Archive for the ‘Chaplin’ Category

What is the nature of a connection? I have been influenced by Franco Berardi (Bifo) recently. He points out that definitions have to be approached through multiple strategies because what is important is shocking thought by the reconstitution of a virtual field of sense and sensation. In other words, part of what is at stake in understanding marketing is the creation of new concepts commensurate with marketing’s specific ecology of media and perception, and new affects that work toward an untimely experience of marketing. What is an untimely experience of marketing?

Considering the untimely is why this module has become something of an extended meditation and experimentation on habits. Habit is both an achieved state and a process in itself. Habit, in short, is productive of intensive difference through its repetitions. This is not a difficult notion. But wait.

If differences are produced in processes of repetitive reconnection or refrains, ethics becomes in fact both a diagramming of refrains and a counter-actualization of the forms of habituated duration that are miring us in their spectacles. Bifo again:

The refrain is an obsessive ritual that is initiated in linguistic, sexual, social, productive, existential behaviour to allow the individual – the conscious organism in continuous variation – to find identification points, that is, to territorialize oneself and to represent oneself in relation to the world that surrounds it. The refrain is the modality of semiotization that allows an individual (a group, a people, a nation, a subculture) to receive and project the world according to reproducible and communicable formats. In order for the cosmic, social and molecular universe to be filtered through an individual perception, in order for it, we may thus say, to enter the mind, filters or models of semiotization must act, and these are models that Guattari called refrains.
The perception of time by a society, a culture or a person is also the model of a truly temporal refrain, that is, of particular rhythmic modulations that function as modules for accessing, awaiting and participating in cosmic temporal becoming. From this perspective, universal time appears to be no more than a hypothetical projection, a time of generalized equivalence, a ‘flattened’ capitalistic time; what is important are these partial modules of temporalization, operating in diverse domains (biological, ethological, socio-cultural, machinic, cosmic …) , and out of which complex refrains constitute highly relative existential synchronies. (Chaosmosis, 16)
What is the fundamental passage through which the anthropological transformation of modern capitalism is determined? This passage consists in the creation of refrains of temporal perception that invade and discipline all society: the refrain of factory work, the refrain of working hours, the refrain of the salary, the refrain of the production line. The postindustrial transition brings along with it the formation and imposition of new refrains: the refrain of electronic speed, the refrain of information overload, the refrain of digitalization. My feeling of personal identity is thus pulled in different directions. How can I maintain a relative sense of unicity, despite the diversity of components of subjectivation that pass through me? It’s a question of the refrain that fixes me in front of the screen, henceforth constituted as a projective existential node. My identity has become that of the speaker, the person who speaks from the television. (Chaosmosis, 16–17) In communication, obsessive and fixated types of nuclei are determined; certain refrains thicken and solidify, entering into resonance and producing effects of double bind. When the existential flow gets rigidly brought back to logical, mythological, ideological or psychic refrains, behaviour tends to become paranoid. For example, when the money refrain becomes the structuring element of all social and communicative life, this engenders behavioural paradoxes, paranoid anticipations, social double binds, and depression.

To work counter to our time, and so to work on our time, in the hopes of a time to come. That is, ethics would be a recomposition of a body’s habituated durations.

So in answering the question about the connections this course is making for you, define this course through your habits. What connections between information, neurology, matter, energy, perception, chemistry, habits, speeds, intensity, joy, desire, capital, discipline/control, and becomings do your habits make in its existential being. As should be clear from the syllabus (available here), the connections I am bringing together is a critique of capital in the Marxist tradition of revolutionary becoming, new untimely lifeworlds through radical practices of aesthetics, love, friendship, kinship, and community dwelling. In other words, the creation of untimely ecologies of sensation, that is ecologies that work counter to our time and thereby work on our time by reorganizing the set of refrains (habit) that lull us in blocs of dominant temporalities.

