Category Archives: Blog Post

Marx on Free Time

Free time

(Grundrisse, Marx, 1993, p. 634)

###

‚Äėin capitalist society, free time is produced for one class by the¬† conversion¬† of the whole¬† lifetime¬† of the masses¬† into¬† labour-time.‚Äô

(Capital Volume 1, Marx, 1990, p. 667)

 

###

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Post

Reflections on Roland Barthes’ The Photographic Message (1961)

25 January 2014

[Republished from here]

23056

 

Why even bother about Barthes?

I saw the book¬†Image Music Text¬†by Barthes lying on a bookshelf at home sandwiched between two novels by Michael Cunningham. I was drawn to its exterior mold. It has a thinness unusual for a book on critical theory with a cover page exhuming the image of Sergei Eisenstein’s¬†Ivan the Terrible. Eisenstein’s image, his films, and others films from Soviet Montage movement flashed back in my mind. I was invaded once again by memories of my early years in cinephilia.

I first approached it that way, through the¬†act of looking, an act of remembering, a visual encounter, which seizes me to approach it almost without hesitation, as if I have encountered it in the past and now an artifact. This act of looking, this seizing moment came first before the¬†act of thinking.¬†This is a fundamental encounter, a productive one that urges me to produce some form of writing: a reflection, a series of notes, an anti-reflection, anything goes really. My desire for¬†encounters,¬†in this case a textual encounter with Roland Barthes’ essay¬†The Photographic Message¬†(1961), stems from Gilles Deleuze’s¬†C for Culture¬†response in¬†L’Abecedaire de Gilles Deleuze¬†(1988-1989)…

vlcsnap-2014-01-22-21h24m24s180vlcsnap-2014-01-22-21h24m28s214

…where he admonishes the idea of¬†culture¬†by moving towards the¬†power of encounters. Encounters more than culture, and, in the words of Deleuze, to be always ‘on the lookout‘ — these were my initial thoughts when I first approached the surface of Barthes’ essay collection.

I wonder why most people look after his works. In many bookshops I visit these days (2010 – present), from¬†Bookay-Ukay¬†at Maginhawa St., UP Diliman to online bookstores like¬†Roel’s Bookshop, Roland Barthes’ presence is overwhelming. His books are almost¬†omnipresent, at least in Manila, sprawling within the local cultural domain. Have his theories amalgamated within the local discourse on arts, culture, or cinema? One could think of a possible marriage – transnational, if I may say – French-Filipino thinking, in search of ways to ‘understand’ the assemblage of life in the Philippines. Barthes’ entry to local bookstores is symptomatic of the bustling presence of European critical theory in the Philippines, amplified entirely by the thriving (anti)intellectual discourse in social media nowadays (though I haven’t seen a Barthes meme frolicking over my Facebook newsfeed for the past few years.¬†This is a good one though). This is why I wanted to read Barthes: out of curiosity. What is it with him that seems to be so elusive, so seductive for a ‘theorist’?

I fairly do not have warm feelings for theory nowadays – film theory, for that matter. Some critics have announced its eminent¬†death. This made me suspicious of its stability as a field. After discovering D.N. Rodowick and Gilles Deleuze last year, I bade goodbye to theory and move towards a more multiple region in critical inquiry: the cusp between cinema and philosophy,¬†cine-philosophy, where one is forced to be¬†nomadic.¬†A nomad, who has no mother or father – an¬†orphan, must learn how to squat, stare, and observe momentarily¬†at¬†books, texts, films, short stories, paintings, alleys, objects, subjects, benches, and/or open fields. A nomadic life is an active movement of one’s body towards the world, an opening, a journey away from the traditions of¬†home¬†life – a journey of becoming. This is opposed to intellectualism, which forces one to sit, think, and contemplate of singular aspects of life typically displayed by the¬†Thinking Man, a figure of contemplation.¬†A nomad walks on the streets. He is out looking for encounters, not with people, but with objects, ideas, and forms. The street – its intersections, cul-de-sacs, and U-turns – is his home and his guide through life.

My engagement with critical theory came from a nomadic walk away from film theory. I was drawn to its uncanny body, its perturbations, and its transformations. This massive field opened itself to me and, in various entry points, I tried to wrestle with it in fragments. What attracts me perhaps is its massive effort to decentralize traditions. A large part of its task is to revolt against traditional thinking: common sense, common beliefs, common life.¬†Critical theory¬†is one of the pervasive mode of thinking in sociology, arts, and the humanities, created by Europeans to rethink their lives – the society and the culture they belong. Critical theory is a mid-20th century amalgamation of Marxism, psychoanalysis, and linguistics. Multitudinous transformations have occurred within and outside its domain symptomatic of its tempestuous relationship with history, and to some point, technology. I won’t be discussing in detail the immanence of Critical theory or its transformations from the beginning. I would instead dwell on a microlevel: an encounter with critical texts, as excruciating as it might be. This¬†is a self-inflicted torture – to confront each polemical text headlong.

Confronting the text headlong may leave some terminologies and concepts unclear. But like I said in a¬†previous post, incomplete or unclear ideas can create new pathways of thinking. Hence, I won’t be troubling myself with terminologies or their definitions because I might encounter them in the future in a different light.

The goal is to withstand the thrust of the text, to experience it, to read through it like I would read a novel or a short story, and allow the formation of feelings, affects, sensations, intensities. Emotions, affects, and feelings are usually set aside when reading such texts. I wanted to explore this region in critical inquiry: how does one respond emotionally, along with critical response, to academic texts? How does one deal with a strange jargon? What makes the the text inviting?

Each essay has a way of putting words into sentences. Each has its own system of organizing its ideas, and maybe eliciting some sensations: visual or experiential. Almost each one has its own of putting forward a stance, a world, a new concept. I shall approach each text aesthetically along with a crude critical assessment of some of its ideas. Screw me if you think I misconstrue and/or misjudge some elements and concepts from the text as I am not an expert in this area. The key phrase here is experience through encounter.

The Essay[link]

Roland Barthes’ essay¬†The Photographic Message¬†opens with its object (a press photograph) followed by its guiding structure, an ‘assemblage’ in Barthes’ words. He arranged it in a succession: a point of emission (the one who takes the photo), a channel of transmission (the newspaper), and a point of reception (the readers of the newspaper). This is the first image that one has to confront in the opening part of the essay. Barthes presents a pathway with a room in each stop.

Barthes’ use of language is dry and cold. Semioticians write their theories formally with a sleight of hand. A semiotician’s essay has this certain straightforwardness that makes a College Math book look more interesting. Yet Barthe’s essay is few of the most lucid, most crystal-clear writing I’ve ¬†read in my life. In this crystal-clear text, there is, at times, no room for breathing. As Barthes elucidates the nuance of the photographic message, one feels an utter discomfort. One enters a tortuous structured pathway punctuated by large blocks of ideas to confront. At some point, the semiotic jargon seems too alienating for an everyman. Small parts builds on bigger parts. This is a typical touch of a structuralist text: order and control.

Semiotics runs together with the Structuralist movement. It sees the world as an amalgam of signs. While linguistics studies words, semiotics studies the non-words: images, sounds, three-dimensional objects (do they even study cross-linked artifacts like audiovisual displays?), and how they produce meanings. Semioticians also deal with their objects as if they have inherent structures in them. This is the world that one approaches when reading Barthes’¬†The Photographic Message. A press photograph, his object of analysis, is wedged within this preordained world, examined at its limits.

One can find a press photograph in areas where communities thrive, in societies centered on information. For Barthes, this is the simplest visual object that one can encounter in such societies of control, apart from magazine advertisements, which he scrutinized intently in his essay¬†Rhetoric of the Image.¬†The Photographic Message¬†is the critique of the press photograph.It is interesting to note that Barthes version of the press photograph isn’t only a photograph by itself. It is a photograph with a text like this…

corky1
Barthes proposes this as the basic structure of a press photograph: an image with a text. He says that each element, image and text, must be analyzed individually before analyzing their combined state.

The Photograph, a Paradox

When one looks at the picture above, of men and women all joined together to skate, one observes that the picture is a reduced three-dimensional reality. Barthes says this is mathematical transformation (from 3D to 2D) where the image (the photograph) becomes the¬†analogon¬†of the object. This process of ‘copying’ reality is¬†denotation. He also added that this image is the¬†message without a code¬†primarily because it is a continuous imitation of reality. Aside from imitating reality, it must also be accounted that a photograph is also captured in some specific cultural landscape, a certain time and space, and therefore¬†connoted.

