This collusion between images and life, between the screen and daily life, can be experienced everyday in the most ordinary manner. Especially in America, not the least charm of which is that even outside the cinemas the whole country is cinematographic. You cross the desert as if in a western; the metropolis is a continual screen of signs and formulae. Life is a travelling shot, a kinetic, cinematic, cinematographic sweep. There is as much pleasure in this as in those Dutch or Italian towns where, upon leaving the museum, you rediscover a town in the very image of the paintings, as if it had stepped out of them. It is a kind of miracle which, even in a banal American way, gives rise to a sort of aesthetic form, to an ideal confusion which transfigures life, as in a dream. Here, cinema does not take on the exceptional form of a work of art, even a brilliant one, but invests the whole of life with a mythical ambience. Here it becomes truly exciting. This is why the idolatry of stars, the cult of Hollywood idols, is not a media pathology but a glorious form of the cinema, its mythical transfiguration, perhaps the last great myth of our modernity. Precisely to the extent that the idol no longer represents anything but reveals itself as a pure, impassioned, contagious image which effaces the difference between the real being and its assumption into the imaginary.
All these considerations an· a hit wild, but that is because they correspond lo the· unrestrained film buff that I am and have always wished to remain -- that is in a sense uncultured and fascinated. There is a kind of primal pleasure, of anthropological joy in images, a kind of brute fascination unencumbered by aesthetic, moral, social or political judgements. It is because of this that I suggest they are immoral, and that their fundamental power lies in this immorality.
This brute fascination for images, above and beyond all moral or social determination, is also not that of dreaming or the imaginary, understood in the traditional sense. Other images, such as those in painting, drawing, theatre or architecture, have been better able to make us dream or imagine; other modes of expression as well (undoubtedly language makes us dream better than the image). So there is something more than that which is peculiar to our modern media images: if they fascinate us so much it is not because they are sites of the production of meaning and representation -- this would not be new -- it is on the contrary because they are sites of the disappearance of meaning and representation, sites in which we are caught quite apart from any judgement of reality, thus sites of a fatal strategy of denegation of the real and of the reality principle.
We have arrived at a paradox regarding the image, our images, those which unfurl upon and invade our daily life -- images whose proliferation, it should be noted, is potentially infinite, whereas the extension of meaning is always limited precisely by its end, by its finality: from the fact that images ultimately have no finality and proceed by total contiguity, infinitely multiplying themselves according to an irresistihle epidemic process which no one today can conLrnl, our world has become Lruly infinite, or rather exponential by means of images. It is caught up in a mad pursuit of images, in an ever greater fascination which is only accentuated by video and digital images. We have thus come to the paradox that these images describe the equal impossibility of the real and of the imaginary.
For us the medium, the image medium, has imposed itself between the real and the imaginary, upsetting the balance between the two, with a kind of fatality which has its own logic. I call this a fatal process in the sense that there is a definitive immanence of the image, without any possible transcendent meaning, without any possible dialectic of history -- fatal also in the sense not merely of an exponential, linear unfolding of images and messages but of an exponential enfolding of the medium around itself. The fatality lies in this endless enwrapping of images (literally: without end, without destination) which leaves images no other destiny than images. The same thing happens everywhere today, when production has no destiny apart from production overdetermination of production by itself -- when sex has no destiny other than sex -- sexual overdetermination of sexuality. This process may be found everywhere today, for better and for worse. In the absence of rules of the game, things become caught up in their own game: images become more real than the real; cinema itself becomes more cinema than cinema, in a kind of vertigo in which (to return to our initial problem, that of resemblance) it does no more than resemble itself and escape in its own logic, in the very perfection of its own model.
I am thinking of those exact, scrupulous set pieces such as Chinatown. The Day of the Condor. Barry Lyndon, 1900. All the President Men, the very perfection of which is disturbing. It is as if we were dealing with p1·rfl'd remakes, with extraordinary montages which belong more to a combinatory process (or mosaic in the McLuhanesque sense), with large photo, kino or historic-synthetic machines, rather than with real films. Let us be clear: their quality is not in question. The problem is rather that they leave us somehow totally indifferent.
Take The Last Picture Show. You need only be sufficiently distracted, as I was, to see it as a 1950s original production: a good film of manners and the ambience of small town America, etc. A slight suspicion: it was a littll' too good, better adjusted, better than the others, without the sentimental, moral and psychologica I tics of the films of that period. Astonishment at the discovery that it is a 1970s film, perfectly nostalgic, brand new, retouched, a hyperrealist. restitution of a 50s film. There is talk of remaking silent films, doubtless better than those of the period. A whole generation of films is appearing which will be to those we have known what the android is to man: marvellous, flawless artifacts, dazzling simulacra which lack only an imaginary and that particular hallucination which makes cinema what it is. Most of those that we see today (the best) are already of this order. Barry Lyndon is the best example: no better has been made, no better
will be made, but what exactly? Evocation? No, not even evocation but simulation. All the toxic· radiation has been filtered out, all the ingredients are present in precise doses, not in single mistake.
Cool, cold pleasure which is not even aesthetic properly speaking: functional pleasure, equational pleasure, pleasure of machination. We need only think of Visconti (The Leopard, Senso, etc., which recall Barry Lyndon in certain respects) in order to grasp the difference, not only in style but in the cinematographic act. With Visconti, there is meaning, history, a sensual rhetoric, dead moments, a passionate game, not only in the historical content but in the direction. None of that with Kubrick, who controls his film like a chessboard, and makes history an operational scenario. Nor does this refer back to the old opposition between finesse and geometry: there meaning was still in play, meaning was at stake. Whereas we are entering into an era of films which no longer have meaning properly speaking, large synthetic machines with variable geometry.
Is there already something of this in Sergio Leone's westerns? Perhaps. All registers tend in this direction. Chinatown is the detective story redesigned by laser. It is not really a question of perfection. Technical perfection can belong to the meaning, and in this case it is neither nostalgic nor hyperrealist; it is an effect of art. Here, it is an effect of model: it is one of the tactical reference values. In the absence of any real syntax of meaning there are only tactical values in a complex whole in which, for example, the CIA as an all-purpose mythological machine, Robert Redford as a polyvalent star, social relations as necessary references to history, and technical virtuosity as a necessary reference to cinema are all admirably combined.
Cinema and its trajectory: from the most fantastic or mythical to the realistic and hyperrealistic.
In its present endeavours cinema increasingly approaches, with ever incrc·asing perfection, absolute reality: in its banality, in its veracity, in its starkness, in its tedium. and al the same time in its pretentiousness, in its pretentiousness to be the real, the immediate, the unsignified, which is the maddest of enterprises (in the same way that the pretention of functionalist desig-n to designate, as the highest degree of the object, the form in which it coincides with its function, its use-value, is properly an insane enterprise). No culture has ever had this naive and paranoiac, this puritanical and terrorist vision of signs. Terrorism is always of the real. Simultaneous with this attempt at absolute coincidence with the real, cinema also approaches an absolute coincidence with itself. This is not contradictory : it is the very definition of the hyperreal. Hypotyposis and specularity. Cinema plagiarises and copies itself, remakes its classics, retroactivates its original myths, remakes silent films more perfect than the originals, de. All this is logical. Cinema is fascinated by itself as a lost object just as it (and we) are fascinated by the real as a referential in perdition. Previously there was a living, dialectical, full and dramatic relationship between cinema and the imaginary (that is, novelistic, mythical unreallity, even down to the delirious use of its own technique). Today, there is an inverse negative relation between the cinema and reality: it's results from the loss of specificity which both have suffered. Cold collage, cool promiscuity, asexual engagement of two cold media which evolve in asymptotic line towards 0ne another : cinema attempting to abolish ilslelf in the absolute of reality, the real already long absorbed in cinematographic (or televised) hyperreality.
THE EVIL DEMON OF IMAGES / Jean Baudrillard/Published by The Power Institute of Fine Arts /Printer Maxwell Printing 862 Elizabeth Street Waterloo 2017
Apropos the cinema and images in general (media images, technological images), I would like to conjure up the perversity of the relation between the image and it's referent, the supposed real; the virtual and irreversible confusion of the sphere of images and the sphere of a reality whose nature we are less and less able to grasp. There are many modalities of this absorption, this confusion, this diabolical seduction of images. Above all, it is the reference principle of images which must be doubted, this strategy by means of which they always appear to refer to a real world, to real objects, and to reproduce something which is logically and chronologically anterior to themselves. None of this is true. As simulacra, images precede the real to the extent that they invert the causal and logical order of the real and its reproduction. Benjamin, in his essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', already pointed out strongly this modern revolution in the order of production (of reality, of meaning) by the precession, the anticipation of it's reproduction.
It is precisely when it appears most truthful, most faithful and most in conformity to reality that the image is most diabolical -and our technical images, whether they be from photography, cinema or television, are in the overwhelming majority much more 'figurative', 'realist', than all the images from past cultures.
It is in its resemblance, not only analogical but technological, that the image is most immoral and most perverse.
The appearance of the mirror already introduced into the world of perception an ironical effect of
"trompe-I'oeil, and we know what malefice was attached to the appearance of doubles. But this is also true of all the images which surround us: in general, they are analysed according· to their value as representations, as media of presence and meaning. The immense majority of present day photographic, cinematic and television images are thought to bear witness to the world with a naive resemblance and a touching fidelity. We have spontaneous confidence in their realism. We are wrong. They only seem to resemble things, to resemble reality, events, faces. Or rather, they really do conform, but their conformity itself is diabolical.
We can find a sociological, historical and political equivalent to this diabolical conformity, to this evil demon of conformity, in the modern behaviour of the masses who are also very good at complying with the models offered to them, who are very good at reflecting the objectives imposed on them, thereby absorbing and annihilating them. There is in this conformity a force of seduction in the literal sense of the word, a force of diversion, distortion, capture and ironic fascination. There is a kind of fatal strategy of conformity.
orA recent example may be found in Woody Allen's film, Zelig: in trying to be oneself, to cultivate difference and originality, one ends up resembling everyone and no longer seducing anyone. This is the logic of present day psychological conformity. Zelig, on the other hand, is launched on an adventure of total seduction, in an involuntary strategy of global seduction: he begins to resemble everything which approaches him, everything which surrounds him. Nor is this the mimetic violence of defiance or parody, it is mimetic non-violence of seduction. To begin to resemble the other, to take on their appearance, is to seduce them, since it is to make them enter the realm of metamorphosis despite themselves.
This seductive force, this fatal strategy, is a kind of animal genie or talent - not simply that of the chameleon, which is only its anecdotal form. It is not the conformism of animals which delights us; on the contrary, animals are never conformist, they are seductive, they always appear to result from a metamorphosis. Precisely because they are not individuals, they pose the enigma of their resemblance. If an animal knows how to conform, it is not to its own being, its own individuality (banal strategy), but to appearances in the world. This is what Zelig does too with his animal genie -- he is polymorphous (but not perverse); he is incapable of functional adaptation to contexts, which is true conformism, our conformism, but able to seduce by the play of resemblance. Savages do no less when they put on the successive masks of their gods, when they 'become' their successive divinities -- this is also to seduce them. It is of course against this strategy of seduction that psychiatry struggles, and it is what gives rise to the magical infatuation of the crowds for Zelig (in German, Selig means 'blessed').
The remarkable thing about this film is that it leads astray all possible interpretations. There is thus also a seduction of interpretation, with the complicity of certain intellectuals, as well as a polymorphous montage technique which allows it to ironically adapt to all possibililities.
More generally, the image is interesting not only in its role as reflection, mirror, representation of, or counterpart to, the real, but also when it begins to contaminate reality and to model it, when it only conforms to reality the better to distort it, or better still: when it appropriates reality for its own ends, when it anticipates it to the point that the real no longer has time to be produced as such.
It is not only daily life which has become cinematographic and tele-visual, but war as well. It has been said that war is the continuation of politics by other means; we can also say that images, media images, are the continuation of war by other means. Take Apocalypse Now. Coppola made his film the same way the Americans conducted the war-in this sense, it is the best possible testimony -- with the same exaggeration, the same excessive means, the same monstrous candour ... and the same success. War as a trip, a technological and psychedelic fantasy; war as a succession of special effects, the war become film well before it was shot; war replaced by technological testing. For the Americans, it was above all the latter: a test site, an enormous field on which to test their weapons, their methods, their power.
Coppola does the same thing: he tests the power of intervention of cinema, tests the impact of cinema become a vast machine of special effects. In this sense his film is very much the prolongation of war by other means, the completion of that incomplete war, its apotheosis. War becomes film, film becomes war, the two united by their mutual overflow of technology.
The real war was conducted by Coppola in the manner of Westmoreland. Leaving aside the clever irony of napalming Philippino forests and villages to recreate the hell of South Vietnam, everything is replayed, begun again through cinema: the Molochian joy of the shoot, the sacrificial joy of so many millions spent, of such a holocaust of means, of so many difficulties, and the dazzling paranoia in the mind of the creator who, from the beginning, conceived this film as a world historical event for which the Vietnam war would have been no more than a pretext, would ultimately not have existed and we cannot deny it: 'in itself the Vietnam war never happened, perhaps it was only a dream, a baroque dream of napalm and the tropics, a psycho-tropic dream in which the issue was not politics or victory but the sacrificial, excessive deployment of a power already filming itself as it unfolds, perhaps expecting nothing more than consecration by a superfilm, which perfects the war's function as a mass spectacle.
No real distance, no critical direction, no desire for any 'raised consciousness' in relation to the war: in a sense this is the brutal quality of the film, not to be undermined by any anti-war moral psychology. Coppola may very well dress up his helicopter captain in a cavalry hat and have him wipe out a Vietnamese village to the sound of Wagner - these are not critical, distant signs; they are immersed in the machinery, part of the special effect. Coppola makes films in the same manner, with the same nostalgic megalomania, with the same non-signifying fury, the same magnified Punch and Judy effect. One can ask, how is such a horror possible (not the war, properly speaking, but that of the film)? But there is no response, no possible judgement. The No real distance, no critical direction, no desire for any 'raised consciousness' in relation to the war: in a sense this is the brutal quality of the film, not to be undermined by any anti-war moral psychology. Coppola may very well dress up his helicopter captain in a cavalry hat and have him wipe out a Vietnamese village to the sound of Wagner - these are not critical, distant signs; they are immersed in the machinery, part of the special effect. Coppola makes films in the same manner, with the same nostalgic megalomania, with the same non-signifying fury, the same magnified Punch and Judy effect. One can ask, how is such a horror possible (not the war, properly speaking, but that of the film)? But there is no response, no possible judgement. The Vietnam war and the film are cut from the same cloth, nothing separates them: this film is part of the war. If the Americans (apparently) lost the other, they have certainly won this one. Apocalypse Now is a global victory. It has a cinematographic power equal and superior to that of the military and industrial complexes, of the Pentagon and governments. Nothing is understood in relation to war or cinema (at least the latter) unless one has grasped this indistinguishability -- which is not the ideological or moral indistinguishability of good and evil, but that of the reversibility of destruction and production, of the immanence of something in its very revolution, of the organic metabolism of every technology, from carpet bombing to film stock ...
As for the anticipation of reality by images, the precession of images and media in relation to events, such that the connection between cause and effect becomes scrambled and it becomes impossible to tell which is the effect of the other -what better example than the nuclear accident at Harrisburg, a 'real' incident which happened just after the release of The China Syndrome? This film is a fine example of the supremacy of the televised event over the nuclear event which itself remains improbable and in some sense imaginary.
Moreover, the film unintentionally shows this: it is the intrusion of TV into the reactor which as it were triggers the nuclear incident - because it is the anticipation and model of it in the day to day world: telefission of the real and of the real world -- because TV and information in general are a kind of catastrophe in Rene Thom's formal, topological sense: a radical, qualitative change in an entire system. Or rather, TV and nuclear power are of the same kind: behind the 'hot' and negentropic concepts of energy and information, they have the same dissuasive force as cold systems. TV is also a nuclear, chain-reactive process, but implosive: it cools and neutralises the meaning and energy of events. Thus, behind the presumed risk of explosion, that is, of hot catastrophe, the nuclear conceals a long, cold catastrophe - the universalation of a system of dissuasion, of deterrence.
The homology between nuclear power and television can be read directly in the images. Nothing resembles the command and control centre of the reactor more than the TV studios, and the nuclear consoles share the same imaginary as the recording and broadcasting studios. Everything happens between these two poles: the other core, that of the reactor, in principal the real core of the affair, remains concealed from us, like the real; buried and indecipherable, ultimately of no importance. The drama is acted out on the screens and nowhere else.
Harrisburg, Watergate and Network form the trilogy of The China Syndrome - an inextricable trilogy in which we cannot tell which is the effect or the symptom of the others: is the ideological argument (the Watergate effect) only the symptom of the nuclear (the Harrisburg effect) or the informational model (the Network effect)? -- is the real (Harrisburg) only the symptom of the imaginary (Network, The China Syndrome) or vice versa? Marvellous indistinguishability, ideal constellation of simulation.
The conjunction of The China Syndrome and Harrisburg haunts us. But is it so involuntary? Without examining any magical links between simulacrum and reality, it is clear that The China Svndrome is not unrelated to the 'real' accident " at Harrisburg, not by a causal logic but by those relations of contagion and unspoken analogy which link the real, models and simulacra: the induction of the nuclear incident at Harrisburg by the film corresponds, with disquieting obviousness, to the induction of the incident by TV in the film. A strange precession of a film before the real, the most astonishing we have seen: reality corresponding point by point to the simulacra, even down to the suspensive, incomplete character of the catastrophe, which is essential from the point of view of dissuasion: the real so arranged itself, in the image of the film, as to produce a simulation of catastrophe.
It is only a further step, which we should briskly take, to reverse our logical order and see The China Syndrome as the real event and Harrisburg its simulacrum. For it is by the same logic that the nuclear reality in the film follows from the television effect and Harrisburg in 'reality' follows from the cinema effect of The China Syndrome.
But the latter is not the original prototype of Harrisburg; one is not the simulacrum and the other the reality: there are only simulacra, and Harrisburg is a kind of simulation in the second degree. There is indeed a chain reaction; but it is not the nuclear chain reaction but that of the simulacra and of the simulation in which all the energy of the real is effectively engulfed, not in a spectacular nuclear explosion but in a secret and continuous implosion, which is perhaps taking a more deadly turn than all the explosions which presently lull us.
For an explosion is always a promise, it is our hope: see how much, in llw film as well as at Harrisburg, everyone cxpcepts it to go up, that destruction speak its nanw and deliver us from this unnameable panic, from this invisible nuclear panic of dissuasion. Let the 'core' of the reactor expose at last its glowing power of destruction, let it reassure us as to the admittedly catastrophic presence of energy and gratify us with its spectacle. For the problem is that there is no nuclear spectacle, no spectacle of nuclear energy in itself (Hiroshima is past): it is for this reason that it is rejected - it would be perfectly accepted if it lent itself to spectacle like earlier forms of energy. Parousia of catastrophe: substantial boost to our messianic libido.
But that will never recur. What will happen will never be explosion but implosion. Never again will we see energy in its spectacular and pathetic form - all the romanticism of explosion which had so much charm, since it was also that of revolution - but only the cold energy of simulacra and its distillation in homeopathic doses into the cold systems of information.
What else does the media dream of if not raising up events by its very presence? Everyone deplores it, but everyone is secretly fascinated by this eventuality. Such is the logic of simulacra: no longer divine predestination, but the precession of models, which is no less inexorable. And it is for this reason that events no longer have any meaning: not because they are insignificant in themselves, but because they have been preceded by models with which their own process can only coincide.
For some time now, in the dialectical relation between reality and images (that is, the relation that we wish to believe dialectical readable from the real to the image and vice versa), the image has taken over and imposed ils own immanent, ephemeral logic; an immoral logic without depth, beyond good and evil, beyond truth and falsity; a logic of' the extermination of its own referent, a logic of' the implosion of meaning- in which the message disappears on the horizon of the medium. In this regard, we all remain incredibly naive : we always look for a good usage of the image, that is to say a moral, meaningful, pedagogic or informational usage, without seeing that the image in a sense revolts against this good usage, that it is the conductor neither of meaning nor good intentions, but on the contrary of an implosion, a denegation of meaning (of events, history, memory, etc.). I am reminded of Holocaust, the television series on the concentration camps ...
Forgetting the extermination is part of the extermination itself. That forgetting, however, is still too dangerous and must be replaced by an artificial memory (everywhere, today, it is artificial memories which obliterate people's memories, which obliterate people from memory). This artificial memory replays the extermination -but too late for it to profoundly unsettle anything, and above all it does so via a medium which is itself cold, radiating oblivion, dissuasion and extermination in an even more systematic manner, if this is possible, than the camps themselves. TV, the veritable final solution to the historicity of every event. The Jews are recycled not through the crematory ovens or the gas chambers but through the sound track and images, through the cathode tube and the microchip. Forgetting, annihilation thereby achieves at last an aesthetic dimension -- nostalgia gives them their final finish.
Henceforth, " everyone knows". everyone has trembled before the extermination-- a sure sign that "it" will never happen again. But in effect what is thus exorcised so cheaply, at the cost of a few tears, will never recur because it is presently happening in the very form through which it is denounced, through the very medium of this supposed exorcism: television. The same process of forgetting, of liquidation, of extermination, the same annihilation of memories and of history, the same inverse, implosive radiation, the same absorption without trace, the same black hole as Auschwitz. They want us to believe that TV will remove the mortgage of Auschwitz by raising collective consciousness, whereas it is the perpetuation of it in a different guise, under the auspices not of a site of annihilation but a medium of dissuasion.
What everyone fails to understand is that Holocaust is above all (and exclusively) a televised event or rather object (McLuhan's fundamental rule which must not be forgotten). That is to say, it is an attempt to reheat a cold historical event - tragic but cold, the first great event of cold systems, those cooling systems of dissuasion and extermination which were subsequently deployed in other forms (including the Cold War, etc.) and in relation to the cold masses (the Jews no longer even concerned by their own death, eventually self-managing it, no longer even masses in revolt: dissuaded unto death, dissuaded even of their own death). To reheat this cold event via a cold medium, television, for masses who are themselves cold, who will only find in it the occasion for a tactile chill and a posthumous emotion, a dissuasive shiver, which sends them into oblivion with a kind of aesthetic good faith.
The cold light of television is inoffensive to the imagination (even that of children) since it no longer carries any imaginary, for the simple reason that it is no longer an image.
In this sense the TV image has to he placed in opposition to the cinema, which still carries an intense imaginary. Although it is contaminated more and more by TV, the cinema is still an image - that means not only a screen and a visual form but a myth, something - that belongs to the sphere of the double, the phantasm, the mirror, the dream, etc... Nothing - of that in the TV image, which doesn't suggest anything and has a magnetic effect. The TV image is only a screen. More than that: a miniaturized terminal located in your head and you are the screen and the TV looks at you, goes through you like a magnetic tape - a tape, not an image.
Thus, properly speaking it is Holocaust the television film which constitutes the definitive holocaust event. Likewise, with The Day After it is not the atomic conflict depicted in the film but the film itself which is the catastrophic event.
Thus, properly speaking it is Holocaust the television film which constitutes the definitive holocaust event. Likewise, with The Day After it is not the atomic conflict depicted in the film but the film itself which is the catastrophic event.
Is it a bad film? Certainly. But isn't it rather that all this is unimaginable? Isn't it rather that, in our imaginary, nuclear conflict is a total event, without appeal and with no tomorrow, whereaes, here it simply brings about a regression of the human race according- to the worst naive stereotypes of savagery'? But we already know that state, indeed we have barely left it. Our desire is rather for somdhing· which no longer takes place on a human scale, for some anterior or ulterior mystery: what wiil the earth be like when we are no longer on it? In a word, we dream of our disappearance, and of seeing the world in its inhuman purity (which is precisely not the state of nature).
But these limits, these extreme:; that we imagine, this catastrophe - can it be metaphorised in images? It is not certain that its mythical evocation is possible, any more than that of our bio-molecular destiny or that of the genetic code, which is the other dimension, the corollary of the nuclear. We can no longer be affected by it -proof that we have already been irradiated! Already to our minds the catastrophe is no more than a comic strip. Its filmic projection is only a diversion from the real nuclearisation of our lives. The real nuclear catastrophe has already happened, it happens every day, and this film is part of it. It is it which is our catastrophe. It does not represent it, it does not evoke it, on the contrary it shows that it has already happened, that it is already here, since it is impossible to imagine.
For all these reasons I do not believe in a pedagogy of images, nor of cinema, nor a fortiori in one of television. I do not believe in a dialectic between image and reality, nor therefore, in respect of images, in a pedagogy of message and meaning. The secret of the image (we are still speaking of contemporary, technical images) must not be sought in its differentiation from reality, and hence in its reprensentative value (aesthetic, critical or dialectical), but on the contrary in its 'telescoping' into reality, its shortcircuit with reality, and finally, in the implosion of image and reality. For us there is an increasingly definitive lack of differentiation between image and reality which no longer leaves room for representation as such.
to be continued...
THE EVIL DEMON OF IMAGES / Jean Baudrillard/Published by The Power Institute of Fine Arts /Printer Maxwell Printing 862 Elizabeth Street Waterloo 2017
'Cinema Fou' - Felix Guattari
Felix Guattari: What seems interesting to me with regard to this film, Badlands [1973, by Terence Malick], is that it shows us a story of amour iou, which is precisely what the critics did not see. I think that this makes people nervous. There are color elements, of blue, that are really agonizing throughout. It is a film about mad love and people refuse to accept these two dimensions of love and madness in combination. If there weren't all the murders, everything that makes one compare the film to Billy the Kid, The Wild Bunch, Bonnie and Clyde, etc., this would be an avant-garde film and it wouldn't get shown anywhere. In fact, the story is only there to support a schizophrenic journey. At every turn, we are on the edge of madness. It is this constant crossing of borders that seems perfectly conveyed to me. What the critics retained, in short, was the idea that this guy gets unhinged by dint of imitating James Dean. But things don't happen like that at all. The first thing that one has to realize is that the boy, Kit, should never be separated from the girl, Holly. They make up a sort of double arrangement. Certain behaviors of Holly belong to the schizo-process of Kit, although she herself is not schizophrenic. Conversely, certain behaviors of Kit belong to the completely avenge, normal world of Holly. Hence, it's absolutely impossible to separate the normal and the pathological. What is paradoxical is that the entire film is built around the idea that the guy is not really mad. The proof is that he goes to the electric chair. And yet, his madness, the fact that he has a screw loose, etc., is constantly alluded to. For her part, Holly is presented as a steady girl. For example, she says: ''I'll never let myself get carried away with another daredevil again." Second negation after madness: love. We are shown a love story which is totally beyond stereotypes, a kind of extraordinary schizo love. For example, when Kit has just lulled Holly's father, she says to him, "Don't worry," and gives him a small slap that is both nagging and reassuring. Or again when they flick for the first time, Kit pretends to smash his hand, a typical schizo act. She tells him: "You're making fun of me, you don't care how I feel." But his indifference is only apparent; one senses he is so sure of his love that it never occurs to him to doubt her. It is only at the end of the film, when she ends up leaving him, that there is this very beautiful scene in which he angrily threatens to shoot her. But finally, he makes an imaginary rendezvous with her knowing full well he'll not see her again.
There are two ways of considering the world of schizo-desire: the infrapersonal level of desiring-machines-how the world is organized with systems of intensity of colors, impressions, appearances-and the suprapersonal level, in direct contact with the socius.
I picked out several elements in these two categories. The moment when he hits a can of food in the street, the moment when he's in love, and the moment when he listens to seashells and sees Holly coming as a white form. All this remains sort of "normal." But there is also the moment when he shoots at the fish, or shoots at the balloon, or shoots at the tires, and a series of completely bizarre behaviors such as the theme of the stones that one finds throughout the film. There are also explicitly crazy acts, acts of agony: when he kills Holly's father and puts his body in the basement, he takes up a toaster that reappears several times in the film; when he puts Cato's body in a cool place and begins turning round and round in a sort of military march with completely discordant gestures; and finally, when he makes a record and then burns it.
There are also scenes of schizo humor. At one moment he says: "We could have stopped the train by putting the car in front." And then there is this incredible scene when he locks up the two guys who come into Cato's house by accident. He shoots twice and says: "You think I got 'em? I don't want to know." Another high point of the film, in my opinion, is when, refering to the owner of a villa whom he has shut up with a deaf person, he says: "They were lucky, these two." At that point one realizes that, in fact, he remembers every detail, that he is not at all confused.
Another very important theme is the loss of objects. It begins in the closed off family circle, and then assumes a cosmic perspective when some objects float toward the sky in a balloon, when he buries other objects in the ground so that they can be found a few hundred years later. When things begin to go badly for him, Kit looks at other objects that he has kept in a suitcase and says to someone: "You can take them." He keeps a children's book. At the end of the film, he gives away his pencil, his pen, etc. It is like an expanding universe. It goes in every direction, this really is a schizo thing. All the coordinates, all the values explode all over the place. This starts with the fire which is a kind of schizo jouissance as well, a desire for annihilation.
Now, let us take some examples in the domain I called the suprapersonal level, in direct contact with the socius. The characters, for example, make reflections of the kind: "You see, we've made waves, the two of us." It is clear that what they are aiming at, then, is the stupidity of society, the stupidity of the police. It is the whole James Dean dimension, the whole paranoid dimension. He dumps on us all the trash about bounty hunters, the Commies, the atomic bomb ... Same thing when he reconstructs a camp, like one in Vietnam, when he speaks in the cassette recorder: one must follow the elders, etc. Completely reactionary ...
Liberation: You say «he is schizo, "you say «he is reactionary. "
Felix Guattari: Schizo or paranoid, its of little importance; he is reactionary as soon as he enters the field of dominant significations. At the level of intensities, where you don't know if you are man, woman, plant, or whatever, you stand directly in relations of desire, the relations of love with Holly. One no longer knows who is who, or who speaks to whom. Everything becomes an interrelational fabric-the eyes, the machines, the gestures. At the level of asignifYing connections that escape the everyday world, one identifies something, one says to oneself: "Here is a funny thing; yes, well, I didn't see it," and then one goes on to something else. At the level where significations solidifY-"l am a cop; I am a man; you are a woman, hence you do not drive; you are a cop, I shoot you face-to-face; you are a bounty hunter, I shoot you from behind" -there are double-entry tables that serve to classifY all people and roles. At this moment he is completely reactionary. He organizes his whole life in exact symmetry with the girl's father; he is as much of a bastard as the girl's father or the police. The schizo is an individual who can be in direct contact with the unconscious in the social field, but who can also function in a paranoid mode, openly seeing through the stupidity of the police: "You are so proud to have arrested me, you think you're heroes." He understands immediately. He is in the unconscious of others. He deciphers American society. Because in reality, he does not take himself at all for James Dean. It is the police, in fact ...
Liberation: Yes, twice he is compared to James Dean. It is the girl at the beginning who says: "lliked him because he made me think of James Dean. " It is the cops in the end, after having arrested him, who say: «You are like James Dean. "
Felix Guattari: Yes, his favorite hero is I don't remember who.
Liberation: He wants to be Nat King Cole. It is not at all the same as James Dean.
Felix Guattari: He wants to sing. That is the world of crystallized people. They are grimacing, like TV stars. But as soon as you go beyond that, then it is a marine or airy world, a world of intensities. One goes there because the air is purer; it is the sand, the colors, the caresses. They say (the critics) that he treats her like an animal. That's wrong, it's an absolutely marvellous love story.
Liberation: There's another aspect of the film we have to talk about, the political aspect. The young cop who arrests him acts exactly like him.
Felix Guattari: Exactly. He arrests him, then he shoots at him just to be mean, to scare him.
Liberation: It's the same type of stupidity. At a given moment, society becomes completely crazy. Because they are on the run, sheriffi accompany the kids to school' troops guard the central bank because there are rumors that they were going to attack it. Holly says: 'It's as if we were Russians. )) It's a critique of American society.
Felix Guattari: In Night of the Living Dead there was the same mass phenomenon. Good Americans all go out with their guns and end up shooting this poor black guy who had nothing to do with anything.
Liberation: At first, one doesn't have to see this guy as being crazy.
Felix Guattari: He is no more crazy at the beginning than at the end, or he is crazy all the time, it's just the way you look at it. Amour lou is madness no matter what. He says: "Me, I can lay all the girls, I have no problem, but you are something else"; or he says: "Besides, fucking, fucking, who cares? Yeah, yeah, it was very good." He doesn't give a shit for stories about fucking. No, it is really the story of a great love. A love that goes right through people. The father's on his back? Good, well, he shoots him. Too bad, he shouldn't have been there!
Liberation: It's not like that, you're rigging the story a little. At the beginning, this guy is normal
Felix Guattari: Absolutely not normal.
Liberation: He's a poor bum, a garbage collector, and he is not so proud of it. Besides, when the girl asks him what he does, he says: 'Tm afraid to get up early in the morning, so 1 work as a garbage collector, " and then afterwards he's fired from his garbage job and works on a farm. He accepts the first job the employment agency offers him; he's the kind of guy who'll take anything, not a rebel in any way. He goes out with a girl and the father doesn't want him to go out with her because she shouldn't go out with a guy of his social class. Already there, society blunders. The father prevents him from seeing the girl. They see each other anyway. Then the father kills the girl's dog to punish her. This is the first act of madness in the film. It is the father who commits it. That's what the guy is up against. So what does he do, he goes to see the father and says to him: "Sir, I've a lot of respect for your daughter. 1 don't see why you won't let me see her, and if one day she no longer wants to see me, I'll let her go, 1 promise you, etc., " and the father tells him to piss off Then, at that point, he goes to see the girl. No one is home, he ends up entering the house, but really by chance ...
Felix Guattari: No, not at all. He says: "I figured everything out."
Liberation: He thinks the girl is there.
Felix Guattari: He is armed, and he says, "I figured everything out." It triggers a kind of infernal machine of which he is the prisoner. It ends up going badly, but he already had figured it might go badly, because of taking the risk of entering the girl's house, of packing up and leaving and all that ...
He doesn't improve. He goes to work and his boss tells him, "Youre fired! They all have guns in this film. That's where I really see the thing about American madness. There isn't a single guy who isn't armed. If he kills the fa ther, it's in self-defense, because the father says to him: "You entered my house. I'm handing you over to the police for armed robbery. " It's twenty years; he's got to kill the father.
Felix Guattari: I'm sorry, I don't agree with you. Let's be precise. He's as crazy at the beginning as at the end, neither more nor less. Madness coincides with the schizo journey, with amour fou. From the moment he sees the girl, a machine of amour fou is triggered. He manages to get fired from his job. He wants to see her again, but because she tells him, "I don't hang out with garbage collectors," he comes back with a proper job.
Liberation: He doesn't improve. He goes to work and his boss tells him, "Youre fired!
Felix Guattari: Yes, but-you understand-it's one thing if the general framework unleashes behaviors of panic, of agony, of typical madness. It's a way of making clear what is already apparent from the beginning. Remember how he behaves at the beginning: "You want shoes? A dollar! You want to eat the dead dog? Give me a cigarette?" He says this to the guy with whom he picks garbage. Is all this nothing? Is it normal? All this is of no consequence. Remember, all of a sudden, he leaves: "Oh, shit. I've worked enough for today," etc. He is crazy all the time, if one looks closely. And Holly certainly knows it. Before agreeing to leave with him, she says to herself: "I love him, but he's totally crazy! How he treats me, he's weird.
