Alan Sondheim on 14 Mar 2001 20:35:13 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> brief note

On Wed, 14 Mar 2001, Michael Benson wrote:

> Alan:
> For me this is a puzzling post. I'm not so up on deep-dish theory terms like
> 'terminal identity' and neo-alterioritizations like 'alterity' -- must've
> missed that day at school -- but don't see Alphaville space as either inert
> or, if I read you right, modern (i.e, at the modern end of your rhetorical
> construct ending with Blade Runner as an example of po-mo). The texture of
> the relatively unmodified 60's Paris that is Alphaville buzzes with
> flickering signs and lights: it's the opposite of inert. In fact, it's so
> animated that even the folding theater seats rise up and act as mass
> execution tools. Godard's alchemical power is such that a standard-issue
> recording studio isolation booth becomes the Alphaville uber-mind's
> interrogation chamber, simply by virtue of his having some anonymous best
> boy swivel and pivot the mikes from just outside the camera frame. Further,
> I would say it's the first, or one of the first, example of post-modernism
> in narrative film. (Compound constructions like "Figaro-Pravda" and "Natasha
> Von Braun", executed secret agents called Dick Tracy, etc. Plus the film is
> seemingly distilled from a kind of witch's brew of Orwell, Bond, film
> noir, cartoons, Huxley, etc. Compare this to Truffaut's failed stab at
> sci-fi -- Farenheit 451, which was indeed inert, and palpably behind the
> incipient p.m. curve -- and the extent of Godard's proto-postmodernism
> becomes clear.)

I think of Alphaville's duplication, like Dostoevsky's double, as a
displacement that might be characterized by a special relativity, an
imaginary in space-time that nonetheless relies on classical mechanics.
The signs - most of them electrical - are an indication of this. The
technology is clear, mechanical, totalized, even in its fragmentation.
It's the NY of the classical times-square peep-show in feeling. The very
_naming_ that occurs extends in and through classical intentionality.

I didn't mean the film was inert at all! by the way - it's activated. At
the time I was reading cybernetics, and there you are - feedback loops,
feed-forward out of control, homeostasis. Both films end in similar

> I would even say that Blade Runner, with its super-slick seamless production
> values, is less a post- and more an end-product of modernity, despite being
> made more than ten years later. It's Ridley Scott does Metropolis (Ok, not
> exactly an original comparison; and don't get me wrong, I
> love the film). I get you, provisionally, on the issue of identities, both
> 'familiar' and 'absorbed', but don't see that as any more inherently
> postmodern than, say, the Fool in King Lear. Or Lear himself. Or, you know,
> Pozzo, in Waiting for Godot, frenetically down-loaded and regurgitating a
> kind of distilled 'meaningless' mediated blather.
I was thinking of duplication in Alphaville as f(x) = xx, however defined.
It's there. But in Blade Runner, I think, identity is dispersed -
everything wears out, things are parts of things, or rather partial
objects are partial objects of partial objects. The technology isn't
present (yes, they dip their hands into hot and cold, the old physics),
and we're wandering in a world where it's unclear what any"one" is at all
- which is why I was thinking of dispersions. Both films de-emphasize the
technology that you get in so many bad american sci-fi things.

If the play in Alphaville might be joycean, then Blade Runner might come
out of Sterne.

For me, this is quite odd - why, in supposed postmodernity, do identity
issues appear over and over again? There are good socio-political reasons
for this obviously, but I also think that one might think - instead of
incessently fragmented identity - in other words f(x) -> abcde with no
return (a chaotic or implicate order) - of an identity dispersed as if
f(x) -> abcde/x - a form of continuous process turning all the way back to
the memory of a false dream on the horizon...

> Finally, as is made more clear in the so-called director's cut, Deckert's
> identity as a human is undercut to the point where he could well be a
> replicant himself -- more than enough confirmation that (what I take to be)
> your point is right, that the dangerous 'humans' pursuing their only
> marginally more dangerous creations are just as created in the hall of
> fractured mirrors of our constructed universe. To quote the little
> chess-playing Tyrell Corp. slave, "These are my friends -- I made them."
> (Followed, in one of those rhetorical-plus-visual mirrorings salted
> throughout the film, in short order by the female replicant calling the
> Tyrellite drone "our best and only friend" -- another example being the
> Alpha replicant responding to the Japanese eye-maker by saying "I wish you
> could have seen what _I_ have seen, through your eyes.") But is this
> postmodernism? Was HAL-9000 postmodern? (Speaking of "terminal identity.")

It sure is something, once we move from the fragment. And I don't think
you missed the drift; I also worry about making any sort of "pronounce-
ment" based on particular films or other sorts of cultural artifacts. I
was watching Blade Runner again (NOT the director's cut - which is a
shame) and wondering, what's odd about this movie - and then the mass of
organic materials, all within an imaginary, seemed to provide a partial

Alan - apologies for off-topic and going on here - also a clear admission
I may not know what I'm talking about -

> But probably I missed your drift entirely. Oh well -- back to picking up
> trash
> in the park.
> Cheers,
> Michael Benson

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