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).

Late Oshima

"This is most notable in how Oshima and his film relate to global culture and the global economy. But the new 'transnational individualism' suggested by Oshima does seem to open itself to a number of questions about politics at the present moment. It is precisely this skepticism and presumed unrealizability of a collective project that links Oshima's later work to the earlier work of Anderson and Richie.

This may also account for why a critic such as Masao Miyoshi feels a great sense of dissatisfaction with Oshima's later work, primarily from Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence on, than with his earlier films. What Miyoshi exposes is a shift in Oshima's work from such early films as Koshikei (Death by hanging, 1968), in which the Other is examined in a way that depicts the Japanese from the standpoint of the victims of racism. In Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, however, Oshima represents the Japanese from the viewpoint of the white prisoners of war (Lawrence, Van Der Post, Celliers). In this later film, for Miyoshi, Oshima ends up 'accepting the hegemonic and hierarchic view that would rank nations and races on a scale of progress and development.' In Death by Hanging, Oshima is working from a different ideological determinant (individualism-collectivism), and his earlier work is powerful precisely in how it reveals the Japanese construction and use of the Korean Other, as in the last scene, when the body of R (the Korean who is hanged) vanishes, leaving only an empty noose, signifying that the Other lives in ideology that cannot be killed; it can only be overcome. It is collective social praxis that inevitably involves everyone, including the politicians, bureaucrats, police, students, Koreans, Japanese, filmmakers, film viewers, and others, that is required to transform the Japanese nation (which is one way to interpret the prophetic call by Oshima himself at the end of the film; 'Anata mo, anata mo, anata mo...').

It was always this ideal--to delineate Japan's national situation and recognize the Japanese state as the primary site of resistance--that, it seem to me, provides the reason that Oshima disdained the generic 'New Wave' label that was often ascribed to the young Japanese directors of the 1960s. Other within a transformed contradictory space of the national and the transnational (starting from about the mid-1970s), however, his work forfeits the political use of the nation for any collective project and ends up wedding itself to the objectives of a transnational cultural movement (a type of transnational vanguard). Indeed, this might speak more to the difficulty of resistance at this particular moment, and to the strength of the contradiction between the national and the transnational as the world system reconfigures, than to Oshima's individual failing." (83-84)

From Eric Cazdyn's The Flash of Capital: Film and Geopolitics in Japan (Duke, 2002).

Friday, July 19, 2013


A few vital misconceptions have been corrected and that is its own reward. It is a relief to accept these introspective ways--avoiding crowds; preferring internal monologues; staring at trees or light upon leaves of trees. There are things to work on, iron out, mend and sew, like seeing oneself for oneself and not be trapped by false desires; but desires are not false, misguided perhaps, but they are their own combustible engines of identity. That's the thing: to discover one's identity from cracks of former selves and desired selves. And here's another: it is okay to be small or to till a smaller field or garden as long as he doesn't lose himself to his unspeakable angers. For this is an angry heart, as he discovers time and again. There have been quiet moments of lucidity like the weeds sprouting on the summer-ized sidewalks of Toronto.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

writing los angeles

"Thus contemporary black writers often feel that they are travelers in more than one galaxy. In The White Boy Shuffle, Gunnar uses an astronomical metaphor to comment on the multicultural whirl of Los Angeles: 'The web of amber streetlights looked like a constellation fallen to earth, awaiting some astronomer to connect the glowing dots to give form to its oracularity.' In Carol Reed's postwar film noir The Third Man (1949), the 'dots' are disconnected people who, if removed or erased, would never be missed, or so says Harry Lime (Orson Welles) to his boyhood friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) from a perspective atop of a Ferris wheel. Beatty rewrites Graham Greene's script for The Third Man to make present the 'dots' that white writers ignore. He is speaking not only for Los Angeles' black writers but for all those writers on the periphery of the city's official culture. The artist who would dare to represent Los Angeles must connect the multiple voices of the streets, films, songs, and other forms of mass culture to reveal the palimpsest, the utopian city within the City of Los Angles."

From an chapter by Charles Scruggs entitled "Los Angeles and the African-American literary imagination" in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Los Angeles (Cambridge, 2010)