Barthes positioning of the photograph as both a mathematical (or mechanical) and cultural object proves important and influential. There were only few theorist before who were interested in studying photographs. Through this essay, Barthes gives the basic framework on how to deal with photographs. If you are semantics student, this will make you happy.

A¬†connotation procedure¬†refers to the manner a photographer captures a photograph.¬†For Barthes, this is the reason why a photograph has no objectivity. It is not created based on a ‘universal symbolic order’, but rather an object ‘worked on, chosen, composed, constructed, treated with professional aesthetics’. It is therefore a¬†message with a code.¬†Barthes suggest that connotation allows the photograph to be read. It connects the photograph again to the world. There is once again noticeable bipolar relation between¬†connotation-denotation,¬†but their functions are far technical and must not be taken lightly.¬†This conceptual tandem rift throughout the text exploring the nuances of the photograph message.

The presence of both messages, the analogon (message without a code) and the connoted message (message with a code), in one is the photographic paradox. Barthes continues his analysis by specifying the various ways connotation can be performed in a photograph. The reader enters an ossified field as Barthes provides a room for each. He identifies six ways: trick effects (i.e photoshop, faking a photograph), pose (i.e. stereotypical codes, a woman wears a skirt, a man wears pants), objects (i.e. artificial arrangement of objects, a old bookcase may signify an intellectual atmosphere of sorts), photogenia (i.e. embellishment of the photograph through lighting, exposure, and printing), aestheticism (i.e. photograph as a painting, painterly effects of landscapes, photography as art), syntax (i.e. putting two (un)related photographs side-by-side to produce a meaning).

This is perhaps what makes Barthes essay hard to grasp at first, at least for me. Each concept has its room: numbered paragraphs arranged from simplest to the most complex terms. The text forwards likes a process of enumeration, one element after the other, proceeding stately and carefully until reaching an end.

The Text

Barthes continues on. He focuses on the presence of the text, the caption, in a press photograph. Barthes says there are three functions of a text in a press photograph. One function of the text is to become a parasitic message to the photograph. The text quickens the connotation. This is, for Barthes, a historical reversal: ‘the image no longer illustrates words, the words becomes a parasite to the image.’ Text burdens the image with ‘culture, moral, and imagination’, Barthes continues. Second function would be duplication/non-duplication of the image. ‘The closer the text to the image, the lesser its connotation’. And lastly, the text also amplifies (pro or anti-image) the connotations of the photograph.

One may find these procedural elucidation of the three functions difficult to understand, but Barthes sees to it that each of these categories returns back to reality by providing examples. In this way, the text has never left us. Examples jut out from various portions of the text surging towards us, connecting us to its difficult jargon. What is blocking us, of course, appreciating the text fully is the lack of connections with subject of semiotics and structuralism itself. As an outside of the field, I struggled through the essay for about a week and half, trying to somehow deal with it.

Is a Photograph of Pure Denotation possible?

Nevertheless, Barthes posed an intriguing question in the end, a staggering rift in the text: “Is…pure denotation…impossible?” He said that a photograph, through connotations, is always historical and cultural, ¬†never natural nor artificial. ¬†These historical and cultural connotations give the photograph a¬†meaning.¬†It allows us to¬†read¬†the photograph. The challenge is to find a way by which this¬†meaning is blocked. In a way, Barthes is posing a question of limits by reaching a certain boundary:¬†Is pure connotation possible? Is pure denotation possible?¬†These inquiries lead us to think of an Outside, a certain Other apart the text.

To answer the question, Barthes says that¬†pure denotation¬†exist in absolutely traumatic images…

kim-phucNight & Fog (10)DinoDoliente14b
Traumatic Photographs (Top to Bottom): Victims of Napalm bomb during the Vietnam War, Mass grave in Poland during the Holocaust, and the Mendiola Massacre 1987

“The trauma is a suspension of language, a blocking of meaning,” he said. He added: “[…] the traumatic photograph is the photograph about which there is nothing to say; the shock-photo is by structure insignificant: no value, no knowledge, at the limit no verbal categorization can have a hold on the process instituting the signification.”

A limit has been reached, and perhaps this is what I’ve always been looking for in critical texts. A desire exists in the limits, a desire that seizes one to think. And by virtue of encounters, a certain limit must always be reached: an ending that never ends, a beginning that seizes to begin.

####
vlcsnap-2014-01-24-18h36m33s69vlcsnap-2014-01-24-18h36m35s98
####

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Post, Books

Continuities of Darkness in Cinema

Reposted from old blog

FID-White-Epilepsy-de-Philippe-GrandrieuxUncleBoonmee03576618-13-50800_600_kinatay_165a5d0df1ca59615e4d2fe3021602edvlcsnap2013051521h19m29piolo1

Continuities of darkness in cinema: (Top to Bottom) White Epilepsy (2012),
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2009),
Kinatay (2009), Los (2001), and On the Job (2013)
What is darkness?
An absence of light, a depth of a shadow. In cinema, darkness accentuates light from a movie projector. When light pierces through its continuous body, we see light’s imminent trace, a emerging source of hope. We see light only in darkness. The stars wouldn’t be stars without the wide emptiness of space. It remains, however, a mystery why objects in the dark are indistinguishable. When shrouded by darkness, objects become formless, nonexistent (or absent), and immutable; they lose their solidity. (Yet the human eye trains the body to adapt to this continuous, immeasurable blanket. A body must grasp objects, move in space, or find one’s path, hence, the eye must adapt.)
In the city of desolation, darkness creeps evenly in structured spaces. It hides, reaches, and envelops movement permeating in every unguarded corner. Yet it remains shallow, often having a measurable depth, engulfing only small spaces, but light is its enemy. City lights purges this dissenting atmosphere darkness invades. Streetlights, exploding textual displays on bars and restaurants, colorful disco lights emanating from party places, and lights from high-rise buildings all punctuate the darkness. In the city at night, one can strongly feel the solidity of objects: the buildings, the avenues, the crevices… Darkness seems to function economically entombing aberrant human activities and crimes within its basking blackness. It becomes a distinguishable space.

In shadows of building, within dark rooms, in empty spaces at night, crime thrives like an underground vegetation, restricted in small spaces, unexposed, hidden, and destructive creeping sporadically at various entrances and exits of city life. Darkness has a thriving economy of consumption: one man stabbed to death on the dark aisle of the underpass, forgotten; the act of killing: quick and methodical; killer’s emotional response: empty, mundane, ‘this too shall pass’; killer’s motive: money (poverty at its root), a procedural job, a disaffected life.

Travelling for almost two to three times a year from Manila to my province Sorsogon, I wonder if there is a difference between the the darkness I feel in the city and the darkness I feel in the provinces. In twelve-hour bus trips at night, one can experience the vast difference of these two worlds. Leaving the city at eight in the evening, a bus travels south of Manila along the boulevards of the city. EDSA remains alive at night. People walk along the sidewalks at their usual pace, only quicker as they would walk in daylight. As the bus enters the South Luzon Expressway, light from the streets began to dim slowly. Darkness creeps within the halls of the moving bus. Within three hours, as the bus reach the outskirts of Batangas province, darkness becomes unbearably deep, deeper than the darkness I feel in the city. Three hours more, deep within the Quezon province, darkness asphyxiates any man awake. There is no escape. The light that one can only see comes from the bus headlights. Witnessing this descent in almost every province-bound bus travel I had in my life makes me wonder further how deep this provincial darkness can be.
Darkness in the provinces is phenomenally expansive and deep. Unlike in the city invaded by light, night in the provinces engulfs light. Even the brightest lighting equipment cannot measure its depth. Provincial darkness stretches out in open fields, in jungles, in neighboring houses keeping almost everyone inside their houses. Even¬†crime¬†finds its place to hide. Night in the province starts as early as six in the evening. Jeepneys seize their operations at seven-thirty, but tricycles never sleep. They brave the twelve-hour darkness in service to wandering ghouls and lost travelers. At night in the province, the streets are almost empty, deserted. Night feels like an act of waiting, time’s long passage.
Night and its arching darkness seems to puncture the hearts of men and women in the provinces. Its passage in time lengthens their patience as each awaits for sunrise. It deepens their scars, their delusions, their doubts.