Liberation: Yes, she often says it. She says it to the rich guy; she says it to the girl he's going to kill ...
Felix Guattari: At the beginning, all this is of no consequence because nobody's bothering him. When passion and repression come along, it's a catastrophe, it's as if he had been put in an asylum. You take a guy who is a bit mad, you put him in an asylum, either you or me, and he becomes completely crazy!
Liberation: We are shown the kind of society that makes this guy totally crazy. He's crazy and he makes the society crazy, and at the same time, he's the perfect cop, he is respectful of the established orde
Felix Guattari: There, I'm sorry, one must avoid a major misinterpretation. A paranoiac is not necessarily a reactionary.
Liberation: Why is a paranoiac not a reactionary?
Felix Guattari: Because a guy who starts talking to you about Hitler, Joan of Arc, or whoever, he borrows, let's say, semiotic elements in the social field. He is no more reactionary than a kid who says: 'TIl pull the head off my little brother," or "I'll kill mum," or who will do anything to annoy you. One cannot say that he is reactionary. The paranoiac-libido is so entangled in its molecular elements with the schizo-libido that it makes no sense to divide people into good or bad, reactionary or progressive. Kids in neighborhood gangs who wear Hitlerian insignia on their backs are not fascists; fascists are White Suprematists, they are structured organisms. It's a fact that representations of the socius, reactionary representations, are conveyed both in one and in the other. You find unconscious, reactionary elements of the socius in your dreams. Sometimes you also have disgusting dreams. You look for what is most rotten in the socius, but what you select are semiotic chains that are all put together outside. This does not mean that you are a fascist or that the dream is fascist, it proves nothing.
Liberation: There is their madness, when one presses them. The father is not dead and the girl says: "Let's call the doctor. " Then he says: "No, forget it. " She says: "Yes, and I'll tell 'em what happened"-implying, of course, that if one tells what happened, nothing will happen, because when the others find out the way things happened, they'll realize he isn't guilty. And he replies: "That won't do, " i.e., in any case they won't believe it. It's the system; it doesn't quite fit your interpretation.
Felix Guattari: Yes, but I was careful to say at the beginning ...
Liberation: ... that the story was only there to make you accept the rest ...
Felix Guattari: ...because there is something that doesn't fit. Kit, after all, is a guy who's pretty together. In various circumstances, he shows that he's an excellent organizer. He panics at the scene of the first murderthat of the father-because he'd planned everything in order to leave with the girl. He took a gun, but hadn't foreseen that it might turn out like that. But then later he thinks things out in detail. There is always a bit of improvisation, but as far as the essential is concerned, nothing is left to chance. It is there that, in my opinion, the film blunders. The way the character has been defined, it's not at all obvious that he would end up shooting guys around like this, systematically. The second time with Cato is still understandable, because he is scandalized that Cato talks nonsense to him (the story of gold pieces buried in the fields, etc.). He is terribly angry, a shot is fired as happened with Holly's father. He is infuriated by all the bullshit. The other murders seem really forced to fit the story.
Liberation: You don't say it's a film about a schizo. You say it's a schizo film.
Felix Guattari: It's a schizo film. I think critics don't tolerate things like this. They have to put this somewhere.
Liberation: There is an interview with the author.
Felix Guattari: An interview? Where?
Liberation: Here, in Positif, I don't think he mentions the word "schizo" even once.
Felix Guattari: There isn't a sentence where he says the guy is crazy? He doesn't realize it himself?
Liberation: don't think so. He says: "1 thought of him and the girl as the sort of children you find in fairy tales; you see them in Huckleberry Finn, Swiss Family Robinson, and Treasure Island. They're lost in nature, they only know how to react to what is inside themselves. They do not communicate with the external world, they do not understand what others feel. Which doesn't mean they have no emotions, or that they are insensitive. "
Felix Guattari: Yes, it's really stupid, it's terrible.
(He takes Positif and glances through it.)
Felix Guattari: This interview is really revolting. Yuk! It makes me puke!
Félix Guattari - Chaosophy, Cinema Fou
Published by Semiotext(e) 2007 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 427, Los Angeles, CA 90057
The history of desire is inseparable from the history of its repression. Maybe one day a historian will try to write a history of "cinemas of desire" (the way one tells an audience who express their sentiments too excitedly to "stop their cinema"). But, at the very least, he would have to begin this history with classical antiquity! It could start with the opening of the first big theater of international renown, a theater for captive cinephiles: Plato's cave. It would have to describe the 2000 years or so of the Catholic church's monopoly of production and distribution, as well as the abortive attempts of dissident societies of production, such as the Cathar cinema of the 12th century, or the Jansenist cinema of the 17th, up to the triumph of the baroque monopoly. There would be color film in it: with 10th century stained-glass windows would be the silent cinema of the "bepowdered" and the Pierrots. A special place should be reserved for the big schools that transformed the economy of desire on a long-term basis, like that of courtly love, with its four hundred troubadours who managed to "launch" a new form of love and a new kind of woman. It would have to appreciate the devastating effects of the great consortia of romanticism and their promotion of an infantilization of love, while awaiting the saturation of the market by psychoanalytical racketeering with its standard shorts for miniaturized screens: the little cinema of transference, Oedipus, and castration.
Power can only be maintained insofar as it relies on the semiologies of signification: "No one can ignore the law." This implies that no one can ignore the meaning of words. Linguists like Oswald Ducrot insist on the fact that language is not simply an instrument of communication, but also an instrument of power. 1 The law, as the culmination of sexual, ethnic, and class struggles, etc., crystallizes in language. The "reality" imposed by the powers-that-be is conveyed by a dominant semiology. Therefore, one should not go from a principled opposition between pleasure and reality, between a principle of desire and a principle of reality, but rather, from a principle of dominant reality and a principle of licit pleasure. Desire is forced to maintain itself, as well as can be expected, in this space between reality and pleasure, this frontier that power jealously controls with the help of innumerable frontier guards: in the family, at school, in the barracks, at the workshop, in psychiatric hospitals and, of course, at the movies.
Thus, desire is so ruthlessly hunted down that it usually ends up renouncing its objects and investing itself and its guardians on these boundaries. The capitalist eros will turn into a passion for the boundary, it becomes the cop. While bumping on the all-too-explicit signs of the libido, it will take its pleasure from their hateful contemplation. "Look at this filth." It will become the gaze, the forbidden spectacle, the transgression, "without really getting into it." All the morals of asceticism and sublimation consist, in fact, of capturing the libido in order to identify and contain it within this system of limits. I don't mean, here, to oppose centralism with spontaneism, or the disciplines necessary for organizing the collectivity with the turbulence of the "natural" impulses; nor is it a matter of reducing this question to a simple case of morality or ideological strategy of dominant powers in order to better control the exploited ... The dualities morality/instinct, culture/nature, order! disorder, master/slave, centrality/democracy, etc., appear to us to be insufficient as a way of accounting for this eroticization of the limits, at least in its contemporary evolution.
