New notes about the Index

A memory as a practice, or an act

Metello, Verónica in Cacao Europa


  1. Duarte Amaral Netto (b.1976) is a photographer and a teacher. His style of photography is the balance of personal experience within memory and it’s pattern of critical construction for meaning. Expertly flowing together, in photography projects like The Polish Club Case which in 2012 was nominated for the BES photo prize, the Polaroid images were part of his intimate projects from his album of transfers from Polaroid.

The Albums – which are albums of family, friends, lovers, children, his children, animals, things and places. These projects are the creation of a narrative between a story and memory, which has been in circulation since late 2006.

  1. An album is a map. The cartography drawn included reference points and event markers, which through a web of images creates a narrative in the form of a memory.[1] The reference points establish the geography of affects, in relation to the subjectivities represented. It evolves through each reading or interpretation of the map, forming a varied stratigraphy – layer by layer, from its density to reality, or the world in which we live, in constant renewal. This construction can be called a composition. It therefore differs in what is represented and organised: the photographs, are indexes. The map is a portrayal of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand plateaus, capitalism and schizophrenia 2 – it is a guide to the experimentation of reality[2]. A common factor is the sense of agreement (agreement – to make sense together, in harmony – from heart to heart) which functions as the uniting factor, or of which depends on the bond between different layers over others. It derives from a notion of truth or fact – which is paradoxically secured by the indexical character, a documental image. Like a document, a photographic image is testimonial, it is permanent, it composes and determines the agreement of a fiction shared with a broken truth, of a story.

Maps of memories are renewed with each interpretation, the albums indicate and make reference to the world in which we live, which are much like memories, which are fact and fiction. The products are designed affectively, in the style of a personal and collective memory, therefore creating the narrative in which it is represented. The narrative works in two ways: it sustains and holds back from the world we live, “it is not a fixed structure and the end of an experience, but a complex and intersubjective sedimentation or if it has merged together all the indicators of logic, scientifics, religions, aesthetics etc, they leave behind their traces”[3]. It is where plasticity is derived from[4]. In the image of daily life, the album-map is renewed with each interpretation, condensing, to sedimentation that readjusts to the unity of its narrative. One thing can be done “in the process of using – to producing, selecting, ordering, displaying – photographs, the family is actually in the process of making itself”[5].

  1. The daily, is perceived by the stratification, solidification and molarities[6] of etiquette. These ensure a balance on the exterior, the idea of purpose and sequence, a method of recognition of the application of life in the good sense and in the common sense. The world, the subject and the absolute are their principles. Bruce Bégout in La Découverte du Quotidien, explains that: the daily existence of a creation, depends on the functionality and objectivity of life. It functions through a process of acclimatisation[7], built through the repetition of habit[8], weaving a common web of feeling which in turn designs a context, or a divided meaning. And we see, a web, which is a narrative. The purpose of the daily as the production process of habit is a familiarisation with the world, thus making possible a world of life, where in a particular context, the flow of experience has the status of confirmation. This objective allows the temporal unravelling of life chronologically without boundaries, a future in progress, in context “genealogizing” the ‘now’ (the moment in which we make the photographic image). The legitimacy of medieval royalty is created, and confirmed, by the evidence of where the figure of the tree is rooted to the womb of Adam, the first. The construction of individuality in relation to a familiar group is formed – in the case of the family album, the integration of daily rituals and mundane practices confirm the image where a double of oneself from the past is shown in the context of an event that constitutes a common narrative,and is documented.

To ‘see photographically’, which Celia Lury[9] discussed in her review of the construction of modernist subjectivity by way of technological devices of image production, which came to be a key factor. The image and the gaze are produced, by the framing, which is as much a testimony as production. It produced, in that respect, this narrative to be written, woven, and interwoven into an excessive yet essential narrative. According to Lury, in order to ‘see photographically’ you alter your awareness through a technique of remembering, which simultaneously affects the “subjective configurations of the self and identity, experience and information”[10]. The key aspect of the definition to ‘see photographically’ is: a contemporary subjectivity which establishes itself as the after-life of the photographic act, like a ‘subject-effect’ of, the counter-memory of photography[11]. Both functions – are perceptive and structural of the memory, they are defined by the enigma of photography in its representation: it is the image of a reference material in the world. But its indexical character opens a public temporality, unable to untie itself from the referent material, illustrated in its absence.

