Moving Images of the Anthropocene: Rethinking Cinema Beyond Anthropology

Introduction: On Cinematic and Anthropocenic Dreams
How to think about cinema in a way that truly takes the measure of what this celluloidal gathering of collectable and projectable light has been for a world transformed by the power unleashed by the unrestrained combustion of solid, liquid and gaseous residues of extinct life, and of what it has yet to be for such a world, as it finds itself transformed by the infinite manipulability of the digital and the infinite mobility of the network? To write (and so to think, and so to care) about cinema is to apply one recording technology to the investigation of another, so as to contribute to the formation of what one hopes to be a rational discipline (where, beyond logic or understanding, reason is a future-directed setting into motion). What these technologies, writing and cinema, have in common is that they take a phenomenon that is a temporal flow (in the one case, speech, in the other, visual and auditory sense-perception), and spatialize them, taking a phenomenon that is continuous and evanescent and make it material, discrete and reproducible. In other words, these technologies are examples of what Bernard Stiegler calls the process of ‘grammatization’, derived primarily from an extension of Sylvain Auroux’s use of this term, but also as an inflection of Jacques Derrida’s ‘grammatology’, thought however as a process that would, among other things, be historial, if not world-historial. And it is for this reason that such technologies have their original possibility in what Derrida called ‘arche-writing’.

But what is arche-writing? It was by asking this question that Stiegler was led to the thought that, perhaps, this original possibility also or even firstly lies in what Stiegler calls ‘arche-cinema’, the primordial form of which, as he argues in the digital pages of this very journal, consists in dreaming.[1] If arche-writing indicates the way in which these two processes of grammatization arise from out of the originarily inscriptive possibility of the artificialization of memory, the arche-cinematic character of these technologies relates to the way in which all dreams and all ideas are projective. In short, every artefact both screens the past (in both senses) and projects the future, and for this reason is a question not just of memory but of desire: there is a sense in which, for ‘us’, there has never been anything but cinema. In drawing dreams and ideas together beneath the banner of the arche-cinematic, what is thereby indicated is not just the fact that consciousness is technologically constituted, but the provenance of the products of this consciousness in an unconscious not just libidinal but technical, if not machinic, that is, industrial.

The Anthropocene is an idea. It is the idea that in the long (or short, if one’s timescale is geological) history of the relationship of humankind to its milieu, a shift has occurred, so that humanity has now become a decisive factor in the transformation of geophysical systems, which is to say geo-biochemical systems. The technical envelope with which our species prosthetically and systemically surrounds itself is now so extensive, so integrated and so seemingly irreversible that this shift threatens to enter us into a new phase where all these systems reach their limits and run out of our control.

The Anthropocene arises from the diurnal dreams that are those realizable ideas that become technical realities: those of Newcomen, Watt, Boulton, Jacquard, Carnot, Ford, Taylor and many others. These dreams, dreamed as part of the collective struggle of the technical life that is ours, made possible the discovery of the entropy characteristic of all systems, including of that physical system that is the universe, and the meaning of the Anthropocene is the recognition of the discovery that this negentropic struggle has become massively entropic. What this shows is the power of dreams, and the potential they always contain to become nightmares. Hence the Anthropocene is the name not just of an idea but of a problem: the problem of whether it is still possible to have good dreams or to realize new dreams, after the recognition that we ourselves, the anthropological beings that we have taken ourselves to be, the beings for whom being is a question, are in fact the planetary question.

To take up the question of cinema again, starting from the problem of the Anthropocene, means seeing cinema not just as an aesthetic or anthropological object, that is, as that which expands our sense of sense through the indeterminate expressiveness of an artefact within a circuit of gift and counter-gift exchanged by anthropological beings. The Anthropocene names the fact that the seeming mastery made possible by the oneiric capacities of such beings threatens in fact to unravel, and to expose the fact that this species dissipates structures quicker than it builds them. It was by arguing that this destructive, dissipative tendency is humanity’s fundamental characteristic that Claude Lévi-Strauss proposed spelling anthropology as entropology.[2]

Stiegler credits Lévi-Strauss with seeing further than most what follows from the inevitable ephemerality implied by following the second law of thermodynamics all the way out to the end: in Heideggerian terms, this amounts to a universe of becoming without being.[3] But because this structural entropology fails to address and to pursue the peculiarly negentropic possibilities that also define the struggle of the technical life that is ours, Stiegler argues that Lévi-Strauss’s discourse exposes all anthropology but loses its reason. Instead, we need to invent a neganthropology that would be concerned with what else these questionable and questioning beings could, however improbably, exosomatically become.

Such a viewpoint means understanding the crucial role that the cinematic, in its broadest sense, has played in the elaboration of the Anthropocene, and what role the digitalization of the audiovisual and the becoming-ubiquitous of a life both screened and unscreened has left to play in the elaboration of an exit from the encounter with limits that the Anthropocene implies today. If the twentieth century was that of the industrial fabrication of dreams, does the digitalization of the image and the ubiquitization of the networked, mobile screen represent the condition of possibility or impossibility of imagining, knowing, desiring and realizing a new but as yet unapproachable future? What follows is intended as an initial, somewhat circuitous foray into the theoretical and practical region within which this re-elaboration of the cinematic could conceivably take place.

The Loneliness of the World Viewed
Almost forty years ago, Robert Kolker published A Cinema of Loneliness, a book that attempted to think about a series of modern filmmakers whose works resist the Hollywood commitment to wholeness, belonging and happy endings, filmmakers who instead ‘leave their viewers lonely with reality’ and ‘deploy images of loneliness and entrapment, isolation and fear to reinforce that desperate perception we have of ourselves’[4] – cinema as the exposure of disindividuation and nonexistence. But maybe this is not just a question of reinforcement, of the release of repressed contents via the traumatypical[5] images and scenes of a cinema resistive of stereotypical conventionality (and perhaps ‘stereotype’ and ‘traumatype’ could also be retitled, respectively, ‘entrope’ and ‘negentrope’): for Stanley Cavell, for example, there is a sense in which cinema has itself become this prison, because it conditions us to be, essentially, alone and separated from the whole world that is the world of the film itself:

Our condition has become one in which our natural mode of perception is to view, feeling unseen. We do not so much look at the world as look out at it, from behind the self. It is our fantasies, now all but completely thwarted and out of hand, which are unseen and must be kept unseen. As if we could no longer hope that anyone might share them – at just the moment that they are pouring into the streets, less private than ever. So we are less than ever in a position to marry them to the world.

Cavell here describes, in ambiguous, counterfactual fashion, a loss of hope that connects our inability to marry our fantasies with the world to the condition given to us by cinema as such, a condition that would be cinema’s automatism. Cinema remakes the world viewed such that we, situated outside the screen we are watching, are thereby divorced from the world. Hence this would seem to be a claim about the message of the medium itself, or at least about what that message has become, and hence about what we have become. It could also be construed as a hypothesis about the popularity or the populism of movies that stage for us the fantasy of the end of the world, of being the last generation or one of the last, of seeing the end right before our very eyes. In this apocalypticism, the twenty-first century is still the century of cinema – now more than ever.

The century of the ubiquitous screen makes Cavell’s diagnosis of our condition seem prescient by several decades: everyone is perpetually before a screen, a screen that gives them the whole world, that supplies, feeds, distorts and exploits every dream and every fantasy, but which is also, for us, literally a screen, behind which we can hide, unseen, masked, and behind which, therefore, we need not exist for this world, where our cares and desires do not have to matter to this world, with which they do not have to marry. But a desire we need never marry to the world is one that requires of us no investment – and desire without investment is not just thwarted but short-circuited, if it is true that desire is precisely what we invest in an object, that is, through the formation of a circuit. And if the world is what we fashion from our always future-oriented desires (which Heidegger describes as ‘worlding the world’), then this unmarried desire is also precisely the threat of losing the whole world by letting it sink into nonexistence, and the question will be to know what this has to do with the letting go of the world that unfolds in the Anthropocene as the possibility of the end of the world.

The screen does not only and inherently mask us and our desire from the world, if we accept that our origin as desiring beings coincides with our origin as technological beings, or in other words that the circuit of desire is always mediated by a technological condition that would be the basis of desire’s projectivity. Hence the screen would be a pharmakon, as Socrates said about writing: writing both supports and undermines memory, and thereby supports and undermines the projection of something new on the basis of this memory. Likewise, the analogue and digital technologies of the image projected on screens must be considered ‘pharmacologically’, and, for this reason, the fact that the technology of writing is becoming fundamentally ‘screenic’ is perhaps a chance. This is a matter for judgment – and invention.

Nevertheless, it is a tendency of the ubiquitous screen to disentangle our desire from the desires of others, by combining with a system that systematically depletes desire in a way that reduces its ‘exclamatory’ character to solipsism, but so as to intensify the solus while eliminating the ipse.[7] This is one basis of the carelessness that means a whole generation can be left abandoned by the previous one, but if it is true that what was a proliferation of screens can now be accurately characterized as a ubiquity, then does it become possible for this abandonment, this disentanglement of the generations, to reach an ultimate point of disconnection that might, indeed, be understood as the end of generations as such, where this disentanglement becomes so destructive of the transgenerational knowledge that is transmitted intergenerationally that the resultant loss of bearings undermines the ability for generational processes to be negotiated or understood?[8]

In other words, one techno-aesthetic component contributing significantly to feelings of generational abandonment, global negligence and impending, catastrophic ecological apocalypse – all of which can be construed as the fundamental problem referred to by the name Anthropocene – does not just lie in the probability that such judgments are real, true and factual. Beyond some quasi-scientific calculation of such probabilities, what must be borne in mind are the negative pharmacological automatisms of the screen itself, which threatens to become an obstacle preventing this apocalypse from turning up any new, positive protentional revelation. Information fails to become knowledge because the screen, in its ubiquity, extending to everyone from infancy to old age, functions as a glass darkly, looking through which, unseen, the world can be apprehended as not mattering.

Hence if to think in the Anthropocene is to receive the shock of this pharmacology as such, then, in an age when the world is overwhelmingly encountered through the mediation of this dark lens, the conditions of the experience of this shock are themselves techno-aesthetic. To think in the Anthropocene therefore inevitably involves thinking the techno-aesthetics of shock itself. The argument presented here is that this means thinking the digital turn:

* both as a mutation amounting to a fundamental rupture with the audiovisual hegemony of the analogue mnemo-technical system;

* and as an intensification of the hegemony of ultrarapid audiovisual technology, as it continues to unfold in predictable and unpredictable ways.

The Indeterminate and the Infinite
In its classical phase, which despite everything is probably still the dominant if not always explicit mode of aesthetic reflection, aesthetics understands the aesthetic idea – the faculty of presentation of which is ‘spirit’ understood as ‘animating principle’ – as ‘indeterminate’, so that it ‘sets the faculty of intellectual ideas (reason) into motion’, ‘aesthetically enlarges the concept itself’ and as such ‘gives more to think about than can be grasped and made distinct’.[9] In this way, the indeterminacy of the aesthetic idea is a gift beyond calculability, and we could already begin to think that there is a hint of a general economy operating behind the scenes of the more restricted mechanics of the overall Kantian system. Hence the sublime is thought as bearer of the idea of infinity, but, lacking the category that Stiegler will name ‘consistence’ (his name for that which does not exist and yet consists[10] , which would be the case for all of what Plato called the ideas, not just those that are ‘aesthetic’ in a Kantian sense), this becomes for Kant a question of the play of the representable and the unrepresentable, and gets caught in the aporias of imagination and unrepresentability. Nevertheless, the twin thoughts of indeterminacy and infinity are the engine of the two questions animating this aesthetic understanding:

* If aesthetic ideas are indeterminate, then on what basis can different individuals hold these ideas in common or make decisions concerning their relative merits?

* If they gesture to an infinity beyond calculation, then what can be the significance of this infinity for the universe as a whole and for the rational beings that we hope to be, for whom this infinity functions as a challenge to think and act beyond our own limits?

The first of these questions, that of the socialization and collectivization of aesthetic ideas, is not, in this classical period, thought in terms of process. The question of what process mediates between the individual and the collective does not arise, and there is instead a resort to the assumption of shared pre-existing cognitive capacities.

The second of these questions could be spelled otherwise as referring to something like the cosmological significance of sublimity. But without an understanding that this generation of the infinite is a question not just of the aesthetic play of imagination and the understanding but instead has techno-aesthetic conditions, the answer gets caught in aporias of nature: the human being, in its transcendent appreciation of nature, becomes a kind of nature of nature, the nature of the human being being to seek nature’s purposiveness beyond nature itself. And because this ultimate purposiveness is understood as that of rational human being grasped as the nature of nature, it is inconceivable to such a way of thinking that this purposiveness could ultimately become a source of misery, let alone that this immiseration might prove to be not just that of humankind but of ‘nature’ ‘itself’.

Although this aesthetic arises in an age that is already that of man as ‘master and possessor of nature’, it is not yet an age bearing the possibility of thinking in terms of an Anthropocene qua age of entropic discordance between humankind and biosphere. Despite the degree to which Kantian aesthetics thus opens up these two questions of the indeterminate and the infinite, in the end they fail to lead to a consideration of the temporality of aesthetic processes. And this failure is ultimately due to the repression of any consideration of the aesthetic artefact as such.

From Anthropology to Organology
The many and varied peregrinations of nineteenth-century aesthetic philosophy return again and again to these two questions. Yet perhaps it is only with the anthropology of Marcel Mauss that a true step beyond the ‘metaphysical’ opposition of the material and the spiritual lying at the basis of this repression becomes truly possible. Mauss takes this step by deconstructing (if we can say this) the opposition between non-rational ‘spiritual’ gift exchange and ‘rational’, material economic exchange, which he does by thinking, more or less, what is ‘older’ than this opposition.[11] Mauss wants to think beyond the idea that the former is grounded in communal, incalculable and immaterial considerations and the latter in the calculation of self-interested individuals about material interests. This means thinking the spirituality of the material object itself, the hau of the taonga, where this also relates to Malinowski’s description of the kula ring as a question both of material objects and of shared understandings. Despite maintaining the distinction between the alienable and the inalienable, Mauss insists that the significance of exchange extends to all aspects of the ‘total social fact’ – morality, values, obligations, the knowledge of how to do and live – the prism of gift and counter-gift becoming the mechanism through which to understand all material-symbolic phenomena, that is, aesthetic, sensational, exclamatory phenomena. And because this is a question of thinking beyond the opposition of interested calculation and disinterested exchange, it opens the way towards a pharmacological consideration of the duplicity of the gift.

For the young Lévi-Strauss, the problem with the Maussian account of ‘giving, receiving, returning’ is the question of how these economic elements are bound together:

How? By applying to the isolated parts which are the only present elements, a source of energy which can synthesise them. […] But this is where the difficulty comes in. Does this property exist objectively, like a physical property of the exchanged goods? Obviously not.

Even if for Lévi-Strauss the solution to this ‘problem’ of the deficient objectivity of this ‘source of energy’ lies in referring to Mauss’s earlier essay on magic in order to appeal to the notion that ‘the unity of the whole is even more real than each of the parts’[13] , and even if Lévi-Strauss is here still concerned with the question of how the synchronic marries with the diachronic, nevertheless the resort to deciding, metaphysically, between the subjectivity or objectivity of this ‘energy’ is the very means by which structural anthropology falls prey to the ‘tendency to overrate the symbolic with respect to the imaginary’.[14] By deciding that this ‘energy’, the energy that is the spirituality of the hau of the material taonga, is merely an ‘additional quantity’ added by Mauss to bind the parts of exchange into a whole, structuralism is founded on a kind of evisceration – an evacuation of the energy animating processes, a dis-energization. In this way, structural anthropology is premised on the basis of the removal of organs as organs, because all organs, as organized, are energetic phenomena. What Lévi-Strauss screens, in both senses, is the question of energy. How does this early dismissal of this question, and of the ‘materiality’ of energy, binding the processes investigated by Maussian anthropology, bear upon the conclusion, five years later, that the economic activity of the mortal subjects of anthropology, insofar as it is energetic, is purely negative, that is, entropic?[15]

Whatever the final answer to this question may be, Georges Bataille’s general economy derives precisely from taking as a starting point what Lévi-Strauss ultimately hides behind a screen: the energy of the process. And this has something to do with why Bataille is not wrong to conclude, in relation to the birth of art – that is, the creation of ‘this world of art in which communication between individual minds begins’[16] (that is, the birth of collective individuation as coinciding with the birth of techno-aesthetic mediation) – that authentic transgression, that is, committed not out of indifference but knowingly, is something more than just anomalous with respect to the inherent conservatism of the economy of gift and counter-gift: desire and spirit ‘overflows the world of work’ and exceeds the ‘spirit of the prohibitions indispensable to safeguarding this world’, and this is originary with respect to the energetic character of work itself, as that which opens the circuit of gift and counter-gift.[17] But because Bataille makes too much of the distinction between Homo faber and Homo ludens, what he cannot see is the degree to which this is the character of work itself, including the work of the artist producing, with instruments, the work of art, work that safeguards the world only if it can both maintain it (synchronically) and transform it (diachronically).

In other words, Bataille recognizes that the classical aesthetic question of humanity’s ‘nature beyond nature’ must also be asked in terms of the question of a general economy (and energy) of transgression: hence, if art is the ‘clearest expression of the gift economy that is the libidinal economy as an organization of sublimation’, and specifically, of the ‘sublimation of the savage[18] , then this fact contains a terrible and pharmacological ambiguity. But if this could be understood as a general economy of libidinal energy, nevertheless, despite the Nietzschean provenance of this genealogy, it is not yet grasped in Bataille as a question of the transductive becoming of organs. Nor does he grasp that the working engine of this becoming has long been the unfolding of the process of grammatization, a process the origin of which coincides with the birth of art. Only in a general organology does this explicitly become a question of starting from an analysis of the process of hominization, for which Leroi-Gourhan, screened out by Lévi-Strauss, becomes the crucial reference, and on that basis of understanding the economy of gift and counter-gift as the generation of sensational, exclamatory circuits composing material, symbolic, libidinal and political economies derived from the becoming of psychic, collective and technical organs.

Furthermore, Bataille could not compose the Freudian account of libidinal economy with the Husserlian account of the temporality of perception (nor could Freud or Husserl), without which it is not possible to think the composition of the stereotypical and the traumatypical, or, as I am suggesting, of entropes and negentropes. With general organology, the classical aesthetic question of the basis on which the aesthetic ideas can be generalized becomes the question of the genealogy of the sensible insofar as ‘sensibility’ (in all senses) is a question of the socialization of desire. And, secondly, the question of the purposiveness of nature, and of the nature of nature as what lies beyond the calculative capacity of the human being, becomes the question of the materiality of sublimation, that is, the question of understanding the access to the ‘consistence’ of singularities as essentially a question of artefacts and practices, that is, of a transgenerational, instrumental (or, to avoid ambiguity, instrumented) education.

Organology Encounters Entropy
It is now, on the one hand, a matter of re-interpreting the questions of entropy and negentropy (where the latter names the counter-tendency of biological life to struggle against the entropic tendency) on the basis of general organology. From the recognition:

* that the question of entropy arises from the advent of the technics of combustion, which is to say that this technological advance led to the science of the efficiency of closed systems that was ultimately a challenge to the perception of the equilibrium of the universe so that the latter became instead a kosmos in becoming;

* that entropy involves the question of the distinction between available and unavailable energy in a way that Georgescu-Roegen described as essentially ‘anthropomorphic’ (arising from Sadi Carnot’s treatment of ‘the economy of heat engines’[19] ) and which, with Lotka becomes the question of ‘exosomatic evolution’[20] , so that Anthropos cannot be divorced from the instruments by which this energy is available or otherwise;

* that this question of instruments implies a question of the concretization of systems, that is, that the evaluation of the negentropy of a system is always a local consideration within the overall cosmological entropic tendency, which is why technics can always be both an accentuation of negentropy and an increase of entropy[21] ;

* that the question of energy can in some way be generalized beyond the definition of ‘physical’ energy (where energy is then in general what can cause movement, or change, or transformation, and what can be saved or spent), even if it is possible that these energies can still be understood, beyond any reducibility to physics, as conforming to, in a general way, ‘the capacity of a system to perform work’;

* and that the question of negentropy, as the question of the struggle to defer (entropy) via processes of ordering and differentiation, must be thought on the basis of différance as the problem of this persistence understood inscriptively (but less quasi-transcendentally than quasi-causally[22] );

– from all this it follows that entropy and negentropy must be understood as essentially organological concepts. All energy that is available for us is organological energy, or, indeed, exorganological.

So this is an argument for inscribing the more or less physical concepts of entropy and negentropy within the more or less philosophical concepts of general organology. But, on the other hand, there is a sense in which this is also a question of deepening the basis of general organology itself, by situating it more firmly within this re-interpreted problematic of entropy and negentropy: all the economic processes governing the relations between the strands of psychic, collective and technical individuation must not only be thought as situated within the context of the overall vital individuation process, in turn situated within the processes of geological and planetary becoming determining the milieu of this vital individuation process, a process that with the multitudinous transformational effects wrought by the energy made available by the discovery of mechanical carbon combustion becomes a techno-geological process (and which is the very reason why we refer to the Anthropocene event). They must also be understood as essentially energetic processes (of physical, libidinal and noetic energy), where ‘energy’ is a concept that is quasi-causally and différantially inflected. The pharmacological then becomes comprehensible as the expression of the quasi-causal, neganthropological struggle of technical life.

Exposing the question of entropy to general organology while at the same time exposing general organology to the question of entropy and negentropy leads Stiegler to instead refer to neganthropy and exorganology, and makes possible the formulation of what Stiegler calls a ‘speculative cosmology’[23] , founded on thinking together the processes of concrescence, concretization and grammatization, according to which the question of the value of values, against the entropic devaluation of all values, becomes the question of the increase or decrease of the availability and differentiability of energetic processes. This amounts, then, to a final translation of the critique of the power of judgment, a translation:

* from the possibility of mutual agreement – founded on shared innate cognitive capacities and learned from the incalculability and infinity inherent to the aesthetic experience of the sublime – that the ultimate purposiveness of nature, the nature of nature, lies in the human capacity to exceed nature and therefore in freedom accede to human practical reason as nature’s highest purpose;

* to the idea that transindividuation is founded on the unfolding of the processes of psychosocial and technical individuation, motivated, noetically and libidinally, by techno-aesthetic experience through which it becomes possible to access consistences, but where all of this is contextualized as the localized play of entropy, negentropy and neganthropy of quasi-causal and différantial energetic processes establishing a value of values that is no longer conceivable as the anthropic values of Anthropos but must rather be understood, precisely, as the neganthropological concerns of Neganthropos.[24]

The Train, the Wall and the Car
The contemporary techno-aesthetic epoch is characterized by the absorption of the previous techno-aesthetic epochs of the textual and the analogue into the digital. To absorb a process is to take it over and into a larger, more general process, but it is not necessarily to destroy this process, even if it is thereby transformed. What does that mean in this case? Textual, analogue and digital mnemo-technologies all constitute epochs of the overall process of grammatization, but, insofar as grammatization begins with the birth exemplified by the advent of parietal art[25] , it precedes the processes and systems opened up by the technologies not only of printing, radio, cinema, television and computing but also of writing, understood in the ‘narrow’ sense. The epoch of grammatization, as the epoch of the différance of différance, is then the opening of the age of the exclamatory, the sensational, the symbolic and therefore the noetic, because it is the opening of the techno-aesthetic as the possibility of the socialization of desire and affect.

If there is some sense in which we could therefore say that this birth of art is then the birth of arche-cinema before the birth of arche-writing (which could only ever be a very conditional statement), then the process of grammatization is in a way historically cinematic before it is textual, even if was always already inscriptive in a grammatological sense, and even if the interpretative practice on which cinema in the strict sense is founded is nevertheless conditional upon the composition of the cinematic and the textual made possible by the invention of writing. The absorption of textual and analogue technologies into the extremely general grammatization process that is the digital turn is then a chapter of a process that was historially cinematic before being textual, that is, the energy of which initially stems from the power derived by combining fire, light, inscription and temporality, all initially animated, or neganthropized, by the solar expenditure.

The advent of the cinematic age strictly speaking begins with, precisely, L’Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat (1895) as recorded by the Lumière brothers, a steam train that we could say departed, which is to say first arrived, one hundred years earlier (the first working model of a steam locomotive having been constructed in 1794, the same year that Kant published ‘The End of all Things’, in which he wonders why it is that human beings expect an end of the world at all[26] , that is, that ‘a time will arrive in which all alteration […] ceases […], the whole of nature will be rigid and as it were petrified’, against which thinking would be ‘a reflection that can occur only in time’[27] ). In Kant’s age, the source of such negative collective protention was millennial divination; a century later, with the image of the steam train, awareness of the entropic aspect of what would come to be called the Anthropocene was only beginning to dawn. But if this is the question of the opening of a new cosmology, it remains significant that the movement of this arrival is first shown to us in 1895, an exhibition the purported shock of which for contemporary audiences is legendary, if not mythological. It is this combination of the thermodynamic event and the cinematic event that ultimately and fundamentally and collectively exposes the arrow of time – that is, to a public. And this same evolution from chronophotography to cinematography also made possible, in the field of production, the analysis of time and motion that ultimately led to the science of calculating and organizing gestural behaviour in order to maximize the efficiency of human labour – that is, that ultimately led to the massive acceleration of the process of the entropization of human work.

