Saturday, December 24, 2005

Rhetorics of Empirical Fundamentalism

[or NASA and the evil demon of images]

(Yes, I really do believe in Santa Claus)

Heroic images or NASA fraud? At last we have the conclusive proof! The top image clearly shows the supposed 25,000 of thrust generated by the lunar lander to arrest its descent. Yet in the image above, where is the giant crater this would have created? Looks like the complex web of NASA lies is about to unravel!

Another apparently inspirational image from the NASA archive. All seems fine at first but notice the numerous directions in which the shadows are falling (marked with arrows). This indicates that the image is probably composed of several images taken at different times (probably in a top secret studio guarded by specially trained aliens working as government agents) and joined together using advanced technology NASA always denies existed at the time. This is the photographic equivalent of an automotive "cut-and-shut" job. If this image was your car, you wouldn't trust it to take you to the end of your road without breaking in half!

Not much wrong with this picture you may think. Yet, by thinking that, you would just become yet another of NASA's conspiracy victims. Firstly, despite the absence of an atmosphere, no stars can be seen in the sky. Secondly, the interior of the shopping basket can clearly be seen when all areas in shadow should be pitch black due to the absence of air molecules. Nice try NASA but we are not fooled that easily!

Just way too many things wrong with this picture! Notice the absence of stars again. The arrows indicate the various directions in which shadows are falling, again showing evidence of inconsistent scene illumination. Yet there is something even more obviously wrong with this picture. If the length of the lower support column of the lunar lander was 4 feet tall, this would indicate that the astronaut was over 8 feet tall, which none of the astronauts were. Another careless mistake from NASA.

Oh yes NASA, it's all very well adding stars on this picture just to make us realise how wrong we have been. We are not fooled so easily! If we look a bit more closely, we spot the constellation of Pegasus with the planet Saturn (marked S1) clearly visible in the top left corner. Yet at the time of the mission, although Saturn appeared to be near Pegasus from Earth, from the Moon it would have appeared to be in a completely different position (marked S2). It is almost insulting to think that NASA could get away with this obvious howler!

Well, with this image where does one begin?! Inconsistent shadows, too much ambient light and incorrect planetary positioning in the sky are all evident here. Also notice how the focal length of the camera lens has changed compared to the pictures above, even though the astronauts' Hasselblad cameras were only fitted with a single type of prime lens. Just how stupid did the NASA officials think the public were?

... And have a Merry Fetishmas

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Spirit of [affective] Currency

