Instead of being overjoyed at the occasion of finding his figures come to life in a sense, the artist wants to "immortalize" them in wax, a process of mortification, or "thanatography
," (15) that keeps the artist in control of his own work.
More than most photographers, it seems that Roubaud's photographic practice was legitimately informed by one of the most popular of topics among critics and theoreticians of photographic ontology during those years: namely, what Philippe Dubois refers to as "thanatography
," or the relationship between photography and death, the idea that photography makes the animate inanimate, and at the same time captures an immortal trace that will live on over time.
His remarkable essays occasioned by the deaths of Deleuze, Foucault, Althusser, Levinas, Gadamer, and many others, evolved a novel kind of writing about finitude, a kind of thanatography
, which somehow seemed to anticipate his own demise.
But before its flight carries me away, I would like to focus and centre the background, and for this purpose I have no recourse but to biography--or, rather, thanatography
"When we define the Photograph as a motionless image, this does not mean only that the figures it represents do not move; it means they do not emerge, do not leave; they are anesthetized and fastened down, like butterflies."(35) This relationship between photography and death, "thanatography
," as Philippe Dubois has called it, has also been pointed out by Christian Metz, who argues that while film "gives back a semblance of life," photography "maintains the memory of the dead as being dead."(36)