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Monday, August 15, 2011

Understanding Simulacra and Simulation in David Cronenberg's eXistenZ By Heidi Nelson Hochenedel

This is an awesome review of Cronenberg's eXistenZ. I am so jealous.

eXistenZ, written and directed by David Cronenberg, is cyberpunk on the big screen. It addresses the problems of a culture so plugged into technology that it can no longer distinguish between fantasy and reality or between the organic and the mechanical. In Cronenberg's world, the most ubiquitous form of entertainment is computerized vr games which physically plug into the human body and replace other forms of recreation, such as sex, drugs, and sports. They are entertaining and mind-expanding, but so realistic that it is impossible to distinguish between games and reality. After playing, the "real" world feels like a game and, as a result, human behavior is apt to express violent "game-urges" even when the game is over. Sound familiar? Like all cyberpunk, eXistenZwarns against a techno-future that is already here. We shall see that many of the ideas addressed by Cronenberg in this film are also examined by theorists Marshall McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard, who study the effect of technology on modern culture. Cronenberg, like McLuhan, argues that technology is an extension of the human body and psyche(1). In eXistenZ, technology has evolved from machinery to biological organisms that plug directly into the human nervous system; an idea that echoes McLuhan's belief that computers are extensions of human consciousness. In eXistenZ, technology is biological and is thus more "human" than it is in our world. But as technology becomes organic, humans become more mechanical and therefore less free, unable to resist their "game-urges." As human consciousness is extended, human freedom of will (or its illusion) is amputated.
One of Baudrillard's most important ideas is that simulation and representation have changed over time. For Baudrillard, simulations or "simulacra," have become "hyperreal," more than real. Our hyperreality, like Cronenberg's world of computer simulation, now feels, and, for all intents and purposes is, more real than what we call the "real world." Baudrillard discusses four stages of simulacra in his essay "The Precession of Simulacra:" (continue to original here).........

Cronenberg's eXistenZ is serious filmic social theory of the nature of our postmodern landscape. Cronenberg, like Baudrillard, would like to oppose the reality he describes, but points out that terrorist resistance to it is merely absorbed into the system and cannot defeat it. Ironically, terrorism and resistance are "game-themes" in eXistenZ, suggesting that they broach no threat, but are actually required by the system in order to provide a pretext to continue information emission. Baudrillard, too, would like to be a terrorist- to lash out violently against those who are in control, but such a role is no longer possible in a world where death and violence have no impact and are met by glassy eyed apathy as the result of data-glut. It seems that the only hope is awareness of the effect that media have on communication and human relationships. Cronenberg, like Baudrillard , McLuhan, and Shenk, urge us to be aware of what constant exposure to information and simulacra do to the human psyche and to culture. The content of the media is irrelevant. It is the quantity of data and simulacra to which we are exposed and the methods by which we are subjected to that information that result in data smog, mental disorders, and violence. The most effective strategy to resist the system is to behave like an irreverent child, declining to constitute ourselves as subjects, refusing to process the data and abstaining from responding to it. By passively ignoring the data input thrown at us by the parental system, it will cease to exist as it does now. We can turn off the tv, shut down the computer, and stop playing the game.

What counts are the rhymes- designed to fill your mind...
It's a start a work of art...
What we need is awareness, we can't get careless...
Right on, come on
What we got to say
Power to the people without delay
To make everybody see
In order to fight 
Fight the powers that be.
Chuck D., lyrical terrorist Public Enemy
"Fight the Power" on Fear of a Black Planet


It is excellent. It is funny. It is thorough and Cronenberg emerges as one of the great post modern thinkers of our time who also happens to express himself in film.

But since 9-11 Baudrillard has changed his theory on opposing the system. True it cannot be opposed within the dialetic as Vija Kinski so carefully tells Eric Packer. Demonstrations, civil disobedience, terrorism and riots are welcomed and absorbed by the system. Notice the arrests going on from the UK riots and all the lame explanations, just more info circulating globally. However, Baudrillard after 9-11 opposes our rush into Virtual Reality by an act of implosion. He saw clearly that the bombers of 9-11 created an excess of reality so hyperreal that people watching thought it was TV until they turned channels and saw it everywhere. Orson Welles did the same with his radio broadcast of the alien invasion that had people running in the streets in the late 30's (my details are fuzzy). The 9-11 excess of reality was coupled with suicide and so Symbolic Exchange and Death was merged as the GIFT to the USA global capitalistic system, a gift to which it must respond with the counter-gift - OR commit suicide. We have not responded with the counter-gift. And we are committing suicide. It is playing out.