This exposure of temporal directionality was consolidated in a paradoxical way in another 1895 Lumière film, Démolition d’un mur, the contents of which are eponymously described, except that, when it was exhibited, after the collapse of the wall, the projector was reversed so that the viewer then witnesses the wall fantastically rebuilding itself from rubble. Before the distinction between documentary and fiction, this representation of the apparent impossibility of reversing thermodynamic, statistical temporality (as Georgescu-Roegen points out, mechanical reversibility means spectators would not have been able to tell, were it that the reversed movie had instead shown a swinging pendulum[28] ) exposes entropy and exposes it to the impossible or the exceedingly improbable. Hence is born the magic of cinema (where magic is always a technics).

But this is an exposure based on the chemical interaction of light and film that really ‘touch’, which is why Bazin says, in reflecting on the process of cinematic unfolding that led from the arrival of a train to a voyage to the Moon, that ‘the fantastic in cinema is possible only because of the irresistible realism of the photographic image’.[29] That is, of the analogue photographic image. Hence the magical energy of the cinematic fantastic lies precisely in the fact that the thermodynamic, ‘realistic’ (that is, probabilistically calculable) entropy exposed by the cinematic artefact combines with the extreme improbability that characterizes every negentropic process. The ‘magical’ or the ‘fantastic’, whether in the sense of Mauss or Bazin, then ultimately lies in the fact that neganthropy is possible at all, and in the possibility that this fact can lead to the dream and the projection and the realization of some new neganthropy, to the arrival of a new law, arising from a bifurcation that would also be a question of the making of a new différance, that would be not only unlikely but the singularly incalculable and the essentially improbable, the improbable as such.

Perhaps the most Anthropocenic of all movies, arriving three quarters of a century later, is Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop, released in 1971, the same year in which Cavell published The World Viewed, which describes the cinematic automatisms thwarting our individual and collective fantasies. This loneliest of cinemas depicts characters who have lost the ability to communicate about anything except cars and lost the ability to do anything except drive (nowhere), in a country that seems empty of everything except roads and gas stations. Or in other words, an a-cosmos that has turned into a nihilistic desert in which all processes have become entropic. Two-Lane Blacktop ends, famously, with an interior shot from behind the driver inside a vehicle racing down a deserted airstrip – first the sound disappears, then the film slows, until the frame-by-frame movement becomes clearly perceptible, before the image finally freezes, as though the film has become caught in the projector, the light of the (imaginary) incandescent bulb then melting and burning through the celluloid, ending the film and leaving the audience to wonder if this is also a symbolic representation of the crashing and burning of the vehicle itself along with its driver, not shown ‘explicitly’, perhaps because our apprehension of the mortality of the characters depends only on cinematic means. And so it is the entropy of the cinematic process itself, not just of its human actors, and by extension the entropy of the cinematic civilization that is also the civilization of the automobile, the Anthropocene itself, that is combusting before us, that is, being reduced to the unavailable energy that is ashes.

From the outset, then, cinema was a correspondence of technology and magic, that is, the expression of the fantastic, emerging from, exhibiting and exposing the era of thermodynamics and petrochemicals. It has never left this era behind, which is perhaps why it was possible, for example, to construct a graph of the cinematic output of the most entropic of all Hollywood directors, Michael Bay, correlating the profits of his various blockbusters with the number of explosions each one contains.[30] This correlation is impressively linear, running from a profit of $141 million extracted from the measly 18 explosions in Bad Boys (1995) to a profit of $1.1 billion for Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), which contains a reported 283 explosions. And the progressively greater number of moments of entropic explosiveness in his films makes it seem that Bay is increasingly conscious of this correlation, which thus becomes an important aesthetic ‘idea’ determining his in-artistic insensibility.

Between the thermodynamic technology of combustive entropy and the digital technology of informational entropy lies the libidinal entropy of audiovisual technology. It is a question, then, of three kinds of energy, each irreducible to the other:

* vital individuation as the struggle to maintain the availability of physical energy;

* psychosocial individuation as the struggle to maintain the availability of libidinal energy, a struggle that in the twentieth century was ultimately conducted against a televisual industry, focused on the power of affective technologies and devoted to the capture of this energy (where to capture means, precisely, to make unavailable) by capturing ‘available brain time’ (and where this means the libidinal brain) in order to orchestrate an entropic behaviouralist performativity attempting to control desire and decision in the service of consumerism;

* and, in the digital age, this affective focus continues, with increasing desperation, to be pursued, but where the generality of the process is extended to all aspects of noetic individuation, as the struggle to maintain the availability of the energy of rational knowledge against informational entropy, where the reason of rationality must still, also and always be understood as the motivation of knowledge.

If the digital turn can indeed be understood as a transformation of the technical system in which it is now the rational thinking of the disciplines that is at stake, this is because, in addition to the capture of available brain time, that is, libidinal energy, it is now a question of a computational power that, because it processes (that is, orders and reorders) information more quickly than human beings, tends increasingly to be regarded as rendering the informational ordering capacities of the noetic soul obsolescent, that is, a matter of indifference. Operating more quickly than our capacity for comprehension, the high-speed ordering of information is understood on this view not in terms of the possibility of disordering knowledge, but only in terms of the purported decreasing relevance of the noeticity of either decision or value, in turn making possible the practical and ideological orchestration of a so-called ‘data behaviourism’[31] that would strive to be a kind of algorithmic hyper-performativity, at the risk of also being hyper-entropic.

What such a perspective forgets is the difference of information and knowledge[32] , a difference founded in the libidinal origins of all knowledge, and that gives the bearers of this knowledge the possibility of operating even more quickly than the fastest electronic circuit, because it acts immeasurably quickly, and can therefore, through an energetic leap, instantaneously inaugurate or complete a noetic circuit. This noetic leap is what we experience in the sometimes ‘instantaneous’ play of wit, for example, with its power to produce very short circuits (as opposed to short-circuits) in the circulation of stereotypical entropes. Counteracting the bypassing of noetic circuits implied by the extremely rapid circulation of electromagnetic energy in silicon circuits depends on inaugurating dis-automatizing processes enabling new capacities not just for entropic (or anthropic) information but for neganthropic knowledge.

