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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2020

Chapter 3 - Presence



The absolute mediality discussed in the previous chapter goes hand in hand with the notion of an absolute temporal and spatial abundance. In the first instance this concerns something that has been known since antiquity as a distinguishing feature of all media forms: the fact that they make what is spatially distant or temporally not present accessible in the here and now. But there is more to it than this. What is fascinating is the idea that all times and spaces could be present in a single moment, a single point. This idea calls into question our understanding of time as an irreversible succession, and of space as a distinct dimension. It focuses on the limit of what can be humanly experienced: if Christ is to be thought of as a being who participated in the Creation (which took place before all time), who also came into the world in a historical situation, and who will return at the end of this world (and will thus do away with time altogether), then this requires that the categories of experience be transcended, at least momentarily and in certain points.

This results in the specificity of those media forms that attempt to make the transcendent, absolute or immediate present. Measured against the presence of what they are referring to, they are always subordinate, secondary, reduced; they are, literally, representations, that is, presences that are preceded, temporally or logically, by other, more original presences. On the other hand, these forms themselves “create a particular presence, and perform a particular presence.” Not only do other things appear in them, but they themselves also appear. Not only does the absent become present in them, but they themselves are present. This self-presence can be intensified by the fact that the Other— that is, everything that the media forms refer to— cannot be manifested in any other way than in and through them. This manifestation is limited, but at the same time promising, because it points to something beyond itself. It characterizes media forms, which both present and transcend themselves, exhibit and efface themselves.

Medial presence therefore has a dual nature. It is caught in the tension between absence on the one hand, and representation on the other.