We are reading Kline No Logo, watching It Felt Like a Kiss, by Adam Curtis, reading Guy Debord, and reading Wark’s The Beach Beneath the Street, listening to Bifo on Mp3, we are taking photos, making videos, creating webpages, we dream of situations and apps that will disrupt the accumulation of data-in-marketing, we drink, smoke (too much, too much), but keep excerising. Trying to live a resonance that would be plastic enough to affirm a practice while also making that practice an affirmation of becoming. An ecology of sensation.

We are thinking information in terms of the untimely. As should be clear from all I have said, ethics for it to affirm becoming must work in the service of a time to come, not a time of freedom and equality, but a practice of assemblages of temporal blocs (a minute, a summer, an afternoon are singularities as Deleuze and Guattari remind us in What is Philosophy?).

Sundaram writes in the mode of the postmedia postcolonial critic. But it was Guattari, as Bifo notes, who saw the infinite potentiality of information society. This is not an affirmation of informational capital, it is not a capitulation to the desires of consumer society, it is not the production of spectacles. In some sense, it is merely a return to the virtual that is at stake. The virtual in so far as it is fully real, but not actualized (affects and tendencies are fully real, but their most important characteristic is that they remain ontologically tied to a phylum that is purely potential). Isn’t that why information, and more specifically practices that gradually diagram the ontological (the composition of multiplicities along gradients of intensity), informational dimensions of data, energy, attention, perception. Information can then be thought of as a cut into affect itself, a cut in time, both a measure (in order to be information very specific critical thresholds of noise must be exceeded) and intensive (or semio-chemical) flow.

Regardless, I return to the question of connections. What is marketing today? What are the refrains of marketing? Its habituations? Its attractions? The emergence of the brand that Kline writes about is rooted in a history of radical politics, from anti-colonial, feminist-socialist, to postcolonial movements against the grain of capitalist globalization, or integrated world capitalism. Over the weekend, thousands and thousands of people the world over participated in occupations of public and private space. This practice of occupation you know is very interesting. Dan Moshenberg tells the great joke, and Dan does this again and again, whenever he sees students at GWU sitting around together he asks them, Are you with the occupation?

Well are you?


What do we know of Deleuze’s Zen?

We know of the passages in Logic of Sense, those passages where Zen practice and more specifically the koan (a puzzle without an answer) makes a momentary appearance. We know of the image of thought that Zen gave Deleuze, something intolerable: teach with a blow of the staff. Always Deleuze took one to the intolerable. Well okay not always, but that was the desire, its tendency. The intolerable is excess. Purely.

Deleuze is himself critical of a stereotypical Marxist reading of the time-image. We know the reading already: its bourgeois mysticism, obscurantist, apolitical, it perpetuates an illusion, it is an illusion, and hence a turn away from materialism. But another experimentation becomes enlivened through it, one grounded in a thoroughgoing deconstruction of bourgeois political economy, expressing another essence, another power of the time-image. In the concretions of the time-image, and through its liberatory pedagogy, one inevitably goes through phases of understanding one’s complicity to the set of sensory motor circuits whose cliche we have become. And all that we need now is to . . . find another cliche? No. It is to explore by whatever means necessary modes of arresting and counter-actualizing that cliche. Break the motor. Kill the Buddha. It’s the “same” thing.

Does it increase a capacity for proliferating the intolerable? Does it release the pure resonance, the precise mixture of the intolerable? That is all. What is intolerable is not the space of a horizon, however cosmological or receding (American Science Fiction, notes Deleuze), it is to give a little time in its pure state, we need not say it again–intensive processes unfolding the fate of a resonance, love taking an inventory of its contents, and like the self in buddhism you take everything out one by one, and see what you must put back in and what you don’t need anymore to love. Deleuze, from Cinema II: “what has love become that a man or a woman should emerge from it so disabled, pitiful and suffering…?” (FTC 254) That question implies a certain commitment to give oneself to the fate of a resonance.

