Sunday, November 9, 2014

Reading Adorno in Naha (3)

“…(S)ense can only endure in despair and extremity; it needs absurdity, in order not to fall victim to objective madness…The capacity for fear and for happiness are the same, the unrestricted openness to experience amounting to self-abandonment in which the vanquished rediscovers himself. What would happiness be that was not measured by the immeasurable grief at what is? For the world is deeply ailing. He who cautiously adapts to it by this very act shares in its madness, while the eccentric alone would stand his ground and bid it rave no more. He alone could pause to think of the illusoriness of disaster, the ‘unreality of despair’, and realize not merely that he is still alive but that there is still life.” (128: Regressions)

From Adorno's Minima Moralia (Verso edition).

Reading Adorno in Naha (2)


Morality and style. – A writer will find that the more precisely, conscientiously, appropriately he expresses himself, the more obscure the literary result is thought, whereas a loose and irresponsible formulation is at once rewarded with certain understanding. It avails nothing ascetically to avoid all technical expressions, all allusions to spheres of culture that no longer exist. Rigour and purity in assembling words, however simple the result, create a vacuum. Shoddiness that drifts with the flow of familiar speech is taken as a sign of relevance and contact; people know what they want because they know what other people want. Regard for the object, rather than for communication, is suspect in any expression: anything specific, not taken from pre-existent patterns, appears inconsiderate, a symptom of eccentricity, almost of confusion. The logic of the day, which makes so much of its clarity, has naively adopted this perverted notion of everyday speech. Vague expression permits the hearer to imagine whatever suits him and what he already thinks in any case. Rigorous formation demands unequivocal comprehension, conceptual effort, to which people are content a suspension of all received opinions, and thus an isolation, that they violently resist. Only what they do not need first to understand, they consider understandable; only the word coined by commerce, and really alienated, touches them as familiar. Few things contribute so much to the demoralization of intellectuals. Those who would escape it must recognize the advocates of communicability as traitors to what they communicate.” (101)


People are looking at you. – Indignation over cruelty diminishes in proportion as the victims are less like normal readers, the more they are swarthy, ‘dirty’, dago-like. This throws as much light on the crimes as on the spectators. Perhaps the social schematization of perception in anti-Semites is such that they do not see Jews as human beings at all. The constantly encountered assertion that savages, blacks, Japanese are like animals, monkeys for example, is the key to the pogrom. The possibility of pogroms is decided in the moment when the gaze of a fatally-wounded animal falls on a human being. The defiance with which he repels this gaze—‘after all, it’s only an animal’—reappears irresistibly in cruelties done to human beings, the perpetrators having again and again to reassure themselves that it is ‘only an animal’, because they could never fully believe this even of animals. In repressive society the concept of man is itself a parody of divine likeness. The mechanism of ‘pathic projection’ determines that those in power perceive as human only their own reflected image, instead of reflecting back the human as precisely what is different. Murder is thus the repeated attempt, by yet greater madness, to distort the madness of such false perception into reason: what was not seen as human and yet is human, is made a thing, so that its stirrings can no longer refute the manic gaze.” (105)

Adorno: “…stupidity is not a natural quality, but one socially produced and reinforced.” Word.

“The deeper divergence of an opposition from the established order, which at least affords it refuge from a blacker future, the more easily Fascists can pit it down to untruths. Only the absolute lie now has any freedom to speak the truth. The confounding of truth and lies, making it almost impossible to maintain a distinction, and a labour of Sisyphus to hold on to the simplest piece of knowledge, marks the victory in the field of logical organization of the principle that lies crushed on that of battle. Lies have long legs: they are ahead of their time. The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power, a process that truth itself cannot escape if it is not annihilated by power, not only suppresses truth as in earlier despotic orders, but has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false, which the hirelings of logic were in any case diligently working to abolish. So Hitler, of whom no-one can say whether he died or escaped, survives.” (109)

From Adorno’s Minima Moralia (Verso edition)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reading Adorno in Naha


