[Writing Under the Influence] EPISODE M: Peripheral Noise

In Dawson City: Frozen Time, the images and the distortion of images tell a different story. The latter is the story of the act of telling the story, as if pointing not to the reality of characters that actors play but the reality of the actors who play that character. The distortion of images record the story of the place where all these stories in the form of movies were told. The distortion of images thus bespeaks that time the films spent in that particular place.

Nostalgia is often triggered not by what is recorded but the modulation of what is recorded. Something peripheral in relation to the content of the recording. Because that is what makes one perceive the passing of time. The documented stories are by definition and nature repeatable. They do not have their own temporality. But what records the passing of time is the noise that each performance generates without intending to (something impossible to control).

The noise on the periphery indicates the relationship of timeless stories (works) to the specific passing of time, which is to say the actual and specific performance of telling that story. The periphery is the interface of reflection.

The news told by fake news is fake but the news that there is fake news is real. Everything may be fictional but there is a difference in levels. The content of the internet can be false but the internet must be true. The material ground that one must trust in order to leap into the clouds of fiction (the exercise of imagination). The problem of certainty (Wittgenstein).

Stories need to be re-told, but in order to be re-told, one needs to go through the first attempt at telling it (or for the real-life events to have taken place). Time has to have passed for something to turn into a story. One always narrates from another time (horror stories use this division of reality to its benefit). One must be outside the event in order to (re)tell it.

The duality between the story that the film tries to tell and the story it ends up telling through its own existence is the greatest thing about movies and pop songs. But this is a general condition of recorded work. Since a work that records a performance always records both the performance and the fact that it was recorded (like tourists taking photographs: “Accomplished Acts,” Matter of Act (A)). Perhaps just another way of saying that media transmits content as well as itself. Media is the message, but this is a message that always appears on the periphery of what appears to be the message. Something recorded in the form of noise or modulation of what is recorded (a second-order recording).

The presence of musical instruments similarly lies in the periphery of music. The performance of music should be disturbed by the performance of instruments. What must be heard is the music and not the instrument. One hears the result of what instruments did, but no the instrument itself.

We rely on recording media not only because they can record things, but also because they record the act of recording.