Category Archives: Research Updates

Reading Capital as Media Studies | Upcoming Events| Some Research Updates

rEADING CAPITAL AS MEDIA STUDIES (4)

Karl Marx celebrated his 200th birthday last May 5, 2018. The best way to celebrate his legacy is organizing a reading group that revisits Capital. Some graduate students in the University of the Philippines working on their respective theses thought of revisiting the text in order to help them flesh out Marx’s systematic approach to the study of the capitalist mode of production and to find a tangent on how Capital can be read from the Media Studies lens, for the purpose of drawing a dialectical materialist analysis of the current power structure of the media industry in our country.

Last August 24, the students had their very first session on Reading Capital as Media Studies. I gave an lecture on the condensed ideas of Ernest Mandel’s long introductory essay of the book. Another graduate student provided a historical narrative on the trajectory of Marxism as impacted by Capital. The narrative also provided historical and political context on how the group can situate their activity of reading Capital in the continuing social movement against capitalism and its contradictions in the Philippines.

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A Revolutionary Anti-Drug War Theater Piece: ‘Sa Digma ng Halimaw’ on Sept 22

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Sining Kadamay will host a documentary theater on Duterte’s drug war titled Sa Digma ng Halimaw (The Monster’s War) which will premiere on September 22 and will run until December 10 in different venues Metro Manila-wide. In an article published in Bulatlat, it says:

“In the upcoming Sa Digma ng Halimaw, the group under the artistic direction of Edwin Quinsayas tackles the war on drugs through the point of view of people directly affected by it in the form of documentary theater. According to Quinsayas, “Documentary theatre is a form of theatre in which interviews, sworn statements or texts from other related documents are used as the material for the script.” For “Sa Digma ng Halimaw,” the scripts come in a form of a series of monologues of mothers of victims, a daughter whose parents were killed on the same day, a social worker, and of survivors. “So far, we have seven stories we are working on but it’s a work in- progress so there can be more. We plan to stage the monologues as separate stand-alone pieces, as a full-length play and we are also exploring monodrama,” Quinsayas added.” (link)

I hope I can watch this soon!

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1st Edel Garcellano Conference on Literary & Cultural Studies 2018: The Contemporaneity of Marxist Criticism on Sept 20

Last August 25, I joined a bunch of rad, (all-black wearing), ka-EGS local intellectuals  in a meeting for this upcoming conference for Edel Garcellano. Garcellano, one of the most original radical Filipino Marxist thinker, emerged during the 1990s as the bearer of a particular strand of Marxist-Lacanian literary and cultural studies in the local scene along with contemporaries Domingo de Guzman among others.

Edel Garcellano at 72 years old

Edel Garcellano at 72, still strong. (Photo by Led Villafuerte)

The impact of Garcellano’s writings in the local pedagogical sphere in the Philippines needs to be qualified.  How did his writings provide methodological and contextual resources to young Filipino thinkers during the 1990s up to now, especially in literary and cultural studies field? What are the future trajectories of his writings? These are some of the main questions I want to ask during the conference, if only I could attend  that day. 

Meanwhile, here’s the photo that transpired during last night’s meeting:

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ALL BLACK IN ATTENDANCE. (Clockwise from the bottom): Rogelio Braga, Arlo Mendoza (off cam), Vinch Santos, Me, Ruben Garcia, Angelo Oryado, Vince Dioquino, Epoy Deyto, and the convenor, Led Villafuerte. (Photo by Rogelio Braga)

 

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Some Research Updates: Long Duration x Capitalist Duration

 

One of the longest video in youtube: A guy counting for 24 hours. 

I am currently in the process of writing my thesis proposal on long duration. I’m still actually in the Introductory part, which is meant to introduce the general problem of long duration in relation to capitalist duration. So I’m planning to do that today and tomorrow.

