Affective Critique: Mediation as a Response to Cynical Ideology (Paper Proposal)

fright-club

The role of critique in contemporary cinema has been displaced. Consider the story of Chicago gang member Danny Toro, who would watch Scarface almost every day for 10 years despite the film’s heavy-handed critique of its gangster protagonist Tony Montana. Perhaps as equally perplexing, the film American Psycho is popular among many yuppies even though its point is to critique the masculinity and violence of a financial culture much similar to their own. Or even more striking: fraternities across the country hold “Fight Club” events inspired by David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s book although the film is an in-your-face condemnation of preppy social climbing.

Diagnosing this problem, Slovenian philosopher and critic Slajov Zizek writes that we no longer live in an age where “they know not what they do,” but rather: “they know very well what they are doing, but still, they are doing it.” To make his argument, Zizek echoes the theory of German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, who argues that we have entered the age of “cynical ideology” whereby the demystifying correction of ideological camera obscuras no longer motivates social action – or in the words of French sociologist of science Bruno Latour, the critique has “run out of steam.”

The alternatives suggested by all three are disappointing, however: Zizek proposes empty political doctrines (“signifiers without a signified”), Sloterdijk recommends a return to the irony and sarcasm of the Greeks (“kynicism”), and Latour calls for a “stubborn realist attitude” (“empiricism”).

In contrast to these three alternatives, I propose contemporary theories of affect as replacement for the diagnostic and effective functions of ideology critique. Continue reading “Affective Critique: Mediation as a Response to Cynical Ideology (Paper Proposal)”

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Media & The Materialism of the Encounter

Akihito Takuma, Lines of Flight, op.389, oil on canvas, 2013
Akihito Takuma, Lines of Flight, op.389, oil on canvas, 2013

“It is raining,” French philosopher Louis Althusser writes as an introduction to the underground current of materialism that runs through the history of philosophy (“The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter,” 167). But Althusser’s apartment window and the drops that inspired him to write manuscript that is “before all else, a book about ordinary rain,”[1] have been displaced by an even more ubiquitous window – the screen – and a new rain – the digital stream.

This article repeats Althusser’s materialist philosophy of the encounter. It is a materialist philosophy that arrives late in Althusser’s career to combine electric readings of Deleuze, Derrida, and Epicurus not present in his earlier writings on ideology, the state, and determinism. In repeating Althusser, however, this paper is not a return to Althusser – his conjuncture: debates within the French Communist party over Stalinism and the role of class struggle, or the philosophical legacy of Machiavelli and Hobbes – but rather, it chases the current of materialist philosophy as it flows into the field of media studies.[2]

Continue reading “Media & The Materialism of the Encounter”

Vein 4: A System of Compulsory Visibility

visibilities

This post contained an draft version of a dissertation section. A more recent version is now available on the works page.

Theater // Lost to Inflation

Müller: In our country [of East Germany circa 81], theater allows you to have five or eight hundred people together in one room reacting at the same time, in a the same space, to what is going on onstage. The impact of the theater here is based on the absence of other ways of getting messages across to people. Films are not as important because there’s so much control. They also require much more money than the theater. As a result, theater here has taken over the function of the other media in the West. I don’t believe theater has such a great in West German for instance. You can do anything onstage there, but it doesn’t mean anything to the society. Here the slogan of the Napoleonist era still applies: theater is the revolution on the march.

Continue reading “Theater // Lost to Inflation”