   ["Don't worry! It's only Art ..."]
One year ago, following a British poll of 500 art experts associated with the Turner Prize, Marcel Duchamp's R.Mutt-signed (a play on the German word Armut :poverty) urinal, which he presented as the artwork Fountain, was voted the most influential modern artwork of the 20th Century ( BBC News report). Art "expert" Simon Wilson was quoted at the time as saying "it reflects ... the idea that the creative process that goes into a work of art is the most important thing".
       Interior, Tate Modern
Patrick West, writing in the New Statesman (Duchamp and his urinal: he was just taking the piss) shortly after the poll result, observed that "...the reaction was predictable. The Guardian lauded "the direct link" between Duchamp and Tracey Emin; the Daily Telegraph groaned that the vote "explains an awful lot about today's art"." West later concluded his piece :"Many of today's modern artists possess the attitude Duchamp strove to challenge. Emin was incandescent when two Chinese artists, Yuan Cai and Jian Jun Xi, stripped off and started jumping on her bed at the Tate in October 1999. She was guilty of fetishising an object as art just because she and Tate said it was. In 2000, Cai and Xi urinated in Fountain at Tate Modern. They said it was a derisive gesture against the excessive importance attached to works of art. After all, is not a urinal merely something one urinates in? Thank goodness some of us still appreciate that Duchamp was, well, just taking the piss."
 E. Bataille, Mona Lisa With A Pipe, 1882 (far left)
 M. Duchamp, LHOOQ, 1919 (left)
Six months before this little British Tate-Modern PR spectacle, the Grey Art Gallery mounted a show called “Counter Culture: Parisian Cabarets and the Avant Garde, 1875-1905”, which explored an artist’s/writer's club known as the Hydropathes, and, in particular, the Arts incohérents exhibitions organized by a young writer and Hydropathe member, Jules Lévy. The Grey Art Gallery website goes on to describe their activities:
"On Sunday afternoon, 1 October 1882, the artists Edouard Manet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro, the composer Richard Wagner, and the king of Bavaria were among two thousand curious invitees reported to have crowded into the Left Bank apartment of the young writer and Hydropathe Jules Lévy to view the exhibition bizarrely entitled Arts incohérents. Two months earlier, as a challenge to academic art, Lévy had organized a show of "drawings made by people who don't know how to draw." Lévy's October proto-happening included professional artists who poked fun at the art establishment and produced "incohérent" works using a variety of peculiar and everyday found materials, for example, sculptures made from bread and cheese. One entry, a group painting by six artists, anticipated the collaborative efforts of the Surrealists some forty years later. The most provocative work was the first documented monochrome [i.e., all-black] painting by the poet Paul Bilhaud and entitled Negroes Fighting in a Cellar at Night. Artist Alphonse Allais expanded on Bilhaud's conceit by exhibiting a white and then a red monochrome painting in the 1883 and 1884 Incohérent shows; in 1897 he published a book of these images along with an empty musical score billed as a funeral march for the deaf. As early as 1885, with photographs of an ear filled with cotton and a hand holding a rose, filmmaker Emile Cohl prefigured the uncanny juxtapositions of Surrealists. And in 1887 proto-performance artist Sapeck (Eugène Bataille), who was known to travel the streets with his head painted blue, portrayed the Mona Lisa smoking a pipe years before Marcel Duchamp added a moustache to the Louvre's venerated icon. But while these pieces anticipate the work of later avant-garde artists, the Incohérents employed raucous humor rather than esoteric theory to challenge academic tradition."
It must have been a really big Left Bank apartment.
P. Bilhaud, Negroes Fighting In a Cellar at Night, 1882 K. Malevich, Black Square on a White Field, 1913
"The 90s and the year 2000 show an increasing proliferation - a boom of museums: world architects compete for a dream amount of money, capital that is reserved by city councils, state associations and funds in Western Europe and America for the third millenium deal-of-a-lifetime in culture, from Texas to Boston, from Helsinki to Berlin: the building of new museums for art and the renovation of old ones. In the heart of the city of Berlin, in the so-called Berlin inner city island, e.g., from 2000 on, five museums will be rebuilt; the cost of such a project is estimated at DM 2 billion. According to various reports, never has such a quantity of museums and galleries, at such a rate of financial support, been constructed. The triumph of the museum is real, and thus it is perhaps more appropriate to ask ...  does, in fact, the Western museum of modern art need art anymore?"===>Marina Grzinic Mauhler
Following the rise and pre-eminence of the readymade, the system of galleries and museums changed the modalities of the artistic function in the beginning of the 20th century. Before the readymade, all the elements of artwork were inherent to the material with which the work was realized. Although artists could have some ideas about norms and values, these external elements were not part of the work of art. As a result, an artwork that was designed as an artwork could be recognized as such out of the art context. Contrasting with this, the content of a readymade is not the concrete object, but its context - i.e., the art gallery or museum or [big Other] assigned public space. It is possible to say that the context is the content of a readymade, and therefore, the object of the readymade is the gallery system, etc., in itself . What is much more important is that the appearance, the birth of the readymade allowed galleries and museums to acquire the monopoly of evaluating the work of art in society. In fact, that a readymade was accepted as a work of art openly demonstrates the arbitrariness of the definition of the work of art by the gallery system and museums. The fact that the readymade was accepted as a work of art is the purest sign of the real power of the system of galleries and museums in society. From that moment on, this relation has not changed, but reified.
Moreover, in this displacement from reality to a fantasized universe, the status of the obstacle changes: in the 1970s, the obstacle, the failure is inherent (the relation between the museum and the neo-avant-gardist movement in art simply does not work). In the second half of the 1990s, this inherent impossibility is externalized into the positive obstacle which from the outside prevents its actualization: history, progress, chronological time are now seen through anti-historical views. And this move, from inherent impossibility to external obstacle, is the very definition of fantasy, of the fantasmatic objective position in which the inherent deadlock acquires positive existence! A-historical exhibitions, ruptures with styles, trends, classifications, etc. work with the implication that with these obstacles cancelled, the relationship will run smoothly. The museum is presented as an institution, a self-reflecting historical phenomena which use their own means to examine their functions and possibilities in the context of today's multimedia society. When all of the concepts of chronology and history break down, then the re-ordering of the museum and gallery space is based on the curator's geniality and taste; they are seen as a possibility for "dipping in", for objective random collective memory in images and space. This museum structure is no less hallucinatory and no less a spectralization of the fantasmatic scenario of the power of the art institution from the past.
In contrast with the traditional actions of the museum in masking its power structure, when in the 1970s it was sustained only as the fantasmatic spectral entity, the museum today does exactly the opposite: it destroys not itself, but its fantasmatic image/support. As opposed to the 1970s, when the museum was segregated and survived as spectral entity, it seems that in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s the museum survives in reality by sacrificing, destroying its fantasmatic support.  The museum openly assumes the role of what it is possible to call the devil of transparency, but the paradox of self-exposure, self-transparency tells us that this transparency makes it even more enigmatic. The art community thinks - not wanting to accept this - that behind the cold manipulative surface, there must be something else.
"In the 70s, the museum was perceived as a threat to the art community, with its historical and chronological time classifications and with the developing of the idea of constant progress in art and culture with styles and trends. The museum was seen as a place of restriction and power which dominated the field and provoked violently the conceptual and neo-avant-garde art world to undermine it. The new situation in the 90s, when the museum asserted visibly, transparently its power and connection to capital, money, architecture, is a process that can be described as to bring to light, to act out the underlying fantasy of the 70s! This situation is much more effective and threatening for the social and symbolical sphere of art perceived as Institution, than the spectral power of the museum of 70s."

Click on image to enlarge

"And the same goes for today's art scene: in it, the Real does NOT return primarily in the guise of the shocking brutal intrusion of excremental objects, mutilated corpses, shit, etc. These objects are, for sure, out of place — but in order for them to be out of place, the (empty) place must already be here, and this place is rendered by the "minimalist" art, starting from Malevitch. Therein resides the complicity between the two opposed icons of high modernism, Kazimir Malevitch's "The Black Square on the White Surface" and Marcel Duchamp's display of ready-made objects as works of art. The underlying notion of Malevitch's elevation of an everyday common object into the work of art is that being a work of art is not an inherent property of the object; it is the artist himself who, by preempting the (or, rather, ANY) object and locating it at a certain place, makes it the work of art — being a work of art is not a question of "why," but "where." And what Malevitch's minimalist disposition does is simply to render — to isolate — this place as such, the empty place (or frame) with the proto-magic property of transforming any object that finds itself within its scope into the work of art. In short, there is no Duchamp without Malevitch: only after the art practice isolates the frame/place as such, emptied of all its content, can one indulge in the ready-made procedure. Before Malevitch, a urinal would have remained just a urinal, even if it were to be displayed in the most distinguished gallery."===>Slavoj Zizek:The Matrix, or two sides of Perversion
The Spirit of Currency,  2005, $ : Tate Modern/Virtual.
And so it is with supreme, sublime pleasure that $ shamelessly wishes to announce a cyber-exhibition at Tate Modern/Virtual, with an installation entitled The Spirit of Currency, celebrating the post-political, post-artistic victory of today's ultra-cyber parasite: the symbolic Real of $ ...
"We can no longer, as we did in the good old times, (if they were really good) oppose the economy and culture. They are so intertwined not only through the commercialization of culture but also the culturalization of the economy. Political analysis today cannot bypass mass culture."


Click on image to enlarge

"Constable didn't produce his art in order to elicit (yawn!) shock, even if shock, outrage and misunderstandings were by-products of his painting. Constable had what the alleged conceptualists of Britart lack: a unique vision of the world, a set of perceptions that re-engineer the way in which we see. This meant that he could lead taste, pre-empt it; something that the Britartists could never hope to do. It's precisely the 'tomato-throwing' dismissal that has never happened to the cossetted Britartists, who, may well be derided by elements of the public, but who were immediately coddled by a sycophantic art establishment. "===>Mark at K-punk

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cyberspacial Hypertext as Art History's Futur Anterieur

"The process of making films in communion with oneself, the way a painter works or a writer, need not now be solely experimental. Contrary to what people say, using the first-person in films tends to be a sign of humility: 'All I have to offer is myself.'"===>Chris Marker, 1997. See also Mark Fisher's Metamute article: Six Re-Views of Chris Marker

"... on Nabokov's Pale Fire as a precursor of hypertext (and hence also of blogs." ...[] ..."As for the connections with hypertext, I’m less convinced. I'm a little suspicious of attempts to find the 'roots' of hypertext in the print medium."===>Mark at K-punk: NABOKOV AND HYPERTEXT

"... it is only with the advent of cyberspace hypertext that we can effectively grasp what Altman and Kieslowski were effectively aiming at". ... [just as, homologously] ... "it was only when cinema was here and developed its standard procedures that we can really grasp the narrative logic of Dickens's great novels or of Madame Bovary."===>Slavoj Žižek

[1] Weblogs. $'s ubiquitous opposition here is the post-modernist turn/retreat, the near-adolescent, existential-subjectivist, accepted position that we should "leave behind" the quest for universal truth — that what we have instead in today's post-political, post-historical cynicism are merely different narratives [with the linear, movement-image narrative remaining the unexamined prerogative, of course] about who we are, the stories we tell about ourselves. According to this defeatist, reality-principle stance, the highest ethical requirement is to respect the Other's story. All the stories should be told, each ageist, ethnic, political, sexual, or kapital-determined, market-defined group should be given the right to tell its story, as if this kind of tolerance towards the plurality of stories with no universal truth value is the definitive utopia, the ultimate ethical horizon.

This lethal ideology - the dominant one in the bloggy universe and beyond - needs to be turned around completely. This prerogative of personal, phantasmatic storytelling is invariably facilitated by a right to narrate, as if the highest act you can do today is to - non-reflexively - narrate your own story, as if only a white middle-class teenager can know what it's like to be a white middle-class teenager, and on and on. Now this little bloggy practice may sound all very nice, PC, and emancipatory. But, following Žižek's contention, "the moment we accept this logic, we enter a kind of apartheid. In a situation of social domination, all narratives are not the same. For example, in Germany in the 1930s, the narrative of the Jews wasn't just one among many. This was the narrative that explained the truth about the entire situation. Or today, take the gay struggle. It's not enough for gays to say, "we want our story to be heard." No, the gay narrative must contain a universal dimension, in the sense that their implicit claim must be that what happens to us is not something that concerns only us. What is happening to us is a symptom or signal that tells us something about what's wrong with the entirety of society today. We have to insist on this universal dimension."

Obliquely countering this are the somewhat pessimistic cultural critics, including Jean Baudrillard and Paul Virilio, who claim - in line with, among other things, witnessing the phenomenon of the narcissistic bloggy bloggers mentioned above - that cyberspace ultimately generates a kind of "proto-psychotic immersion" into an imaginary private-subjective universe of hallucinations, unconstrained by any symbolic Law or by any impossibility of some Real?

"How are we to detect in cyberspace the contours of the other two dimensions of the Lacanian triad, ISR, the Symbolic and the Real?"

[2] The Futur Anterior. K-punk continues: "As for the connections with hypertext, I’m less convinced. I'm a little suspicious of attempts to find the 'roots' of hypertext in the print medium. Such exercises end up presupposing a continuity when it is almost certainly more productive to look for breaks. Hypertext becomes re-embedded into a lineage going back at least as far as Sterne's Tristram Shandy. Yet this ignores the form of the reading matter itself. While certain books may gesture towards rhizomatic connectivity, the physical form of the book imposes a certain linearity on the reading experience. Hypertext – or better, hyperlinking – has no such limitations. With the internet, the very notion of ‘a’ hypertext, a hypertext ‘object’, quickly becomes unsustainable. Rather than being addenda to a free-standing texts, links constitute a plexing technology which don’t so much absorb and integrate outside texts so much as they erase the boundaries between one text and another. There is nothing inside the text. Any ‘text’ is a series of outsides."

Yes indeed: and it is crucial not to conceive of this narrative strategy of seamless, Mobius Strip-like - but de-sutured - multiple-perspectives (encircling a void, an impossible Real) as provoked by, as a linear consequence of, digital and cyberspace technology itself - the fallacy of the fetish MacGuffin: technology and ideology are always-already structurally embedded - ideology is inscribed already in the very technological features of cyberspace. More precisely, what we are dealing with here is yet another example of the well-known phenomenon of prior, historical artistic forms pushing against their own boundaries and using aesthetic strategies which, at least from our retroactive view, seem to point towards a new technology that will be able to serve as a more "natural" and appropriate "objective correlative" to the life-experience the old forms endeavoured to render by means of their "excessive" experimentations. For instance, a whole series of narrative procedures in l9th century novels announce not only the classical narrative cinema (the intricate use of "flashback" in Emily Bronte or of "cross-cutting" and "close-ups" in Dickens), but sometimes even the modernist cinema (the use of "off-space" in Madame Bovary) — as if a new perception of life was already here, but was still struggling to find its proper means of articulation, until it finally found it in cinema.

"What we have here is thus the historicity of a kind of futur anterieur: it is only when cinema was here and developed its standard procedures that we can really grasp the narrative logic of Dickens's great novels or of Madame Bovary."

Either life is experienced as a series of multiple parallel destinies that interact and are crucially affected by meaningless contingent encounters, the points at which one series intersects with and intervenes into another (The films of Robert Altman - especially Short Cuts, previously satirically anticipated in the work of Luis Bunuel), or different versions/outcomes of the same plot are repeatedly enacted (the "parallel universes" or "alternative possible worlds" scenarios - in Lynch's Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr., in Kieslowski's Chance, Veronique and Red.

"This perception of our reality as one of the possible — often even not the most probable — outcomes of an "open" situation, this notion that other possible outcomes are not simply cancelled out but continue to haunt our "true" reality as a spectre of what might have happened, conferring on our reality the status of extreme fragility and contingency, implicitly clashes with the predominant "linear" narrative forms of our literature and cinema — they seem to call for a new artistic medium in which they would not be an eccentric excess, but its "proper" mode of functioning. One can argue that the cyberspace hypertext is this new medium in which this life experience will find its "natural," more appropriate objective correlative, so that, again, it is only with the advent of cyberspace hypertext that we can effectively grasp what Altman and Kieślowski were effectively aiming at."

There are, Žižek outlines, two standard uses of cyberspace narrative: "the linear, single-path maze adventure and the "postmodern" hypertext undetermined form of rhizome fiction. The single-path maze adventure moves the interactor towards a single solution within the structure of a win-lose contest (overcoming the enemy, finding the way out…). So, with all possible complications and detours, the overall path is clearly predetermined: all roads lead to one final Goal. In contrast to it, the hypertext rhizome does not privilege any order of reading or interpretation: there is no ultimate overview or "cognitive mapping," no possibility to unify the dispersed fragments in a coherent encompassing narrative framework, one is irreducibly enticed in conflicting directions — we, the interactors, just have to accept that we are lost in the inconsistent complexity of multiple referrals and connections… The paradox is that this ultimate helpless confusion, this lack of final orientation, far from causing an unbearable anxiety, is oddly reassuring: the very lack of the final point of closure serves as a kind of denial which protects us from confronting the trauma of our finitude, of the fact that there our story has to end at some point — there is no ultimate irreversible point, since, in this multiple universe, there are always other paths to explore, alternate realities into which one can take refuge when one seems to reach a deadlock. — So how are we to escape this false alternative?"

Consider the narrative structure of what Janet Murray terms the "violence-hub" - portrayed in such films as Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line and, earlier, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon: always narrating an account of some violent or otherwise traumatic incident (murder, suicide, rape, etc), which is then positioned as the kernal of a contradictory web of alternative narratives that explore the core trauma from multiple points of view (perpetrator, victim, witness, survivor, investigato, etc: could , would any contemporary film-maker or multi-media advocate articulate the Event that was 9-11 in these terms?):

"The proliferation of interconnected files is an attempt to answer the perennial and ultimately unanswerable question of why this incident happened. /…/ These violence-hub stories do not have a single solution like the adventure maze or a refusal of solution like the postmodern stories; instead, they combine a clear sense of story structure with a multiplicity of meaningful plots. The navigation of the labyrinth is like pacing the floor; a physical manifestation of the effort to come to terms with the trauma, it represents the mind's repeated efforts to keep returning to a shocking event in an effort to absorb it and, finally, get past it."===>Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, The MIT Press: Cambridge (Ma) 1997, p. 278.

Returning to Kieślowski, Žižek argues, in his book on Kieślowski, The Fright of Real Tears, that Kieślowski's is a "universe of alternative realities". The films keep open a series of unresolved possibilities shown simultaneously (the "parallax view"), showing how the lives of characters are changed by the simple fact of (crucially, not to be confused with the New Ageist Chaos Theory), for instance, missing a train, as in the early Kieślowski film Blind Chance.