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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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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. 3–25). 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. 48–61). 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–xvi). 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:  “….aporetic limit…”

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’s 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 ‘Derrida and the Political’ by Richard Beardsworth, who used the exact term ‘aporetic limit’. Beardsworth (1996) wrote:

‘Rather 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.’ (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 ‘neither is philosophy or outside it, one from which the future of thinking and practice is thought’ (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 ‘necessity of judgement and the promise of the future’ (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 ‘inaugurates a philosophy of judgement and a thinking of justice in relation to time.’ (p. 5)

One can see Beardsworth ambivalent position with Marx’s project. There is an attempt to privilege the concept of aporia contra Marx’s 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’s last work Philosophy of Right suppresses aporia. He said: ‘The aporia of dialectic ‘is’ the aporia of time’ (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: ‘Marx 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’ (p. 94). Beardsworth outwardly state Marx’s wrong move is the appropriation of Hegel’s dialectic: ‘The 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.’ (p. 94) Beardsworth accuses Marx of suppressing time within the philosophy of history. Beardsworth state: ‘His 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.’ (p. 94)

Beardsworth, however, does not accuse Marx entirely of the faults of Hegel. He considers Marx’s constitution of the dialectical relation between the proletariat and the ruling class as the aporetic limit in itself, as a ‘sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat’. 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: ‘The 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.’ 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’s Method on Film Analysis, or ‘What if Marx was a Film Theorist?’

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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’s 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’s Marx’s Critical/Dialectical Procedure; and countless of essays that bear the term ‘method’, ‘dialectical’ and ‘materialist’ like Peter H. Sawchuk’s Dialectical Materialist Methodologies for Researching Work, Learning, Change: Implications for Class Consciousness, authors Cassia Baldini Soares, Celia Maria Sivalli Campos, and Tatiana Yonekura’s 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 ‘converting’ 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 – the plane of immanence – that 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’s essay creates a corrective approach to ideological analysis. There is an obvious adaptation/appropriation of Althusserian notion of ideological apparatus as ‘a homological relation that it is supposed to maintain with the real of history’ (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’s project as part of the corrective mechanism: ‘to 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.’ (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’s concealed transhistoricity and prophetic value. Hence, he proposes a proper way of looking at ‘art, as the ideological appearance of the theoretical, the non-true as the glorious envelope of the true’ (p. 113). This notion is affirmed by Lenin. Badiou therefore conclude that ‘We 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’ (p. 114). This severs the binary opposition between art and science/ideology.

Badiou then adapts Mao Zedong’s 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 – the class where the writer belongs, (2) class-stand or class position – 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 – the approach of the writer in answering the problematic, for Badiou, this is the space of answers; (4) the class-study or class-culture – 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’s stand. For Badiou, Mao’s 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 ‘theoretical grasping of reality’ or ‘ideological process’ (p. 116). Macherey concludes that ‘the 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’ (p. 117). For Badiou, the ideology functions as a closed infinity of a specular relation, ‘a closed infinity that cannot show its closure without breaking the mirror in which it is reduplicated.’ (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 ‘art repeats in the real the ideological repetition of this real. Nevertheless this reversal does not produce the real; it realizes its reflection.’ (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 – the global historical structure i.e. the capitalists, the proletarian class, the bourgeois, etc. in displaceable power relation, (2) the ideologies – always in series, fragmentary reflections brought about by the ensemble of pressures upon the class they represent.’ (p. 118); (3) the author – not a creative subjectivity, but a concept of place, a point of view, where Mao’s 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 – 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 ‘statements’. We can actually classify shots in terms of Badiou’s 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 ‘aestheticizing ideological elements’. 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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Research Log 1.0: Ground Zero

This post is reposted from Correspondence N.1: On the Epistemology of Arrival, Lav Diaz, Argentina x Brazil. In order to systematize my writings in preparation for my thesis proposal, I will keep a regular log of my research on Lav Diaz.

A Sneak Peak on my Archival Research on Lav Diaz

Day 1: Ground Zero (July 9, 2017)

IMG_6717One of my book finds in Lav Diaz’s library- Kubler’s The Shape of Time. I wonder if he ever read this.

My archival research on Lav Diaz will not be possible without the big help of Hazel Orencio who first sent me a message inviting me for a Lav Diaz-related event in Singapore this coming August 2017. This prompted me to ask if she has some of Diaz’s primary documents to back-up my historical research on him. Two Sundays ago, we agreed to meet in Diaz’s apartment in Marikina, Metro Manila where Diaz is residing. He’s on a three-week break in the Philippines before heading back to the United States. Marikina is a suburban city adjacent to Quezon City where I live, just two jeepney rides away from my place.

Since my study is historiographic in nature I asked Lav Diaz if he could provide all the primary documents in my checklist. These include scripts, production notes, behind the scenes photographs and videos, rushes, cinematographic devices, lighting equipment, sound equipment, old photographs from childhood, school records, birth records, etc. So we initially level off in terms of conducting my research. We also run through my checklist to identify the documents’ location. Diaz is not fond of storing photographs. He said I should ask his regular film crew like Larry Manda, his cinematographer and collaborator since 1998, and Cesar Hernando, production designer of Batang West Side (2001), to locate some the production/behind the scenes photos of his films. Diaz also suggested to visit the archive of the comics publisher Altas Publishing to check on some of his works. Diaz mentioned that he did two graphic novels. One of which is titled Prinsipe Maru. He also suggested to check the archive of PTV4, a local government-owned TV channel, for his works in television during the late 1980s (post-EDSA People Power). If one of you is aware of Diaz’s history, the earliest version of Heremias (2006) was an educational video he did for the TV Program called Balintataw, which can be found in PTV4.

His personal archive in Marikina contains mostly old scripts, old but highly important miniDVs containing the raw files of his mid-2000s works. All digitized raw files of his post-Good Harvest works are there. His digital cameras are also there. His editing station is also there. Hazel told me that Diaz only edits his films in one area – his editing room, a small room with a Mac computer and a small single bed. Ever since they transferred in Marikina, he never edited outside the confines of this editing room. This must be a very special place.

 IMG_6518Diaz’s Panasonic DVX-100 camera he used in the mid-2000s.

Also, I was surprised to find that all his filmmaking equipment and all his awards fit into one bookshelf, no more and no less, although I haven’t seen the Golden Lion, the Silver Bear and Golden Leopard.  This includes his cameras, lighting equipment, sound equipment, tripods, and lenses. Diaz was also not fond of displaying his trophies in glitzy cabinets and display tables. Instead, he places his trophies alongside his equipment without any distinguishing space for both types of materials. One is mixed with the other. Some of the trophies even have missing pieces.This only shows that Diaz is not really much after the awards. Continue reading

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Correspondence N.1: On the Epistemology of Arrival, Lav Diaz, Argentina x Brazil

 GlauberRochaBlackGodWhiteDevilBlack God, White Devil (Glauber Rocha / Brazil / 1964)

July 24, 2017

Dearest Raju and Fernando,

Greetings from the Land of Engkantos!

How are things there in Argentina and in Brazil?

Before I begin and before any proper inauguration, I would like to enact an incision: that this letter be subdivided into several reflection points.

Knowing Brazil/Argentina through Cinema

I only know Brazil and Argentina through cinema and pictures. My favourite Argentinian film is the landmark film of Getino and Fernando E. Solanas titled The Hour of the Furnaces (1968). If you haven’t seen this film, I suggest you go see it. It is one of the films that had a vision to change the world through cinema. Its main paradigmatic practice is to constitute a revolution through image, and perhaps a revolution from the image of cinema, for The Hour of the Furnaces also combats the bourgeoisie’s mode of production by deploying the guerrilla approach to filmmaking. In the same way, the film also shatters the dominant cinematic image of its time in an ontological sense via deterritorialization i.e. all signs point towards a deterritorialization of the image through dialectical practice of editing.

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The Hour of the Furnaces (Getino & Solanas / Argentina / 1968)

Lisandro Alonso is also an unforgettable figure in Argentinian cinema. He and Lav Diaz have similar approaches to duration, although Alonso has a more ambiguous and sparser style in narrative. I like La Libertad (2001) for its straightforward depiction of a day in a life of a proletarian woodcutter. There is a simplicity to it that blurs the boundary of documentary and narrative film. The camera provokes an elaborate and impenetrable silence as means of disclosure, of worlding, of existing. Jauja (2014) is also a beautiful film by the same director, but I don’t know much about its Argentinian roots. I remember watching it with eyes wide open, anticipating its idiosyncrasies and anachronisms. I can’t seem to make sense of its incongruities. Maybe the beauty of the film lies in its incongruities, pauses and ellipses. There is a scene where Gunnar Dinesen (played by Viggo Mortensen) sleeps on rock starring at the heavens. There is ‘infinity’ to that image that I want to re-experience again. I remember thinking that that scene has something to do with love, with longing, or an infinity of longing perhaps.

