10 Apr 2014
The totalitarian (pre- and post-democratic societies) are emotionally cemented by positive and negative identifications (positive – by the principle of factual or imaginary similarity/identity: of unconditional acceptance of the other person, and negative – by the principle of dissimilarity/otherness”: of his/her unconditional and hateful refutation. To simplify, totalitarian people love those who are similar with them and suspiciously indifferent or hateful towards those who are different from them (in ideology, worldview, life-style, values and norms of behavior). In an ideally democratic community, on the other hand, similarity or dissimilarity between two or more people is not important, but what considered attractive in human being is this person’s otherness/uniqueness /authenticity creating in others a kind of friendly curiosity.
Totalitarian people identify with power elite (vertically) and with one another (horizontally). They worship power and are ready to die for it, and they are always ready to kill those who are “not with them and against them”. The point here is that the commercial cinema (for example, Hollywood entertainment) uses this totalitarian emotional structure of human relations as a model for psychological relations between the viewers and the stars/heroes as a mechanism of tying viewers to their production. For cinema producers (and everybody involved in the production) it’s not a theoretical issue but a matter of survival, success and self-enrichment. They know by their refined ability to smell money that what we call totalitarian psychology is rooted deeper in the soil of human psyche than democratic one. They feel with their liver, that the relationship of the mass people with the hairy-fist leaders (worshipful) and with the “angelic”/heroic hurrah-peers (with whom “we” share life, death and resurrection as heroes/martyrs), and, on the one hand, with the carriers of dissimilarity, these contemptible devils, is impregnated with dense libido where Eros and Tanatos are blended as in an ecstasy creating drug. So, they based the whole perceptional aesthetic of commercial cinema on the old and universal totalitarian psychology, which they didn’t name as such but see it as the basic human motivational sources they can use as a precious resource.
Commercial movie-makers employ archaic human emotional matrix to fixate the viewers on stars/characters – positive, who are as “I” am or dream and want to be, and the negative, whom “I” dislike and tend to hate. The commercial narratives are obviously or in essence based on interaction, confrontation and clash between carriers of goodness and villainous people, and a lot of gimmicks and magical effects around to make “my” ideal life on the screen adventurous, breathtaking, heart-pumping and chair-sweating.
The most advanced version of this basic scheme is the situation when “my“ star-hero (me-star-hero) is simultaneously the one whom I narcissistically admire and, at the same time, not less narcissistically (passionately) hate. If on the screen these two parts of each viewer are not so polarized and not obviously exaggeratedly good and bad, the viewers tend to laugh – sometimes sarcastically – at negative “themselves”, and sometimes sentimentally – at positive “themselves”. Totalitarian polarization of perception is still there, but without the traditional sharpened social contrast.
Immediate identification with star/character (positive and negative) is the basic magic mechanism of commercial cinema that gives the producers, directors and actors the opportunity to transport the viewers into the wide world by simultaneously transforming this world into basic everyday situation of each mass viewer who is psychologically stuck in the narcissism of his/her personality and with the external world in which there is always “not enough similarity with ‘us’ and too much dissimilarity/otherness”. Commercial cinema is always about people’s readymade totalitarian unconscious. But transformation of the viewer into star/hero through identification is his/her narcissistic idealization as viewer/star/hero. As soon as the end result is that “I” feel “great” about myself – what can be a better motivation to buy ticket for the same movie again and again and expect the same euphoria from the next? Giving viewers the chance to be “great” character through cinematic identification is the main leverage commercial cinema has to make people hooked on movies as goods.
This chance to feel yourself a star/hero, as if, moves the viewer upward in the social hierarchy, transforms him/her into a movie star – the center of everybody’s admiring attention. What more a poor movie fan can dream about? What he/she feels in these moments of identification with the star/hero is much more than the cost of the ticket to the movie-theater. Life is not only just – it is miraculously generous when entertaining movies exist. The film star/hero for the viewer is a psychical hybrid between a totalitarian leader and totalitarian peers. He is everything, and he is, simultaneously, more than everything. And entertaining cinema is his/her magic moving stage. Only here we can be ourselves, above the boring and often a humiliating reality.
