Derrida, Benjamin and the Subjectile


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In an interview from 1992 that appeared in “Copy, Archive, Signature,” Jacques Derrida states that digital photography is “without a ‘subjectile,’” whilst at the same time asserting that photography prior to digital technology still contained a “subjectile.” I will unfold the significance of this statement in order to clarify both the sense in which Derrida speaks of the “subjectile,” and what this means in relation to Walter Benjamin’s that the (then) new technology of photography heralded the death of aura. The subjectile is a term that first appeared in the written works of Antonin Artaud, and refers to his approach to his works on paper. Artaud uses it to designate a complex sense of a surface, upon which so many influences, traditions, borders and clichés are “projected,” and from which the work must be wrested. In “To Unsense the Subjectile,” Derrida develops this notion of the subjectile, exploring its influence on the creative act, yet never expands upon his reference to the subjectile in relation to photography. However, through a careful study of Derrida’s writing on Artaud’s subjectile I will show how a fundamental difference appears between analog and digital photography that transforms the moment of capture itself.