Crimes in the provinces are, to me, committed with so much intensity and force, surfacing from very deep scars, very deep guilt. These crimes are not governed by some economic of consumption as they would play in the city. They surge within this pantheon of provincial darkness, seeping most of their power from this incomprehensible, limitless, and devouring negative space. For a crime, no matter how simple, committed within the premises of this provincial darkness involves so much passion, so much complexity, a crime beyond what one can commit in a city.

Fabian’s bloodshed in¬†Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan¬†(Norte, End of History, Lav Diaz, 2013), Hamin’s cry of desolation in¬†Death in the Land of Encantos(2007), Florentina’s cry for help in¬†Florentina Hubaldo, CTE¬†(2012), and Heremias’ descent into darkness in¬†Heremias Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess(2006), all these acts and gestures perpetuate the emanating darkness from the provinces, a darkness that engulfs light, pierces the heart, and transforms them into phantoms of the night: lost, indistinguishable, and immutable. In this darkness, their limiting figures arise: shaped by light but continuously dissolved by shadows. Each of them are entrenched within this void, society’s ultimate space of nothingness — the Black hole. Maybe this is why Lav Diaz gravitates towards the outskirts of provinces. He wanted to reach this Black hole history, politics, and natural space created. Darkness has always been a socio-political condition, aside from being a spatial experience. Each dark space emanates from both the restrictions of control societies and soul’s tempestuous agony. It appears now that in places where progress lags, where progress creep slowly, darkness expands intensely it penetrates even the most strong-willed, the most brave, the meekest one. No one is spared; everyone is engulfed. No light, not even the strongest light, can gauge its depth. Only cinema can capture its depth.
####

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Post

January 2019: Round-Up

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My favorite scene in Godard’s Tout va Bien (1972)

In January 2019, the struggle continues. I don’t think there has ever been a peaceful month in this regime since it started. To fight the repressive apparatus, we must continue to renew our commitment for the struggle for a genuine national democracy by constituting a bigger collective and a broader, wider alliance with dissenting voices.

omnitudo

Peasants are killed; activists are attacked, harassed, ridiculed, incarcerated and demonized by the state apparatus and threatened online by less discerning people. The black propaganda of the government is in full swing but we must persist and continue to fight for a just and lasting peace. We cannot give up. The month may be over; but the struggle continues on.

WE HAVE A STRUGGLE TO WIN!

Contractualization is still a problem. In the government sector where I work, all contractual workers still face the possibility of losing their jobs within or after the six month contract. For example, in the recent transition of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), around 6,000 government employees, most of which are contractuals, have lost their jobs. The sad truth is that no matter how important your function is, your contract does not assure you a job all year round. You are still dispensable.

It is therefore imperative for contractual government workers to unite and fight for their right to tenureship and just treatment from the government. Around 700,000 contractual employees of the Philippine government must unite in ensuring a just and rightful treatment of government workers. The fight of contractual government workers is also the fight of countless of contractual workers in the private sector. Some companies still practice labor-only contracting like Nutriasia, Jollibee Food Corporations, SUMIFRU, Dole Philippines, PLDT, Philsaga Mining Corporation, among others. This has to stop. Contractualization is a symptom of the worsening divide between the working class and the ruling class in the Philippines. Why do we still continue to allow it?

Manila Bay Rehabilitation for the Ruling Class. In the latter part of the month, there has been a large scale inter-agency effort to clean-up Manila Bay. Although there has been countless of staging of a Manila Bay clean-up in the past, especially when the Writ of Continuing Mandamus issued by the Supreme Court was enforced, this event has been highly disseminated in various media outlets to make it appear as if something has changed and that this event is a milestone.

In fact, it is a band-aid solution. Law enforcement officers are on the move, apprehending establishments along Roxas Boulevard that violates environmental laws. There was too much attention on the greater Metro Manila area in general. I was actually expecting that this rehabilitation will also involved the full extent of Manila Bay which involves provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Cavite.

Aside from the myopic geographical area of such a rehabilitation, there was no acknowledgement of the impact of past and future reclamation projects in Manila Bay. The City of Manila as well as other local government units (LGUs) that sit along the coastlines of Manila bay has already approved several reclamation projects. The Palace said they are beneficial to the economy and the people, but it appears that it only serves a few – the ruling class.

The issue is outstandingly contradictory. Here we have a Philippine government concerned with the environment, who is so quick to judge that the urban poor residing beside Manila Bay as the prime suspect of the decay of the bay. Yet, they allow reclamation projects that will destroy fish habitats and potential mangrove areas  that can protect Manila Bay settlers from potentially hazardous storm surges during supertyphoons.

This issue only shows that Manila Bay will not be cleaner any time sooner. While the economy grows via the expansion of capitalist interest over its vicinity, the Bay continues to deteriorate and sooner succumb to its own death.

justice for

justice for randy

Photos from @BAYANnational

Push for a Genuine, Pro-People Rehabilitation of Manila Bay!
Stop All Reclamation Activities in Manila Bay!
Resist Crackdown on Activists!
Hands off Venezuela!
Uphold Press Freedom!
Kontraktwal Gawing Regular!

 

####

 

Thesis Proposal Writing Update
Theoretical Framework in Progress

das-kapital-sq

This month was a critical period for my thesis. I have been reading some of the core references for my theoretical framework namely the following:

  • Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1
  • Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
  • Hegel’s Encyclopaedia Logic (Shorter Logic)
  • Hegel’s Science of Logic (Greater Logic)
  • Derrida’s Of Grammatology

Marx-Hegel-Derrida – my thesis will run across this theoretical matrix to constitute a dialectical materialist framework to understand and demystify long duration presupposed metaphysics. As with Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1, I have already read up to Chapter 22 of the book, and will almost finish it this month.

I tried to read the three books of Hegel section by section, chapter by chapter, side-by-side, but its seems harder and confusing to synthesize ideas in-between readings. I managed to finish the Preface and Introduction of Hegel’s Encyclopaedia Logic¬†(Shorter Logic)¬†which gave me an overview of Hegel’s project in general. I will upload my notes on them later this month. As with Hegel’s book Science of Logic, otherwise known as the Greater Logic, I only managed to finish the two prefaces of Hegel. Both of which gives general introduction of his project, his objectives, his ‘enemies’ (Kant and other German Idealists), his method. Considering the complexities of each book, I found it practical and logical to read Phenomenology of Spirit first because it gives a brief introduction to Hegel’s approach on what scientific cognition is.

After watching the video (see above), I figure that Hegel’s method in Phenomenology of Spirit will greatly help me in also coming up with my own method of studying the phenomena of long cinematic duration in the most scientific way. The stage-by-stage approach of Hegel, from the most basic (sense-certainty) to the most complex (ethical order/the absolute), can greatly help me in fleshing out the structure of long duration from the most basic (the shot, perhaps?) to its teleological existence in Philippine cinema and world cinema in general.

drawstring_bag,x1404-bg,f8f8f8.u5

Indeed, reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit¬†(I’m now in its first chapter on Sense-Certainty)¬†has offered a lot of theoretical resources to me. Capital Volume 1‘s structure has now become clearer. The shadow of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit hovers above Marx’s stage-wise approach to unraveling Capital’s gigantic appearance. From the most basic (commodities in Chapter 1 of Volume 1) to the most complex (the system of capitalism in Volume 3), Marx dialectically engage the idea of capital in a stage-wise approach, synthesizing from the most basic to the most complex. His systematic approach is a scientific one while also maintaining a revolutionary core – the subjectivity of workers subjected to varying degrees of exploitation.

Similarly, Derrida’s idea of trace is quite similar to Derrida’s idea of dialectic, which erases finality as it undoes the metaphysics of presence.

####

 

January 2019 | Favorite Films of the Month

vlcsnap-error516vlcsnap-error604

Cinema and the Materialist Dialectic

 

Cinema is an phenomenon of contradictions. The dialectical nature of cinema lies in its essence, its objectivity which effaces the Truth by its own temporality at work. It is a medium of signification ‘sous rature’ or under erasure, that is, at once there but always already erased. Only the memory of the image survives, inscribed in the sensory machine of the viewer. Hence, Derrida once said that it is an artform of phantoms, entities that actually caught up in the mystical time of cinema that neither past-present nor future-present. Cinema is in the order of the untimely, yet we cannot discount that its phenomenological untimeliness only arises from its objectivity.

