Marxist Cityscapes in Eastern European Cinema
Karl Marx (and Friedrich Engels) were first and foremost fierce critics of capitalism and gave little clues as to what form exactly would the communist society take in its material manifestation, in terms of its built (urban) living environment. Inspired by Marxist ideas of egalitarianism, the pre- and post-Stalinist urban planning in Soviet Union prescribed the construction of standardized apartments on a massive scale, resulting in large state housing estates filled with buildings that became infamously known as the Soviet bloc blocks. However, as observed by numerous urban historians, and experienced first-hand by millions of people in the former Eastern Bloc, it is still disputable if these egalitarian aspirations did in fact lead to a more homogeneous and collective-minded society. This talk will explore, first, representations of these housing estates in the late-socialist Eastern European cinemas by directors such as Vera Chytilová, Béla Tarr, and Krzysztof Kieślowski, as this was the period when the consequences – both desired and undesired – of Soviet-style planning policies became most clearly apparent. Secondly, it will also examine this terrain in the post-socialist films by, for example, Veiko Õunpuu and Lukas Moodysson, that demonstrate the fate of those estates, as well as of their inhabitants, after the transition to capitalism.
Work as entanglement as realism: From a physical ontology to a post-Marxist politics of digital cinema
In her monograph, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, feminist physicist Karen Barad walks her reader through the full ramifications of Niels Bohr’s theory of reality as being defined by complementarity. That is, the book’s argument is that humans are not separate from the world that surrounds them, but in fact are complementary to it, in that human and world complement and co-constitute each other.
The cinematograph, meanwhile, functions as the next in a line of technologies used supposedly to separate humans from reality in the search for an objective recording thereof. Indeed, in their history of objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison place proto-filmmaker Étienne-Jules Marey front and centre in expressing how the photographic media more generally were supposed to provide us with access to the real like never before.
Furthermore, there is a history of theories of cinematic realism, including by Siegfriend Kracauer and André Bazin, which argue for the realism of the photographic and of the cinematographic image, in part as a result of the analogue image’s indexical link to reality.
As is widely known, this indexical link of the image to reality is broken in the digital age. However, rather than being a reason to doubt the realism of the digital image, I wish to suggest here that the digital image mirrors the complementary, or entangled, ontology that Barad suggests, and that this marks a radical break from the scientistic belief in the possibility of objective realism. Relating this physical ontology to post-Marxist conceptions of the multitude, I shall then suggest that digital cinema can and often does suggest/reflect an entangled reality of the multitude, thereby renewing our belief in the prospects for democracy.
William Brown is a Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of Roehampton, London. He is the author of Supercinema: Film-Philosophy for the Digital Age (Berghahn, 2013) and, with Dina Iordanova and Leshu Torchin, of Moving People, Moving Images: Cinema and Trafficking in the New Europe (St Andrews Film Studies, 2010). He is the co-editor, with David Martin-Jones, of Deleuze and Film (Edinburgh University Press, 2012). He has also made several zero-budget films using digital technology. His current research is leading towards a monograph entitled Non-Cinema: Global Digital Filmmaking and the Multitude.
The Loach Method
For almost five decades Ken Loach has been directing films and television programmes at the highest level. A considerable body of critical work on Loach has been amassed, but absent from this work is a detailed analysis of his working methods. This paper is based on research conducted into the making of The Angels’ Share (Loach, 2012). The research involved participant observation of all aspects of the production process – production meetings, the shoot and edit etc. – and is supplemented by extensive interviews with key production staff and cast. Exploring the tension between Loach’s status as a celebrated auteur and his claims for the importance of collectivism in filmmaking, the paper aims to chart Loach’s working methods, illuminate understanding of his extensive televisual and cinematic output, and bring a fresh perspective to academic debates concerning authorship in cinema and television. By doing so, the paper will illustrate and advocate Production Studies’ value to Film and Television Studies. The paper will be accompanied by filmed footage of the production process, shot on-location by the presenter.