Jauja1

Jauja (Lisandro Alonso / Argentina / 2014)

I have also seen a recent Argentinian film titled Taekwondo (2016) by Argentinian born filmmakers Marco Berger and Martin Farina, a film that explores male bisexuality. It might be one of the very few films I have seen in my waking life that cinematically explores bisexuality, and I liked it.

From what I have seen, Taekwondo is labyrinth of bodies. The male body in the film transforms into a generalized spectre, a site of struggle of sexuality. What I liked about the film is that it withdraws from the penetrative approach of contemporary gay films by exhuming the liminal power of the body to question the politics of visibility of LGBTQ cinema. In withdrawing from penetrative paradigm of gay identity politics, the film reconstructs a ‘minotaurian dilemma’ of bodies and orientations. In the end, Theseus, in parallel to the character of German (played by Gabriel Epstein), will slay the minotaur, in parallel to the character of Fer (played by Lucas Papa), at the center of labyrinth with a kiss.

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Taekwondo (Marco Berger & Martin Farina / Argentina / 2016)

As with Brazilian Cinema, I can only think of two unforgettable cinephilic experiences. The first one was watching Walter Hugo Khouri’s Noite Vazia (Men and Women, Brazil, 1964) which had a profound lingering effect on me. I can’t think straight for days. The other one was watching Glauber Rocha’s A Idade da Terra (The Age of the Earth, 1980). The Age of the Earth violated my vision of the world. It is pure deterritorialization of cinematic image. These two films were transformative experiences that troubled my senses to its very end. Rocha’s other films Entranced Earth (1967), Black God, White Devil (1964) and Antonio Das Mortes (1969) were also memorable. Rocha’s idiosyncratic and militant approach to filmmaking is somewhat unique yet formally similar to how some contemporary Filipino filmmakers would approach editing, mise-en-scene and narrative. Khavn dela Cruz is one Filipino filmmaker I can think of that channels the same energy as Rocha’s caustic style. Yet, they diverge in terms of stylistic restraints. I can talk more about this topic, but it will be too much for this letter.

 note-vazia-1965-01-1-gi0FfBTop: Noite Vazia (Walter Hugo Khouri / Brazil / 1964) | Bottom: The Age of the Earth (Glauber Rocha / 1980)

I wonder if Rocha, Khouri, Getino and Solanas’ approaches to film style remain influential in the contemporary cinema of Argentina and Brazil. What’s happening now in your respective locales in terms of moving image production?

The period of the 1960s in Latin American cinema was revolutionary. Third cinema emerged during this period as collective effort to decolonize Latin American culture and resist the cultural imperialism of the United States. How’s the Third Cinema project in your respective regions now? Is the tradition of militant filmmaking, as inaugurated by Getino and Solanas, still practiced among militant filmmakers?

In return, I would like also to know if you have an idea of the Philippines, Philippine cinema, or militant cinema of the Philippines. What’s the recent Filipino film you’ve watched? Also, a question to Raju, if you come from India, what circumstances led you to reside in Brazil? How long have you resided in Brazil? Has transferring to another country affected your subjectivity as an Indian-born cinephile/film critic?

Correspondence: An Epistemology of Arrival

The geographical and cultural distance between Philippines and Argentina or Brazil poses a challenge especially on the subject of knowing the other. I guess cinema provides a translational advantage, a bridge that allows for distances to appear closer, yet some areas in your culture still remain untranslatable. There are still images left to be interpreted, contextualized, and re-imagined. Transcultural dialogue is more important now than ever. With neoliberalism and US cultural imperialism dominating distribution networks of cinema around the globe through Hollywood, we must not let a day pass without rallying for what is at stake in this dialogical space of cinema. The disappearing cultural specific heritage, proletarian subjectivity and collective memory are now threatened to be erased by instantaneity and synchronicity as operated via a globalized capital disseminated at an infinite speed. Correspondence, as I see it, is a radical refusal of instantaneity and synchronicity. It reintroduces again the concept of delay, or knowing in delay, through a form of a letter.

