Let’s look at photographs of Canudos. Barros’ work was counterpropaganda to news of mismanagement of supplies and excessive and systematic brutality. He stages scenes of civilization winning over and also medicating barbarism. Yet really, the unstaged backlands excess still crowds into the frames. This is the “unrevealed” (Barthes; see page 198). Here is my half revealed, half concealed thesis again.
Benjamin has a concept of the “optical unconscious.” The other’s ghost, the indexicality that refuses to go away, becomes a phantasmatic truth-speaker (199).
(I am liking this book more and more, and really have to read it seriously.)
202: A second punctum, the gap between the “before” of the photographic session and the “after” that is already inscribed in it. In this cesura of time, the image is at once produced as a document and as a monument. In da Cunha, this is written out; what is “other” turns out not to be the bandit but the scene in which he is caught.
203: Canudos is the event in the constitution of the state that is fundamental, yet impossible to assimilate. Euclides speaks of it as a “parenthesis” — it could “not exist” because “history would not go as far as that.”
Liberal history, the history of the state, never returns to its original scene, which it must narrate as having always already occurred, if narrative is to take place.
In representations of these foundational moments, violence is implied and/or erased.
Explicit images of violence are rare because violence is the external margin, the horizon from which the photographic field receives its coherence, and not its object.
Formal composition in these circumstances has to overact, as in a farce, in order to assimilate exteriority. And it collapses under this weight. The indexical (an important term for Andermann and for me, since it means a sign or symptom, an arrow leading somewhere, [unrepresentable?] … but this is one of the things I have to reread Andermann for, what about the indexical as words like I and now that mean different things (depending upon who and when says them) … in any case, the indexical is bound up with the monumental, not the documental. That is why the place a social historian can look for data is not in the inconspicuous detail but in the aforementioned collapse. (In other words, the indexical points to issues having to do with the constructed nature of representation, not to ‘true facts’, if I understand this right. That continual pointing toward representation and not toward a [referent] might be the cause of the circularity of so many texts I have thought about, and perhaps all the short circuits in the question of race.)
Cecilia Valdés, for instance, as a constant regress of signifiers, or Cecilia as signifier, or as empty sign, those ideas I had long ago. Bolívar to these novels to Freyre; other people have worked on race in that trajectory but not in the way I am thinking of it, to my knowledge; I will have to see.
One of my main points is how fragile the representations of the (nation-)state are, and how contradictory.