120 Days of Sodom, or How to Read a Can of Coke

A recent talk here on We Are Many (with China Mieville) touches on topics I think worth discussing.

Now, a good deal of this is very good. In fact it echoes a lot of what I’ve written myself over the years. It’s also expressed through this mummified lens of the Trotskyest party in the UK.

There is one area in all this which I want to focus on, and this is the idea of art as commodity.

The fact that one pays to, say, see a film — doesn’t preclude an analysis that extends beyond its commodity form. In the end, there is importance in distinguishing the difference even among commodities. There are, if we push it a bit, different kinds of commodity, but aside from that, it cuts to core issues of what ‘art” is exactly. There is a big trap involved in even using that word. So, yes, there are certainly truths in how profoundly over-invested we are in the commodities we purchase or pay for. In what we consume. Still, is Dark Knight the same as a coke can? Well, perhaps. Is it the same as Pasolini’s Salo? I mean Salo IS a commodity. It failed as a commodity. But it was a commodity. So the question is, do some commodities actually neutralize their commodity function, or form a dialectical relationship with that property that allows an emergent property to exist simultaneously A commodity remains a commodity. Still, I am hard pressed to see a Pasolini or a Fassbinder as purely commodities. As only a commodity in the way a Coke is. Its not ‘just’ a question of to what degree I find pleasure in it.

In the above talk Mieville dodges this topic. There is a subtle slight of hand in this — one moment all art is akin to the coke can, in the next the word “art” is used without that commodity declaration eclipsing the discussion …so in a sense the area worth examining is really how to define what ‘art” is, and more broadly how the commodity function of almost all cultural production impacts what we do with our own valuation of all this stuff we purchase.

I continue to encourage the subject of “narrative”, as opposed to “art”, which has simply become so broad as to be meaningless. Now, the topic of pleasure is introduced, too. Yes I enjoy Fassbinder. Yes I enjoy Kafka — or Flannery O’Conner — or whoever you want to place here for the purposes of this discussion. I would argue that the enjoyment is not the only thing going on. But, whatever else is going on is very hard to talk about in any reductive way. I suspect complex narrative, that which introduces the truths of our own personal history and of societal history and dynamics, has value — that its value resides in a complex matrix of readings. If it didn’t I suspect the fascists wouldn’t expend so much energy in making sure narrative is reduced to the crudest bluntest most one dimensional versions possible. At least in their emphasis on propaganda. Propaganda tends to have simplistic messages. My definition of kistch is about this as well (which is different that the pod cast linked above), it is intentionally purposefully manipulative. Complex narrative reaches back to older structures, and reflects the dreams history has shaped, and how our own are often shaped and manipulated, and interact with the social. The colonizing of consciousness is a big part of the culture industry — which is an organ of corporate social domination. However…does this mean that everything a studio makes is propaganda? Does this mean any narrative created to be sold is reflective of the values of the fascist ruling class? These are pertinent questions. The thing is, I would say, yes largely, in both cases. But not ALWAYS. Not 100% of the time. The author of the pod cast would accuse me of overly “identifying” — but thats wrong. It’s an easy out — because “indentification” is certainly rampant in the US public — its an almost hourly occurance in fact — but it is not the same as finding this (film, TV show, novel, painting) is valuable, has deeper meaning, is worth talking about. And that’s part of it, for talking about it is how the engagement extends itself…and involves history and the political, even. That is a good part of the social importance of culture. All cultures tell themselves stories. Fascists tell stories, too, and often complex ones. So its really important to identify the context. What’s being sold. It’s also important to learn how to read.

Again, there are layers of commodification in a sense. Cormac McCarthy is now a best selling author, by virtue of a couple of his books being made into films. At one time he was not a best selling author, but he ‘was’ published. His books were commodities. Is this the same as Transformers? Structurally there are similarities. And in fact both meet the definition of commodity. One however is pretty much an orgy of self congratulation for fascists and for fascist ideology, and one is…..what? Well, one is a ‘complex narrative’ that I am of the opinion reaches a level of resonance– at least for me, and has meaning for me, that makes it both pleasurable and somehow awakens. Do I enjoy it? Yes. Do I think its importance is universal? No. Do I think it has value in a political sense? Ah, well, only if we were to vastly extend the definition of politics. So, no, its not going to foment revolution. However, does the reading — does learning the abilities to read — this more complex narrative help individuals awaken to the world around them somehow? Yes. I think it’s part of a cultural heritage that helps create what is human as opposed to barbaric and robotic. So when I say “resonates” I am pointing to a complex and difficult to define fabric of mythologies, histories, allegories, as well as connections to whatever one wants to define as ‘spiritual”. Now I loathe the word spiritual. I would even prefer religious, such is my distaste for the word spiritual. That said, the sense of history incorporated in us is not simply a collection of facts, or research data about what happened on Promontory Point in 1869, or in the straights of Thermopylae in 430 B.C…….Its about the values and beliefs and visions of those societies, as well as of individuals in those societies. Does the truth of Leland Standford and the Golden Spike and Manifest Destiny reach us most cleary via history or art? The truth is it’s hard to distinguish what any of those terms mean. But if its Upton Sinclair, or McCarthy, or Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, the truths of American expansion, genocide, and land theft are connected to a layer of our unconscious that perhaps pure data cannot reach— art, narrative, ends up being a dialogue with the dead, and the pleasure of those novels are as significant as the histories of the period. Howard Zinn AND Sinclair is this alchemy of narrative realized and reproduced in new form within us. A discourse about power and politics, but also about prophecy and magic and — an entire world of almost impossible to define acts of thinking. This takes us back to what Guy Zimmerman and I were discussing regards Tragedy. A performative act, a mode of thought (in the case discussed, on stage) that opened to reveal ….well, something. A sensibility and vision of the Dionysian. Something that serves to awaken impulses toward the anti-institutional and non conformist.

When I stare at Pharaonic wall carvings, am I able to tie the distant past with my own pathologies and fears and obsessions? Yes, far more than I can reading histories of that age. Which is not to say I don’t need those readings as well, for the vision is in the end mine, it’s always going to my vision — the truth remains in the past, largely. We can only access it up to a point. The reading of the past needs whatever material can be found.

The problem is, of course, the destruction of public education and the extraordinary rise of marketing has led to a culture indelibly etched with the imprint of the commodity. It is so ritualized and so embedded in even base perception, that factors of anticipation and information processing is totally mediated by it. We reflect on ourselves in commodity form. Pleasure is mediated by the commodity form. And the sense of commodification is ever more ubiquitous . This is a big topic and one that I suspect will recur in any discussion of culture and art. For the purposes of this entry, the point worth further thought is the way in which our narratives might resist commodity. The problem with the left is often that in the interests of a rigid materialist Marxism, the baby is sort of tossed out with the commodified bath water.

Narrative is maybe, at this point in history, best looked at….at least as a starting point….from a perspective of desire and lack. To stare at a photo, such as the one below (from Yves Marchand and Roman Meffre…to be found here….http://www.marchandmeffre.com/detroit/index.html, )is to tap to a small degree into the forgotten Dionysian, and our own childhood amnesia, into mystery and wonder and mortality. What Benjamin so often wrote about.

The narrative of a coke can (and probably of Transformers, too) is meant to kill all those things. The role of corporate cultural product is the erase memory, induce an almost autistic form of truncated story, a dependency on the sentimental trope to achieve a reliance on a kistch emotional stability — when the commodity is there to kill inner life, it is in another register from the narrative Pasolini gives you. It’s not an accident that when the US invaded Iraq, they encouraged the looting of the National museum…the better to erase cultural identity and history.

Velasquez painted for the Catholic Church…and there is no more disgusting institution one can find. There is, and this is a topic for a lot further analysis, a multi-dimensional relationship between money and narrative and image and code and language. Shakespeare somehow is emergent in a new way, when we think on Benazir Bhutto, and Pasolini and Goya live on in images of Abu Ghraib.The reason fascism always puts in motion measures that are meant to destroy art and memory and anything Dionysian is intentional. To that degree, then, art (narrative) “is” political.

More anon.


  1. Coca cola isnt money. It’s also a drink. Salo is a public serviceprovided thru state taxation…this is different from dk which was private equity financed. CM confuses different issues. The * politics* of commodities are disguised by the obsessive attentip. To tghe experience of rthe minoritty who consume them. Most ppl affected never see tbe films. Ppls lives are e propriated and sold to you…tbe refined manner in which you enjoy tbem is not an urgent pplitical topic. The way ppl go on and on ablut dk as ‘art’ naturalizes and mystifies the relations that produce it. Its like going on and on abput o es sensatipns fucking a prostitute and thinking that saying ‘I dominate abd exploit hrr!’ makes the act subversive. The point isnot that there are no differences betwecommodities. The ppint is not that the cpncrete world doesnt rxist and is only an illusory mask of good and evil as you seem to suppose suggested by the drsciptipn ‘commodity’. You cant drive a can of coke…nobody denies dicferent commoditirs re different concretely, nobody denies consumers of music, skateboards,prostitutes and movies have all dicferent feelings and ideas they often liketo tall about. But this is not a plitical analysis of anything. Tbe POLITICS oc dark knight are about ppl who have not seen it. That it has reactionary cpntent as part of tbeeazure it sells is not very significant. For pne tbing many viewers adjust the content wbile consuming and claim tgey recieved radical anticapitalist education while consuming. Fod anither thiz is not be the only film consumers see but is part of a cpnstant barrage.

  2. This is entirely seperate from the questipn of exegetical and hermsneutical method. Art criticism is a cultural practise as is art production. Marxist criticism. …Marxist reading and writing about say 18TH c French literature…is not about ‘reducing’ anything but about learning about hunam affairs and the best examples produce the kind of critval ams histprical understanding that say graebers book debt hopes to assist readers to reach. The existence of this kind of work shldnt disrupt ehatever sort of religious experience you have reading Wordsworth or falling in live with Mr. DARCY O
    or being proved morally by Rasselas or suffering Stendhals disease in the uffizi or becoming a fascist after seein The Father and/or Medea.

  3. There is nothing about the existence of historical materialist analyses of art that could interfere with your ecstasies. You object to it as blasphemy. This is what the absurd charge of reduction is…it bothers you that some people see just a dead body nailed to a cross…what is concretely there…and seek to explain it historically and materially rather than forbidding that inquiry and instead blankly indulging a wonder at some ineffable something more’

  4. Okay so you say consuming some film helps one become human rather than barbaric. Certone would agree that water also is consumed in reproductipn pf humN. The pplitics here is that the commodity making you more human is made if other people’s bodies. They dont get the precious artsubstance.this doesnt mean the art isnt as giod for you as hpu say it is. Of course it is. If you take someones kidney it is also good for yoy. Its somyou. It is somebody else…not you but other peole…who are not only nit benefiited by this commidit y butt harmed…immiserated tortured ans killed. That is what digital culture entertainments are made of.its not a bard at a campfire…its tbe imperial world system. That is the polirics of this stuff…your humanity us enriched by thus consumptipn of other peoples lives. This doesnt mean its really nit enriching you…it is. The universe is not goodness and reason. This is about media and mode of productipn.