Chaplin’s “Modern Times.” A story of industry, of individual enterprise–humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness. The sheep, the herd, the worker, the factory, the roll call, morning, to work, to work. male body. throws the switch. President takes pill and water. Surveillance and the panopticon. The bell. (How does this relate to Foucault’s notion of discipline? There are two conceptions of the body’s difference in Foucault–See: The Production of Habit: On Two Conceptions of Difference in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish)

But finally what is it that has both a connection to action and the unfolding of the madness. He can’t get his hands to stop operating the machinery, a nervous breakdown. He is cured. Doctor-police-foreman: Take it easy and avoid excitement. But modernity is exciting. it overwhelms in its motion, in its continuous mixtures in pure succession (what better way to understand movement than the agency of chance: he joins-leads the communists march until the police charge). Chaplin is, as Maya Deren in “Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality” (1960) notes, archetypal. He is also the master/slave of chance, I don’t mean the dialectic, although there is that, much of that here too, but rather a player in a game of chance. That is also an element of his performance style, even at its most mechanical, because what he aimed for in his portrayal (I am not saying he did this with any intentionality–although…), a kind of breathless twirling through a sensorimotor circuit. Perhaps this turning on the needlepoint of a bifurcation, performing at the edge of a precipice, this grace of movement, is one continuous celebration or repeated falseness of the untimely. The untimely, the specific powers of its falseness is the form of what changes.

(For more on the Untimely and the affirmation of chance in Deleuze’s creative engagement with Nietzsche see:
Multiplicity is the affirmation of unity: On Gilles Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy, Part One
Truths of Times to come: On Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy, Part Two)

“There is becoming, change, passage. But the form of what changes does not itself change, does not pass on. This is time, time itself, a “little time in its pure state.”: a direct time-image, which gives what changes the unchanging form in which change is produced. . . . But it is precisely the weakness of the motor-linkages, the weak connections, that are capable of releasing huge forces of disintegration. These are the characters with a strange vibrance in Rossellini, strangely well-informed in Godard and Rivette. In the west as in Japan, they are in the grip of a mutation, they are themselves mutants. …it is not cinema that turns away from politics, it becomes completely political, but in another way” (FTC 263-65).*

Reality, or better, the real in cinema found symptomatic expression in neo-realism. Deren in “Cinematography” remarked on the authority of realism in this way: “Obviously the interest of a documentary film corresponds closely to the interest inherent in the subject matter. This popularity served to make fiction-film producers more keenly aware of the effectiveness and authority of reality, an awareness which gave rise to the ‘neo-realist’ style of film and contributed to the still growing trend toward location filming” (FTC 191). The real establishes, or should we say reactivates a sensorimotor circuit in cinema after WW II. Reality in this aesthetic imposes itself on the viewer in an unprecedented way. “The intimacy imposed upon us by the physical reality of other art works present us with alternative choices: either to identify with or to deny the experience they propose, or to withdraw altogether to a detached awareness of that reality as merely a metaphor. But the film image–whose intangible reality consists of lights and shadows beamed through the air and caught on the surface of a silver screen–comes to us as a reflection of another world. At that distance we can accept the reality of the most monumental and extreme of images, and from that perspective we can perceive and comprehend them in their full dimension. . . The invented event which is then introduced, though itself an artifice, borrows reality from the reality of the scene–from the natural blowing of the hair, the irregularity of the waves, the very texture of the stones and sand–in short, from all the uncontrolled, spontaneous elements which are the property of actuality itself. Only in photography–by the delicate  manipulation which I called controlled accident–can natural phenomena be incorporated into our own creativity, to yield an image where the reality of a tree confers its truth upon the events we cause to transpire beneath it” (FTC 192).