Žižek believes this approach can be seen in the context of contemporary processes such as hypertext, and is in this respect highly contemporary (despite what can also be seen as an old-fashioned romanticism of the films). In fact, the motif of much of his work is one of "multiple imperfect universes". He also draws attention to the recurrence of themes, situations and characters which he terms "narrative echoes", not just within Decalogue but in the later films (most notably in the final shots of Red, in which the three key couples of the trilogy are the sole survivors of a ferry disaster).

Welcome to a cyberspacial [filmic] universe in which different, mutually exclusive fantasies co-exist:

David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (Above).
Krzysztof Kieślowski's Double Life of Veronica. (Left).

[3] Multi-Media. Geoff Ryman's 253 is one of the most well-known early explorations of a hyperlink fiction.

Chris Marker's multi-media work is another superlative example. Interestingly, Chris Marker's most innovative work cannot be shown in a theatre [unless ...]. In the late 1990's, he produced a CD-ROM, Immemory. Composed of stills, film clips, music, text and fragments of sound, Immemory is divided into zones — Poetry, Cinema, Photography, Travel. There must be more than 20 hours of material, and so many different ways to explore it. Marker is already at work on a more sophisticated version of Immemory (in line with cyber-technology changes.). What it already amounts to is a trip through one man's archive — or memory. This increasingly seems the most likely future, not just for film, but for multi-media and hypertext — a new kind of post-cinema - "private", intense, solitary, exploratory, yes, yet full of revolutionary epiphanies and profound traversals, like the breathing face in Le Jetée. Rhizomatic connectivity ...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Gaelic Gothic

Gaelic Gothic: Race, Colonization, and Irish Culture, Luke Gibbons. Arlen House, 2004.

In this challenging, erudite, and wide-ranging study, Luke Gibbons explores the complexities of the Gothic genre, maintaining that, though originally a literary genre known for its popular or sensational appeal, the Gothic grew to become part of everyday life, 'giving rise to a phantom public sphere haunted by fear, terror, and the dark side of civility'. "Gaelic Gothic" is interpreted by Gibbons as a clearly "Irish only" genre, enmeshed in a distinctive aura of political, philosophical, economic and racial traits in an imperially and colonially subdued nineteenth-century Ireland.

Gibbons examines the development of the Enlightenment and the Gothic in Irish culture in relation (i) to "internal" excluded others - Catholics, Gaelic culture, (ii) questions of gender, and, (iii) the diversity of Irish responses, both at home and abroad, towards other excluded peoples: African-Americans, indigenous peoples in America and Australia, and other cultures on the receiving end of Empire. As if affording a culture of consolation, Romanticism and primitivism [the pastoral genre of Primitivism as defined by art historian Erwin Panofsky - "soft primitivism" and "hard primitivism" - from "Et in Arcadia Ego: Poussin and the Elegiac Tradition", in Meaning in the Visual Arts, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1855. Panofsky derived this distinction from A. O. Lovejoy's and G. Boas's pioneering text, Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity, Baltimore, 1935.] became a refuge for many "doomed peoples," (including the Celts), while the Gothic and racial theory provided new modes of countering the threat on the Other under modernity.

Gibbons traces the rise of the Gothic, linking it to questions of cultural nationalism, and the emergence of Irish modernity, concentrating on Joyce, then moving on to an analysis of how these concepts have played out in cinema, especially the Irish-American cinema of John Ford, and depictions of immigration in recent Irish films.

Indeed, the emergence of Gaelic Gothic provided a hyper-fertile basis for the appearance in Dublin, in 1897, of ...

Enter German Idealism and German Expressionism, F. W. Murnau [1922] and Werner Herzog [1978] ...

"Murnau, I consider to be the greatest German director, and Nosferatu the greatest German film ... [] ... My insanity is a direct result of your imagination, without which I would be perfectly sane (yet somewhat more illusionary). " ---Werner Herzog.

And Still Continuing:

Kapital's [hysterical] Obstacles to the Impossible [II]

The latest on-going craze: Islamophobia as Kapital's new Anti-Semitism

Just to pre-establish the historical bearings here first-off:

Slavoj Zizek's Top-Ten movies are as follows:

Vertigo (Hitchcock)
Psycho (Hitchcock)
Dune (Lynch)
Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein)
The Fountainhead (Vidor)
3:10 to Yuma (Daves)
Opfergang (Harlan)
The Sound of Music (Wise)
Short Cuts (Altman)
Limelight (Chaplin)

Yes, the director of Jud Suss, Veit Harlan (also Uncle-in-law of the late, great Stanley Kubrick), also directed one of Zizek's "officially" declared top-ten films, the German war-time melodrama, Obfergang ... The Hills are alive with the Sound of ... Climb Every Mountain, etc.