The Conquest of the Ubiquitous Screen
Let us conclude by coming back to the question of the ubiquity of the screen, a ubiquity of the kind implied by Mark Weiser in 1991 when he reflected on ubiquitous computing in terms of technologies that ‘disappear’ because ‘they weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it’.[33] Paul Valéry foreshadowed this ubiquity in a remarkable way in 1928, precisely with respect to aesthetic technologies, and precisely in terms of physical, sensory and noetic energetic processes with which we must constantly struggle, when he wrote:

Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a single movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign. Just as we are accustomed, if not enslaved, to the various forms of energy that pour into our homes, we shall find it perfectly natural to receive the ultrarapid variations or oscillations that our sense organs gather in and integrate to form all we know. I do not know whether a philosopher has ever dreamed of a company engaged in the home delivery of Sensory Reality.[34]

The conquest of ubiquity, dreamed of, that is, projected noetically, by the philosopher in 1928, has today been accomplished, and the ultrarapid variation of visual and auditory images has become the most quotidian medium and accompaniment of every sensory experience. To refer to the ubiquity of the screen is to suggest that screens have themselves become the milieu that is so perpetually and intimately close as to be virtually imperceptible, which is to say that, despite the rapidity of technological change, what we find difficult to see and therefore to think is the increase and transformation of this ubiquity, just as a frog in a pot of slowly heating water supposedly fails to perceive its own, increasingly entropic situation as the ultrarapid movements and collisions of the water molecules slowly begin to disorder its own biological organization, threatening the coherence of its own negentropic systems. In such circumstances, perhaps only a quasi-phenomenological suspension is able to expose the milieu as such.

For this reason, Hossein Derakhshan’s observations in 2015 about our ubiquitous screenic milieu, after having served six years in prison, are worthy of careful consideration. What he perceives to be the greatest transformation to have occurred in this interval is the increasing elimination of the web as a milieu of the hyper-linked contest of arguments, replaced instead by what he calls the Stream, which we could also call the Feed, a constantly updated, perpetually destabilizing river of ‘information’ along which we are borne and into which we can perhaps never step twice, and that is decreasingly a matter of text or even images, and increasingly a matter of video, and which thus corresponds precisely to Valéry’s description of our being constantly and ultrarapidly supplied with visual and auditory images:

The Stream now dominates the way people receive information on the web. Fewer users are directly checking dedicated webpages, instead getting fed by a never-ending flow of information that’s picked for them by complex – and secretive – algorithms. […] And not only do the algorithms behind the Stream equate newness and popularity with importance, they also tend to show more of what we’ve already liked. […] Today the Stream is digital media’s dominant form of organizing information. […] Maybe it’s not the death of the hyperlink, or the centralization, exactly. Maybe it’s that text itself is disappearing. […] But the Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. […] This is not the future of the web. This future is television.[35]

Three elements of this analysis require clarification:

* The first is that this becoming-television of the web is no longer a question of the hyper-synchronization of mass broadcast, consisting instead in the algorithmicization of television. But television is not cinema. If cinema is stretched between the poles of the televisual and the pornographic[36] , then what Derakhshan’s analysis clarifies is that in this televisualized web the ‘cinematic’ finds itself stretched to breaking point, because this algorithmic televisualization amounts to the probabilistic destruction of the consistence of singularities and therefore the destruction of the possibility of cinematic dreaming. The latter is conditional upon the cultivation of interpretative practices that are always grounded in, and dependent on having the time for, the apprehension of such consistences, which do not exist precisely because they are infinite and therefore incalculable, and hence insusceptible to such algorithmicization.

* The second is that it is not exactly, as Derakhshan says, that ‘text itself is disappearing’: it is that text is succumbing to the Stream, losing its orthotheticity, afflicted by the essential doubtfulness of the analogico-digital image, regressing to a more imagistic, evanescent form, marrying the ‘emoji’. It is not just that our attentional capacities have been ravaged: it is that the word itself is declining in value and certainty, constantly being replaced by something else, just one more image to be consumed and discarded. This amounts to an effective decomposition of the distinction between literal tertiary retention and audiovisual tertiary retention, effected by digital tertiary retention. The exactitude of digital information, then, even though it fixes in the form of binary data all forms of information in the process of the general grammatization of everything (up to and including our DNA coding), is nevertheless, and very paradoxically, now undermining the certainty and fixity of the word itself, folding it back into the cinematic temporality of the Stream, as it decomposes the distinction between image and symbol in a way that amounts to the proletarianization of the word, the depletion of interpretative capacities and a widespread increase in anti-noetic informational entropy.

* The third is that what Derakhshan is describing is a contest between two tendencies engaged in a struggle for the future of the web, a war whose most powerful representatives are respectively Google and Facebook. These two tendencies are: (1) a data behaviourism founded on algorithmically controlling access to web-links and utilizing the data thereby accumulated to exploit and serve the behavioural interests of (increasingly obsolescent) consumerist capitalism, with all the entropic and negentropic consequences that makes Google so eminently pharmacological; and (2) a data behaviourism founded on, as far as possible, destroying the web qua potentially neganthropic (hermeneutic) network, and corralling (in the case of Facebook) billions of users into the almost wholly entropic algorithmic television of the Stream. The response to this immense struggle obviously ought not consist just in taking sides, even if it is clear that one of these tendencies is decidedly worse than the other: in itself, the struggle between these competing tendencies is a destructive and self-defeating war; our responsibility can only be to dream of, and strive to open, a new path.

The contemporary organology of dreams calls for a neganthropology of the cinematic for these three reasons: first, because the televisualization of the web amounts to the destruction of the right to and possibility of dreaming, that is, of the possibility of any positive protentional projection, whether noetic or otherwise; second, because the folding of the word back into the image intensifies this destruction, disorientating our interpretative capacities by undermining any orthotheticity on which they could be based; and third, because it is not conceivable simply to let play out this struggle between the competing tendencies represented by Google’s attempt to control the web and Facebook’s attempt to replace it with algorithmic television. Together, these three reasons exacerbate the already immense difficulties in the contemporary Anthropocene of cultivating neganthropy as value of values.

