“What quality fascinates and entrances me in the photographs I love? I believe it is this: for me, photography in some way captures The Last Judgement; it represents the world as it appears on the last day, the Day of Wrath. It is, of course, not a question of subject matter. I don't mean that the photographs I love are ones that represent something grave, serious, or even tragic. The photo can show any face, any object or any event whatever. This is the case with photographers… who practice what could be called photographic flânerie: walking without any goal and photographing everything that happens. But “everything that happens” – the faces of two women riding bicycles in Scotland, a shop window in Paris – is called forth, summoned to appear on Judgement Day.”
Profanations: Chapter 3 Judgement Day
In every instant, the measure of forgetting and ruin, the ontological squandering that we bear within ourselves far exceeds the piety of our memories and consciousnesses. But the shapeless chaos of the forgotten is neither inert nor ineffective. To the contrary, it is at work within us with a force equal to that of the mass of conscious memories, but in a different way. Forgetting has a force and a way of operating that cannot be measured in the same terms as those of conscious memory, not can it be accumulated like knowledge and understanding. Its persistence determines the status of all knowledge and understanding. The exigency of the lost does not entail being remembered and commemorated; rather, it entails remaining in us and with us as forgotten, and in this way and only in this way, remaining unforgettable.
From this stems the inadequacy in trying to restore to memory what is forgotten by inscribing it in the archives and monuments of history, or in trying to construct another tradition and history, of the oppressed and the defeated. While their history may be written with different tools than that of the dominant classes, it will never substantially differ from it. In trying to work against this confusion, one should remember that the tradition of the unforgettable is not exactly a tradition. It is what marks traditions with either the seal of infamy or glory, sometimes both. That which makes each history historical and each tradition transmissible is the unforgettable nucleus that both bear within themselves at their core. The alternatives at this juncture are therefore not to forget or remember, to be unaware or become conscious, but rather the determining factor is the capacity to remain faithful to that which having perpetually been forgotten, must remain unforgettable. It demands to remain with us and be possible for us in some manner. To respond to this exigency is the only historical responsibility I feel capable of assuming fully. If, however, we refuse to respond, and if, on both the collective and individual level, we forgo each and every relation to the mass of the forgotten that accompanies us like a silent golem, then it will reappear within us in a destructive and perverse way, in the form Freud called the return of the repressed, that is, as the return of the impossible as such.”
The Time That Remains - A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans.