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Looking for her shape and his hand
March 20, 2010, 6:32 pm
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This footage of Anne Frank in 1941, just a year before the Franks and the van Pels went into hiding, is remarkable for its richness. I’m never not astounded by the potential of an image or images to perform powerful cultural work. In this case, the few seconds of Anne in this film – her rapt attention to the newlywed couple, the turn of her head to shout back into the apartment (to Margot? to her mother? to Otto Frank?) – absolutely transcends the temporal and physical/digital space it occupies, suggesting a crisis of representation: because the moments here are so much more than the tangible, quantifiable evidence suggests. This is socio-historical haunting at its clearest: the merging of the visible and invisible, the reminder of structures of subjective history.

We can’t watch this video without holding it next to and within the context of Anne’s life, to the context of state exclusion, bare life and genocide. It’s Anne’s omnipresence in our cultural discourse that allows this, though, and so I’m left thinking when I watch this video not only of Anne Frank but of her neighbors, of the countless, lost voiceless and nameless in film and still images. What is their relationship to history? What discourses are they haunting?

“The ghost or the apparition is one form by which something lost or barely visible makes itself known or apparent to us . . . [Haunting] is often a case of inarticulate experiences, of symptoms and screen memories, of spiraling affects, of more than one story at a time.” – Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters.

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