David Archibald is Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Glasgow. His publications include The War That Won't Die: the Spanish Civil War in Cinema and numerous essays on the relationship between visual media and politics. He also recently completed a short film on Scotland and the First World War in Cinema with María Vélez-Serna
The Ambiguous Politics of Contemporary Greek Cinema: Dogtooth (Lanthimos, 2009) and Wasted Youth (Papadimitropoulos/Vogel, 2011)
It is not difficult to detect in Dogtooth’s attack on the nuclear family structure a critique of an incestuous, corrupt Greek statism. The pater familias is in charge of the means of production and has the absolute monopoly on supplies. But a problem arises here. Whilst it would be an arduous task to deny the problems of corruption and clientelism of the Greek state, it is on the
basis of such a critique of public and state institutions that the governments of the past years justified the imposition of neoliberal strategies of privatizations, free-market policies and austerity measures. Wasted Youth, instead, presents families that are not hermetic, but embedded in society. The protagonists are not the educated bourgeoisie but the working classes. Wasted Youth addresses systemic problems of poverty, unemployment and institutional violence head on. Cinema can play a significant role in registering, as well as shaping, Greek society’s experience of the ongoing crisis. As opposed to the much less celebrated Wasted Youth, Dogtooth, I contend, does not provide a useful critique of neoliberalism, reproducing, instead, a naturalising rhetoric for the continuation of austerity.
Rosa Barotsi is a Fellow at the Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry. She received her PhD in European Cinema from the University of Cambridge, UK, with a thesis on Slow Cinema. Rosa is interested in how political meaning is created, conditioned, and reshaped by social and institutional contexts in contemporary cinema.
‘Marxism and Science Fiction: “Alienation” in P. K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.’
My paper will consider the science fiction stories of Philip K. Dick from the standpoint of the theory of alienation set out by the young Marx in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. I will focus on Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and will also say something about its cinematic representation in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In Electric Sheep Dick suggests, initially, that there is a difference in kind rather than of degree between human beings (Rick Deckard), on the one hand and androids or replicants (Roy Baty) on the other. Dick associates being human with a capacity for empathy, emotions and caring for “others” (including non-human animals), whoever or whatever those others are. He also suggests that these things are the basis of ethics and of ethical Life. In his view, by nature human beings are “ethical” beings and a human life is an ethical life. In the novel Dick starts by contrasting this with the “life,” or at least the condition, of an android or replicant, which being a machine or machine-like, and therefore more like a thing or an object than a human being, lacks this capacity. In the novel androids are initially presented to the reader as not human. Dick suggests, initially, that they are not ethical beings and do not live an ethical life. They have no moral standing: no rights and no duties. When Deckard “retires” them, therefore, no ethical issues are involved. These initial assumptions are subjected to scrutiny throughout the novel, as the events portrayed within it unfold, in the course of which Rick Deckard’s lack of humanity is emphasised and the “humanity” of Roy Baty is established.
Dick implies that this initial way of thinking about the relationships that exist between human beings and replicants is a metaphor for the way in which, in contemporary society, human beings relate to one another. There is a tendency in that society for human beings to treat one another as if they are not human – as if they are inanimate “objects” or “things,” lacking in ethical status or standing. I shall argue that this brings Dick close to the thinking of the young Marx. For this is precisely what the young Marx has in mind when he talks about the “alienation of man from man” in the Manuscripts. We can, therefore, connect the ideas that underpin Dick’s novel to a sociological thesis which asserts that there is something about modern society, or about a specifically capitalist society, which creates social relations of this type: which leads to the dehumanization, “objectification” and “enslavement” of human beings, or of one entire class of human beings by another. According to this reading, Dick’s novel can be read as a story which deals with the broad theme of slavery and human emancipation, within which alienation is overcome and the essential humanity of both the “master” and the “slave” is affirmed.
Although my main focus will be on Dick’s novel, I shall also say something about its cinematic depiction in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and about the relationship which exists between the two works.Many of the themes addressed are the same. There are, however, also significant differences between them, one of which is the fact that central to the novel, but not to the film, is Dick’s interest in the relationship which exists between human beings and non-human animals.
Tony Burns is a member of staff in the School of Politics & International Relations at the University of Nottingham. He researches in the broad area of political theory or history of political thought, but has published in particular on science fiction and the history of utopian/dystopian literature and film.
Cinema and Capital: from reification to deterritorialization
In this paper I want to examine the conceptual relation between cinema and capital. To do so, I compare Guy Debord’s concept of spectacle with Deleuze’s concept of time-image, and argue that the latter offers a more suitable framework from where to think the capital-cinema relation in contemporary capitalism. According to Debord, capitalist society consists of a large accumulation of spectacles. These spectacles are defined by representation and abstraction. As such, they respond to the internal structure of the commodity form. Since every experience becomes an image, cinema appears as the most adequate medium to express this generalised reification. Deleuze’s time-image allows thinking the relation between capital and cinema from a perspective neglected in Debord’s critique of the spectacle: the perspective of movement. For Deleuze, capitalism is defined by its deterritorializing nature. Deleuze understands capital as a surface of inscription where social flows are recorded, a surface of inscription characterised by its permanent movement. Moreover, Deleuze’s concept of time-image allows connecting capital and cinema from the perspective of deterritorialization and movement: capital is not a mere abstraction or reification of reality, but a surface of recording which, like cinema, inscribes reality on a moving image. To develop this argument, this presentation will examine Eisenstein’s notes on his never-produced film version of Capital, and Debord’s own film Society of Spectacle.
