Archive for Deleuze

Do superheroes have supersouls?

Posted in Deleuze, Leibniz with tags , , , , on May 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Caped crusaders, parasitic costumes, and the Baroque fold of comic book artist Todd McFarlane.

Where and how can we identify the fold? Deleuze writes that “the fold can be recognized first of all in the textile model of the kind implied by garments: fabric or clothing has to free its own folds from its usual subordination to the finite body it covers. If there is an inherently Baroque costume, it is broad, in distending waves, billowing and flaring, surrounding the body with its independent folds, ever-multiplying, never betraying those of the body beneath … vested doublets, flowing cloaks, enormous flaps, overflowing shirts, everything that forms the great Baroque contribution to clothing of the seventeenth century.” (D 121)

Todd McFarlane is a comic book artist who rose to prominence in the early 1990’s while drawing for the Spider-Man series, but is probably most widely known for creating the character Spawn, pictured above. McFarlane cultivated an idiosyncratic visual style with distinctly Baroque aspects: incredible amounts of detail are always paid to the pleats and folds of the capes and cloaks of elaborate costumes. Like most traditional comic book artists, McFarlane expends more than enough time emphasizing the exaggerated physique and musculature of the comic book hero, but in a break from other artists, he often focuses as much if not more visual detail on these sartorial adornments, often to the point where they obscure or deemphasize the typical superhero body.

Left: In an earlier work of McFarlane we see: a human, enfolded by a superhero protector, in turn enveloped by a Baroque cape whose pleats fold into an infinity of bats, flapping and folding their wings as they fly off into the night. Right: Deleuze sketching the inflection point in the fold.

In McFarlane’s worlds, characters are defined not simply by their bodies and abilities but by the way they are framed and enveloped by costumes that create an interiority around the character, a point of inflection between the hero and the outside world, a kind of second skin that often imbues the hero with their special powers.

Describing Johann Joseph Christian’s Saint Jerome, Deleuze writes “A supernatural breeze … turns the cloak into a billowing and sinuous ribbon that ends by forming a high crest over the saint.” (D 122) In a way he could almost be describing this McFarlane rendering of Spawn:

But McFarlane’s Baroque pleated costumes are not simply superfluous visuals. Deleuze: “in every instance folds of clothing acquire an autonomy and a fullness that are not simply decorative effects.” (D 122) Indeed, Spawn’s costume is not simply decoration but is in fact the source of his superpowers: capable of shape-shifting and providing him with inhuman strength. The costume is in fact autonomous: a semi-sentient being with a will of it’s own. “Spawn had become aware that his costume was not merely clothing, but a living symbiote with a life of its own. He was able to control it to an extent, but it often acted without his will.” (Spawnworld.com)

An even more poignant example of the autonomy of the fold in the comic world of McFarlane is Venom: an arch-enemy of Spider-Man co-created by McFarlane and first introduced in the mid-1990’s. Venom is essentially a costume, but is also a full character with its own individuality. It is a parasite from another planet that cannot live on its own and seeks out hosts with which it merges, taking on and enhancing the properties of the host. Venom is drawn to Spider-Man because of all the hero’s well-known powers.

The Venom suit literally enfolds Spider-Man, creating an interiority for itself that is nevertheless still outside of the host – a new soul that the host’s inner soul must struggle to resist, as Spider-Man fights to assert himself and free himself from the parasite. How many monads should we count in this schema? Spider-Man, Venom, Spider-Man-as-Venom, perhaps also Venom-post-Spider-Man given that the costume acquires some of the hero’s powers, others?  Deleuze writes that even elements like water can themselves be creased: “skintight fabric will still be a watery fold that reveals the body far better than nudity … the spiderweb of the whole body, including the face.” (D 122) In the drama that transpires, the risk was that our hero could have failed. As Venom took over it made itself seem more and more appealing to the interior soul. For a moment the two souls were in accord. Ultimately of course Spider-Man frees himself from his enemy, causing the parasite to go in search of other hosts, which he finds and overtakes in turn, and the comic book drama continues. As Deleuze writes, they “do not allow the differences of inside and outside, of public and private, to survive. They identify variation and trajectory, and overtake monadology with a ‘nomadology’.”

But why this obsession with the living costume in Todd McFarlane’s work? Perhaps he is expressing a certain monadology. The world exists, populated with individuals, pleated souls that express and are expressed in their world; but McFarlane then folds all of this into another – aliens from other planets (Venom) or other dimensions (the Spawn suit is said to be from hell itself) are costumes with their own individuated interiority that they then enfold around our protagonists. The heroes draw their power by being selected and enwrapped in this way, by becoming enfolded into a second higher world. But where have we seen this before? Aren’t nearly all superheroes already pleated in this way? Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker, Superman is Clark Kent. Perhaps the most common trope in the comic book universe is that the hero is the alternate identity – the caped avenger and the mild mannered regular guy – the superhero already stands in for this pleat in the individual. McFarlane is simply doing it again – a kind of higher order repetition of this pattern that enfolds the fold in another, and suggests a repeating of the monadological folding to infinity.

Deleuze writes: “if we want to test the definition of the Baroque – the fold to infinity … we must dig into the everyday recipes or modes of fashion that change a genre.” (D 122) And indeed, the wildly creative and innovative visual and narrative experiments of Todd McFarlane were in many ways genre-changing comic book worlds that succeed at demonstrating precisely that.

McFarlane’s Batman with pleated cape and marble sculpture: folded layers of the Baroque.

– Rory Solomon

“Al Simmons | Spawn Encyclopedia | SpawnWorld”, n.d. http://www.spawnworld.com/encyclopedia/alsimmons.htm.

Deleuze, Gilles. The Fold : Leibniz and the Baroque. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Koulish, Robert. “Spiderman’s Web and the Governmentality of Electronic Immigrant Detention.” Law, Culture and the Humanities (2012). http://lch.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/02/02/1743872111433376.abstract

Julie Mehretu’s Intensive Cartographies

Posted in Art, Deleuze with tags , , , , on May 15, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Approximately eight by eleven feet, Julie Mehretu’s three separate pieces of her Stadia series seem to emanate, each from a slightly different center, with international flags and corporate logos traveling with packs of gestural lines and marks upon almost invisible renderings of stadium architecture. (see Figures) One can easily understand the metaphor of a stadium as a place where people gather to experience emotional and chaotic spectacles of struggle, often with winners and losers.

Stadia I Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Stadia II Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Stadia III Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Julie Mehretu, an Ethiopian born visual artist, was raised Michigan. While in college she briefly took leave of Kalamazoo College to study batik dying in Senegal which ignited her interest in becoming a professional artist. She had always been gifted at drawing, but it was when she enrolled in the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design where she developed her style. (Chua, 27) Given her history one can begin to understand the motivation behind the scintillating tracings of trajectory which have become the focal point of her work.

Julie Mehretu once said of her work in an interview with Laurie Firstenberg in 2002 that her abstract marks on canvases stand for a language for characters—also depicted by marks—that retain a sense of agency. She implies that these marks stand for people and things as they are in a process of becoming with their environment. Mehretu thinks of her work as charting the experience and development of these characters, both living and inanimate. To bring her characters into contexts of time and space he began to include architectural plans and historical drawings to create a metaphoric, intensive view of time. (Firstenberg, p. 93)

Mehretu’s multilayered line drawings compiled of prints, acrylic and ink, produce a sense of how complex landscapes or architectures comprised of multivalent combinations of actors and actions happening simultaneously at multiple sites might be understood both intellectually and affectively. As one spends time with her work, one derives an expansive sense of the time present in making Mehretu’s work as well as the time the artist intends to present through the work. Her canvasses integrate dynamic flows between multiple existences resulting in evocations of potential along with tensions lying unresolved in two dimensions. Mehretu incorporates iconic detritus that serves to give a frame of popular consumer culture, such as distorted logos, graffiti and comic book graphics recalling both the past and the present. (Chua, 26) One can also note numerous echoes of fine art in her work as it is imbued with a history of both traditional Nihonga conventions of Japanese painting and Duchamp’s painting of movement, as well as the abstracted affects of Kandinsky.

Mehretu’s use of visual elements seems very similar to Deleuze’s appraisal of Nietzsche’s use of aphorism in his essay Nomadic Thought. Much as Nietzsche’s work inserts a frame to draw attention to all that lies beyond it, her work reaches beyond this frame and beyond the frame that would be the border of the work to draw on the viewer’s experience that is evoked as one interprets her work. When Deleuze speaks of Nietzsche conjuring the intensive by using aphorisms of and symbolic names of those who mean something in relation to the history of thought, Mehretu does also with visual evocations of styles from aesthetic history. Mehretu’s work can also be related to Deleuze’s intensive as it employs an actualization of suspended virtual potential both in the world and in the work, though remains virtual in possible re-interpretations existing in minds of viewers.

Mehretu’s work could be understood to explain through visual means that space equates to time and movement. In her work, every site is a meshwork or rhizome of actors’ movements, preferring potential and flow to stability. Mehretu’s paintings could be viewed in terms of Deleuze’s crystallized time-image—a form of temporality that accounts for time that splits the present into two trajectories, “one of which is launched towards the future while the other falls into the past. Time consists of this split, and it is … time, that we see in the crystal.”(Deleuze, Cinema II, 81)

In 2005 art essayist Lawerence Chua said of her work “At the heart of Julie Mehretu’s paintings is a question about the ways in which we construct and live in the world. Perhaps that is what makes the work so radical: its willingness to unravel the conventionally given answers about the violent environment we inhabit today.”(Chua, 26) Here one can understand Mehretu to problematize humanity’s interaction with themselves and with their world in a push to re-evaluate how we live, which in Deleuzian thought is one of the most important undertakings with which an artist can engage.

B.Paris

Chua, Lawerence. “Julie Mehretu.” Bomb. New Art Publications, Inc. Vol. 91, Spring 2005.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Masumi. University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema II: The Time Image. University of Minnesota Press, 1989.

Firstenberg, Lauri. “Towards Abstraction: Indeterminacy and the Internationalisation of Julie Mehretu’s Painting.” Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry. University of Chicago Press. Issue 14, Autumn/Winter, 2006.

Tomkins, Calvin. “Big Art, Big Money.” The New Yorker,  Volume 86.6. Conde Nast, March 2010.

Ba lance. Rep it tish ion. Com pose zish ion. Mir rors.

Posted in Art, Deleuze, Immanence, Theater and Performance with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Before The Books called it quits, I was fortunate enough to see them perform live. For those who don’t know, The Books are an experimental duo who make music with found sound, recorded sound, and instruments. As Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson says, “Their music is easy to appreciate immediately because they use pretty sounds – it’s not harsh, noisy, they use space […] Ringing guitars, cello, melodic – but it’s also hard to put a finger on, and there’s an in-between-spaces aspect to The Books that I find really appealing” (qtd. in Ganz). Unlike many other artists who use found sound, The Books only use analog audio (most of which is found in thrift stores or other random places). Instead of taking audio from the Internet, they use old answering machine recordings, self-help audiobook cassettes, ancient exercise tapes, etc.

One of their first songs, “Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again,” will probably give you a good idea of the kind of music that they make:

When they perform live, The Books project videos that they’ve created (with stock footage). Some of these videos, like the one for “Smells Like Content,” are simple but effective:

The album that houses this track, Lost and Safe, is a deviation from their earlier work. Thought for Food and The Lemon of Pink (their first two albums) both used very few vocals and focused mainly on found voices coupled with sparse instrumentation while on the other hand, “Smells Like Content” contains a full set of lyrics. What I like about the songs with vocals is that they’ve put into words what they’re trying to initially express solely with sound. In other words, if you weren’t sure what their agenda was after listening to the first two albums, pick up the third and everything will begin to come together.

For me, The Books are a very philosophical group. After many listens, I have noticed bits of Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre, and (recently) Deleuze in their work. “Smells Like Content” is a song that explores the purpose of life and asks the same question as modern philosophers, “How might one live?” At their show, Nick Zammuto (the half of the duo that provides vocals) said that his brother went on a hike and recorded his stream of consciousness ramblings which were then used as inspiration for the lyrics. In “Literature and Life,” Deleuze says, “Syntax is the set of necessary detours that are created in each case to reveal the life in things” (2). For this song, syntax is very important: each word is placed in a specific way so as to create a rhythm that exists on its own, without the addition of extra sounds. In “Smells Like Content,” the extra sounds that are included act as a form of repetition and as what Deleuze and Guattari would call a refrain.

In “Of the Refrain,” D&G talk about territory, deterritorialization, milieu, and assemblage (among other things). From what I gather, rhythm is the difference created through repetition and repetition is what moves us from milieu to milieu (while simultaneously creating those milieus). D&G say, “A milieu does in fact exist by virtue of a periodic repetition, but one whose only effect is to produce a difference by which the milieu passes into another milieu. It is the difference which is rhythmic, not the repetition, which nevertheless produces it . . . (346). In simpler words, the difference is what creates the rhythm. I don’t feel it’s necessary to summarize the whole essay, but I will say that in the end, D&G basically say that something called “the Cosmos” is the end game (which probably isn’t the right phrase) of music. They say, “[. . . ] modern philosophy tends to elaborate a material of thought in order to capture forces that are not thinkable in themselves. That is Cosmos philosophy, after the manner of Nietzsche” (377-8). So then music (not pop music, but music that D would deem worthy) does the same thing as philosophy, it seems. The Books are one of my favorite experimental duos because I think it’s obvious that they are trying to express that inexpressible through their music.

For me, “Smells Like Content” is a great song, albeit it doesn’t play with space, silence, and sound in the same way as their earlier material. Essentially, the entire song is about process ontology, the idea that the world is always in flux and that all we can do is think about what is coming into existence. The lyrics tell us, “But then again, the world without end is a place where souls are combined,/ but with an overbearing feeling of disparity and disorderliness./To ignore it is impossible without getting oneself into all kinds of trouble,/despite one’s best intentions not to get entangled with it so much.” The world is complicated and it makes sense for people to want to try to understand it; however, it is impossible to know for sure what the world is and why we’re here, etc. Philosophy is often hard to understand because it is an exploration, not an explanation (and it’s easy to get entangled when exploring different ideas). It’s also notable that the words in the video are spelled out phonetically and that some of them change as they are changing (that sounds confusing, but for example, look at “overarching paradigm” as it appears on the screen). By breaking the words up into other words, we are given a visual example of how everything is just a fragment and part of something bigger.

This fragmentation also reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s “Susie Asado.” In this poem, Stein was trying to recapture the rhythm of a flamenco dancer, to paint a portrait of her with words. Stein’s writing uses phrases that almost make sense, but not quite. She forces us to toss away our conventional expectations and accept the open-endedness of her writing. When The Books say, “Meanwhile,/ the statues are bleeding green,” I am reminded of both Stein and Noam Chomsky (and of course, Deleuze). Chomsky’s sentence, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously,” makes grammatical sense but really means nothing (15). How can ideas be both colorless and green at the same time? Because both “colorless” and “green” have figurative meanings, we interpret them a certain way. Stein’s poem strives to be nonrepresentational, even though the words that she uses also have figurative meanings; the meaning of her poem does not rely on what each of the individual words mean or what they are associated with. There would be no way to paraphrase Stein’s poem. To me, the lyrics of “Smells Like Content” are trying to tell us (with words and music) that conventional categories and ideas aren’t going to work if we’re trying to figure out what life is/what it means to be.

The Books describe how/why we created artificial categories and concepts in order to explain the world. They say, “Then finally, we opened the box, we couldn’t find any rules.” We’re born and never given any guidance about how to live our lives, what life means, what it means to be, etc. There are so many possibilities for what life is and what it could become but because of “faith,” we “decided to go ahead and just ignore them,/despite tremendous pressure to capitulate and fade.” There are so many possibilities that instead of considering them, we usually just fall into the routine/trap of artificial constructions (“So instead, we went ahead to fabricate a catalog/of unstable elements and modicums and particles”). The song ends with, “Expectation -/leads to disappointment. If you don’t expect something big huge and exciting . . ./Usually . . ./I dunno,/just, uh yeah . . .” While these maybe don’t seem like brilliant lyrics at first, I think that they say a lot in very few words. In a world that’s constantly changing, how can we have expectations for anything? As the video progresses, the images trick us. First, it seems like I’m looking at outer space. When I see jellyfish, I now assume I’m looking at the ocean. When the video ends, it is revealed that I was just watching footage from an aquarium the entire time. What if the world is just an aquarium and I’m just a fish? Does it matter?

If anyone is interested, here’s a link to the videos that The Books play at their shows: http://zammutosound.com/videos.cfm

— Kilgore Trout

Chomsky, Noam. Syntactic Structures. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, 2002. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1997. Print.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. trans. Massumi, B. (1998). 1837: Of the Refrain.
In A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum.
pp. 342ñ386.

Ganz, Jacob. “The Books: Making Music Through Found Sound.” NPR. NPR, 04 Sept. 2010. Web. 07 May 2012. <http://www.npr.org/2010/09/03/129607098/the-books-making-music-through-found-sound&gt;.

Art Field Report

Posted in Deleuze with tags , , , on May 6, 2012 by immanentterrain2

I had the privilege of attending the Biennial exhibit at the Whitney Museum this spring. This was my first visit to the museum, and I was immediately struck by the re-conceptualizations of art and art practice. After having started with the permanent collection, working down towards the Biennial pieces, I soon found solace in a few works that explored the image. The first installation that was quite striking was the work of Luther Price. The installation consisted of slides exhibited by a carousal projector. The slides were images of singular and multiple frames from 16mm film. Some of these slides were hand painted, others dealt with re-contextualizing archival images with Price’s own alterations to the image. Images were projected onto the white wall of the museum’s interior, with only the mechanical sounds of the projector changing to different slides. An interesting aspect regarding the slides is Price’s contributions to the found footage. He creates a decoupage of images using frames of 16mm films, which he would then paint, or color in some of the frames. The images have been given a new context, and new breath. There is a video of Price, on the Whitney Museum website, showing a reel of found footage in a state of decay, where he effectively brings forth new and different juxtapositions.

Another wonderful instillation that was quite intriguing was a contribution by Werner Herzog to the museums’ Biennial entitled, Hearsay of the Soul. On the museum’s second floor, one first notices an instrumental sound resonating throughout the space. Black plastic flaps hang above a doorway as one enters a dark room just off the main floor. Inside, images are projected onto the white walls, displaying six images on three walls of the room. A man playing a five-stringed cello accompanied by an organ is the source of the orchestral sounds emanating through the gallery. The projected images are that of painter Hercules Segers, working around the same time as Rembrandt. Herzog fuses image with the sounds of Ernst Reijseger playing the cello as this installation forms a grand appreciation of auditory response and visual experience. It is an elegant, moving piece, one that serves as Herzog’s personal perception of Segers’ work in a new way of seeing. One is not seeing the paintings, but a projection of the image of the painting. Herzog’s installation asks the viewer to experience paintings differently, but the how one goes about doing this, is a question that is left open to the individual.

The manner in which both of these artists construct their installations takes into consideration the understanding of space as it relates to time. When Price is working with found images he frames the images in new and profound ways. He takes images from 16mm films and creating a decoupage of slides, each one consisting of multiple strips of film. Where there was once movement in these images; the frames become refashioned, reworked in a manner in which was not the original intent. Here, time is changed because the strips of film have been removed from their movement. The movement of the image is subjected to the length of time by the carousal projecting the images on the wall. There is materiality at work in the piece—giving new life to lost moments. Herzog’s installation works with the notion of space and time as well, but the effect is uniquely different. The experience of the piece comes off as slightly less abstract, and more of a tribute to a two lesser-known artists. By combining the projected paintings with footage of Reijseger playing the cello, the viewer is not asked to connect the two artists, but to appreciate the nuances of sound and image. The viewer’s eye skims from one projected image to another as they witness not one, but several unique images accompanied by music. Each individual experiences the installation differently because there are endless possibilities of which projection to follow next—each individual following the projections independently form one another.  If one were to consider Deleuze’s concept of the virtual/ actual, Herzog’s work is essentially left open to what is multiple and dynamic. Viewing the piece several times would produce alternative experiences by the same individual, for it would not be possible to look at the multiple projections in the same order with the same result. What is virtual and what is actual effectively changes with each screening. Deleuze writes, “…there is no virtual which does not become actual in relation to the actual, the latter becoming virtual through the same relation…” (Cinema II, 69). What Herzog’s piece does is put into motion a potential flux of combination images. It is both an appreciation of a musician and a painter, but it is also a new manner in which to encounter and engage their work.

j. lindsey

I Don’t Want to be a Spaghetti

Posted in Bergson, Body and Affect, Deleuze, Film, Immanence with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Lately, I have been obsessed with the concept of suspension of disbelief. To fully enjoy a movie, we must suspend our disbelief to a certain extent. If we sit there thinking, “this is only a movie,” we will not become immersed and the experience will not be as meaningful. To me, watching a good film is very much like being in a dream. In my dreams, sometimes bizarre events occur (and sometimes I even find them bizarre as I’m dreaming) but I never stop to analyze them – I just continue on with my actions. Also, transmogrification is a big part of dreaming. Throughout a dream, I might be in several radically different locations without any explanation as to how I got there. In dreams (and to a certain extent in films), time can be nonlinear and rapid changes need no explanation.