The development of productive forces in industrialized societies (it is true both for capitalism and bureaucratic socialism) involves an increasing liberation of the energy of desire. The capitalist system does not function simply by putting a flux of slaves to work. It depends on modelling individuals according to its preferences and, for this purpose, to propose and impose models of desire: it puts models of childhood, fatherhood, motherhood, and love in circulation. It launches these models the same way the automobile industry launches a new line of cars. The important thing is that these models always remain compatible with the axiomatic of capital: the object of love should always be an exclusive object participating in the system of private ownership. The fundamental equation is: enjoyment possession. Individuals are modelled to adapt, like a cog, to the capitalist machine. At the heart of their desire and in the exercise of their pleasure, they have to find private ownership. They have to invest it with ideality: "production for production's sake." They can only desire the objects that the market production proposes to them; they must not only submit to the hierarchy, but even more, love it as such. To conjure up the dangers of class struggle, capitalism has tried hard to introduce a bourgeois owner into the heart of each worker. It is the prerequisite of his integration. Traditional models that attached the worker to his job, to his quarter, to his moral values, indeed to his religion (even if it be socialism) have all collapsed. The paternalistic model of the boss is no longer compatible with production, no more than that of the paterfamilias with the education of children. One now needs a deterritorialized worker, someone who does not freeze into professional experience, but who follows the progress of technology, indeed, who develops a certain creativity, a certain participation. Moreover, one needs a consumer who adapts to the evolution of the market.
For this reason, the problem raised is the transformation of traditional relations of production and other relations-familial, conjugal, educational, etc ... But if one relaxes the brakes too abruptly, then it is the machines of desire that risk flying off the handle, and breaking not only through the outdated frontiers but even the new ones the system wants to establish. The relations of production, formation, and reproduction oscillate between immobilist temptations and archaic fixations. The capitalist "solution" consists in pushing models that are at once adapted to its imperatives of standardization-i.e., that dismantle traditional territorialitiesand that reconstitute an artificial security; in other words, that modernize the archaisms and inject artificial ones. In conditions such as these, from the angle of production, the worker will be deterritorialized; from the angle of relations of production, formation, and reproduction, he will be reterritorialized.
Cinema, television, and the press have become fundamental instruments of forming and imposing a dominant reality and dominant significations. Beyond being means of communication, of transmitting information, they are instruments of power. They not only handle messages, but, above all, libidinal energy. The themes of cinema-its models, its genres, its professional castes, its mandarins, its stars-are, whether they want to be or not, at the service of power. And not only insofar as they depend directly on the financial power machine, but first and foremost, because they participate in the elaboration and transmission of subjective models. Presently, the media, for the most part, functions in the service of repression. But they could become instruments of liberation of great importance. Commercial cinema, for example, entertains a latent racism in its Westerns; it can prevent the production of films about events like those of May '68 in France; but the Super-8 and the videotape recorder could be turned into means of writing that are much more direct and much more effective than discourses, pamphlets, and brochures. As such they could contribute greatly to foiling the tyranny of the savoir-ecrire that weighs not only on the bourgeois hierarchy but which operates also among the ranks of what is traditionally called the worker movement.
Beyond the signifier, beyond the illusion of a permanent reality. It's not a speculative option, but an affirmation: all reality is dated, historically, and socially situated. The order of the real has nothing to do with destiny; one can change it. Let us consider three modern currents of thought, vehicles of three systems of signification: totalitarian systems, psychoanalysis, and structuralism. In each case, there is a certain keystone on which the organization of the dominant reality converges. A signifier dominates every statement of a totalitarian power, a leader, a church, or God. By right, all desire must converge upon it. No one can remain with impunity across "the line" or outside the church. But this type of libidinal economy centered on a transcendent object no longer corresponds exactly to the necessities of modern production, and it tends to be replaced by a more flexible system in developed capitalist countries. In order to form a worker, one must start in the cradle, discipline his Oedipal development within the family, follow him to school, to sports, to the cinema, and all the way to the juke-box.
Psychoanalysis, while borrowing its own model from this traditional type of libidinal economy, has refined and "molecularized" it. It has put to task new types of less obvious objects-objects that anyone can buy, so to speak. These objects are supposed to overcode all the enonces of desire: the phallus and the partial objects-breast, shit, etc ... From then on, the despotism of the signifier no longer tends to concentrate on a leader or a God and to express itself on the massive scale of an empire or a church, but on that of the family itself reduced to a state of triangularity. The struggle between the sexes, generations, and social classes has been reduced to the scale of the family and the self. The machine of familial power, rectified by psychoanalysis, functions by means of two primary parts: the symbolic phallus and castration, instruments of the alienation of woman and child. One recalls the tyrannical interrogation of Little Hans by his father under the supervision of Professor Freud. But before that, the mother's resistance must be subdued, compelling her to submit to psychoanalytical dogma. In fact, it never crosses her mind to object to her son's coming to join her in bed whenever he wants. The mother becoming the agent of phallic power, the attack on childhood is concentrated on the question of masturbation. One does not accuse him directly of masturbating; one imposes upon him the good, "castrating" explanation with regard to this question. One forces him to incorporate a particular system of signification: "What you desire-we know this better than you-is to sleep with your mother and to kill your father."
The importance of submitting the child to the Oedipian code-and this at an early age-does not result from a structural or signifying effect, separate from history or society. It depends on capitalism's inability to fi-nd other ways of providing the family with an artificial consistency. In archaic societies, the child was relatively free in his movements until his initiation. But in a capitalist society, initiation begins with the pacifier: the motherchild relationship tends to be more and more strictly controlled by psychologists, psychoanalysts, educators, etc. In its older formulation, power was maintained as a paradigmatic series-fatherboss-king, etc., culnlinating in a discernible, incarnate, and institutionalized God. In its present formulation, incarnation is deterritorialized and decentered. It is everywhere and nowhere, and it depends on family models to arrange a refuge for it. But in their turn, the diverse psychoanalytic models of Oedipal triangulation appear too territorialized with regard to parental images and partial objects. Much more abstract, much more mathematical models of the unconscious have to be proposed.
Structuralism in psychoanalysis-as in other domains-can be thought of as an attempt to substitute a nameless God for the God of the church and the family. It proposes a transcendent model of subjectivity and desire that would be independent of history and real social struggle. From that moment, the conflict of ideas tends to be displaced anew. It leaves the psychoanalytical terrain of the family and the self for that of the semiotic and its applications in mass media. I cannot undertake here a critical analysis of structuralism; I only want to point out that, to my mind, such a critique should start by questioning the syncretic conception of the diverse modes of encoding. It seems to me indispensable, first of all, to avoid absorbing "natural" encodings, such as the genetic code, into human semiologies. One entertains the illusion that the "natural" order as well as that of the social arrangements (like structures of kinship) would be structured "like languages." Thus, one confuses the modes of encoding that I call asemiotic-like music, painting, mathematics, etc.-with those of speech and writing. Second, it seems necessary to distinguish between the presignifYing semiologies-for example, of archaic societies, the insane, and childrenand fully signifYing semiologies of modern societies that are all overcoded in the writing of social and economic laws. In primitive societies, one expresses oneself as much by speech as by gestures, dances, rituals, or signs marked on the body. In industrialized societies, this richness of expression is attenuated; all enonces have to be translatable to the language that encodes dominant meanings.
It is also important to expose and insist on the independence of an asignifYing semiotics. It is this, in fact, that will allow us to understand what permits cinema to escape the semiologies of meaning and to participate in the collective arrangements of desire.