What Derakhshan calls the Stream is a mechanism for ordering the massive availability of information, but in a way that tends to lead to the disordering and unavailability of knowledge, that is, that tends greatly to facilitate the increase of entropy and inhibit the accentuation of neganthropy. As such, the Stream is the very figure and ground, at the techno-aesthetic level, of the lack of metastability making ours the epoch of the absence of epoch[37] : it thwarts and short-circuits the fantasy or dream that digital networks could become a new basis for the transindividuation of desire and knowledge, without which responding to the challenges of the Anthropocene becomes unimaginable. If there is to be a new intergenerational alliance [38] , as one of the conditions of the latest generations not being, and not feeling, that they are the last, then, in the age of the ubiquitous screen, it has conditions that are undoubtedly not only aesthetic, but cinematic. Perhaps the true history of television begins not with Skype but with Facebook TV.[39]

‘Nothing’s shocking’: what is expressed in this lyric, now more than twenty years old? It says that in a permanent and therefore automatic state of shock, we no longer find that anything has the capacity to elicit the repressed contents that form the traumatypical potential of the negentrope. Our ubiquitous screens parade before us a constant stream of terrifying evidence of both genuine barbarity and the ultimate threat of what Derrida called the absolute pharmakon [40] (today represented less frequently in terms of nuclear than of climate criticism), but this seems less and less able to pass through our screens and into us, even if it seems almost to be feeding an addiction to the sensational to which we find ourselves ever more desensitized – insensibilized.

Our screens seem to screen us from anything capable of disrupting our collective technological nihilism and the passivity with which we contemplate the unfolding of the worst, whether this is the worst possible present or the worst possible future. Thinking from within the dream factory, this is one way that one could, for example, interpret the commercial and critical success of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) compared with Tomorrowland (2015), the latter’s villain explicitly thematizing the idea that the Hollywood dream-cum-nightmare factory succeeds because it feeds apocalyptic fantasies that make no demands. It is indeed a question of a kind of psychic and social blockage, but one that suggests that the problem is less the absence of any possible affect than, on the contrary, the advent of an apocalyptic situation that increasingly tends towards becoming explosive and combustive, individually, socially and technically. Increasing hyper-performativity leads to increasing hyper-diachronization as transgression regresses to barbarism, that is, leads to an intensification of desperation, madness and violence, all continuously televisualized and pornographized – digitally – so that it is ultimately we ourselves who are thereby barbarianized.

In such circumstances, the oneiric and cinematic conditions of our techno-aesthetic existence become those of a nightmare from which it seems impossible to awake, or in other words, a horror movie without end, without critique, without reason. If this is so, and if it is indeed a question of ‘criticizing television through cinema[41] , then it is in this context that we should hear the words with which Robert Kolker concludes A Cinema of Loneliness, when he evokes the possibility, which must be seen as a textual-analogico-digital responsibility that has for us fallen due, however improbably, of ‘seeing beyond the prison that our contemporary cinema seems dead set on insisting we inhabit’.[42]