Timetable. – Few things separate more profoundly the mode of life befitting an intellectual from that of the bourgeois than the fact that the former acknowledges no alternative between work and recreation. Work that need not satisfy reality, first inflict on the subject all the evil that it is afterwards to inflict on others, is pleasure even it its despairing effort. Its freedom is the same as that which bourgeois society reserves exclusively for relaxation and, by this regimentation, at once revokes. Conversely, anyone who knows freedom finds all the amusements tolerated by this society unbearable, and apart from his work, which admittedly includes what the bourgeois relegate to non-working hours as ‘culture’, has no taste for substitute pleasures. Work while you work, play while you play – this is a basic rule of repressive self-discipline. The parents for whom it was a matter of prestige that their children should bring home good reports, were the least disposed to let them read too long in the evening, or make what they took to be any kind of intellectual over-exertion. Through their folly spoke the genius of their class. The doctrine inculcated since Aristotle that moderation is the virtue appropriate to reasonable people, is among other things an attempt to found so securely the socially necessary division of man into functions to cross over to the others and remind each other of man. But one could no more imagine Nietzsche in an office, with a secretary minding the telephone in anteroom, at his desk until five o’clock, than playing golf after the day’s work was done. Only a cunning intertwining of pleasure and work leaves real experience still open, under the pressure of society. Such experiences is less and less tolerated. Even the so-called intellectual professions are being deprived, through their growing resemblance to business, of all joy. Atomization is advancing not only between men, but within each individual, between the spheres of his life. No fulfillment may be attached to work, which would otherwise lose its functional modesty in the totality of purposes, no spark of reflection is allowed to fall into leisure time, since it might otherwise leap across to the workaday world and set it on fire. While in their structure work and amusement are becoming increasingly alike, they are at the same time being divided ever more rigorously by invisible demarcation lines. Joy and mind have been expelled equally brom both. In each, blank-faced seriousness and pseudo-activity hold sway.” (130-31)


Simple Simon. – To think that the individual is being liquidated without a trace is over-optimistic. For his cursory negation, the abolition of the monad through solidarity, would at the same time prepare the ground for saving the single being, who only in relation to the general becomes particular. The present situation is very different. The disaster does not take the form of a radical elimination of what existed previously; rather the things that history has condemned are dragged along dead, neutralized and impotent as ignominious ballast. In the midst of standardized, organized human units the individual persists. He is even protected and gaining monopoly value. But he is in reality no more than the mere function of his own uniqueness, an exhibition piece, like the fetuses that once drew the wonderment and laughter of children. Since he no longer has an independent economic existence, his character begins to contradict his objective social role. Just because of this contradiction he is tended in nature reserves, enjoyed in idle contemplation. The individualities imported into America, and divested of individuality in the process, are called colorful personalities. Their eager, uninhibited impulsiveness, their sudden fancies, their ‘originality’, even if it be only a peculiar odiousness, even their garbled language, turn human qualities to account as a clown’s costume. Succumbing to the universal mechanisms of competition and having no other means of adaptation to the market and making good than their petrified otherness, they plunge passionately into the privilege of their self and so exaggerate themselves that they completely eradicate what they are taken for. They shrewdly flaunt their naivety, a quality, as they soon find out, much prized by those in power. They sell themselves as heart-warmers in the commercial cold, ingratiate themselves with aggressive jibes masochistically enjoyed by their protectors, and confirm by their undignified ebullience the serious worth of the host nation. The Graeculi may have behaved similarly in the Roman Empire. Those who put their individuality on sale adopt voluntarily, as their own judges, the verdict pronounced on them by society. Thereby they justify objectively the injustice done to them. They undercut the general regression as private regressors, and even their noisy opposition is usually only a subtler means of adaptation from weakness.” (135-36)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

abstract submission - rejected

The paper will argue that recent films which feature space images, such as Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011), and Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light (2010) base their use of cosmic imagery from Hubble Telescope Photographs, not just in the visual sense, but ideologically too. Space imagery, in their current discursive representation, is made to be visual manifestations of anthropomorphism. Their reception in the form of the contemporary version of the sublime experience is no longer in the pictorial representation but in the telescopic technology behind the creation and reproduction of imagery, in both photographs and cinema. In this manner, the human eye is made to be the center of an orderly universe, contrary to recent discourses on decentered human subjectivity. The widespread availability and use of cosmic images in mainstream society is made possible by an ideology of a fixed, linear past, which in turns affects the way the present and the future is understood as chaos. This limited reading of time has the effect of narrowing the possibilities of understanding the non-past as they shape the imagination of future utopias/dystopias and the concept of the human. On the other hand, a closer inspection of these films appears to make an argument about the connection between space imagery technology, cinematic special effects, and the changing nature of cinema by changes in film production and exhibition (i.e. the death of cinema) that may in fact destabilize the usual functions of cosmic imagery. The narrative form of these films reveal a desire for an alternative way of looking, story consumption, and imagining the future by inscribing the imperiled, vanishing human figure. It is only in the disappearing presence of the human, visually and ideologically, that can ease the capitalistic strictures of visual technologies.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Listen Here, Los Angels