  5. Oops. Phonetyping. The politics of the dark knight is not mainly the effects it has on consumers. This kind of commodity is a mechanism by which human life is taken from some people and accumulated by others. Your becoming more human or feeling as though you do watching the road is an essential part of the process by which capital vampuricallt consnsumes human lives and accumulates more annd more power to do sp. Thiz doesnt mran you are not really benefitting from the products of pther peoples zuffering. You are. Art consumption makes yourlife better. The poorer other people are, the more terrorized, the more enriching commodities you will be able to access. The utipoliticscs of prostitution is not that bought orgasms might be inauthentic. Its tge worker producer whose life is ignored in such perspectives.

  6. The contradiction in yr position is you say this is trival and obvious and spoils yr pleasure in art but then claim the easure is precisely that the art supposey makes you tbink about tbis…this world system which uou refuse to tbink abt and dismiss as obvious and tfi ial. You create a zhell game if dogmas wgich somehiow makes art consh.ltion virtuous and dusavows this moralizing.

    Art cannot be judged by politics.

    All good art is politically subversive and anticapitlist. If art has a reputation

  7. So art becomes a ritual of pseudo enlightement…a parody of education. One pretends ignorance in order to be granted knowledge by the deity. .and one is grateful for thr instruction and the half naked girls in jeopardy.

  8. john steppling says:

    I’ll be glad when you get your computer back.

    I think I follow some of this, but the typing is hard to understand in places. But ok…..nobody is arguing your position on DK — I think thats exactly what I said. However…there is a straw man in this, which is that the producers of things like DK are corporate and reflect the power dynamic of advanced capital. Sure. Who said otherwise? My reading of…..lets say, Salo, or whatever…..is MY reading. As your reading is YOUR reading. It doesnt ENTIRELY rely on who financed it, though. Now….how that enters the social seems to be the issue. (or an issue) –Or how it doesnt. But your position (and since you and I have argued this for years now) seems to suggest that the artwork must be read as a commodity. “it takes life from others”…because all commodities do. (again the typing is causing me to guess here)….and I wouldnt totally argue against that. But its not JUST that. Coca Cola functions differently than art. So, subversive art…..and Im not sure what that would be in your terms…..is anti capitalist. But lets say this is so. Then that means NOTHING produced by the wrong people can be read outside this dynamic, correct? The straw man is that if you say good art is subversive, then you have to interpret it to arrive at that conclusion. You pretend that you dont. When “I” say I think this or that is important…..you say oh but its taking life away from others as a form of fascist domination…a mechanism of and for this. But thats not true. IT might be…..but then on your terms we arrive back at YOUR interpretation. You have to read the material. You have to interpret it. And “I feel better”? Who says? When I say that, then you can quote me saying that. I say it has importance. …and I think pleasure is part of that, yeah. And I go over the parameters of how this might work. You dont allow that……except at the end you say “good art is politically subversive”/ Even if I agree with that, and Im not sure I do completely, you have to arrive at an interpretation of how that works. Now…….yeah, its an imperial system, and I think I make clear that 99% (or something) of what is out there electronically and digitally, is FIRST a form of social domination. Thats the issue. But its not good enough to gloss over any of these distinctions.

    “The poorer other people are, the more terrorized, the more enriching commodities you will be able to access.”

    This is where I think some fudging happens. First off, I dont think thats true across the board. There are a lot of artworks not connected to this system of exploitation. Are they commodities? Well, in a truncated form. My plays are hardly commodities…..nobody has ever made any money off them. Mostly Ive lost money. But……the issue of money changing hands does intercede……and again, I point this out. If we speak of DK….or Transformers….then yes. If we talk of other work, not paid for ahead of time or mass distributed via the channels of Imperial control…..then it has to read in another way. Which is what you, also, arrive at in the last sentence of your final posting.

    I dont see where the confusion in this lies. The vast mass cultural apparatus…digital or otherwise actually (because we can talk expensive elite upper east galleries or the Philharmonic……and saying that, what does one do with a performance of Shoenberg at a Concert hall that only .00001% of the population can access?) reproduces domination. It kills anything that might stimulate notions of subversion — it kills reflection and the inner life. Marketing is about amnesia…..and 99% of what one cannot avoid “reading” or experiencing somehow, daily, is part of that marketed reality. You’ve accused me of thinking a materialist reading is “blasphemy”….and again, you CANNOT find that in anything I’ve written. Nowhere. I’m saying that often a materialist reading is only a partial reading. Not always, “sometimes”.

    “Art cannot be judged by politics”…….yeah, ok, right. But who said otherwise?

    Some art is “good for you”…..yeah, I agree. It may also be part of this apparatus of domination. In fact, often it is. Does this negate additional meanings? See…..nothing is going to alter the lives of EVERYONE on the planet. No cultural product can even reach everyone. In fact, oddly, as digital media takes over, access actually decreases in a sense….and thats another whole topic worth discussing. My point is that CM’s talk glosses over things and he performs this slight of hand in the second half of his talk (and you have said all of this much better than he does…..in various places including your old blog). But you insist on this straw man at the heart of my reading of ‘narrative’ and art. And I maintain that complex narratives (artworks in any medium) is worth considering….and engaging with. Because they subvert, on one level, that Imperial dynamic. That some of it, MAYBE, is part of the Imperial apparatus is one of the knots to be untied in all this. But clearly, not all artworks are part of this apparatus. My work isnt….I can assure you. But to even make such distinctions requires one “read” the work….that an act of engagement take place. I dont see how that magically means something politically retrograde. You cannot seperate these things. The politics of “products’ is one dimension of all this…….but within that dynamic exist other effects and dynamics. If it was as simple as attention disguising the politics, then one couldnt politically justify ANY viewing of anything. Its just not that simple. The system has been largely successful in decreasing the attention span of the general population. It has created various embedded cues…anticipation of certain formula…and one path to awakening from that nightmare is to…as Benjamin says of tragedy….engage with a perfomative act that exposes a ‘different’ reality — the non commodified reality. The anti capitalist dionysian whatever you want to call it, reality.

  9. john steppling says:

    maybe straw man is the wrong term. It IS in a sense….because you create a debate about something you yourself are guilty of, but ignore that fact. And create this issue of my thinking materialism is BLASPHEMY. Not true. I only think it’s partial…..not even always partial……but there are many degrees in all this because art in various contexts function differently. So….i suppose i can imagine a frame where reading a coke can is subversive……ah……no, probably not. But there might be aspects of mainstream products that do more than what they function as in terms of Imperial rule. It doesnt negate that Imperial role…..but ……its an interesting question.

  10. Guy Zimmerman says:

    I also was having an interesting time decoding Molly’s typing…and I think she’s making a very precise argument and I want to resist the impulse to try and reconcile your two positions. That said it’s hard not to see the discussion through a post-humanist lens and cite Isabelle Stengers and Phillipe Pignarre’s views of capitalism as a form of sorcery, one that continually outmaneuvers a Marxist critique because it is grounded in a non-Aristotelian form of materialism. Material itself, from this point of view, is morphogenetically charged – pregnant with form. Form is not imposed upon it from without (very Deleuzian, of course, whatever one makes of Deleuze). But among the implications of this is that capitalism is an institutional form of basic human capacities and expressivities and its tremendous transformative energies are themselves deeply Dionysian. Stengers’ point is that you don’t combat sorcery through rational discourse, you must reach for forms of counter-sorcery that match the range of energies in play from the opponent. This is the way in which the post-human entails a new kind of animism to combat what might be called the “animism of the inanimate” of modern capital. That might seem like an unfortunate phrase, but it’s how capitalism exists as a kind of death-process, a thingification system that aims to reduce the living to a state of inertness. This is what the Frankfurt School thinkers were heading toward only to be waylaid by their Aristotelian presuppositions. And it’s also why art if its any good at all is inherently transformative. Even a nominal fascist like Celine produces work that serves a progressive agenda because – whatever its content – it is bringing erotic energy into the cultural arena, and is, in fact, based on an embrace of that morphogenetically charged materialism I mentioned earlier – intelligent materialism, Deleuze called it.

    We’re now enduring a new form of capital – assault capital, let’s call it – that used to be deployed only in a Colonial context. The chickens have come home to roost. Satan’s fangs are bare for all to see – this is Satanic sorcery, the energetic manipulation of anal aggression and the death drive to eliminate the living. The reasons things have unfolded this way must be looked for in a biological register – what is it about the human species as a singularity that lead to this imbalance of greed and aggression? – but it is now clearly a limiting factor for our survival. Either we will articulate and deploy and effective counter-sorcery to the assault sorcery of capital or the species will pass away into the geological record – the Anthropocene, as it’s called. Gloomy, perhaps, but, well…what can you do?

  11. My point is that readings of digiculturecommodities are not political. They are irrelevant to political sxplanations. That doesnt mean theyre not interesting. The reactionary cultural activity is tryinv to pass off interpretstions of digiaudioviz texts as political analyses of these objects.

  12. As for taking life…its not just that for the apppropriators who consume the value. It IS JUST THAT for the billions who don’t. A prison labour bizniz is a way if fundinv and buyinv art for the owners. But it is just prison for the prisoners.

  13. i dont think good art is subversive. I have traditional tastes which means that visual art seems to me tp match qualitu with reactionary catholicism. I like mozart. I like shakespeare. I like tony kushner and august wilson and tom stoppard. I like jan potocki and mary shelley and patrick o’Brien and ishmael reed and leo perutz and gloria naylor. This stuff is all liberal basically

  14. Marx admired aristotle famously but his materialism is historical and dialectical

  15. Deleuze was duped by business pr…capital flows is a deceprive metapphor. Irs nor ‘free’.when flowing from state treasury to corporation..thats just an image from elite capitalist propaganda…

  16. john steppling says:

    OK…..let me see if I can approach this another way. And then answer your last post. After 9 -11 there was a surplus, surfeit of bathos and over sentimentalizing of what was, really, a false narrative. The worst offenders were actually various performance artists who set out to authenticate the actual violence (most with very retro politics….liberals mostly it seems from my limited perspective). May Joseph had an interesting article that touched on this, via Corneille’s reworking of Sophocles Oedipus. There was a sort of double erasure going on in Corneille. By not visually depicting the tragic primal narrative he ended up domesticating what was left out. This is a version of what both performance artists AND the US state dept did after 9-11. Over at Acceptable Society there is a quote from ranciere…..

    “We have not to turn spectators into actors. We have to acknowledge that any spectator already is an actor of his own story and that the actor also is the spectator of the same kind of story. We have not to turn the ignorant into learned persons, or, according to a mere scheme of overturn, make the student or the ignorant the master of his masters (“The Emancipated Spectator” in ArtForum 279).”

    if we throw into this mix how colonial narratives treated the colonized….dehumanizing and a creating of a “savage” character, Id say we touch on why narrative matters. And it exactly because of the hegemony of digital and electronic media and its aborted narratives, its kitsch formulas, that its important to learn to read. For somewhere in these revisionist readings reside the terms for tearing down the master narrative…the white euro narrative — the Imperial discourse of power. So — yes, billions who dont buy tickets suffer. But they dont suffer because someone reads a narrative. In point of fact Ive havent bought an actual ticket to anything in years I dont think. The politics of what Guy calls this sorcery capitalism….a ever more magical dialogue of anti-materialism….sells non-reading. So while all you say is right molly, I just think it seems to demand a leaving out of another side of the political in this. If kids in Lagos dress up as the dark knight, its hard to not to see reading as important. Look, the 9 -11 spectacle included almost every trope of Imperial rule. It was then poached by the kitsch artists out there to sell more tickets to the spectacle. All of these readings were digested and spewed back, almost immediatley, as the terms of a new master narrative. So these readings may not BE political, but they certainly contain within them an un-erasing of missing voices…..and a way for the discussion of audience to reframe itself. If we all are somehow subsumed by the Imperial — then we are all readers of it. There are certainly levels of suffering……and from my relative position of comfort…..which is in fact pretty relative these days…..I still figure these readings matter. And yeah, even the totally materialist ones. The difference is, I dont want to exclude any of the readings.

    So I think in fact they are both……they are political in terms of consumption. Not of production.

  17. I dont see how celines work accomished snytbing progressive. The ruling class is powerful and as jonathan beller reminds us today more people live on less than a dlar a say than were on the planet in 1929. If Celine served a progressive agenda he very mych sucked at service. There’s no evidence that consumers oc Celine have acco.ished anytbing admirable. However i do mean my remarks on digital entertainment commoditties to refer to audioviz ent commodities. My point is mediology here is relevant to the political dxplanation. Sorry for the rocky road of letters.

  18. Culture matters.mass culture indoctrinates. Battling back is important. If cannit be done properly if the culture warrior prefers just not to mention what the thing in question is and does. Not ‘Who financed it’ …8Infants…peolple in comas…ma..r maxwell floating dead in the ocean….but what it is. Focusing on the most socially trivial aspect (THE glittering surface that lures your attention and entertains you) tends to. obscure the important part.

  19. I think when a lot if young white men like a cocaculture commodity all if humanity is blamed for it. But uf yiu want to know what most imp coreweomen want look at romances. Not communist mostly but rarely about controlling joker or dwelling on ‘when can i torturE?’ much more likely to see things from torturee pov too..

  20. The part about Cormac McCarthy is a really nice lay out regarding that question of how receive artistic/creative product. The fact that you even have to ask if it will foment revolution represents how much the left has fucked up regarding art. One of the places where the fascist instinct around narrative shaping has not been collectively reflected on in a critical way.

  21. john steppling says:

    * kusher et al all liberal and all what Ive come to call the poster children to placebo art ( a term guy came up with).

    Just for the record.

    I mean its distressing to me on one level…..anyone can like anyone blah blah….but a Stoppard or Kushner are such perfect examples for deadening writing. Stoppard in particular actually. But……… just had to get that in the record.

  22. Guy Zimmerman says:

    Yes, I have to second the flagging of Stoppard as an anti-artist. His work severs our ties to affective experience which is where art arises from, and affect is primary to cognition, I would stress. What I mean by this is that we think what we think because it feels good to do so, so engagement and discussion on the cognitive level will never take one very far.

    And such a breezy dismissal of Gilles Deleuze makes me smile. Apologies, but you have to see how Aristotle’s materialism is deeply implicated in the failures of revolutionary socialism. Our habit of speaking in reified generalities underlies our habit of acting on the basis of reified generalities, and real change comes from a deeper place. The affective structures of the modern have to be revised, and cognitive discourse (Marxist or otherwise) will never be a vehicle that can take us all the way to that ground.

  23. I disagree about aristotle. In particular aristotle asimpressing marx (Whp breezily dismisses desals with the whole question of his lkmitatins by noting he doesnt see kabpur being value becaue if slavery) but mpre generally the notion ghat a an ancient text of philosiphy is somehiw a determing factor in working class struggle seems tp me the kind of extreme idealismplaguing intellectuals thst is just so alien to my idea of how history us produxed and our sicial order reproduced i cang even get my head aroubd it. Aristotlrs udeas about suvstances and ghings is shared by no one on earth in the 19Th c. Certainly mit marx. He makes several jokes about how absurd it is and micks poliecon for at times seeming to slmos to approximate i in assumptions about what is cappital.

  24. My dizmissal of deleuze is breezy coz of phone but id poin to isabelle garo for a thorh and persuasive criticism especially on the advocacy of neolib finance.

  25. Doesnt see labour behind value because of slavery!

  26. I like a lot of deleuz but he was completeky taken in by reaganite imagery of finance and thus imagined capital controls to be territoprializing. He didnt seem to understand that capital is a property vlsim agtached st all times tp a proprietor who is a legal person as recognized by a nation state and treaty orgs. This is a big thing to misundersttand.

  27. Tom stoppard is very successful writer with a rep with procritics. Academics write dissertations on his work. If ypu have to exclyde his work drom evidence to make a xase about art then the case is plainly bad or secretly prescriptive

  28. Snd it seems me the proposition tbat widespread adherence to the theory if essences of a prenewtonian thinker read only in universities and not much in asia is a significant part of the explation of global working class defeats is about as complete a dismissal of Deleuze as can be.

  29. john steppling says:

    Sadly, Stoppard does have a successful career and many dissertations written about his work. More ‘s the pity. I mean John patrick shanley does too….and august wilson even more probably. Wilson heads up Yale theatre dept…again, sadly. These are the crown’s eunuchs…the sort of domesticated voices of officialdom in theatre. It has exactly ZERO relevance to his worth. Popularity is — and really i trust everyone knows this — meaningless in relation to quality. There is a dimming of vision in that sort of work……so actually, nobody is excluding his work. Im saying its shit. Thats not exclusion. Wilson writes turgid melodrama…..but its a feel good sort of racialist melodrama so he fits in perfectly with the status quo. So no molly, actually its NOT A BAD CASE…no, its not. You want to argue why Stoppard’s mediocrity, Im happy to do so for the next decade. Ive spent years doing it already….and I can send you the links to those discussions. To appeal to popularity is really beneath you.

    What stoppard does, in effect, is drain any real theatrical poetics from his work. He is clever and probably the high point of his writing career was Shakespeare in Love….(shared credit, but its mostly his)……a breezy sort of middlebrow romantic comedy with a pastiche shakespeare as the central figure. Thats Stoppard. The rest of his work is laborius almost infantile cleverness tricked out in “serious” drag. But he was an acceptable substitute for Sarah Kane and especially Pinter. Churchill and Stoppard…and Churchill is eons better….but they both were able to fit into institutional frameworks for “serious culture”….serious theatre….in the UK. In a weird way Stoppard is very much like August Wilison in his public/academic role. He is the palatable non tragic sort of court jester…..but with an official arm band reading ‘Im serious”. His plays never last……but his reputation does. Nobody wants to see early Stoppard because its crap. In ten years nobody will want to see the late stoppard either. Beckett to Pinter to Kane….those plays continue to slowly gain traction — but outside the new vic and donmar warehouse circuit……and not with directors that later graduate to film and hollywood (Sam Mendes) — at donmar Grandage took over, and added along with stoppard, Sondheim musicals and occasional a safely tame production of a “classic”… Farquhar or Durrenmat et al. The New Vic now produces shows featuring TV stars……doing “serous” work. In the past decade they strove to do Peter Shaffer, Peter Nichols, Aykburn and Friel…….these were the “not as angry or nihilstic as pinter or kane” playwrights. The middlebrow “melodramatists” of London — and of course the odd revival of shaw and o casey. Now….i like O Casey…..but he hasnt aged well ….a seperate discussion. A good many of the Irish playwrites havent. Today the New Vic also does Martin mcDonagh….who…well, is clever. I like him fine when he writes film…..In Bruges had its charms…….but the point is, that somehow someway a reputation from “”critics”” has any meaning at all is a lazy fall back position for anyone. The poetics of theatre…..the real energy in theatre space ….derives from a complex of factors, most of which make easy analysis very NOT easy. Blau and Brook both knew this…..Brook forty years ago clocked it perfectly with the DEADLY THEATRE chapter……in Empty Space. One can criticize brook for various failings, but I usually choose not to……because his mission, his entire career has resisted the very sort of court appointed mascot role Stoppard has embraced. Brook (and Blau) both worked in big institutional theatres….blau often…but then knew the secret and their work tried to reveal some of that. Stoppard is just happy to be stoppard…..and is pleased as punch to have been made wealthy via his eunuch role.

    Guys like Boal dont get invites from the Queen…..kane never did……Pinter didnt even……not even Beckett. Who was by the end an official national treasure. Why? Why does stoppard seem to appealing to the same people who love damion hirst? Stoppard’s plays are akin to the diamond skull……the aesthetics are in service to a ruling class fantasy…(educated ruling elite for stoppard) but trapse around in slightly naughty ways…..like the misbehaving sons of Princess Di. Oh that prince harry is so mischivious….oh that tom stoppard is just a devil isnt he. Its the soul deadening work of a theatrical parasite, actually.

  30. Guy Zimmerman says:

    People cite Aristotle all the time as a philosopher whose ideas continue to shape the ways we view experience. Whether or not matter is truly inert or “morphogenetically charged” (this is how Manuel DeLanda describes Deleuze’s materialism) and how generals relate to particulars – these issues are very alive in contemporary thought, political or otherwise. “Sensitivity to initial conditions” is one way to view this.

    Deleuze and Reagan? That’s hard to work with even on the level of timing. I think you’re talking about the imagery of flow, etc in Deleuze, and that this somehow obscures the human actor involved. Fair enough, and maybe this isn’t a good venue to argue the point.

    I have to second John’s thoughts about Stoppard. It’s facile work and the reason to be direct about that is because it is celebrated for all the wrong reasons. Stoppard is a great relief to people who are made anxious by the issues Pinter and Beckett are dragging into the light. “Ah,” says Stoppard, “no reason for alarm! Everything’s fine if you just shift your deck chair a few degrees this way!” as the ship barrels forward toward the berg.

  31. How is citing aristotle as a philosopher by whom some ppl are persuaded on matter crazy ppl? who believes in this niw?) not cognitive? If being duped by aristotls is what kepf ho chi minh from preserving vietnsm from imperialism,this wpuld suggest everydhing deleuze thought sbout reality production is ridiculous. Reading a book ad accepting its argument is how ppl come to their ideas about physics.and human affairs?which ideas then determine behaiour? Sstop reading aristotle and read euze instead and ghese newcognition wl transform relity?

  32. In 72 both deleuze and reagan denounce third eorld prorectipnism and capital controls as “Fascist”

  33. Too frustrating to type. But tom stoppard beina mediocrity? So what?are you shoced by the exustence ofproducts of mediocre quality? That judgement is nit explaining anything.

  34. I certainly never claimwd playwrights are nrver mediocre. I dont know what the fuck yr on about. Im not appealinv to popularity for anythi.g. You claim to explain tbe polutis of narrative. You have to explain mostly what you conider shit. If you gave a theiry thag only explains what you like you shpuld admit this. Its a but buzarre to think what you like is a category meaningful to ithers. While plays ansd films are intelliguble categories john stepplings favpurite stuff isnt.

  35. You like this ypu dont like that…you watch shit tv andove it but the real i.spe tor hound is *pbjectively* unfunny ill tell you sometbing…marxist crit is nit reductive. This is rsxuctive. This is reducing everytbing to yourreception snd having. No interest i. Angthing else.

    But i dont need my entertainments to be sermons and educations. I like a lot of mediocre stuff and dumas and austen miniseries! and i loved arcadia. And amadeus and black comedy with peter mcnichol.and cass mcguire and molly sweeny. And seven guitars and two trains running. And a lot of mediocre chekov and beau.ont and fletcher.