Only serious cinema avoids the totalitarian trap hidden in the very psychology of fabrication and perception of commercial movies, by the price of losing the opportunity of commercial success (by refusing identification by similarity and scapegoating of otherness as the bad guys). It seems that democratic psychology as a psychological canvass of art is bad for profit although it is good for the freedom of the filmmakers and the viewers and for the truth.
08 Apr 2014
deep in the glowing
in the Time-Hole
with your Mouth
By Paul Celan
Alongside the external objects which we from our infancy internalize into our psyche when we interact with the external world, there are two types of intra-psychic or internal objects which we are able to develop. The internal objects of the first type are “dramatic”, like personages of theatrical plays and enigmatic figures of our night dreams – they are the result of our perception of objects in the external world and are their “representatives” (distorted by our subjectivity) inside our mind. The internal objects of the second type are conceptual, “linguistic”, “analytical” – result of our self-reflective perception of both – external and intra-psychic objects. In other words, our intra-psychic objects or introjects are either our psychological versions of the objects in the external world or our “intellectual” reaction on both, the external or internal world (our desires, passions, thoughts and feelings and imaginings). These “intellectual” reactions are our “formalized” interpretations of how we ourselves perceive our social environment and our psychic life.
Usually, poetry is full of poets’ subjective reactions on the external world, but in “The Trumpet-Part” there is no, for example, Trumpet-Part in the common world of external, shared objects, and there are no, for example, Text-Void, Torch-Height or Time-Hole in our subjective reactions on the external world. These intra-psychic objects are metaphors of how poet’s creative ego reflects on his external and internal worlds. They are metaphorical coding of poet’s work with reality. We have to take his artificial, “monstrous”, non-existing words as we usually take the shared world external to all of us or the world of our subjective reactions. We take his linguistic architectural terms as signifiers of his poetic operations vis-à-vis the two realities he confronts. The poetic inspiration is not under the poet’s conscious control, and without this uncontrollability there is no creative Eros, like there is no creative reaction on the world if there is no passion in our perceptions. The form is like content compressed into densified particles of sense.
Like nature of the world is latently present in our reactions on it, even we don’t know what this nature is (our reactions cover it like a box – what is inside it), the nature of poetic inspiration is present in the poet’s constructivist work. The poetic inspiration is Eros transformed by spirituality into grace. The Trumpet-Part of the poetic inspiration is fluid, flying pleasure soaring over and simultaneously drowning into “the glowing Text-Void”, the very code of Eros transformed into grace. It is the text of the poem, partially written and partially not yet, text in a process of being born/materialized in words and dematerialized in its context. The poetic inspiration is “deep” inside “the glowing Text-Void” and at the same time – “at Torch-Height” (intellectual aspect of poetic work, its self-reflective vigil, where self means not the self in the psychological sense but a reflective part of poetic work applied to itself). Torch-Height is above “Text-Void” but it is still inside the womb of “the Time-Hole” we cannot escape from as soon as we are alive, like creations of poetic inspiration – from the poems.
The Trumpet-Part/poetic inspiration is able to listen and to hear the depth of “Text-Void” and its “Torch-Height” and the “Time-Hole” enveloping all alive as the trembling emanation of poetic inspiration. But poetic inspiration listens not with ears, but with the whispering mouth of the poet – it is what poet hears through whispering the words of the poem into Being. The possessive pronoun “your” used in the final line of the poem indicates the presence of a psychological wholeness (psychological agency representing the whole personality of the poet) in charge of the internal objects creating the alive organism of the poem. We see here that poetic inspiration is not mystical dissolution of the poet into space/time. It’s rather a communication with a timeless world the poet is a part of.
Let’s enumerate the actors of poetry-creating alchemical drama – “The Trumpet-Part” (poetic inspiration), “glowing Text-Void”, “Torch-Height”, “the Time-Hole”, and “listening Mouth”. These internal objects animated by their own will and “working together” are creators of poetry.
When we consider the area of psychological reactions and especially the level of their codification by the poet we need intuitive strategies to create a language that can be adequate to this blended new reality where participation in the world is combined with its self-transcendent nature. Using double nouns for one object/phenomenon, one actor/action, is one of these strategies Celan experiments with in this poem.
