Cruising through the non-places…

I have been in contact wih the editor of ‘Bifurcaciones’; a Chilean cultural/urban studies journal: http://www.revistabifurcaciones.cl/

He was interested in something I posted to the film-philosophy list about Marc Auge’s concept of the non-place and wants me to write something for the journal. As James Weiner has noted, within anthropology (proper, none of this ‘cultural studies’ nonsense) there are two competing accounts of human relations to place and placedness. One is premised on “detailing the many dimensions of intimacy, knowledge, familiarity, history, and interpersonality mediated by attachment to particular places.” The other is located around Auge’s notion of the ‘non-place’ “the interstitial and often artificially constructed zones that have emerged in a world of continuous travel.” A ‘place’ in Auge’s little book are public spaces filled with historical and ceremonial memory.

Of course, my research on modified-car culture, where I have hung out in these alleged ‘non-places’ doing fieldwork, has led me to the conclusion that Auge’s account is, at best, only ever partial and its partiality needs to be interrogated. Perhaps it is too French? The account of the business-class traveller in the beginning of the book certainly offers a very different account of the non-places compared to a traveller from a different class, gender, ethnicity, age, etc background.

It is perhaps useful to retun to Foucault’s notion of heterotopias which I read through a Deleuzian-eye as the virtual potential of the spatial extension in any actual situation. Chris Stanley has already thought through the notion of the ‘streets’ in a similar way in his piece in the 1998 _Club Cultures Reader_ “Not drowning but waving: urban narratives of dissent in the wild zone.” Stanley’s ‘wild zone’ is the space where ‘joy riders’ can escape to in their stolen cars. It is the space within the space that is under the radar of governmental authorities; not only the actual police, but the machinery of policing that has come to populate the body of the ‘road user’.

The ‘cathedrals of consumption’ such as shopping centres and fast food joints have long been appropriated by youth as spaces of sociality. Most of my fieldwork time has been carried out in one of two modes. I joined a car club and attended organised club events. The other simply involved cruising around and discovering where something was ‘happening’. Something ‘happens’ from the nothing of the street. That is, it is not enough to label a space a ‘non-place’ as such a categorical distinction is temporally specific. Paul Corrigan’s piece on “Doing Nothing” in the BCCCS classic _Resistance Through Rituals_ exemplifies the creative event-based practices that are common to most youth and, I would argue, especially car enthusiasts. The space of the street becomes a space of potentiality – through action what is precipitated is the incorporeal event of ‘nothing’. Parallels can be drawn to the early rave scene that Stanley also discusses and their appropriation of abandoned warehouses/etc.

Anyway, I will need to think about this some more. There has been some work on ‘cruising spaces’ already by scholars (including an awesome essay from 1969!) so I need to figure out what has changed, if anything… and I think a lot has…

All you need is love

Love is in the air at the moment.

I attended a wedding yesterday of one of my good mates to his now wife he met while doing postgrad med in Sydney. It was a wonderful day and I was righteously drunk by the end of it. Now I am recovering, I feel a little sick, my eyes hurt and there is an odd stuttering shake to my hands as a type, but it was great!!!! It felt a little bit like a Sin-Bin on a UCFK camp at various moments during the night…

http://www.livejournal.com/users/delve/95992.html found via a link on Mel Gregg’s blog is a good read. I am reading some Alain Badiou over summer partially in response to the changing fortunes of the once-was-called “Spoon’s Lyotard List” that has now become the “Discussion of J-F-Lyotard, Alain Badiou, the Event” list. There is a distinct resonance between the words on love from the blog post and Badiou’s argument-cum-polemic on Love.

Badiou is a neo-Platonicist and has written some harsh words about Deleuze. I am not convinced that his central series of concepts-arguments has any general applicability in the slightest, in fact, for cultural studies he is downright useless, but what he writes about love is still pretty cool, though.

Badiou wants to bring back ‘truth’. Generally I would say, ‘Fuck that…’ It reeks of an arrogant patriarchal view of the world to even suggest that any truth is possible at all. All we have is Guattari’s ethico-aesthetic paradigm and the labour of commitment to what is done, not to what ‘it’ is. I can understand why all the old radical socialists love Badiou, but I can not handle the becoming-majoritarian-ism of his POV and, I’m sorry, but deriving the bulk of his ontology from mathematical set theory is just freakin bizarre…

For Badiou “truths are materially produced in specific situations, and each begins from an event or discovery that eludes the prevailing logic that structures and governs those situations. … a truth comes into being through the subjects who proclaim it and, in doing so, constitute themselves as subjects in their fidelity to the event.” One of the examples he gives is “a pair of lovers’ conception of themselves as loving subjects, grounded only in a shared fidelity to the ephemeral event of their encounter.” ‘Love’ would be the state where the incoherent inconsistencies of the multiplicity of the loving subjects is worked upon through the labour of love – a fidelity to the event.

A modification to Badiouisms to make them more digestible for the less Catholic amongst us would have to eject the set theory and look at the internal consistency of truth. He talks about the coherent multiplicity (or set) becoming unity or one. What he needs to take into account the multiple dimensions of the expansion and contraction/condensation from the One to the Multiple and vice versa. There is an immanent and situationally specific violence and a dynamic non-linear temporal series associated with each movement. One example is a node in one dimension expanding into a network in another dimension and vice versa. Bruno Latour calls one such passage ‘black boxing’. My modified-car enthusiasts go the other way when ‘modifying’.

How about falling in love and then out of love? Each ‘phase space’ or becoming of love involves a specific and beautiful violence of condensation and expansion. The marriage I attended yesterday is an attempt to ‘freeze’ the inconsistent and incoherent multiplicity which the lovers’ subject positions are derived and draw their strength. Condensation becomes a contract-ion.

A fidelity to the event of love isn’t good enough for some people and it is something christian in his blog post doesn’t really discuss. I often spoke about this with a certain ex-lover/partner/girlfriend (I think we went all three of those stages, a complete relationship). She wanted jewelry – a ring or someshit – a symbol of my love. The same thing was said yesterday at the wedding. “Take this ring as a symbol of my love…” The question I would ask in reply is (hoping like hell that she might finally understand exactly what I meant, but I don’t think she ever will) – why do you need a symbol of my love when you actually have my love?

You can see the Badiouisms in the poem I wrote below in an earlier time when I was tired, exhausted, stressed, but joyously in love… and I really did believe all I needed was love.

Poem url: http://glenfuller.blogspot.com/2004/10/ode-to-my-beautiful-samantha.html

The radical potential of ‘dead wood’?

A number of the issues raised in various papers that I heard at the 2004 CSAA conference hit home in a very real way; that is, at my familial home. I am writing this the night I am back in Sydney. I am exhausted, but not tired, and have this I want to write before I forget.

My mum is nearing the end of her 31 year career as a teacher. For 21 of those years she has worked at one public high school. Now she is being forced to face up up to the neo-liberalist workplace policies of ‘perform – or else’ (See Jon Mckenzie’s work).

Without going into the specifics of her plight my mum has been stiffed at work for the last time. For longer than I have been alive she has been a Liberal voter. Come next election, I hope very much this will no longer be the case.

Like the worker in the Living End’s song “Roll On” my mum found out the hard way about the biopolitical production of living labour in the meld of the performatively docile worker in this hyper-conformative era (where you conform even when you don’t):

You see you’re all expendable,
And when all is said and done,
You’ll go back to work tomorrow,
Or meet your new replacement son.
Roll on!
Roll on!
We’ll roll on with our heads held high…

The typical 60+ year old baby boomer my fellow members of generation-? (? for ‘whatever’, but generation-W sounds kind of second-wave-feminism-ish) and I dismissively refer to as ‘dead wood’ (or maybe it is just me?). With future security tied up in fat retirement funds and the collective conscience of their once-was-radicality perhaps we will see a return to political engagment mobilised by a shared sense of resentiment triggered from social underappreciation.

Or perhaps the dead wood will remain so and end up being the motor-cause of the grey-dollar consumer society. Then it is a question of the biopolitical potential of whatever enthusiasms the Rich Dead Wood desires. Rather like generation-?, who think raves offer some sort of radical potential by offering alternate images of economic exchange or some bullshit like that. Which leads me to one of my childhood faves – Ren and Stimpy.

The biopolitical potential of dead wood as consumer and of the rave is a bit like Ren and Stimpy’s ficticious child’s toy (and maybe ‘adult’ toy for the kinky folks) “Log”:

What rolls down stairs,
Alone or in pairs…
Rolls over your neighbor’s dog?
What’s great for a snack,
And fits on your back?

It’s Log! Log! Log!

It’s Lo-og, it’s Lo-og
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood!

It’s Lo-og, Lo-og.
It’s better than bad, it’s good!!!

Either way what is left but an ethical commitment? The collective resentiment of boomers is a moment that will flash and then never reappear with the same force again. There is only one boomer generation and, likewise, there is a singular period of becoming-‘dead wood’. Hopefully such a wave can be tapped in a more ethical manner than the collective resentiment ‘captured’ by, for example, Pauline Hanson.

Such dead-wood resentiment will happen and it must be mobilised in ethical ways. Negative affects must be filtered and fed into each other so they become positive affects.

