An aside, or: a note on cinephilia


Since it is sure of its ability to control the entire domain of the visible and the audible via the laws governing commercial circulation and democratic communication, Empire no longer censures anything. All art, and all thought, is ruined when we accept this permission to consume, to communicate and to enjoy. We should become the pitiless censors of ourselves.

It is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognizes as existent.

--#14 & #15 of Alain Badiou's Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art. Ever valid.

Everything or nothing #3

The cinema aesthetic will be social, or the cinema will have to do without an aesthetic.

--André Bazin, 1943, from French Cinema of the Occupation and Resistance (Frederick Ungar, 1981), p.37.

Deflins: Politics again?
Godard: Yes, as modern democracies, by rendering politics a domain of separate thought, are predisposed to totalitarianism.
Deflins: IXE [Information Exchange for Economics] plus three equals one?
Godard: Not an Einstein-style formula — a metaphor at the apex and the roots of all montage. If financial, for example, it allows the current debt of Greece to be brought near the hordes of German tourists. In Montesquieu's phrase: when finance is privileged, the State is lost.

--Jean-Luc Godard, in conversation with 'Renaud Deflins', 15/04/2010, trans. Craig Keller.

Democracy and tragedy were married in Athens under Pericles and Sophocles. A single child civil war...

--Film socialisme, 2010.

You call it austerity, I call it war.

Inevitably the stabilisation plan has been a disaster, missing just about all its original targets. The numbers are breathtaking. Under current policies, the EU/IMF/ECB (European Central Bank) 'troika' expects sovereign debt to rise to 200% of GDP in 2015, up from roughly 150% at present. Servicing the debt will cost 12% of GDP – vastly more than expenditure on health and education – while the government deficit will be 15% of GDP. The country will be unquestionably bankrupt. Fully aware of this, financial markets are refusing to advance a penny in new private loans. And since the troika had planned for Greece to return to the markets in 2011 on the back of the expected success of the stabilisation plan, the crisis has reached fever pitch.

The response of the troika reveals systemic failure at the heart of the eurozone. Greece will receive another large loan but must impose further austerity, including wage and pension cuts, perhaps 150,000 lost jobs in the civil service, more taxes, and sweeping privatisation. And what is likely to happen if the country accepts this? By the calculations of the troika, in 2015 sovereign debt will be 160% of GDP, servicing the debt will cost 10% of GDP, and the government deficit will be 8% of GDP. In short, Greece will still be bankrupt.

--Costas Lapavitsas, 21/06/2011.

It's less a tourist cruise than an international summit of bastards.

--Film Socialisme Annotated, translated by David Phelps, 07/06/2011.

This is how the FT explains it: 'Any bonds issued in future by the eurozone’s new €500bn rescue fund on behalf of Ireland, Greece or Portugal will not enjoy “preferred creditor status” an alteration to the fund intended to help those nations return more swiftly to private capital markets.' For those who do not dabble much in sovereign debt, let me explain. Common to the whole of the international financial architecture/system for sovereign lending, there is one principle that overrides all others: that the IMF/World Bank are ‘preferred creditors’. Just as when a company goes bankrupt, the supplier that sold it widgets is ranked lower than the bank that provided the overdraft, so in international ‘law' taxpayer-backed lending from the IMF and World Bank is ‘preferred’ when it comes to repayment over all private commercial lending. And it is preferred because it is public money.

In other words, when the public cough up via an international institution such as the IMF or the ECB then the sovereign (e.g. Greece, Argentina, Rwanda) has to pay taxpayers back first. Yesterday, on behalf of EU taxpayers, EU finance ministers obliged private bankers by overturning that ‘principle’. Instead they agreed, effectively, that private bankers will get preference and will be repaid before taxpayers.

--Ann Pettifor, 21/06/2011.

Fraud and crime pay, if you can disable the police and regulatory agencies. So that has become the financial agenda, eagerly endorsed by academic spokesmen and media ideologues who applaud bank managers and subprime mortgage brokers, corporate raiders and their bondholders, and the new breed of privatizers, using the one-dimensional measure of how much revenue can be squeezed out and capitalized into debt service.

--Michael Hudson, 06/06/2011.

