not coming with the film. The filmmaker could sell it for two hundred thousand dollars...or
FA: I'm talking about...
FA:...like Kashmir and issues like that. He says this is the material that I have... It's not even okay for me to keep it, It's dangerous for me to keep it that's why I'm giving it to you. And I know that you'll make the best use of it...
JM: And you'll protect me.
FA:...and protect me as the owner.
JM:... protect me...I wont get into any trouble in the way that you use it.Or in the way that...
FA:Are you using it in a public domain...
TN:I told them I'm a lawyer... I don't understand...
LL: You're a lawyer...Tanya... is a lawyer.(audience laughs)
TN:The little I know about the whole Kashmir project etc.I'm asking when...you have your archive you have your archival material but when you take it to a public domain or when you want to exhibit it... then what... I don't know...there were talks about the external forces... what is then the legal framework that comes into act.Or a question of... it could be... it's not necessarily just copyright...
TN:... you know of your National Security...
TN: privacy... so what is that...that comes into
LL: O.K...I'll move from the conceptual to the lawyerly questions. On the question of fear and a particular attitude that...I think that fear need not be only seen in terms of a certain negative association. There is a certain productivity of fear which is interesting. Even for example when we speak about freedom of speech and expression and other such like things. Often for example we speak about it as an act of fearless speech, but I think that if you were to rethink the idea of... the history of the act of speaking fearlessly. It's never been that you speak fearlessly it's the condition of speaking despite fear right.Which makes it into a productive relationship to the idea of fear.So I don't have a problem with fear. There are two roots that a certain idea of fear of erasure or loss can result in.
LL:... One is ofcourse melancholia and nostalgia but the other is ofcourse the more productive relationship that we have...which is I think for example: like I have fear of loss of information all the time and with genuine reasons. I live in the terrace in my room and recently the heavy rains in Bangalore... and massive seepage happened, and one entire wall of my books were all damp and you know fungus had...And I can recall each of these books in terms of where I got them, a whole range of associated memories. So I think my fear of the loss of my books is extremely genuine. In the same way that in the digital domain I have great accumulated... so 500gb from here... 500gb from there. And again my greatest fear is that technology is highly, highly fragile and fraught... and can go..hard drive suddenly phoosh you're gone.I mean this chilling feeling at the back of your spine but... so we exchange hard drives and we back up eachother's hard drives. So Shaina has backed up mine and I've backed up hers.
LL:... It is not only an act of generosity that has prompted this, it is also an act of insecurity. But an insecurity that is highly productive because it is backed up, and someone else will back hers up. Similarly a copy has gone to Pakistan and a copy has gone to... where is Habibi from... from Lebanon... to Lebanon, so it is circulating. All arising out of a great fear of loss. So I think there is something productive in the fear of the archivist. And I think it is something that we should generate. You know we often build only of theories success and not of failure, in the same way that we only build only on theories of
courage and not of fear.So I think it is not a bad thing at all.
LL: Domesticated passions and the problems that it offers, I think this requires a
much longer, maybe Email exchange discussion, situating it around a reading of the text itself, around Benjamin's text and in what context he's using domesticated passions etc.So maybe that's something that is reserved for a discussion around the text. Benevolence towards Africa is a bit of a leap of faith for me, and I think a leap of faith that I think generally informs a lot of discussions, which is there is a particular mode of the dangerous implications of what you are saying because it can be used in this grand manner. If it is... if that grand thing is going to happen, it's not because my theory of generosity or benevolence on archives that will happen.So I think... I think I'm situating my idea of generosity as an ethical alternative to the idea of exclusion, that informs much of property debates on the intangibles. So I think that it is a context driven use of the term, I wouldn't use the term when it came to other discussions,certainly not when it came to lets say the domain of international relations or the domain of aid etc.Right so that has to be contextualized on it's own terms.
LL: The invocation of generosity or a benevolent attitude to the idea of information is a response to the ungenerous and unbenevolent kind of structuring of knowledge and culture. Things that are given with private confidence is not a issue I can address, it's a much larger question that we've been grappling with and certainly we have no answers to.Except I want to point two interesting instances;one instance is when Kafka died and they saw his will, his will bequeathed all his material to his friend Max Brod, with the specific instruction that Max Brod had to destroy all of Kafka's manuscripts, letters, novels, stories, communication. Max Brod was under a legal and ethical obligation imposed by Kafka, to destroy it. Now I would think that I'm thankful that he didn't.I don't know what to draw out of that as a conclusion, I would leave it as a puzzle, because obviously the ethical part can't be sorted out.