Which makes this recent post by Lenin all the more timely: Latest anti-Muslim Paranoia: The Project:

Yusuf Smith on the trail of a bizarre new theory about Muslim plans for world domination:

Islamophobia in Europe is taking on yet another of the characteristics of traditional European anti-Semitism: the conspiracy theory. We’ve all heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document containing supposed plans for Jewish world domination fabricated by a Russian agent about a century ago; the tone of a Melanie Phillips diary entry revealing a similarly conspiratorial document of the authorship of members of the Muslim Brotherhood brought precisely this to mind. The Daily Ablution has published a series of articles about the 14-page document, allegedly discovered during a raid on a villa near Lugano in Switzerland by Swiss and Italian police in November 2001. “The Project”, supposedly dating from 1982, is made to sound like a plan for Muslim world domination, “a strategic plan whose ultimate ambition is ‘to establish the Kingdom of God everywhere in the world’”.

The evildoers, apparently, will serpiginously encircle Europe in a serpentine grip, take control of the government, the world's financial institutions, the media and so on. And, what is more, the communists, stoppers, peaceniks, pacifists, Israel-haters and anti-Americans will vitally assist them in this task. (This begins to shed light on why some trolls assume that the Tomb is widely read by 'Islamists'). Of course, the truth has to reside in a secret text, since one can't believe what these dissembling Muslims might say to one's face: oh sure, theirs is a religion of peace, but just you wait til Hamas jumps our of your birthday cake; they say they just want us to stop bombing the fuck out of Iraq, but you wait til Zarqawi establishes the Islamic Emirate of Mesopotamia; they say they want to be friends, but we've got this here document that says...

Kapital's [hysterical] Obstacles to the Impossible [I]

"It is the world itself that resists domination."

"This is the Lacanian wager: is not our culture, the way we structure the symbolic edifice of our culture, only an attempt to come to terms with some kind of traumatic impossibility? If we recognize our culture as an ultimately failed attempt to symbolize some antagonism, some real deadlock, this allows us to read the other's culture as an attempt to symbolize the same deadlock. What unites cultures is not the neutral, universal set of meanings that Chomskyan linguists are trying to establish; you don't find it at that level. You find it at the level of an impasse. All cultures are different answers to the same question, arising from the same deadlock; it is precisely the deadlock, the antagonism, that unites us. The problem is to recognize in a foreign culture a different attempt to avoid the same deadlock that we tried to avoid. That we can identify with the other at this point of failure is an almost hysterical paradox. This is the basic Lacanian answer to the question of how can we be sure that we communicate with the other: we don't communicate with ourselves. The other is already in our own split; because we are split, our discourse is already, as Lacan would say, the discourse of the other."

Alternatively: Chomsky contra Zizek/Baudrillard

BS: A lot of readers of American underground publications read Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and the stuff coming out of small anarchist presses. What would they get from reading your work that they might be missing?

Zizek: Martin Heidegger said that philosophy doesn't make things easier, it makes them harder and more complicated. What they can learn is the ambiguity of so many situations, in the sense that whenever we are presented by the big media with a simple opposition, like multicultural tolerance vs. ethnic fundamentalism, the opposition is never so clear-cut. The idea is that things are always more complex. For example, multiculturalist tolerance, or at least a certain type of it, generates or involves a much deeper racism. As a rule, this type of tolerance relies on the distinction between us multiculturalists, and intolerant ethnic others, with the paradoxical result that anti-racism itself is used to dismiss IN A RACIST WAY the other as a racist. Not to mention the fact that this kind of "tolerance" is as a rule patronizing. Its respect for the other cannot but remind us of the respect for naive children's beliefs: we leave them in their blessed ignorance so as not to hurt them...

Or take Chomsky. There are two problematic features in his work — though it goes without saying that I admire him very much. One is his anti-theorism. A friend who had lunch with him recently told me that Chomsky announced that he'd concluded that social theory and economic theory are of no use — that things are simply evident, like American state terror, and that all we need to know are the facts. I disagree with this. And the second point is that with all his criticism of the U.S., Chomsky retains a certain commitment to what is the most elemental ingredient of American ideology, individualism, a fundamental belief that America is the land of free individuals, and so on. So in that way he is deeply and problematically American.