With billions of dollars of risk held in a myriad of banks in dozens of EU countries no one is immune from contagion effects. So if anyone gets wind of someone printing a new currency, for example, the whole thing unravels at light speed as investors try to liquidate ahead of the pack. Investors don’t want to do this in the main. Speculators aside, most bondholders want to ‘be made whole’ rather than blow up their portfolio. But if someone is going to shout fire in a crowded theater, then it pays to be close to the door.

--Mark Blyth, 18/01/2011.

The graffiti on the Greek Finance Ministry says: 'Police Murderers, German Informers'. Above it are the shatter marks of numerous projectiles.

--Paul Mason, 16/06/2011.

For the people gathered in Syntagma, the intense political manoeuvring in the corridors of parliament seems to matter little. Theirs is a mass mobilisation that draws a distinction between representational and grassroots politics. Political parties seem unlikely to come to a halt over developments in the upper echelons of power. For them, the Memorandum is not just a sum of persons or abhorrent policies, but a system of power that has misruled the country for 30 years, bringing it to the edge of collapse. It is a system of beliefs, values, expectations and political roles and identities that cannot be abolished simply by replacing the head or members of the government.

The people in the squares have started, again, to believe that they have the freedom and the responsibility to act; they are urging radical change through the creation of different personal and social relations. By now, the distance between the people and their representatives might seem unbridgeable; as the old system of government crumbles under the burden of sovereign debt, a new, grassroots system of politics is starting to make itself heard from the ground.

A pessimistic view was also heard in the assembly, that the parliament is very likely to vote in favour of the medium-term programme. The real question is what the movements do next, how they gain control of their lives despite that.

The pessimistic view may also be realistic, given European pressure not only on the government, but also on opposition parties, to support the massive austerity and privatisation plan… And if this happens, what next...?

Méditerranée - Jean-Daniel Pollet, 1963, 16mm

And the second angel poured his vial unto the sea;
and it became as the blood of a dead man

--Revelations 16:3.

Film socialisme - JLG, 2010, digital video

The devil appears, saying that his name is 'legion': 'We are a legion of devils.' This story is fascinating, because what is expressed, bizarrely, is the possibility of multitude. That's not a bad introduction to temptation — a legion of devils! Above all, it is a way of affirming one's desire to possess all possible wealth, all possible virtues and powers. In the theory of angels, whether they are fallen or not, everything proceeds by legions: cherubim, seraphim, and dominations, the highest order of angels.

--Antonio Negri, Negri on Negri: In Conversation With Anne Dufourmantelle (Routledge, 2004), p.159.

It ends on a violent note: beyond the great European tragedy’s last turn, beyond what we could conveniently dismiss as Godard’s 'pessimism,' final judgment against the traitors is passed in the name of a justice that transcends the law.

--Kim West, "Sphinx", May Revue 5, 2010.

I don’t comment. The question of the ethic of art is not to be imperial. Desperation because operation is always something like imperial operation, because the law of operation is today imperial law.

--Alain Badiou, lecture on "Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art", lacanian ink 23, 2004.

What the enemies of modern art, with a better instinct than its anxious apologists, call its negativity is the epitome of what established culture has repressed and that toward which art is drawn. In its pleasure in the repressed, art at the same time takes into itself the disaster, the principle of repression, rather than merely protesting hopelessly against it. That art enunciates the disaster by identifying with it anticipates its enervation; this, not any photograph of the disaster or false happiness, defines the attitude of authentic contemporary art to a radically darkened objectivity; the sweetness of any other gives itself the lie.

--Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1970 (Continuum, 1997), p.19. [h/t]


The recent English translation by David Phelps of critical material on Film socialisme assembled by Arthur Mas, Martial Pisani, Jean-Louis Leutrat, Guillaume Bourgois, Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues & Pauline Soulat for Independencia, later expanded for Lumière, is essential, revelatory work. That is, essential not just for anyone interested in Jean-Luc Godard's film, but also modern cinema's potential be it aesthetic, or, dare we suggest, even revolutionary today. The piece also offers a timely rejoinder and series of corrections to the 'Godard-as-anti-semite' brigade (previously given the time of day here, surfacing again in the American press e.g.), whose level of commitment to this unfounded defamation is seemingly matched only by its peculiar brazenness and, in this case, wilful stupidity.