"Struggles for social justice in Los Angeles involved changing the meaning of existing spaces and creating new ones. African Americans and Mexican Americans in Los Angeles recognized that ghetto and barrio segregation could also produce unique and creative forms of congregation. The city streets that served as commercial conduits could also become sites for festive celebration and display. Dance halls, night clubs, and youth centers could be transformed into laboratories for the creation of new identities and identifications. Moreover, spatial entitlement was not confined to physical spaces. When housing segregation, police containment, and transit racism made it difficult to move across urban spaces, young Black and Brown people used the discursive spaces of popular music to create shared soundscapes. They did not have to be in each other’s physical presence to enjoy the same music at the same time as it was broadcast to them on radios in living rooms, bedrooms, neighborhood hangout, and automobiles. These strategies and affinities speak to the power of popular music and of popular culture to envision and create new political possibilities.” (xii - xiii)

"Though there are many cities with important traditions of Afro-Chicano interactions

From Gaye Theresa Johnson's "Space of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Enlightenment in Los Angeles" (University of California Press, 2013)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

360 Degrees

Nathaniel Dorsky on Antonioni's Chronicle of a Love Affair.

"But anyway if you can get a  good DVD of this first film Cronaca di un amore, just watch that film, just watch the camera attitude and what happens in it. That anyone can make a first feature film of that quality is just outstanding. And in terms of layers. Also later in time people make a big deal about the 360 degree shot that Godard did in Weekend (1967), but it's not profound and it's not subtle, it's no big deal. But there's a scene where they are planning the murder in Cronica di un amore: he shoots someone in a car, and the whole planning scene is this 360 degree shot, it starts with the car coming up the road. You wouldn't know it, it's so amazing you cannot even realize that it's happening. That film is... just watch the film, the camera attitude, the way it is with people in a room, it caresses people. That's an outstanding film. It's very modest, just like a detective story. First you say, “oh, why do you recommend this film?” It seems kind of ordinary for a while. Then slowly... it changes. That's a great film to watch for the eye."

From here.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Truly Hidden Los Angeles

View from Mount Wilson Observatory
"A People's Guide to Los Angeles is a deliberate political disruption of the way Los Angeles is commonly known and experienced. A guidebook may seem an unusual or unlikely political intervention, but as representations of both history and geography, guidebooks play a critical role in reinforcing inequality and relations of power. Guidebooks select sites, put them on a map, and interpret them in terms of their historical and contemporary significance. All such representations are inherently political, because they highlight some perspective while overlooking others. Struggles over who and what counts as 'historic' and worthy of a visit involve decisions about who belongs and who doesn't, who is worth remembering and who can be forgotten, who we have been and who we are becoming. Since all historic processes occur somewhere, these questions inherently involve geographic priorities, biases, and exclusions, as some places are celebrated, others are de-emphasized, and still others are literally left off the map. Thus, while not usually thought of as 'political,' guidebooks contribute to inequality in places like Los Angeles, not only by directing tourist and investment dollars toward some places and not others, but also by socializing visitors and locals alike about who and what is valuable, and--by implication--who and what is not." (4-5)

"Indeed in some guidebooks, maps literally stop at the 10 freeway--excluding the vas communities to the south, most of them Black and Latina/o--and at the Los Angeles River, which separates the Greater Eastside and its historic Latina/o and Asian American communities from the rest of the city. These omissions are hardly accidental. They deflect attention away from some of the county's most impoverished, segregated, and polluted neighborhoods, and therefore away from the forces of systemic neglect and oppression that have created such conditions. Such representations also obscure the collective efforts, past and present, of the creative ordinary people who live and work there--people who have raised healthy families and built strong communities amid formidable conditions, and who have led vibrant, innovative movements to resist environmental racism, the expansion of the prison-industrial complex, state violence, and residential segregation, among other forces." (6)

From A People's Guide to Los Angeles (Pulido, Barraclough, & Cheng) (UC Press, 2012).