The task of a scientific inquiry on cinema must aim to bridge the object and the subject, the reality and the mind. To make such a scientific inquiry a revolutionary one, we have to place the generic subject in the realm of the proletarian revolution. Hence, the dialectical materialist approach to a study of cinema must, first of all, study cinema in a scientific way, as applied by both Hegel and Marx in their respective texts (Phenomenology of Spirit, Science of Logic; Capital), in order to account for the Wholeness of the cinematic phenomenon. And second, it must aspire for a revolutionary call-to-arms to change the world by sustaining the proletariat as the subject of cinema. The dialectics of theory and practice must aim for the return of the Cinematic Absolute to its material and social base.

An Account of Images in (Non)Transgression

vlcsnap-2019-01-03-09h34m04s17

Meta-Hegemoniya, Meta-Industriya (Ronaldo Vivo, Jr. / Philippines / 2018)

For cinema to be transformative, it must contain images of transgression, images that dialectically engage with the world. Only a dialectically conscious cinema returns to reality for the sole purpose of changing it, by constituting new relations, new modes of thinking, new Negatives, new ways of seeing the world. Ultimately, a dialetically conscious and revolutionary cinema must abolish cinema-in-itself and begins anew.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Images of Jean-Luc Godard’s Tout va Bien (France / 1972) reflect a dialetically conscious cinema for its disquieting realism and self-consciousness that we rarely see in political films today. A piercing self-awareness is mutually divisive for also being a polemical piece on the contradictions of French society during post-1968 era.

The film builds on the contradictions of labor and capital, while double-playing as both a romantic and political film, consciously situating the privatization of gender roles in the milieu of post-1968 France. The romantic couple Рthe Man and Woman Рencounters a striking group of workers in a meat processing company. The workers held a strike against the management of the company for unfair labor practices. They represent the contradiction, the Negative, which dispels the fetishistic mysticism of the romantic couple; while the couple represents the bourgeois French intelligentsia. Godard shows the non-commensurable relation between cinema as a bourgeois pastime and the revolutionary struggle against capitalism. Tout va Bien does not end with a resolution but a krisis. It heightens the non-commensurability of such a relation maintaining that reality will always be dialetical and incommensurate.

vlcsnap-error250vlcsnap-error660

Happy End (2016)

This month, I was able to watch some very good films. One is the latest Michael Haneke – Happy End (2016), a no-gimmick-film, which is one way of saying endings are “best served cold”. In Happy End, Haneke argues that European society’s elephant in the room – the migration problem – cannot be resolved by mere hospitality; and that the contradictions of such a big problem are already festering in European society long ago. The problem of migrant Jews, for example, during the World War II (WWII) gave rise to fascism that exterminated more than ten million people. While there is an illusion that fascism was already symbolically defeated after WWII, Hanake is clearly showing that it has not left the European subjectivity. Fascism is here and always embedded in each individuality, each bourgeois household and self-deprecating character. Hanake’s characters are testament to Europe’s internalized fascism and xenophobia.

vlcsnap-2019-01-09-13h56m14s9vlcsnap-2019-01-09-13h56m02s139

Sinofuturism (1839 ‚Äď 2046 AD) (2017)

The two experimental films I have watched this month, Lawrence Lek’s Sinofuturism (1839 ‚Äď 2046 AD) (2017) and Scott Barley’s Closer (2016), are both admirable for their sharpness and polemical intent. Closer is more challenging to read because it is sensorial. But it teaches us a thing or two about the homology of looking, of perceiving things, especially the world itself, which is always already a conglomerate. It justifies the Hegelian notion of being, that being is impossible to isolate in-itself and therefore it must be viewed as a whole. Lek’s Sinofuturism is divisive polemic on the Chinese question. It tries to imagine China not from its national identity but from a China of the future. Using various method of imaging, Sinofuturism uses the essay style to distill the complexity of China’s society, notably without the question of the border.

1sdsad

An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)

Hu Bo’s four-hour film, An Elephant Sitting Still (2018), is his first and last film and also, arguably, offers one of the sharpest critiques on the contemporary Chinese imperialist project. Alongside Wang Bing and Jia Zhangke’s films that continue to unravel layers of contradictions in the post-1989 China, Hu Bo’s film offers an approximation of the degree of alienation in contemporary China. Obsolescence, mundanity, obscurity threaten the lives of four dispassionate spirits Yu Cheng (Yu Zhang), Wei Bu (Yuchang Peng), Huang Ling (Uvin Wang) and Wang Jin (Congxi Li) as they all try to converge on meeting point – the elephant sitting still in Manzhouli, China – which the film refused to show. The absence of the Elephant in the ending opens the film to a hopeful end – a radical hope.

The film arguably is not existential, nor nihilist; but teleological. It advocates for a certain achievement of a purpose. Although life in China is hopeless to some, Hu Bo argues that there is still hope if there will be break from the old ideas via the dialectical engagement with the impossible – the Elephant sitting still in Manzhouli. The film argues for a way out. Yet, the road towards such hope, as shown in the film, is not easy. One has to work out one’s life to get there, resolving conflicts, redeeming one’s sense of purpose. Hu bo is hopeful of China’s future. It is sad that he has to go.

Oda sa Wala (2018) & Meta-Hegemoniya, Meta-Industriya (2018)

 

Ronaldo Vivo, Jr.’s Meta-Hegemoniya, Meta-Industriya (2018) confronts several demons, but it particularly gives shape to the type of violence Philippine society is experiencing today – a violence that is bodily penetrative, contradictory and self-cancelling.¬†Dwein Baltazar’s Oda sa Wala (2018) strength can be drawn from its good compositional style and a crucial attention to the shot’s durational length to elicit a blend of the uncanny, the ironic and the comedic. While timing is its greatest strength as film, it lacks a wider moral compass that would have brought the narrative towards a greater abstraction and purpose.

story_bg_image-b4430304-9e09-4c44-9f9b-bd4_ccWGGs9

Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) is a highly entertaining film about deviancy because it tries to articulate the contradictions of the economy of appearances that runs within elite circles.

Jungle-Love-Sherad-Anthony-Sanchez-1

I have also rewatched Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s Jungle Love (2012) after almost 7 years of my first watch during its premiere only to find it okay rather than how I saw it before. Other than this, it still sustains its offbeat vibe that doubles as a comedic flare.

dada

Perci Intalan’s Born Beautiful (2019) is also entertaining but to some extent, has a barreled down comedic tone that lacks timing and originality. Viewers can expect a different lighter take from its source material Die Beautiful (2017).

GODLESS-di-Ralitza-Petrova

Ralitza Petrova’s Godless (2016) has a promise amidst its impenetrable vagueness. It seems that I need to rewatch it. But on its surface, there is no decipherable conflict that propels the story into a larger than life drama. Instead, what we can listen to and intuit are monotonous sounds of daily lives of geriatrics in Bulgaria. It is about human nature, the aging body, but I cannot distinguish its purpose as whole: to whom and from whom?

I have also seen a handful of short films: a short film that comes as a joke [Bambi Meets Godzilla (Marv Newland / US / 1969)]; a short film on irrational affect of¬† split screens [Theory of Relativity(Catherine Grant / UK / 3m30s / 2015)]; a short film that applies a cinematographic experiment that works alongside Michael Snow’s claustrophobic Wavelength (1967) [Downside Up (Tony Hill / UK / 17 mins / 1984)]; a short film about the oppositional relationship of celluloid filmmaking and digital filmmaking in the Philippines [33 mm Man (Rox Lee / Philippines / 20 m 31 s / 2008)].

I have also seen some bad films: Nasaan ka man (Cholo Laurel / Philippines / 2005), Bird Box (Susanne Brier / USA / 2018), Skyscraper (Rawson Marshall Thurber / US / 2018), and¬†Fantastica (Barry Gonzales / Philippines / 2018). Two films are made by Filipino filmmakers. Nasaan ka Man, a Star Cinema-produced thriller film about a fucked-up incestuous family drama set in Baguio and, of course, the much abhorred Vice Ganda film of MMFF 2018, Fantastica, whose only merit is that it is a better film than Gandarrapido (2017). Bird Box is obviously the downer because I had high hopes at first being hyped up as a film with similarities to A Quiet Place. It had an interesting source material (I heard it is based on a book), but it fails to bring us closer to its world. It is an apocalypse horrendously executed that it looked like as if everyone was just playing dead in the presence of a ridiculous ‘phantom-like’ that-which-cannot-be-seen entity. Same goes with Skyscraper, which felt like a typical product of a cottage industry of Hollywood: basic plot, bombastic actions scenes, a conflict that requires extrahuman strength. Nothing is more deceiving than another white man’s trash.