03 Apr 2014
If the protagonists of Bob Trotman’s installation “Business as Usual” could just stand on the floor, mesmerized and overwhelmed by their expectations from above, his construction would be perceived as a religious propaganda – people obviously appealing to God or over-powerful Aliens as saviors. The genuineness of this appeal is confirmed in “Cake Lady” where the protagonist tries to welcomingly bribe superhuman powers with heavenly cake for heavenly benefits imagined by earthly aspirations.
Being substantially lower than the ground means not only to be closer to Hell – and from here comes the urgency of desire to be lifted “from here”, not only panic of being buried, that we unconsciously perceive (until we are still alive) as being buried alive, but it also means the horror of being buried by everyday life/strife of civilization full of hassles, rivalry and fears.
This desperate and in the same time implying magic power gesture of not trying to connect only with the super-human and over-powerful but with what is stronger than the human life, is simultaneously passionately impulsive and ritualistic, spontaneous and rooted in tradition. This combination of inspiration and ritual, improvisation and theatricality tells us that we have a deal here with religious/political belief – in god(s) of the over-world, in flying saucers or in self-proclaimed gods of financial elite. This paradox of repeated impulsivity is, probably, a special mental condition when being over-agitated is combined with being absolutely exhausted – it is necessary to want so badly to be saved, to join saviors that it is impossible to keep this intensity burning all the time. But, as sentinels, these people combine maniacal appeal and a deadly apathy – static dynamism and too expressive (not-functional) eyes.
This close-up concentrates our attention on despair as one of the ingredients of appeal to the supernatural power. It is the same despair we recognize behind the maniacal calculations of our profit-makers and neocon deciders. Like the protagonists of Bob Trotman’s works here appeal/signal to the super-human powers to save themselves from human life with its uncertainty, overpopulation, otherness and fragility, our corporate entrepreneurs and politicians today treat money as the very entelechy of super-human power. At this point we understand that this archetypal for the 21st century, gesture of the appeal to the super human powers is also the gesture of asking heavens for the magic manna-money-fall from above. They perceive this opportunity to amass a superhuman wealth – as a gift from the gods.
The fear of mortality is another side of morbid fear of poverty. These two psychologically twin fears make for Trotman’s protagonists here life on earth as if without heavens or life under the sky without the sun or having nights without stars and moon. But this particular sculpture of the woman offering cake to the highest authorities seems representation of the feminine aspect of appeal of our religious and currency worshipers to super-human powers. This cake is a metaphor of… money which our immortality-currency fundamentalist worshipers stuck in save heavens accounts hidden beyond American borders as a proof (in front of super-human powers) of their worth in exchange for the ultimate appreciation of their efforts to reach super-earthly immortality amidst super-earthly prosperity.
Kneeling in the last two sculptures is equivalent of being lower than the level of floor in “Business as Usual” – making ourselves smaller makes our masters, be it god(s) or technological powers (which can help wealth-accumulation and immortality pursuits) appear stronger than they are. Like our ancestors we like to believe in giants. In comparison with the preceding kneeling figure greeting the supernatural or pseudo-supernatural (technico-scientific) powers, this figure is kneeling inside a metaphysical space where greeting becomes absolutized – a grand metaphysical posture-gesture.
It’s so important that Bob Trotman is not just creating artistic associations which too many artists today limit themselves with, but expresses his concern about intellectual and mental condition of people in the beginning of 21st century.