The that-has-been discussed in Barthes’ Camera Lucida[12] is a verification of the fundamental, or the womb of Adam. Maria João Baltazar wrote[13]: that moment of discovery, that-has-been, will be continuously recentralized when it reforms into upon-which-it-happened: the act of remembering is particularly valuable to the medium of photography, it conforms to a knowledge renewed from the past, through its return to the present it increases in quantity, creating new opportunities which endorse the recovery of future promises and meanings. It established itself with the possibility of a transition space, recognizing the meaning and value of each fragment left behind, a kind of prolonging of the noema of photography, expanding on the Barthesian inevitability up until the next moment where the participation and building of memory becomes a photographic object, like the starting point in a mediation somewhat present in “upon-which-it-happened” and still restores the meaning and possibility of life in the hopeful future”[14].

    1. An index according to phaneroscopy by Charles Sanders Peirce, who indicated the point of coincidence between two parts of an experience[15], to which they refer but those who are not. The index is in itself something, but it always refers to the other which is the cause. A transfer is an index, but it is also a print of a print. A print is the method used to created transfers. It is a technique. But also an affect. It is the command of the exterior – modelling with another. It is what persists in memory, when the narrative is blurred. A print is individuality (digital, a footprint, a kiss), luminous (photographically), affective (disturbance, emotional, it makes an impression), expressive (wrinkled, folded). The print functions as an intermediation of an action with a surface, printing and copying, creating a machine with constricted meaning, of the index, between two temporalities. A print is binary, it is always binary. It becomes the result, in the and of the in-between, together, a testimony to the absence of a presence, making present what is missing. Consequently, if on one hand the print presents the absence of something like the power of a form[16], on the other, it traces a temporality of its own. It is not only the prints which appear themselves as ‘things’ – like they are something which also presents a visual and tactile recollection of a past that does not stop ‘working’, which transforms the substrate of which the mark is printed on[17]. The description of the experience of the indexical image centralizes a paradigm – of the distance that unfolds itself in constant separation however great the distance. And defines itself as a misplacement whose axis is a temporal collision (that) is also a visual collision – a collision of different forms of similarities. However they have one point in common, which is also their common practice point: the point of contact[18]. It is a testimony to the form, or image, which in its presence is absence and, therefore, an unfolding of another temporality. In the collision of the one before with the one now and these with a trace of their survival – an index, the distance is given to the visibility in the synthesis of temporal and spatial. In the proximity of the mark, of the trace, in the length of its matrix and in the sense of the sign of contact – hopelessly distant. Aura. Yes. Walter Benjamin. What was defined as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however else it may be (einmalige Erscheinung einer Ferne, so nah sie sein mag,) or a strange web of space-time[19], it is what Didi-Huberman defined as spatially worked – and until produced, it would have been repeated, woven into all meanings of the term, like a subtle fabric, or like a – unique incident, bizarre (sonderbar), that surrounded us, seized us, tied us into its plot. Which would end by giving its origin, in its ‘production’. Or in its instant of visibility, to something like a specific visual metamorphosis, emerging precisely from this fabric, from this cocoon – which is another meaning of the word Gespinst – of space and of time. The aura would be just like the spatially worked and originating from the observer and from the observed, from the observer by the observed. A visual paradigm, which Benjamin presented, first, like the power of distance: ‘the unique phenomenon of distance, however close it may be’ (einmalige Erscheinung einer Ferne, so nah sie sein mag)[20]. In fact, Benjamin distinguished the aura from the trace, of the index. The aura is formed to the phenomenon of distance, whatever the distance it recalls, and the index, or the trace would be the proximity of any distance, that would be the distance to what can be left, but Didi-Huberman was unable to see a distinctive element, and made his point with the relics of Christ[21]. The power of the print (the affect of memory) is depicted: in the ability to make present, by reversing, what is absent.
    2. Adam or the first, the Barthesian image of the that-has-been in the albums of Duarte Amaral Netto, is not the moment in which the first image (the matrix of the transfer) was documented. But the moment of contact, of the print, where it developed its temporality and visibility. In a double confirmation of the index. The transfer, through which the physical quality is produced by the specific visual metamorphosis that is – testimonial by its mimetic infidelity to the real, the abrasion, imprecision, disgrace or inability to show an image – it confirms the nature of its own matrix, to its technical and built production, and established, by way of repetition of the same by another, a modelling of its experience in the after-life of the image. The metamorphosed presence of the same one (a matrix that is already something in the world) affirmed in the double absence through another different (transfer) functions as a double reframing and the confirmation of the capacity ‘to see photographically’ is as much about the matrix as the real. This practice, together with the absence of formal organisation and like an unconventionally constructed album – the truth of not following any norm except the chronological sequence of occurrences, establishes a new regime of experience and of reference.