History Lesson(s) #7

Robinson in Ruins - Patrick Keiller, 2010, 35mm


Towards the end of the film, not long after the near collapse of the banking system in October 2008, the camera arrives at the location of the 1596 Oxfordshire rising, which was to have been an armed insurrection against enclosing landlords. Although the rebels failed in their attempt to ‘knock down’ Oxfordshire gentlemen and march on London, their rising was not a failure: to avoid further threats to the fragile social order of the period, the government soon legislated against enclosure. In retelling this story in the context of the current 'revolution of the rich against the poor' the rise of the super-rich in the UK in recent decades has been compared with that of the gentry in the late 16th and early 17th centuries the film appears to endorse violent insurrection, especially against Oxfordshire gentlemen.

--Patrick Keiller, interviewed by Daniele Rugo, 15/06/2011.


An aside, or: production

La Source - Ingres, c. 1820-1856 / Une visite au Louvre - Straub-Huillet, 2004, 35mm

By setting out to paint the ideal virgin, [Ingres] hasn’t painted a body at all. And it's not because he couldn't. Just think of his portraits and that Age of Gold that I like so much. It's because of the idea of a system. False system and false idea. David killed painting. They introduced the hackneyed formula. They wanted to paint the ideal foot, the ideal hand, the perfect face and body, the supreme being. They banished character. What marks out the great painter is the character he lends to everything he touches, impulse, movement, passion, for it’s possible to be both passionate and serene. They’re afraid of this, or rather they never dreamt of it. In reaction, perhaps, to all the passion, the tempests, the social brutality of their time.

--Paul Cézanne, in Joachim Gasquet's Cézanne, A Memoir with Conversations (written 1912-13, pub. 1921; Thames & Hudson, 1991), p.178.

'He knows neither how to sing, nor how to philosophize', wrote Zola in praise of Manet. 'He knows how to paint, and that is all.' Some critics and artists went so far as to assert that sheer ignorance or lack of formal training were positive assets for the artist. Laforgue proposed that the academies should be shut; Courbet refused to set himself up as a professor, declaring that art could not be taught; Pissarro, in an unguarded moment, even suggested that they burn down the Louvre.

--Linda Nochlin, Realism (Penguin, 1971), p.36.

We went on to discuss Russian literary policy. I said, referring to Lukács, Gábor and Kurella: 'You can't put on an act with people like this.' Brecht: 'You might put on an Act but certainly not a whole play. They are, to put it bluntly, enemies of production. Production makes them uncomfortable. It cannot be trusted. You never know where you are with production; production is the unforeseeable. You never know what’s going to come out. And they themselves don’t want to produce. They want to play the apparatchik and exercise control over other people. Every one of their criticisms contains a threat.'

--Walter Benjamin, with Bertolt Brecht, Aesthetics & Politics (Verso, 1980), p.96-97.

In every true work of art there is a place where, for one who removes there, it blows cool like the wind of a coming dawn. From this it follows that art, which has often been considered refractory to every relation with progress, can provide its true definition. Progress has its seat not in the continuity of elapsing time but in its interferences where the truly new makes itself felt for the first time, with the sobriety of dawn.

--Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Harvard UP, 2002), p.474.

L'Origine du monde - Gustave Courbet, 1866, oil on canvas

Distance(s) #22, or: no matter without art, for Jean-Claude


La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, May 2011

La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, May 2011

La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8

Juste avant l'orage - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 2003, DV

La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, May 2011

La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, May 2011

La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, May 2011


La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


Les eaux de pluie s’infiltrent dans un épais manteau calcaire et sont drainées vers le conduit remontant de la fontaine, dont le débit moyen est supérieur à 20 m3/s (maximum 4 et maximum 100 m3/s). Le conduit s’est mis en place dans une faille et mesure plus de 300m de profondeur. Il s’est formé au moment où la Méditerranée s’est asséchée, il y a 6 millions d’années.

--descriptif de la résurgence de Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, musée Requien (museé d’histoire naturelle) en Avignon. Cited by Cyril Neyrat in Lancés à travers le vide.


La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, May 2011

La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, May 2011

La Vallée close - Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995, super 8