Academic journal article Liminalities

'Was Here': Identity Traces and Digital Footprints as Survival Writing

Academic journal article Liminalities

'Was Here': Identity Traces and Digital Footprints as Survival Writing

Article excerpt

This article looks at the traces of identity writ-large by fingertip, using volcanic ash on a ruined patio window frame in an evacuated eruption zone on the island of Montserrat, and goes on to trace the digital footprints of the 'writer/s' after the discovery of their markings two years later. This is a virtual travel journey of places visited, tagged, in- scribed and re-inscribed. The suggestion is that the motivation for an out-of-sight site under the gaze of an active volcano is a form of survivalist scription. "Jen & Marc Hart, San Fran1, 02-14-2013 ^" reads the survivalists' Valentine. This personal but public inscription is located in a natural disaster space but is also anticipating connections in time, writing to the future reader here.

I m a survivor, a writer

Three days after

(opening lines of 'The Hugo Effect' by Kimberley Fenton 1989: 43)

I admit that I derived some poor consolation in my mortal lot from the belief that the whole world was dying with me and I with it

(Pliny's Second Letter to Tacitus, 6.20)

"Jen & Marc Hart, San Fran, 02-14-2013 ^ (ash graffiti, Plymouth, Montserrat 2015) '"

Writing is the original hypertext. In conjunction with reading, writing makes the subject present, here and now for the reader despite the writer's obvious absence. French postmodern philosopher Lyotard (1991, 49) auralises this process as a calling 'forth of presence', of making the subject stand the test/text of time: the writer is here without being here. There is presence in their absence. This feat or fantasy of communication creates an assumed connection between the reader and the writer. Both are aware and familiar with this magic act/art: the writer escapes the boundaries of their living by entextualising their life for the reader who also escapes and expands their own in reading the writer. There is no constancy about this process. It is indeterminate according to Iser's (1988) reader response theory, and yet we are still impassioned to write and to read and to zig and zag between the social realities we construct in both activities (cf. Rapport 1994). This 'texting of life' (Skinner 2002), this Ozymandias impulse, takes place during ordinary and extra-ordinary times. Taking the extra-ordinary, for Sontag (1967) a disaster can turn into a writing opportunity, giving an edge to the words and a poignancy to the process. Writing in particular can become a compulsion, even, as a way of writing oneself elsewhere, out of an unfolding crisis (Skinner 2000). The writing can also memorialise or repeat the disaster. It is a second coming. 'The disaster ... is the limit of writing' according to Maurice Blanchot (1995, 7). It pushes us to write better. But beware. '[T]he disaster describes', he adds (1995, 7). It is a possible feat, though the event also effaces and eclipses (its) writing.

Writing from experiences of France during World War Two, Blanchot's disaster was one of occupation. More literal are disasters manmade such as the immersion in death from the bombing of Hiroshima and subsequent sustained death encounter that has had an indelible impact, a 'death impact' chronicled by Lifton (2003, 30 author's emphases) with its psychological and sociological features:

Summarizing the psychological significance of this early phase, I would stress the indelible imprint of death immersion, which forms the basis of what we shall later see to be a permanent encounter with death; the fear of annihilation of self and of individual identity, along with the sense of having virtually experienced that annihilation; destruction of the non-human environment, of the field or context of one's existence, and therefore of one's overall sense of "being-in-the-world"; and the replacement of the natural order of living and dying with an unnatural order of deathdominated life.

The shock of living with this history is also apparent in the aphoristicallylabelled Holocaust from World War Two. …

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