[1] Bernard Stiegler, ‘The Organology of Dreams and Arche-Cinema’, trans. Daniel Ross, Screening the Past 36 (2013), available at: < organology-of-dreams-and-arche-cinema/>. This article has since been included in Bernard Stiegler, The Neganthropocene, trans. Daniel Ross (London: Open Humanities Press, 2018), ch. 10.
[2] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, trans. John Weightman and Doreen Weightman (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1976), p. 543.
[3] Bernard Stiegler, ‘Escaping the Anthropocene’, The Neganthropocene, p. 56.
[4] Robert Kolker, A Cinema of Loneliness, fourth edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 430, my italics.
[5] For an explanation of the traumatypical, see Bernard Stiegler, ‘Desire and Knowledge: The Dead Seized By the Living. Elements of an Organology of the Libido’ (2005), trans. Daniel Ross, unpublished, available at: <>. And see Daniel Ross, ‘Politics, Terror and Traumatypical Imagery’, in Matthew Sharpe, Murray Noonan and Jason Freddi (eds.), Trauma, History, Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007).
[6] Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed, enlarged edition (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press, 1979), p. 102.
[7] On the ‘exclamatory’ character of the noetic soul, which is not just the knowing but the desiring soul, see Bernard Stiegler, The Decadence of Industrial Democracies: Disbelief and Discredit, 1, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity, 2011), pp. 133 and 155.
[8] A theme that is pursued in diverse ways in some recent cinema, for instance that of Sion Sono (Himizu, 2011), Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret, 2011) and Noah Baumbach (While We’re Young, 2015; The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), 2017).
[9] Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), §49.
[10] See Stiegler, The Decadence of Industrial Democracies, pp. 89–93.
[11] Marcel Mauss, The Gift, expanded edition, trans. Jane I. Guyer (Chicago: Hau, 2016).
[12] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Introduction to the Work of Marcel Mauss, trans. Felicity Baker (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 46, emphasis added.
[13] Ibid., p. 47.
[14] Maurice Godelier, The Enigma of the Gift, trans. Nora Scott (Cambridge: Polity, 1999), p. 25. And this is so because the imaginary is energetic, in the sense of the libidinal energy of desire, which Godelier recognizes (without directly acknowledging it) when he states that ‘the imaginary has power only when it becomes a belief, a standard of behaviour, a source of morality’ (ibid., p. 31). What Godelier perhaps cannot see is that with this reference to the imaginary becoming a belief, a standard or a morality, what he is invoking precisely amounts to the process of sublimation that consists in binding the energy of the drives, in so doing constituting desire.
[15] Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, pp. 542–43.
[16] Georges Bataille, Lascaux, Or the Birth of Art, trans. Austryn Wainhouse (Lausanne: Skira, 1955), p. 11.
[17] But here it would also be necessary to devote analyses to the commentary on Bataille’s analysis in Maurice Blanchot, ‘The Birth of Art’, Friendship, trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 5-6: ‘[O]ne could say that there occurred during this legendary walk two leaps, two essential moments of transgression. In one, pre-man fortuitously does violence to the natural givens, stands erect, rises up against himself, against the nature in himself, becomes an animal raised by himself, works, and becomes thus something not natural, as far from what is natural as are the prohibitions that limit what he is in order to benefit what he can be. This first, crucial transgression seems, however, not to have sufficed, as if the separation between man and animal were not sufficient to make a man that could be our fellow creature. Another transgression is called for, a transgression that is itself ruled, limited, but open as if resolute; one in which, in an instant – the time of difference – the prohibitions are violated, the gap between man and his origin is put into question once again and in some sense recovered, explored, and experienced: a prodigious contact with all of anterior reality (and first with animal reality) and thus a return to the first immensity, but a return that is always more than a return, for he who returns, although his movement gives him the illusion of abolishing millions of years of bondage, of submission, and weakness, also becomes tumultuously conscious of this impossible return, becomes conscious of the limits and the unique force that allows him to break these limits, does not simply lose himself in the dream of total existence but instead affirms himself as that which is added to this existence and, more secretly still, as the minute part that, at a distance and through an ambiguous play, can become master of everything, can appropriate it symbolically or communicate with it by making it be. It is the consciousness of this distance as it is affirmed, abolished, and glorified; it is the feeling, frightened or joyful, of a communication at a distance and yet immediate that art brings with it, and of which art would be the perceptible affirmation, the evidence that no particular meaning can attain or exhaust.’ And p. 10: ‘Nothing can prove that art began at the same time as man; on the contrary, everything indicates that there was a significant lapse in time. However, the first great moments of art suggest that man has contact with his own beginning – is the initial affirmation of himself, the expression of his own novelty – only when, by the means and methods of art, he enters into communication with the force, brilliance, and joyful mastery of a power that is essentially the power of beginning, which is also to say, of a beginning-again that is always prior.’
[18] Bernard Stiegler, Symbolic Misery, Volume 2: The Catastrophe of the Sensible, trans. Barnaby Norman (Cambridge: Polity, 2015), p. 112.
[19] Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Energy and Economic Myths: Institutional and Analytical Economic Essays (New York: Pergamon Press, 1976), p. 54.
[20] Alfred J. Lotka, ‘The Law of Evolution as a Maximal Principle’, Human Biology 17 (1945), p. 188.
[21] Bernard Stiegler, Automatic Society, Volume 1: The Future of Work, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity, 2016), pp. 13–14.
[22] See Stiegler, The Neganthropocene, esp. chs 1–2 and 13.
[23] Ibid., chs 1 and 13.
[24] Ibid., chs 1–2.
[25] For the notion that cave painting amounts to a kind of proto-cinema, see Marc Azéma, La Préhistoire du cinéma. Origines paleolithiques de la narration graphique et du cinématographique… (Paris: Errance, 2011), and see also Marc Azéma and Florent Rivére, ‘Animation in Palaeolithic Art: A Pre-Echo of Cinema’, Antiquity 86 (2012), pp. 316–24.
[26] Immanuel Kant, ‘The End of All Times’, Religion and Rational Theology, trans. Allen W. Wood and George Di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 224.
[27] Ibid., p. 227.
[28] Georgescu-Roegen, Energy and Economic Myths, p. 7.
[29] André Bazin, ‘The Life and Death of Superimposition’, trans. Bert Cardullo, Film-Philosophy 6:1 (2002), available at: <>.
[30] See the graph, ‘Michael Bay: profit per explosion’, available at: < >.
[31] Thomas Berns and Antoinette Rouvroy, ‘Gouvernementalité algorithmique et perspectives d’émancipation’, Réseaux 177 (2013), pp. 163-196.
[32] On the distinction between knowledge and information, see Bernard Stiegler, ‘The New Conflict of the Faculties: Quasi-Causality and Serendipity in the Anthropocene’, trans. Daniel Ross, Qui Parle 26 (2017), pp. 79–99.
[33] Mark Weiser, ‘The Computer for the 21st Century’, Scientific American 265:3 (1991), p. 94.
[34] Paul Valéry, ‘The Conquest of Ubiquity’, Aesthetics, trans. Ralph Manheim (New York: Pantheon, 1964), p. 226, my italics.
[35] Hossein Derakhshan, ‘The Web We Have to Save’, Matter, available at: <>.
[36] See Bernard Stiegler, Symbolic Misery, Volume 1: The Hyper-Industrial Epoch, trans. Barnaby Norman (Cambridge: Polity, 2014), p. 93. And for discussion of this notion, see also Daniel Ross, ‘Touch/Screen’, La Deleuziana 2 (2015), pp. 149–65, available at: <>.
[37] On the notion of the ‘absence of epoch’, see Bernard Stiegler, The Age of Disruption: Technology and Madness in Computational Capitalism, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity, 2019).
[38] Bernard Stiegler, States of Shock: Stupidity and Knowledge in the Twenty-First Century, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity, 2015), p. 207.
[39] See Stiegler, The Neganthropocene, p. 164: ‘In terms of the animated image, we are yet to leave the prehistoric age. And the true history of tele-vision begins, perhaps, with Skype.’
[40] Jacques Derrida, ‘No Apocalypse, Not Now: Full Speed Ahead, Seven Missiles, Seven Missives’, trans. Catherine Porter and Philip Lewis, Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume I (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).
[41] Stiegler, Symbolic Misery, Volume 1, p. 93.
[42] Kolker, A Cinema of Loneliness, p. 430. Note that these are not quite the words with which Kolker ends his book – after those cited above he adds this final sentence: ‘And there was in Altman’s work always the independent voice, the hope, and sometimes the reality, that someone, even if it is a fictional surrogate for Richard M. Nixon, would raise his fist and call out a loud and clear defiance – “Fuck ’em!”’ And note as well that this raises the question of an exorganological autonomy that is not only ours, a thought that must not be rushed into but experienced in terms of its ultimate mysteriousness: ‘The automatisms of a tradition are given to the traditional artist, prior to any instance he adds to it; the master explores and extends them. The modernist artist has to explore the fact of automatism itself, as if investigating what it is at any time that has provided a given work of art with the power of its art as such. A third impulse in calling the creation of a medium the creation of an automatism is to register the sense that the point of this effort is to free me not merely from my confinement in automatisms that I can no longer acknowledge as mine (this was the point of the explicit efforts at automatic painting and writing early in the century), but to free the object from me, to give new ground for its autonomy.’ Cavell, The World Viewed, pp. 107–8.

About the Author

Daniel Ross

About the Authors

Daniel Ross

Daniel Ross completed his doctorate on Heidegger and the political at Monash University. He is the author of Violent Democracy and co-director of The Ister (2004).View all posts by Daniel Ross →