You can see some of these problems in the famous Faurisson scandal in France. As many readers may know, Chomsky wrote the preface for a book by Robert Faurisson, which was threatened with being banned because it denied the reality of the Holocaust. Chomsky claimed that though he opposes the book's content, the book should still be published for free speech reasons. I can see the argument, but I can't support him here. The argument is that freedom of the press is freedom for all, even for those whom we find disgusting and totally unacceptable; otherwise, today it is them, tomorrow it is us. It sounds logical, but I think that it avoids the true paradox of freedom: that some limitations have to guarantee it.

So to understand what goes on today — to understand how we experience ourselves, to understand the structures of social authority, to understand whether we really live in a "permissive" society, and how prohibitions function today — for these we need social theory. That's the difference between me and the names you mentioned.

BS: Chomsky and people like him seem to think that if we just got the facts out there, things would almost take care of themselves. Why is this wrong? Why aren't "the facts" enough?

Zizek: Let me give you a very naive answer. I think that basically the facts are already known. Let's take Chomsky's analyses of how the CIA intervened in Nicaragua. OK, (he provides) a lot of details, yes, but did I learn anything fundamentally new? It's exactly what I'd expected: the CIA was playing a very dirty game. Of course it's more convincing if you learn the dirty details. But I don't think that we really learned anything dramatically new there. I don't think that merely "knowing the facts" can really change people's perceptions.

To put it another way: Chomsky's own position on Kosovo, on the Yugoslav war, shows some of his limitations, because of a lack of a proper historical context. With all his facts, he got the picture wrong. As far as I can judge, Chomsky bought a certain narrative — that we shouldn't put all the blame on Milosevic, that all parties were more or less to blame, and the West supported or incited this explosion because of its own geopolitical goals. All are not the same. I'm not saying that the Serbs are guilty. I just repeat my old point that Yugoslavia was not over with the secession of Slovenia. It was over the moment Milosevic took over Serbia. This triggered a totally different dynamic. It is also not true that the disintegration of Yugoslavia was supported by the West. On the contrary, the West exerted enormous pressure, at least until 1991, for ethnic groups to remain in Yugoslavia. I saw [former Secretary of State] James Baker on Yugoslav TV supporting the Yugoslav army's attempts to prevent Slovenia's secession.

The ultimate paradox for me is that because he lacks a theoretical framework, Chomsky even gets the facts wrong sometimes.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Real as Cute Little Girl [II]

From Heidy to Buffy

Fascism is structurally inherent to liberal capitalism. [pretend-friendly Third-Way face of ...].

Perhaps we might recall Sylvia Plath’s famous line, ‘every woman adores a Fascist’.

I'm indebted here to Alphonse/Le Colonel Chabert for her parallactic, polemical short-circuiting of fascism<=>liberal capitalism via the narrative-dynamic imaginary of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer . Buffy is the Monster of (Corporate-State) Kapital masquerading as a cute and homely teenage girl : ... "She is a corporate state masquerading as a petit bourgeois teenager, an 'ordinary teenage girl' (among the weakest figures in the privileged class, but as consumer an essential figure in the maintenance of the status quo); she is a form of domination, authority and power over humanity, anthropomorphized.Buffy is the monster in Buffy. This is the con which takes in the dupes of the corporate message - again and again, in every advertisement. Falling in love with Buffy is falling in love with, idenitfying with, the self-righteous control and sadism of capital, admiring and desiring to share its prerogative of definition of the other, its power of life and death over the other, the exclusivity of its own right to thrive and survive, the limitless lawlessness and liberty with which it obliterates all that is not useful to it and which does not serve its quest for increased power and the satisfaction of its hunger for 'creative destruction.' "

The Real as Cute Little Girl [I]

From Vietnam to Iraq

The Contingent Recurs

Falluja, Iraq, 2004. (Left)

US soldiers, Iraq, 2003 (Top, Right)

Shot from Gus van Sant's ELEPHANT,
portraying the Columbine massacre (Below, Right).

Is Zizek Right about Buddhism, Western or Asian?

Thich Quang-Duc self-imolates in Saigon, 11th June, 1966.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


"... the Real is the "almost nothing" that sustains the gap that separates a thing from itself " - Zizek