  36. ‘genuinely inert matter’? means what exacly?

  37. Marx was drawn to aristotles consequentialust ethics ot his cosmology or physics. As for ontplogy marx abolished it as mysticism.he admired his way of thinking he didnt acvept the results of his thpughts bit sought to explain them historically…to explain why he couldnt think as marx did about humanity and material world as processes..and why we dont think about essences as he did except some ppluecon when exceptionally stupid and idealist almost reverts to aristotelian essences seeing some stuff as inherently capital.

  38. Pinter beckett kane…its prodding snd satisying differentdesires than churchill and stoppard but dont think its less reactionary. Actually cghrchills work is…thpugh iften racist and brit supremacist…imbued with a socialist vision while the others are alreactiobary in what they display and do. Becketts a stager if masculist mythogy with a flaunted imperialist blind spot and stoppard is a wanabee aristo papering over yhe naturalused immiseration of beckett with fantasy cultural abundance.

  39. john steppling says:

    Yeah, now you dont even make any sense. Honestly.
    Here is what you wrote:
    “Tom stoppard is very successful writer with a rep with procritics. Academics write dissertations on his work. If ypu have to exclyde his work drom evidence to make a xase about art then the case is plainly bad or secretly prescriptive”

    So I answered that AND explained some of why I think Stoppard is a bad writer. This has fuck all NOTHING to do with what I “like”. I think you actually harbor a huge hostility to culture…except that deep down you dont, but you have a certain sort of idea of what SHOULD be said. But …you have to be responsible for what you write. Now after answering you in Stoppard, I get this:
    “I certainly never claimwd playwrights are nrver mediocre. I dont know what the fuck yr on about. Im not appealinv to popularity for anythi.g. You claim to explain tbe polutis of narrative. You have to explain mostly what you conider shit. If you gave a theiry thag only explains what you like you shpuld admit this. Its a but buzarre to think what you like is a category meaningful to ithers. While plays ansd films are intelliguble categories john stepplings favpurite stuff isnt.”

    I cant follow all of it because of the typos. But……this is not only explaining what I “like”…..i explained what and why I think some writers are good and some not good. The labels reactionary and not reactionary or anti capitalist are not the only ones available…though they seem to be to you. So, for the 4th time now…..I already explained stoppard. My analysis of stoppard. YOUR analysis of stoppard is
    “I like stoppard”.

    Ok…now we know what molly likes.

    Then….pinter, kane, and beckett are no less reactionary than Stoppard.

    Alright, except I didnt exactly say Stoppard was reactionary. I mean I think he is….but thats not what I wrote. See, I dont see the world in quite as binary a way as you do. Your hostility to this very topic speaks volumes about where you stand. You saw “We need to talk About Kevin” as mysogynistic and male supremicist…..based on a book by a man, except I pointed out it was actually written by a woman. And produced by a woman, and directed by a woman. But — ok, thats your take and I think its interesting. Wrong, but interesting. The point is, you dont LOVE anything of culture. You like things and for you they are of no consequence. You may love some things, I dont know, you have never said you did. I think to suggest you loved something would be to admit it has too much importance for you. So even though you like thing…. they are of no consequence.

    I think cultural is very important. I continue to write about it and explain the reasons for thinking this work is kitsch or that work not. You see everything through a very special very narrow lens…..and whats interesting is that what you accuse me and others of, is almost always exactly what you are guilty of. You are the one puritanical about art……like much of the left in fact. Nothing matters because in your mind, if the topic doesnt directly relate to millions of people starving all over the globe, then its not important. And if the “message” isnt clearly state as anti Imperialist, then nothing more need be said. Even if you “like” it….which is the escape clause. You see it as of no consequence. But you continue to write about it. Ive listened to you on these topics for several years. WHY? Why do you bother? You cant answer that. If its not important….then write about what *is* important. Dont waste time with endless diatribes about how reactionary I am, or whoever is, and how confused because we think this or that. Because if culture is only a distraction, and artworks of no political importance…..then stop. Do yourself a favor…..relax….go write about what you think does matter. Seriously. Its a bit deranged to go on about stuff you think doesnt matter. This is where a serious hostility creeps into all this.

    And you have a really irritating habit of putting words in people’s mouths. READ WHAT I WRITE….do NOT assume you know what I am thinking. Trust me, you dont. So….to be clear, I dont think people in Albania care what I think is culturally relevant. I dont think people in Lagos care. Nor do they care what you think is politically important. Because they dont read you ! Ive worked for decades on political matters in a very concrete community based way. And Ive taught …usually for fucking free. Because I cant ever turn people away because they cant pay. What work do you do exactly? Because the self righteous tone is getting tedious. I try to do concrete things. Now…..i also think theory and culture are important. Not to anyone in Lagos that I am aware of. But to many in the english speaking world, and to many where I live in fact. I have tried to actually exhibit integrity in what i do. Ive turned down PAYING FUCKING JOBS because I couldnt write what I was being told to write. So desist in this tone of holiness you seem to fall back on. This isnt about Molly either. Its only about theory and critical thought…about ideas and analysis. Not about what you or I like. And I never never never never never said that. YOU are the only person who has used the word “like”….go back and check the thread. Only you.

    So….either you think culture has importance or it doesnt have importance. Which is it?

    Secondly: if it has importance, then I think you have to explain why it has importance.

    Thirdly, if the answer if no, it has no importance. Its not of any political or moral or relgious or ethical significance…..then WHY do you go on about it? I dont think the fine points of military strategy is of great importance. The reasons behind military actions yes, but the details of what guns are used and ammo used, usually are of little interest to me. So I dont write about it. I dont care about fashion trends or about celebrity gossip. On rare occasions those things might impinge on another topic, but intrinsically I see nothing worth writing about in those things. Therefore i dont write about them. I “like” some fashions, dont “like” others. But they are not important to me and my vision of the world.

    I DO think art matters which is why I write about it.

    But……the final question is, IF your answer is yes, I think culture matters…..then you really do need to explain in what way. Because right now its just you ranting about how stupid my writing on culture is. And putting words in my mouth, and trying to sound the more faithful leftist. And its a good example of why , finally, so many marxists are so tiresome.

  40. Tom stoppard is shit oky tbis explains nothing about its rple is sicial repriductio. I do t need tp know whether itshit or great. Ppl who dont see it. ..All if hhmanity with negigiible exceptiobs…cant be expected to care anout the satisfavtion of those who do. This it art apppreciatio. Fine thing but itsonly very very marginally concerned in polutics of narrative.

  41. I dont say its stupid.its just not replying to my points. People get angry when certain assumpfions are challenged. Celine iz part of a progressive agenxa thats a total failure. No doubt the same audienxe cinsumes celibe and stoppard. Are their heads e plovding? Maybe art is trivvial. My hunch is no but i have precious little evidence to support it.

    But if your idea if i.porrant good art isnt just what you likr,
    What shit culture products do you like?

  42. john steppling says:

    you MUST get to a computer. MUST!

    You are saying, that art matters in terms that relate to its commodity role, vis a vis advanced capital — in other words the critique of time warner or Sony — not of the individual products. Now thats fair enough if we’re talking Time Warner.
    But its not very relevant to Beckett or Stoppard or Genet or Pinter. Im saying, and have said for 21 postings and counting, that “narrative” matters. I cant help if you want something different. Clearly you do. The people who dont see it , dont see the film or play…..are a topic…..but thats not the same topic, as for example, the missing voices in Conrad…..nor is it the same discussion as what is ACTUALLY in the Pinter play…..the dialogue, images, and structure. Im talking about that. Then, by extension, how those things MIGHT or MIGHT NOT relate to relations of production. But Time Warner doesnt produce Sarah kane……so, Coca Cola cans are not sarah kane. Both might be commodities, but you read them differently. If you cannot see that, I dont know what else to say.

    Nobody said ever that anyone should CARE about what I like or value. Stop suggesting Ive said that.

    I was thinking how, when I read Kushner for example…..I find a numbness coming over me…just with the deadness of his sounds. HIs grammar and the way character is delineated on stage. I go to sleep……its spooky. The poetics are so banal. Then I hear pinter….and i am engaged, and awake, and energized and almost afraid for there are such unconscious associations. Now…thats ME….nobody else need give a shit about that. And if you dont ….dont read my blog. I write about those things…among others…because I think those sounds, that poetry, is transformative somehow….TO THE PEOPLE WHO READ IT OR SEE IT)/ I dont find that meaningless. I find it to be what it is.

  43. john steppling says:

    what shit culture products do i “like
    ……..? many probably — falling under guilty pleasure catagory. The british Cracker series…..but the Canadian show “intelligence”…one of the most hugely overlooked bits of noir ever on TV.

  44. Joe Nava says:

    Jello eveytone! i amn tyopign om a calll pnone whike drrving. THte ironyoff reafding )aKa consiming} johh’s blohg on a pphone iz qwite delociuus abd drilliatnt¡

    I’m kidding. Reading Molly’s comments felt like stumbling across the frantic rants of an autistic child with a bad case of aphasia. No offense, Molly, but really why even bother to comment if you can’t make yourself understood?

    John, a very interesting and insightful post…!

    Just go to slightly off topic, I’m continually disgusted with the workings of “middlebrow” art, especially in film, because so often a film gets marketed as an “art film” which makes one assume it might have a redeeming quality, or an interesting point of view, yet it appeals to such a mainstream audience that it becomes void of any real aesthetic value. You know the kinds of films I’m talking about – The King’s Speech, The Help, The Reader, Angels in America miniseries (the only thing I’ve seen by Kushner) I shudder at mentioning these films but I’m doing so to get to a bigger point. The great corporate marketing machines of the studios will convince audiences that these films are “important” and “artistic” and though they might demand a little more attention than Transformers, we should stick with them to the very end because we’ll become better people for it.

    The last couple of weeks, after having watched The Boys in the Band (the film – not the play – directed by William Friedkin), I started to believe that one way for a film (or play or novel or painting) to retain some artistic value as it becomes a commodity is to alienate/challenge its target audience, to make the consumption of it as difficult as possible in order to reach deeper levels of meaning. As I’ve learned from you, John, this can be done through content (We Need to Talk About Kevin) or breaking traditional forms of narrative (Point Blank). To cite an overused example: Psycho was such a shock to audiences when it was released because Hitchcock did both here – not only did he shoot the film like a TV show (in terms of scope, framing, black and white) but he killed off its star halfway through with its transvestite murderer.

    A film like Salo remains so important to me because it is such a criticism of fascist ideologies that there’s no easy way to digest it. It’s beautifully shot, poetic in its pace, tragic in its defiance. People refuse to see that film because of its content, because it offers no immediate pleasure, it’s “disgusting”, “indulgent,” “revolting” – how dare Pasolini film these acts. Similarly, de Sade’s writings were completely misunderstood in their time and reduced the mad rantings of a pervert, even by those whom would benefit. For me – de Sade’s original writings and Salo are a call to arms and the purest form of protesting the bourgeois class.

