collecting

From:

Polan, Dana. “Auteur Desire.” Screening the Past 12 (March 2001).

A quick hit on something I’m using in a seminar paper–commentary later, perhaps:
For auteurists, caught up in a feverish agon to see more films, accumulate more listings, this sense of incompletion in an established and reputed compendium seemed to open up possibility, to imply that there was still new collecting to be done. There is frequently competition among collectors, a will to accumulate more examples and to master them better than others have.

I think we can add to the understanding of the dynamics of such activity by referring to the thoughts on collection set out by Susan Stewart in her On longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection. For Stewart, collection is not a neutral activity in which the collector sets out to mime the disposition of objects in their original context. That is, collecting is not about letting the objects speak their “Truth.” Rather, it has to do with an imposition of new truths, those operative for the collector in his own present context. In Stewart’s words,

The collection does not displace attention to the past; rather, the past is at the service of the collection . . . The collection seeks a form of self-enclosure which is possible because of its ahistoricism. The collection replaces history with classification, with order beyond the realm of temporality. In the collection, time is not something to be restored to an origin; rather, all time is made simultaneous or synchronous with the collection’s world.

For Stewart, there is competition not only between different collectors (out-Sarrising Sarris), but also between the collector and the world of objects he collects. Whatever those objects might have meant in their original context matters less than the new meaning that can be created for them in the act of collection. As Stewart puts it, “Once the object is completely severed from its origin, it is possible to generate a new series, to start again within a context that is framed by the selectivity of the collector. (…) [T]he point of the collection is forgetting.”

In other words, as an activity of creative collection, auteurism involves more than just a neutral making up of lists.

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