Watch and learn.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Reading Brutha Fez Through Chuck D Public Enemy - Lyrical Terrorism

Chuck D Public Enemy - Brutha Fez

interpretation of david cronenberg eXistenZ 

I often check my stats and take a look at the search words on google that brought someone 
here. Then I paste them back in to see what's going on there. So that is how I got to Chuck
Public Enemy. Not exactly the type of site one associates with a major rapper,eh? But  
here's the rhyme quoted there:

What counts are the rhymes- designed to fill your mind...
It's a start a work of art...
What we need is awareness, we can't get careless...
Right on, come on
What we got to say
Power to the people without delay
To make everybody see
In order to fight 
Fight the powers that be.
Chuck D., lyrical terrorist Public Enemy
"Fight the Power" on Fear of a Black Planet

Meandering further - farther - (they are in Saussurean flux now I think) I got to the youtube music, lyrics, and demonstrations. And then I got it. By George I got it! This is the rap artist referred to in Cosmopolis as Brutha Fez. Or close enough for me.  Listen. It's not a funeral procession but you will get the idea.

Of course the transcendence of Brutha Fez is the key. Evidently Chuck D of Public Enemy has not experienced a spiritual transcendence, only a political one. But the crowds of worshippers are similar. The rhymes are too. Am I pushing this too hard?

After seeing Macdonald's documentary Marley and the film clips of Bob Marley's funeral the resonance with Brutha Fes, his message and his funeral is inescapable.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reading the UK Riots:5 Books That Told Us What Was Coming

 Earlier blog here on the riots:   Reading London Riots Through Cosmopolis and DeLillo

For a more complete analysis and coverage of the Events: http://cengizerdem.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/reading-the-uk-riots-slavoj-zizek-and-living-in-the-end-times-via-reading-the-riots/

Rioting and looting was not the only violent activity being carried out by Englishmen on Sunday night. Some hours before Cameron appeared on our TV screens vowing to take revenge on the risen British youth, his bomber pilots carried out a raid which slaughtered 33 Libyan children, along with 32 women and 20 men in Zlitan, a village near Tripoli. He, along with the rulers of France and the USA, are desperately trying to stave off economic collapse in the same way they always have – through the slaughter of third world people and the theft of their resources.
The English Riots in Context - Rebel Griot  http://www.countercurrents.org/griot130811.htm

For books other than Cosmopolis predicting the London Riots Event

http://simonarmstrongonbooks.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/reading-the-uk-riots-5-books-that-told-us-what-was-coming/#comment-3  You will have to put this link in google as yahoo won't get you there.

“The suburbs dream of violence. Asleep in their drowsy villas, sheltered by benevolent shopping malls, they wait patiently for the nightmares that will wake them into a more passionate world.”
- J G Ballard, Kingdom Come (2006)

The idea of an imminent apocalypse or reckoning is as old as civilisation itself, yet our constant unease at the state of the world and the economy implies that the End Times are no longer an abstract event on the horizon, but something that is already upon us which we have chosen to ignore. - Zizek

And so here we are and DeLillo is right again. Everything you might want to know is in all my links. Images, videos both mainstream media and on the spot ones which reveal more as no one is telling you what you are seeing.

The End of History? - Francis Fukuyama

And reading the riots through Cronenberg's eXistenZ :  In eXistenZ, technology is biological and is thus more "human" than it is in our world. But as technology becomes organic, humans become more mechanical and therefore less free, unable to resist their "game-urges." As human consciousness is extended, human freedom of will (or its illusion) is amputated.

And don't miss this youtube of a wonderful video of graffiti in action on a metro car in Spain.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reading London Riots Through Cosmopolis and DeLillo

Tottenham Burning Building

http://cengizerdem.wordpress.com/?ref=spelling   (this link is not working and I bet it is being censored. Just keep fiddling with home, encryptions, etc until you get it)  has the best coverage (images and videos) of the riots and the best understanding of them as post colonial consequences.

http://cengizerdem.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/london-riots-in-big-pictures/  try this link as I think the servers are crashing. Or censored.

It belongs in this Cosmopolis blog as it parallels the "rat" demonstration in Cosmopolis with Vija Kinski's (Baudrillardian) analysis.

Is this the day the limos disappear in London?

In The Ruins of the Future DeLillo discusses terrorism as the opposing force to global capitalism. Terrorism is going to be with us for a long long time. This riot is terrorism. But is it any more terroristic than state and corporate terrorism?