    Just to touch briefly on the ideas of “guilty pleasures” – I suppose we all have them. TV in itself is a guilty pleasure, especially if we can deal with the constant barragement of commercials – which ironically are actually more aesthetically pleasing that 95% of the TV I watch. Shows like Mad Men took a long time to become popular, and then only still with a very limited audience. While some might find a show like “Game of Thrones” a guilty pleasure (I haven’t seen it, nor do I have any interest) others prefer their entertainment by “death of content” – in other words, the crap on TLC or the Travel Channel, where you can see a show about two sandwiches dueling off for the title of Best Brisket Sandwich in AMERICA – yeeeeHAAAAAAW! Flipping through the TV the other day, I was depressed by the lack of content in “guilty pleasures” (Real Housewives, Tosh.O, Conan O’Brien) that I turned to my boyfriend and said “Nothing means anything anymore.” He said, “No… no it doesn’t.”

  45. john steppling says:

    Joe, this reminds me, many years ago now…..twenty probably…..there was a several days worth of screenings at the studio lot across from Paramount….of early 1950s HALF HOUR dramas. Not Playhouse 90…which was an hour, like most of the bigger network dramas at the time. These were half hour stand alone dramas. Most from the 57 58, and with actors like Ralph Meeker, Lee Marvin, Fred McMurray…..and it was interesting because they had an old writer of one of the shows in attendance. All the shows were amazingly good….little original short stories in a way…dark, almost to the point of nihilistic. The old guy got on stage to answer questions. Someone asked him, what was the process for a show like this. And he said, there was no process. I wrote it, handed it to the director and he cast it and shot it in three days. No network viewing, no target audience screenings, no advertisers meetings, etc. At the end of the weekend, they showed the pilot of The Untouchables, with Bob Stack — as I recall because Stack was there, too. Anyway, it was staggering to see what had happened. Suddenly…..around 1960…..the network began to impose an official imprint. IT was a series with a “sound” and with a “style” and it was made to sell the products……there were cliched structural devices and after watching this rather amazing half hour dramas…..all of which were utterly non commercial feeling. Now….both are commodities, both were COMMERCIAL…..and both produced by the same corporation. But something had changed. The first group were made by directors and writers without studio or network interference. They werent the same sort of commodity. The narrative of those half hour dramas was visible in a sense….for I think that once networks locked into a certain formula…..the narrative receded in a sense. And that weekend one could see it in the audience…..people went dull when Untouchables had run for five minutes…..they had already seen it….a thousand times. There was NO narrative to follow. I remember the McMurray half hour….about a businesss exec…wife has left him…he lives now in a pay by the week single occupancy room downtown. Nice…for he is successful. The whole thirty minutes you are thinking he is a nice lonely man whose wife left him…..and you are sympathetic. Then in a brief encounter with a former secretary…..you see the awful callous nastiness of this white man…this mean spirited mysogynistic isolated corporate mover. It was a stunning little short story. Ive not ever forgotten those shows. When I think of them, you realize the medium is exceptionally flexible….all you need is to leave artists alone and you might end up with real narrative. Now….per this thread…..what are the political implications of this? Well….none. Not directly. But….those early half hours weren’t selling anything. The advertisements were. So while the network made them, they actually more precisely, funded them, they didnt make them. The Untouchables was made by the studio… by the network, in association with the advertisers. They created a brand. They branded the music…the style….sign codes were in place. One puts you to sleep, one wakes you up.

  46. john steppling says:

    Ive no idea why there are gaps in that last post. Curious. Anyway, per “prestige” films, yes, they are actually more micromanaged than pulp stuff. Hence they come with that horrible feeling of message, with a theme always somehow more reflective of the status quo. Or an embrace of royalist nostalgia. The King’s Speech. The reality of these in-bred racist reactionary and sadistic elites is turned into a saga of heroism …the heroics of standing by a microphone reading a speech. Not dying. Not starving and saving your family even….nothing. But its ROYALTY….and the american desire for kings and queens is bottomless. By the by, an interesting side note on “Intelligence” , which was canadian and made in part by the canadian broadcasting corp…..it was yanked off the air after season two in spite of a contract for longer. The govt had deemed the storyline too close to actual events in the Prime Minister’s cabinet.

  47. Joe i comment only at johns insistence

  48. mollyy Understand mass media and mass culture…as mechanism of expropriation
    ..as world system…Aim encounters. John you know I like art, literature and literary and culture criticism. My point in pushing this is to challenge grandiose mystical claims for art that arose around the avanguardia…mystical claims with some roots in l’art pour l’art but that then once having the clsim secured arts immunity from judgement reclaim -baselessly – a social political subversiveness from epater the bourgeoisie etc.

    Consider the French literary civil war for Marx’ era and the generation of forty eight. Hugo vs Gautier roughly. The maximal versions of both these positions has arisen as a dogma of art posy Frankfurt school…and as Moretti reminds us this actually involves injecting a worship into Benjamin and Adorno and Horkheimers judgements on modernism that is all about simple validation (for accumulation) of work that expresses the psychic an ideological and physical damage suffered by the petty bourgeoisie as capital monopolized and empire expanded. Moretti is right to take issue with this pseudo historical materialist criticism that has become simply an apology for modernism.

    But what I want to stress is the ideological propahanfistic function of criticism that focusses on interpretations of personal individual art objects…the degraded imitation of adorno…ignoring medium and production and distribution and then advances grand claims which ely in mystical processes whose onvestigationbis taboo
    ..emperors clothes type prohibition on asking for example for some concrete evidence of Celine’s purportedly progressive effects. This is no doubt difficult and probably pointless but asking d poses the religious qualit. Sucj readings have other purposes…entertaimment y of the clai. It cannot be debunked
    It us precisely like Jesus Saves. Greatness on art is like Marian apparitions. Many peopleclaim encounters with it and perhaps that is proof positive…but this should inform us about the nature of the phenomenon.

    There is no question for me that mass media mass c but the ulture is also functioning to indoctrinate. This has been demimstrated by studies. How this works is good to understand. Close readings of individual films are worthless for an investigation of mass cultures ideological function. Such readings have other purposes
    ..entertainment mainly. To understand mass culture industry as world system one cannot get waylaid discussing three frames of this or that film or some individual; performance. Its just distracting. That’s its purpose..why this kind of discourse is aggressively promoted by capital dominating journalism and universities. Its just entertainment. Morettis reading from afar is the right approach for discerning the means of reproduction of social relations in mass culture. Which is NOT national/popular…not popular culture. And there is a zone between mass and popular culture that consists of coopted popular culture and its imitations . But the close reading of individual rap songs – while interesting and a way of participating and enlarging a dissident and often revolutionary cultural practise – doesn’t provide an understanding of the industry and its part in the imperial world system.

    Art criticism is a genre I appreciate. I just want to stress that it is often proffered as a substitute for medioligcal Marxist analysis..It can be a kind of pacifier for dissidents…to basically minutely describe their personal reception if a TV show is easier than learning about other people and complex realities of politics and industry. So often left critics just content themselves with this

  49. I mean you have agreed that middle brow is middle brow. Its comforting and consoling where high brow is distressing. This is not in dispute. The details of the comforting consoling mass culture…who is addressed, what fears are attributed, how are menaces embodies and how are relations of repair envisioned…tell us what the ruling class is promoting. John you have allrged that this culture act…actually expresses your own (you exempt mass culture products you dont watch…SATC …but include thosecmany other ppl dont watch…stuff for teen boyz) psyche…your fears and desires and preoccupationsand every other Americans as well but I dispute this. Neither Dark Knight nor The Help reveal anything about you. Definitely not about me. But they do reveal a lot about the way the riling class hopes to manage these audiences..

  50. What I contest is this notion that the products you enjoy
    ..made for you…things with a lot of violence and male protagonists…are expressing my psyche. ‘Our'(national) collective unconscious exposed.That they must be expressions of my psyche because of a national mind and the films popularity. But this only goes for stuff you enjoy like Dark Knight. You don’t accept Sex and the City or Laura Croft Tomb Raider or Mamma Mia or The Help as an expression of your psyche despite popularity and national origin. You perceive this as alien shit.

    Yes. It is alien shit
    Let us take this posture to everything. I feel this way about a lot if stuff you call transformatove. Alien shit. So we can if we are not to just Wallis on solipsism that all culture products are to most people either unknown or alien shit
    Making lusts of our personal exceptions has limited interest for me
    I am interested in all this alien shit in a different way than the pleasure taken in consuming my favourite items.

  51. Sade and Salo may be protests of bourgeois class but only bourgeois like this stuff and it has yet to cause us any harm. So it could be protest but it might as well be devoted service and satisfaction of our whims.

  52. Sorry still…my better android but still no laptop

  53. john steppling says:

    I dont think I “insisted”.
    But ok….what mystical claims are being made? I dont see any.

    then this:
    “But what I want to stress is the ideological propahanfistic function of criticism that focusses on interpretations of personal individual art objects…the degraded imitation of adorno…ignoring medium and production and distribution and then advances grand claims which ely in mystica”

    typos aside…what exactly is being said here? that criticism of “individual” artworks is inherently propagandistic? I think thats what you’re saying. As for degraded adorno, yeah, well, you have a right to your individual propagandistic opinion, no?

    But if you are suggesting individual works cant be anlysed as individual……but only as tools of mass cultural oppression, then again, just say that. And you neednt bother with the rest. See, you paint yourself into a tight corner with that one. Because you then say, well, individual reading are ONLY about entertainment and that seems the heart of my argument with your position. Clearly thats false. Because if its true, then its all the same. Again, same tight corner. If you say an ideological reading is what you are doing, then you still are forced to individualize. So its a logical cul de sac. Label it entertainment (a form of ideology by the way) or label it ideology, a form of entertainment for the left Im coming to think….but either way you are forced to look at individual works as individual. The heart of the problem is that you think three frames of this or that is a distraction. I think to NOT to examine those three frames is an ignoring of the individual in the service of your own proaganda. To plaster over Pasolini as an ideological aside is rather profoundly counterproductive if one is trying to resist social domination. Its my endless problem with a lot of the left. The world system…..as YOU define it. You cannot toss those terms around as if there is a common agreement on what they mean. Ive no idea actually, in this context, what you mean by that. But the other issue is that I see more than entertainment value in art….and I know you do too….but you have this agenda to push. But ok, i take you at your word. Im not a shrink. I see individual work as liberating on several levels, and as counter to the prevailing deadening of most of corporate product. Its important, crucial to see that. Adorno said mass culture was like psychoanalysis in reverse. And so it is. Its numbing, its an endless repetition of the same, run at a high velocity as the inner contradictions of captial advance. Its not so much reproducing capitalist subjects as it is reproducing their truncated narratives…the mimetic storyline of the master discourse. Thats an inbetween stage. That is what is being told and re told and re told and re told. So when three frames of this or that suddenly DONT re tell it, subvert it, then its worth pointing out. When those three frames arent selling anything, its worth noting and trying to understand historically…..which is NOT a mystical claim. And i would argue its a form of leftist religiousity to insist that it is. Its crude criticism. Now……I grant you that a good deal of University lit crit is horseshit. Babble…..masturbatory post grad MFA ejaculate. And its exactly its own cottage industry. In that sense it IS reproducing capital — and colonizing consciousness. NO argument from me on that. But Im not in that system. My problem with Beller is that he often forgets to notice when things are NOT part of an ideological interpellation….creating a subject — and i love beller by and large. But you just cannot gloss over culture in ahat way. And yes, what beller does in terms of attention economy is important. …but As i pointed out above…..the specific conditions of creation matter…but so does the individual’s vision. Those half hour dramas were qualitatively different from the slightly later corporately mediated product shown on the same network. One was propaganda, one wasn’t…both were commodities. One probably, clearly, a lot more successful as such.