In correspondence, the question of ‘knowing’ and ‘arriving’ collapses into a duality; as if, for a moment, to ‘know’ what is there from a distant is also to ‘arrive’ there prematurely. Is knowing also a form of colonization? Correspondence, as I understand it, is a means to ‘arrive’ as well as to ‘know’ a place outside of oneself. To correspond is to arrive in a place outside only to know that one is always already too late. In correspondence, we are always late. Time has passed: for in arriving, or for a letter to arrive, some of us have already departed. We cannot be in same place at the same time, yet technologies such as instant messaging allow us to appear as though we are synchronic: in two places at once. Correspondence, on the other hand, recognizes the limit of the distance between two points, two locales, two worlds, two cultures, two temporalities. It is governed by the law of the Two, which, for Alain Badiou, constitute the dialectical alternative of One. Correspondence restores the difference and the untranslatability of one culture from another.

To enter into the activity of correspondence, which, for now, will be through a ‘letter,’ is to come to terms with the vulnerability of exposure, of arriving at a place exposed, or arriving towards an exposure of the self. It has occurred to me that writing a letter would not be as easy as I thought it would be. Since the letter is a form of public correspondence, there is a risk of exposure. There is a risk of exposing too much of myself, too much of my world. Can a letter be a means of overexposure? Cinema, on the other hand, has its own of means of exposing the world. Cinema can also be a letter of exposure (or overexposure) in its own way. To expose through exposition, on the other hand, for a letter is also an exposition of oneself, is also, in itself, a movement, a positioning, a posturing, a step ahead. To ex-pose — as a movement from one pose to another — is an ex-position — a displacement, a change in position. Indeed, correspondence is both an exposure and an exposition, jointly and separately, one and the same.

There is a life out here in the Philippines that is worth a book or a poem or a film, but a letter of correspondence would not suffice to expose even the surface matter of phenomena and reality I see through my eyes. Hence, the term encounter offers a heuristic path towards knowing the other without risking exposure and colonization. Thus, in correspondence, we only write encounters.

Lav Diaz’s Cinematic Duration as Object of Study

I would like to share to you a little background of my writing and research life. I am twenty-eight years old. I live in Manila for more than ten years now. For now, I am not affiliated in any film journal or publication, but occassionally I do published some of my articles in magazines and film journals. The latest would be an article on Hegel and Lav Diaz in NANG Magazine Issue 2. I am also actively engaged in a film organization Cinema and Moving Image Research Assembly (CAMIRA). I am in-charge of organizing activities of the film organization in the Philippines.

As for my studies, I am currently finishing my MA Media Studies (Film) degree at the University of the Philippines Film Institute with key interest on film philosophy. I am now in my thesis stage with Lav Diaz’s cinematic duration as my main object of study.

I have been doing research on Diaz’s cinema since I started my MA degree in 2014. My interest in Diaz’s cinema does not come entirely from an appreciative perspective, but rather from a critical one. Diaz’s cinema has amassed a wide range of critical debates on various subjects of his cinema with film reception as one of the main areas of contestation. My thesis will focus on the problematic issue of Diaz’s long durations.

 maxresdefaultDeath in the Land of Encantos (Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2007)

With running time up to eleven hours long, and, on average, clocking at six to eight hours, his films no longer belong to the general criteria of entertainment cinema. In Diaz’s cinema, I consider cinematic duration as site of constraint generative of a new ontology, epistemology, ethico-politics and aesthetics of cinema.

Diaz’s eurocentric audience also poses a problematic politics of reception. One of my cinephile friends from Italy, Renato Loriga, expressed his distaste on European cinephilia’s instant positive appraisal on Diaz’s cinema after winning three successive major awards from the top European film festivals of Locarno, Berlin and Venice in the span of three years. Renato told me that the Italian critics, especially those who have ignored some of his early long-form works in the 2000s, were suddenly appreciative of his cinema because of the awards he won. Diaz was almost suddenly under the radar of critics, scholars, producers, distributors and the media, earning him a title as one of the world’s most renowned filmmakers.

While legitimizing his position as one of the forminable Asian auteurs that penetrated the European cinephile culture, the limited turnout of Filipino audience in most of his screenings in the Philippines proved contradictory. Diaz’s high cultural capital and idiosyncratic approach to filmmaking opened debates, critical appraisal and critiques in his home country. During the onset of his popularity, Diaz’s long duration was dismissed as anti-people and anti-audience for its demand for long endurance and extreme durative work from its audience. Diaz’s duration can be seen as a totalitarian conditioning of opticity. This and other problematiques would constitute the core problems of my thesis.