While watching the second half of Tropical Malady in class, it wasn’t until after the film had ended that I wondered, “what exactly did I just watch?” As the action was occurring on the screen, I was watching intently, curious to see what would happen next. Weerasethakul ended part one of his film without any resolution. Tong finishes licking Keng’s (potentially) urined-stained fingers and then walks away. When the second part of the film starts, it becomes clear that we are following a different narrative. While the same actors pop up, it is unclear to the viewer whether or not they are the same characters in part one. The fact that films like this exist (and are able to win the Jury Prize at Cannes) excites me. If viewers are becoming advanced enough to watch and enjoy films like Tropical Malady, the art of filmmaking will surely advance to new and exciting territories.

So, how does all of this apply to Gilles Deleuze? From what I understand thus far, Deleuze holds cinema in very high regard. Unlike other art (painting, sculpture, dance, etc.) it is not merely a means for communicating a message or an aesthetic device. Instead, cinema is pure immanence and sensation; cinema is its own reality. It’s also important to note that as a film is being made, it’s already a memory. While a painter can see what is he is working on as he works, a filmmaker cannot. Sure, he can edit and re-watch material thousands of times; however, memory plays a big role in the filmmaking process (after all, cinema is movement in time, so it’s not something that can be immediately absorbed all at once). At this point, Deleuze’s writings on memory and sensation are what most interest me most and have helped me to understand why he’s an important philosopher. Deleuze’s body of work seems to build toward a radically different film theory.

If we go back to Uexküll and the tick, we remember that the only way that tick knows of its existence is when it comes into contact with a warm blooded animal or the sun; the tick’s entire life revolves around these two sensations. For humans, life is different because there are larger external forces, more things to influence and to be influenced by. Sitting in a dark movie theater, watching a movie like Tropical Malady, my life becomes more like that of the tick because I am entering into a whole new existence, a new reality, a place that is “between art and life” (according to Godard) and seems more like a dream than being awake. When other elements are combined with the moving image, I think it becomes harder to become absorbed and experience a film the way a tick would sunlight. When I am just faced with the moving image and nothing more, I am given the opportunity to notice new things and to let my mind run wild. In movies without dialogue, I often find myself thinking incredibly random thoughts that don’t directly have anything to do with the film. Because I don’t have any dialogue to follow, I’m letting my eyes absorb the images and my mind run wild. When I watch films multiple times, I never experience them in the same exact way – it all depends on my mood, what I had been thinking about previous to the film screening, etc. Although the same images are repeating themselves, every single viewing is unique.

Since watching a movie is like dreaming, when we see a dream in a movie it is like having a dream within a dream. For example, the final scene of Ingmar Bergman’s Shame feels like a dream although it is not blatantly identified as such. Although I can’t find a clip of the final scene, here is the trailer for those who haven’t seen it:

To make a long analysis short, Bergman does many things in this final scene in order to make it feel dreamlike to the audience. In the beginning of the film, a character name Fillip is introduced as an acquaintance of the two main characters, Jan and Eva. When we see him again, he seems to have no memory of the couple – he doesn’t show any sort of recognition or compassion towards them when he sees them during war. Another character, Mrs. Jacobi, also goes unrecognized at the end of the film. In real life, people remember one another and even if they’re pretending not to, we can see glimmers of recognition in their eyes or on their faces. When watching the film, I Jan, Eva, and Fillip to remember one another; however, when they did not, I accepted it and did not question it until after the fact. In real life, I would find this lack of recognition strange and unacceptable; in cinema life (or cinema reality) I don’t really question anything until the film is over and the lights are turned on.

Recently, there have been many films about dreams. In Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, Stephane’s father has just died and he’s moved back to France to live in his childhood apartment. While his mother has promised him a creative job, he realizes from the first day that he is just a cog in the wheel, copying and pasting text that he himself has not created. As the film progresses, the images on the screen become less easy to identify. Is this a dream? Is this really happening? As film progresses, I accept the images as the reality of the cinema – what is happening on the screen is, in some way, actually happening to Stephane. After the film is over and I actually try to decide what were Stephane’s dream and what was his reality, I realize that it is impossible to do. Gondry has created a film that is an combination of dream and reality – it’s a dream reality that we see on a screen (if that makes sense). Without artificial constructions, our minds are haphazard… filled with unconnected, delirious thoughts. In Gondry’s film, there are no artificial constructions and we are able to experience a mind unbound. The following is one of my favorite scenes from the movie:

Movies like The Science of Sleep are important because they provide a starting point for discussing philosophical ideas. As long as filmmakers keep creating works like Tropical Malady, people will continue to respond in new ways…there will be more opportunities for them to affect and be affected.