It’s characteristic is the strangeness of its own experimental expression, productive, of a map of a separate trace of space-time, woven like the spatially worked, of which was found the plasticity in the immanency of its own world of life, of the daily life and its complementing narratives. Constructed, composed, in the space-time of the evidence made by the absence. In each interpretation or renewal: The memory like practice or act.


[1] According to two references, separately: 1. Celia Lury, Prosthetic Culture, Photography, Memory Identity, Routledge, New York, 1998. In this book the author shows us how a perceptive experiences, much like a memory, are transformed by the “to see photographically”, creating a culture of prosthetic memory from which occurs a particular construction of subjectivity, made of the and in the post-photographic. 2. Annette Kuhn, Family secrets, Acts of Memory and imagination Verse, London, New York 1995 (1st ed), 2002, through photographs of her family the author reconfigures the personal narrative of her family, and of her own definition, in which she designs the practices of memory. The relationship established is what particularly interests us – because it is flexible in it’s constant redefinition between the image and its possible interpretations, the memories are a mode of access to a passage whose archeology implicates a change of the present and the future, and the social structure like ideas (p.2-4), conventions are susceptible to being continually altered through these acts of memory.

[2] Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia 2, Assirio and Alvim, Lisbon, 2007, p.32-37

[3] Bruce Bégout, La découverte du quotidian, Allia, Paris, 2010, p.110

[4] Consider plasticity, Bárbara Formis explains in her Esthétique de la vie ordinaire, much like contemporary art searches for various strategies, through gesture: obscure, daily aesthetic vs the aesthetic of common gestures, impresentation and minority, in order to reveal an aesthetic quality of gesture were as common to art as life, affirming to conventionality (the constructed meaning) if the two, in its artifice.

[5] Annette Kuhn, Op. Cit, p.19

[6] Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia 2, Assirio and Alvim, Lisbon, 2007, according to the formulation of these concepts in chapter 3, p.65-106

[7] Bruce Bégout, Op, cit. p.172

[8] Id.Ibid, p.286-287

[9] Op, cit, note 1

[10] Celia Lury, Op.cit. p.148

[11] Id.ibid. p.86

[12] Roland Bharthes, Camera Lucida, Edition 70, Lisbon

[13] Maria João Baltazar wrote, OlharModerno – fotografia enquanto objecto e memoria, ESAD, 2010

[14] Maria João Baltazar, Op.cit, p.127

[15] Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected papers, vol II, p.160

[16] Georges Didi-Huberman, La assamblance par contact, Archeologie, Anachronisme et Modernite de l’empreinte, Paris, 2008, p.55

[17] Id.ibid, p.28

[18] id.ibid, p.42

[19] Walter Benjamin, “L’oeuvre d’art a l’ere de sa reproductibilite technique” in Oeuvres III, Paris, 2000, p.75

[20] Georges Didi-Huberman, O que nos vemos, o que nos olhas, 2011, p.117

[21] Didi-Huberman counter argues in the la rassemblance par contact, Archeologie, Anachronisme et Modernite de l’empreinte, Paris, 2008, P.80, relativity to that distance. Against this conceptual opposition proposed to think about the prints: the relics of Christ, printed faces, of the vestige (vestigium) of expression (facis) of the grace (gratia) as expressed in medieval vocabulary. Of those, which turn the basis of your argument, everything is treated as the unique appearance of a distance, the closer this appearance can be: that characteristic of aura is verified absolutely, on all levels, narratively, conventionally, iconographically – in the existence of the saints of expressions of Christ.

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