Category Archives: Notes

Badiou On Dialectical Critique

Bibliographic Note: Badiou, A. (2000). Metaphysics and the Critique of Metaphysics. Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, 10(1), 174‚Äď190.¬†

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On Dialectical Critique

Dialectical critique is solely concerned with showing that the categories that metaphysics applies from the outside to a supposed undertermined being, the categories that is uses to arrange and demonstrate this essential indeterminancy, are in fact names for the becoming of the determining of this presumed indeterminacy. Each and every category, whether it be being, nothingness, becoming, quality, quantity, causality, and so on, ultimately consists of a definite time of determination, if only one has the patience to follow the true movement of transformation whereby each category takes place as the exteriorization and dialectical truth of the preceding ones. (p. 187)

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On (Science of) Logic

“Critical philosophy had already turned metaphysics into logic.” “Logic” means: a regulated process of determination, whereby the undetermined absolute (for example being, being as such) letsk integral singularity take place as the ultimate immanent specification of itself. Logic is here the logic of determination, which leaves no indeterminacy behind, and which, in this sense, abolishes metaphysics. (p. 187)

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January 30, 2019 · 3:42 pm

July 2018: Round-Up

August 2, 2018

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In memory of Alice Guillermo (1938 – July 29, 2018)

July 2018 is a month of struggle for the Filipino people. This month, military forces under US-Duterte administration continued to inflict development aggression to its people, especially the Lumad, who once again evacuated their ancestral lands last July 16 due to threats of the military. This development aggression against the Lumad allows mining companies to operate in their ancestral lands.

Aside from this, human rights activists and religious leaders were arrested in General Santos City. They were just doing their program consultations for the Lumad . The height of this month’s struggle is the solidarity walk during United People’s SONA, the people’s show of force against the tyrannical rule of US-China-Duterte.

It is also this month that anti-worker, union-busting forces continue to pillage the working class of its rights. The another violent dispersal of striking NutriAsia workers last July 30, 2018 marked the manifestation of the full installation of bureaucratic capitalist fascism in the US-China-Duterte Regime. Contractual laborers of NutriAsia, PLDT and Jollibee and their supporters are demonized, hurt, beaten, dispersed, imprisoned, humiliated and neglected by these capitalists and state-sanctioned forces. Meanwhile, the courts continue to favor the unjust practices of the capitalists by reversing DOLE order to regularize the workers, adding more insult to the injury.

The worsening contradiction in Philippine society today emerging from every worsening gap between the proletarian working class and the ruling class, the people and the State, will eventually lead to a seizure of power. The people will come to know their place. As we transition to August, another month of struggle, and to the latter part of the year, it is our task to sharpen these contradictions by affirming the revolutionary culture that continue to burn in these dark times.

Support workers’ plight!

No to contractualization!

Boycott NutriAsia Products!

Boycott Jollibee Brands!

US-China Out now!

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JULY 2018 | Best Reads of the Month

This month, I have not read extensively read non-thesis materials except for a few blurbs and articles shared in the social media. Here are some of the worth titles I’ve read last month.

  1. The Fate of the People’s War: An Interview with Jose Maria Sison by¬†Denis Rogatyuk
  2. The Geology of Morals – A Neomaterialist Interpretation by Manuel Delanda
  3. or, on being the other woman by Simone White

Some thesis-related essays I read last month:

  1. Metaphysics and the Critique of Metaphysics by Alain Badiou
  2. The False Movements of Cinema by Alain Badiou
  3. Preface of Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II by Alain Badiou

 

JULY 2018 | Favorite Films of the Month

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Tu Pug Imatuy (2017)

This month of July is a downtime for me. I am even less engaged with cinema than before. This is largely due to the two conferences the bookends the beginning and the end of the month. In between breaks, I continued to read my related lit list for thesis while writing my conference papers as well as my thesis proposal. Surprisingly, I managed to watch some of the best films I have seen this year so far, thanks to the great curation of the film screenings at the 10th Association of Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference.

The most surprising re-watch this month is Arbi Barbona’s Tu Pug Imatuy (2017). I have actually seen this film thrice on different screening venues last year, and I have not made up my mind mainly because I had so many questions for Arbi Barbona. I think my main contention before was the form itself. Barbona’s approach to independent filmmaking techniques is not new. It borrows its approach to framing and staging from other films. Under no circumstance will this be a conscious effort of re-inscribing a new modality of cinematic expression. However, what makes this film uniquely transformative and transgressive is its politics of representation, which can be attributed to Barbona’s impressive mastery to invest on body and landscape as indices of political expression. In a way, the body or bodies in Tu Pug Imatuy is the site of political expression; secondary to it is the landscape.

Bodies in film in general are mainly purveyors of movement. It articulates a certain non-linguistic expression that we can call gestural expressions. Movement occurs in the physical world because of certain¬† structural, material stressors. In the cinematic medium, bodies, their movement, their stresses, are arranged in a dynamic form that also annuls the very form of bodies from a material perspective. For example, in a typical medium shot, the actor’s body is usually displayed visually from the hip-up. The feet no longer involved in the expression of the body. What we have is a continual annulment of the body-as-image along the axis of temporal passage. This phenomenological impurity is what makes film, according to Badiou’s essay The False Movements of Cinema, incapable of inscribing truth as image in the present. Badiou actually acknowledges cinema’s paradoxical capability for truth, that it can only generate truth as false truth. For Badiou, cinema allows the appearance of the Idea in the sensible. However, this appearance is annulled by the passage of cinema.

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Tu Pug Imatuy (2017)

In Tu Pug Imatuy, the constitution of bodies and landscapes, and their tensions in between, also actuates each of their disappearance. Barbona’s manipulation of the medium, which we can call his own grammar, is punctured by messianic time, a materialist dimension of time that announces the possible scientific redemption of the oppressed. In the film, Barbona, through bodies and landscapes, creates a monad of a revolutionary subject, wherein their narrative orchestration is a cross between ecological disaster and development aggression. Between these crises is the metaphysical plane of indigenous cosmology that grounds our revolutionary subject as a sector of its own. Barbona knows that the political and ideological delineations among ideologies that run in the film: the indigenous resistance, the armed rebellion and the state forces, which are a result of class pressures. They are ideologies in series, each with a different material determination.

What Tu Pug Imatuy draws upon is the truth of fortitude and solidarity of the oppressed in an on-going class war, which can only be won by affirming the class contradiction. The class war for Barbona does not comprise entirely of two opposing homogeneous factions, but rather a composition of contradictory differences among people and classes.

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Tu Pug Imatuy (2017)

Tu Pug Imatuy succeeds in articulating these lines of thought with messianic awareness of the cessation of the body and landscape by forces of tradition, a tradition of fascist order. For Walter Benjamin, in his essay Theses on the Philosophy of History, he made mention of the necessary critique of progress and its organization around the concept of the homogeneous, empty time. Development aggression of mining companies as depicted in the film is a clear sign of the presence of homogeneous, empty time that creates a fascistic metaphysical fantasy that through these industries of progress, the country will reach an economic progress. Tu Pug Imatuy offers a revolutionary counter-intuitive theological solution, one that is also materialist: that the geological landscapes shaped by natural physical forces will eventually pull down mankind by force from its monolithic metaphysical concept of progress. Mining companies, and capitalism in general, will fall to their own grave and so will governments of men.

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Faces, Places (2017)

Aside from Tu Pug Imatuy,¬†one of the best films I’ve watched this month is Agnes Varda’s Faces, Places (France, 2017). Faces, Places is the French filmmaker’s response to Emmanuel Levina’s words in his essay¬†Ethics and Infinity: ‘[T]he face is what forbids us to kill.’ In Faces, Places, Agnes Varda explores the ethics of the image and the human face, or the image-as-human-face. The face as image served as a site of political expression. If Barbona used bodies and landscapes to express his own politics of representation, for Varda, the face served as a image of communitarian ideal, serving as an index for the communities’ reason for co-existence. Varda, together with his visual artist collaborator JR, vlcsnap-error997crafts the face of the people in the community as a focal concentrationary point of radical empathy. For Varda and JR, the image-as-face reactivates the mirror of a community that has lost its own self-reflexivity and self-awareness because of capitalism’s alienation of the human eye.

In one instance, Varda and JR entered a manufacturing company. They took a picture of the workers on different shifts. They hope that the group photo would put together the workers as one whole organism. Since they have been divided by time shifts, departments, and different divisions of labor functions,vlcsnap-error493 these workers are unable to form a social bond with other departments. They are isolated and alienated in their labor. By virtue of a collective face, Varda and JR has reinforced the communitarian ideal by reaffirming the social relation that binds laborers. The film’s weakness, however, is its lack of orchestration of the face along the lines of class contradiction. Like many French art films, it resorts to identity politics, perhaps for the same reason why the film draws largely on contemporary themes of art and design. At the end of the film, the topics became personal: Varda’s struggle to compensate for her failing eyesight and memory.

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Faces, Places (2017)

During the 10th ASEACC, I have also seen Anucha Boonyawatana’s Malila: A Farewell Flower (Thailand / 2017), a Thai gay film with an unusual subject: the rite of Bai Sri Su Kwun alongside some form of existential Buddhism. This is what cuts the film in half, almost a perfect homage to another work of a Thai filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (2004). The first half, a rekindling of two lovers Shane (Sukollawat Kanarot) and Pitch (Anuchit Sapanpong) through a dazzling portrayl of the rite of Bai Shi Su Kwun; the second half, Shane’s struggle for transformation into monkhood.

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Malila: The Farewell Flower (2017)

Like Tu Pug Imatuy, Malila: A Farewell Flower also orchestrates an annulment of the body. Its most provocative different is its departure from politics towards the metaphysical domain, as if¬†Boonyawatana wants to transgress the body’s physicality by abstracting it as a phantom. The relation of¬†Shane and Pitch can be described phantasmal, out of time, yet they enclosed. It is as if they rekindle as ghosts within a specificity of a place only they can access. This transcendental place has a similar structure to Brokeback Mountain in Brokeback Mountain (2005), the prairie grass and the bedroom in Maurice (1987) and Call Me By Your Name (2017), Buenos Aires in Happy Together (1997), the farm’s boundary in God’s Own Country (2017) and in many imaginary places in many gay films that fulfill the intention of inscribing a transcendental space that exclusively devoted to homosexual practice. The structure of this transcendental space follows the theoretical lining of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s essay¬†Epistemology of the Closet: a lining constituting the juridical boundary between heterosexual and homosexual worldviews. Malila¬†uses this theoretical lining to enclose bodily expression of love between Shane and Pitch outside of tradition. In a way, it is an inside of an outside.

Malila the farewell flower Film Still30(Sukollawat Kanaros)

In the other half of the film, we are drawn to a type of duality: a duality of life and afterlife, wherein the body, the corpus, serves as the expression of the metaphysical tension between these two. Shane is now an established monk serving alongside another monk. They are stationed in a far-flung forest area of a country-side where, due to the recent political crises in Thailand, corpses are dumped. In one scene, they saw a body. His companion, a monk who had been in the region and had more experience than him, asked Shane to de-objectify the body by reciting over and over again the words that it is dead. This is a test of moral endurance. At first, Shane repelled the dead body. But eventually, he learned to fight through disgust and transcended the material. The body become dematerialized and took the form of his loved one, Pitch. Afterwards, in a beautiful ending, Shane removed his garments and swam in a lake naked, an act of¬† cleaning and transformation. The transformation process is actually Hegelian. Between the object, BEING, and the transcendental plane of the concept, NOTION, the ESSENCE, via representation, must be worked on, must be labored on, in order to reach its full expression. Essence negotiates the division between¬†Being and Notion. In some way, Shane’s method of transcendence is situated in the entangled link between life and after-life, between the real and the conceptual. It is through this dialectical process that Shane can fully access the Truth of Life which is also Death.

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Aside from Malila, we also watched Sunya (2016) by Harry Dagoe Suharyadi, a nonlinear film concerned with the geopolitics of spirits. Often times, the dynamics of repetition in the editing render the film as a series of iterations of a single narrative. These several iterations create tensions of impenetrable proportion. Its inaccessible film grammar reminds me of the films of John Torres, in a particular Ang Ninanais (2010), that  also depends on a loose string of narratives. In Sunya, we encounter body doubles and possessed bodies. They fight through the duplicity of their existence as phantoms and as humans, often entering a kind of rehearsal for a ritual. No central image can been seen in the film, what is repeated is always annulled by its own prescencing. If Malila is about transcendence from the material, Sunya is the liminality between material and spirit.

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Magnolia (1999)

Aside from these four films, I also rewatched Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) and surprised to find it a more complex film than before. Magnolia interweaves different plot lines strewn by one narrator. Without the narrator’s command, Magnolia would actually looked like an experimental narrative film since these plots are diverging. Each plot is connected to the other by a ‘chance’, but by chance, as Anderson understands it, the plot intersection becomes a diffential relation. Chance is a synthetic difference. It synthesizes the narrative relation while also maintains their exclusivities, their non-contiguous relations.

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Isle of Dogs (2018)

Another film worth mentioning is Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs (2018). On the surface, it is admirable animated work, with a lot of perkiness, resemblances to old Japanese movies, and a dead-pan comedy that will actually make you smile. Its narrative is actually no longer new and simplistic, which is the main problem of the film. It tries hard to actually cover-up this lack of narrative depth by actually playing with design and language. All in all, the film may won hearts, but it does not offer something beyond its eccentricities. Like most of Anderson’s movies, Isle of Dogs has yet cross the line of the sublime. Yet, as a typical film for entertainment, it can surely satisfy the viewer’s needs.

The lesser of the eight films that I have watched are Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) and Every Day (2018), two American films that are uniquely horrendous in their own ways. I’m just tired of watching over and over again the narrative of the white supremacist American ego unfold before my eyes. Both of these films are direct depictions of such white supremacist ego, but as an underlying theme: the underdog narrative of American society problematized in the lens of deviancy (Ant-Man) and identity politics¬†(Every Day). Contemporary American cinema lacks self-reflexivity and depended for the longest time on narratives about the quest of white supremacist ego in affirming oneself as either the underdog, the hero, the family man, or anti-hero. The agenda has always been to aestheticize violence and celebrate identity politics, all this at the expense of withholding its¬†class dimension.

 

The July 2018 Film List

 

Transformative and Transgressive (5/5)

Tu Pug Imatuy¬†(‘Right to Kill’ / Arbi Barbona /¬† Philippines / 2017)

Best of the Best (4.5/5)

Faces, Places (Agnes Varda & JR / France / 2017)

Very Good (4/5)

Malila: The Farewell Flower (Anucha Boonyawatana / Thailand / 2017)
Sunya ( Harry Dagoe Suharyadi / Indonesia / 2016)
Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson / USA / 1999) – rewatch

Good (3.5/5)

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson / USA-Japan / 2018)

Unbearable (1-2/5)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed / USA / 2018)
Every Day (Michael Sucsy / USA / 2018)

 

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Isle of Dogs (2018)

 

JULY 2018 | Anomalous Materials

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Another month has passed, another violent dispersal of striking workers of NutriAsia. The worsening contradictory divide between the proletariat and the bourgeois in the Philippines is now under the radar of the public. When will this class war ends? We linger in social media as witness to this worsening contradiction expressed in different forms (as counter-propaganda, as memes, as agitprop infographic materials, as snippets of videos among others), while also beholden by social media’s contradictory and anachronistic structure. The contradiction is here to stay, we have to continue agitate this equilibrium to shift its course.

  1. Violent Dispersal of NutriAsia Workers by NMN Marilao
  2. Apur Sansar / The World of Apu (1959) dir. Satyajit Ray. by Cinema Mon Amour, a page about worldwide cinema
  3. Sad CGI by Megat Syamim
  4. IOF Spraying Shunk Liquid (Dirty Water, Raw Sewage) on Palestinian Homes
    IOF [ Israeli Occupation Forces ] by Mozafar Najafi
  5. Police Shots Peaceful Farmers Demonstrators in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh by Muazzam Malik
  6. Israeli Occupation Forces [ IOF ] shower Palestinian anti occupation protesters with a barrage of tear gas and sound bombs by Mozafar Najafi

 

Two Conferences in a Month!

6th D&G Conference

July 2018 was a busy month for me. I attended two major conference: one held in Naga, Philippines (6th Deleuze and Guattari in Asia International Conference) and the other one held in Yogjakarta, Indonesia (10th Biennial Association of Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference).

