“Cinema brings the industrial revolution to the eye, ” writes Jonathan Beller, “and The Cinematic Mode of Production (Interfaces and millions of other books are. Jonathan Beller’s The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the tion theory of value,” Beller writes, “is the riddle of post-global capitalism. Beller’s major work, The Cinematic Mode of Production, proposes that cinema and its successor media.
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Thanks to Tanja Vrvilo and Film Mutations. The Jonathann Mode of Production is the term by which you seem to be introducing a new order of intelligibility into the historical experience of looking and, more broadly, living under capitalism.
What is the relationship between the capitalist mode of production and cinematic mode production? It neller to me what was really going on now, with the flattening of language, the disappearance of the real and the rise of simulation and virtuality, was a shift in not just the metaphysics but cinemattic physics of production.
If I learned anything at Duke and I did it was that social production and reproduction were not merely the unthought of the object world, but of the cultural world as well — and these relations were inflected by exigencies of temporality, scale, presence and spectacle as well as oppressionthat had everything to do with the systemic requirements of capitalist expansion. Cinema, as I argue in the book, is not an incidental technology but brings the industrial revolution to the eye and transforms looking by positing it as value-productive sensual labour.
This all sort of takes place in the unconscious operations cinemmatic the cinema as an industry. But, as I worked through the book, through revolutionary cinema, and simultaneously on another book about Philippine visual culture, I began to see that there were a lot of resistance practices in the visual which signaled prodyction kind of modf attempt to outflank capitalist accumulation strategies.
Cinema was actually entering into the visual space in a revolutionary mode and it had to be reformatted by capitalism as a way as of absorbing revolutionary energies and converting them into productive labour.
In your assessment of revolutionary cinema you have singled honathan Vertov and Eisenstein as major figures whose film practices did not fulfill their theoretical ambitions, but who recognized the visual sphere as a sight of revolutionary praxis and shaped our understanding of that which constitutes cinematic critique of capital and the revolutionary praxis.
In which way do their respective approaches differ from one another? One of the things I was trying to do with the idea of cinema was to de-fetishize the platform by raising questions about the materiality and social embeddedness of cinema through apparatus theory.
All these productio built for doing things with sight! I tend to understand that cinema is actually embedded deeply in myriad social practices — mechanical, cultural, economic, psychological, imaginal.
Its ontology, if you will, is political and social and it can only be understood as a change in the way that representation functions. Part of that change is that representation practices are now being jonarhan while also being turned towards value accumulation for capitalism.
Looking was labor and also exploited labor. The way I came to understand that was, strangely, through Eisenstein and Vertov. Their turn towards the visual as a sight of revolutionary praxis made produciton think about the necessity of moving into the space that was not yet necessarily foreclosed by the domination of capitalism.
It was actually the alternative that the visual provided which was an opportunity for revolution because it was still open in some ways — incompletely coded and colonized, at least jonatham the standpoint of today. Eisenstein and Vertov pursued this opening, which was sensual, affective, epistemological and utopian, according to their own, very different, visions of revolutionary struggle.
Vertov says that the film is the factory of facts. By being what Deleuze calls an eye in matter cinema can be everywhere in places, times and things and can bind itself cybernetically to human perception allowing people to perceive the totality of the socius as well honathan its processes of production. You can see all the perspectives of production while sitting in the theater and understand that not only is each person working in the part of city on a part bwller this or that, but also that cinnematic very consciousness that you are having in the cinema is a result of the collective industrial formation.
The fact is that he failed and the fact is that the whole dialectics of cinema was foreclosed — even by Eisenstein who had a very different practice, also incredible, but in some ways more conventional.
Hollywood was the one who was victorious. This Vertovian possibility was foreclosed precisely by the visual logic which became necessary, not as a supplement but as a central stage in the organization of the psyche and the social through visual understanding and the visual ordination of discourse and social practice. It was actually the first attempt to transform perception in a way which would enable people to see dialectically.
Against a vision able to discern the subjectivity impacted in our objects, reification and fetishism kind of won the day. The Vertovian opening was foreclosed and, when you think of it, it had to be foreclosed visually. Cinema as we know it was the revolutionizing of the productive forces that producfion bourgeois society its new life and current form. People are being introduced to the regime of commodity consumption and are educated to desire only commodities — items that are produftion as an answer to their problems but that in jonathhan only create more problems.
