Candy: Centripetal Love

I found the film to be deeply disturbing. Not because of the drug stuff; the filmic representations of drug ab/use and associated culture is nothing really new, but the disturbing quality of the film came from the inability of the two main characters to negotiate the forces that pushed them out and pushed them together. They live on the wall of a ‘centrifuge ride’; the movie poster/soundtrack cover image is from a shot of them on the inside wall of Luna Park’s Rotor:

The two bodies flung together (the how/why is never explained or explored) are Dan (Heath Ledger) and Candy (Abbie Cornish). The director of the film, Neil Armfield, sold it to investors as a love story.

When Armfield spoke in a boardroom about Candy as a love story, “you could see the investors’ faces light up; it wasn’t the same story that they were expecting,” he says. “This is really a film about the responsibilities of love. I see the addiction as a kind of crisis through which we view different kinds of love.”

As a love story, it is definitely a love story without romance. The centripetal forces that throw them together are asymmetrical and these forces can not be sutured together to form a conventional romance narrative.

Bodies seem to end up beside each other merely because of the centrifugal fury that produces identity and social stuctures; an endless refinery that fuels everything. Forget social stratification on the basis of resemblance. For example, I am nothing like you, and, yet, here we are, you are reading this. However, every now and again, within a moment, a threshold will be crossed, and the differentiation becomes collective. Something is shared. Within the collectivity the force becomes centripetal, and the ‘us’ is the differentiated. Two forces: sometimes the ‘us’ is all there is to hang on to to weather the fury, sometimes the ‘us’ self-destructs as a ‘black hole’. Again, again. There is an agonistic struggle to maintain a balance between the two forces…

For Dan, his ways form a way of life, but for Candy Dan’s ways (“I did it his way”) form a way to escape from one life, only to become sediment in another, together. We get glimpses of the forces flinging them out, but nothing certain: Candy with her mother (the graffiti on the wall, her fists, something Oedipal?), but Dan is less clear (no family, weak, hopeless). As Candy’s father says to Dan in the carpark, no matter how terrible he (Dan) is, she (Candy) needs him. The relation can not be reduced to Oedipal fantasies either; he is not her father. No psychoanalytic narrative here.

For all of Dan’s weakness, he has a certain durability that allows him to survive living such a life. His durability is in part because of his abilities to draw on (exploit) the support of others. Candy, on the other hand, has a certain brittleness to her character: she explodes, she breaks. As such, they are complementary, but there is no symmetry, and no respite. Each can pull the other back in their own way.

Some reviews attempt to tie this into some sort of bohemian lifestyle (the poet, the artist). It has nothing to do with this. They are poets and artists because that is where they are flung by the centrifuge; they are as much symptoms as the drug use, but not necessarily so. Some manage to balance the forces, some live, or so it appears for some characters until they end up dead

It is not a happy ending, how could it be? Yet, the ending is satisfying; in that, through the intervention of a ‘break’ (‘nervous’, from each other) Candy is flung to another level of the centrifuge. There is a flash, when they meet again, of them returning to the same level. It is Dan in all his love and misery who must quite literally let her go; an ethical act.

It was cool and weird seeing the familiar sights/sites of Sydney. I am quite certain the final scene happens in one of K. and my favourite, very cheap Vietnamese restaurants (in Marrickville), and the table at which Dan sits is precisely where we sat the last time we went to the restaurant.

The film very much reminded me of the Iggy Pop song.

DeLanda Interview, Markets, Consumption, Worlds

For those who read and use Deleuze, Guattari, and D&G’s work, here is an interview/discussion I came across between DeLanda, John Protevi, and Torkild Thanem. I quite enjoyed Protevi’s book Deleuze and Geophilosophy, although the deferrance he shows to DeLanda in this interview is a bit weird. The interview is interesting for a number of reasons.

  • DeLanda expresses his anti-marxism quite clearly. I hope he actually turns some of his hyberbole into scholarly arguments because I would be interested to see what he does with his comment “I find the expression ‘commodification’ worse than useless” (p. 30). I can understand what he means, I have had similar problems with the BCCCS subculture stuff (also see Anne’s post on appropriation where she is tending towards the same problem). See point 3 below on ‘markets’.
  • DeLanda’s little schema staked out in the below extract is interesting:

Deleuze accepts the objectivity of science but not the legitimizing discourses of scientists. For example, he would not accept the existence of general laws (or of general anything: generalities exist only in our minds) but he would accept, I believe, the topological structure of those laws (e.g. for Newton’s laws, a phase space structured by a single singularity or attractor which would explain the “least principles” on which those laws are based). That topological structure complements his ontology of actual individual singularities with virtual universal singularities. (9)

