Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays

Issue 10 – 2022 (2)

The Matter that Composes Your Memory. An Essay on Intimacy, Media and Remembrance

Víctor Santos López (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

How to cite this article: Santos López, V. (2022) The Matter that Composes Your Memory. An Essay on Intimacy, Media and Remembrance. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, 10, 2022(2). ISSN: 2659-4269

There is something uncannily familiar about home movies, even when time or culture distances us from them. It might be that these materials have been conceived within intimacy, and for intimacy, therefore they preserve something homelike in their images. They do not belong to us, but it would not be difficult to imagine that we are the ones appearing in them. Therefore, those films keep a certain tension between the known and the unknown: although we might not know what we see, we are always ‘close’. That is the space between intimacy and otherness (what Freud used to label unheimlich), where memory is triggered.

How is it possible to remember something that we have never seen in actuality? What allows us to inhabit those images retroactively? Let us think of a Super-8 film from a Spanish wedding, shot around 1967. Even if we do not recognize the images, we can certainly deduce when and where they were filmed. Fashion, landscapes and gestures contain a historical time, settled in the referent, allowing us to identify the film as an object from the past. However, what displaces the film from the historical to the familiar must not be searched within the pictures, but in what composes them physically. It is the craftsmanship in the shooting process and the film that opens the door to a new time. Through the media, the autobiographical is written in a completely unknown image.

Cinema —in its institutional, narrative way— tends to make the media invisible. As André Bazin ([1966] 1990) pointed out, it is a tool capable of recording traces of the world and imprinting fragments of reality. Its use in favor of a transparent reading of the image contributes simultaneously to hide the structures that make them visible.

As the beams and bricks that hold a house, film matter always remains underneath the figures. Nonetheless, the media is still capable of writing its own messages. In the previous example, the domestic and familiar appearance stems from the use of a particular format. The Super-8 look is anchored to a specific time and, additionally, has undergone the passing of time. The grain, the texture and the erosion reveal its past domestic origin. And it is our bond with such a format that activates memory. They are, as said by Philippe Dubois (2003, 183), “chemical scars of time” which do not harm the filmed skin but the filming skin. Media is the message.

The similarity between the aspect of those films and the form that memory takes is rather curious. Images are neither clear nor sharp: they are worn out over time. Precisely, John Ruskin —an English sociologist and writer— defended that the buildings must be kept in ruins, as a sign of respect to the legacy of the ones who had built them. The remnants of the past ought to be protected and never manipulated, because something from their old residents, which otherwise would be lost, still lived in their structures. Speaking about households, José Luis Pardo (2010, 162) argued that

intimacy is closely related to ruin: “the most intimate aspects of a home are the invisible structures that keep it up, those that, when revealed, turn it into ruin”. Something similar happens with home movies. We perceive memories; however, they do not stem from specific referents or figures but from the matter’s decay. This is, ultimately, their truly global and structural condition.

In a home movie, the matter that composes your recollections acquires a memoristic quality once the referent is lost. Its figure is no longer visible, yet memory persists in the matter, as a ghost. The intimacy resides mainly in the eroded media, and not so in the images it contains. This idea is underlined with an intervention on the film stock, applying bleach and scratching the surface with a needle. In the wear and tear lies the ruin, but also the domestic, the intimate, the familiar. It is something about to be, a hauntological manifestation, an ebb from the past into the present, proving that the memory can survive the image.


  • Bazin, André. (1966) 1990. ¿Qué es el cine? Madrid: Rialp. 
  • Dubois, Philippe. 2003. “Plaies d’images”. En Le Septième Art. Le cinéma parmi les arts, editado por Jacques Aumont, 170-88. París: Léo Scheer.
  • Freud, Sigmund. (1919) 1888. “Lo siniestro”. En Freud. Obras completas, (Tomo 13). Barcelona: Orbis.
  • Pardo, José Luis. 2010. “Ensayo sobre la falta de vivienda”. En Nunca fue tan hermosa la basura. Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg.

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Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays
ISSN: 2659-4269
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