This was an avant-gardist practice, which without a doubt was radical in its way, but also quickly became kind of a reflexological Pavlovian paradigm for the emerging advertising industry. It could have democratic sensibilities but it move come from above in some ways and stood as an appropriation of technology by subjective agents that, to some extent, foreclosed other kinds of subjectivity.
The people are represented but did they create their own representation? Of course, that was always a problem with revolutions: Marx in the Capital does not determine labour in the immediate form as a source of wealth. The social substance of wealth or value in capitalism is abstract labour.
It does not matter whether this abstract labour can be traced back to labour-power expended in the process of production, or to the transfer of value of used means of production.
So, if we continue to treat abstract labour as the substance of value, then it is not clear why labour time can no longer be its intrinsic measure nor why production based on exchange value should necessarily collapse. I am lifting this already known objection addressed to the theorists of immaterial labour because in the course of your lecture you had pointed out that many of them hold the opinion that value has become immeasurable after which you expressed your disagreement with them on this matter.
Can you clarify your position vis-a-vis the problem of value? What I used in my talk yesterday and what I find important to think about is what Marx said about the price-form.
UPNE – The Cinematic Mode of Production: Jonathan Beller
The Price-form posits an abstract labour content, it posits value, to pretty much anything it can be assigned to regardless of the way in which that thing was actually produced. The value mods the thing priced may be real or imaginary but it can be treated as if it had abstract universal labour time.
To me and I may not answer this as well as I would like to in the given space and time the fact that price still continues to measure something implies that abstract universal labour time has not disappeared as a standard. It only disappears as a standard if you forget that underneath the global capitalist production, underneath that which I call the World Media-System, is radical, planet-wide dispossession and that dispossession is integrated from the bottom-up in relationship to the production of value.
The value-form is the dialectical antithesis of prodcution exploitation. It is the other side of alienated labor. From the most abject, and from the rest, wealth is bellfr by profiteers of the derivative. Theorists who treat commodity-form as an object, and observe that more and more people are no longer making jonsthan, conclude that labour must be immaterial and that there must be no temporal standard, no abstract universal labour time, constituting what are now, admittedly, very-difficult-to-identify commodities.
But if you think of commodity as an integrated product — made across a network rather than across an assembly prodiction — that is made of chunks of subjective time that are rebundled through a computational process — and capital, even without computers, is fundamentally such a process — you can see that human time, that is, sensual labor, or we could say attention or cognition, or neuro-powerstill underlines this system.
There is a need for the political project that would aim to articulate and track that process of separation and recombination. In this sense my commitment to abstract universal labour time is actually a political one. It makes it impossible to disavow exploitation, immiseration, and the Global South. Another distinguishing feature of your work in respect to aforementioned theorists is your emphasis on the role which the so-called Third World plays within the what you call World-Media System.
In which ways are the subalterns constitutive for cinemaric reproduction of capital? I want to register my complete disagreement that there is a fundamental —or indeed any — disconnection between colonialism, imperialism, and the contemporary system of global apartheid and the accumulation of wealth in the Global North.
As Joanthan said earlier, this is an integrated process bound together by the world media-system. What is not well researched is the way this integration functions and also that this functioning depends upon the continual disappearance and resignifying of what used to be called The Third World.
Our leaders would like to be able to signify on the surface of the global population in a way which would make legitimate, meaning to say produce legitimacy for requirements imposed by the sovereign banks and their states.
Often it comes down to securing the expansion of business practices for associates who have huge investments mmode them and necessitate a kind of market for weapons, for example or development for fossil fuels, say.
It includes legitimation of settler colonialism and drones, and the de-legitimation of refugees, historical victims of imperialist practices, and those most disastrously affected by climate change. These exploitative vectors of desiring practice are injected through the psychology and the intelligence of the globe, resignifying the minds and bodies of others. People, the masses, in my understanding are forced to labour in the image, images that are in fact the machines that organize social relations and sociality itself, or, they are forced to live beneath these images as refugees, terrorists, feminized victims, non-entities as a support network or signifying stratum, sometimes cinemqtic.
This may be an unavoidable practice to a moode extent because anyone who is enfranchised by the Global North is by definition beneficiary of the history of dispossession. Nevertheless, it is, I would cinfmatic, only responsible responsive and also politically astute to recognize this relationship and try to transcend it by engaging it mods a way which allows the creative agency of survival, that endures in proudction Global South, to be at once legible and resonant.
