Flat Death

by Kiko Matsing

from Camera Lucida
by Roland Barthes, Hill and Wang, 1981

Roland Barthes
Barthes-has-been: hit by a laundry truck

A paradox: the same century invented History and Photography. But History is a memory fabricated according to positive formulas, a pure intellectual discourse which abolishes mythic Time; and a Photograph is a certain but fugitive testimony; so that everything, today, prepares our race for this impotence: to be no longer able to conceive duration, affectively or symbolically: the age of the Photograph is also the age of revolutions, contestations, assassinations, explosions, in short, of impatiences, of everything which denies ripening.–And no doubt, the astonishment of “that-has-been” will also disappear. It has already disappeared: I am, I don’t know why, one of its last witnesses (a witness of the Inactual), and this book is its archaic trace.

What is it that will be done away with, along with this photograph which yellows, fades, and will someday be thrown out, if not by me–too superstitious for that–at least when I die? Not only “life” (this was alive, this posed live in front of the lens), but also, sometimes–how to put it?–love. In front of the only photograph which I find of my father and mother together, this couple who I know loved each other, I realize: it is love-as-treasure which is going to disappear forever; for once I am gone, no one will any longer be able to testify to this: nothing will remain but an indifferent Nature. This is a laceration so intense, so intolerable, that alone against his century, Michelet conceived of History as love’s Protest: to perpetuate not only life but also what he called, in his vocabulary so outdated today, the Good, Justice, Unity, etc.