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D&G Conference at Naga City, Camarines Norte

One of the striking differences between the two conferences is their ordering of panel presentations. Deleuze and Guattari (D&G) Conference is your typical conference with plenary speakers and parallel presentations. In contrast to D&G, ASEACC is a conference that does not have a parallel panel presentation. The same audience witness the panel presentations in one venue (See conference schedule).¬† In ASEACC, the audience can give full attention to the dynamics of the conference without ever to leave the venue. This actually activates the¬†social movement of ideas, allowing participants to form social relations over time, meaning more friendships, more time to talk about each other’s papers.

The D&G conference, however, is separated to four parallel venues splitting the audience into small groups, decreasing the point of contact among participants. In a way, D&G conference model is more socially alienating than ASEACC. Both conferences offer diversity of topics, but in terms of focus, ASEACC designed its conference such that (1) it has a practioners’ panel, giving voices not only to the theoretical corpus of filmmaking, but also the practical side, the makers of the films themselves, (2) it has a community immersion program, wherein participants travel to a nearby cultural hub to engaged with the local culture, (3) it has a film showing component that features films relevant to the theme with the filmmaker/director present. All of these for a conference fee of P3,200 for ASEAN student. In terms of value, ASEACC’s model offers more promise than the D&G conference model.

I think all academic conferences should be designed with a priority in establishing solidarity among peers while also engaging with praxis and integrative community immersion. I cannot think of any other conferences I have attended in the past that feature such components other than ASEACC. I also suggest that any conference on Marx, Lenin or Mao must have a community immersion component as well as a panel on community organizers from different sectors. I think it would be very important especially since all these thinkers advocate praxis.

July is finally over, but I cannot rest. I have a thesis proposal to write.

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ASEACC at Yogyakarta, Indonesia

 

August is Thesis Proposal Writing!

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Mid-August is almost here. I dedicated the whole month of August to thesis proposal writing for the reason that, it has two long weekends and probably more chances of having work suspension due to bad weather. After attending three conferences this year (Marx @ 200, D&G, ASEACC), I have already solidified the track of my thesis. The methodological framework is clearer now compared to what I had in mind a year ago. I really appreciate the feedback I had on my papers from the three different conferences. and to friends who continually give me advice. As of now, I’m now a quarter length of my expected word count for my thesis proposal. I’m more determined to finish it than before. The goal is to make the proposal simple yet also expansive, queuing from Alain Badiou and Karl Marx’s style of writing.

See you next month!

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Support workers’ plight!

No to contractualization!

Boycott NutriAsia Products!

Boycott Jollibee Brands!

US-China Out now!

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Blog Post, Notes, Research Updates

Research Log 3.0: Mind-Maps & Detours

June 19, 2018

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from Agnes Varda’s Visages Villages (2017)

For the past few weeks, I have been engaged in the following activities:

Sorting

It has been a year ever since I collected ebooks in my Mendeley software. It’s my e-library. For the past few weeks, my goal was to run through everything I collected for the purpose of sorting out literature in their respective fields and disciplines. In total, I have 127 books to sort in my computer related to m thesis, not to mention the external books and printed reading from course works.

Critical Literature Review

Aside from sorting activities, I also did a critical review of some of the related literature to my thesis. So far, I have read the following essays and introductory chapters of the books

  1. Gerstner, D. A. (2003). The Practices of Authorship. In D. A. Gerstner & J. Staiger (Eds.),¬†Authorship and Film(pp. 3‚Äď25). New York and London: Routledge.
  2. Koepnick, L. (2017). The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
  3. Henderson, B. (1980). The Long Take (1971). In¬†A Critique of Film Theory(pp. 48‚Äď61). New York: E.P. Dutton.
  4. Derrida, J. (1994). Dedication and Exordium. In P. Kamuf (Trans.),¬†Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International(pp. xv‚Äďxvi). New York and London: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.

All of which can be found here in my blog.

Mind-Maps

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Aside from reading, I also developed a mind-map for my thesis to help me assess the potential pathways of going through its framework. But there must be a caveat in doing this. It must not pre-empt or close the maps from creating other new pathways, but rather work out the contradictions that also confront the work. The mind map provides a way to write the thesis in an orderly manner, constructing a schema of arguments that serve as guides to different operations, concepts and methods to go through.

Detour 1:¬†¬†‚Äú‚Ķ.aporetic limit‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

One of the key concepts in my thesis design is the search for aporetic limits. This is something I coined in my concept paper I showed to my adviser. After reading the opening parts of Derrida‚Äôs Specters of Marx, I felt a sudden apprehension of not actually being able to get something related to my thesis. I wanted to read something related to aporetic limit. Google algorithm led me to the book ‚ÄėDerrida and the Political‚Äô by Richard Beardsworth, who used the exact term ‚Äėaporetic limit‚Äô. Beardsworth (1996) wrote:

‚ÄėRather than dwelling with the aporia of need, Marx effaces the aporia by positing the remainder of the difference between particularity and universality as the universal class of the proletariat. Marx therefore develops the aporetic ‘limit’ as a sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The gesture is Hegelian, even if Marx simultaneously simplifies Hegel’s idea of an absolute state by ‘positing’ the social universality of one class. Marx’s reduction of the aporia of need prolongs and simplifies Hegel by making unrecognized violence into an ontological principle of class struggle. The modern period of revolutionary politics which justifies political violence in the name of a social subject ensues.‚Äô (p. 95)

Let us first discuss the meaning of aporia in relation to how Beardsworth reads Derrida. Aporia is an uncontrollable position that manifest at the time of decision, action, writing, expression, and deployment. In his reading of Derrida, for Beardsworth, derrida-and-the-politicalaporia emerges from the displacement of transcendental discourses like philosophy with empirical discourses like human sciences (anthropology, social science, etc.). An aporia is ‚Äėneither is philosophy or outside it, one from which the future of thinking and practice is thought‚Äô (p.5).

An aporia is what negotiates and re-inscribes, for Beardsworth, the metaphysical notion of transcendental and the empirical. It is where Derrida locates the ‚Äėnecessity of judgement and the promise of the future‚Äô (p. 5) Beardsworth further elaborates two qualifications of an aporia: (1) it necessitates one to make a decision and judgement, (2) it necessitates one to make a decision not in the present but in the face of contingency. An aporia therefore ‚Äėinaugurates a philosophy of judgement and a thinking of justice in relation to time.‚Äô (p. 5)

One can see Beardsworth ambivalent position with Marx‚Äôs project. There is an attempt to privilege the concept of aporia contra Marx‚Äôs paradoxical deployment of the reversal of Hegelian dialectic. The paragraph quoted above is written under the heading of Modern Political Fate and the Suppression of the Event of Time. It starts with the elaboration of how Hegel‚Äôs last work Philosophy of Right suppresses aporia. He said: ‚ÄėThe aporia of dialectic ‘is’ the aporia of time‚Äô (p. 91). This originates from the suppression of time under the logic of dialectic, leading to a paradoxical point where recognition becomes misrecognition, in which truth (time itself) is hidden.

In the previous paragraph, Marx enters as a bad example of download (1)deploying the concept of aporia. Beardsworth wrote: ‚ÄėMarx is certainly right in the Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State to criticize Hegel for deriving the institutions of the social whole from a presupposed idea. But he gives the wrong reasons when he argues for the reversal of Hegelian idealism and for the practical and revolutionary development of the material existence of the people‚Äô (p. 94). Beardsworth outwardly state Marx‚Äôs wrong move is the appropriation of Hegel‚Äôs dialectic: ‚ÄėThe problem in Hegel is not the idea of the idea; the problem is the: logic of this idea. This logic, the law of contradiction, is repeated in Marx’s materialism, turning his thinking of ‘matter’ into a logical idea.‚Äô (p. 94) Beardsworth accuses Marx of suppressing time within the philosophy of history. Beardsworth state: ‚ÄėHis very attempt to go beyond philosophy, plunging it into the matter of socio-technical history, remains metaphysical when he inscribes his thinking of time and practice within the Hegelian logic of contradiction.‚Äô (p. 94)

Beardsworth, however, does not accuse Marx entirely of the faults of Hegel. He considers Marx‚Äôs constitution of the dialectical relation between the proletariat and the ruling class as the aporetic limit in itself, as a ‚Äėsublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat‚Äô. What he points out is the replication of the logic of contradiction(?) in relation to Dialectical Materialism. Afterwards, Beardsworth move towards a moralization of violence with regards to depoliticization, or the erosion of political ontology, of nation-states. There is actually a dialectical materialist rationale behind these erosion of political ontology, that has nothing to do with the aporia that Beardsworth is trying to posture. It is the result of class struggle which is the politico-material manifestation of what he tries to efface as the logic of contradiction(?). Mao said that in his essay On Contradiction: ‚ÄėThe law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought. It stands opposed to the metaphysical world outlook.‚Äô Beardsworth fails to reconcile that logic of contradiction is not a logic per se of coming to terms with reality but system of thought (a law) that allows us to think of nature and social conditions not as One but always Two. And in the recent iteration of Badiou, a Three.

With this, it is necessary to rescue aporia from the clutches of Beardsworth’s overdetermination of its metaphysical opposition by sublating it (via a negation of negation) and turning it upside down as a materialist concept. It might as well be important to read aporia in relation to a strand of thinking that can only be extracted from a Maoist lens of looking at contradiction, but also taking into account the historical importance of Derrida’s impetus to locate it at the conflicted area of materialism and idealism. Is there a way to appropriate aporia in class struggle? Beardsworth was close. He inscribed it as the sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. To transform aporia into a tool for analysing aesthetic objects, this requires another long post.

Detour 2: In Search of Marx‚Äôs Method on Film Analysis, or ‚ÄėWhat if Marx was a Film Theorist?‚Äô

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This month of June, in between eczema flare-ups and restless weekends, I managed to gather a lot of books about the dialectical materialist methodology. In  German Ideology, in the part where Marx disses Max Stirner, Marx deploys a close reading of Stirnex’s texts, in particular his most contentious Ego and His Own, the progenitor of anarchic individualism and, to some extent, poststructuralism,  Marx was very much attentive to Stirner’s textual inscription, often making fun of Stirner’s use of metaphysical concepts etc.

Close reading can be done in films: frame-by-frame analysis, stylistic analysis, etc. But all of which has to be extended first from the base criterion of cinematic time. Cinematic images have to be analysed as temporal continuum, not as framed presences. Massumi’s idea of topological movement in Parables of the Virtual comes to mind.

The problem however is relating this temporal continuum to the story world, which contains some of the most interesting positions, expressions etc. that may reveal the ideological implications of the film. If viewed from a dialectical materialist perspective, it requires one to relate film style or film form in relation to the modes of production (the base) and the ideological superstructure. It is a basic problem in Marxist epistemology, specifically, the problem of the relation of the particular and the universal.

I have collected different references that might probably illuminate a method on ideological analysis of the aesthetic mode of production. Books like Dance of the Dialectic: Step in Marx‚Äôs Method by Bertell Ollman; a collection of essays titled Marx at the Movies: Revisiting History, Theory and Practice edited by Ewa Mazierska and Lars Kristensen which conceives the relation of cinema and Marxism from a post-Soviet historical moment; H.T. Wilson‚Äôs Marx‚Äôs Critical/Dialectical Procedure; and countless of essays that bear the term ‚Äėmethod‚Äô, ‚Äėdialectical‚Äô and ‚Äėmaterialist‚Äô like Peter H. Sawchuk‚Äôs Dialectical Materialist Methodologies for Researching Work, Learning, Change: Implications for Class Consciousness, authors Cassia Baldini Soares, Celia Maria Sivalli Campos, and Tatiana Yonekura‚Äôs article Marxism as a theoretical and methodological framework in collective health: implications for systematic review and synthesis of evidence, and the article titled In the shadows of the dialectic method: Building a framework upon the thoughts of Adorno and Gramsci by Ulrich Hamenstadt, all of which provide you some groundwork from which you can explore dialectical materialism.

But the challenge is ‚Äėconverting‚Äô the method as an epistemological tool to analyse films and non-filmic materials. One of the candidates for such a method is political economy of film. However, political economy is more interested in looking at the bigger relations, the industrial relations of people, not so much on the close analysis of the content.

My dilemma is actually rooted in creating a method that would bridge the universal (ideological space) with specific (the story world, the film, the modes of production of the film). Such an attempt to account for a more comprehensive while also looks at the detail led us to the next section, Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process.

Detour 3: Crystallizing my Methodology via Badiou’s essay Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process

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Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process, published in his recent work The Age of the Poets, was an unexpected find. Last month, when I was preparing my presentation paper for Marx @ 200, I encountered Badiou’s essay via Karlo Mongoya, fellow Marxist scholar who also reads Badiou (see his blog here). Since my essay last month is about contesting Deleuze’s notion of affect and art as autonomous, Badiou’s essay came in a surprise since Badiou is a Marxist and, assuming he had read Marx, he also knows the importance of accounting any phenomena, object, idea or a thing, as a product of social forces and relations. Badiou is a materialist dialectician, with Maoist and Lacanian influences, and would probably have read Deleuze. Deleuze is however not a materialist, but a transcendental empiricist, who emphasizes the primacy of pre-anthropocentric multiplicity Рthe plane of immanence Рthat continuously re-organizes reality. If Badiou would eventually come across the autonomy of art in Deleuze and Guattari’s book What is Philosophy?, it would most likely resonate in this essay. However, Badiou’s essay was written twenty-five years or so years before the publication of What is Philosophy?, hence, the tangent would just have been accidental.

When I read Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of Aesthetic Process, a month after accessing it, to be exact, last June 29, it felt as if all my crises about the political ontology of film style, ideology, and the author has been resolved. Badiou’s essay is an introduction to a methodology towards an analysis of representation, maybe his own methodology of doing aesthetic analysis.

His essay starts with a problem: the lazy approach of Marxist analysis of arts that assigns art work as a reflection of ideology of class. This is not Deleuzian territory. Badiou‚Äôs essay creates a corrective approach to ideological analysis. There is an obvious adaptation/appropriation of Althusserian notion of ideological apparatus as ‚Äėa homological relation that it is supposed to maintain with the real of history‚Äô (p. 111).

What Badiou attempted in this work was to appropriate two works of two thinkers: Mao’s critical program in Yenan Lectures and Pierre Macheray initial, unfinished attempt to think beyond the idea of art as ideological form.

First, Badiou takes on Mao‚Äôs project as part of the corrective mechanism: ‚Äėto study the development of this old culture, to reject its feudal dross and assimilate its democratic essence in a necessary condition for developing a new national culture.‚Äô (p.113) From there, he derives nine statements on the relation of art, ideology and science.

In the first statement, Badiou negates the usual Marxist line of critique on art as an ideological form, because, for Badiou, art’s specificity of its aesthetic process decenters the specular relation of the closed infinitude of ideology. For Badiou, ideology is a homological concept, which is a clear adaptation of Althusserian ideology as an enveloping relation. (p. 112)

In the second statement, Badiou marks the break between science and art. For Badiou, art does not affect knowledge. However, unlike ideology, Badiou states that art is closer to science than ideology because both art and science produces reality effects. However, what differentiates them are their products: art produces imaginary reality while science produces real reality. (p. 112) For Badiou, the usual lazy Marxist approach to art works as either theoretical or ideological forms must be liquidated. In light of truth, signification in the artwork is not enough to check artwork‚Äôs concealed transhistoricity and prophetic value. Hence, he proposes a proper way of looking at ‚Äėart, as the ideological appearance of the theoretical, the non-true as the glorious envelope of the true‚Äô (p. 113). This notion is affirmed by Lenin. Badiou therefore conclude that ‚ÄėWe cannot declare at the same time that there is a democratic essence to feudal art and that this art is a purely ideological reflection, with a universal vocation, of the ‘lived experience’ of the dominant class. We cannot observe that art produces the true on the basis of the false and declare, as in a certain socialist realism that in the final instance theoretical truth conditions aesthetic validity‚Äô (p. 114). This severs the binary opposition between art and science/ideology.

Badiou then adapts Mao Zedong‚Äôs response to this problem. In order to assess the relation of aesthetic object to the dominant class, Mao introduces four matrices of analysis: (1) class being ‚Äď the class where the writer belongs, (2) class-stand or class position ‚Äď the general space of the problematic of the write, or the political position for which the writer stands. For Badiou, this is the space of questions. (3) class-attitude ‚Äď the approach of the writer in answering the problematic, for Badiou, this is the space of answers; (4) the class-study or class-culture ‚Äď the structure of the theoretical realm, the one that structures the class stand of the writer, or in simpler terms, the power relations that structures one‚Äôs stand. For Badiou, Mao‚Äôs response to the problem is a particular decentering between aesthetic process, historical reality and ideology. This leaves us a question: what is the relationship among aesthetic process, historical reality and ideology?

Badiou then brings up Pierre Macherey for offering an answer. Macherey posits that aesthetic process is irreducible to ‚Äėtheoretical grasping of reality‚Äô or ‚Äėideological process‚Äô (p. 116). Macherey concludes that ‚Äėthe artwork is not what translates ideology, nor what effaces it: it is what renders it visible, decipherable, insofar as it confers upon it the discordant unity of a form; exposed as content, ideology speaks of that whereof it cannot speak as ideology: its contours, its limits‚Äô (p. 117). For Badiou, the ideology functions as a closed infinity of a specular relation, ‚Äėa closed infinity that cannot show its closure without breaking the mirror in which it is reduplicated.‚Äô (p. 117)

In his third statement, Badiou further clarifies the relationship of ideology and art as ideology that produces the imagination of reality, and in return, art produces ideology as imaginary reality (p. 117). Summarily, Badiou notes that ‚Äėart repeats in the real the ideological repetition of this real. Nevertheless this reversal does not produce the real; it realizes its reflection.‚Äô (p. 118)

Badiou proposes a decentered relation between historical reality and the aesthetic process. Reading Macherey, he proposes four matrices that structures the relation: (1) the real ‚Äď the global historical structure i.e. the capitalists, the proletarian class, the bourgeois, etc. in displaceable power relation, (2) the ideologies ‚Äď always in series, fragmentary reflections brought about by the ensemble of pressures upon the class they represent.‚Äô (p. 118); (3) the author ‚Äď not a creative subjectivity, but a concept of place, a point of view, where Mao‚Äôs concept of class being, class stand, class attitude and class structure applies. For Badiou, the author is not a psychological concept, but a topological one. (4) the work ‚Äď a donation of forms, an exhibition of limits.

Badiou however discovers the flaw in Macheray’s conception of the relation. For Macheray, the form of the art work’s presence is ideologically produced. For Badiou, this misconceives the presence effect of the artwork which, for Badiou, is the materiality of the artwork itself. This led Badiou to conclude that aesthetic process comprise of the double articulation of the signification of the artwork and its presence effect as an object of material culture. Ideology’s reversal is assigned to the signification effect, while the historical real is related to the presence effect.

Since this requires Badiou to synthesize a statement on separable ideological contents, which contains the following conditions:

  1. It produces in and of itself a complete effect of signification, without any enclaves
  2. It has a logical structure of a universal proposition
  3. It is not tied contextually to any subjectivity

Badiou gives an example by analysing Robert Musil’s unfinished novel The Man Without Qualities. From his analysis, Badiou comes up with four types of statements. Three of which do not fulfil the criteria of separable statements: (1) the I-statement of the speaker (X [d(y)]), which is enclaved in a context, with singular proposition. For Badiou, this statement does not contain any effect of signification, (2) the d(X) statements, which are descriptions of characters and objects in the story, does not have any universal proposition, (3) the X(S) statements, statements with universal proposition, but tied to a subjectivity in the novel.

For Badiou, the only statement that fulfils the three conditions are of the type S (example: The voice of truth is always accompanied by fairly suspect parasites, but those who are most interested want to know nothing about it.)

A brief segue on cinematic ‚Äėstatements‚Äô. We can actually classify shots in terms of Badiou‚Äôs classification of statements: (1) the I-statement stands for the subjective shot of the characters, (2) the d(X) statements stands for establishing shots, (3) X(S) statements stand for shot/reverse shot of a film, while the S statements stands for master shots where there is full coverage of the mise-en-scene. Hence, in cinema, a separable ideological shot involves one that is not (1) a subjective shot, (2) not an establishing shot, (3) not a shot-reverse shot, but rather a mise-en-scene shot from the third person perspective. This is an insufficient comparison, however, since Badiou formulated his theory in terms of literature, which he termed as novelistic discourse.

Badiou also reminds us that the raw materials for the production of aesthetic products are already aesthetic, hence incapable of ‚Äėaestheticizing ideological elements‚Äô. This led Badiou to formulate the theory of aesthetic mode of production (theoretical aesthetics).

Badiou

Badiou conceives the aesthetic mode of production as double articulation of the presence-effect and the effect of signification, or the production of film-as-material and film-as-diegetic-material. I asked my thesis critic, media studies expert Ma. Diosa Labiste, on the significance of this finding. She said that this is the basic process of representation. She is also critical of the one-to-one relation of ideological series and the effect of signification and the presence-effect and the historical real, and suggested that I should Derrida Sending: On Representation, which provides another perspective in looking at the process of representation as decentered by time itself. Derrida is always critical of the deployment of presencing in the process of representation. And perhaps, in reading Badiou’s essay alongside Derrida’s notion of representation, we may be able to grasp a critical notion of representation that would undo its very notion.

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Deleuze’s Ahistorical Conceptualism

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from here.

Part 1 of 13 of my comprehensive note-series on Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989.


Bibliographic Note: Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: The Athlone Press, 1986), ix ‚Äď xiv.


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This is my critical summary of the two prefaces and translator’s introduction of Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. This is an exercise in making reflective memos, a tip I got from Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog.

Preliminary Notes

Before I start to lay down some of my thoughts on three interesting introductory pages that precede the main content of Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, let me first provide some context regarding this project. This project has been brewing in my mind since last year. My problem is actually simple to say: how does one crate a provisional link between Deleuze’s Cinema project, which dealt directly with time and movement, and Marx’s concept of time in his books Capital Vol 1 and German Ideology.

In reading side by side Deleuze and Marx, one can potential extract sites of crisis wherein we can enunciate a temporal/durational materialism. This may sound far flung and may perhaps been unoriginal as there might be several isolation of the concept elsewhere in various strands of thinking, but in my attempt, I shall try to bridge Deleuze’s transcendental method with Marx’s dialectical & historical materialist method to arrive at a provisionally new materialism that can materially account for the temporality of cinema, or of matter in general. This project is part of my research for the upcoming conferences I will be attending.

An Ahistorical Accounting of Cinematographic Concepts

In both Deleuze’s Preface for the English Edition and Preface for the French Edition of Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, there is obvious declaration of ahistoricism, a pivotal gesture that opens Deleuze’s two-volume book on cinema. Cinema 1 is about the production of the movement-image, while Cinema 2 is about the production of the time-image. Both of which are separated by ironically a historical juncture: the World War II. One can get easily entangled with Deleuze’s duality. Although Deleuze’s project can qualify as general philosophy, the specificity of Deleuze’s rupture can only be attributed to a cinematic production of continental Europe. Deleuze created a historical juncture between Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 without acknowledging the need to engage with the historical specificifity of his division. In comparison, between Deleuze film-philosophy and the neoformalist and historical poetics project of Bordwell and Thompson, the latter might give a more informative take on the changes of film aesthetics over a period of time albeit their lack of political inattention to issues of image production in general, while Deleuze’s work remains, at best, an attempt at a refusal to engaged in historicity and specificity of the film image.

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From Night and Fog (Alain Resnais / France / 1955)

Since it lacks a historic-material grounding, Deleuze’s historical division between pre-war (WWII) and post-war cinema (WWII) can be reinterpreted as form of aesthico-philosophical categorization to demarcate two modes of Bergsonian temporality responsive of pre-trauma and post-trauma events, or events of absolute deterritorialization (such as the World War) primarily caused by reorganization of ontological, political and cultural landscape.

While this duality provides Deleuze a rupture to rethink cinema in reference to time, it lacks the material anchor for a pure corporeal take on cinematic temporality. For once, Deleuze denies his project as historical one. In the first sentence of his Preface to the English Edition, he wrote: ‚ÄėThis book does not set out to produce a history of the cinema but to isolate certain cinematographic concepts‚Äô (p. ix). In writing this passage, Deleuze draws the line between philosophy and cinema studies, between idealism and materialism, and in the process, proceeds forth with a project that runs the risk of becoming an ahistorical accounting of cinematographic concepts that lead further to a mystification of cinema‚Äôs supposed temporal materiality.

What is a Cinematographic Concept?

He further obfuscates the matter by navigating through a series of categories that further veils cinematic temporality. Cinematographic concept, for Deleuze, is:

  • Non-Technical ‚ÄďDeleuze is not concerned with technical categorization of ‚Äėvarious kinds of shots or the different camera movements.‚Äô (p. ix) This is rather dubious since, at the latter part of the book, he will recast the shot, the cut, the camera movement from a technical vantage point but filtered through Bergsonian terminologies.
  • Non-Critical ‚Äď Deleuze is also not concerned with a critical categorization of cinema in terms of various categories of values available in film studies such as genres, etc. (p. ix) Yet, Deleuze will also mention genre distinctions in some of his subsections. In Chapter 10, he titled a section The Western in Hawks: functionalism/the neo-Western and its type of space (Mann, Peckinpah).
  • Non-Linguistic ‚Äď Nor is Deleuze concerned with the categorization of cinema as a universal language, transmediatic in all aspects (easily translatable from one medium to another).(p. ix)

In a definitive grasp, for Deleuze, a cinematographic concept is attributable to the following characteristics:

  • A Pre-Verbal Intelligible Content (Pure Semiotic) ‚Äď Cinematic images neither reside in language nor in any ‚Äėlinguistically inspired semiology‚Äô. It is, as Deleuze posits, a pre-verbal sign that maintains its intelligible primacy. (p. ix)
  • An Automatic Image of Time (Movement-Image and Time-Image) ‚Äď Deleuze also proffers that the cinematic image is directly or indirectly associated with the image of time.

This leads us to a further qualification of what a cinematographic concept is. From here on, Deleuze struggles to piece together a systematic, albeit limited, ahistorical accounting of what a cinematographic concept is via creating a bifurcation path between movement-image and time image.

From Movement-Image to Time-Image

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From Your Name (Makoto Shinkai / Japan / 2016)

Deleuze’s characterization of the cinematographic concept can be summarily put as his effort to grapple the relation of time and the cinematic image. He returns to Bergson to extract fundamental theses on the components of cinematographic concept. Deleuze seemed to be dissatisfied by how film theorists of his time think about the film image. In the 1970s, there is a strict compulsion of film studies to recast the film image in terms of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Althusserian Marxism and some strands of Saussurian semiotics. When Deleuze published Cinema 1: The Movement-Image in 1983, it was a pivotal polemic against the dominant strand of film theorizing popular at that time in Europe in similar trajectory that Bordwell and Thompson responded with their neoformalism and historical poetics.

What Deleuze reinjected in film studies is a path-breaking reconsideration of some of the basic tenets of the film image namely the unresolved and often veiled issue of the relation between film image and time and temporality. We can declare Deleuze’s books as the Bergsonian shift of film studies and the inaugural moment of a new inter-disciplinary field of film philosophy. But not much has progressed since this Bergsonian shift in film studies. Deleuze’s publication of the Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 gave rise to multitudes of secondary studies that apply, refute or extend Deleuze’s core theses on the cinematic image or movement. Notable studies such as Massumi’s Parables of the Virtual, Connolly’s Neuropolitics, Zourabichvili’s Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event, and the works of speculative realists/materialists such as Meillassoux, Brassier, Land and Negarestani have long pushed the theoretical envelope beyond Bergsonian film philosophy into newer realms of ontology and epistemology.

One of the under-researched paths out of Bergsonian film philosophy is the relation of Marx and Deleuze in terms of temporality. There is a thin literature that problematizes this juncture, and in an attempt to reinstate a materialist theory of cinematic image, we go back to Deleuze’s inaugural book, Cinema 1, to retrace the steps and identify sites of contradictions that generate a crisis.

For one, movement-image and time-image are general concepts with sub-components called signs and typically occurs in various tendencies. The difference between movement-image and time-image can be elaborated below:

  • Movement-Image
    • Indirect representation of time
    • Schemata: Time is derived from movement
  • Time-Image
    • Direct image of time
    • Schemata: Movement is derived from time
    • Creates false movements
    • Made possible by War (World War II in particular)
    • Shatters the sensory-motor schema
    • Signifies that a ‚Äėgeneral regime of the image‚Äô has been changed

Deleuze insists that, in terms of value, no hierarchy between time-image and movement-image exists. However, this is contradictory to Deleuze‚Äôs method of choosing his material. He insists that in using filmic masterpieces as exemplary material for enunciating his film philosophy, ‚Äėno hierarchy of values applies.‚Äô (p. x) This is problematic in a sense that in privileging auteurs and masterpieces, a large portion of the optical media will be ignored. In Deleuze‚Äôs time, there is an evident appearance of late capitalism‚Äôs market saturation of surplus image. Deleuze seemingly effaces the notion of canons and other forms of image production in this project rendering this inaugural work as incomplete, a product of idealism, which is evident in Deleuze‚Äôs optimistic remark: ‚ÄėThe cinema is always as perfect as it can be, taking into accounts the images and signs which it invents and which it has at its disposal at a given moment.‚Äô (p. x)

Cinema 1 as a Philosophical Work and a Work of Cinema Studies

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From All that Heaven Allows (Howard Hawks / USA / 1950)

In the Translator’s Introduction to the book written jointly by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, we get a clear dispensation of Deleuze’s work. They both argue that Deleuze’s Cinema project is both a work of philosophy and a work of cinema studies, and can be described, at best, as an exemplification of Deleuze’s radical view of philosophy.

For them, Cinema 1 is a work of philosophy along the lines of concept creation. They have highlighted two thinkers that influenced the work: Henri Bergson, whose radical view of the image helped Deleuze in reconceptualising his notion of the filmic image, and Charles Sander Peirce, which provided ‚Äėa powerful typology with which to approach images of types‚Äô (p. xi).

Cinema 1 can also be considered as a work of cinema studies in a sense that Deleuze discuss a large number of image and films, and ‚Äėadvances general views about the ‚Äėtypes‚Äô of films‚Äô (p. xi). Tomlinson and Habberjam are, however, not convinced that Deleuze‚Äôs work produces a new type of film theory, but rather, it is a film philosophy classifiable by the following characteristic. Cinema 1 and 2 as a whole is a work of film philosophy because:

  • Philosophical concepts presented in the work are non-Hegelian dialectical constructs in a sense that they are not a reflection of an external object or reality,
  • Philosophical concepts in the book, in Deleuze‚Äôs purview, are intensities, direct mental impressions, which are impersonal.
  • Philosophical concepts in the book are images of thought.

For Tomlinson and Habberjam, the work is not a film theory for the following reasons:

  • The work particulates a creation and invention of concepts alongside cinema‚Äôs creation of new images.
  • Since film theory is concerned with phenomenological mapping of cinema, Deleuze insists for new method concept creation by way of decoupage (cut-&-paste) by grouping different things, wherein (a) boundaries an undermined and (b) new assemblages are created.

This led the two interlocutors to conclude that the book is an intercutting of cinema and philosophy: ‚ÄėAs such, it brings together a whole range of terms from each sphere, many of which may be unfamiliar to readers more at home in the other‚Äô (p. xii). This shows that the Deleuze‚Äôs Cinema project is far from the materialist paradigm of critique, but an exemplification of what Marx has feared: the return to idealism.

What is lacking in Deleuze‚Äôs project, in this initial reading of its introductory pages, is the engagement and entanglement with the material condition of cinema itself. Although one might argue that this conclusion was activated from a certain ‚Äėbiased‚Äô (if there is such a word?) counter-ideology of Marxism, the necessity of entangling with the material is irrevocably linked to a recognized fact that there are larger forces at work beyond one‚Äôs solipsistic view: a recognition of a reality, a public, outside one‚Äôs subjectivity.

(2,033 words)

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Notes on the Video Interview: ‘Emancipated Cinema: A Conversation with Lav Diaz’

Link to post.

Mubi.com is conducting an almost year-long retrospective on Lav Diaz’s oeuvre titled It’s About Time: The Cinema of Lav Diaz [link], exclusively playing worldwide October 8, 2016 – July 27, 2017. Their blog website, MUBI Notebook, has also been generous of critically acknowledging Diaz’s cinema in writing since¬†2010 (see here).

This interview is one of many interviews Diaz conducted with MUBI.com although perhaps this is the first time that MUBI.com engaged with Diaz using an audio-visual format compared to their usually interview transcript type. With regards to the content of the interview, most of the questions are fairly rehashed versions of the frequently asked questions in Diaz’s career: about his process, his prejudice, his idea of cinema, his memory of cinema, etc. These questions are author-centered, most of which are meant to profile Diaz as an artist-filmmaker, an orginator of a ‘new’ cinema. The interview is also meant to supplement the on-going retrospective, so it works as an appendage of sorts. As¬†a researcher who have read and re-read the transcripts of Diaz’s interview published since 2000, the purpose of this post is to respond to some of Diaz’s theoretical, practical and praxiological assertions, generalizations and conceptualizations in interview. The goal is to unmask any form of idealism in Diaz’s answers.

Here some of my notes from the interview they’ve done:

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MUBI: What is your earliest memory of cinema? ¬†[0′ 09”]

  • Childhood during Pre-Martial Law Period. Diaz narrated some specific memories of his childhood in Maguindanao, in particular the period in his life when his family stayed in Datu Paglas. The period was probably between 1958, his birth year, and 1970-71, when he was thirteen or fourteen years old, a year before the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines.
  • Diaz’s Provincial Cinephilia/Formation of Regionalist Subjectivity. He¬†recalled¬†a particular memory when his father would took him (and his siblings?) to a town three to four hours away from Datu Paglas (probably Tacurong City) where four stand-alone cinemas¬†stood. The four cinemas showed double bills every weekend.
  • Film School.¬†And looking back, with reference to a present idea of film school, he considered this experience as his ‘film school‘.

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MUBI: How important is it to keep the number of people on your crew to a minimum?¬†¬†[1′ 33”]

  • Diaz against the large-crew set-up in filmmaking. Diaz expressed his preference towards a ‘lean and mean’ cinema. Diaz disagreed with the idea of cinema people overdoing the filmmaking process by employing many technical staff (i.e. camera department with 25 to 75 people). He said that this large-crew set-up create a lot of troubles and that the artist-filmmaker loses artistic-aesthetic focus and subjectivity in the process.
  • On the importance of attaining Aesthetic Focus. Diaz prefers an approach to cinema geared towards attaining an aesthetic focus (i.e. ‘focus on the story, focus on the characters, focus on creating some geographic template… trying to find the more realistic templates for the film. The geographic template will create the aesthetic template. A better understanding of the milieu of the character.’).
  • Artist-Filmmaker as Individual rather than Collective Subjectivity. This essentially brings us to¬†Diaz’s aesthetic film authorship as a subjectivity formed¬†from an individualist rather than a collective domain of film making practice. For Diaz, the vision of the filmmaker-as-artist or as-aesthetic-mover has to come through. This is his¬†praxiological paradigm.

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MUBI: Besides economics, what do you find appealing about digital filmmaking?¬†¬†[3′ 15”]

  • From Digital-as-Emancipation to Emancipation as Reinforcing the Author-Function. Diaz vaguely conflates the idea of digital ¬†with the idea of emancipation. But Diaz’s idea of emancipation is not really the radical sort associated with¬†mass movements in the past. Let us be clear here in drawing the line on the politics encrypted in Diaz’s idea of emancipation. For Diaz, this emancipation¬†can be viewed only in the purview of the artist-filmmaker. In some sense, Diaz’s idea of emancipation via digital reinforces the authority of author, the artist-filmmker. ‘Emancipation’ here is a compromised concept, a concept not critical of the author-function, but rather a reinforcing one.
  • Digital is Liberation if and only if it liberates the filmmaker. For Diaz, the digital revolution is¬†the emancipation of the artist-filmmaker from the techno-economic closure of celluloid filmmaking. For Diaz, the digital revolution awarded filmmakers a personalized filmmaking practice: ‘Now we own the tool, now we own the guitar. Now we own our brush. Nobody is imposing on you.’ For Diaz, having this freedom to create via the¬†digital medium is ‘more important than having big budget’ recalling his experience with the studio system in the late 1990s.

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MUBI: Your films are often described as “Slow Cinema.” What do you think about this label?¬†[4′ 55”]

  • Lav Diaz Against a Dominant Orientation of Cinema. For Diaz, the idea of slow cinema emerged as opposition force against the dominant orientation that cinema must¬†comprise of two characteristics: (1) fast cuts and (2) an average duration of two hours. Abridgment of narrative and duration is¬†one of the dominant formal orientation of cinema which Diaz is against. This dominant orientation in cinema is, for Diaz, an imposed practice¬†perhaps, although not mentioned explicitly, by the free market.
  • Art vs. Industry….Again? Diaz equates art¬†as an abolition of the film industrial¬†imposition on cinematic duration: ‘art is free’. Diaz¬†creates a¬†diametrical opposition between art and industry. This prejudice towards industry is¬†actually surprisingly unchanged since his essay Aesthetics of Batang West Side (d. 2001). Diaz’s insistence for the abolition of the industry control over aesthetic choices of the filmmaker paints a contradiction in his praxis. The contradiction emerges from the recent production of his films¬†Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (2016) and Ang Babaeng Humayo (2016). His contradictory approach to filmmaking makes me wonder:¬†What constitutes the politics of emancipation of a filmmaker if¬†one¬†is already in collaboration with the industry, and therefore complicit with the culture of exploitation of the industry? For Diaz, the elimination of a profit¬†motive and the change of perspective from cinema-as-profit or¬†cinema-as-entertainment to cinema-as-culture or ¬†cinema-as-art frees the filmmaking from the imposing clasp of the market-driven industry.
  • The Market for Long Durations. Diaz¬†declares that he does not do cinema for the market. However, his recent excursions with market-driven local, transnational and international producers and ¬†distributors like Star Cinema (PH), Kino Lorber (USA), ARP Selection (France), etc., all of which are registered film distribution companies with corporate orientation in their business models, prove otherwise.¬†Diaz has overlooked the role of cultural capital (Bourdieu) in constituting the market for his cinema. Diaz¬†won major awards in several of major film festivals in Europe (in particular: Locarno, Venice and Berlin).¬†His rise to a global auteur status gave him enough cultural capital to establish a market for his films. His films indeed cater to an art-elite film festival-going segment of the mass market. Hence, this denial of market-driven praxis constitutes Diaz’s contradiction as well as the limitation of his critical attribution for an emancipative path through cinema. This contradiction¬†creates¬†a new window to us with regards to how we can critically study¬†Diaz’s politics of duration. We might be tempted to accept Diaz’s declaration as is without looking outside its rhetorical frame. Diaz’s politics of duration is not limited to his ideation of what cinema is. Instead, the study of politics of duration must expand towards understanding the regimes of ideology, technics and temporality that constitute¬†his impetus to say so. Is the¬†regime of capitalism, through its dispersal encroachment in the realm of digital and digitality, which gives us a sense of false freedom, co-opts the radical potential of Diaz’s cinema? If¬†slow duration has emanciptory potential to¬†provide an alternative politics of time to a world immersed in fast-cuts and the instant, then what kind of praxiological paradigm does it entail?¬†What constitutes a radical duration? What is the relation of a radical duration with a revolutionary duration? These questions are paramount to my thesis on Lav Diaz.
  • Diaz and Genres. Diaz discussed about adapting genre paradigms in his cinema. For Diaz, genre is not a problem¬†for its ‘usability’, as paradigms.
  • Long=Short: On the Ontology of Durations. In this interview, as well as in¬†some interviews he conducted in past, Diaz homogenizes the ontological difference between long and short cinema. This is however problematic¬†in a political economic sense. From a materialist perspective, a material distinction exist between long and short durations. No two regime of temporality are alike or reducible to One. As Badiou puts it, One always become Two.¬†For Diaz, the ontology of cinema cannot be made on the basis of duration. This is someway similar to how Deleuze constitute the idea of difference: that¬†there can only be a difference-in-kind and not a difference-in-degree. Well, if indeed duration is of the order of degree, then Diaz’s insistence of homogenization is valid. Yet,¬†the problem¬†with this proposition is that duration is not in the order of degree, but in order of substance and material. In cinema, duration is a material characteristic. It is corporeal. One of the challenges of my research is to determine whether duration is a difference-in-degree or a difference-in-kind.

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MUBI: How free are your actors with characterization and improvisation? [8′ 38”]

To be continued…

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‚ÄėWho is time?‚Äô: Brassier on Heidegger‚Äôs Philosophy of Time

Bibliographic Note: Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print. p. 153-156.

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My critical summary of Section 6.1 of the book Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction. I provided an additional reflection on how this certain section from Brassier’s book can be of help to my Lav Diaz x Time research project.