    See, really, the heart of this is that aesthetics for you is irrelevant……is a distraction…..Pinter or Stoppard…the fuck cares….its all an ideological tool and part of an entertainment hegemonic system of world capital. Its frankly circular at its logical end. And Adorno would agree, which is why he spent forty years writing Aesthetic Theory. Becasue while a relentless critic of the culture industry, he also understood you cannot gloss over the distinctions. ..AND he saw art as vital in how one escapes that interpellation — Its probably the influence of Benjamin in part….and i think he suffered a lot of personal conflicting feelings around all this.

    but…..i digress. On one level, its just good and bad criticism. But it also comes down to those three frames.

  54. john steppling says:

    “”Sade and Salo may be protests of bourgeois class but only bourgeois like this stuff and it has yet to cause us any harm. So it could be protest but it might as well be devoted service and satisfaction of our whims.”””

    you dont know any of this. You dont know, nor can you know, who likes what.

  55. john steppling says:

    I cannot write about what I havent seen. I write about what “I” see and find worth writing about. LIKE EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER LIVED DOES. Im not a mind reader. I dont know who in Algeria saw Dark Knight. I dont know who in Argentina read Tolstoy. I can only infer a small part of any of that info. So of course its about me. But in no more excessive way that what you write is about you. Again, there is a sort of tautological aspect to this argument.

  56. john steppling says:

    I wrote about vampire films, first post in this blog. As a way to analyse the fears of white ruling class america. And studio exects who saw the masses as Zombies.

    that does not mean I dont think Dreyr’s Vampire is DIFFERENT in all its aesthetic and probably even ideological functions that Walking Dead. It does not mean that three frames of Nosferatu arent worth looking at for reasons beyond entertainment.
    We always end up back at this exact point.

  57. john steppling says:

    now… different than Walking Dead…yes….but its also useful when critiquing propaganda, or corporate product, such as walking dead…..to posit it against Nosferatu……history imparts its allegorical significance in all this. Allegory isnt arbitrary.

  58. Protests…when the Met Opera staged mahagonny last time ppl WALKED OUT. It offended the bourgeoisie. Beckett doesn’t. Sade is positively beloved. But Newsies drew positively viscious sbuse from dveryone including Roger Ebert. Something as mild in its critique as Do the Right Thing was greeted with fretting about violence.
    We can see what actually offends the bourgeoisie and it isn’t torturing women for sexual pleasure or spectacles of black men inflicting and suffering violence. Its just non demeaning visions of working class solidarity and poc complexity and depictions of capital/labour antagonism whereon capital is the agent of violence for gain (not imagined diabolical aristo raping for thrills).

  59. Yes the criticism of mass culture products with methods developed for non mass high brow modernist works is inherently propagandistic and I’d say also even was for modernist canon. Because these methods have idealist Hegelian assumptions. Much like the notion that if we just could adequately be shocked out of devotion to arostotle there would be no more prison slavery.

  60. Yes the criticism of mass culture products with methods developed for non mass high brow modernist works is inherently propagandistic and I’d say also even was for modernist canon. Because these methods have idealist Hegelian assumptions. Much like the notion that if we just could adequately be shocked out of devotion to arostotle there would be no more prison slavery.

  61. Yes the criticism of mass culture products with methods developed for non mass high brow modernist works is inherently propagandistic and I’d say also even was for modernist canon. Because these methods have idealist Hegelian assumptions. Much like the notion that if we just could adequatel;y be shocked out of devotion to arostotle there would be no more prison slavery
    This is my contention. It is not to say I don’t enjoy this stuff…producing and consuming. I love reading that kooky essay about Odysseus the bourgeois. But yes I think the cultural practise of art criticism is ideological. The form is ideological. This is not that outlandish a claim surely.

  62. Of course I know who reads Sade and watches Pasolini. Boyrdieus distinction is great by the way for class taste. But the info on Salo is very good. All that stuff…euro art films…gave a very specific audience…urban petty bourgeois. To say this can’t be known and isn’t known us the pretend ignorance I meant..the ritualistic innocence…you pretend there’s no social science…no marketing…no data collection. You know there is butvit s breaking the taboo to acknowledge there is empirical data which could confirm the assertions BUT DOESNT.

  63. AIf you can’t write about what you haven’t seen you have to keep your claims limited. You watch a film and say its transfofmative for seven billion other people based on your personal experience. Ppl go broke using themselves alone as the focus group. A sample of one not chosen randomly.

    But there is social science…there are methods for research and compiling info that ultimately is gathered by multitudes.

  64. john steppling says:

    Id say beckett still offends the bougeoisie. Last time i saw a production at UCLA, people walked out. Hitchens obit on Pinter was another example. But…..thats hardly the yardstick for much of anything. People walk out of my plays, too.

    the practice of art criticism is ideological. Perhaps, but its not ONLY ideological in the sense you mean. Or, its ideological on more complex terms than you seem to be repeatedly suggesting.

    I dont think modernism ended by the way. The post modern idea is only an extension of modernism. Iverson is good on this.

    And its a sort of salient aspect of all this.

    “and I’d say also even was for modernist canon. Because these methods have idealist Hegelian assumptions. ”

    I dont think so. This is an interesting topic though. But lets get to knowing who sees what. Of course you CANT know….the myth of marketing you suddenly believe in, data retrieval and polling etc. This is just more magical thinking. American sociology (marketing in particular) has made this into natural law….its just not so. Utterly untrustworthy. Social science….research…..this is a form of cultic worship…but you appeal to it because it suits your argument.

    The assumption that you know who sees Salo is the worst sort of elitist paternalism. You also dont know what “those people” see, whoever they are, or feel about what they just saw. In fact, this is part of the whole apparatus of the master discourse as its disseminated via academia, the social sciences, and madison ave. Oh, its a black film festival so we show a double bill of Cleopatra Jones and Roots. Its marketing research which has bled into critical theory somehow. The petit bourgeoise watch Salo and Bresson. But not inner city kids and appalachian meth addicts?

    But again, see, the end of this particular chain of logic leads to those 3 frames. That you “enjoy” them……but you dont take them as important. Unless you apply a very narrow critique which YOU see as sober materialism. Id argue materialism is as non material as what you repeatedly call mystical. Freud is mystical and so is Lacan. But is Lenin less so? Certainly Adorno isnt. But those three unimportant frames……are important in how they apply to a critique of market forces and global capital. And i buy that. Fine. But I also think you have to investigate those three frames on other terms….or you level it all off. Its the same point once again. Your hostility to what you call high modernist culture is clear. I actually think its retrograde thinking to frame this on those terms.

  65. I saw Salo at the Thalia in 1980. Place PACKED w columbia profs and prep school kids. Median net worth in tbere as high as for met opera and after over dinner everyone oohing and aaahing how brilliant.its. The kind of thing p&g worries will upset the hoi polloi but is made for responsible bourveoisie. ..Like simpson at tbomas co.firmation hearinfs joking abt playboy. ..okay for the rulers.

  66. john steppling says:

    yeah, copy that. Thats relevant….and interesting. But…..its dangerous to extrapolate anecdotal info into broad theoretical positions. AND….its not really all that meaningful re; salo.

    You know, its interesting how reputation evolves…and changes. Killer of Sheep is now canonized….its a great beautiful film……and Im sure you can find screenings of it with profs and hispsters and post grads from harvard biz school. Whats that really saying about Burnett or the film? The system is always in the process of digesting opposition. Sometimes it works…..and sometimes not…and sometimes it does for a while….maybe. Army of Shadows was REdiscovered a couple years back. I thought it interesting to see the way that happened. But that ‘moment’ passed……on to the next cult worship……but does that mean anything, finally, about that film?

    But this also raises issues about “mechanical reproduction”. Theatre is different. It has its own mine field. Shakespeare changed — it was appropriated for some by Kott’s book…..then by Hughes book. By Brook’s productions, and hall’s. The durability of certain writers…artists….Beckett for example…..i mean on one level the marketing of “Sam” …..has been extreme. How does that change the writing? I mean is writing ever something that withstands all this? Is there anything , in your mind, that resists co-option in the writing itself? Because if not………..we end up in a very funny place.

  67. Important to me personally? its important to me tp have art criticism available. It was importantt o marie antoinette to keep her throne a nd head. What isnot in doubt is that all this product is compatible with capitals empire. Lenin was less mystical than freud and lacan but yeah there are some funky passages. Adorno is mystical. A Hegelian
    Note that the most successfulliberation movements have producedand onsumed. A lot of traditional culture.spaps…marvellous real…realism…and the avsntgarde flourishes mostly in reactipnary climes. Mostly.

  68. Its not elutism to pprefer scientific research to willed ivnorance andand guessw.ork. Its like saying its elitist to acknowledge.Who ow ns luxury carsthere is a small audience for salo and its overwhelmingly urban petty bourgeois. Fact! how you feel watchi.g ot yoursf wont tell you this. You have to gather evidence.

  69. No no its magical thimking to imagine ecif pllls can drr. Thats hiw ghey managed to get away with rigging us rlectionz. Americans dont believe in s ience. Tgey brlieve in angels and miies. Audience research. Is Great.the validity is cpnstantly tested and its very good…miracles shld say…very eay to predict opening eeemkend film audience.

  70. Aargh.magical thinking to suppose exit polls can err. They cant.

  71. john steppling says:

    Art is always a reaction. Which is why its historically mediated.

    Im casting suspicion on the validity of the ‘science” used in the majority of marketing research. In how data is compiled…. nothing happens in a vacuum. Not even research. You may more reliably determine who buys lux cars…..you wont know nearly as reliably how people feel about those lux cars. Both the ones able to buy them and the ones not able to. The problem, not to get too picky here, is that polling info and data about tastes and beliefs is notoriously distored and manipulated. It assumes people know what the fuck they actually feel. They dont. I dont. I might answer a question one way on monday and another on tuesday. Its an entire science predicated on a phantom identity — on measuring human inner life.

    Focus group results tend to trend toward how good the free pizza offered was.

    Might you get some info of use? yeah. I would argue not a lot, though. Its why sociology is such a cluster fuck when applied to concrete problems. Community level the sociologists have always gotten it wrong.

    But more interesting is “important to me personally”…..that remark is again, at the heart of this. Of course to you personally. But you personally are always going to be the starting point. Does the “you personally” need gain from this or that? Yes. Does the community have a relationship to the individual? yes.

  72. As a lavanian you dont think ppl k ow themselves how tbey feel about anything…cars…films.im not saying pling is magic. I am saying it is science. S ience is not in a vacuum. Miracles are in a vacum. Spiritual experiences are in a nothef world. Science is alwayss done in the real world.

  73. Xscience not divine revelation. Polling is ideolovical tool so manipulable because the science is so. Advanced

  74. You are questioning whethe
    r ppl know a. If they saw Salo b. Their own place of rezidence c. Their net worth d. Their profession or. Job.

    Ypu may claim you dont really know thst you dont love stpppard deep xown but ypu do know where you live nd what fil.s ypuve seen.