Anime

I promised to watch more anime this year. I’m still new to the field but I’m interested. The only anime I have only truly loved was Neon Genesis Evangelion. It reminds me of a fragment of my affective memory from childhood being so engrossed and confused by the idea of mecha. I was nine years old when I watched Neon Genesis Evangelion from our local channel. Promised Neverland is a start. I hope it gets me somewhere.

The January 2019 Film List

Transformative and Transgressive (5/5)

Tout va Bien(Jean Luc Godard / France / 1972)

Best of the Best (4.5/5)

An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo / China / 2018)

Very Good (4/5)

Happy End (Michael Haneke / Germany-France / 2016)
Closer (Scott Barley / UK / 2016)

Sinofuturism (1839 ‚Äď 2046 AD) (Lawrence Lek / UK / 2017)

Good (3.5/5)

Meta-Hegemoniya, Meta-Industriya (Ronaldo Vivo, Jr. / Philippines / 2018)
Oda sa Wala (Dwein Baltazar / Philippines / 2018)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller / US / 2018)

Fair (2.5 – 3.0/5)

Jungle Love (Sherad Sanchez / Philippines / 2012) – rewatch
Bambi Meets Godzilla (Marv Newland / US / 1969)
Theory of Relativity (Catherine Grant / UK / 3m30s / 2015)
Downside Up (Tony Hill / UK / 17 mins / 1984)
33 mm Man (Rox Lee / Philippines / 20 m 31 s / 2008)
Born Beautiful (Perci Intalan / Philippines / 2019)
Godless (Ralitza Petrova / Belgium / 2016)

Unbearable (1-2/5)

Nasaan ka man (Cholo Laurel / Philippines / 2005)
Bird Box (Susanne Brier / USA / 2018)
Skyscraper (Rawson Marshall Thurber / US / 2018)
Fantastica (Barry Gonzales / Philippines / 2018)

ANIME

The Promised Neverland E01 (Mamoru Kanbe / CloverWorks / 2019)

Neverland

 

####

 

JANUARY 2019 | Anomalous Materials

Anomalous Materials: digital encounters in the web, evental sites of ruptures, exclusionary digipoiesis. Some anomalous materials for this month:

  • Complete the System of German Idealism by Alison Bailey [link]
  • +18 Gore of Ultraman [link]
  • ‘Ang Himig Natin’ on Chapman Stick by Abby Clutario – A Tribute to Pepe Smith [link]
  • Taking Names by Ruby Ibarra feat. Bambu and Nump [link]
  • ‘Socialism or Barbarism?’: 100 Years After – Rosa Luxemburg by Redfish [link]
  • Remembering Liebknecht and Luxemburg by teleSUR English [link]
  • Gynompedie Budots [link]
  • Cat on the Back Ridding a Motorcyle by P’Billy Salika [link]
  • Airport security workers on strike in Frankfurt – Bella Ciao by Mark Bergfeld [link]
  • Yellow Vest Protest Jan 5 by teleSUR English [link]
  • Act 9, 12 January 2019 in Toulouse by NFCA Media [link]
  • Gilet Jaunes Flash Ball Collapse by Europe Says OXI [link]
  • Roller Kingdom by Papi Meme [link]

Blog Updates

lavdiazSingapore2

new header image. from Lav Diaz’s Ang Araw Bago ang Wakas (2016)

This month, I promise to do an upkeep of the blog. New pages, new posts.

  • World Poll Submissions.¬†There is a page compiling all my Senses of Cinema World Poll Submissions from 2012 to present here.
  • Film Log 2019. I now re-instated my daily log sheet for the films I’ve watched this year here.
  • Spectres of Marx Blog Series: I figure that I’ll just make my interpretation of Derrida’s¬†Spectres of Marx as a serial piece. [here]
  • Mixtapes. I will start a regular mixtape. Series of shorts films you can watch online. [here]

That’d be all for now!

#####

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Post

Mixtape 2019-1: Sinofuturism, Relativity, Crane Shots, Rox Lee, and Scott Barley

agnes

Agnes Varda last year.

Awards season is here. But if you are looking for different cinematic experiences other than the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood Empire, here are some films you can watch online:

Sinofuturism (1839 – 2046 AD) (Lawrence Lek / UK / 1 hr / 2017)

vlcsnap-2019-01-09-13h56m14s9

vlcsnap-2019-01-09-13h56m02s139

Sinofuturism is a film essay that comes from the future, ‘a science-fiction that already exists’. The idea behind the film essay is elusive. It attempts to map contemporary China’s material condition while also circumventing this mapping using ‘historical fantasy, documentary melodrama’ and some insights on Chinese cosmologies. ‘China is the factory of the world,’ the narration said. It imagines Chinese capitalism not only as an exchange of commodities but a neural network that is everywhere. It has seven Chapters : 1. Computing, 2. Copy, 3. Gaming, 4. Study, 5. Addiction, 6. Labor, 7. Gamble. Each chapter constitute various movements of expressing the idea of Sinofuturism.

Theory of Relativity (Catherine Grant / UK / 3m30s / 2015)

vlcsnap-2019-01-21-17h59m01s187vlcsnap-2019-01-21-17h58m56s135vlcsnap-2019-01-21-17h58m53s107vlcsnap-2019-01-21-17h58m51s88

Catherine Grant’s essay film Theory of Relativity¬†has a split screen form, wherein an image of a clock is placed adjacent to characters in various untimely situations in cinema. Time or temporality is the element explored. The film experiments with time-as-relative, a relativity of time with respect to the adjacent screens that are seemingly unrelated but by the logic seeing, manifest as if there is a form of heightened urgency. At the end of the film, there is a symbolic disassembly of time via the destruction of the clock.

Downside Up (Tony Hill / UK / 17 mins / 1984)

In Downside Up, Tony Hill explores an experimental percept similar to Michael Snow’s¬†Wavelength (1967) but focused on one effect: the cinematographic effect a crane shot traversing scenes of country life. The crane shot moves in a semi-circle emulating the movement of the sun. The film’s use of wide angle lens captures, to a large extent, the landscape and its people.

33 mm Man (Rox Lee / Philippines / 20 m 31 s / 2008)

Rox Lee’s 35mm Man is polemical experimental comedy on the dominant conflict between celluloid and digital mode of production in Philippine cinema. It blends the profane and the comical. Rox Lee plays as the defender of digital cinema. He battles out the 35 mm man, who represents the exploitative and cost-intensive commercial cinema¬† in the Philippines that still uses 35 mm.

Closer (Scott Barley / UK / 7 mins / 2016)

Closer puts forward a principle of the immediate sensuous reality: that of superimposition. Scott Barley implicitly shows that reality cannot be segregated, that the sky and the stars are always already within one objective reality.

#####

1 Comment

Filed under Blog Post

Reading with Derrida: Spectres of Marx ‚Äď Chapter 1: Injunctions of Marx (p. 3-6)

(Mis)Reading in Translation Series: Derrida

November 27, 2018

1737276

>>> [Read Notes on Dedication and Exordium (pp. xv ‚Äď xx) HERE!]<<<

 

After months of hiatus in this blog, I want re-open again this space of writing with some notes on Derrida‚Äôs Spectres of Marx. You can read my previous notes on¬† the book’s Dedication and Exordium (pp. xv ‚Äď xx) HERE!¬†The full title of the book is Spectres of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International ‚Äď three separable but connected conditions that particularly refers to the remnants of Marx‚Äôs elegiac traverse in history.

As one reads ahead, Derrida pursues new relation to these remnants by making them encounter their own unmaking and posturing as a presences. Derrida subjects every moment of imposition in the book into a sort of temporal inquiry, insisting not on the presencing of this and that concept, but on its provisionary concentration as a concept for a particular context.

Chapter 1: Injunctions of Marx (p. 3-6)

dcfya2hu8aakylp

During Labor Day Rally @ Mediola, Manila. Source: Tonyo Cruz

Maintaining now the specters of Marx. (But maintaining now [maintenant] without conjuncture. A disjointed or disadjusted now, “out of joint,” a disajointed now that always risks maintaining nothing together in the assured conjunction of some context whose border would still be determinable.) (Derrida, 1994, p. 3)

For example, in the first paragraph of the first chapter, Derrida temporalizes the idea of the specters of Marx. He begins by making it a provisionary concept ‚Äď maintaining, for now, its idea. The parenthetical commentary adds to this temporalizing gesture as Derrida clarifies the notion of ‚Äėnow,‚Äô which is disjointed or disadjusted now and, this ‚Äėnow‚Äô exist without an assured conjecture or a stable state of affairs. This is Derrida‚Äôs way of saying that the idea of spectres of Marx cannot be fulfilled under a single agreeable conjecture or context among sentient beings, or a certain customs, but rather, a context ‚Äėwhose border would still be determined.‚Äô This is actually what makes Derrida‚Äôs book difficult to read as it approaches each conceptual notion as a deferral and defiance from its conventional meaning. Derrida insists on this methodological deferral as a means of opening the field from various multiple contextualizations of the issue.