This is the opposite of what happens at Sydney International Airport. As Melissa Gregg and I mention in the hopefully to-be-published paper on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, there is an announcement broadcast continually over the PA at Sydney Airport that begins with: “Due to increased security measures…” This message has been played over the PA for a long time, I noticed it about 7 months ago. It captures the affective of the ‘to-be’ journey in pretension with itself. That is, the futurity of the present is in an affective tension with the eventuality of the future. The word ‘increased’ increases the polarity of the tension across scales of temporality – of coming and going bodies with various anticipations of the future. The anticipating body is in tension.

The future-event is reconciled with the incredibly strong affects (sometimes) of, for example, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. The momentum of the present is given a certain weight – the heaviness and slowness of goodbye or the incredible lightness and speed of hello. However, the mobilisation of the lightness or heaviness of the present is always in a particular direction. The direction is bound to be congruent with the announcement about ‘increased security’. The continual repetition of this phrase in the space of the airport is a complex event that has a number of intersecting possibilities. I argue that one such event is the production of particular kinds of departing and arriving travellers.

Anyway, long blog entry, and it has done its job – now I am ready for bed. Last point. I wonder if there is a radical potential in this Blog form of communication? Or is this just another form of ‘log’?

‘Sequels’ paper

The paper is ‘finished’. By that I mean it has been submitted for the PhD level course I am doing in Sweden. I realised my paper was testing the internal thresholds of the ‘essay’ medium in its attempted becoming-book. I had to discipline it through a code of spatialised scholarly convention. My argument was not going to spill from my pages into others. It was to be trapped!!!!

HU HA HAHAAHAHAhahahah HUHAHAHAhahahaha HUAHAHAhahahahah… [that was an evil laugh]

Anyway… so I have all these other examples that I have started on and could easily be turned into chapter length pieces, for example, one is on Pulp Fiction and the other is on the Matrix frachise (in both I explore sequel as repeated simulacra, albeit in different ways). I treat them both to the hot light of my ‘sequel’ interrogative methodology. Then there is a chapter on the political economy of enthusiasm (that I am going to have to write for my thesis), perhaps this can be my back burner project throughout my thesis. Some of the ideas are very similar. Plus it allows me to explore concepts in a different milieu.

I have contacted a few journals to see if there is any interest in publishing it. It is something of a mongrel paper, not quite cinema studies and not quite philosocultstuds, there is even a becoming-political economy about it, too. I am feeling very tired just thinking about it. Below is a copy of the email I sent off to one journal:

Dear editorial collective,

I am enquiring about the possibility of submitting a paper for submission. The problem is I have very little experience in the ‘cinema’ field. The only thing I have had published remotely related to cinema is an article I wrote for Street Machine magazine on the 100 Best Car Movies of All Time (the top five were selected by readers). I can send you a first draft of this if you like, although the published version and my initial version are quite different in some aspects. The paper was written for a PhD level course on ‘Mediated Cultures’ I am taking in Sweden as I am here on exchange. In some respects my article is a response to having to ‘deal’ with media in my thesis. My PhD thesis is on modified-car culture. I also have an interview with Mr A, the executive producer of the Getaway in Stockholm series of films, soon to be published in Autosalon magazine. Meeting up with one of the makers of GiS was a central reason for coming to Sweden.
Needless to say the sequels paper is more of a hoon understanding of cinema than a cinephile understanding (if that at all makes sense). I found the ‘problem’ of the sequel very intriguing and something that has not really been dealt with in the current cinema literature. I outline what is at stake for fans of film series and the ‘Hollwood cinema machine’ that makes them. I am not sure what to do with the paper, but I think it is at least worth finding out if you might be interested. Below are the title and abstract details.
Ciao,
Glen Fuller.

Title: movie sequels, movie events and the political economy of enthusiasm

Abstract: This paper is written in response to fan backlash against the Alien vs Predator movie. I explore the conundrum of the ‘inferiority of the blockbuster sequel’. The contemporary state of Hollywood cinema allows for and indeed encourages the production of sequels due to the emergence of the movie as ‘media event’: the blockbuster. The ‘blockbuster’ is defined in terms of how it is and is not what Dayan Katz and Elihu Katz’s call a ‘media event’. The specific problem for fans and the Hollywood cinema machine is the period between the ‘original’ movie-event and the ‘sequel’ movie-event. There is an affective momentum building/manipulation process associated with this in-between period and it is explored using the conceptualised tools of anticipation and expectation. The relationship between fan-based enthusiasm and what Jonathan Beller calls the Cinematic Mode of Production is explored in relation to the specific role of ‘desire’. The Hollwood cinema machine and the enthusiasm of fans have different stakes in the problem of the sequel. The Spiderman franchise is offered and explored as an example of the successful blockbuster sequel.

