[iDC] Periodizing cinematic production

Stmart96 at aol.com Stmart96 at aol.com
Sun Sep 13 17:44:28 UTC 2009

I too have found the discussion  stimulating, although hard to find  the 
time-space in which to speak or speak-up.  Thanks to John Sobol  for  an 
invite to mix it up.  I too am more than a technological  determinist  or rather 
less one  than a lover.   No more or less  than human beings, the technical 
object  as Gilbert Simondon would call it,  is an invention  an 
individuation that has granted ongoing ontogenesis by  also creating a milieu of self 
determination (or further indetermination) so let  it continue to grant and be 
loved .    While technology differs  from the technical object  along the 
lines John Sobel suggests   below,  that is,  the potential is perhaps 
captured in  technology, but still or even so, it is the domain of the technical 
object  modulating what John refers to as "the head of the curve" as well as  
the  fun and love of the kids.   So  I am presently teaching a  graduate 
course on Freud and Deleuze and felt shocked at Jonathan (whose  work is much 
appreciated by me) when he asked  "How do you get capitalism into the 
psyche, and how do you  get the psyche into capital?"   I assume what is  meant 
here is: How do "they" do that?   I was shocked because I  thought that 
different technologies  are emanations of  a dynamic  ground where  the 
potentialities can inform or invent different  relations for psyche and technology, 
psyche and energy or force   and thus force, energy and the market , 
capitalist  governance, work labor  sex etc.  With this assumption I would say,  
there is no 'in' of  psyche   Perhaps there never was (Derrida says so  but so 
does  Deleuze  who does a really interesting theft of Freud's  work) but more 
important  there is no 'in'  of the psyche  (or not only an 'in' ) now  in 
relationship to the digital,  the  emergent in relationship to the digital.  
Psyche (its presently  rethought energies and forces) has escaped  the 
individual,  has  dropped back down through the pre-individual to  ground or 
in-formation as a material force  an  ontogenetic force. This is an ontology 
for affect and affect economies,  among them capitalism. This  points I think 
away  from the  cognitive-ism or consciousness (albeit unconsciousness) of 
Jonathan's question  and  sends  his own  focus on "attention"  or the labor  
of attention toward the body and to the transformation of the  
body-as-organism  to a full body of desiring.   One reason I love  the digital is that 
is makes all of this seemingly abstract stuff   so-not-abstract  but  
accessible when we allow it to shift   criticism away  from the given-ness of a 
capitalist  logic   that always knows what's coming  next and seeks to show how 
it will be our  fault that it did. Instead a way   is offered to respect  
the  temporalities  at play,  which are put in play often by capital  
(perhaps not often capitalism or capitalist governance).  The  life-itself that 
digital has enabled and which shows up in discourse about  biopolitics and 
necropolitics  is  not easy to capture without  producing  the fringe of 
indeterminacy that is life-y.  Even in this  awful times of war and terrorism 
torture poverty and death, the life-y at  least is good news  and asks us to pay 
more attention to  measuring  or capturing and its politics  which is 
non-organic and  surely non-human as well as human.   Well this is only a start 
for  me     More to come    Patricia  Clough.  

In a message dated 9/12/2009 6:21:05 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
john at johnsobol.com writes:

This has been - as usual here on iDC - a highly stimulating discussion. I  
hope my contribution contributes to its quality, though it does come at this 
 question from quite a different perspective. 

I wish to return us to the outset of this thread, wherein Brian quoted  
Jonathan thusly:

"How do you get capitalism into the  psyche, and how do you get the psyche 
into capital?" asks the philosopher  Jean-Joseph Goux. Drawing on key 
insights from Gramsci, Simmel and Benjamin --  and radicalizing the work of film 
critic Christian Metz in the process --  Jonathan Beller gives this quite 
astonishing reply:

