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In Session: Re-Capturing Gestures from the Debris of the Past: De-Cold Warring Tactics in Visual Archives and Documentaries
1: Testimony Film Archives and Aesthetic of Stoppage: On Park Sunam’s “Archive of Unseen Memories”
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Shota T. Ogawa
Nagoya University, Japan
As exemplified by Claude Lanzmann’s 566-minute film, Shoah (1985), testimony film as a genre has demonstrated cinema’s capacity to serve as a “counter-archive” of sorts, preserving the silent gestures banished from the positivist conception of a scientifically organized archive in which documented pasts are always retrievable. With the recent opening of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Lanzmann Collection, housing 220 hours of Shoah “outtakes,” the locus for debating cinema-as-counter-archive has migrated from textual analysis to archive studies. My study contributes to the global study of what Jennifer Cazenave calls the “archive of catastrophe” with a case study of Park Sunam (1932-), a Zainichi Korean (diasporic Korean in Japan) activist-journalist who adopted testimony filmmaking in the 1980s as a medium capable of visualizing “the silence which is the gesture of the speechless” and launched a project in 2019 to preserve the 50-hour “outtakes” as “an archive of unseen memories.” If the operational logic of Park’s films was De-Cold Warring—excavating the gestures of the Korean survivors of Hiroshima-Nagasaki, Okinawan survivors of gyokusai (compulsive mass suicide), and the former “comfort women” buried in the Cold War structure —I suggest that the aesthetic logic of her archiving is “stoppage.” Drawing on a recent reevaluation of Agamben’s concept of stoppage in film studies (manifest in freeze-frames, slow motion, and found-footage appropriation), I will demonstrate how Park’s archive, much like her testimony films, makes room for the destruction of memories to be recognized as such, thereby problematizing the institutionalized know-how of the film preservation community.