Thursday, March 26, 2009

Archive Fever: Mysterious Erasure at Amphibious Andromeda

Yesterday I mentioned one of my favorite websites, Amphibious Andromeda from photographer Ricardo Bloch. For 589 consecutive days Bloch published a new photo each day from his studio in Paris, accompanied by an image sliver (an enigmatic associative footnote), followed by a short sound clip. Ingenious for its sound/image combinations, and for letting those media speak for themselves, I find this site remarkably beautiful and intelligent in its conception and daily execution.

On Wednesday March 4th Bloch discontinued posting daily new releases, with this message:

AA will remain online as a nearly unmanageable archive of fun and thoughtful image/sound combinations, but it won't any longer contain a new releases section. On the other hand, the images made for Amphibious Andromeda will be collected, in strict chronological order, in a series of inexpensive limited-edition books. AmphibiousAndromedaBook1 will be available in mid-April.

To help finance the publication of the books, all of the photographs in Amphibious Andromeda can now be purchased as 40x50 cm signed photographic prints, for a reasonable price.
Send me an email if you want further information. / aa (at) ricardobloch (dot) com

At the top of the page is a continuously ticking widget or gadget that reads "I've been alive/22806 Days 19 hrs 33 min 4 sec" (that's what it says as I am writing just now). So AA has a heartbeat, that of its creator. And despite the adjustment my life requires to no longer have a new daily AA fix ("one day at a time"), I am so grateful that it's still there and the clock is still ticking. I've been going back to explore it from the beginning.

But then something alarming happened, beyond the control of the blogger, under the auspices of Blogger behind the curtain somewhere:

A few days after I decided to stop Amphibious Andromeda, a most serendipitous technical mishap happened and all of the sounds disappeared. Bizarre! I am now methodically replacing them one by one, front to back. So please bear with me.

Bloch's choice of the word serendipitous for this trés bizarre random calamity made me run to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, exploring the definition again:

Adj. 1. serendipitous - lucky in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries
lucky - having or bringing good fortune; "my lucky day"; "a lucky man"

Word History: We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the word serendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which his literary reputation primarily rests. In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that "this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word." Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of...."

I first learned of the mysterious sound erasures on AA when reading Eric Prenowitz's translation of Jacques Derrida's Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, a book in which Derrida anticipates the effects and pervasive impact of electronic media (especially what he calls "E-mail") in transforming the private and public space of humanity. (Ironically, and outrageously, Derrida's own archive was subject to a feverish lawsuit with the University of California Irvine; an account written by Thomas Bartlett, for the Chronicle of Higher Education, draws on details of Derrida's illness and death, demonstrating his thesis about the erasure of privacy.)

Because Archive Fever is reproduced and translated from a lecture in London on June 5, 1994, during an international colloquium entitled "Memory: The Question of Archives," it only anticipates our brave new world of web logging, facebook, and twitter. Derrida would have had a great deal to say about all of that, as well as the spontaneous erasure of the sound clips at Amphibious Andromeda. I keep trying to imagine just what he would say, as I try to imagine the human being now patiently reconstructing the full effects of his sound archive...where, serendipitously, the widget is still ticking.


UrbanEden said...

What a gorgeous image! It reminds me of the laundry photo a few posts back--almost a grid, but deviating in such interesting ways. And it reminds me of one of my favorite painters, Richard Diebenkorn. And it also reminds me of walking one particular trail every day for a year, noticing the small daily changes. So many associations...thank you.

elena said...

If you like this one, take a stroll through Paris with Ricardo at his is so interesting, with many memorable images and sounds. He creates books of artists' homes as well (click on the links on his page). Thanks so much for visiting and posting...(and your soap is divine!)

This is one of my favorite AA photos.

Ricardo said...

Dear Ellen.
First of all thank you for going back and perusing into the 589 days-deep archives of AA.
Second I am embarrassed to admit that I used serendipity without knowing it had mostly a positive cast, while the mysterious erasures to AA were a sincere blow and have made me put hours of work into making the beast come to life again. Perhaps serendipitous only because strangely poetic, but I must read my dictionary carefully in the future before using words with more than 12 letters.

I have just picked up from the printer the final draft of Amphibious Andromeda Book 1, 102 pages, 200 photos, from July 24 to October 19, 2007, and if I can say so, it is gorgeous, full of surprises. You will see when it sees it final printing.
In a way, the book has nothing to do with the blog. It's curious. Different pictures often, no "photnotes" and no sounds. The overriding constraints here being the strict chronological sequencing and the integrity of the double page spread.
But more later. In the meantime, I need to ask you to make one correction to your blog entry. I have changed my web site so that it begins on a different page, so now your link for Amphibious Andromeda should be:
rather than

All for now. And always a fan of your seeming inexhaustible reading and thinking and writing energy.

elena said...

Hello dear Ricardo..I think the only thing lucky about the sound erasures (which must have been a terrible shock) is learning about Serendip/Sri Lanka: such an odd exoticism! I am so looking forward to seeing the first of the Amphibious Andromeda books: congratulations on that, and keep us posted.