"Materially speaking, industrialization  enters the visual as follows: 
Early cinematic montage extended the logic of  the assembly line (the sequencing 
of discreet, programmatic  machine-orchestrated human operations) to the 
sensorium and brought the  industrial revolution to the eye.... It is only by 
tracing the trajectory of  the capitalized image and the introjection of its 
logic into the sensorium  that we may observe the full consequences of the 
dominant mode of production  (assembly-line capitalism) becoming 'the 
dominant mode of representation'  (cinema). Cinema implies the tendency toward the 
automation of the subject by  the laws of exchange.... Understood as a 
precursor to television, computing,  email, and the World Wide Web, cinema can 
be seen as part of an emerging  cybernetic complex, which, from the 
standpoint of an emergent global labor  force, functions as a technology for the 
capture and redirection of global  labor's revolutionary social agency and 

I will  begin by saying that I do not believe that this historical 
trajectory gets to  the heart of the matter. Valuable as it is in certain respects 
in shedding  light on our evolving world, I nonetheless believe that it is a 
heuristic  model that seems to fit the facts, yet elides them. I will do my 
best to  explain why I think this. 

I have not read your book, Jonathan, so if I am way  off the mark in my 
interpretation of your words than that will be my fault.  But it sounds to me 
like a causal relationship is being established in the  above analysis, 
between cinema's evolution as a global cultural force and the  parallel advance 
of certain socially prescriptive aspects of modern and  post-modern 
industrial capitalism. The cybernetic loop you describe suggests  that cinema and 
capitalism are engaged in a form of dance, impelled, once  begun, by the 
alarmingly potent logic of "assembly-line capitalism", that  incriminates cinema 
as both agent and victim. Certainly cinema, (and  cineastes) in your analysis 
appear as not just one of these two things,  but as both.

With regard to the question of causality, I am  unconvinced that cinema's 
economic or epistemological architectures – as  opposed to its narrative 
themes or stylistic vagaries – played such a  fundamental causal role in the 
unfolding of the social dynamics of "assembly-line capitalism".  The reason I 
think this is  that I also reject, at a more basic level, the argument that 
'industrialism  enters the visual via cinema' at all. In fact I think this 
articulation  entirely misses the essential relationship between industrialism 
and the  visual.

The key to this relationship is the understanding  that industrialism is 
the more-or-less direct result of increased  literacy. It is of the eye, and 
it largely replaced the experiential techne of  the ear that preceded it, 
just as literate capitalism replaced the economies  of the ear that preceded 
it). As simplistic as this sounds, it is, in my  opinion, accurate and 
fundamental. It is no accident that Scotland in the 18th  century had the world's 
highest literacy rate and was also the world's  industrial incubator. It is 
no accident that the popularization of literacy in  Britain coincided with 
its imperial rise. Nor is it an accident that the peak  in world literacy 
today coincides with the death of most of the world's oral  languages. The 
industrial age is a visual age. It is the triumphant age of  text, in which 
reading and writing come to rule the world through their  manifold 
representations in maps, constitutions, lawbooks, forms, contracts,  ledgers, deeds - and, 
of course - blueprints, patents, technical  specifications, reports, 
schemata, manuals and the myriad textual tools that  enabled industrialization 
(i.e. the raster grid that Sean rightly  indicates is so historically 
definitive), as well as their resulting man-made  mechanical universe. And here I 
seem to hear the familiar "pshaw, this is  determinist claptrap" (though not 
perhaps from your lips, reader), to  which I reply: just take writing out of 
the equation and see what degree  of industrialism you are left with. Try it 
and see. There is nothing  left. Without the widespread dissemination of 
literacy, industrialism crumbles  utterly.

Cinema, seen in this light, is a mere actor in the  larger drama that is 
literate culture's struggle to achieve global hegemony,  and is not the 
primary cause of anything, except perhaps an infinity of shared  dreams (no small 
thing, I admit). It is just one of many monological  industrial media shaped 
by the technical and psychic architectures  of print. Just as television 
would become as well. Neither is anything  but a talking book from my 
perspective. And so to answer Goux's question: you  get capitalism into the psyche 
via the printing press, you get it via the  rigid, powerful, monological 
imperatives of print. As with industrialism,  extract print from the evolution 
of capitalism and nothing at all remains, not  even a trace. I don't even 
talk about capitalism myself, only of literate  capitalism, for capitalism is 
epistemologically indistinguishable from  literacy. (Though strangely, so in 
many respects is Soviet socialism).