Claudio Celis is a final year PhD student in Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Philosophy, a Master’s degree in Film Theory, and a Bachelor’s degree in Art Theory from Universidad de Chile. His current research focuses on the relationship between images, temporality, and power in contemporary capitalism.
In 1927, Eisenstein conceived an impossible project, to film Karl Marx's Capital, which indeed he abandoned. Eighty years later, Alexander Kluge took up the challenge and produced a mammoth film essay, News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx/Eisenstein/Capital, which takes up where Eisenstein left off. This paper considers the extraordinary results.
Michael Chanan is a seasoned documentarist, writer and Professor of Film & Video at the University of Roehampton, London. He has been involved in radical film practices since the 1970s. His writings and videos can be found at www.mchanan.com and he blogs at Putney Debater (www.putneydebater.com).
Awakening in ruins: the virtual spectacle of the end of the city in video games
With reference to Walter Benjamin’s work on Nineteenth Century Paris, and Debord’s work on the spectacle, this paper argues that the depiction of ruined cities in video games – as virtual ruins of the present – simultaneously generates the empty novelty of the commodity (the reproduced spectacle); and a vision of failed progress (a stilled moment in the perpetual catastrophe of history). Despite his departure from Marx’s historical materialism, marked most clearly in Convolute N of The Arcades Project, Benjamin frequently returned to the notion of phantasmagoria in an attempt to reach a critical understanding of the commodification of everyday life and experience as a kind of illusory capitalist dreamworld.
One means of understanding Benjamin’s dreamworld of modernity is through ruins and rubble - not only as material remnants (obsolete arcades), but in other visual or artistic forms that might reveal the illusion of progress as a fallacy, and invite a destructive gaze to combat the powerful reduction of experience brought about by the emergence of an urban-focused commodity capitalism. This paper argues that, if cities can be read as dreamworlds, and films, art and ruination as the means for awakening; urban destruction in the virtual sphere can provide a counter to the collective dream of eternal progress. Finally, this paper expands urban and screen-oriented readings of Walter Benjamin’s writing, and Debord’s Marxist-derived conceptualization of the spectator, to contrast the shallow commodification of urban decay in video games against the productive, critical potential of ruins as they appear in virtual renderings of the end of the city.
Emma Fraser is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Manchester. Her current research is centered on urban and ruin imaginaries, and spatiality, in video games. She has previously written about Paris, Berlin, Detroit, and Sydney in relation to Walter Benjamin’s critical theory, ruins, and the urban obsolete.
Walter Benjamin on Film: Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom
Walter Benjamin, understands film as part of his politically oriented, historical materialist aesthetic theory and is emblematic of his interest in mass culture from a Marxist perspective. His overall political concern was to focus on the victims rather than the victors through a redemption of the class struggles of the past, to expose their ‘courage, humour, cunning and fortitude’, as an aid to help emancipation in the present. Film relates to this political desire as a new form of technology that offers a major ‘fracture in artistic formations’ because ‘a new realm of consciousness’ emerges in the minds of the masses. Against fascism, ‘communism replies by politicizing art’ and so offers the possibility of a redemption of the past and hope for the future. I explore these and aligned themes in the Cannes award-winning film Land and Freedom (1995) set at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and directed by the avowed socialist and anti-establishment director Ken Loach. The ‘shock effect’ of the film both educates and asks us to evaluate one of the major class struggles in history, both in terms of actions and theories about resistance and the possibility of creating a communist society. Defeating fascism not just as it was in the past but in its seemingly innocuous but still potent forms in the world today, resonates both from the film and in Benjamin’s understanding of the medium as a vehicle for social change.
Ian Fraser is Senior Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Politics, History and International Relations, Loughborough University, UK. He is currently writing his forthcoming book, Political Theory and Film: From Adorno to Žižek (2016) and is the author of: Identity, Politics and the Novel: The Aesthetic Moment (2013).
