Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Christian Boltanski once mused that we are surrounded by a cloud of dead ancestors that are not simply relegated to the past, but present us with potentialities (physical features, dispositions) that actualize in time and space. Boltanski has spent his career haunted by images of the dead, by the possibility of capturing these wandering souls (“anamitas”), by having them materialize in us. But what dwells in the image is not memory, rather it involves the hand of the forger, who through techné pieces together unexpected and incoherent sets of relations—relations that as Raul Ruiz puts it “live their own lives.” Rather than capturing or allowing oneself to be carried away from numerous connections to the past, Ruiz reads the image (its gift or givenness) as vertiginous, tremulous, throbbing, convulsive, “simply alive.” In this talk I wish to compare Boltanki’s 24-hour installation, Anamitas (2015), with Ruiz’s 3-minute short film Le don (The Gift, 2007), and Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia de la luz (Nostalgia for the Light, 2010). All three cinematic works were set in Chile’s Atacama Desert—a site of memory (Pierre Nora) but also one of erasure—where Augusto Pinochet placed his most important detention centers (Chacabuco and Pisagua), and where many of the detainees may have (been) disappeared. These works ask us to think whether or not the image can “redeem” (Benjamin) memory by offering it up as an artifice (the gift, or given) of a moment lived?