Trapped in Amber: The New Materialities of (Media-)Memory. Master Class: Thomas Elsaesser



International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, Universität Gießen


  • 05 July 2019– Gießen, Deutschland


Arts, Film Studies, Media Theory


The term "obsolescence" has in recent years re-entered the vocabulary of the art world, of memory studies and of new media historians. In the process, it has significantly changed its meaning and enlarged its semantic and evaluative range. From being a wholly negative term within a technicist discourse, it became a critical term when consumerism was attacked for "planned obsolescence". Now obsolescence has shifted into the realm of the positive, signifying something like heroic resistance to the relentless "new-ness" and superficial novelty of electronic gadgets (but also of ideas). Obsolescence has become the badge of honour for all that is no longer useful (to capitalism, to commodification and instrumentalisation) and therefore resists even "appropriation". Anyone engaged with "found footage", with home movies or our analogue cinematic legacy and technology, can appreciate that the strategic use of obsolescence lies in the fact that, being a term that inevitably associates both capitalism and technology, it is of special interest to the art world, to documentary filmmaking and to media archaeology: confined and defined as these practices now are by capitalism and technology. But obsolescence also gives us another outlook on what has become of the filmic "medium" itself, when we see it in the broader context of "geological" time as well as within the materialist turn that memory studies have taken in the 21st century.


Thomas Elsaesser

Activity List



  • Gießen, Deutschland
  • Gießen
  • Deutschland
Published By: Sarah Lauß | Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien | Publication Date: 09 May 2022, 11:48 | Edit Date: 24 November 2022, 09:05