Conceptualizing Film History as History of Sensorial Perception: Problems and Answers in Marxist Thoughts
As commonly known, Marx’ “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844” brings up the question how the historical mode of perception has changed by the fundamental rupture within the materialistic conditions in the industrial age. Going beyond this general understanding, my paper intends to outline a rereading of these manuscripts as a programmatic text for the study of modern, especially visual culture.
At first, I would like to discuss the status of the senses in Marx’ thinking and by doing so how he conceptualizes the perceptual relationship between subject and its surrounding lifeworld. Secondly, I would like to trace the reverberation of his thoughts in the writings of Walter Benjamin as well as Theodor W. Adorno. Thirdly, my paper discusses the main objections raised by Noël Carroll as well as David Bordwell. In my view, both film theorists have reduced and vulgarized the original complexity of the argument, and by doing so have led to its unfortunate dismissal in current film theory. Concluding my paper, I would like put my theoretical model of Sensorial Regime up for a discussion that wishes to revitalize the investigation of the forming of sensorial perception through film technology.
Johannes Geng is a PhD-student at the International Postgraduate Program "Performance and Media Studies" at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. His dissertation has the working title “Film technology – Power – Perception. Towards a detection of Sensorial Regimes in Film History”. He holds an MA (Magister Artium) in Film Studies and Studies of Mass Communication from Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz.
Jancsó, before and after the breakdown
Hungarian master Miklós Jancsó’s Hungarian Rhapsody / Magyar rapszódia and Allegro barbaro, two features internationally premiered in 1979 (and separated from his previous feature, the ill-received, mainly Italian production Private Vices, Public Virtues / Vizi privati, pubbliche virtù, by a three-year pause, uncustomarily long for Jancsó) were announced as the first two parts of a trilogy. The third film was never completed. Instead, Jancsó made The Tyrant’s Heart / A zsarnok szíve, avagy Boccaccio Magyarországon, which, appearing in 1981, signalled Jancsó’s break with the great project he had been running since 1966’s The Round-Up / Szegénylegéniek. That project had been one of sustained, dialectical inquiry, from a New Left perspective, into the mechanisms by which power turns oppressive, and into the possibility of universal emancipation. Singular in its (evolving) aesthetic form, informed by critical Marxism (in various experimental fusions with selected late ’60s “countercultural” ideas), this contribution to what has been called “political modernism” or “historical-materialist cinema” was all the more outstanding for originating in an officially socialist country. Using as an entry point the moment in the late ’70s when Jancsó could no longer sustain that project, my paper will survey both the earlier achievement and the much-lesser known, immediately-after-the-breakdown phase, looking at Jancsó’s political disillusionment in a local, regional and international context, and discussing its artistic manifestations.
Dr. Andrei Gorzo studied film history and film theory at Bucharest’s National University of Theatre and Film (UNATC) and at New York University. He is currently a lecturer in Film Studies at the UNATC. His study of the New Romanian Cinema, Lucruri care nu pot fi spuse altfel: Un mod de a gândi cinemaul, de la André Bazin la Cristi Puiu, was published by Humanitas Press (2012). At Tact Press he has recently coedited (with Andrei State) a collection of essays entitled Politicile filmului: Contribuții la interpretarea cinemaului românesc contemporan (2014).
An Imperfect Pedagogy of the Oppressed: The Need for Julio García Espinosa and Paolo Freire in the Era of Digital Video
‘Art must assimilate its quota of work, so that work can assimilate its quota of art.’
Julio García Espinosa
In 1969, Cuban filmmaker and theorist Julio García Espinosa wrote ‘For an Imperfect Cinema’, an essay that was widely read and equally widely misunderstood, as he acknowledged 15 years later. Although he begins by cautioning against Third World filmmakers trying to achieve the technical polish of Hollywood and other developed industrial cinemas, the point most picked up upon by scholars who characterized García Espinosa as advocating the making of ‘bad films’, most of the essay is about the need for commitment in cinema and the other arts. García Espinosa accepts at face value the Kantian notion that art should be ‘disinterested’. He then goes on to argue, however, that until art ceases to be the privilege of an elite few, the artist must necessarily be committed to changing society to reverse this situation, both as an act of social justice and in order that art can recover its essential disinterestedness. He describes imperfect cinema as ‘a poetics whose true goal will be to commit suicide, to disappear as such’.
