Curse of the Mummy: Oral Affliction or Archival Aphasia

Schuppli, Susan. 2008. Curse of the Mummy: Oral Affliction or Archival Aphasia. Memory Studies, 2(2), pp. 167-186. ISSN 1750-6980 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In 1973 a reel of magnetic tape was handed over to the US National Archives containing 18¼ minutes of silence. This gap takes place during a conversation between President Richard Nixon and J.R. Haldeman (White House Chief of Staff) three days after the break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. Although the muteness of both the tape and the man defied efforts to conjure up truth in 1973, fear of disturbing the remaining magnetic particles that clung to the gap was immediately understood and so the tape was permanently removed from circulation and archived. There it has lain undisturbed in cryogenic sleep for over 30 years waiting for that moment when the kiss of technological progress will re-awaken it and restore its capacity to speak. This article contends that the tape-gap is already pre-emptively inscribed within the mnemonic archive of the machine and is in fact not silent but fully enunciatory.

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Visual Cultures



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Date Deposited:

04 Apr 2016 10:48

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2017 15:17

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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