Photographic realism lends its authority of truth to the mise-en-scene of cinema, indeed to an extent it is the motor circuits of the photograph that enable narrative to proceed in the first place. But for some time now this circuit has been weakening, and today it no longer holds. We are surrounded today, as Prince pointed out more than ten years ago, by perceptually real images of unreal objects: Iron Man, Jurassic Park, Shrek: CGI. Prince goes on to argue something more radical, namely that the distinction between the indexical and the arbitrary cinematic sign (Pierce vs. Saussure–we return to these two thinkers in a subsequent post) is a false dichotomy between capturing and constructing reality. Today, the perceptual correspondence of digital images has meant a paradoxical intensification of the reality effect: No longer real, the digital image due to its textured correspondence with 3D reality comes to be perceived as more real than reality. “A perceptually realistic image is one which structurally corresponds to the viewer’s audiovisual experience of three-dimensional space. Perceptually realistic images correspond to this experience because film-makers build them to do so. Such images display a nested hierarchy of cues which organize the display of light, color, texture, movement, and sound in ways that correspond with the viewer’s own understanding of these phenomenon in daily life. . . . Because of this, unreal images may be referentially fictional but perceptually real” (Stephen Prince, “True Lies” in FTC 277). In a fine formulation, Prince goes on to note that such perceptually real images may even invoke as a “kind of memory trace” historically superseded assumptions about indexical referencing (282).

Perhaps then if indexicality or convention/arbitrariness is no longer the mark of distinction in the ontology of the cinematic sign, we can return to the notion that the “brain is the screen.” Thus, Deleuze:

The memory-correspondence circuit is a cerebral circuit, a sensorimotor circuit (passage taken from “The Brain is the Screen,” from _Two Regimes of Madness_, pp. 283-84). What are the particles of media ecologies today? What have they been across platforms, historically? Cinema repeats stimuli, and in its repetitions traces the circuit.

A student in my film theory course wrote, quoting Prince: “The problem,” Prince says, “is that to specify meaning, one at times has to step outside the language system, and poststructural methodologies have been most unwilling to posit the possibility of doing this.  In many accounts, one cannot get outside representation at all because it is, by definition, determinative of human thought and experience (p. 91).”  However, there is no time which consists of no language and no signs. I commented: BUT TIME ITSELF HAS NO LANGUAGE. LANGUAGE IS WHAT IS DONE WITHIN A GIVEN DURATION. BUT PURE DURATION HAS NO SIGNIFICANCE. SIGNFICANCE, SENSATION, INTENSITY IS WHAT WE GIVE PURE DURATION through assemblages we form with media.

(For a further rendering of this notion of intensity and mutation see: On Delanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy

In the movie A Zen Life, a sitting Suzuki, tells of a transcendental reality. The movie is explicit in giving Suzuki’s life and words a definite ethico-political tendency: anti-nationalist, anti-imperialist, pro-non-dualism. A single substance with an infinity of attributes, only two of which we can know, extensity and thought, but Spinoza too as Bergson reminds us reduces time to space in some fundamental ways. And Suzuki is no Spinozan. One of his hagiographers in the movie describes him as a man behind a tapestry, knitting a thread across a pattern that is one and repetitive, and all we can see is the occasional thread with needle. But the pattern remains obscure to us. Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism offers a method, not for enlightenment, which finally is what Zen is, even though enlightenment is defined quite explicitly as an impossibility. Sudden englightenment happens in repetitions differentiating. But then it is nothing special, nothing  that is sudden, but ever unfolding, pure succession that passes through imperceptible steps on it way through the tendency of its becoming (Bergson). Zen is one continuous mistake, an endless negation that becomes an affirmation after and in practice.

For more on Zen and Deleuze see: On Bergson’s Pure Duration and Suzuki’s Sunyata-Tathata

For more on the relationship of “breaking the motor” to analyses of media assemblages in India see:
On Social Viscosities: diagramming the flows of mobile media in India
Distributed Networks: On Security, Terror, Mobility and Other Sensations
Sense, Value, Force in Indian Mobile Phone Cultures

*Braudy, Leo and Cohen, M. eds. Film Theory and Criticism, 6th Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). Hereafter FTC.