Thursday, September 15, 2011

[ 0 3 ] w a l t e r b e n j a m i n

Or, the work of art in an age of mechanical reproduction (the real title).

Good old Marxism. The fear being in this well written 10+ part article long ago is that our mechanical creations will begin to outthink the speed at which we actually comprehend things. This is a broad fear, but I feel like it should be so, because as there are so many ways that this event could happen there should be so many ways we as humans and even consumers we prepare for it.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is phrase that commonly ferments itself in my daily regiment, for one reason or another (the absence of things I love or like to do). This pertains to art in a significant manner. How are we to enjoy the art which entices us to critically think or surprise us with unseen mannerisms if it is perpetually there? It simply has a lesser effect from our instant accessibility to it, and thus, loss of the initial 'aura'. I believe before the broad spectrum of 'inventions' associated with mechanical reproduction, you had to walk in order to communicate and sit still to think. Now its quite the opposite : You walk in order to think and sit still in order to communicate. This is because the human has a inner need for identity and independence. If the railway allegory can carry us further from two weeks ago, we certainly are in this train together but with separate pods. You can only decorate your pod so entrapped before you break through the glass ceiling of what you know you have and venture out into a just-as-safe realm, exploring what you would have in nature.

This yearning for independence can be connected to one specific thing I feel : counter culture. Or rather, underrepresented groups who are in the need to make a certain name for themselves not to be 'a part' of this linked society of sitting still communication, but to reprove to humans over and over again you CAN communicate without sitting still. You can both think and communicate while moving. A specific subculture I might be in reference to it extreme sports, and for sake of limiting the playing field, skateboarding. For starters, how many people do you know who can execute an 'ollie' (jumping on the board)? Its difficult, yes? You know what makes it more difficult? The fact that there's no instant communication around. I feel, even though I'm of the field, mastery of digital arts and digital technology might come at a more laborious price but of less of a mental price tag. Those who master the skateboarding craft have an entitlement to a certain independence of themselves. Its a sport, but an alternative sport, so they aren't as commodified as Monday Night Football. Its a youthful activity, but how many youth are as nomadic as a Buddhist Monk? What I'm saying is, you can't reproduce a think like skateboarding so easily. It has a distinct aura which makes it immediately respectable and desirable. Then again...

Video game developers, the princes of their own love/
hate relationship with reproduction have managed a way.

...The train can veer itself around any corner (if you're in America; it goes straight in Europe) and present its self-perfect model for speaking to the masses of the world. This video game, or applications like Second Life or MMORPGs, do not present a model in which the machine thinks faster than the human. In fact, that might be the issue. In our technological advances, we've created from skateboarding, an activity where the mind and machine is equivalent in independent harmony, a digital form of it where the human mind is above the machine (its an easy game) and thinks it has propriety over the culture and physical craft as a whole. If its mass produced, it must be true! Far from the truth. Though I did take up skateboarding in reality myself as being influenced by this game. Though most people don't and accept the fantasy as truth.

Now then, the film as a psychoanalytic device, and how it moves at just the right speed we need it to-

James Stewart in Vertigo, at 24 FPS.

Photography? One FPS, if that. The mind likes to sit and analyze. A painting? One FPS just the same. Sculpture. Drawing. And now film... it moves at the speed at which we think. Constantly and intermittently changing from frame to frame an aesthetically and thoughtfully pleasing manner. You are challenged to think in depth my your own mind, but a good director will consider it is impossible to think in terms of frame. Thus, they need more so than a painter or sculptor to consider the element of composition. Instead of a 4x6 canvas, they have 90 minutes of a 1280x720 canvas (the current favorable dimensions for HD if I am not mistaken). The best films use this atmosphere of time and space while composing to their grandiose advantage. Kubrick in '2001' will stay on the same shot forever. Tarantino in 'Pulp Fiction' pisses on the idea of a linear narrative. And lets not even begin with German montage, which completely rejects the idea of a film thinking at the same pace of a human mind. What film is essentially doing is reproducing 'life' and our perception of it. Surreal films, like the above pictured Vertigo or cult favorite Brazil, tend to knowingly take consideration of film's thinking at a human pace and taking it a step further to warp our perceptions as they stand. The $20,000 question : Is this dangerous? That I don't even know. But aren't we too immersed to care? If a film is good, it will have taken the mind on a journey it cannot trace back to origin. If a film is bad, it will lose the person's attentiveness from lack of craft in editing. Simple enough for me.

I blame the economy for the dissipation of the movie theater. Its one big sliding-slope argument. The dollar is now worth less, so more people want to stay home. Nobody is paying money for the fourth installment of a character relevant in the 90s, so Hollywood digs deeper into the 80s and only then alone without innovating. The Futurists once said "war is good". If they had realized the effect on film art it has today, they might rethink their claims. War has cost us billions in surplus from the year 2003. We are now in debt. While I'm sure war isn't the only reason we are in debt, its an easy comparison to this idea of mechanical reproduction. Reproducing weapons... but to what effect on art? The aura of living? We've already seen it from the evidence of Hollywood moving home to the TV or Netflix : the war created overseas physically is being created home mentally. The aura is steps in front of us, and thus very limited, because of instant access and because of fear that what might be out there is a pipe bomb waiting to go off and ruin what took years to build aesthetically. Gone is the community discussing art face to face. With respect and without anonymity.

Lets have a long chat about this film... On my couch.

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