[-empyre-] split screen

simon swht at clear.net.nz
Sat Jul 7 11:17:53 EST 2012

Dear <<empyreans>>,

My father went to the cinema every Saturday where he saw the newsreels 
showing the liberation of the camps. The two things were always linked 
in his reminiscence:  the joy of the screen and its stars and 'having to 
see' what 'had to be seen.' 'Had to be' because the postlogue usually 
went, You didn't, did you? to my mother, as if she'd been both deprived 
enjoyment and spared knowledge.

No. She hadn't seen - and therefore didn't 'know' - since her parents 
wouldn't let her go to the cinema. It wasn't until she had boyfriends 
who would take her that she went to movies by which time the newsreels 
had given way to shorts, even cartoons, before the main feature.

My father was prepared you might say by this double exposure to the 
screen for a life in the theatre. But his unpublished novels have a 
cinematic quality.

The theatre seriously in the 1970s took up the problem or crisis of 
representation associated with Adorno's name as with Celan's. The fact 
theatre was not by then a popular medium but on its way to being 
museumised made it a place where it was sometimes possible to ask 
difficult questions. Sometimes, that is, when its practitioners were not 
already in complicity with the rising economic rationale.

Cinema seems to have come late to such a tragic recognition of the 
limits of representation at which complicity becomes general, for 
example in Michael Haneke's /Caché/. A different complicity than that by 
which artists would join forces with capitalism. But equal, in so far as 
there is a lessening of the power to choose. However, in the case of 
seeing newsreels of the liberation of Auschwitz it is involuntary, and 
not thereafter innocent, and in the case of accepting the inevitability 
of the economic rationalisation of every facet of life and society, it 
is voluntary, and therefore not innocent.

Compulsory viewing was a moral category and the screen had the physical 
authority to insist that its viewers not turn their heads away. Its 
resources possibly exhausted, long since having reached peak Plato, 
still it is worthwhile in this regard recalling the cave. In its 
darkness men, women, children are captivated by the shadows projected on 
the cave wall of a procession of real objects and events. Held captive, 
they can neither turn away nor see over the barrier below which reality 
parades, firelight behind it casting its image as the only visible 
reality. Except for the philosopher who breaks out.

First he sees the whole theatrical or cinematographic set-up, the cave, 
the bound men, women, children, the barrier, the firelight and the 
actual things and events in motion before it. But this epiphany is 
insufficient for him to free the others. So he exits the cave. And finds 
out where everything has come from, which so far only firelight has set 
flickering in shadows up the cave wall, which so far has appeared only 
in insubstantial series. This is not yet enough to make him a hero 
rescuer, a freedom fighter and go back; he returns but is somehow 
trapped in his knowledge and lessened by it.

He chooses another medium, in other words, prepared by this double 
exposure to the screen. Nevertheless, his dialogues have this quality of 
theatrical or cinematic presentation.

Compulsory viewing is now an aesthetic contribution. Seeing Terrence 
Malick's /Tree of Life/ is compulsory. Nobody wants to (be seen to) 
force anybody to see anything real even if (unseen) they try it on: the 
double articulation of sharism and advertising leads to a voluntary 
screenism. Which, being voluntary, is not innocent.

A general break is advocated for sometimes militated for from being held 
captive to totalitarian modernity. The spectacle, that is, of politics.

The multiplication of screens has passed a critical threshold but not 
one of ubiquity, rather a ubiquitous or immanent atomic threshold. Since 
this multiplication has proceeded in two directions: miniaturisation and 
universal mobility.

Screens have sunk into the skin of our modernity. Our post-atomic 
modernity. And behind this skin, a light. Plath's lampshade or a general 
state of illumination behind the realm of husks and shells, Qlipphoth. 
But also within the space of this skin - perforations.

A general screenism perforates reality which porosity acts as a filter 
stretched across the world, described by Leibniz. And where these 
mediatic pores combine screens with cameras the sum effect of universal 
visibility is in fact invisibility. A general and generalisable status quo.

It is no coincidence that schools do not bar pupils from watching they 
attempt to ban touching. [ref 
Screens touch. They 'bump.' A euphemism for fucking.

Screens are in the process of becoming skins. Whether by transplant, 
substitution or extension into new powers of affecting and being 
affected is a good question.

I look forward to the tactility of screens, the new haptic qualities, 
where research continues, beyond the general atomism of the screen and 
its presentation of modernity, post-screen... [link 


Simon Taylor


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