You can read a previous essay about the work of Bob Trotman posted on May/1/2011–Bob Trotman’s “Vertigo” (2010, Wood, Tempera, Wax) – The Psychology of a Financial Globalist Warrior
01 Apr 2014
Militant people, who behave as cruel gods whose very glory is bloodthirsty, are very often the topic of Ernst’s critical inspiration. In “The Feast of the Gods” Ernst depicts the godlike family metaphorizing the top 1% of the population, which enjoys its glory amidst the admiration of the worshipping crowds. From the left to the right we see the head of the family (a financial global leader whose power surpasses that of the monarchs of the old times), his wife whose shining is stronger than that of the super-novas, and to the right – their daughter, the super-duper pincer-princess. But who is that robot-like figure in the foreground, in a monstrous helmet and green-colored armor? It is, it seems, the daughter’s future groom and meanwhile the family‘s top guard (look how he protects her with his left hand) whose military and financial prowess and power posture vis-à-vis the world qualifies him as the best candidate for the hand of the irresistible pincer-princess and for becoming the future keeper and expander of the family’s luck, land and lot. The father, probably, has hands equally in finances and in wars (there is less and less difference between the two). Two super-macho males and two super-phallic females is the family of human gods whose everyday life is totally glorious and totally destructive to the world. But why did Ernst choose a title that makes accent not on the gods, but on their feast? Their direct gaze at the people (like in the happy marital and family photos) hints at the meaning of their feast. They look at people as their potential prey. The feast of these magnificent beasts-gods, it seems, is the essence of their family life – their private life which gives them the justification to be effective predators in the public realm, when barbaric economic practices like devastating the environment by obsession with fossil fuels or forcing the austerity measures on the population are components of their tireless feast of creating a better future for their elite off-springs.
Let’s start with the more innocent and less imposing: younger sister.
- How do you know which of two sisters is the younger one?
- By painter’s several characterizations. First, the younger one is second “in line”.
- What line? I don’t see any line.
- She is behind her elder sister who is at the center of the painting and looks directly at “us”, the viewers, especially men (she is the first in line of choosing and being chosen). See, how directly and attentively she looks, and her nose and her very gaze is an exclamation mark turned over, with the dot marking the center of her gaze.
- Why is she one-eyed? Is she a feminine Cyclopes or something?
- She, probably, has two eyes, but her gaze is so strong, attentive and greedy (she is trying so hard to be successful in her search that the intensity of her gaze is like a beam). In comparison, her younger sister’s nose and gaze forms a reversed question mark: she is not yet sure she is able to assess potential partners. She is not yet “in the game”, she is just learning.
- Why the elder sister is without mouth?
- She doesn’t need her lips yet. She is very calculative. When she’ll find the one whom she needs, she will open her mouth.
- But then why does the younger sister, “who is not yet in the game” has a mouth?
- Because her mouth is not important yet (her tiny red spot of a mouth is naively opened: she is confused by the world and doubting her potential chances). Also pay attention to how different skin is in two sisters, the skin of the younger one is fresher, while the elder has a skin more grayish.
- What is that strange, almost round object in the upper right part of the painting?
- It is the moon, the presence of which confirms that we are dealing with the procedure of selecting intimate partners.
- What are those ugly forms in place where the elder sister‘s breasts ought to be?
- It is how people tap the doorknocker to be let in.
- Yes, but why these metal doorknockers are located where we expect to see her breasts?
- They are her breasts.
- What? Why?
- I mean, they are Ernst’s metaphors of her breasts, for the potential grooms to appeal to her to open the door.
- What door is that? What’re you talking about?
- Her bodily door, don’t you see that her body is like a wooden door?
- But why her body is supposed to be like a wooden door?
- Perhaps, because she is calculating too much how to find the best groom in the world. She has become hardened by her monolithic determination to make the best choice. Her emotions and body became woodened.
- But what are those strange embellishments on her belly, one red and one black?
- I will be happy to explain to you what they are. But before we go there I have to remind you that Max Ernst is not only a painter, but also thinker, and a very tough human being with a sharp ironic vision of human world. If you really want to know what these two rhombuses are, the answer is: the upper, the red one is the elder sister’s vagina, and the lower, black one, is her rectum.
- What a rector to do with it?
- Not a rector, rectum. It is, well, an ass hole.
- But… but…
- Don’t be so shocked. She advertises both orifices in a situation of choosing potential partners; she is prepared to be assessed by them. Simultaneously, of course, she is trying to frighten the weaklings among male pretenders. She needs real man, you know, who will, for her sake be ready to conquer the world.