Indeed, given this process of unclosing ‚Äėpresences‚Äô, which is, of course, a laborious process for Derrida, we can now see why Derrida‚Äôs philosophy must also be viewed as a metaphysical system. It seems to dwell on a certain conceptual anxiety and remains there as an operation of concept against itself, abstraction against abstraction. The final modality is expressed only as a form of linguistic hesitation, which can be summarized in the phrase: the negation of presence.

The specters of Marx. Why this plural? Would there be more than one of them? Plus d’un [More than one/No more one]: this can mean a crowd, if not masses, the horde, or society, or else some population of ghosts with or without a people, some community with or without a leader-but also the less than one of pure and simple dispersion. Without any possible gathering together. Then, if the specter is always animated by a spirit, one wonders who would dare to speak of a spirit of Marx, or more serious still, of a spirit of Marxism. Not only in order to predict a future for them today, but to appeal even to their multiplicity, or more serious still, to their heterogeneity.¬† (Derrida, 1994, pp. 3‚Äď4)

Aside from subjecting concepts to temporalization, one of Derrida‚Äôs method is circumvention. For example, in the second paragraph of Spectres of Marx above, Derrida does not go directly to the deliberate explanation of the concept. He circumvents this by focusing on a small linguistic remark: plurality. ‚ÄėSpecters of Marx‚Äô is a plural concept and, for Derrida, this implies a community (a crowd, a horde, society), but since specters implies ghosts, it means this plurality may not involve people. Plurality might also refer to a dispersed group of no collective subjectivity.

In the middle of the paragraph, Derrida shifts the focus: from his discussion of plurality, he then shifts to a supposition: ‚ÄėThen, if the spectre is always animated by a spirit‚Ķ‚Äô Spirit is used as qualifier of the spectre, of the haunting. An animation of spirit results to the movement of spectre as such. Derrida then integrates this to a question of ‚Äėspeaking of‚Äô on behalf or for a certain group or plurality. In this sense, it becomes a question of plurality of spectres, that the ghost of Marx is not a singularity but a dispersed plurality.

More than a year ago, I had chosen to name the “specters” by their name starting with the title of this opening lecture. “Specters of Marx, the common noun and the proper name had thus been printed, they were already on the poster when, very recently, I reread The Manifesto of the Communist Party. I confess it to my shame: I had not done so for decades-and that must tell one something. I knew very well there was a ghost waiting there, and from the opening, from the raising of the curtain. Now, of course, I have just discovered, in truth I have just remembered what must have been haunting my memory: the first noun of the Manifesto, and this time in the Singular, is “specter” “A specter is haunting Europe–the specter of communism. (Derrida, 1994, p. 4)

In the next paragraph above, the origin of the inscription of spectre is traced which is also an explication of order of events: Derrida read Marx and Engel‚Äôs The Communist Manifesto¬†just in time when the plan of his talk was crystallized. Derrida is also haunted by his apologetics for forgetfulness (having not re-read book for decades) and his stunted response to a memory of reading the first noun of the book ‚Äėspectre‚Äô in Singular: ‚ÄėA spectre is haunting Europe ‚Äď the spectre of communism.‚Äô Derrida, in this instance, encounters the untimely. Indeed, the co-incidence is enough to disrupt the whole purpose of the book ‚Äď to unravel the meaning of spectres of Marx in general. This, too, is Derrida‚Äôs temporalization of the concept using the untimely.

Exordium or incipit: this first noun opens, then, the first scene of the first act: “Ein Gespenst geht urn in Europa-das Gespenst des Kommunismus.” As in Hamlet, the Prince of a rotten State, everything begins by the apparition of a specter. More precisely by the waiting for this apparition. The anticipation is at once impatient, anxious, and fascinated: this, the thing (“this thing”) will end up coming. The revenant is going to come. l It won’t be long. But how long it is taking. Still more precisely, everything begins in the imminence of a re-apparition, but a reapparition of the specter as apparition for the first time in the play. The spirit of the father is going to come back and will soon say to him “I am thy Fathers Spirit” (I, iv), but here, at the beginning of the play, he comes back, so to speak, for the first time. It is a first, the first time on stage. (Derrida, 1994, p. 4)

What follows is a paragraph (see above) of comparative circumvention. Earlier in the introductory pages, we have seen numerous references to Hamlet. Spectres of Marx is really an encounter between two writers: Karl Marx and William Shakespeare, in particular, Shakespeare‚Äôs Hamlet, in which a ghost also appears in the first scene and first act. Derrida finds this similarity untimely, and it is the conceptual source of Derrida‚Äôs trope. In this paragraph, we can see how Derrida unshackles the relation as alongside. Though Derrida is primarily talking about Hamlet, in his words ‚Äėthe anticipation is at once impatient, anxious and fascinated‚Ķ‚Äô, Derrida is doubly referring to Marx‚Äôs spectre: ‚ÄėThe revenant is going to come‚Ķ The spirit of the father is going to come back and will soon say to him‚Ķ‚Äô as if spoken as a prophecy.

Derrida’s method is always ridden with temporal elements. In this case, he was specific to point out that the appearance of revenant in Hamlet is a reapparition of the ghost, but due to the reordering of the events, it appears for the first time on stage. Derrida then withholds his inquiry and proceed into one of his long parenthetical remarks.

FIRST MAJOR PARENTHETICAL REMARK

[First suggestion: haunting is historical, to be sure, but it is not dated, it is never docilely given a date in the chain of presents, day after day, according to the instituted order of a calendar. Untimely, it does not come to, it does not happen to, it does not befall, one day, Europe, as if the latter, at a certain moment of its history, had begun to suffer from a certain evil, to let itself be inhabited in its inside, that is, haunted by a foreign guest. Not that that guest is any less a stranger for having always occupied the domesticity of Europe. But there was no inside, there was nothing inside before it. The ghostly would displace itself like the movement of this history Haunting would mark the very existence of Europe. It would open the space and the relation to self of what is called by this name, at least since the Middle Ages. The experience of the specter, that is how Marx, along with Engels, will have also thought, described, or diagnosed a certain dramaturgy of modern Europe, notably that of its great unifying projects. One would even have to say that he represented it or staged it. In the shadow of a filial memory, Shakespeare will have often inspired this Marxian theatricalization. Later, closer to us but according to the same genealogy, in the nocturnal noise of its concatenation, the rumbling sound of ghosts chained to ghosts, another descendant would be Valery. Shakespeare qui genuit Marx qui genuit Valery (and a few others). (Derrida, 1994, pp. 4‚Äď5)

Derrida‚Äôs parenthetical remarks are long. In the book, this is the first long or major parenthetical remark. And this parenthetical remark is in the form of a suggestion, a clarificatory suggestion. In this suggestion, Derrida is hesitant to announce the closure of the idea that ‚Äėhaunting is historical‚Äô.¬† He insists on the dialectical relation of haunting and history.

¬†His first point is haunting is not calendrical – not a string of presences. His second point is outside of the first. Morphing in the sentence, Derrida was thinking through the notion of the untimeliness of haunting in relation to the contextual field of Europe. Haunting does not befall Europe. But Derrida was responsive of how haunting is related to certain historical narrative of Europe, in particular, how Marx and Engels sees their project as a certain ‚Äėdramathurgy of Europe‚Ķ and its unifying projects.‚Äô Derrida even suggested that Marx was the one who staged it – referring of course to the anti-capitalist movement. Derrida was actually particularly interested at how Marx and Shakespeare share a dual trajectory as in ‚ÄúIn the shadow of a filial memory, Shakespeare will have often inspired this Marxian theatricalization.‚ÄĚ This is core relation of the book, the in-betweeness of Marx & Shakespeare as Derrida finds both of them at the foot of a spectre. And in the latter half of the paragraph, Derrida observes that there is a genealogy that can traced from Shakespeare to Marx to Valery in relation to ghosts.

