Rubbing and casting are in some respects like photography. We regard these forms of representation as indexical imprints of an individual person or thing, but also as lowly arts of reproduction. They involve a moment of proximity, intimate contact with something, yet they are easily turned into multiples. This double-valence perhaps helps us to characterize the peculiar psychodynamics of these processes. Rubbing and casting involve making a trace of something that is assumed to be transient, connecting them with the anticipation of loss and absence. They are acts of both preservation and multiple reproduction. If they have a psychic mood, then, it is a melancholic acknowledgement of loss and refusal to mourn, that is, to give up the object. The paper proposes that our interest in these modes of indexical art-making is related to anxieties concerning representation and memory precipitated by the digitalization of everything. Artists considered in this context include: Anna Barriball, Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Allan McCollum, Masao Okabe, Gabriel Orozco, Rachel Whiteread.

Margaret Iversen is one of the leading international authorities in the field of art theory and contemporary art. She has made her main areas of study psychoanalytic art theory. Her research is also devoted to the overlapping fields of photography and contemporary art. She was director of a large research project called Aesthetics after Photography (2007–2010), in partnership with Diarmuid Costello. She is currently working a book to be called Photography, Trace and Trauma.