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4. Contact Sheet
It is only evidence that she has been somewhere at the same time that her camera’s been there. There’s a pig in a doorway, a street, a man from behind. The places seem akimbo, as though executed by the fist of a small, tight child. The problem of a book is that it is fixed. But “archive” senses a strewn thing, of stuff and gesture moved by weather systems. Will we want to know later that the insurgents at the skirmish wore brightly colored jeans? We can imagine the folders into which they will go, each according to his palate.
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Consider the following examples:
I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen.
Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we
— we own this country.
We — we own it. It is not you owning it, and not
politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.
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(This is a very lightly revised version of the paper I tried to deliver at the American Studies Association conference as a performance piece that also riffed on the talks just given around me: a complete failure as a performance. Chronologically it was written after the previous two combover pieces were written, and so represents a development of the idea I’ve been serializing here.)
Amitava [Kumar] originally called this panel “The Message Chain.” Its idea was to ask some scholars who see themselves as writers, how, for them, a particular space becomes a “locale” for writing, an event that requires not just attention and consideration but a decision to write outside of the usual academic idiom or medium. This was to be a panel about crossing over, not into death, but toward a bigger life for writing. A spatial impact becomes-event in this view when it induces a communicative action–writing, teaching, and performing–you know, the kinds of things that our careers are made from, although few of us would admit to having the career as our ambition. But that is because ambition is one of the obscene affects of capitalist culture. It’s hard not to think about it, though, when someone asks you to talk about “crossover” writing: when you’re crossing over it’s because your ambition isn’t hiding in a repetition but in sincerity, in the desire to do something for an audience whose relation to reading is unprofessional or outside of the norms our professions perform.
It would not be too strong to say that the capitalist subject is distinguished by its education in judging ambition.