Recent Comments

Sheila E. Schroeder

In a few words you have given me much to think about Rachel. Beyond pointing me to an excellent piece of resistance media which I am excited to use in my courses, the questions you bring up about the ability of the police to confiscate and prosecute people who film them ground us in the reality of our rights and responsibilities as citizen journalists, documentary filmmakers and activists. Your piece also makes concious the idea of YouTube as archive. It makes me wonder how institutions such as the National Archive see themselves in the context of YouTube and other online outlets.

Aniko Imre

 Thank you for your comment. I agree that the experiences depicted in the film seem at once globally linked and isolated, even incommensurable with those of LGBT communities in the US. This particular film’s main activist mission is to get through to the homophobic majority in Hungary, to create a retroactive, non-heterosexist history. But the struggles of the interviewees are also recognizable across borders and cultures.

Aniko Imre

 Hi Alex, 

exactly: I think what makes this film so compelling to watch, and the key to its activist intervention, is that it renders the women interviewed totally ‘normal’ — a term routinely used to mark the national boundaries around heterosexuality. These women are all quite ‘normal’, except that they come across as more confident and witty than most.  I can’t help thinking that the film could single-handedly do more to break down the artificial walls around ‘normal’ than years of legislative struggles can. If only more people could see it…

Aniko Imre

Thank you, Mary. Perhaps the most powerful, perhaps inadvertent lesson of the film is precisely this contradiction at the heart of nationalism: that it’s so inclusive and exclusive at the same time. One of the scenes in the film shows footage of the 1956 revolution against Soviet invasion but this time with women marching and fighting in the streets of Budapest. 1956 is one of those events around which national cohesion has been successfully created; but the images that have helped fabricate this cohesion have been all about heroic, youngish men. At least that’s how the event is burned into my inherited memory. I was stunned to see ‘56 associated with women in this film. In another segment, one of the women talks about her obsession with Tereskova, the Russian woman astronaut — someone rather overshadowed at the time by Gagarin but, again, revealing a different thread within the allegedly homogeneous national fabric of memory.  

Sheila E. Schroeder

Aniko,

The story you tell about the documentary is a fascinating one. In a film that makes visible the secret lives of these lesbians the irony of the Film Forum’s exclusion is disheartening. It also serves as an important reminder of the global struggle for LGBT rights. Sometimes I become so fixated on our own US battles that I forget that I am a part of a much larger movement. Naturally, the solidarity is both comforting and a source of dismay.

Alex Juhasz

Aniko: I particularly appreciate your mention of the documentary’s tone and style which is quite notable. So much of how we have seen the secret histories of socialism/lesbianism rendered in the US has been through fearful/closeted stylisitics of noir or sureveillance, or then again, a kind of post-socialist/post-Stonewall celebration or defiance.

 

 

Mary Erickson

Thank you, Aniko, for starting this week with such a compelling clip and commentary. I especially appreciate how you discuss that filmmaking is used to bring alternative histories to light. Media - and digital/online media in particular - have a significant role in uncovering hidden or "transgressive" histories that depart from the stalwart conventional narratives. It is heartening that established institutions like Forum Film are participating in the support of films like this but, as you mention, there are other imperatives or limitations (often self-imposed, no doubt) that construct the film’s reception and level of support. Hungary is certainly not the only country in which films with LGBT or other non-mainstream stories are relegated to glass cages. And in places where the national identity is so strong, the history of nationalism so fierce, those "underground" stories are perhaps hard to recognize or place in the national narrative, despite the absolute necessity of their presence. After all, what is national identity if it’s not the identity of the people — ALL the people?

Grant Wythoff

What I meant to end with was… I’m rambling a bit, but I just think the equation you set up here is an exciting one –– in what ways should the invisibility of the iPad be made visible once again?

Isaac

Wonderful essay, wonderful comments, and a wondeful rejoinder! (so much wonder, like the allusion to the state of initiation into philosophy at the end of your essay, Paul)

In thinking about our thinking-with such objects as Roxxxy in ‘the least anthropocentric terms possible’ I was found wondering about the difference between the assemblage that is (never just a) sex-doll and something like the Berlin Wall for, say, someone like Erika Eiffel; something I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts on.

Otherwise, I’ll add to the etymological pot the ‘bread fellow’ from which we derive ‘companion’. Speculatively, it makes me think that approximating something like eating could be that substantial hurdle that needs to be overcome to assuage the disappointment of those less-than-thrilled trade-show goers. (Disappointment being that other origin of philosophy, alongside wonder, as Simon Critchley has argued.)

In literature someone like Georges Perec provided me with a model for thinking about non-living objects as companions, which is one of the main challenges I drew from your essay. Theorizing companionship with dogs, bacteria, and plants (and one day, perhaps even masticating robots) seems to come much easier.

2 other small offerings: I also like the definition of ‘things’ that I once heard Bruce Sterling give, which is very much in line with the etymology, as ‘accretions of social forces’. I think the attempt to wire them all through Heideggerean terminology is also really fruitful. Take the whimsical example of the ‘kanny’, the term that the Finnish use to refer to mobile phones, as literally that which is an extension of the hand (which I prefer to think of as readiness-to-hand over McLuhanesque prosthesis). When my cellphone (like the TV in Videodrome) becomes abject to my perception, it is stictly out of my hands, I don’t have a grip on it, it’s unkanny. (Though I would hesitate at directly relating the uncanny to the present-at-hand). Thank god this doesn’t happen often; the unheimlich would be an awful place to live.

Lastly, via Kris’ comments on Siri - perhaps their functions do get queried more often than we’d like to think.

How hilarious would it be if the escorts Siri directed him to were all the closest Roxxxy’s in the area?! What a desiring machine that’d be.

Okay, enough with the scattershot thoughts- thanks for stimulating them

Grant Wythoff

I like the way you ask whether the "invisibility" of apple’s products should be seen as a matter of faith or a particular kind of materiality.  What if we consider two different types of invisibility at work here, both of which we can look at as a kind of disappearance -– a process of becoming-invisible rather than a solid state?

So, first there’s the kind of invisibility put forward in this Apple video.  It’s predicated on a sparsity of elements (no keyboard, no mouse, just a single slab of glass), as well as acquired knowledge:  the gradual perfection of technique, gestures –– in sum the way in which the body learns to use a device.  Like Heidegger says on the particular character of "equipment" like boots in the process of work like field labor:  "It disappears into usefulness."

And second, I’m thinking about the utopian speculations about perfectly noiseless, immediate communication that always accompanies the release of new media technologies.  Whether it’s phonograph cylinders meant to faithfully reproduce the voices of the dead, or digital cinema’s attempts to reproduce three-dimensional space in all of its sensuousness –– there is this perennial desire to escape mediation, paradoxically through newer and more powerful media technologies.

I’m curious to hear what you think about the iPad as an educational tool.  You strike this note at the end of your post on finding a "critical balance" between "believing in technology and maintaining a viable future."  How might we think about strapping this kind of technological literacy to the educational initiative that Apple just put forward the other day?  So, not just shinier, more interactive textbooks, but a wholesale reorientation toward the materiality of "the world in your hands"?  From rare earth mining, to manufacture at Foxconn in Shenzhen, to point of sale, to e-waste recycling.

Methodologies of making visible are not new to media studies (or of course to pedagogy in general):  the apparatus theory school of film studies in the 1970s, or the attempts of media archaeology today to uncover not just lost histories but cultural techniques that span centuries of technical interaction –– from the camera obscura to the touch screen.