García Espinosa speculates that social and technological advances may make this democratization of artistic production possible, and he notes that there are signs of this happening already. This paper will argue that García Espinosa’s arguments about ‘imperfection’ are not only still relevant but even necessary today. While the technology of audio-visual production has become more or less democratized, social development has proceeded in the opposite direction. This parting of the ways has been obfuscated by the omnipresence of bromides ascribing an automatic democratic effect to digital media. Furthermore, consumers and potential producers of audiovisual media are conditioned more than ever to focus solely on technique and technology, in the manner Theodor Adorno describes in his ‘The Schema of Mass Culture’.
Freeing potential makers of audiovisual media—that is, all of humanity—from a sense of impotence in the face of the overwhelming technique and technology of mainstream cinema and television so that they can use these tools for social transformation requires a new pedagogy for digital video, one that discourages approximating inherently ideological technical conventions, as García Espinosa insists, and is based instead on Paolo Freire’s ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’. Such a pedagogy would emphasize instead dialog and praxis (reflection followed by active engagement). The term ‘critical thinking’, so central to Freire’s thought, is currently met with suspicion if not open resistance in the UK and the USA in particular. This is because, on the one hand, a vague and politically vitiated version of the term has been circulating for years in liberal discourse on education, and, on the other, reactionary foes of public education correctly see it as a legacy of the post-1968 era of rebellion against all established orders. Despite this state of affairs, I will argue that there is currently an aperture for such a pedagogy to establish itself within secondary and higher education while evading ideological scrutiny; after all, what administrator is not enamored with digital humanities and digital video more generally? As befits a paper dedicated in part to pedagogy through dialogue, I will include the thoughts on imperfect cinema and digital video of the students in our current module on history and theory of New Latin American Cinema.
Dennis Hanlon’s research explores the transnational articulations among Latin American, European, and South Asian cinemas, with a particular focus on Third Cinema. His dissertation on Bolivian filmmaker-theorist Jorge Sanjinés, which he is currently revising as a monograph, was awarded the Graduate Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award by the University of Iowa, where he received his PhD in 2009.
Leftist Cinema Clubs – an alternative solution for distributing films
In Hungary, as everywhere in Europe, in the last decades the local, familiar cinemas were closed due to different reasons, like opening huge new movies in the commercial plaza, the effect of the DVD, internet, etc. Most of the cinemas are owned by huge foreign corporations, which mean that Hollywood dominates the program. My intervention would be to present some positive examples for the alternative distribution of films with valuable artistic or/and political content. The “art kino” had been a rather popular form of small cinemas, mostly in the cities with bigger student population. In most places they were closed when turning to Capitalism, but in some cities the city council saved them by sponsoring their survival. It can be clearly shown that where they remained, the general need for non-Hollywood films is still stronger. Other way is to maintain Leftist Cinema Clubs, where mostly politically valuable films are shown, followed by debates, which are sometimes longer as the films. I would like to show the activity of two such clubs in details: the biweekly cinema club of the Le Monde Diplomatique Hongrie (Hungarian edition of the French magazine, but more leftist than the original one) and the monthly club of the Hungarian Left Party (something like Die Linke, but sadly enough far smaller party). I’d like to present my personal experiences on the debates, together with the program of the clubs .the democratic way of selecting the films, and the technical and film rights issues.
Gyula Hegyi is a Hungarian politician and a former Member of the European Parliament for the Hungarian Socialist Party. He published some thousand articles on culture and politics in Hungarian dailies and weeklies and he also wrote nine books: three collections of verses, six collections of essays and other articles
Screening the Roma: the Roma, Sinti and nomadic groups in contemporary Italian cinema
This paper examines the representation of specific subaltern groups – the Roma, Sinti and nomads – within Italian full-length fiction films from the 1990s to the present, using writings on subalternity and hegemony by Marxist theorists including Gayatri Spivak and Mike Wayne as its theoretical basis. Points of comparison include the body of Italian documentary work – 30 films – produced since the new millennium, and also transnational productions by Tony Gatlif and Emir Kusturica that feature gypsy/Romani lifestyles. Because of low budgets and access problems, documentaries often fail to explore problematic issues within Roma communities such as patriarchal structures, the proximity of Roma camps to environmental hazards, and forced adoptions. Film-makers such as Gatlif have been accused of promoting a folkloric, romanticized vision of Roma culture. By contrast, recent Italian full-length fiction such as Peter Marcias’s Dimmi che destino avrò/My Destiny (2012) has successfully traced the micro-level implications of political phenomena such as the Berlusconi government’s opportunistic “Nomad Emergency”, and also the spatial marginalization of the Roma. Nevertheless, many mainstream narratives remain anchored to an orientalist vision of Roma women as an alluring ‘Other’, and this suggests that more progressive, emancipatory projects will only evolve through the Roma assuming a greater degree of creative control in the film-making process.