— Kilgore Trout

Territory and Hair Color

Posted in Deleuze with tags , on April 11, 2012 by immanentterrain2

As a redhead, this is a topic that has intrigued me for a while. Even though they are referring to animals, I was excited to see Deleuze and Guattari briefly mention how color plays a role in defining territory in A Thousand Plateaus.  I am very interested in the way people have preconceived notions of others based on what their hair color is. It seems that some hair colors are more submissive (brunettes), while redheads are allowed to be domineering and territorial.

In the chapter “1837: Of the Refain,” Deleuze and Guattari discuss the idea of territory. They state that territory and milieu, a person’s environment or social setting, are not the same thing. Territory is rather “the product of a territorialization of milieus and rhythms” (314). 

Deleuze and Guattari then go on to consider the way in which animals can mark their territory based on color. They state that expressive qualities, like color, are what play a role in characterizing territory among animals. Colored birds are dominant when it comes having a distinct territory, where uncolored, or white, birds will live together as a collective. Some other ways animals mark their territory are by means of excrement or by exposing bright-colored sex organs, as with monkeys (315).

For me, color as a means for marking a territory is not something that should be exclusively animal. Among the human race, many people use their hair color as a way to mark their territory and get what they want. Whether they are true or not, as humans, we have been conditioned to believe these hair color stereotypes and allow people to get away with certain things because they can. However, this theory is mostly applicable toward women, especially redheads, who use their hair color and the temperament that goes along with it to.

Redheaded women, who are known for being sexually aggressive and temperamental, use their hair color as a way to mark their territory among males. Although red hair can be evocative for some, part of the reason redheads can get away with this behavior is because the media, specifically in American film, has reinforced these stereotypes and make it seem acceptable for some with red hair to use sexuality as a way to gain something; it is as if redheads are using their hair color as a way to mark their sexual territory.

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Although blondes are often presented in a similar manner, they typically come with the dumb stigma, like Marilyn Monroe played up in her films. Redheaded characters are too smart and confident for their own good and know how to manipulate others. Red haired actress can easily get away with playing the femme fatale type of character. Rita Hayworth, who is actually of Hispanic heritage and born Margarita Carmen Cansino, was “whiten” by Hollywood. She used her bottled hair color to mark her territory in Hollywood and in the movies she was in, most famously Gilda.

This is not just something that exists solely in live-action film and television. What about Jessica Rabbit?

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In the 1932 film Red-Headed Woman, Jean Harlow plays Lillian Andrews, who uses her red hair and aggressive sexual nature to seduce her boss and destroy his marriage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9YfPsVwYXE

And on an unrelated side note, the interest in territorial redheads seems to be an American thing. The red haired femme fatale usually appears in American media. We must not forget this Christmas card that once garnered negative press for a British supermarket. 

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– Danielle Mantione

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Print 314-15.

Reorientation of Time and Space: A Study of Narrative, Painting and Film

Posted in Art and Philosophy, Bergson, Deleuze, Film, Subjectivity with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Deleuze’s interest in the relationship between time and space resonates through his work. Recent course readings have coalesced around ideas of rhythm and milieu along with the dynamic relationships they allow, setting groundwork, in a sense, for his treatise on the spatiotemporal, relating time to movement and image in film in Cinema I and Cinema II.  The texts have engaged my interest in a study of  how relationships of time and space have been employed artistically across various forms of media to evoke deterritorializing, intensive effects serving as a push toward a reorientation of values.

Kafka’s work serves as a Deleuzian model of print narrative as plots twist into and out of themselves creating intensive narrative connected to its own dissolution. Kafka’s use of temporality can be understood as a component of minor literature that deterritorializes the reader.