The second is a very interesting reading of Primo Levi by Agamben. Where Primo Levi...compulsive will to write, guilty will to write, constantly writing again almost half frenzied manner and the reason he writes is because of a certain guilt of being alive, or how he survived. Now this is interesting because the idea of 'the testimony' as an obligation, to recall those who didn't survive, after the holocaust particularly in this kind of diary writing manner etc. So Agamben raises an entire set of interesting questions around what it means to be a witness and what it means to relate to the archive and in the book The Witness and the Archive .Where the 'testis' that he talks about is interesting, etymologically the root word of 'testimony' which comes from 'testis 'which again very interestingly, very literally about a certain holding of the testicle and being on oath, etc., was an authority that you borrow from death. If you were lying, in the middle ages it was literally that you were held by your loins and you would die if you did not bear witness in a particular manner, which is why the 'testimony' and the 'testis' kind of come together.
LL:But that the authority of the witness, and again I'm reworking Benjamin in this. Benjamin says that the authority of the storyteller is always borrowed from death. Death is the authority that designs... gives the storyteller the authority. In the same way that I think that death is the authority that gives the witness, his or her ethical obligations, and obligations to the archive or to the public memory of those who did not survive in the way that you did, or those who shared their words or shared their images of those who did not survive.So again you know dual...dual...
MD:(inaudible)...it's my history and this circular movement ... my history and then does that become my memory and my history, this also as a history of...particular hegemonic structure and erasing the other... and that's why what I'm going to ask you or try to articulate is that actually how public the activity or archiving is, isn't it in a way very very public activity.
LL: The word public here also depends on how we... the National Archive treats it's storehouse as a repository of the memory of at least the national public. I think the archives that we are interested in are really in some senses different kind of testimonies.My friend Shubdha has a very beautiful quote or kind of an image. He says lot of the things that we need to set up in India is a National Monument of Forgetting.We have the National... we have the different National ... National Museum we have, we have the Unknown Soldier, we have all of these. But we need a National Museum of Forgetting, precisely to remember that which is forgotten in the National Archives or the official memory. So our archive is an archive , not so much of the act official memory as much as the act of official amnesia.
Monument of Forgetting
LL:... and it is the recalling of all those who've that slipped away from the official archives. So in that sense it cannot but be a personal archive which is also draws... and collector also did the same he straddled the line between the personal and the public or the private and the public. In the same way that any reconstitution of an archive of this sort that we're interested in we always have this...I guess the tension of being extremely personal precisely because, you are contesting the official history documented in the thing. And in the transformation from a case number A 40 to...
MD:(inaudible)... almost instinctively I had worked out this exactly this logic is women's movement and feminism. It worked on memory and had a problematic relation with Freud and Post Freud theory. I'm not sure if in this so called post-feminism era, that whether it in some sense also did not become our troubled legacy, that feminism's insistent relationship with the past and memory and dependence on that for any proactive measures and presence.
HN: ... see the only thing that I...
MD: I mean the thing that you were discussing in yesterday's meeting...
HN: The only sort of tangential thing I want to say is that I think that the Kashmir archive being located in Bombay is not so much a service to Kashmir it is actually a service to Bombay. You know so that degree it is not an obsessive construction by Kashmiris of a troubled past of Kashmir. I think what we're trying to do is , trying to somehow be able to communicate that look... this... some of the...provide like those little bits where you can see through and see that some of this is... so Kashmir doesn't just become a word or a ...
MD: No this statement does not ...agree about Kashmir...
SA: Or Gujarat or Behrampada
MD: No this is more in relationship with memory.
HN: No I was saying in relationship with memory in this way, that it's not our own memory that we are trying to suppose archive...
MD: ... memory this whole victim narrative... we all know that in contemporary politics, in feminism it did create a few... very uncomfortable legacy which we are here to work out. And in that way every feminist_____ is a small small archive. In that sense highly feminist narratives.
