The unexpected time of the contemporary : cinema in the digital archive

Participant·e·s: Ravi Vasudevan

There is an element of surprise, of not knowing what we are likely to see when we trawl the Internet. This paper takes the surfacing of the cinema in digital formats as  a particular register of the contemporary. What happens to the time held in the celluloid image in such transfers? Taking the case of the Indian contemporary, we will observe that such images may be left historically unmarked, their provenance uncertain. In other instances, the sounds and images of lost cinematic objects may arrive in bits and pieces, as video and audio files, analog and digital, uploaded by the commitment and obsession of lovers of film. This is apparently in contrast to the state  itself, eager to convey and reinscribe cinema as a vehicle of heritage. And yet here too we have different curations and fragmentary uses of the newsreel and the official documentary. This paper seeks to map this archive, ranging from the official and the inadvertent, to the passionate and the whimsical, the ways it subjects the cinematic to recombination, and how it reframes the question of historiography and historical time in the contemporary.