Academic journal article CineAction

"The Way Forward Is the Way Back": Colonial and Anti-Colonial Archives: The Historiographic Operation as a Film Praxis

Academic journal article CineAction

"The Way Forward Is the Way Back": Colonial and Anti-Colonial Archives: The Historiographic Operation as a Film Praxis

Article excerpt

In 1993, while the death of Marxism and the end of history were proclaimed, Jacques Derrida showed the irreducible heritage--itself spectral--of the German philosopher. In Spectres de Marx, (1) by analysing the speciality of Marxist theory, Derrida evoked a dislocated time, a time "out of joint". (2) Time, in its currentness, is disadjusted. Furthermore, beyond the living present, the temporality of time is disjointed. It is disturbed by the spectre, a performative, who, appearing as a revenant coming from the past, belongs conjointly to a time to come opened up by inheritance. Spectral inheritance convokes a politics of memory and a politics of representation which go beyond successive temporality.

This article considers two film works which deal with the spectral memory of colonialism and anti-colonialism, expressing a dialectical conception of history and image: Filipa Cesar's The Embassy and Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc's Foreword to "Guns for Banta". These two pieces of 2011 revisit the colonial and the anti-colonial visual narratives of Guinea-Bissau's War of Liberation (1963-1974), a former Portuguese colony, through heterodox types of archival appropriation and critical interpretation. Colonial and anti-colonial photography and cinema are deconstructed as ideological systems of representation. In derridian terms, The Embassy and Foreword to "Guns for Banta" approach critically the colonial and the anti-colonial historical and visual legacies, addressing their ghosts through a complex discursive system, and the assumption of certain links of filiation.

The Embassy and Foreword to "Guns for Banta" testify of a historiographical and of an aesthetic turn. Guided by a logic of haunting, their non-linear narrative structures combine the diachronic and synchronic dimensions as a means to assume inheritance. They call together the past and the present under the same temporal arch. Visual forms think the mediality (3) of photography and cinema. Colonial and anti-colonial archives are articulated in such a way as to put forward the sensible history and the cultural memory of colonialism and anti-colonialism, and to evaluate the epistemic effects of the colonial and the anti-colonial projects.

Addressing not only the history of Portuguese late colonialism and PAIGC's (The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) anti-colonial struggle, The Embassy and Foreword to "Guns for Banta" also deal with the memory of their visual representations, namely of the 1960 and 1970's internationalist anti-colonial Liberation Cinema. History is approached through visual representations. These works enable and problematise the coexistence of the sensible direct memory and of the photographic-cinematic indirect memory of colonialism and anti-colonialism, and the way these two memories are entangled. Moreover, these pieces give actuality and effectivity to photographic-cinematic memory, in the frame of a new historiographical praxis that can be defined as a rewriting of history by art. (4)

The Embassy and Foreword to "Guns for Banta " exemplify the historiographical operation (5) which emerges in the aesthetic sphere. The historiographical operation emerging in the aesthetic sphere might be comparable to the aesthetic operation arising in the disciplinary field of history at least since R. G. Collingwood assumed the historical imagination as a valid historiographical method. (6)

The historiographical turn of the aesthetic sphere is closely linked to the willingness of a critical review of modernity and modernism. The historical recit appears as the result of a film praxis. This is the case of the work of Angela Ferreira, Vincent Meessen, Sven Augustijnen, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Patrizio di Massimo, among other artists and filmmakers who reconsider simultaneously the history of colonialism and the history of modernism. In The Embassy and Foreword to "Gunsfor Banta", the historiographical operation is linked to an archaeological prospection having as object the colonial and the anti-colonial modernist visual forms and their mythographic and ideological function. …

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