I am not sure how this will ‘fly’ with editors of a cinema journal… Also, I have sent a copy to the guy I was arguing with on IMDb message boards about the Alien vs Predator film. I stick the boot (book?) into Paul W.S. Anderson in this article. I am not sure if he was to ever read the paper he would actually understand what I am talking about (that is not a slight against his intelligence, it is just my argument draws on so-called ‘high theory’ that requires extensive reading just to get a grasp of it).

very tired… need some food… fuck, Pimp My Ride is on tonight… new series! very tired…

Work: Sequel Wars

I thought I had better put something up about the work I am doing at the moment. Here are the first two intro paras.
kapow!
What is a sequel? For some fans passionate about particular movies the moniker ‘sequel’ signals a monstrous malediction of genius. Works of art are reduced to vehicles of merchandising. Film texts that were once indexes of personal and collective identification become mere prompts for megaplex popcorn with extra syrup. What is the nature of the awesome and destructive power sequels have over the first incarnations? The horrific violence wrought upon a film to turn it into a franchise can not be solely located with the capitalist spirit of lecherous studio executives to exploit enthusiasms. What audience is the franchised film sequel made for? Are we really the stupid subjects of sociocultural programming that allow purveyors of these ‘perversions’ to peddle their wares? Can the notion of a ‘sequel’ be rethought and articulated in such a way to encourage an enrichment of a ‘franchise’?
I have been prompted to write a paper after an exchange on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) message board for the Alien versus Predator (AvP) movie with an avid fan of the Alien series of films. I had posted some suggestions of what needs to be in the sequel to this movie. Innocent enough, I thought… My first respondent was A:3. I am calling this fan A:3, because his position was that after the three films in the Alien series, there was “no life in the series” and the fourth should not have been made. A:3 was particularly insulted by the AvP film. He believed the Predator series was a total shit, and joining it with the Alien series for a crossover film was an utter travesty. A:3 manned the message boards shooting down any post or response that discussed the possibility of a sequel to AvP. Incurring the wrath of this disgruntled fan, I discovered that the fan’s keyboard is mightier than the logical argument. He challenged me to find a sci-fi/action movie series where the final film in the series rated the same or better than the original (the ratings were provided by the user rating function on the IMDB site). After an hour of searching I gave up. The closest I could come were The Lord of the Rings series and the Evil Dead series. I later discovered the recent Spiderman series (another series of films directed by Sam Raimi) also has a higher rated sequel than the initial film. However, none of these are really sci-fi/action movies. I found the fact that almost no sequels at all managed to measure up to the initial film in the series absolutely amazing! Surely this must be one of the hard and fast ‘laws’ of cinema: a sequel will ‘always’ be worse.
boink!
Anyway, there is much to say about sequels. I start off by talking about the birth of the blockbuster and take a Deleuzian angle on the ‘culture industry’. What is commodified is not ‘culture’ per se but ‘enthusiasm’. Here I pull out some more Deleuziasms to do with desire. I am thinking about the ‘culture industry’ less in terms of the production of ‘culture’ in the form of cultural artifacts or ‘meaning’, but some forms of mass culture as ‘anti-production’ that ‘captures’ consumers in the desiring machines we call enthusiasm. Enthusiasm does not belong to the ‘cultural products’ (artifacts or meanings) but to the desiring machines that organise whichever assemblage the cultural products are part. What it results in is a ‘turnstyle capitalism’.
Perfect example of what I am talking about in its most docile form, and where I am getting inspiration for the term from, are sporting fans that are part of the assemblage of franchised sporting teams and the mass culture surrounding them. Quite literally a profit is extracted at the turnstyle as a direct manifestation of the fans enthusiasm for a sporting team (what I call a fan ‘object’ or, because it is not really an object but a constellation of intensities, the ‘fanject’).
Enthusiasm in the movie industry is different for instead of desire operating within the strict confines or thresholds of the way in which the fanject is (anti)produced, fans allow their enthusiasm (desire, but not so reactionary anymore) to break apart the confines of the organising principles which create the movie as fanject. This is evidenced by a particular mode of ‘script rewriting’ where instead of injecting the fanject assemblage with other fantasies, the concepts of which the intial movie is only but one example are allowed to morphogenetically become or ‘involve’. Sequels become ‘formulaic’ when sequels are produced with a mimetic relation to an ‘original’ that can be then reduced to the same. When this happens the concepts that organise the movie (fanject) remain potentialised. Yeah…
I am about 2 thirds the way into it at the moment.
Much work to do!
Ciao,
glen.