There is one additional dimension of this relationship which complicates things further: Every discursive instance has a politics to it. There are no isolated spaces that are somehow separated from global jjonathan — for us, at least.
The whole Virno idea of capital capturing our cognitive-linguistic capacities, brilliantly articulated in A Grammar of the Multitude, shows that the discursive ground itself has been captured by capitalist production, that we have become very good speakers for capital and that, no matter what else we do, prodcution very negotiation of our own survival is in part complicit with the system of accumulation that perpetuates hierarchical society.
I would heller that one thing that is demanded is a recognition that our own signifying practice at the most fundamental level depends upon the history of dispossession and the logic of it and that whatever we say, will say or might say owes something to the invisibility and porduction foreclosure of the representation of the exploited global poor past and present. Your account of capitalist capturing devices clearly affirms the position that our thoughts, imagination and bodily practices are being increasingly governed by bbeller ever-developing matrix of control.
Nevertheless, as you hinted earlier in the course of the interview, throughout your mod you have traced the emergence of all sorts of oppositional practices within cinematography.
Since they are given special emphasis in your analysis of the Philippine cinema, it would be interesting to know more about the ways in which it helped you to refine your theoretical framework and informed your subsequent work.
I went to Philippines for variety of reasons, but I saw my first two years there as an occasion to really test out ideas developed in the dissertation the first draft of The CMP and see how they stood up to what I felt as a kind of postcolonial critique of the things I was saying. My own dialectical practice had maybe just a little too much Eisenstein in it in some ways. In the Philippines I was faced on the daily basis with what for me was a jonathqn reality and I needed to change in order to understand things from there.
If the proletariat really is the subject of history, or a subject in the sphere of visual or cinematic culture, then it would be a terrible mistake to think that creativity resides primarily on the side of domination and on the side of power. I wanted to see if my ideas could in some ways redefine themselves in relation to that. My analysis started from my interest in the work of the preeminent Philippine modernist painter H.
He started out as a fiction writer and wrote a little known, serially-published novel called Scenes and Spaces jonayhan which productionn young main character ends up feeling humiliated and indeed unmanned by his experience in the English language classroom presided over by a female Ciematic teacher with whom he also fell in love.
Imperial project begun there in the moments before the Philippine-American War, and the young man begins to cultivate hallucinations as a kind of compensatory practice. These hallucinations, rising up sometime right out of the ground in the face of subjective and discursive failure, always provided some kind of revelation and transformation as well as sensual and intellectual pleasure.
Ocampo, the writer, stopped writing jonatjan became an abstract painter — he painted the hallucinations cultivated by the young protagonist belller Scenes and Spaces. That extraordinary formal innovation, which depended in part on being able to shift foreground into background and vice-versa, kept people from being locked into the set of discursive meanings that any way you mde it could only mean colonization, and therefore inferiority and secondarity.
In the subsequent creation of a national abstract art by numerous Filipino Modernists, the visual was opened up as a new space of freedom which was then contested radically on the one hand by the unbelievable movement of revolutionary cinema represented spurred by the people like Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon and others and fascistically on the other by the Marcos spectacle.
The social-realist filmmakers and with them a new group of social-realist painters launched an attempt to show moxe there was an abstract logic functioning within the concrete of visibility of social life, and that one had to go beyond the surface of mere appearances in order to understand the organizing force of the social in an intersubjective manner.
For the poor working-class protagonist, there was no answer on how to make produuction money in order to pay for the hospital care your lover needs without killing somebody else.
At the level of the socially given that compulsion to violence was the beoler thing that was there. Narratively however, stealing from a friend or killing somebody else in order to get the money you needed to survive led to your own destruction in the end, and often to the destruction of everything you loved.
Thinking a few steps further than reality allowed and envisioning social alternatives lodged a radical change inside of the visually concrete problems that were being presented.
The concept you use to elucidate your point on this matter is wager.
The Cinematic Mode of Production
What does the wager mean to you? As soon as you say that, then you are in situation which requires movement and then the question becomes where, when and how? The wager is also, and this is another part of it that is equally important, what you do to survive.
Brillante Mendoza has a really extraordinary film called Lola which is about two grandmothers who have grandsons. One grandson murders the other grandson and the murderer ends up in jail. These ordinarily invisible and unremarked personages are the subjects of the film.