The Unfathomable Archive


“In science fiction, the dynamics of preservation and access to the archive involve entropy and amnesia. The question of the archive’s legibility arises when processes of obsolescence, which amount to a technological ‘forgetting’, ensure new media technologies are unable to retrieve the information of the obsolesced forerunner. The archive becomes unreadable. In terms of science fiction, once the archive is illegible, existing in a state that permits no access to accessible meaning through lived human memory, it swiftly ends up being no archive at all. Time passed renders the archive not only incomprehensible in terms of its content, but a priori unfathomable qua archive. In science fiction the corollary of this is the immanence of the archive. In the context of the science fiction narrative, when an archive becomes post-archival (in the sense that it is no longer connected to the now-vanished culture that had assigned to it the meaning of ‘an archive’), it assumes its new existence as an anomalous amalgamation of things or images (assuming the category of objects known as ‘images’ pertains in the science fiction universe in question). At this point the typology of the archive is not an issue, as its formal qualities, features and structure could be instantiated in any way. At this stage, in a post-archival world, nothing and everything can be an archive depending not on its properties but its place in the science fiction text: a point which changes, reveals and to some extent recovers a lost world.”

Text: Chris Horrocks, Disinterring the Present: Science Fiction, Media Technology and the Ends of the Archive, Journal of Visual Culture 2013.

Image: The Morlock Sphynx, The Time Machine, Dir. George Pal, 1960.


One thought on “The Unfathomable Archive

  1. Instantiated? I had to look it up: “to provide an instance of or concrete evidence in support of (a theory, concept, claim, or the like).” This, after you gave me vertigo with that tortuous graphic that won’t hold still. Note to self: never read this blog first thing in the morning. My brain hurts.

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