The short story A Country Doctor melds ideas of temporality and space in a way that divorces the reader from previously held valuations of such ideas. It is easily illustrated in a synopsis of the work in which entities are unreliably referred to by pronouns as the narrative oscillates between past and present. The country doctor is awakened to attend to a patient he does not know, on horses that mysteriously appear in his stable, likely at the price of his maid’s safety. He is whisked from the scene of the maid’s peril to the sick man’s bedside. Time and space mutate simultaneously. With little use of narrative transition, the doctor is transferred from place to place, but always needs to be somewhere else.

Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor 2007/21 min. Yamamura Animation

Kafka creates a world of components which appear recognizable, yet work outside our experience, so that all understanding of their familiar characteristics and uses will not help us decipher their new relationships and values. If our seemingly stable and autonomous universe can possibly serve as  foundation for such a reality and can be extended and transformed in such a manner, its stability becomes problematic—the disturbing potential once acknowledged can no longer be dismissed.

Moving from spatiotemporal constructions generated by texts on the page to two-dimensional images, Francis Bacon’s work is exemplar of blurred time and space—streaked with smears, globs and scratches—indicative of a passage of time in a painted version of a photographic frame, suggestive the progression of time as the work itself was created. The works are intentionally finished complete with accidents and imperfections. Bacon’s work, as the work of those such as Cezanne and Braque nearly a century before, is an abstraction echoing the daily visual encounter with the world, with enough aberration to haunt our idea of reality and cause an affective deterritorialization.

In Study of a Baboon, a work housed in MoMA’s permanent collection, Bacon’s intense brushstrokes, wiped out and repainted at the focal point, evoke a moment in a seemingly furious movement or transition frozen for an eternity. Combined with the dry-brushed crossed lines, the image could be understood to include a cage, but one is unable to discern whether the figure is inside or outside of it. If inside, does it imply the spectator inside as well?

  Study of a Baboon, 1953. Francis Bacon

The image is familiar, yet foreign. The spectator learns from the title of the painting that the image could be interpreted as a baboon. The face of the baboon figure turns towards the spectator from a place of visual indiscernability and screams.  The viewer is once again implicated by this image frozen in time, causing an identification with feelings of intensive space and time, as well as deterritorialization.

As the discussion transitions from the still image of paint and canvas to the moving image of film, Tarkovsky stands out as one who takes seriously the relationship between time and image. Temporal deterritorialization could be said to be the main tenet of Tarkovsky’s cinema. His use of long takes, surreal settings and plot that typically resembles a type of science fiction engages the spectator in a sometimes excruciating and often futile attempt to follow or create a narrative. Any meaning that could be drawn from the work, comes not neatly in understanding ordered plot elements, but after reflecting on the film as a whole, both in form and in content.

This is true of Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker. The film follows the journey of three men: the stalker leads a writer and a scientist through the Zone, a hazy post-apocalyptic landscape, in search of the Room, a place the stalker has never seen but supposedly lies hidden in the deep tangled passages within the Zone. The Room is rumored to have the power to fulfill entrants’ innermost desires. Their quest ends as they finally arrive at the entrance to the Room. The three stand outside the entrance in an extended shot but never enter. The stalker, the writer and the professor are transferred, in a single cut, back in the bar where the journey began.

Stalker 1979/160 min. Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky’s trademark long take combined with his artistic choices to present time in a specific way through cuts creates a unique temporal deterritorialization. In combination with the setting that bears earthly resemblance, spectators identify with and are simultaneous alienated from the work. In many ways Stalker also imparts affects similar to those feelings imparted by Kafka’s novels and Bacon’s paintings. Deleuze would likely agree that Tarkovsky’s treatment of space and time in Stalker suggests an alternative way of viewing a film. It allows spectators to circumvent conventional understanding of what film structure and narrative should be—it causes the viewer to question their own view of reality and to look at the world in new way.  Tarkovsky’s treatment of time and space is indicative Deleuze’s summary of Bergson’s idea of time and subjectivity in Cinema II: “Time is not the interior in us, but just the opposite, it is the interiority in which we are, in which we move, live and change.” (Deleuze, 82)

–B. Paris

References:

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema II: The Time-Image. University of Minniesota Press. 1989.

Deleuze, Gilles. Logic of Sensation. University of Minniesota Press. 2002

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. “Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature”. Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 30. 1986.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. “Affect Percept Concept”. What is Philosophy?. Columbia University Press. 1994

Kafka, Franz. “The Country Doctor”. A Metamorphosis and Other Stories. 1993

Tarkovsky, Andrei. Stalker. 1979

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