Brassier begins his 6th Chapter: The Pure and Empty Form of Death¬†with an elaboration of Heidegger’s conceptualization of time in his 1924 essay The Concept of Time, a precursor text to Heidegger’s magnum opus Being and Time (1929). Brassier highlights Heidegger’s privileging of individuated (and existential) time over ontological time, which constitutes the larger part of Section 6.1. ‚Äď Who is Time?: Heidegger. In this section, Brassier emphasizes that time cannot be understood in terms of “essence” because essence is only understood as presence. It cannot be studied time-as-being-present because time is never ‘present’. (Brassier 153)

To understand time in a conceptual sense, Brassier insists that the relation between intra-temporality and ontological temporality must be established. The relation between the time-within-being, or that which gives the being an existential duration, and the time-outside-being, or that which gives the universe of beings an absolute duration must be explored to properly provide an ontology of time.

According to Brassier, in Heidegger’s essay, the privileging of individuated time is highlighted by the turning of the object of the temporal analytic towards the Dasein, that, to understand time is also to understand the determining characteristic of Dasein. Heidegger highlights that Dasein has two components: temporal specificity (Jeweiligkeit) and mineness (Jemeinigkeit) and its conceptual constitution is always a ‘mine’ – a specificity of the “I am”.

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Aleiatorytexts for Augustus

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Borgesian library-Google Data Bank. (from here)

1. Each text is a construct: a reduction of thoughts’ pluripotentials into a well-arranged, grammatically sound signifying system. ¬†2. To arrange a text is to intervene in thought itself. 3. Hence, the arrangement of the texts in a hypertextual environment is a political act: a will to power is involved. 4. In this day and age of informational catastrophe, the author is self-aware of this text’s¬†complicity with the politics of the digital. 5. This act of hypertextual writing is preconditioned by another construct: an¬†assumption that there exist¬†an anonymous¬†individual X who will read the excess ‘i’ in the text’s title and wonder if it is something that the author of the text intends to typogrify.


 

Text 1.


Anti-Auteur
. I am currently developing a polemical piece that seeks to critically ‘deconstruct’ the tenets of auteurism tentatively entitled ‚ÄėParricide to the Auteur‚Äô. The seed idea came from my reading of Jacques Derrida‚Äôs book Of Hospitality where I encountered the radical word ‚Äėparricide‚Äô (a passage of which will be provided in a separate text below). Derrida dispenses the radical potential of a Foreigner as parricidal speculum¬†to the paternal logos. We commonly associate the logos¬†to¬†the rule of law, the central structuring force of all knowledge and discursive structures in the history of thought.

This parricide to the paternal logos is very much close to my developing polemic against the celebritification and mythologization of auteur in today’s film industry. In my developing study on Lav Diaz, I outwardly criticize the signifying logos of the auteur as all-encompassing concept to my philosophical investigation of the Diaz’s cinema’s relation to time.

In one of my papers submitted in Advance Film Theory and Criticism¬†class (Film 270) (view here), I proposed a reconfiguration of the author-function as inherently complicit with the passage of time. In a way, I was trying to re-envision Diaz as a continuing process of constitution and deconstitution, an assemblage of significations and many other things beyond his body. That, in the cultural sphere, he no longer exists as One body, but as a¬†continuous being-in-process¬†, a¬†becoming-in-transition. The massive circulation of texts within and outside the¬†stratifying machine of culture, the free play between signifier and signified, and asubjective ruptures surrounding his work, all of which¬†participate in the constitution and deconstitution of ¬†his ‚Äėbeing‚Äô, transforming him into a ‚Äėdifferential immanent object.’ ¬†To simply put it, ‚ÄėLav Diaz‚Äô no longer exists as purely as Diaz-in-himself but rather his body becomes¬†reconstituted and mediatized by informational, cultural and socio-political fields.

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Intuition as a Method in Philosophy

Bibliographic Note: Deleuze, Gilles, Bergsonism, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam (New York: Zone Books, 1988), 13 – 35


My critical summary of Chapter 1 of Bergsonism. I provided my own examples apart from what Deleuze gave. This is an exercise in¬†making reflective memos, a tip I got from Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog.


In Chapter 1 of his book entitled Bergsonism, Deleuze emphasized that intuition is a method of ‘precision’ that follows a set of ‚Äėstrict rules‚Äô. This is indeed counter-intuitive to what we usually think as ‚Äėintuition‚Äô. Intuition is not a gut feel;¬†neither it is the feeling that wins you over a bet or a game of luck. It is, for Bergson and also for Deleuze, a philosophical method, a decisive turn in a given duration or state of things. Intuition provides us precise ways of knowing and differentiating lived experiences and reality itself.

Deleuze wrote¬†that Bergson considers intuition as a simple act but this simplicity is accompanied by the act’s¬†involvement with the plurality of meanings and irreducible multiplicities in any given experience. The intuition as a method follows three rules:

  • Statement and creation of problems (a method of problematizing)
  • Discovery of genuine difference in kind (a method of differentiating)
  • Apprehension of real time (a method of temporalizing)

Intuition as a Method of Problematizing

Deleuze‚Äôs first criterion for the method of intuition is to ‚Äėapply the test of true and false to problems themselves. Condemn false problems and reconcile truth and creation at the level of problems.‚Äô

In philosophy, problematizing something i.e. an event, an object, a set of relations, is one of the first steps in drafting a philosophical proposition. Problems are always tied to philosophical concepts and percepts. Bergson (via Deleuze) proposes that it is not enough to state one’s problems accompanying a set of solutions. One has to discern or evaluate whether the stated problem is true or false. In order to do so one uses intuition as a method of qualifying and evaluating problem statements.

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Six Plateaus of Separation from Gilles Deleuze

gilles_deleuze_2_hA personal account of my encounter with the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. A work-in-progress. 

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Pre-Figuring Deleuze in Figural Analysis

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Before I proceed any further to¬†this blog project, I would like to take time in introducing my strange ‘friendship’ with Gilles Deleuze: a friendship¬†which involves “competitive distrust of the rival as much as amorous striving toward the object of desire…¬†claimant and rival.’[1] My admiration for Deleuze traverses between an¬†amorous¬†cohabitation¬†and a¬†rivalry. His philosophy, for the past two years, provided me enough space for thinking. His philosophy became my¬†place of residence, my living¬†abode, my overgrown garden where I could sit¬†every afternoon drinking tea. It is as if¬†each of his concept is¬†meaningfully placed in a space before¬†me, like objects in a toolshed –¬†a network of ideas sliding on top of¬†each other, ceaselessly transforming in each step of the way. Each concept is a friend, a tool, a¬†strange outgrowth.¬†Deleuze¬†easily¬†became a confidant, a keeper of my secrets, a giver of pathways.¬†Yet, one can never be too close to a friend.¬†A right amount of ‘rivalry’ or critical reading and admiration sets the friendship in motion. And for two years we have been¬†in¬†conversation, in continuous debate, which would often amount to a transformative becoming of each other. Am I talking sense here? Is it possible to be in ‘conversation’ with a dead philosopher for two years? Or am I talking about my undisclosed invisible friend named Gilles Deleuze? Well, my encounter with¬†Gilles Deleuze is real. The inscription of his philosophical ideas in my mind did not happen in¬†thin air. I read him. I read his books and wrote marginal notes on it. I also read him through¬†the books written by Deleuzian scholars. ¬†The encounter more or less is¬†real.

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Deleuze’s Wake: Tributes and Tributaries, part of SUNY’s Contemporary Continental Philosophy Series, was the first book I bought about Deleuze. It was written by Ronald Bogue, one of the early scholars of¬†Deleuze. I bought it when I was still an¬†undergraduate student in Chemical Engineering (2008-2009) from a¬†Booksale Bookstore¬†at North Avenue. Like many other books at home, it¬†laid¬†on my bookshelf for years. I did not know what¬†to do with it. It is a¬†philosophy¬†book¬†with a strange and unfamiliar language. I remember reading it six years ago confused with the words deterritorialization, asubjectification, refrains, affect, time-image, as if underneath each word lays¬†a secret world: a¬†dense vegetation waiting to be explored and uncovered. My nineteen-year-old self is not¬†enthusiastic enough to partake on a Deleuzian¬†journey.¬†So I left it on my bookshelf for years¬†to gather dust .

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