“Deleuze accepts the objectivity of science”? However, going by The Logic of Sense, I don’t think Deleuze accepted the objectivity of language. Isn’t this the biggest problem with DeLanda’s work? In trying to say something of the world, as a ‘scientist’ would, he misses the specifically Deleuzian critique of language and the production of sense? Surely he can see that language produces relative stabilities for the purposes of relation and articulation. ‘Objectivity’ is not a relation between language and the world, or the purely expressed of propositions and events beyond language, but a relatively stable relation between what Foucault called ‘statements’. ‘Statements’ are special elements of discourse, what D&G called the indexes of an assemblage (if I remember correctly there are three levels of indexes). Foucault called it rationality, but we might as well call objectivity for DeLanda’s sake, because a certain ‘objectivity’ is surely a perspectival component of any ‘rationality’. How can DeLanda separate the legitimizing discourse (‘science’) from the discursive effect (‘objectivity’)? Are we to ignore the virtualizing capacity of language and the machinic dimension of collective assemblages of enunciation as irrelevant? Arguing that the internal consistency of science relies on a certain creativity is not the same thing as a necessary acceptance of the conditions that make that creativity sensical.

  • Lastly, some very interesting comments on markets. Firstly from Protevi:

Classical and neo-classical economics make assumptions of these goals of disciplinary practice, which thereby enables them to model economies as equilibrium systems. The result is an elegant model whose inability to predict reality is often blamed on some recalcitrant feature of reality: the model says markets should behave in such and such a fashion; real markets do not behave in this fashion; therefore there must be some government // distortion of the real market preventing it from behaving in the way it should; therefore we must remove such distortion to “allow” — that is, to make — the system behave the way the model says it should. The key point is that neoliberal governments (in today’s world, under the pressure of the IMF) try to bring such “rational economic” behaviour about by actively producing the social situations the model assumes: normalization of behaviour by making people behave in individual self-interest (due to lack of social interaction/social security). (13-14) 

And the from DeLanda:

Deleuze created his ontology partly as a response to Foucault’s analysis of the “classical episteme”, which had four major axes: similarity, identity, analogy and contradiction. Since all classical thought is bounded by those four categories (if we are to believe Foucault) it follows that any approach that wants to be non-classical must avoid them as foundational categories. […] Take for example the distinction between “markets” and “hierarchies” as done // in Organizational Theory by people like Oliver Williamson. A Deleuzian treatment (a de-marxified one) would treat these two as special cases of decentralized networks and centralized structures. Or even more radically, as specific actualizations of two more abstract cases, rhizomes and strata, which also have biological and geological actualizations. What would make all the actualizations comparable not metaphorically would be that the processes which produce them share a deep topological isomorphism, the same virtual singularities guiding the processes. (15-16)

DeLanda’s use of ‘radical’ above is telling. Does he want to talk about ‘rhizomes’ and ‘strata’ or does he want to bloody engage with ‘markets’!?!?! Reducing market structures (rendered in all their complexity) to ‘rhizomes’ and ‘strata’ makes for a very poor critical engagement. Is he ignoring Protevi’s argument about the wilful reduction of social existence in the neoliberal quest for rational-economic interactionism? Surely he can see the feed-forward loop that is constructed on multiple levels where a ‘model’ conditions the very passage between the virtual to the actual (and back again). This reminds me of an email I was sent a while ago by Ben Hourigan from the CSAA list who wanted to take issue with something I had sent to the list:

First, I don’t believe it makes any sense to suggest that Howard (as if he is the whole government) or anyone else “really does want to drive the quality of life down to sufficient levels to compete with the productivity of emerging 3rd world countries.” Why would anyone have the sinister objective of trying to reduce the wages and standard of living of the people they govern. I believe that what you’re trying to get at is that the Howard government is trying to liberalize labour relations to the point where the labour market here is able to adjust to trends that move jobs to countries where labour is cheaper. No Australian politician would want to see Australian workers paid 20c an hour. However, if an Australian politician had to
choose between these two situations: 

1. Two jobs are available. Australian labour prices and conditions are flexible. A Burmese labourer gets 20c/hour for doing one job, an Australian worker gets 20c/hour for doing another.

2. Two jobs are available. Australian labour prices and conditions are INflexible. Two Burmese labourers get 20c/hour each for doing the jobs, and no Australian worker gets anything, because no-one can afford to pay for one.

the politician would choose scenario #1. It’s called “acting in the
national interest.”

All the rhizomes in the world are not going to help someone understand how an intelligent person who has allegedly read enough ‘theory’ to be doing a Cultural Studies-type PhD on the political content of video games can come up with the above argument. (Why is the interest of the ‘nation’ at stake? I am not part of that ‘nation’. Surely Ben realises that the ‘nation’ is a particular ideologically constructed ‘model’ that circulates for the privilege of those that Howard and his Liberal party government actually represent?)

I have been reading Don Slater’s work on markets recently attempting to tease out some further thoughts about the relation between ‘scenes’ and ‘markets’. He develops a very handy way of talking about markets as the effect of advertising ‘market strategy’ that delineates a given population into markets, ie the way markets are discusses in economic theory and everyday language (a market for this or a market for that). In the essay I am working with at the moment (‘Capturing Markets from the Economists.’ In Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life) he troubles this notion. He uses the example of an argument between a child and parent over dinner about whether a plate of spinach counts as ‘food’:

This obviously invokes the perceived properties of spinach (health, edibility, Popeye’s strength); it invokes broader relations of con­sumption around the meaning of meals (notions of nutritional needs, obedi­ence and power, traditions); and it is perceived from the perspective of particular people (parental roles, class constructions of nutrition, gendered relations of power and responsibility). The construction of spinach as a use value extends across a social field in which parents, marketers, schools and health services, the media (cartoons in this case), and so on, can intervene, seeking to shift elements of the field towards establishing a definition of the good that fits in with their interests. This constellation of interventions may act to destabilize the object or re-fix it: one could at least imagine an adver­tiser, for example, moulding spinach into new shapes – say Popeye himself – in order to crack the youth market by repositioning the vegetable as a fun food, snack and media tie-in. Any of these processes would have implica­tions for market structures, even if the motive was not originally commer­cial but, say, the initiative of health educationalists; conversely, any non­commercial, `cultural’ intervention in the definition of spinach would at least take place within, and take cognizance of, the market structure of compet­ing goods. (Slater, 2002: 74) 

‘Spinach’ becomes a multidimensional event!! To reposit spinach as a ‘fun food’ means precisely to discourse it on a particular affective level, ‘fun’ is one of the key signifiers of affective modulation in contemporary culture. (I ‘had fun’, ‘it was fun’, ‘funtastic’.) It signals a collective individuation (or the capacity to effectuate such an individuation) of the ‘fun’ conjunctive event of the commodity’s consumption. The event of consumption, in this case, is defined by the commodity’s capacity for ‘fun’ or to produce a given population (perhaps of one person, but because of the virtualizing effect of media, I doubt it). (Think of consumer anger, not: “That was shit” but “That wasn’t fun at all” or, the worst, “This is boring.” Or ‘shit’ is invoked as a resistant affect to produce a counter-individuation.) Once the ‘fun’ has worn off, consumers turn back to the cybernetic teat of the cultural industry to ‘discover’ other ways to ward off boredom (perhaps play computer games or write in blogs!).

The ‘image’ of the commodity is a key element of a feed-forward that herald the event of consumption. Or what Lazzarato calls the ‘world’. In this case it is the world of Popeye (or the world of John Howard’s ‘nation’).:

The corporation [or political-media assemblage] does not generate the object (the commodity), but rather the world in which the object exists. Nor does it generate the subject (worker and consumer), but rather the world in which the subject exists. […] Consumption is not reduced to the act of buying and carrying out a service or a product, as political economics and its criticism teach, but instead means, first of all, belonging to a world or a universe. Which world is this? It is enough to turn on the television or the radio, go for a walk in a city, buy a weekly or daily newspaper, to know that this world is constructed through a statement arrangement, through a sign regime, the expression of which is called advertising, and what is expressed (the meaning) is a prompt, a command, representing per se a valuation, a judgment, a view of the world, of themselves and others. What is expressed (the meaning) is not an ideological valuation, but rather an incentive (it gives signs), a prompt to assume a form of living, i.e. a way of dressing, having a body, eating, communicating, residing, moving, having a gender, speaking, etc. [ital. added] 

EDIT 05/06/06 More on ‘worlds’ in the sense Lazzarato is using it here, see Steve Shaviro’s post Try Another World.

Successful Paper

I am very pleased with my performance delivering a seminar paper ealier today. Hmm, it is 3:30am at the moment, so 12 hours ago!

It is the first time giving such papers over the last 4 years that I felt:

  • Entirely comfortable with the material. I was discussing literally one sixth of a chapter with introductory summaries of preceding elements necessary for the argument of the particular section in question. I know this stuff back to front. I love its complexities.
  • Very confident in my ability to deliver a good paper. Here I do not (only;) mean the quality of my paper, but I mean the ability to deliver my paper in an approriate way for an academic setting.
  • Capable of dealing with my stuttering and blocks. I know I am going to stutter in some moments. I accept it. I work with it, within the moment. (I can sense it happening, on the fringe, I breathe slowly, in control. I let the words escape from my mouth, rather than forcing them. I anticipate when it is going to happen, on certain words or sounds [‘modified’]. I relax. I let it happen. I remember that no one knows this stuff as well as I do. It is over, half a second. The word is said before I say it.)