But what goes between these generations? An omission, a strange lapsus. Da, then fort, exit Marx. In “La crise de l’ esprit” (“The Crisis of Spirit, 1919: “As for us, civilizations, we know now we are mortal “). the name of Marx appears just once. It inscribes itself, here is the name of a skull to come into Hamlet’s hands:

Now, on an immense terrace of Elsinore, which stretches from Basel to Cologne, that touches on the sands of¬† Nieuport, the lowlands of the Somme, the chalky earth of Champagne, the granite earth of Alsace-the European Hamlet looks at thousands of specters. But he is an intellectual Hamlet. He meditates on the life and death of truths. His ghosts are all the objects of our controversies; his remorse is all the titles of our glory. Ifhe seizes a skull, it is an illustrious skull-“Whose was it?”-This one was Lionardo. And this other skull is that of Leibniz who dreamed of universal peace. And this one was Kant qui genuit Hegel, qui genuit Marx, qui genuit. Hamlet does not know whatto do with all these skulls. But if he abandons them! Will he cease to be himself?¬† (Derrida, 1994, p. 5)

Derrida then elaborated how Valery look at the genealogy of these spirits that can be traced between Hamlet and Marx. In this passage, Derrida quotes an alluring passage in Valery’s book The Crisis of Spirit. In the passage, a dramatization of Hamlet holding a skull ensues. Hamlet lifts a skull that belong to Lionardo (a reference to Leonardo da Vinci?) and another skull that belongs to Leibniz, another series of skulls that belong to the great European minds of past millennium: Kant, Hegel, Marx and so on.

In the endnote attached to this long quote, Derrida elaborates the importance of Valery‚Äôs book: as a book that seeks to ‚Äúreintroduce the question of Europe as a question of spirit ‚ÄĒ which is to say that of the specter‚ÄĚ (Derrida, 1994, p. 178). Derrida affirms Valery‚Äôs notion of the question of Europe as a question of specter which is also central in Marx‚Äôs works, in particular, the specter of communism. In the same endnote, we see Derrida‚Äôs statement of objectives: ‚ÄėIn a more general and more implicit manner, the present essay pursues earlier paths: around the work of mourning that would be coextensive with all work in general‚Ķ on the problematic border between incorporation and introjection, on the effective but limited pertinence of this conceptual opposition, as well as the one that separates failure from success in the work of mourning, the pathology and the normality of mourning, on the surviving of a survival that is reducible neither to living nor dying, on the economy of debt and gift.‚ÄĚ (Derrida, 1994, p. 178). By ‚Äėall work‚Äô here, Derrida refers to all his works that resonate with the project of spectres.

For Derrida, the logic of spectrality is inseparable to the motif of deconstruction, as it often resonates with Derrida’s published essay for the last twenty years (1974 to 1994). The essays are as follows:

  • Glas [Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1986]
  • ‚ÄúFors,‚ÄĚ Preface to The Wolfman‚Äôs Magic Word, by N. Abraham and M. Torok [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986]
  • ‚ÄúShibboleth,‚ÄĚ in Midrash and Literature, eds. Geoffrey Hartman and Sanford Budick [New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press, 1986]
  • Cinders [Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1991)
  • Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989]
  • M√©moires, for Paul de Man [New York: Columbia University Press, 1989])
  • ‚ÄúLiving On,‚ÄĚ in Deconstruction and Criticism, eds. Geoffrey Hartman et al. [New York: Seabury Press, 1979]
  • Given Time [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992

If you are interested in the concept of spectrality, in relation to deconstruction, you may also read these texts. This is to say that the concept of spectrality is not only explored, dealt with, and contextualized in the book Specters of Marx. It is scattered or disseminated across these texts without any context whatsoever.

Later, in “La politique de l’ esprit,” Valery has just defined man and politics. Man: “an attempt to create what I will venture to call the spirit of spirit.” As for politics, it always “implies some idea of man.” At this point, Valery quotes himself He reproduces the page of “the European Hamlet, the one we have just cited. Curiously, with the errant but infallible assurance of a sleepwalker, he then omits from it only one sentence, just one, without even signalling the omission by an ellipsis: the one that names Marx, in the very skull of Kant (“And this one was Kant qui genuit Hegel, qui genuit Marx, qui genuit “).5 Why this omission, the only one? The name of Marx has disappeared. Where did it go? Exeunt Ghost and Marx, Shakespeare might have noted. The name of the one who disappeared must have gotten inscribed else. (Derrida, 1994, p. 5)

The next passage dwells primarily on Valery.¬† Derrida is interested about Valery‚Äôs textual elaborations of the concept of man and politics. Valery quotes himself in the passage but omits Marx in the process of writing the elipsis. Derrid is curious: why the omission of Marx in the text on man and politics? Was it an obvert conscious omission? Hence, Derrida postulates that the disappearance of Marx’s name may have imply that it is inscribed elsewhere. But he did not answer where in the next paragraph.

In what he says, as well as in what he forgets to say about the skulls and generations of spirits, Valery reminds us of at least three things. These three things concern precisely this thing that is called spirit. As soon as one no longer distinguishes spirit from specter, the former assumes a body, it incarnates itself, as spirit, in the specter. Or rather, as Marx himself spells out, and we will get to this, the specter is a paradoxical incorporation, the becoming-body, a certain phenomenal and carnal form of the spirit. It becomes, rather, some “thing” that remains difficult to name: neither soul nor body, and both one and the other. For it is flesh and phenomenality that give to the spirit its spectral apparition, but which disappear right away in the apparition, in the very coming of the revenant or the return of the specter. There is something disappeared, departed in the apparition itself as reapparition of the departed. The spirit, the specter are not the same thing, and we will have to sharpen this difference; but as for what they have in common, one does not know what it is, what it is presently It is something that one does not know, precisely, and one does not know if precisely it is, if it exists, if it responds to a name and corresponds to an essence. One does not know: not out of ignorance, but because this non-object, this non-present present, this being-there of an absent or departed one no longer belongs to knowledge. At least no longer to that which one thinks one knows by the name of knowledge. One does not know if it is living or if it is dead. Here is-or rather there is, over there, an unnameable or almost unnameable thing: something, between something and someone, anyone or anything, some thing, “this thing,” but this thing and not any other, this thing that looks at us, that concerns us [qui nous regarde], comes to defy semantics as much as ontology, psychoanalysis as much as philosophy (“Marcellus: What, ha’s this thing appear’d againe tonight? Barnardo: I haue seene nothing”). The Thing is still invisible, it is nothing visible (“I haue seene nothing”) at the moment one speaks of it and in order to ask oneself if it has reappeared. It is still nothing that can be seen when one speaks of it. It is no longer anything that can be seen when Marcellus speaks of it, but it has been seen twice. And it is in order to adjust speech to sight that Horatio the skeptic has been convoked. He will serve as third party and witness (terstis): if againe this Apparition come, He may approue our eyes and speake to it” (I, i). (Derrida, 1994, pp. 5‚Äď6)

In this long passage, Derrida explains indirectly why Marx‚Äôs name has disappeared in Valery’s text. In a summary passage, Derrida explains Valery‚Äôs politics in three things. First thing is when the spirit loses its distinguishable characteristics with the spectre, the spirit assumes a body and incarnates or possesses the spectre. This lead Derrida to conclude that the spectre is the becoming-body of the spirit, becoming some ‚Äėthing‚Äô, neither soul nor body, both one and the other.

TO BE CONTINUED…

1 Comment

Filed under Blog Post, Philosophy, Research Updates

Let 2019 Be A Strike (II) Against the Fascist Order

Strike

Before I lay down a more comprehensive lookback of 2018 and recount the violence of the State against the working class, farmers and the indigenous people, let me just greet you: A Merry Krisis and A Prosperous New Year ahead. Let 2019 blossom into a year of resistance. I call every one to strike against the fascist order and usurper of people’s rights and maintain a line of critique that rejects all forms of reactionary resistance, a line of critique that hinges on the antagonistic opposition between the ruling class and the proletariat.¬†

Resist Crackdown on Teachers’ Union!

Resist Crackdown on the Progressive Youth Sector! 

Stop the Attacks! Stop the Killings!

Peace Talks, ituloy! Strive for a Just and Lasting Peace!

