Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

When It All Suddenly Clicked: Deconstruction after Psychoanalysis after Photography

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

When It All Suddenly Clicked: Deconstruction after Psychoanalysis after Photography

Article excerpt

Derrida recalled on more than one occasion Benjamin's observation that psychoanalysis and photography came to light at roughly the same time and that both cast a new light on the significance of the detail or the fragment in the search for new or hidden forms of meaning. In 1981 in "The Deaths of Roland Barthes," Derrida would thus write that "Benjamin saw in the analytic enlargement of the fragment or minute signifier a point of intersection between the era of psychoanalysis and that of technical reproduction, in cinematography, photography, and so on" (38-39), and four years later in Right of Inspection he would again evoke Benjamin in speaking of a "strange concurrence" between these two arts:

   Benjamin emphasized that very same thing concerning the detail,
   namely that the invention of photography and the advent of
   psychoanalysis concur [conviennent]. Through a strange concurrence
   [concurrence] in the technical apparatus, more or less at the same
   moment, you can see Ps and Ph unite: a reading of the significant
   "detail" in a blowup, in a process of increasing enlargement, of
   decoupage or montage, a reinscription of metonymies, displacement,
   substitution, restaging, analysis of the figurative function of
   words in the Darstellbarkeit, etc. (no page number) (1)

Photography and psychoanalysis would thus concur, as David Wills has nicely translated conviennent, the third person plural of convenir, which is used by Derrida somewhat unconventionally here as an intransitive verb without a preposition. As two arts of magnification and enlargement, of reinscription and restaging, photography and psychoanalysis would concur in two senses of the word; they would concur or agree over the importance or implications of the detail or the fragment, and they would concur by emerging or coming to light in roughly the same historical epoch. As arts that not only enlarge what is already present to the naked eye or to waking consciousness but also magnify and reveal things over time that are imperceptible to consciousness or the naked eye, psychoanalysis and photography would have concurred in time about a new relationship to time and space.

In what follows, I would like to consider this strange concurrence between photography and psychoanalysis in order to ask why Derrida himself began using photography in a series of texts of the 1980s and 1990s to rethink and reframe what he had already considered in the 1960s to be a thinking of spacing and temporality made possible in large part by psychoanalysis. As I will argue, the conjunction or concurrence of photography and psychoanalysis will allow Derrida to restage or reformat--to photoshop, if you will--in the 1980s and 1990s a thinking of time as discontinuity, supplementarity, belatedness, and so on, that had initially been staged in his readings of Freud in the 1960s and 1970s. In these more recent works, Derrida clarifies the concurrence between photography and psychoanalysis by rethinking time not as presence or as a succession of present moments but as an irreducible absence and delay of presence to consciousness, a necessary deferral of the coming to light of the image--what Freud would call Nachtraglichkeit and photographers call a "delay mechanism." It would thus seem that several of Derrida's central motifs and claims regarding psychoanalysis can best be understood today in the light of the radical rethinking of time offered by photography. It is in this final sense, then, that I would like to argue photography and psychoanalysis concur, that is, come together, emerge or develop together, around a notion of time as deferral, non-concurrence, or non-simultaneity--all ways of describing what Derrida will have called from the very beginning differance or supplementarity. Photography and psychoanalysis would thus concur in time over a certain non-concurrence in space and time, a non-concurrence that, I would like to suggest in conclusion, is also the very temporality of deconstruction and the archive. …

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