24 Mar 2014
Alain Resnais wasn’t just a “film-maker”, but a master of cinema as an art form and an original and independent thinker through the moving images. Resnais’ artistic paradigm is so multifaceted and so unique in his ability to create between “images” and “ideas” – semantic or thinking images – images-ideas. He is a thinker about human life by the very cinematic form he innovates again and again.
In his “Hiroshima, mon amour” (1959) we meet the human beings who can be our “role models”, not in the Hollywood socio-morphic sense as models for our behavior or “character” in a sense of personality, but in terms of human ability to go through existentially spiritual journey. The main heroes of the film – a French woman visiting Hiroshima (Emmanuele Riva) and a Japanese man (Eiji Okada) are role models for our psychological development, although the film is in no way didactic or moralistic. Their personalities and relationship are elaborated in Duras’ script and Resnais detalization in a too unique way to be just readily transferable/projectable onto the lives of the viewers according to reflex of the viewers’ identification with the heroes based on banal principle of similarity. “Hiroshima, mon amour” is Resnais’ only film (for all his years of being with cinema and with us), when the director not only unconditionally respects the main characters but admires them to the point of, as if, entrusting to them the very future of humanity.
These characters are comparable with the main characters of his “La Guerre est finie/The War is Over” (1966) who also, as if, “keep the key” to the next period of human history. During the post WWII economic boom amidst a mushrooming prosperity they decided to change the very modality of their life and fight for farther humanization and democratization of human society. They came to the conclusion that traditional ways of political resistance became outdated and that it’s necessary to invent alternatives to the existing norms of living directly from the existence. Diego Mora (Ives Montand) and his wife (Ingrid Thulin) are represented by Resnais in a much less monumental elaboration than the style of “Hiroshima, mon amour”, but we see in them similar courage of will, of the heart and mind. They react on the objective changes in the very ways of living and feelings about the world, connected with the development of mass-cultural pseudo-prosperity and the gilded consumerism in Western Democracies.
“La guerre est finie/The War is Over” (1966) Ingrid Thulin and Ives Montand
With “Providence” (1977) Resnais for the last time in his film-life (although another 36 years of work were ahead) “visits” the character he can admire (Clive Langham – John Gielgud). But the director was already forced (by the truth of the atmosphere of the historical epoch) to stylize Clive, to balance the beautiful excesses of his character personifying the genius of the Liberal Democracy with its aspirations and achievements – Resnais sometimes shows Clive as he could be seen by the epoch that already started to flatten and curb democracy. It is not impossible to include his recent “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” (2012) in the same stream of films dedicated to the heroes of human history fighting for ennobling the human soul – for democratization of human soul and life – “Hiroshima, mon amour”, “La guerre est finie” and “Providence”). Only in “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” (the title refers to the nearing future ordeals for human race created by our predatoriness, stupidity and anti-spirituality) the heroes of human history keep universal human reference inside the problematic of private life, love and death (Orpheus and Eurydice’s story symbolizes the general existential potentials of human beings while retreating from life into mythological narration). These four films mark the most sublime pages of Resnais’ achievements in his representation of human types.
“Providence” (1977) Resnais and John Gielgud (Clive Langham)
The second current of Resnais’ films picturing human types of modernity include: “Muriel or the Time of a Return” (1963), “Je t’aime, je t’aime” (1967), Mon Oncle D’Amerique” (1980) and “Same Old Song” (1997). The main protagonists of these films are not heroes of spiritual and intellectual courage as it’s the case with the first set of films, but rather are – victims of the system of life and human values and of their own vulnerability, circumstances and passions.
In “Muriel or the Time of Return” Resnais represents the extraordinary and always admirable Helene Aughain (Delphine Seyrig), a person whose basic style of meeting the world is feeling fragile because of her gentleness and sensitivity. The beauty of emotional trembling of her reactions is reflected in her appearance and in her unique and non-imposing way. In her youth Helene suffered from an innocent rudeness of the ordinary people, but even her more or less prosperous life didn’t make her less gracious. Even her tiny vulgarities inseparable from modern “survival” are gracious. She is irrecoverably lost, in especially unprotected way, amidst other people who are also lost but feel compensated by the anonymous prosperity of standard consumerism. Helene feels lost in spite of prosperity while regular people are satisfied with consumerist fillings in the cavities of their souls. Helene is a victim of a system that implies a completely artificial life where humanism castrated itself through Faustian bargain with total orientation on material prosperity and social success as goals of human life.
