RIP Chris Burden.
I think the first time I made a serious connection between the way the military-industrial complex makes us see the world and the way cinema imagines the world was when I happened upon Jean Baudrillard’s argument in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. To massacre a nuanced and compelling booklength piece of theory into a single sentence: part of what Baudrillard is discussing here is the way modern warfare has become a media spectacle, more of a multimedia propaganda performance than the wars of yore that we learn about in school. By the time the second Gulf War came around, the trends that Baudrillard identified were even more evident, with stenographers/reporters embedded directly in military units and feeds of the arrival of U.S. forces being broadcast in real time, as though you were seated in the racing assault vehicles.
I don’t know who was the first to make these sorts of arguments, but I do know that Paul Virilio’s 1984 book, War and Cinema, started connecting the dots, and did so not with contemporary warfare like Iraq I and II but rather going back to the First World War. The starting point of his argument is that industrialized warfare was the point at while the representation of reality in the mass media began to outstrip the ability of actual facts to reach the eyes and ears of interested viewers. Pretty soon, that nascent medium, film, was beginning to take its lessons from the way warfare projected reality for the masses.
I particularly liked the chapter “The Hell of Images,” where Virilio discusses how cinema took up the baton from warfare in terms of creating civilization’s heroes and central myths—in effect it “shape[d] society by putting order into visual chaos.” In this chapter Virilio constantly makes comparisons between the gigantic cineplexes of of the era and the necropolises and cathedrals that were the key artifacts of the religious order. It’s become something of a commonplace that cineplexes are the cathedrals of the modern era, and “The Hell of Images” is one of the better statements I’ve read on fleshing out what that is and just what that thesis means.
There is a lot, lot more in War and Cinema—I’ve only really sketched out a few of the things that Virilio takes us through in the book. The arguments he makes are very in-depth, and it’s a rather quotable work. Perhaps most importantly, for something that was written in 1984—ages ago so far as technology is concerned—it has held up very well, maintaining a lot of its relevance and impact.
The overpass had been there for years…like that place to get donuts…..like that guy who fed pigeons at that bus stop on the line that long stopped service. It simply was. The neighborhood was humble and generally quiet aside from the cars passing overhead or the horn honk at times like some odd bird passing high above. The thunderstorm formed in the summer heat and just sat in place to the west of the neighborhood, not an unusual occurrence.
Laundry blew on clotheslines and grass bent toward the storm. A man proclaimed how odd this was, this wind toward the storm. The meteorologist would know that this was inflow winds and was not unusual at all. The father played catch with his surly teenage son as the wind blew. His daughter was a bit alarmed when the bolts of lightning began to flash within the narrow rain shaft west of the overpass and town. When the lightning became more frequent it was time to go inside. The old adage “ lightning never strikes twice” was disproven in the early twentieth century when the empire state building was seen many times being struck 3 or 4 times in a single summer thunderstorm. The father and a few neighbors knew none of this and spoke of the storm as odd.
The victim described the suspect as
a black male between 6’0” and 6’2” and 220-240 lbs. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and gloves.
a Hispanic male adult, approximately 40 y/o, with acne on his cheeks, wearing dark hoodie and jeans.
a Latino about 30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with an average build. He wore a black ski mask, sunglasses, a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants.
This is the perfect intersection of america’s obsession with nostalgia and extreme grittiness.
It’s the best fifteen minutes of your day.
Last week I watched The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, a documentary made by Sophie Fiennes and starring Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. I’m not quite sure where the pervert part comes in, unless if maybe there’s something inherently perverted about watching Žižek talk for a little over two hours (quite possible). It also occurs to me that Žižek is calling himself a pervert, since this is his guide to ideology. In that case, he probably knows best.
This is essentially Žižek’s take on ideology, compressed down to 2 1/4 hours and presented via the plotlines of various feature films. As Žižek popularizing Žižek, it’s very successful—it’s entertaining, and Žižek and Fiennes manage to work in a lot.
Basically, the way this film works, is Žižek finds ways to get his points across by borrowing plots and images from various famous movies (mostly big budget Hollywood flicks). So, for instance, the film starts with some scenes from the infamous alien-invasion B movie They Live. The idea of that film is that the protagonist, Nada, one day discovers sunglasses that let him see the “truth” behind appearances. So, when he looks at what you and I would perceive as a wholesome billboard showing people enjoying their consumer products, what Nada sees (and what we really see) is a big sign screaming “OBEY.”
Žižek calls these “ideology glasses” because what they really let Nada do is cut through all the layers of ideology to perceive the actual statements that people are making. This is Žižek’s basic point about ideology: it’s a kind of layering up of discourse that comes between us and what is actually being said. A lot of Žižek’s work as a philosopher is in figuring out why certain ideological stances succeed and perpetuate themselves in our world (which is driven by the ultimate ideology, capitalism) and determining what, if anything, is actually beneath the ideology. The bulk of The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is Žižek trying to explain and cut through various predominant ideologies in the West—Christianity, democracy, market capitalism, etc, etc.
Watching Žižek in this film is a lot like reading him: he’s got this relentless, headlong pace that makes you wonder when he has time to breathe. His tone is utter deadpan and no-nonsense, which works really well when he’s saying something ostensibly ludicrous (often), but he also has this cute, teddy bear aspect to him that’s really kind of endearing. Žižek does this wonderful thing where you know he knows how absurd everything about this movie is, even though at the same time he seems to be acting completely sincere and serious. It’s probably the only right way for Žižek to approach the material he’s trying to dicuss.
Like Žižek’s books, the chain of logic in this film can be a little mystifying at times: Žižek likes to jump from explaining one phenomenon to another, and while each individual explanation is pretty coherent, sometime the logic of moving from one to another can be murky, or convoluted. That’s Žižek.
Definitely one of the highlights here is the section that compares the post-WWII Soviet film The Fall of Berlin to James Cameron’s Titanic (for the similar mechanics of the love story). The Fall of Berlin is pretty amazing: it includes an actor playing Stalin, who gives a young Russian peasant love advice. It also includes an actor playing a farcical, vicious Soviet parody of Hitler. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich was forced into doing the music to atone for making actual good music (which the Soviets of course hated because it sounded nothing like Socialist Realist music). And, apparently (according to Žižek), some essential scenes toward the beginning were destroyed because they contained footage of former secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria, who was disappeared and officially became a nonperson. So, in other words, this film is a colossal train wreck. Watching Žižek discuss it all and show how freakishly similar it is to one of the biggest successes of capitalist cinema ever is loads of fun!
If you’re a fan of Žižek and are familiar with his books, you’ll notice a lot of his best lines in here. Unfortunately, his discourse on the different ways that European toilets display shit doesn’t make the cut, but there is a scene where Žižek is sitting on a stall in a men’s bathroom (from Full Metal Jacket). (And, while I’m on this subject, I’m pretty sure that, toward the beginning, when he’s talking in front of a dumpster, some dude in the background takes a leak onscreen.) He does, however, make his oft-repeated declaration that “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”
Also, much like reading Žižek, when I reached the end of this movie I wasn’t quite sure what it was all about. Which isn’t exactly a critique. In my limited reading of Žižek (and, honestly, who among us can claim to have read the majority of Žižek in the world?) his books tend to have really compelling takes on individual things, but to not really add up to a whole lot. Which, I guess, may be part of the nature of the beast, when you’re trying to honestly deconstruct capitalism from the inside out.
Anyway, this is fun, educational Žižek cinema. I recommend it to you! You can see a list of all the films Žižek discusses at the film’s Wikipedia page. And here’s a link to the film’s 15-minute-long “extended” trailer.
This is the Mariah Carey episode of Cribs.
Who are you?
I am Nathan Baudy. I am a filmmaker, noise musician, poet, and writer.
What am I watching here?
You are watching a short film entitled “Ray’s Tattoo Party.” It is a film that depicts the conversations and events that took place during a tattoo party.
When + where was this filmed?
This was filmed in Pullman, WA in JAN 2015.
Can you describe the creative process?
The creative process was purely spontaneous. My friend Ray and I agreed to “get together and make art or something” so I went over to their place and they put an Olympus camera in my hand and I started filming. As I was filming I started doing in-camera cutting and thinking about what I was filming so that I could frame it around a central idea. The idea ended up becoming a film about millennial artists getting together and tattooing themselves and talking about america, pornography, art, and telling jokes.
Do you script in any form?
Sometimes. Not for this film.
Who directed this?
Is there a collaborative process involved?
