Recent Comments

Roland Vegso

Dear Yahya (if I may), all I can say is that I am grateful for the generous reading of my short comment. It appears to me that we are in agreement here. The question of the making and unmaking of the world is especially of interest to me, so if you could say more about that issue, I would be grateful.

Roland Vegso

Adam, there are moments when I am actually slightly disturbed by Burtynsky’s photographs because I see in them an excess of “artistic” aestheticization. I feel that these are the moments when he is going for an artistic “special effect” rather than what I envisioned in my descriptions above. (Some of his photographs would make perfect screen savers, for example.) I chose this photograph precisely because it avoids the overly formalistic aspects of some of his other works. It is more brutal for me in that sense: this photograph appeals to me because there is something “anti-artistic” about it in the sense that it looks like a photograph taken either by misguided tourist (who does not know what he is up to) or by a documentarian with a purpose (who is simply taking an account of what he can find in the world). Somebody’s uncle could have taken this photo. To respond to your question, then, I would like to expand the aesthetic possibilities of the visibility of the economy as an immanent cause beyond the traditional definitions of “art.”

Yahya Mete Madra

In the first paragraph, I was worried about the possible ways in which rendering the economy visible may collapse into the imaginary register. Yet, in the second paragraph the problem of visibility gained a Real dimension. In the past, I tried to think through aesthetic representation as a possible means for “encircling the Real”. What Vegso refers to as “immanent cause”, as “something that only exists in the forms of its effects”, I read as the Real—not as an ontologised ground but rather as (to use Vegso’s formulation) “force of division” which is constitutive of much more than mere distribution of oil to the markets. My initial sense is that this way of formulating the matter provides a non-reductionist way of thinking through the relation between aesthetic representation and the social formation, rejecting both the representationalist as well as the performative frames. It is a rejection of the representationalist frame because it renders visible something which is not there (or there only in its effects). It is a rejection of the performative frame because in the sense articulated here aesthetic representation is not a pragmatic means of making the world but rather a “documentary” of conditions of both making and unmaking of the world and as such an intervention that dislocates the viewer.

Adam Cottrel

Fascinating take Roland, thanks for your contribution. I’m curious what you might add as it regards “art” in this context. Burtynsky’s photographs are quite interesting and I’m wondering if this call for “aesthetic representation” is specific to art? Put another way, is this mode of representation possible with images that circulate within wider, mainstream circuits (i.e., instagram, twitter, etc.), or would these modes of circulation evacuate the possibility for the seeable to become thinkable in the way Ranciere might suggest?

Cinema’s allergy to showing industrial labor in particular, and what Marx called “productive labor” in general, is very well known. Some like Zizek make the mistake of calling this a recent phenomenon and other like Farocki knew that factory work has been encrypted off screen for the whole of cinema’s history. My contention is that, in part because of the reactionary productivism that haunts avant garde depictions of labor , cinema’s essential praxis, the praxis that drives it forward and which can’t be discerned from the “myth of total cinema,” of second life, that persists in all contemporary expression *as such,* is the attempt to render the quotidian and generational reproduction of the proletariate perceivable. Attempts to depict labor did not have the same effect on cinema’s historical and art historical vectors. I didn’t exactly mean to write a formalist evaluation of the acualité. I use it and certain of it’s features as an emblem for the main genetic vector in cinema. In part this is derived from Deleuze’s notion of the “soul of cinema,” which I would rather call it’s leading edge, apical meristem, or simply, the films I can be bothered with. My contention that making social reproduction perceivable allow one to show that cinema played a specific roll in the death of media and as a force along Art’s general becoming-form-life. So, I agree that what’s inside the Lumiere factory can’t be perceived in the clip.

Roland Vegso

I would like to second Rene Thoreau Bruckner’s question. My immediate response was similar: we do not know where the workers are going, but the inside of the factory remains equally invisible. Or, to put it differently, maybe their destinations are as predictable as the monotony of work itself. So what the short film makes visible is the moment of exiting itself. Maybe what is truly invisible in capitalist society is not the sites of production and reproduction, but the mundane yet fleetingly utopian passages connecting them.

Rene Thoreau Bruckner

Thanks, Dr. Schwartz, for this productive exposé on cinema’s primal scene (one of them, anyway). How important is the film’s framing, in your account? The composition limits the visibility of that outside world—where are they going?— but also blocks our view of the inside of the factory. It seems that the issue of showing/blocking the scene of labor also carries over through the ensuing history of cinema. In any case, you’ve led me to consider reclassifying this film as a mystery. Translate its static composition—half obscured, half peep show—into classical narrative, and it is as much noir detective story as it is melodrama. Again, thanks for reinvigorating the film.

Stephanie Chung
Alan Chu

Thank you for sharing! I love the Lego Movie because it delivers an aspirational message that addresses the significance of improvisation. The transition of Emmet’s character from ordinary to extraordinary sees the importance of learning to trust your own instinct and embracing your individual uniqueness. Although routinized structures in which one plays safe by following instructions can potentially yield predictable but standardized outcomes, in the multidirectional flows of knowledge in an era of globalization like today, fluid responsibilities and dynamic flexibility also play a vital role.

I always believe that a ‘truth’ has multiple layers. When ‘everyone is a producer’ as you said, he or she is only producing a certain representation that is made visible, obvious, and explicit. What is truly significant is the invisible that underlies the explicit. For each invention, each improvisation, we dig deeper into the invisible and turn it into a visible appearance. A ‘truth’ is not definitive. Which is why after connection and disconnection, inventing and reinventing, and as different layers unfold, new possibilities emerge. Likewise, great ideas are built on existing ideas. Creativity comes into play when one recognizes the uncertainty and unpredictability are fun parts in life.

Cynthia Meyers

As a first-time attendee, I enjoyed the much more substantive conversations in the roundtables than is usually found in panel presentations. I think the most successful roundtables included presenters who explained a specific example, illustration, issue, or angle on a topic. At the best roundtables, these specific points then dovetailed in interesting ways and really helped stimulate discussion.

The Core Conversations also succeeded in several ways. First, they provided a common event for attendees to discuss—and they were energetically discussed! Second, there was an interesting range of perspectives from creatives, archivists, tech specialists, and executives. Third, it was fascinating how the audience reacted to and interacted with the panelists. A little more cross-exposure between the cloistered worlds of academia and the television industry is, I think, a valuable experience for both.

Roland Vegso

I would also add that the video is permeated by a rhetoric of “preparedness” that seems to locate this ideal subject of capitalism in the discourse of “crisis management.” In other words, the social actor is not only “a “decision unit” whose existence is nothing more that a series of rational investments in their human capital,” but also a subject who makes these rational decisions against the background of a perpetual crisis. (Who knows? There might be a fire in the hotel that I am staying at; so the rational decision is to invest in a room with an easy access to all exits.) Of course, here capitalism is not seen as itself being a perpetual catastrophe but the only rational remedy against the risks of life.