MM: Probably is that a peace time activity, maybe it's not a wrong activity when the world is going on. I'm just saying maybe this kind of remuneration...or going over it, is this the time for it. And also another thing I wanted to ask him that, we are talking of archiving and it's like a natural progression that today's archive is on the net, but there are so many implications of it moving on to this
platform. The preciseness of it for example, the apparent preciseness of a filtering process that brings you to a point. And, which actually hides so much ambiguity.I would take a very specific example of this interview that you've done with that JKLF president.
MM: You know just to quickly go over it, it's a long interview where he tells them extensively where he's recorded the atrocities by the army in Kashmir. But finally at a point they have to ask... I mean there are Indians there so they have to ask him that what happened...what about the militant atrocities. So if I were to key in 'militant atrocities' I would come to that one moment when he finally gets up and he goes and he brings out this book that he has, where he's recorded those atrocities also. And then he just says one line... he says this is not the moment
to talk about it.You know...If I were to access...it came up to me when we were debating over...
SA:... to access it... I would put it that you might aid someone who thinks that JKLA...JKLF is a terrorist organization and it's bla bla bla.You will aid them...
Background Sound:...sorry...Muslim Students Association
SA: But it would have Hansa's deep story, of who this person was, what happened
that text is...
SN: But the problem which has been bothering me as well, which I didn't articulate in the morning during the presentation is that, you can have as much text as you want... and you can have all of this. But if someone still... I mean the choice is up to the user right and once it's out there you have no control over it...I mean that much... you dont even desire that control. But... I don't know, it has this huge potential of being misappropriated.
Because they are single narrative units.
SA: Sanjay and Namita...?
HN: Actually I would like to point out... it just occurred to me while you were talking... and Jaishree's done that interview with that Student Muslim...It's interesting... I mean for me the interesting context is that these are both collectors of similar photographs. He's a political leader, a student political leader and this is a photographer in a Mohalla
(colony). They are both collecting similar photographs of violence. So... I mean I also have the same issues in a way as you do, that if you just take a section of that footage. The intervention that I think we have been trying to make is to locate things in their context of some sorts. And then... so therefore that collection reflects on this collection that we showed today. So that other collection reflects on this collection, which is our problem. It's not to do with access, of course there has to be access, it's important that there is access. But this is our limitation just now or our whatever...
MD: ...I'm saying again and again but nobody is taking the hint. Is that what is... why I'm talking about feminism in this case... not gender sensetive in that sense.There is a ... at one point feminism was under tremendous pressure. If you don't have at least four, five major tragedies in memory you cannot even qualify. And these can become a racial structure. And archives...you can collect any history, in that you can structure any history. And then it can become 'your archive' and 'my archive' and 'my memories' and 'your memories'. What I'm trying to say... I'm very modernist, let me accept that. I really have a problem of with memory now becoming a major industry and history structure.
LL: There's some incredible work done on this particularly by Ian Hacking.Two books, one is ' The Social Construction of What?' and the other is on schizophrenia. And he says that the 80's is when the memory industry really gets accentuated, in the US particularly because of the discovery of a phenomenon called Child Sexual Abuse. Now all of a sudden everything is about Child Sexual Abuse and people have discovered that everything had to relate to Child Sexual Abuse and there is this thing. Ok I know I'm getting into highly... this is not my argument, this is Ian Hacking's argument...
LL: We're in Majlis I forgot for a moment.(laughter)
MD: Majlis is a hugely schizophrenic organization.(laughter)
LL: That's excellent. So he argues that the discovery of this sudden idea of Child Sexual Abuse being related to any traumatic memory that one might have, results in this creation of the memory industry. And everything is retrospectively now linked to this traumatic event. And so...as that through a larger point of a reflection on memory and trauma. And how trauma becomes both the basis for the invocation of a particular kind of memory, but also in many ways memory becomes the root through which a particular trauma is articulated, either as victim hood etc. Now the book on schizophrenia which kind of does this thinking in some amount of detail. And I think what is important then in relation to the thinking of an archive, particularly around conflict or particularly around the potentiality of trauma, is to recognize that trauma cannot be the only basis of the creation of an archive. And I think that for me the most instructive work on this is Rancière . Rancière has this incredible relationship to the archive in it's kind of complexities of pleasure and of this... When he's looking at the working class labor archive but, not just in terms of their subjectivities as workers but and all of that, but really looking at the poetry that they are writing, the philosophical forms that they are expressing in.