It is an Event. Coming from elsewhere. No cause. An Irruption, just like Twilight.

The US has exported terrorism to the world, most recently to Iraq, with the help of other western countries  - UK - and now we are importing terrorism as we saw the past few days in the UK. These young people are gaming. They have grown up on Virtual Reality computer games. Their minds and bodies are interfaced with them as Packer's is interfaced with floating numbers and the market (he can't sleep etc) so the riots were really a VR game to them, an excess of reality delivered as a "gift" to the system. The system must respond with a "counter-gift" or commit suicide. This recent riot was worse than the "rat" demonstration in Cosmopolis. IMO at least.

The western world has been handed the "counter-gift" I think. And massive state crackdown will be the result. And it will be permanent against its domestic population.

A Rat Became The Unit Of Currency

Zbigniew Herbert
I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks
monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency
tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants
wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our messengers
we don't know where they are held that is the place of torture
thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected
the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender
friday: the beginning of the plague saturday: our invincible defender
N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back
an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance
Rats multiply and multiply like money. Rats are a plague, they bring disease like money. They destroy crops, kill infants, infest the city, homes, buildings, empty lots until they are everywhere. Like currency. Like money. Everywhere you go the rats are there.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Cut For the End of Representation and the Beginning of the Grid and Measurement

Foucault's analysis of Las Meninas (1656) spells the end of representation and the introduction of measurement and the grid. Don Quixote  (1605 vol 1 & 1615 vol 2)initiates the modern novel as language refering to itself, literature is the referent which tears language loose. The architecture of the city of Philadelphia assumes the grid in 1682 and New York, Barcelona, London and Buenos Aires fall in line. These dates are roughly the Foucauldian "cut" for the end of representation in language, art and architecture.

These grids are lovely I think, like Agnes Martin paintings.
Manhatten Grid Map of Packer's Journey to Samarkand

Cervantes Don Quixote 1605&1615 by Dore
Las Meninas 1656 Valezquez
 Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour)[1] is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The work's complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted. 

Agnes Martin 1960's 1970's
Foucault then proceeds to lay down the grid of power/knowledge. The two are not separate but fused. Each cannot exist without the other. Still today this is not understood as most people think power comes from above to repress and control them. Foucault locates power below, within the interstices of the grid, tightening, crushing and controlling the individual within the family, the educational system, the society in which s/he lives through the Inscription of the Body and with it the mind forcing the person to conform to what is perceived as normal behavior. The way you speak, walk, work, reproduce, everything in your life, must conform within the parameters of normality. Walk outside with green hair and you are going to be noticed, and not favorably, unless you move in slacker or punk sub-culture.

And this is where Eric Packer is this spring day in April 2000 at Eastertime, the same time of year Hansen is following his Gradiva in the simulacrum of Pompeii. The same time of year Jesus is following Isaiah. Packer is crushed within the grid, a hostage in his own limo, surrounded by bodyguards to protect him, make him secure, but who really cannot even as the pie thrower gets him with a whipped creme pie. He is as if in custody.

He is shorting the yen. The yen is going up and up and up above its resistance points and beyond. 
Yen plotted against the dollar
It charts, says Packer. But it only charts within a grid. It only charts within linear time. It only charts within the dialectic of opposites, up and down, true and false, etc. And Packer is not in the dialectic anymore, not in linear time anymore, but interfaced with the screen of globally orbiting numbers, currencies that move asymmetrically. That is they don't chart, not even according to Packer's meditative esoteric rhythms. Charting requires time:past present future and Packer is in real time, cutting it smaller and smaller into infinitesimal particles into zepto seconds, that accelerate asymmetrically with positive and negative charges that collide and go pouf. Packer is being crushed within the interstices of the grid, just as Nina was in Black Swan. 

But Elise-Gradiva is seductively luring him on. She is ahead of him all day and he is following her as she is hiding from him. He is not searching for her, but he keeps finding her. Inside the limo is the Order of Production and outside the limo is the Order of Seduction, and Elise Shifrin keeps shifting as Packer's mind shifts on this day. Death is ahead of him and hiding from him, but Packer unerringly moves towards Samarkand to meet his destiny with death.

Black Swan
 It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess. - Baudrillard

And the imploder, the intellectual terrorist, will disappear as his world becomes a different world because of his actions. He will make the leap into death to offer the gift of his life. The world will die when Packer dies.

He's not a self-destructive loser, folks. He is an intellectual terrorist. 

And so was/is Jesus.