The main character of “Je t’aime, je t’aime” becomes the honorable victim of prestigious but destructive to the human soul scientific experiments. The film gives us chance to observe how technical science becomes an extension of a totalitarian neglect of human dignity. In “Mon oncle D’Amerique” Resnais depicts how human beings are made to adapt to circumstances created by a socio-political environment and be transformed into helpless and cruel creatures, simultaneously predators and prey. Finally, in “Same Old Song” we for the last time in Resnais’ cinema see the people who while being already dehumanized and caught in the net of everyday vanity, were still with some grace and noble potentials. Resnais somehow makes us feel that their triviality is not their essence, but their factual condition, that they are not proudly identifying with it.
“Same Old Song” (1997) Agnes Jaoui (also co-author of the screenplay) and Lambert Wilson
The human types of the third current of Resnais’ films are “mutants”: those who are just adapting to the demands of survival and success as it exist in a certain time and place (“Last Year in Marienbad” – 1961, “Stavisky” – 1974, “I Want To Go Home” – 1989, “Not on the Lips” – 2003, “Private Fears in Public Places” – 2007, and “Wild Grass” – 2009.
“Last Year in Marienbad” is Resnais’ first attempt of researching into a robotization of human soul (and routinization/ritualization of human behavior) by socio-cultural structures. This examination took the form of making his camera into an aesthetic magnifying glass producing effect of highest degree of reality stylization. Resnais wants to trace the details of the transformation of personal love into idolized mannequin-like fetish which, as if, capable of saving people from the meaninglessness of their life.
“Stavisky” concentrates on the power of profit idolization as a malignant psychological archetype sacrificing human beings to the irresistible Moloch of money created by the (psychological) alchemy of those hooked on the idea of invulnerability to mortality. It’s very important that Resnais in the film juxtaposes Stavisky as the personification of drive for power through money, with Trotsky as the personification of a more traditional drive for power through ideological fetish. Another meaningful accent the film makes is the angelic revolutionaries – the neatly looking young people on their way to self-realization through sacrificing themselves for the sake of idolized humanity.
“Stavisky” (1974) Jean-Paul Belmondo in the role of Stavisky (standing) and Anny Duperey
With “I Want to Go Home” Resnais creates a comedy of horrifying absurdities in communications and relations between Americans and Europeans. The film suggests that the real possibility of our apocalyptic future not so far away. The film terrifies with its very laughter at us and our historical dreams. In this sense it is a preface to the history of 21st century. It’s imperative for every American to see this film in order to understand better what’s happening with our world today.
“Not on the Lips”, “Private Fears in Public Space” and “Wild Grass” are Resnais beyond Resnais “as we know him” and beyond the democratic world we are used to. To see the ossification of Sabine Azema, Pierre Arditi and Andre Dissolier masterfully playing human mutants (no sci-fi involved) in these late Resnais’ films is the most painful aesthetic experience possible to imagine and the hardest lesson from Resnais to the viewers about the necessity to be able to look at the truth of the changing reality of our life.
At this point, moved by a bit shameful nostalgia we remember Resnais’ films of the fourth and final category of human types he shared with us – the “talented, touching and, yes, adorable escapists” whom Resnais loves without endorsing in his “Love Unto Death” (1984), “Smoking/No Smoking” (1993) and “Melo” (1988). It was necessary to have Resnais’ incredible, superhuman courage and his philosophical predisposition as an artist to show the objective degradation of humanity in his films of 21st century. It is as impossible to watch “Not on the Lips” or “Wild Grass”, as necessary to follow Resnais in his analysis where we are going, and, may be, finding what to do to be able to stop.
Resnais’ “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” is his latest warning about the coming of “Nothing” and at the same time a call for returning to human cultural springs – to the basic archetypes of our civilization – to the disinterestedness of our aspirations and dreams: of life without calculation, of love without manipulation, of art free from vicious virtues of exchange value, of thinking holistically.