Wednesday, March 24, 2010
#1 In looking at the impulse to accumulate and organize knowledge through archival in Primate, we would like to suggest a closer reading of one of the final scenes where the researchers are surrounding the conference table. The conversation centers on the value of basic research in the absence of practical or immediately applicable results. Following such reasoning, the testing/ biomedicalization of animal bodies can justifiably be performed to an extent which is only limited by the capacities of human labor in so far as it can possibly be supplemented in the future. The value of experimentation seems to be located not in a logical deduced use value, but in a potentiality value which only guarantees the placement of man at the center of his study and the pleasures that result from this focus. In turning to the scientia sexualis referenced in Prehistory: The Frenzy of the Visible, we can consider this sensualized power of sexual knowledge as the foundation and motivation of basic research.
#2 is posted below in comment
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Allan Sekula's "The Body and the Archive" positions the potentiality ascribed to the photographic medium within a historico-discursive moment, understanding the camera to be "a technological outpacing of already expanding cultural institutions" (4). A drive "to professionalize and standardize police and penal procedures" (4), he argues, played a crucial role in the development of material objects of a "truth apparatus", those technologies of "optical empiricism" (16).
Drawing upon Foucault's notions of a truth-power capable of producing subjects, Sekula investigates the perceived potential of photographs to play 'honorific' and 'repressive' functions, regulating the behavior of the masses.
"The new [photographic] medium [did not simply inherit and 'democratize' the honorific functions of bourgeois portraiture. Nor did all police photography simply function repressively, although it is foolish to argue that the immediate function of police photographs was somehow more ideological or positively instrumental than negatively instrumental. But in a more general, dispersed fashion, in serving to introduce the panoptic principle into daily life, photography welded the honorific and repressive functions together. Every portrait implicitly took its place with a social and moral hierarchy." (10)
The fact that problematic experiments can be conducted to "characterize" and "categorize" the criminals and their bodies in the visuals speaks to the fact that we are attempting to put into order the physical traits of individuals in order to make an exposable pattern for the betterment of society. This apparatus, thus, seeks to accomplish the double task of producing subjects while adopting a visual means of establishing the truth about their 'invisible' nature through means of their visible physical traits.
"The first rigorous system of archival cataloguing and retrieval of photographs was that invented by Bertillon. Bertillon's nominalist system of identification and Galton's essentialist system of typology constitute not only the two poles of positivist attempts to regulate social deviance by means of photography, but also the two poles of these attempts to regulate the semantic traffic in photographs. Bertillon sought to embed the photograph in the archive. Galton sought to embed the archive in the photograph" (pg.55 III)
Though Bertillon and Galton's archival practices differ, they both ultimately have the goals of preserving photographs for history, social truth and social control. Sekula remarks that while Bertillon tries to "tame" the photograph, Galton is ambitious and scientistic about the photograph in wanting it to do more. In his composite portraits, Galton manages to superimpose the faces of several criminals to produce what Sekula calls an "improved impression of l'homme moyen." (48). Galton's photographs, then, succeed in giving visual form to Quetelet's ideal average man.
What is at stake in the articulation of the individual and the mass body is that by processes of archiving photographs, we as humans are in control of now organizing the representations of the body and the experience into preservation for our disposals. Accordingly, as Sekula writes, Galton's project didn't merely produce an image that would be added to the archives of criminality: rather these composite photographs revealed "the vanished physiognomy of a higher race." (50)
How does the mass body here find its articulation in the index of the individual portrait? Could this composite portrait be thought of as indexical if it represents an almost transcendental subject? If the norms by which the individual and the mass are articulated find their expression in a ghostly physiognomy, then what can we say about the "positivities" produced by this optical apparatus?
The category and object of "woman" stands at the point of this "blindness." The female body "confesses" itself to the male inquiry, or desire to see the pleasure of the woman that is ultimately impossible. Williams correctly identifies this move and production in hard-core cinema stating,
"The animating male fantasy of hard-core cinema might therefore be described as the (impossible) attempt to capture visually this frenzy of the visible in a female body whose orgasmic excitement can never be objectively measured." (pg 50).
This is also seen in the study and scrutiny to which the woman's body is subjected for a study of her presence (the phallus) that is always absent. This absence though is merely a reflection back upon itself.
-MG, EF, SF
Monday, March 22, 2010
This means that, unlike the human sciences, which, even while turning back towards the unconscious, always remain within the space of the representable, psychoanalysis advances and leaps over representation, overflows it on the side of finitude...(374)What does it mean to leap over representation? Is this simply a matter of revealing the "conditions of possibility of all knowledge of man," (375) and how does this relate to Foucault's larger project and the death of man?
Q2: In both Zoopraxographer and Primate, we encounter different apparatuses, technologies, and methods for producing objective or scientific knowledge. As the narrator of Zoopraxographer observed, most of the human models were photographed undressed. Interestingly, the narrator suggests that conjunction of the technical apparatus and the nude models in front of the homogeneous backgrounds produces a sensation of "naturalness." Indeed, in Muybridge's nude photographs, it is as though we are viewing the natural human body, even though he obtained models "from all classes." In what ways is the natural body articulated in Muybridge's photographs? How is this related to the objectivity of the camera lens? This can be compared to Primate, where an attempt at formalization and standardization does not suggest naturalness--we are thinking, for instance, of the images of the caged primates. How is apparatus represented in Primate? We suggest a close reading of the scene in which a blood sample is being processed and eventually visualized through the clear eyepiece of the microscope: what do we make of the rhythmic, almost musical, quality of the scene, in which the technologies for analyzing blood come to take on almost aesthetic value? What do we make of the resulting images of "nature"?
Q3 coming up
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
SS + SF
Monday, March 8, 2010
One moment we would particularly like to interrogate comes from Benjamin's essay "On the Mimetic Faculty." Here Benjamin attributes a "history" to the "mimetic faculty" in two senses: "the phylogenetic" and "the ontogenetic." Benajmin states for the "ontogenetic sense" of the mimetic faculty's history that,
play is for many its school. Children's play is everywhere permeated by mimetic modes of behavior, and its realm is by no means limited to what one person can imitate in another. The child plays at being not only a shopkeeper or teacher but also a windmill and a train. (OMF, 160).Benjamin thus sees an originary or development of the mimetic faculty from "play" and particularly exposes this in his example of the "child." Is this theoretical move a reduction of the mimetic faculty and mimesis to "nature," "the primitive," and "the child?" What then would be at stake in such a grouping? How does Taussig support or resist this grouping in his own writing?
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
What is the importance or significance of the medium of video in Varda’s project? How is time is articulated in the film (the clock without hands, the the aging of Varda’s hands, the decay of the potatoes)? What is time’s relation to decay?