Thank you for your post, Roberto. I have not seen the Juan Gabriel biographical series, but your post has definitely peaked my curiosity about it. I find it very fascinating. I am also struck by the ways in which the series’ evocation of nostalgia. Earlier this semester, In Media Res had a theme week devoted to various texts that evoke nostalgia. Thus, the Juan Gabriel program reminds me of the works discussed during the previous theme week.
Dana, this is something my dissertation is working on as well. The collapse of the mediated experience into the experience itself is prominent in occult belief systems re: technology. In the ghost hunting shows I’m writing about, a very large portion of the discourse surrounding the collection of evidence is its alignment with personal experience, and often times texts will disregard the fact they’ve captured very little to no “evidence” because they had certain experiences or feelings during their investigation. It’s all part of the matrixing phenomenon in the brain, and that includes (I think) the use of music as you’ve described it. It’s about recall and confirmation.
I’d like to understand that point just a bit further as well. Understandably the format of 350 words is limiting.
Additionally, building on that idea, I wonder if you could speak to the “occult” aspect of this, expounding on the problems of identity being something that is hidden by media, or occluded from the discussion altogether…
I like the way you’re breaking down punctum and studium here—but I feel a little unclear as to your “perpetual haunting.” Is it the dsyphoria a person who is queered or trans in gender identity feels? Is it an echo of the social elements you clearly define as studium?
Not critiquing, just curious. I feel as though this could be expressed more clearly.
I think the fascination with technology and the occult goes back to the first tech advances in the late 19th c; Stoker presented “modern tech,” like the telegraph, the steam launch, etc. as ways the more advanced, Western men could defeat and/or control the undead - stuck in history, the past, exploiting pernicious capitalism to prey on England.
Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project gets into the idea of art in an age of mechanical reproduction - is it still art? does the photograph capture the essence of the building? For Benjamin, “capturing” things with new gadgets altered the fundamental structure and purpose.
The late 19th c rage for seances, too, depended on understood and recognized forms of “acceptable” communication between worlds - this seems, like our search for life on other planets, enormously limited and askew. We don’t think of possibilities outside of what we know.
My first thought reading this was of Medea (both the Euripides and Seneca depictions) - traditionally, botany based medicine was the realm of women (temple priests “prayed” over people as treatment). The Greeks revered Medea as a sorceress because she understood the healing powers of plants (as well as their more pragmatic, “poison this rival to the throne” applications). Wiccan religions, usually erroneously labeled occult, follow in this botany based, natural healing powers tradition — and also, was the providence of women, the healers. The art on the walls you describe here is interesting as a manifestation of the woman/wicca’s healing powers gone awry - although I think this is a very twentieth century interpretation of “witchcraft.”
funny that Of Montreal came up as Satanic Panic in the Attic was the inspiration for my title for my piece. Indeed, with Pizzagate an indie dance band has gotten wrapped up in this inadvertently and is being attacked nonstop as occultism, showing a larger sense of how the inncouous mainstreaming of occultism does not displace a panic and attempts to root out its presence elsewhere
I published a chapter last year that dug into the question that technology lets us see and be aware in found footage horror but that we are still powerless to dominate or use that knowledge effectively. This series picks up on elements of this trend with some significant shifts. For this show, the first switch up is that we think that the Tall Man is the demonic force, until midway through the season the show points out that our raced assumptions, in particular the white patriarchal point of view, has fooled us into seeing all events in the improper way. So, in the multiple reversal mode of the show, the popular African American knowledge, music and culture is the means to resist the white patriarchal occult of the demon (who manifests in a straight white woman). It fails in the end. But, the hope moving forward to resist is based in the counterculture and the Others (as a Freeform show, it has multiple queer/trans/racially marked/working class characters) and the occult (treated negatively) is revealed as establishment culture. A reversal, indeed..
I think that films that feature technology and the occult have a vested interest in purporting that there is no difference between mediation and the original. The mythology of this collapse works in terms of the industry itself as endless reproduction of image to camera to negative to reel to vhs to dvd to file. Its aura must stay in place even when a copy of a copy of a copy. The live performance to phonograph cartridge to camcorder to walkie talkie comforts us that technology is good for preserving that which can pass, and that the reproduction while different in form is the same in affect and function. While I don’t know that the show is actually smart enough to connect the reproduction technologies in the show to the spotify playlists (if anything, this show ends up more interested in money and transmedia fandom), the connections that we make speak to a sense of a core authenticity and power of recognition that goes beyond the rational (something here re affect and memory and summoning memory). All of the texts that I mention in the note have a strong sense of nostalgia and appeal initially through musical memory, with even the novels having spotify playlists and suggestions of what music to listen to while reading a particular chapter. The music (easily accessible through modern streaming services) serve to summon our memory, nostalgia, and knowledge as more of a bodily experience than a mental thing…
I know I just wrote a novella of a comment. It will someday be a larger essay, and if it needs to a book chapter.
But I guess my question here is: What do you think that the alternate form of power that is the marriage of the “occult” (that which the material rites of Patriarchal Christian/Roman Colonization could not accept) and technology which essentially creates a new relationship TO materiality?
Is it counterculture? Is it sub-culture? Is it creating a new form of human organization completely?
I have theories. But they are not the kind I’d want to posit without countertheory/alternate definitions of theory—if you catch my drift. They’re too important for one author to tackle.