A Sneak Peak on my Archival Research on Lav Diaz

Day 1: Ground Zero (July 9, 2017)

IMG_6717One of my book finds in Lav Diaz’s library- Kubler’s The Shape of Time. I wonder if he ever read this.

My archival research on Lav Diaz will not be possible without the big help of Hazel Orencio who first sent me a message inviting me for a Lav Diaz-related event in Singapore this coming August 2017. This prompted me to ask if she has some of Diaz’s primary documents to back-up my historical research on him. Two Sundays ago, we agreed to meet in Diaz’s apartment in Marikina, Metro Manila where Diaz is residing. He’s on a three-week break in the Philippines before heading back to the United States. Marikina is a suburban city adjacent to Quezon City where I live, just two jeepney rides away from my place.

Since my study is historiographic in nature I asked Lav Diaz if he could provide all the primary documents in my checklist. These include scripts, production notes, behind the scenes photographs and videos, rushes, cinematographic devices, lighting equipment, sound equipment, old photographs from childhood, school records, birth records, etc. So we initially level off in terms of conducting my research. We also run through my checklist to identify the documents’ location. Diaz is not fond of storing photographs. He said I should ask his regular film crew like Larry Manda, his cinematographer and collaborator since 1998, and Cesar Hernando, production designer of Batang West Side (2001), to locate some the production/behind the scenes photos of his films. Diaz also suggested to visit the archive of the comics publisher Altas Publishing to check on some of his works. Diaz mentioned that he did two graphic novels. One of which is titled Prinsipe Maru. He also suggested to check the archive of PTV4, a local government-owned TV channel, for his works in television during the late 1980s (post-EDSA People Power). If one of you is aware of Diaz’s history, the earliest version of Heremias (2006) was an educational video he did for the TV Program called Balintataw, which can be found in PTV4.

His personal archive in Marikina contains mostly old scripts, old but highly important miniDVs containing the raw files of his mid-2000s works. All digitized raw files of his post-Good Harvest works are there. His digital cameras are also there. His editing station is also there. Hazel told me that Diaz only edits his films in one area – his editing room, a small room with a Mac computer and a small single bed. Ever since they transferred in Marikina, he never edited outside the confines of this editing room. This must be a very special place.

 IMG_6518Diaz’s Panasonic DVX-100 camera he used in the mid-2000s.

Also, I was surprised to find that all his filmmaking equipment and all his awards fit into one bookshelf, no more and no less, although I haven’t seen the Golden Lion, the Silver Bear and Golden Leopard.  This includes his cameras, lighting equipment, sound equipment, tripods, and lenses. Diaz was also not fond of displaying his trophies in glitzy cabinets and display tables. Instead, he places his trophies alongside his equipment without any distinguishing space for both types of materials. One is mixed with the other. Some of the trophies even have missing pieces.This only shows that Diaz is not really much after the awards.

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MiniDV tapes of Heremias 

Diaz is currently using a Sony A7s camera for his two upcoming films. This full-frame camera provided Diaz’s the necessary sensitivity to both light and darkness. He used this to shoot his previous film  Ang Babaeng Humayo. This is quite different from how Diaz organizes his shoots with his Panasonic DVX100, which he used to film the latter half of Evolution of a Filipino Family (2005) until Butterflies Have No Memories (2009). Panasonic DVX100 uses miniDVs while Sony A7s uses memory card. Although both are digital in terms of coding, they vary differently in terms data management principles and storage.

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Diaz as the current archivist of his cinema

Diaz does not use sophisticated sound devices except for a simple boom microphone in some of his films. Most of his sounds are live sounds using his cameras’ respective microphone. He also rarely does sound editing or sound design. He also does not use sophisticated lighting equipment, just a few LED lights he used for the night scenes in A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (2016). Other than that, all his light comes from natural sources.

This is ground zero of my Lav Diaz research. I wish to share more of my findings in the next letters. I wonder, have any of you seen a Lav Diaz film? What is your experience like? What do you think are the similarities and differences of Lav Diaz and Lisandro Alonso in terms of their approaches to slow cinema? Do you consider Lav Diaz’s cinema as slow cinema?

I am quite excited to hear from you two.

Yours truly,

Adrian Mendizabal
Manila, Philippines
July 24, 2017

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