First published in Kino Punch Issue 5, May 2017.
The Quest(ion) of the End
What does cinema leave behind?
The question, by its form, inaugurates a catastrophe – a birthing of an open space, an open time, an alterhorizon, alterverse. If cinema indeed leaves us ‘now’, or will leave us in the near future, or has left us already, proceeding as if all forms of moving images, all visological and auditory epiphenomena, and all objects associated with the idea of ‘cinema’ have vaporized into nothingness, then what crisis await us? As a spectral being coming from the future of post-cinematic era, I come to ask: what life awaits us after cinema? Or to paraphrase the question: what is the post-cinematic condition?
The disappearance of cinema, or the end of cinema, presents us an unbearable condition of existence. What initiates this essay into coming to being is the intolerable philosophical possibility of the rapture of cinema emergent from the process of absencing, or the process of coming to nothing, of moving towards the end, haunting the organicity of being. As Heidegger wrote in Being and Time, life, or existence, is partly or wholly conditioned by one’s death. The question of cinema leaving us also constitutes an eschatological or phenomenological rapture, a question of death in itself. As witness to this becoming-nothing of cinema, we also depart from the plurality of what might be, or the plurality of things to come. At the end of what might be the end of cinema, we are left within a labyrinth of ruins, a citadel of death, a sea of anomalous materials and an archive of catastrophes, waiting for the specter to return from the dead. If cinema indeed ceases to exist, there will be an archive, yes, but what kind of archive?
The Invisible End of National Cinema
In Patrick Campos’ seminal book The End of National Cinema, the terminus of arrival is not the end but a Nietzschean curl. It is the end that severs from itself from ending. When Campos wrote the words: ‘[…] the end of national cinema, which is independence,’ what actuates is an end that circles back to the beginning – the eternal return of the same. Yet, if indeed the end of national cinema constitutes the arrival of independent cinema, then what catastrophe awaits us? Or, what catastrophe awaits us if we sever ourselves from the idea of ‘national cinema’? In the shorelines of forgetfulness, Campos inscribes a catastrophe we cannot see. Indeed, the concept of ‘national cinema’ can only signified from a particular formalization and politicization of discourse within a institutional hegemonic apparatus. In the shorelines of forgetfulness of everyday life, the idea of the national cinema is under the threat of constant erasure. National cinema no longer belongs to people. Institutions and capitalists markets have decimated its revolutionary potential as an instrument of proletarian revolution. Through the processes of disembodiment, standardization and rationalization, national cinema only became a tool that reaffirms state power, reinvigorates and replenishes the Capital, and refurbishes the ideological state apparatus of the ruling class elite.
Cinema became an instrument of hegemony: the eye of the state and the topos of capitalism. Campos attributes the disappearance of the ‘national’ within these movements of deterritorialization, as can be seen in Southeast Asian Cinema. What Campos imagines is a transitionary end of national cinema as it transforms into transnational cinema. The dissolution of hegemonic borders of power of these ‘nation-state cinemas’ proves that the idea of national continues to be reconstituted even in its post-national and trans-national sense. What can be gleaned from Campos on this cultural transformation is a remnant of an unseen catastrophe synthesized by the triumphal machinations of the neoliberal political economy and cultural imperialism. Indeed, cinema has already undergone many invisible catastrophes since its birth in 1895 – many ends, many Nietzschean curls – disappearing and reappearing in several parts of the world under different historical and socio-political contexts.
Anthropocene and the End
Invisible catastrophes precludes bigger ontological catastrophes. If cinema indeed leaves us, vision and visuality has to be reconstituted, uprooted, and destroyed along with the obliteration of the visual logic of the moving image. This reconstitutional process is prefigured arguably with the crisis of anthropocene, although Lyotard’s solar catastrophe might constitute the apocalypse that will eventually extinguished cinema in an eschatological sense. The crisis of anthropocene, however, appears to be the most imminent global catastrophe cinema has to go through. Its currency and global significance as the eschatological standard necessitates a productive confrontation. So what kind of catastrophe awaits in cinema in the age of anthropocene?
Anthropocene refers to the crisis of over-determination of human agency in managing the limited natural resources of the planet. The crisis of the anthropocene narrativizes the productive-exploitative peak of human activity. It paints an image of an ecological and geological catastrophe signaled by the encroachment of global warming and the genocide of populations due to human-induced environmental disasters. Anthropocene is the eco/ego-logical fall of the human. In the age of anthropocene,, cinema’s materiality and industry, constituted by these productive-exploitative industries i.e. semi-conductor industry, plastic industry, silicon industry (for the lens) and telecommunications industry, will be irrecoverable and delimited. The material erasure of cinema comes also with its imminent erasure in the global subjectivity of things, actualize by the logic of the anthropocene that, up to now, continues to deconstitute cores and centers of subjectivity, deterritorializing, de-subjectivizing and ahistoricizing bodies, gestures, identities and forms.
What is a cinema without material? A ghost.
The End as Catastrophe of the Commons
Diaz’s film The Day Before the End (2015), like Campos’ book, also indexes the ‘end’ as a catastrophe, but this time, what Diaz attempts to paint is the ‘end’ as catastrophe of the commons. Unlike Campos’ book that implicitly constitutes the ‘end’ as the invisible deterritorialization of hegemonic centers through the globalized capital, Diaz’s film reflects on the heretical condition of the linguistic end of the human. In the film we see three poet-heretics of different locutions. What Diaz vaguely paints is the image of the Tower of Babel in polysemic disarray. Like Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s sirens in From the Clouds to the Resistance (1979), these three heretical sirens signal the end as the triumph of silence or perhaps the end of human speech. The three heretical sirens (played by Hazel Orencio, Noel Miralles, and Noel Sto. Domingo) are figures of the human at the edge of the anthropocene, grappling perhaps the last subjective utterance of the human. Here, in Diaz’s frames, we come to an end.
What happens next is the transformative passage of all life to a new epoch: the epoch of ruins at the shoreline of disappearance and absence. The post-human era will be indexed as the end of the human and also as the end of cinema. What cinema leaves behind is an image of itself as a total abyss, for in the end, human visions ceases to exist, Visible light will no longer be tenable in the post-human era as new forms of affective sensibility associated with other electromagnetic waves like infrared, radio waves, and gamma rays will be explored in replacement to the visible-light-centered apparatus of cinema. All these, too, will come to an end.
Even in post-cinema, catastrophes await us.
Quezon City, Manila
 Campos, Patrick F., The End of National Cinema: Filipino Film at the Turn of the Century (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2016), p. 24