The second part of your paragraph, Jonathan, is  important too.  

Understood as a precursor to television,  computing, email, and the World 
Wide Web, cinema can be seen as part of an  emerging cybernetic complex, 
which, from the standpoint of an emergent global  labor force, functions as a 
technology for the capture and redirection of  global labor's revolutionary 
social agency and potentiality."

As I have  mentioned, I do not think that cinema and television are more 
than accidental  precursors to computing, email and the World Wide Web. (Kind 
of the way Gil  Scott-Heron seems to be the godfather of rap, whereas his 
work is not directly  related at all, only indirectly.) And as I see it there 
are two cybernetic  complexes in effect here anyway; one hegemonic, one 
emergent; one literate and  one digital. Each of these two looped universes is 
indigenously highly  distinct from the other, yet bright minds with vast 
resources are desperately  trying to colonize the emergent one on behalf of the 
ruling one, with some  success. And of course defending the fort – and 
actively taking the battle to  these hungry entrepreneurs – are revolutionaries 
of all shapes and sizes, your  friends and mine, seeking to counteract this 
unfeeling assault with art,  autonomy, activism and more. Much more.

However, what matters is not necessarily how  successful we and our 
idealistic friends turn out to be. What seems to matter  most is the march of time, 
and technology. When Negativland pioneered its  remix work it caused 
outrage and conflict. With the passage of time, however,  the mashup has become a 
staple of everyday life. Not because Negativland (or  John Oswald or Bryan 
Gysin for that matter) 'won' but rather because they  turned out to be doing 
stuff ahead of the curve. It was not a case of the good  guys winning due to 
hard work, the righteousness of their  message and  the political 
maturation of 'the people'. It just turned out that when the  tools advanced enough 
to make it easy and fun for kids to do, kids did it. And  that's basically 
all that revolution took to succeed. And soon the kids will  grow up. Lots 
already have.

In this sense I am an unrepentant technological  determinist. Not that I 
think, for example, that the transition to  post-literate capitalism is a 
given. On the contrary, I expect things to get  more and more dangerous and 
bloody and I am not happy about that at all, as  the evolutionary conflict 
between the efficient and the hyperefficient gains  demographic momentum. So 
there is in fact an urgent need for leadership, and  by this I mean 
intercultural leadership that constructively bridges the  emergent and hegemonic 
cybernetic loops  in the pursuit of  sustainable and judicious compromises (to say 
nothing of also reaching  out and inviting into the dialogue the colonized 
oral peoples of the world who  have a crucial role to play here, particularly 
in helping to stave off  literate capitalism's imminent ecocide.) 
Antagonizing the corporate world for  the sake of personal catharsis is fun and all, 
and I have done it plenty in my  art, aimed at 'bad guys' who couldn't have 
cared less, but more useful I now  believe is an engagement that respects 
and enlightens, rather than unmasking  villainous archetypes in (our) everyday 
life. There just too many of us.  :)

Literacy too has certainly functioned "as a technology for  the capture and 
redirection of global labor's revolutionary social agency and  
potentiality." Except when  it wasn't. Except when it was something else. For it has 
also made possible wondrous and  wonderful achievements (for some – the many 
and/or the few). Drawing hard and  fast boundaries between this or that idea, 
this or that system, this or that  morality, is a favourite literate game. 
But I think it has served its purpose.  Let's mix things up a little more, 
focusing on what we have in common rather  than where we differ; trying to 
find a way forward that balances the benefits  that each cybernetic vortex can 
offer while also seeking to offset its ill  effects. And then look to the 
kids to make it happen.

That  sounds to me like a truly revolutionary program.

(All of the above offered with the utmost respect for  the pleasure and 
privilege of this conversation and hopefully not sounding as  bitchy as I 
sometimes feel...)

Thanks for listening,
John Sobol



iDC  -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity  
iDC at mailman.thing.net

List  Archive:

iDC Photo  Stream:

RSS  feed:

iDC Chat on  Facebook:

Share  relevant URLs on Del.icio.us by adding the tag iDCref

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/attachments/20090913/f3fce1f5/attachment-0001.htm 

More information about the iDC mailing list