  75. You are questioning whethe
    r ppl know a. If they saw Salo b. Their own place of rezidence c. Their net worth d. Their profession or. Job.
    Ypu may claim you dont really know thst you dont love stpppard deep xown but ypu do know where you liveand what films youve seen.

    uve seen.

  76. john steppling says:

    Predicting an opening weekend is fine if the degree of error is a hundred thousand one way or another. If that passes as science, ok.

    But you’re right, I think science is as ideological as everything else. On that level. I mean its akin to IQ tests. The entire predication of most sociological data compilation is clearly open to bias. If you trust it, fine I guess. But I think its just egregiously wrong to attribute poll results as somehow indicative of what people really feel about anything.

    the opposition isnt willed ignorance or exit polls. Thats crazy. Belief in creationism is willed ignorance. Nobody suggests science isnt a great thing. I trust a good deal of my life to science. NOT to sociology though. Not to polling…..and research based on “feelings”. And actually, recent studies (sic) seem to show just how unreliable most advertising has been in predicting what people ‘desire’. This is historical though. I think the population in general has internalized a model of reality based on sociology…..and there are a set of beliefs connected to “answers” on questionnaires. Its the same as how people “learn” to take tests. They learn how to answer poll questions. Sure…you can count people leaving a theatre. You cannot ask them how they feel…did you “like” dark knight? even after your friend was shot? I mean….what sort of reliable answer can you expect? And Mary…..beyond that, how was the play?

  77. And if you really xont know what you think or feel about this stuff then why suppose we dizagree? WHY not juzt assume you really agree with everytbing other ppl say? my feeling is you re pretty sure of yr thpughtz and feelings about art and its only other people you believe are so lacking in self knowlwdge.

  78. There is ideolovical use of polling and its pozsible because there are advanced methpds. There are eays to get the data pne wantss in push polls brcause it isnt nonsense. Pf course there are ieological uses o research. But it is possible gor gould to debunk iq tests ybecause he has the science to show why ghey are bogus. The data can be analyzed scientifically. It s attitudes like yours that its all magic…goulds analysis as bogus as those he debunks…that permit sp much publuc proppagandistic bullshit to imfluence p

  79. Itattitudes like yours that make no distinction begween say thedata analysis gould uses to expose iq bullshit in mismd
    easure if man and the propagandistic nonsenss he debunks that preserve the ecficacy of tbe bellcyrvian crap. Its nit all magic. There is legit method if analyzing data and there is chicanery and ideoligical manipulation. One has to acknowledge the difference nit claim everything is unknowable.

  80. john steppling says:

    oh man, gotta get that computer. Ok…well, yeah, obviously. I just resist trusting in sociological models. There is a bureaucratizing built into those paradigms. And no…i mean the question is really about how one evaluates what one feels. I think Authoritarian Personality is a great book. But its also flawed because that model is so flawed. Anyway….yes, you can with legitimacy crunch data and arrive at certain conclusions. I dont know if its very good for really figuring out how people feel. Its the same with a trend in junk science….gene research…..the model is wrong. Smart people and the data is legitimate, but its in the service of something basically flawed. Thats all.

  81. I remember that Fred McMurray short! You and Guy and I all went I believe. Guy also took me to see The Shout at that little theatre, and the director was there to take questions. The Polish director.

    Anyway, I never forgot that McMurray short, or the one where Lee Marvin plays the punch drunk boxer who collapses and dies in the “Sanitary Cafe” in Downtown LA after eating his pudding. These were funded projects, but like you pointed out, made by artists because, well no reason, because. The REASONS for art i/e the linear notes in the DVD jacket, or interviews with the director etc……I guess it’s important to talk about how that has changed too…How the artist talks about their art.

  82. Sorry abt the typing.

    Television was more open to input by the artists fir many reasons but let us not overlook it is the artists whose class has changed ns with it commitments and perspectives. Tv writers and directors were pett y bourgeois and often newly so. Now spielberg cameron dick wolf and aarim spelling are ruling class. The artists arent just doing well. They are bigcapitalistsand they express their own wprries and affects. They fear taxes and easy picture government as nazis. They fear mobs.

  83. john steppling says:

    no, thats right. The artist class changed and the perfect example of that were those shorts. They were memorable. Im not sure those old guys who came up via the back lot and as copy boys….nick ray and sam fuller et al….not sure they were exactly petit bougeoise. But in any case, they’ve been superceded by the ruling class of Wolf, Bochco, speilberg ……… and they have deeply entrenched a new filmic vocabulary.

  84. Ainly prOkay …agreed there was an age of mass culture that was a kind of sanitized/adjusted popular culture where lots of good stuff got done on the lower budget ranges and even occasionally bigger budget…Spartacus for example. John Howard Law sons films seemto have consistently truthful and critical visions…I’ve become v interested in Sahara where the ‘snuck in Ldftiness s tually comes to overwhelm the war propaganda I ..think…although the original audience would have perceived this v differently than I do now. And the movie audience was more progressive then…this audience produced feminism and the civil rights movement and lots of prog politics.
    The claims that fascist culture product t is really communist do not stand up on examination. Consumers of Celine and other aggressively racist and misogynist culture are

  85. Plainly reproducing social relations of racist and sexist imperialist domination and exploitation. This is the reality that needs explaining and I think.its clear that avanguardias proposition about subversive art was simply wrong. Mass manipulations also are reactionary. Revolutionary and reactionary politics aren’t mirror images. Torture and mass manipulation are not tools for liberation. The avant-gardes notion of arts transformative capacities was profoundly idealist and reactionary which some artists .with left sympathies thought could just be tweeked to serve humanitys liberation. But the methods suitable for those who.wish to rule are not appropriate for the struggle of those who.wish.not to be ruled over.

  86. John Steppling says:

    I agree with the last two right up to the point where you say Avante-garde’s capacity for transformation was wrong. No, it wasnt. But ‘art” informs culture and vice versa….art isnt going to start revolutions. Ive said that several times. That doesnt mean its not transformative. I think a good deal of what this blog is devoted to the nature of how this works and why and etc.

    Art, (not just the avant garde of 1890 to 1960 or whatever you will) has been dialecitally a force in society — but in ways that are indirect at best. Reactionary? I mean this is where we go round and round. I hear what you’re saying….and again, I agree…..but I think when you say “methods’….i come up short. I mean this model you put out there is finally dimissive of so many aspects of culture……I said above, when I hear the difference…..what is going on that (for lack of a better word) when that awakens me, when a crack appears in the edifice of domination…..and clearly, as a teacher Ive found this to be the case with hundreds of others. What is that about? It starts to feel very blunt and heavy handed to talk ONLY in the terms you use. And it reduces poetics to very limiting ideological terms. Those terms are important…..I grant you. But its far too neat — its this impulse to make definitive what isnt….just isnt ,ever.

  87. Last thimg…if you arr not talking of use ehy makespceifi. Clsims. ….That its transformative? that is results. ..If he claim is art is useless then why is this moral jystificafipn. …Its awakening its subversive its transformative…always beung inserted. Art is useless. Its not therapy its not educatiin its nit propaanda yet. Irs not entertainment. This posture arises in the age of Bentham….it ismaking art the repository if the needs-no-justification human satisfaction rhat has beedemonised andmade all bur unintellligibl by utilitarianism nd capitalist imperativrs. Useful was obce the spiritual quality. It becomes antihumanity and the quality evacuated becpmes theystical attribute pf ART newly sanctified and begun tp seperate frpm banausic aspects. …Craft degraded ineffable elevated.

  88. The idea of utility was once at the core of communisticsl uropias…land of cockayne a ace where that which satifies human desires and needs is abundant and free flowing.with capitalism begins the notion that usefulnessis not abput satisfying our needs and desires as we are buttransforming our needs and drsires to better suit the ruling class who presents its interests as good and godly nd Reapn itself. The sanctificatipn og art and its definition as the opposite of utility coincides with this aggressive rejection of bodily meeds and also the transformatipn of associatipn of wealth with abundance tp the wralth derived from scarcity. This notion of art bothcompensates for and mirors the nrw capitalist hostility to abundanve leisure bodily satisfactions and ghe promotion if an idea of utility indifferent to human needs and pleasures.

  89. vitoria says:

    I think the disagreements between yourself and Molly exist in the realm of ontology. Molly once said to me that she no longer believed in it not long after we first started talking on twitter. I took this to mean that Molly had abandoned the metaphysical thinking that crept into Marxist thought through the Frankfurt School, although perhaps she can elaborate just in case I have misunderstood and at least it appears to me this is where the conflict lies in this long-running and rather fascinating discussion. So for her there’s a strict adherence to historical materialism; is it really necessary to contemplate the inner conflicts and motivations of actors when Brechtian drama, for instance, which is also interested in the transformative, eschews the subjective or personalities for an examination of the external factors that cause individuals to act? I note from the reviews that in Dog Mouth you utilise Shakespearean dramaturgical devices – i.e. explaining the inner thoughts of your characters.

    I too am interested in explaining the external factors rather than relying on the subjective which in turn relies on the author’s own subjectivity – and do the audience need inner motivations to be spelled out? Or do you pose a question… what would you do in this situation? It seems to me that the subjective can only ever be based on supposition, opinion, belief. I can see how that works in terms of how I as an individual am represented in the novel, theatre, film or advertising. I am constantly being called into existence based on someone else’s beliefs/prejudices etc – and the playwright and others usually have an agenda. It’s complex. For the most part I am assumed to be mute until called into existence to serve this agenda. In other words, I doubt this invention we call the self. It’s a very slippery and vague concept and the invention of the self is a relatively new concept. Bloom credits Shakespeare with the invention of the modern self.

    I’m interested in how you view narrative, particularly since reading the review of Dog Mouth which singles out its lack of plot. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on Dog Mouth as I’ve not seen the play nor read the script. Could you say more about this please.

  90. vitoria says:

    Re: The calling into existence by the playwright, author etc of my personhood is rarely sympathetic. It is for this reason I doubt that an other can ever represent who I am – this is to do with questions of race and the fact that when the slave entered the slave ships they emerged in the New World not as Africans with tribal identities intact but as blacks stripped of their culture. Similarly, I as a person of mixed heritage am assumed to be half white or half black depending on which end of the telescope you are looking at me even though black and white are inventions… in other words I disrupt the entire narrative of race. In cinema you will see either outright hostility to those like me – we must be destroyed or we can be co-opted but like blacks we experience constantly a form of social death at the hands of the novelist, playwright, film maker unless we are being called into existence to destabilise black identity. Again, the reasons for why I doubt the concept of self – this idea which claims universality and yet is unable to embrace blackness < the invention of blackness.

  91. Jesse W says:

    What a bunch of masturbatory rambling.

    “Coca Cola cans are not sarah kane. Both might be commodities, but you read them differently”
    “Art is always a reaction. Which is why its historically mediated.”
    “But ‘art” informs culture and vice versa…”

    There are more informed, less pretentious blogs out there boys and girls. This dude has the depth of an empty baby pool.

    “Now, a good deal of this is very good. In fact it echoes a lot of what I’ve written myself over the years.”

    And he’s full of himself.