Strike II

 

strike

This year, our writing collective will be officially launching Strike II, a radical film journal set out to reorient the local practice of film criticism beyond its commercial function as a consumer’s guide to local film viewers. Our statement reads as follows:

Strike II is a radical film publication that focuses on the theoretical and practical issues in the Philippine Film Industry. Stemming from the historical event of Philippine Cinema’s first strike, the massive anti-film studio labor strikes of local film workers that overturned the local studio systems (LVN, Sampaguita, Premiere, Lebran) in the 1960s, Strike II aims to uncover the antagonistic oppositions and contradictions of the capitalist mode of production of the contemporary film industry. Strike II also stems from Hito Steyerl’s video of the same title in a futural sense as it aspires to abolish the means of production of ‘film-as-art’ and ‘film-as-commodity’ and rethink of the ways by which cinema can be re-integrated in a socialist society. Using the revolutionary and scientific framework of Dialectical Materialism, Strike II also aims to provide the baseline data on labor conditions of film workers in the Philippines, as well as to demystify the ruling class’ fetishistic film culture.¬†


Strike II also builds on Eisenstein’s film ‘Strike’ (1925) as its second movement as the publication shall also take part in expanding the discourse on revolutionary forms of cinematic production.

STRIKE II, will, by all means, rally against all forms of exploitation and suppression of the freedom of expression in the film industry, and shall serve as a critical platform that elevates film criticism as a militant practice.

 

Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Interactive Cinema

2798791-kinoautomat

There are a lot of claims that Netflix’s newest season for their Black Mirror series titled Bandersnatch is a game-changer in terms of changing the whole way of watching movie/series ([1], [2], [3]). While the claim bears no essential radical truth that would actually change cinema itself, it only shows the power of commercial¬†hype in generating false claims.

Upon checking cinema history, Netflix’s Black Mirror:¬†Bandersnatch is not the game-changer for interactive Cinema. The first interactive movieblack-mirror-bandersnatch-netflix-review was a Czech movie Kinoautomat (1967) that premiered during the Czechoslovakian Expo 1967. Some Netflix users also argued that Bandersnatch’s interactive form does not allow it from being commodified as a bootleg/pirated material. However, contrary to common understanding, interactive films has been distributed in the web for awhile now as uploaded DVD formats.

I also encountered some interesting studies and articles on Interactive Cinema. Here is a list:

9789401206297

  1. [Book] Hyper-Narrative Interactive Cinema: Problems and Solutions by Nitzan Ben Shaul [2008]. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. [link]
  2. [Article] Key Frame: Beyond Interactive Cinema by Birk Weiberg [link]
  3. [Journal Article] Methodological questions in ‚Äėinteractive film studies‚Äô¬†by Bernard Perron in New Review of Film and Television Studies: 6(3):2008 [link]
  4. [Article] Meaning and the Interactive Narrative: In the context of Object-Oriented Interactive Cinema by Adrian Jones [link]
  5. [Book] Vosmeer, Mirjam, and Ben Schouten. 2014. Interactive Storytelling. Edited by Alex Mitchell, Clara Fern√°ndez-Vara, and David Thue. Vol. 8832. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Cham: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-12337-0.
  6. [Academia.Edu] Academia.Edu Links on Interactive Cinema [link]
  7. [Article] “Interactive Cinema” Is an Oxymoron, but May Not Always Be by Kevin Neal in Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game¬† Research 12(1): September 2012 [link]

Jungle Love is Screening…

…this coming first week of January at the UPFI Cine Adarna. Jungle Love¬†(2012) is a rarely screened film of Sherad Anthony Sanchez. If I am not mistaken, the last Philippine public screening of the film was during its premiere in Cinemanila International Film Festival last 2012. It has not been screened in local theaters elsewhere (or I might be wrong?).

jungle love

When I first watched it in 2012, it was one of the unforgettable cinematic experiences I have had.  It is a funny, obscure/absurd film that reminded me of some of the works of Shuji Terayama. I want to see it again on the wide screen this coming 9th day of January.

 

MONDOMANILA 2019!

Khavn dela Cruz’s macabre masterpiece¬†Mondomanila¬†(2010) is now available on Youtube!

Shelfie for 2019

I arranged my shelf for 2019 awhile ago dedicating one layer of the bookshelf for thesis-related books. I placed the most used references on the top of each column and on the side (Hegel-Marx-Derrida).

img_1184img_1187img_1188img_1190img_1193

Some New Year’s Resolution for Omnitudo: Interventions in Cinema and Philosophy

  1. I will post frequently. Does one post per week qualifies as frequent?
  2. I will finish my close reading posts of Spectres of Marx this year as promised.
  3. I will upload some notes, presentations and other materials.
  4. I will read more books (fiction & non-fiction) this year and post some notes here. My target 25 books.
  5. I will finish my thesis year.

Parting Words, Parting Image

 

Badiou on The Communist Hypothesis

Indeed, I do hold on to the communist hypothesis. I refuse to inhabit a world in which the currently hegemonic social and economic organisation is the only hypothesis. I cannot accept this monstrosity, this inequality, the fact that 10% of the planet‚Äôs population possesses 86% of the available resources, of capital. Far from being obsolete or ready to be chucked away, the communist idea is, in my view, still too young. It is at the very beginning ‚ÄĒ lasting a few decades ‚ÄĒ of its historical journey, while capitalism, born six or seven centuries ago, is reproducing the throwbacks, the inequalities of the¬†ancien r√©gime¬†‚ÄĒ indeed, 10% is more or less the percentage of the population that were nobles in that era‚Ķ I should make clear that I know perfectly well the vices and the crimes of the communist societies. I became a Maoist because I identified in Maoism certain critical elements for surpassing and changing Stalinism. The period that opened up with the Russian Revolution of October 1917 was punctuated with errors and dramatic falsifications, the main one being that although in its very principle communism bore a distrust for the centralised state, it ultimately built a state more centralised and bureaucratic than any that had gone before, a state that gave in to the temptation to regulate every problem through violence. The communist hypothesis ran aground in its earliest successes and the lean sixty years that followed. So should that lead us to abandon the hypothesis itself? I don‚Äôt think so. We should not heap a total ideological defeat onto a circumstantial defeat.

– – – ALAIN BADIOU from Corrupting the Youth: A Conversation with Alain Badiou(Sept 2016)

vlcsnap-error957

From Burning (2018)

 

###

Comments Off on Let 2019 Be A Strike (II) Against the Fascist Order

Filed under Blog Post

Two Presentations on Film Criticism

Cover

In the latter half of this year, I was invited by University of the Philippines Diliman-based organization UP Cinema as Art Movement (UP CAM) to deliver a talk about film criticism and my output as a film critic. I gladly offered them a contrarian view on how dialetical materialism can be used to weaponize film criticism as a militant praxis to overthrow cinema’s capitalist mode of production.

I remember that, in 2014, Sari Dalena also invited me also to present my idea of film criticism to her class on FILM 100. The degree of difference between my presentations on UP CAM and in Sari Dalena’s FILM 100 is that my FILM 100 presentation aims to show a possibility of developing an immanent film criticism, based on the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.¬†

For those are interested in having copies of the two presentations, you can download them below. Please also note that if you want to use these presentation for your lectures or other purposes, KINDLY seek permission from me first by sending an email: adrian.lessegers@gmail.com. Thank you!

  1. Rethinking Film Criticism
    Presented during¬† Sari Dalena’s 2014 class on FILM 100
  2. Contradiction as Critique: Applying Dialetical Materialism in Writing Film Criticism
    Presented at UP CAM’s talk last October 2018, back-to-back with Danielle Madrid

 

###

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Post, Presentations & Talks

New Age Maoist Aesthetics

#Maoism

Missing Codec

A trend seems to be happening among young, urban activists and allies: they get easily fascinated and responsive of positive representation of politics, rebels and activists on any platform, especially on popular capitalist art. Cultural representation seems to be the name of the game. What is formerly subversive has now become a default setting. Cultural representation is easy and, in the era of neoliberal multiplicity, profitable. In fact, contemporary cultural products tend to capitalize into notions of diversity and multiplicity (rhizomes, anyone?), only to the point that what is represented is not the marginalized being presented in contrast and as alternative against the status quo, but the marginalized performing (for) the status quo. A kind of trickle-up effect: productions representing the oppressed are revaluated and appreciated with ruling class criterion and are being produced for the expropriation of value by the ruling class.

Representation is comfort food. Representation made the…

View original post 1,477 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Post

Labyrinth of Dreams


Sogo Ishii 

Japan
1997
90 minutes
Black and White
Japanese


 

 

[Reposted from Auditoire]

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Post