Of course. Nearly everything I do is collaborative. The film is a collaboration between myself and all the performers in the film (who are just being themselves). Ray let me use their camera too. The film is kind of about artistic collaboration. It’s about sharing opinions, letting people tattoo you in your kitchen, and letting yourself be filmed and displayed for the world.
Describe your relationship with the internet and making stuff?
I mostly use it for marketing. In my past I almost exclusively created content for internet consumption, but I find it more rewarding to meet people in person and make intimate films like these. I don’t really care who sees my films. I put them online because I am saving them for myself and I make them public to attract more like-minded artists in attempts to continue making collaborative art with new people.
What other stuff have you been working on lately?
I’m writing an experimental novel. I’m curating noise/experimental music for a series I created called “Contemporary Experimental Music/Noise Anthology Series” where I release one album per month. Every track on it is by a different musician from across the United States. I’m making my own drone/noise compositions. I journal everyday.
You can submit noise/experimental tracks to me via facebook or here:
Inspirations / Influnences? It reminds me of ‘Wavelength’ by Michael Snow.
Warhol, obviously. Harmony Korine, Lars Von Trier, Hollis Frampton, Stan Brakhage, Michael Snow, Jonas Mekas, Richard Linklater. My friends inspire me. I film them because I am inspired by them. I want people to see them.
Why did you send it to me?
I thought you would like it.
Sometimes a song doesn’t stick right away, or even a whole album. You’re there to get into it because I’m/you’re a Fangirl and that requires patience and sustained interest, at the very least. Tonight I was on a walk in the freezing cold with my pug, who wore two sweaters, and listening to it on headphones I suddenly got Charli XCX’s “Body of My Own”– GOT IT in capital letters: the sped-up ‘80s English ska beat, the shouty punch of the melody, the lyrics “’Cause I can make it feel just like I’m hangin’ on/Yeah I can do it better when I’m all alone,” which by the way I initially thought went “Sometimes sex just feels like you are all alone/Yeah I can do it better when I’m all alone.” That same chorus sounds like a bratty girl version of Oingo Boingo’s most urgent songs, my favorite ones, all dork-circus with a blend of styles ranging from the American songbook to Broadway to cabaret to new wave rave-up.
When Marina & the Diamonds toured her Electra Heart album I showed up after Charli XCX had already opened because I hadn’t really cared for or about her. I only recently fell wildly in love with Charli’s first album, Nuclear Seasons, while working an office job I hated where Spotify was my main source of Good Life Feelings and emotional engagement. I had eight hours a day to listen to music I’d never taken the time to give a fair shake; it was during this exploration that I also fell hard for Dum Dum Girls. I’d somehow forgotten to note how much I loved “Coming Down” when that song came out & it’d play on the satellite radio station while I stood around gossiping with the other shopgirls at my then-job; Too True is this shiny pop glut run through a punk/late ‘80s goth rock machine with strong, throaty vocals spread on top thickly. At this same job I’d listen to Sam Cooke for eight hours straight, the Harlem Club Live album’s version of “Bring it On Home to Me” over and over, the demo for “You Send Me” that is just Sam singing so sweetly with a light, heartbreaking acoustic guitar: perfect.
I saw Inherent Vice at noon today, the first showing of the film in my fair city of Athens. While I enjoy PT Anderson films, and would go so far as to say that I loved There Will Be Blood, I was there with such a quickness not out of some affinity for the filmmaker or lead actor or even book (which I’d just finished) but for Joanna Newsom, who plays a character named Sortilege who also acts as a narrator for the film and appears in about three scenes. Everything goes out the fucking window when Joanna is involved: it cannot be anything to me before it is a Thing with Joanna Newsom.” This all because her music sits right in the center of my body and has since I first heard it, though it’s set up house there more firmly as the years go by and the songs keep coming. If you’re a lucky person this happens with lots of art and there are thousands of good, strong homes inside you that you get to share with all kind of interesting strangers on this planet, makers of art and the fellow imbibers, too. It’s one of the best parts of being alive, next to dogs.
I like the poetry of Henri Chopin.
His work is a united expression, sensory disorientation, self-inflicted, the roughness of living, horrific, extremely effective, it lives inside lip-serving spoors, examples of sleep deprivation, and the great phrase of known adrenaline.
“La Digestion” was first recorded in 1972 at the author’s studio in Ingatestone.