Richard Burt Duly Noted or Off the Record?

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Richard Burt

Duly Noted or Off the Record?

Sovereignty and the Secrecy of the Law in Cinema

The law prohibits interfering with and deferring the “ference” [“férance”], the reference, the rapport, the relation . . . That is the law of the law, the process of a law of whose subject we can never say, “there it is,” it is here or there. It is neither natural nor institutional, one can never reach it, and it never reaches the depths of original and proper taking-place. . . . It is always cryptic; this is a secret which as caste . . . pretends to possess by delegation. The secret is nothing—and this is the secret that has to be kept well, nothing either present or presentable, but this nothing must be well kept.

--Jacques Derrida, “Before the Law,” 205

In more political terms, the Nixon tapes may offer a (conspiratorial) equivalent to the ‘photographic realism’ . . . suggesting . . . not merely a unity of place and action, but also strongly representational aesthetic . . . in which, as in so much historiography and historical fiction, what the reader/spectator longs for is to be present at the scene: to see, to hear, to find out the secret truth.

--Frederic Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic, 49

What psychoanalysis and deconstructionist philosophy “inscribe” into the model of the trace, is when observed in light of changing filing technologies, the distinction between two mutually constitutive forms of writing: an erasable writing on wax tablets and transcription into a durable inscription. The latter can attain validation and truth functions because it is preceded by a canceled ur-writing that has been rendered illegible. The doubling of writing into draft and clean copy puts an end to the time of the magistrates with its emphasis on pure transmission without duplicates. Based on the technique of acta facere, writing inscribes itself into the force of law. With the taking of minutes, the law designs its own truth of reality. What Paul de Man, from a linguistic point of view, termed a “fact of language” cold from a media-theoretical point of vibe applied to the act of taking notes: it is a performative, fact producing act. Frtom he media-technological point of view, the synonymous use of “acts” and “taking note of the fact,’ as performed by Derrida in “Acts,” his reading of Paul de Man, is perfectly admissible.

--Cornelia Vismann, Files: Law and Media Technology, 56-57

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