Studies of material objects in the field of memory studies have followed diverse epistemological and disciplinary trajectories, but their shared characteristic has been the questioning of philosophical assumptions concerning human relations with inanimate things and lower-level organic objects, such as plants, within the Aristotelian hierarchy of beings. Rather than accept at face value their categorizations as passive or deficient in comparison to the human subject, critical scholarship has reformulated the place and role of nonhuman entities in culture. This essay examines the nexus of materiality and memory in the work of the French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman, with the focus on the questions of mnemonic affordance of things and plants. The essay proposes that Didi-Huberman’s project can be approached from the perspective of “undoing” the key binaries of Western historiography of art and material culture: surface/depth, exteriority/interiority, visibility/invisibility, and malleability/rigidity. Focusing on imaginal representations of memory objects in Didi-Huberman’s two essays Bark and Being a Skull, the essay situates these texts within the context of his philosophical reading of Aby Warburg’s iconology, and argues that Didi-Huberman’s undoing of the binaries that have traditionally structured thinking about materiality and memory could be productively approached as a philosophical project of transvaluating surface.

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