If structuralism refuses to consider this independence, there can be no question of leaving the domain of signification-i.e., the signifier-signified duality. It tries, moreover, to systematically inject meaning into all signifying regimes that tend to escape it. (It will invent "relational significations" for science or, for the cinema, the unities of "iconomatic" significations, etc.) In putting the signifier and the signifying chains in the forefront, it substantiates the idea of keeping the contents at a secondary level. But, in fact, it secretly transfers the normalizing power of language onto the signifier. Hence, in masking the possible creativity of asignifying semiotic machines, structuralism plays into an order tied down to dominant significations.
When it is exploited by capitalist and bureaucratic socialist powers to mold the collective imaginary, cinema topples over to the side of meaning. Yet, its own effectiveness continues to depend on its presignifying symbolic components as well as its asignifying ones: linkages, internal movements of visual images, colors, sounds, rhythms, gestures, speech, etc. But unlike the speech and writing that, for hundreds, indeed, thousands of years, has remained pretty much the same as a means of expression, cinema has, in a few decades, never ceased to enrich its technique. In this way, to catch up with these effects, the powers-that-be have tried to increase the control they exercise upon it. The more it enlarges its scale of aesthetic intensities, the more the systems of control and censure have tried to subjugate it to signifying semiologies.
As an asignifying semiotic, how does cinema go beyond the structure of signifying semiologies? Christian Metz explains it better than I can; he shows that cinema is not a specialized language and that its matter of content3 is undefined: "the breadth of its semantic fabric is a consequence of two distinct causes whose effects are cumulative. On the one hand, cinema encompasses a code-language, in the talkies-whose presence itself would be enough to authorize semantic information of the most varied type. Second, other elements of the filmic text, for example, images, are themselves languages whose matter of content has no precise boundaries." Its matter of content extends so much more effectively beyond traditional encodings, since the semiotic alloy that composes its matter of expression is itself open to multiple systems of external intensities.
Its matters of expression are not fixed. They go in different directions. Christian Metz enumerates some of them, emphasizing that each has an intrinsic system of pertinent features:
1) the phonic fabric of expression, that refers to spoken language (signifying semiology);
2) the sonorous but nonphonic fabric that refers to instrumental music (asignifying semiotic);
3) the visual and colored fabric that refers to painting (mixed, symbolic, and asignifying semiotic);
4) the noncolored, visual fabric that refers to black and white photography (mixed, symbolic, and asignifying semiotic);
5) the gestures and movements of the human body, etc. (symbolic semiologies).
Umberto Eco had already pointed out that cinema does not bend to a system of double articulation, and that this had even led him to try to find a third articulation. But, doubtless, it is preferable to follow Metz who believes that cinema escapes all systems of double articulation, and, in my opinion, all elementary systems of significative encoding. The meanings in cinema are not directly encoded in a machine of intersecting syntagmatic and paradigmatic axes-they always come to it, secondarily, from external constraints that model it. If silent film, for example, had succeeded in expressing the intensities of desire in relation to the social field in a way that was much more immediate and authentic than that of the talkies, it was not because it was less expressive, but because the signifying script had not yet taken possession of the image and because, in these conditions, capitalism had not yet seized all the advantages it could take from it. The successive inventions of the talkies, of color, of television, etc., insofar as they enriched the possibilities of expressing desire, have led capitalism to take possession of cinema, and to use it as a privileged instrument of social control.
It is interesting, in this respect, to consider the extent to which television has not only not absorbed cinema, but has even subjected itself to the formula of commercial film, whose power, for this very reason, has never been so strong. In these conditions, the stakes of liberalizing pornographic film seem secondary to me. One remains here at the level of a sort of "negotiation" with the contents that do not really threaten the established powers. On the contrary, these powers find it expedient to release the ballast on a terrain that does not threaten the foundations of established order. It would be completely different if the masses were at liberty to make the kind of film they wanted, whether pornographic or not. The miniaturization of material could become a determining factor in such an evolution.5 The creation of private television channels by cable should be a decisive test; in fact, nothing guarantees us that what will develop, from the standpoint of the economy of desire, will not be even more reactionary than what is broadcast by national television. Whatever it is, it seems to me that all that tends toward limiting micropolitical struggles of desire to an eros cut off from all context is a trap. And this doesn't just hold true for the cinema.
The capitalist eros, we said, is always invested on the limit between a licit pleasure and a codified interdiction. It proliferates alongside the law; it makes itself the accomplice of what is forbidden; it channels the libido to the forbidden object that it only touches on superficially. This economy of transgression polarizes the desiring-production in a game of mirrors that cut it from all access to the real and catches it in phantasmic representations. In this way, desiring-production never ceases to be separated from social production. Fantasized desire and the capitalist real which convert desire to "useful" work involve, apparently, two different types of arrangements. In fact, they involve two politics of desire that are absolutely complementary: a politics of reenclosure on the person, the self, the appropriation of the other, hierarchy, exploitation, etc., and a politics of passive acceptance of the world such as it is.
Against the notions of eros and eroticism, I would like to oppose those of desire and desiring-energy. Desire is not, like eros, tied down with the body, the person, and the law; it is no more dependent on the shameful body-with its hidden organs and its incestuous taboothan to a fascination with and to myths about the nude body, the all powerful phallus, and sublimation. Desire is constituted before the crystallization of the body and the organs, before the division of the sexes, before the separation between the familiarized self and the social field. It is enough to observe children, the insane, and the primitive without prejudice in order to understand that desire can make love with humans as well as with flowers, machines, or celebrations. It does not respect the ritual games of the war between the sexes: it is not sexual, it is transsexual. The struggle for the phallus, the threat of an imaginary castration, no more than the opposition between genitality and pregenitality, normality and perversion, fundamentally concern it. Nothing essential leads to the subjugation of the child, the woman, or the homosexual. In a word, it is not centered on dominant significations and values: it participates in open, asignifying semiotics, available for better or worse. Nothing depends here on destiny, but on collective arrangements in action.
In conclusion, I must say of the cinema that it can be both the machine of eros, i.e., the interiorization of repression, and the machine of liberated desire. An action in favor of the liberty of expression should therefore not be centered a priori on erotic cinema, but on what I will call a cinema of desire. The real trap is the separation between erotic themes and social themes; all themes are at once social and transsexual. There is no political cinema on the one hand and an erotic cinema on the other. Cinema is political whatever its subject; each time it represents a man, a woman, a child, or an animal, it takes sides in the micro class struggle that concerns the reproduction of models of desire. The real repression of cinema is not centered on erotic images; it aims above all at imposing a respect for dominant representations and models used by the power to control and channel the desire of the masses. In every production, in every sequence, in every frame, a choice is made between a conservative economy of desire and a revolutionary breakthrough. The more a film is conceived and produced according to the relations of production, or modelled on capitalist enterprise, the more chance there is of participating in the libidinal economy of the system. Yet no theory can furnish the keys to a correct orientation in this domain. One can make a film having life in a convent as its theme that puts the revolutionary libido in motion; one can make a film in defense of revolution that is fascist from the point of view of the economy of desire. In the last resort, what will be determinant in the political and aesthetic plane is not the words and the contents of ideas, but essentially asignifying messages that escape dominant semiologies.
Félix Guattari - Chaosophy, Cinema of Desire
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