Paradise Lost

An extract from my paper I am writing for a seminar on Friday. I call this the ‘Paradise Lost’ period of Street Machining during the formative years of Street Machine magazine under the editorial control of Geoff Paradise and published by Murray Publishers. The impact of the publishing decision to replace Paradise as editor of Street Machine is yet to be fully understood. I was told by sources at ACP that Paradise is now a ‘grumpy bastard’, and after seeing what happened to him at Street Machine I can understand why. Suffice to say his replacement, Phil Scott, now has an extremely powerful position in the Australian magazine industry as the current ACP Magazines group publisher of men’s and specialist titles.

Anyway, the extract:

In the second issue of the new Street Machine & Van Wheels that the core problem of early-1980s Street Machining was clearly stated:

Now we are faced with the task of turning up more quick cars for future issues and quite frankly, that is easier said than done. What we need are fast, affordable Fords, Holdens and Mitsubishis, but there aren’t any. Not yet anyway.
Both Ford and GM-H are nearing their current model run. In this issue we have the low-down on the new Commodore. It’s interesting to a degree but it sure as hell isn’t going to rotate the earth. We figure the 4.2/4 speed will be the best bet since the 5.0 litre isn’t available with a manual.
We will of course test both cars, maybe even a comparison, but don’t expect any miracles from them because the word ‘performance’ doesn’t exist at the factories anymore. It’s anti-social to have a fast car, the market is too small say the spokesmen, people don’t want fast cars anymore, they want comfortable, economical ones. Bullshit.
We are faced with accepting what the car makers want to sell us and nothing more. Performance cars are antisocial because that’s what the advertising propaganda has us believe. If Ford or GM-H had a fast car to sell – one that they would make money out of – it would suddenly become fashionable because the advertisements would say so. What it boils down to is that the ‘Big Two’ just haven’t got their act together. They have, in essence, put performance cars in the ‘too-hard basket’. 

What emerges over the next 20 issues, up to and including the 1985 February-March issue [Paradise’s last issue], is a popularist, if not paranoid, search for what Paradise calls ‘performance’ above. I’ll assume you know what is meant by ‘performance’ […]. There were three main potential sources of ‘performance’ that I have identified in my reading of these 20 or so issues of Street Machine:

1) Firstly, there were the local car manufacturers of the time, Ford, GM Holden and Mitsubishi. Australia’s big three manufacturers were also combined with other smaller-scale producers, such as car dealers, motorsport race car driver identities, or speed shops that developed particular packages to modify new cars. The focus here was on locally produced new cars, or variations of them

2) The second source was constituted by new cars produced elsewhere, ie not-local. What was very surprising to me when reading these early Street Machine magazine issues is the prominent position in the magazine of performance cars and technologies from Japan. The prominence of the Japanese automotive technologies contradicted what I thought I already knew about Street Machine. The turbocharger is also located in this series, too. ‘Performance’ is configured in terms of what were called ‘micro-cars’, with feature articles on the Mazda SS 323, the Honda City Turbo, and what Street Machine called their own ‘Café Racer’ a modified Mazda 323.

3) Third was a primary focus on late-1960s through to early-1980s Ford, Holden and Chrysler V8 and six-cylinder powered 2- and 4-door sedans or large family cars.

What eventually happens after much to-ing and fro-ing between these three different ways of capturing performance, Street Machine settles on the third type.

Academic Differends

I have written a rather long-winded a-grammatical reply to a post by Steve Shaviro on what he calls the “differend between dialectics, with its notes of crisis, contradiction, and antagonism, and pluralism of the Deleuzian variety, with its rejection of any thought of the negative and its insistence on the metastability of the virtual as the source of change.” (I am pretty sure ‘differend’ is meant in the Lyotardian sense.) When I get to the point of my reply, I eventually ask:

“Does everyone have to become Deleuzian just to understand what is going on [in the work of Deleuzians]?!?! Is the labour of ‘translation’ (as you phrase it between ‘dialectic’/’multiplicity’) something that is expected of people who use Deleuze and Guattari in their work? Why? How much should Deleuzians ‘expect’ of their readers/audience (to know the Deleuzian metalanguage)?” 

This is troubling to me as I need to do this work in my dissertation! Should I just assume that I am writing for someone who has read all the ‘theory’ stuff (and more than) that I have read? Do I need to do translate work, not only into ‘common’ academic jargon, but ‘everyday’ language, too? Why should I?

Jon at Posthegemony also has a post on Steve’s post.