Virtual Memory

Time-Based Art and the Dream of Digitality

Virtual Memory

Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: 59 illustrations Published: October 2015

Author: Homay King

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Media Studies > Digital Media, Film

In Virtual Memory, Homay King traces the concept of the virtual through the philosophical works of Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, and Giorgio Agamben to offer a new framework for thinking about film, video, and time-based contemporary art. Detaching the virtual from its contemporary associations with digitality, technology, simulation, and speed, King shows that using its original meaning—which denotes a potential on the cusp of becoming—provides the means to reveal the "analog" elements in contemporary digital art. Through a queer reading of the life and work of mathematician Alan Turing, and analyses of artists who use digital technologies such as Christian Marclay, Agnès Varda, and Victor Burgin, King destabilizes the analog/digital binary. By treating the virtual as the expression of powers of potential and change and of historical contingency, King explains how these artists transcend distinctions between disembodiment and materiality, abstraction and tangibility, and the unworldly and the earth-bound. In so doing, she shows how their art speaks to durational and limit-bound experience more than contemporary understandings of the virtual and digital would suggest.


"[A] bold and far-reaching attempt to theorize the potential of the virtual.... [T]his ambitious book reveals the power of cultural production to open up new ways of thinking and new directions out of the morass of the present." — Alison Landsberg, Critical Inquiry

"Homay King's Virtual Memory is a fascinating and beautifully written book that explores the complex imbrication of the analog with the digital, both technologically and conceptually, and makes the case that there is no experience of technology or art that can avoid engagement with the reality of lived experience. Considering the breadth of its examples and topics, Virtual Memory should find readers not only in film and media studies, but in art history and criticism, and science and technology studies as well. An outstanding book."  — D. N. Rodowick, author of Philosophy's Artful Conversation

"Homay King is an astute observer of art, her analyses masterful and original. The book's project of redeploying the philosophical concept of the virtual toward a renewed understanding of time-based art is one of great importance for art theory and media studies, and is brought to fruition in these pages with interpretive skill and conceptual precision." — Brian Massumi, author of Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception


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Price: $24.95

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Homay King is Associate Professor of History of Art at Bryn Mawr College and the author of Lost in Translation: Orientalism, Cinema, and the Enigmatic Signifier, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction  1

1. Keys to Turing  18

2. Christian Marclay's Two Clocks  47

3. Matter, Time, and the Digital: Agnès Varda's Videos  71

4. Beyond Repetition: Victor Burgin's Loops  100

5. The Powers of the Virtual  125

6. Another World Is Virtual  161

Notes  179

Bibliography  191

Index  199
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