  92. John Steppling says:

    Vitoria….yeah, Molly and I have gone round on this for years. And your description if about right I think. But let me address your questions if I can. First off, I probably would dispute the model of metaphysics creeping into Frankfurt School thought. I think it was always there, and they didn’t see it as metaphysical, exactly. The “strictly materialistic” is a term I find suspect in some respects. This is where I bring narrative into it, and also where I question some of the demarkations of subjective/objective. The subjective, you say, can only be based on supposition, opinion…etc. Etc. Well, the thing is, the “objective” seems exactly the same. Its simply a different narrative. This is where the entire Instrumental Reason discussion comes into it. This is the point Benjamin pointed to in his essay on Tragedy. The Platonic (Socratic) turn away from Dionysis and the demand for rationality — a transparency, science. That still begs all those questions of identity. This is my central argument with Molly — the idea that somehow materialism is concrete and when thats questioned….when you argue against materialists, the assumption is that science can be proven and the rest cant. metaphysics cant. —
    Science is provable on its own terms. Its great, I love real science, but its not an absolute in terms of history and certainly not in terms of culture. And again, I am sort of promoting a question to do with ‘narrative’…which always, or often, seems left out of discussions of, even, narrative forms of art. Of theatre, and film, etc. I dont see that what Shakespeare did was exactly have his characters talk about their inner feelings. Thats bloom. First off, a performance is a form of thinking. I love Kott’s essay on Lear in this respect. That moment of mad tom and gloucester on the heath….as Kott says, that truth (if you will) cannot be thought anyplace other than on stage..and in the audience. THAT is the heart of this I think. Performance Benjamin said, regarding Sophocles, was a presenting of something that was itself an exposing of the ‘real present’. Now, sure, this sounds pretty metaphysical and mystical even. That doesnt mean its not relevant….and it IS relevant because it keeps happening. I asked molly this, too. Why are we all talking about culture so much? Just for amusement purposes? Obviously not. Why is Sophocles still performed? Why is shakespeare? For enjoyment? Thats it?

    We would have to really dissect the word ‘enjoyment’ at that point. But…back to shakespeare and subjectivity — and ideas of transformative. Again molly answers transformative with hostility almost. Why ? Well, because a scientific materialist answer is being asked for. I mean its obvious to me that materialism has rather pronounced limits. And it has its own master narrative….which began with Plato. The more important watershed was the Enlightenment….which is where the Frankfurters come in. Its why they addressed the legacy of the enlightenment so often. I think Adorno’s project and his struggle, was with the fact that he wanted to be a materialist…and was, largely, but he loved art. This also fueled his hostility to mass culture. He made a remark once, that walking down the street badly whistling a tune was the same as children pulling on the tail of a dog to torment it.

    Now, what does one take from that? I guess what I have taken, and I think his Aesthetic Theory goes on at great length about this, is that the relationships, the dialectics of narrative, and objective/subjective…which is its own narrative…..have to be analysed in terms of both material conditions, AND what one might call metaphysics. Adorno’s writings on the mimetic are really exactly about this. Benjamin said (and adorno wrote about) that language was a non-representational mimesis. A link with otherness. The human capacity to reproduce resemblances….which for benjamin “the gift of seeing resemblances is nothing other than a rudiment of the powerful compulsion in former times to become and behave like something else”. This is what is interesting to me ……a process of producing similarities….rather than the similarities themselves……and as adorno added, the mimetic faculty hasnt withered…its only migrated from direct perception to a reading of correspondences into language. So…..in art, in narrative, there is always this residue of childhood experience and amnesia. And how that embedded itself into how we learn language. And this links my notions to Lacan. I think benjamin’s notions of aura link to adorno’s of mimesis. But mimesis as adorno had it, went much further and tried to address marx.

  93. John Steppling says:

    I guess I should add a bit more in an effort to clarify…..

    Mimesis of the dynamic curve of a work being performed. The play imitates itself. — but to really explain this is sort of its own proof that art is thought. Somewhere adorno actually said mimesis works against reification. Im not sure i even understand that, completely. But….the viewer, reader, audience, is assimilated in an attempt to embody (impossibly) the form-like tensions of the artwork. This is the question of what is ‘processual” in narrative. In art. So that “understanding” the artwork is not about, finally, explaining it.

    Now there is also this register where one sees that the repetition compulsion is connected to mimesis. How capital intersects is pretty fascinating….and as you say the racial narrative is interrupted when someone of mixed race is found in the construct…..and this is also where the commodity form enters. So, you (mixed race person) interrupts the commodity form narrative, the master discourse, on race and power. For me. this hasn’t much to do with subjective/objective. It has to do with the mimetic processural — in any particular work that is being disrupted. The ‘indefinable’ in art is connected to how cultures define beauty and meaning. The commodity form short circuits this processural — its why “plot” replaces narrative in the commodity form. It must be closed. The same way nature is resistant to focused concentration — and hence capital must created a kitsch package of nature that IS accomodating to a certain kind of attention. Thats obviously changing, i’d say. Attention is now a form of labor and accelerates at faster and faster cycles so that those kitsch packages have to be even more truncated. And this is the point where I think narrative disappears. There isnt space(sic) for narrative.

    Benjamin thought that to copy is to destroy the autonomy of the real. So….moving forward he said this was shy the subject falls silent in the work of art. I dont think I really agree with that, but I can see the implications I think. The “language ” of art, the codes of expression if you will, are not there to decode something…..they always remain allegorical. Which is why I think all theatre moves toward silence. But…thats another topic, really. — And its why the poetics of language matter. The Latinate declensions…..objects before subjects (as in Milton) allowed for a quality of the impossible…of never ending. So that even the language of commercials, and marketing, has followed a trajectory that meant scrubbing clean the allegorical and encourages a mimetic shut down. Wordsworth was already trending toward this. Donne wasnt. Shakespeare for sure wasnt. Those distinctions matter I believe, even in very political terms. And its exactly where the materialist reading is incomplete. I wrote somewhere about early photography….or people….and how the impossibility of a “knowing’ the narrative of those faces and people is what creates the uncanny. Modern photography has lost the uncanny because we know the biography of everyone in the photo. Or we can know. Or we think we know (!).

    In theatre, there was a real fork in the road after ibsen. One path led to beckett and kane and genet — and looking back to Von Kleist. The other led to john patrick shanley…..and TV cop shows. The mimetic, that which follows , or tries to follow, the tensions of the work…via character or story or setting, which engages with that somehow, is not in the service of, or attempting unity and integration — which is exactly what marketing does with every narrative they compose…..and this is why Adorno said kistch was an act of violence. And why that tune badly whistled is sadistic.

  94. I never believed in ontology.

  95. More later but two things nowi…id counsel wRines of an anachronistic and flattering platp. The man believed humanity was divided avcifdi.g to sohl qualities…udeas so y his wSherwomen must have llaughed between whetting the imaginary knives. Tqo i am hostille to notiion oc transgofmation but object too solipsist asstion thT the transfprmatipn expperienced by…white bourgeois mainly…individual readers if celibe is wrld historical and materially improves the condition if life of humanity. If anything this e clusive pleasure wld seem to strengrgen tbe status quo as it blds the confudence if the clerk class who administrr white supremacist rmpire anx it seems tp have convince
    penty of ppl that its pwn fasci and white suppremacy is virtupus and the pleasure its consumers. Take in imbibibg it amd affirmibg this virtue is a sacrifice theu make for the commonweal..

  96. Wont start replying to carol because she inundates me with emotipnal and sexual demands and when i refus e to comply she starts spewng the foulest abuse”the marxist bitch cobra ” an the whple reperatoire of scorned spaniel fury frpm my merry andrews stalkers whp apparently maintain a website to attack “Arpege chabert”. .

  97. Ack. Plato no scientist. Worse than common sense of his age. Am not hpstile to txfrmation. Just dont buy “man in the mirror” politics.

  98. The claim tbat celine serves a progressive agenda is an empirical claim one should expect to be asked to substantiate. Not like just sayin celine celebrates the triumph if the hu spirit or whatevrr (An interpretation)

  99. I dont deny art is good for consumers…transformative sometimes no dooubt. My poibt is to challenge the bourgeoois assumption that their interests are universal sofar as art goes. Organ traffic is transformative too but thdonor\sellr is differently rransformed than the apprppriatpr. We often see aesthes perform the extreme ofthis solipsism abput digicommoditirs. That their own experience of txfrmation has spmehow benefitted ppl wo only suffered and died or will do to produce the digital.

  100. john stepplig says:

    Ok…well, sadly, I cant make out enough of that first (of the latest) post…but will try to answer at least the last one. I dont remember saying anything about ‘universal’. So there’s that. I think you are playing with the ‘word’ transformative here. I mean seriously….organ trafficking? I mean if we want to discuss “transformative”…then we should delve into that word….which is perfectly reasonable.

    You seem to keep creating straw men here. But im not sure what you said in that first post. There is something slippary in this logic (if I can decipher what is written) in saying the engagement with an artwork somehow strengthens the status quo. Clearly sometimes it does, and sometimes it does the opposite, Id say; there is a tendency in your arguments to generalize the entire cultural output because you dont care about the distinctions. I dont even know how to address that. I cant in fact.

    One thing though, you presume that someone here is claiming that art improves the material conditions of a particular people, or anyone, in society. It doesnt. There….now we cleared that up.

  101. I think you are making arguments about individual experiences and I am arguing about institutions
    Eating peanuts kills the allergic. This doesn’t contradict facts about the peanut industry’s contribution to global nutrition.

    Okay. Last point: It is my belief that communist politics is the struggle to expropriate capitalist private property including artworks and the means of their production in order to improve humanity’s material life.

    So what progressive agenda does Celine serve? And how has it actually transformed anything?

  102. Often I suspect what is meant by the progressive or subversive politics of an artwork is simply that a basically nice person will feel entertained and have their sentiments affirmed in the consumption. Ppl like badiou claim to have undergone educations from consuming Beckett but I find that usually this is confined to adopting themes and tropes…that if you look back you find preexisting sympathies. I know I myself have felt that intense love if art that we come across and which seems to express very well intensely fully clearly what we already were convinced of. Thus the admiring consumers of lynch Lovecraft Ballard and houleebecq are mostly fascists in their views and adorers of Jackson pollack tend to be adherents of charismatic masculist individualism

  103. John Steppling says:

    Yeah, I’ve tried to answer that over the course of 102 entries on this thread. I cant find another way to say what I’m saying. The condescension about ‘masculinist’ politics however is just tedious and in bad faith — I think those generalizations are sort of pointless and just posturing. But I dont believe you care about art. Clearly. And I do. You endlessly make it of no importance…..that one artwork is the same as another. It is always accompanied by a slightly snide comparison…
    “eating peanuts….”…Because you DO write about insitutions. But in so doing you simply plaster over these distinctions, as if such distinctions simply don’t matter. Well, they do. NOT TO YOU…I got that. I believe they do. I was re reading a chunk of Aesthetic Theory this week…adorno. What struck me over and over was how for him, the distinctions mattered greatly. For without them…..you have a barbaric oppression of one sort…..or……..another.

  104. This is exactly what I was hunting for. I wanted something small, w/ good sound and portable. This docking station delivers. The sound grade is great considering how puny it is. Of course to much of anything is bad, so if you decide to turn it all the way up, you may blow the speakers. I dont think it was made to perform the whole community. It suits all i pods, even the iphone, and the best is that is doubles as a charger.

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