Friday, 27 June 2008

Transsubjectivity: Digital Futures

I couldn't resist posting a picture of Hideo Kojima's appearance at a launch event for the latest instalment of Metal Gear Solid, where he took the stage to the strains of Joy Division's "Atmosphere" (Kojima is known to be a huge fan of their work, with part 2 of MGS subtitled "Substance". He also adores Stanley Kubrick).
This got me thinking about the possible cross-overs with film proper, particularly anime, so I then came across the work of Matt Hanson, which appears to challenge my preconceptions of these relationships. In his book The End of Celluloid, Hanson chronicles how filmmaking is being superseded by a "spectrum of moving image...The book presents an insight into these new styles infiltrating the mainstream, taking in film, animation, FMV and machinima (computer gaming animations), digital tv, pop promos, websites, PDA and PVP devices."
Ckeck out the roster of featured artists in the book:

Jonas Åkerlund (Spun)
Roger Avary (Rules of Attraction)
Matthew Barney (The Cremaster Cycle)
Danny Boyle (28 Days Later)
Chris Cunningham (Flex, Windowlicker)
Mike Figgis (Hotel, Timecode)
Grant Gee (Meeting People is Easy)
Lars von Trier (Idioterne)
Peter Greenaway (The Tulse Luper Suitcases)
Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid series)
David Lynch (Rabbits, The Third Place)
Koji Morimoto (Noiseman Sound Insect)
Hideo Nakata (Ringu)
Marc Evans (My Little Eye)
Ken Thain (Rebel Vs Thug)
Mark Neale (No Maps for these Territories)
Mamoru Oshii (Avalon)
Kinematic (9-11 Survivor)
Bill Viola (The Greeting, The Passions)
Kieran Evans & Paul Kelly (Finisterre)
C-Level (Endgames: Waco Resurrection)
Strange Company (Eschaton, Steelwight)
Richard Linklater (Waking Life)
Simon Pummell (Bodysong)
Fumita Ueda (Ico)
Shynola (Radiohead blips & music videos)
Kasuhisa Takenouchi (Interstella 5555)
Sabiston & Pallotta (Roadhead, Snack & Drink)
Janet Cardiff (The Telephone Call)
Andy & Larry Wachowski (Animatrix, The Matrix trilogy)

I don't know at present to what degree Hanson's work touches on the theoretical concerns of someone such as Sean Cubitt (not sure if he is like Ken Wark or not), or even, much to derridata's horror, the itinerant academic career of "Moodle", but anyway, here is a link to Hanson's blog, and below that, a quite lengthy lecture he delivered (poor audio quality though, so it requires patience to sit through it):
Finally, here is a taste of how Linklater's adaptation of A Scanner Darkly is treated as symptomatic of an emergent form of subjectivity, with reference to Arctor's speech, delivered while wearing his scramble suit (I suspect the gist of this approach is comparable to Scott Bukatman's recent book on special effects and subjectivity):
"There are a number of different ways to argue that the mind-game film is symptomatic of a relatively new conception of subjectivity - one that has emerged over the past 10 years and under the influences of technological restructurations and scientific preoccupations. This notion is usually assembled under the header of ‘the posthuman’, although it in fact has little to do with not-being-human-anymore. Posthumanist issues such as artificial intelligence and consciousness lead to a conception of the human individual that does not pose a break from humanity, but rather a move away from a historically-developed and culturally distinct sense of humanism which involves individuality, uniqueness, truth, objectivity, embodiment, freedom, will, and agency. Very much in line with the posthuman, Garrett Stewart proposes the term “postsubjective virtuality” for what happens in films akin to those I have mentioned, though for the underdetermination of images, perspectives, and validity that I take as determinants in my corpus, I prefer the term “transsubjective”.
This choice is partly in order to avoid confusion with the Lacanian and Lyotardan understanding of intersubjectivity as a social phenomenon of communication and meaning-production, and partly to emphasise the transferable, borderless, and unstable nature of subjectivity amidst the technological and psychological distortions of mind-game films.
Identity is the key arena for all these distortions to be played out: like many mind-game films, A Scanner Darkly is riddled with doppelganger motifs, counter-identities, amnesia, and split personalities. Without entering the realm of cyborgs, the questioning, fragmentation, and splitting of identities in A Scanner Darkly establishes a similar discussion of human identity, consciousness, and subjectivity. Arctor finds his identity muddled not only by the surveillance of himself he is forced to process, but also by the dwindling of his mental faculties due to the drugs he has himself become addicted to during his undercover narcotics investigation. All these internal and external influences contaminate any clear-cut, coherent sense of self; Arctor perfectly illustrates the posthuman notion, here phrased by Slavoj Žižek, that:
At the level of material reality (inclusive of the psychological
reality of “inner experience”) there is in effect no Self: the Self
is not the “inner kernel” of an organism, but a surface-effect. A
“true” human Self functions, in a sense, like a computer screen:
“What does a scanner see?”
what is “behind” it is nothing but a network of “selfless”
neuronal machinery.
In a fitting scene, Arctor delivers a work speech in his scramble suit, but suffers extreme discomfort halfway. His perceptions of the audience are truly caught in the prism of filmic representation: before the blur of his scramble suit, we see the markings “Live” and “HQ” within what is supposedly Arctor’s vision. Arctor’s subjective perceptions appear filtered by the panoptical reign of his employer; our perceptions of the film are filtered by its logic of surveillance and mediation".

“What does a scanner see?”
Techno-fascination and unreliability in the mind-game film

Laura Schuster

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