The Shut-Down Image

The slide shuts down-or de-activates–at night. Or in the dark. No one knows for sure. Several months ago during inventory of the slides holdings in bunker #11 one of our head archivists found herself suddenly lurched into darkness when the power cut-out during a violent electrical storm. We have all been trained to carry back-up night-vision goggles when in the bunker archives (who follows such protocols?) and so, and thus.

Can’t you imagine, for yourselves, what happened next? The archivist donned her goggles to continue her work when she noticed that–faintly illuminated by the red light of the emergency exit sign–each of the slides before her bore faint traces of their images, except for one. One that had shut-down, de-activated, or gone to sleep in the absence of direct light.

Also, time seems to pass in the image, although we have only just begin to document this. That is, the objects in the slide remain stationary, but appear to age, to decay, in real-time. We first noticed this with the two bushes on the easterly side of the house at far left, bushes that slowly turned brown (the effect of drought?) after several weeks.

But it is the first phenomenon–the shut-down–that captures our attention. The fact that the images de-activates or sleeps as a (hopeless) act of preservation against, it appears, time itself.

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Inaccessible Reproduction

This sequence of photocopied collage-art pieces began as a single reproduced image, posted anonymously in 1979 at divers locations not limited to Pomona, Budapest, and Düsseldorf. The A4 format suggested a European origin but little else.

According to anyone who has claimed to own more than one, it was impossible to retain multiple copies in one place before 2009. When duplicates were stored together, all but one of them would alter in a mysterious, always unseen process, becoming frames from an animated sequence initiated by the original sheet.  

Over the years, certain individuals who knew of the alleged enigma exploited it to help extend the animation. We are especially indebted to Pat Lassglen of Ypsilanti, who, on acquiring a purported 1979 original on eBay, stored several xeroxed groups of four in separate file cabinets over the course of 2002.

The sequence today appears complete (including several identical frames), and is likely to stay as is, since the enlargement procedure stopped working by all accounts in 2009. Its anonymity remains intact. —Colin Raff



Ghost Setting

The “ghost setting” on the XLR 53 Nikon was intended, it seems, as a stunt designed to capitalize on the setting fetish that characterized the shift from analog to digital. Only three prototype cameras were manufactured, and of those only one managed to be smuggled out of on the Nikon head offices in Konan, Minato-ku, Tokyo. The footage is banal, except that the camera picks up audio frequencies undetected by the human ear. There is so much sound, fanged all around, not wanting to be found. Is it any wonder that the camera was scrapped, with a tag-line like that? In any case, the LS archives are in possession of 22 clips extracted from the only surviving camera. This is clip #3, with the ghost setting “on,” picking up frequency scraps otherwise undetectable.

Daily Distribution of Labor

Sometime during the early 1900s Lost Signals instituted a record-keeping system whose methods were labor based rather than item-archive based. Previous systems of categorization (dating back to our founding in the 1830s) had centered on the archival materials themselves; recording the labor necessary for archiving and cataloging was incidental. What do we know about why the shift to a record system based on labor, not objects? As usual, there is an abundance of physical evidence marking the evolution to labor, but the meaning of this evidence remains murky.

What we know is this: around 1902, Grace Gomez devised the “Daily Distribution of Labor” pages, printing them in booklets labelled “Time Book.” Each employee was given one of these booklets per month in order to keep a daily record of his or her labor in the archives. We’re fortunate that, despite the numerous purges of the archives, there remained–squirreled away beneath a cement floor–a complete, blank booklet, a page of which is pictured below. Why the booklets (and almost all references to Grace Gomez) were purged is not exactly clear, although we have our dark theories.


erin’s book

This video’s metadata indicates it was filmed last week at the Lost Signals Midwest Regional Branch by someone unknown to us. In other words, right under our noses. Since its beginnings in the 1830s, Lost Signals has had its share of moles, spies, turncoats, and even saboteurs. (Those of you who received Bulletin #1 know about the unfortunate legacy of arson-fires that have plagued our various headquarters.) Despite ever harsher, extra-legal measures to deal with spies and other disruptors, which we ourselves have documented (at great potential risk) to circulate here among our employees as a warning, these excursions against Lost Signals continue.

Why the saboteur has named this video file “erin’s book” is unclear, although we have our theories. In any case, we post it here for you, the curious.

A re-working, captured

As far as we know, this is the only surviving audio recording of Frank Cole, a biloquist whose sudden appearance in the rural American south in the late 1930s coincided with a rash of disappearances that have remained largely uncatalogued. The acetate disk recording came to us in 1971, but it was only recently that we got around to digitizing and archiving it here. The “Betsy” voice–a folksy farm woman–was apparently the most dangerous of the voices, indicating that Frank was about to set in motion the machinery of the listener’s disappearance, or “re-working” as Frank referred to it in his diary, which we have seen a copy of but would be grateful to hear from any reader who might have information about its existence, if it still exists at all.

So here is the short recording, Frank as “Betsy.”

Black Hole

From time to time we revisit our black hole archives. Although Lost Signals catalogues all received signals–no matter how tenuous, obscure, or doubtful–in truth we only pay attention to candidates for the Real. In other words: we are not interested in “alternative” or “parallel” truths. It was J. Baudrillard who wrote, in Impossible Exchange, that “it seems that reality, indifferent to any truth, cares not one jot for the knowledge to be derived from observing and analyzing it.”

So it is with a bit of fanfare that we present a deep-space image captured eight years ago, scrutinized and over-scrutinized to the brink of annihilation. There is no threat from this black hole (if you discount [and at what cost?] the existential threat) of the very existence of a light-eating entity. For without light, what dark . . . and without dark????

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