William Hope gained a doctorate in Italian Studies at the University of Birmingham (G.B.) and is a lecturer in Italian language and cinema at the University of Salford (G.B.). He is a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Studies in European Cinema and is an Advisory Board member of the ‘Moving Texts’ book series published by Peter Lang and co-ordinated by the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. He is also the co-ordinator of the international research project A New Italian Political Cinema?, financed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He has delivered numerous invited lectures including the keynote address ‘21st Century Italian Cinema: Strategies of Repoliticization’, at the annual conference of Association for the Study of Modern Italy in November 2012. His publications include the volumes Curzio Malaparte – The Narrative Contract Strained (2000); Italian Cinema – New Directions (2005); Giuseppe Tornatore: Emotion, Cognition, Cinema (2006); Italian Film Directors in the New Millennium (2010).
Audio-vision in film: Its role in the production of space
Michel Chion maintains that we do not see and hear film instead we hear/see it. What is seen in film is altered by what is heard and what is heard is altered by what is seen. This paper considers whether Chion’s model of audio-vision can aid an economic and political interpretation of film. The analysis reflects on the implementation of a number of audio visual technologies together with the economic and political impetus behind their introduction and use. This historical account ranges from the advent of sound on film through to the recent Dolby Atmos system. The paper describes how audio-vision of film changes the experience of space and reflects on the consequences of such a process for any consideration of everyday space. This examination considers how this experience of space is related to Henri Lefebvre’s account of everyday space with the structures of economic and political power producing and reproducing everyday space.
Fuck Underground: Marshall Mathers, Marx and Mainstream
Mainstream remains one of the most important notions in Marxism and politically engaged directors like Jean-Luc Godard or Dusan Makavejev are often accused of making films about workers that are too elitist to gain workers attention. Mainstream is also used by hip-hop scholars and artists, although more as an invective than a sign of appreciation.
Eminem aka Marshall Mathers is usually considered to be the most mainstream of all rappers, to the point that appreciating his music became a kind of guilty pleasure that will not get the admirer ‘street credits’. Generally speaking, it is not cool to talk about Eminem nowadays. The exceptions are videos that the most famous rapper from Detroit made in collaboration with other rappers and in which he presents his freestyle skills and raps about his city.
‘Shady Cypher’ and ‘Detroit vs. Everybody’ present rough side of Detroit, Eminem and rap generally by going back to basic, emotional and improvisational hip-hop freestyle. In this paper I will present Eminem vs. Everybody struggle to gain and attain street credits through similar struggle by French Marxist philosopher, Henri Lefebvre, who, excluded from the French Communist Party, criticized it for being ‘too mainstream’ and focused on preserving Marx’s tradition rather than developing it. Having falling out with avant-garde group Situationists International, on the other hand, Lefebvre described them as being too avant-garde to the point of forgetting everyday life. Using Lefebvre’s academic path as a guidance I will present Eminem’s career as a meditation on the difference between mainstream and avant-garde.
How should Marxists assess the computer game as a new cultural form?
Marxism is a developed theoretical discourse operative in several potentially relevant domains. It has a developed critique of the mediatisation of culture and the idea of a manipulative ‘culture industry’. It has a cultural politics that emphasizes the ideological character of representation and decodes media objects to highlight their role in reproducing social relations based on domination and exploitation. It has a sociology of art that emphasises the historical situation of artistic creativity in different modes of production. In this paper I will explore each of these modalities of Marxist analysis to test their limitations in connection with computer games. Mediatisation: computer games do not conform to the definition of manipulative, mass market media entertainments. They demand active, intelligent responses from their players and above all they offer experiences that do not normalize contemporary social relations but rather offer the extraordinary and extreme as something everyone should aspire to, something that perhaps defines the generalized psychosis of our time (Dardot and Laval 2013). While they seem to be the definitive cultural commodity of late capitalism, then, video games demand to be analysed specifically in terms of their aesthetic properties. Representation: Neo-liberal capitalism has created a condition that is post-ideological, in which attitudes and dispositions that adjust people to participation in the capitalist game are sedimented in populations – everyone is a self-interested entrepreneur and this is basic, unquestionable reality. In light of this, I will argue that rather than reading off ideological contents from games as if they were traditional texts, the appropriate focus of a Marxist analysis should be their relation to contemporary forms of subjectification. Production: Employees in the games industry are in many ways more like Bohemian artists than the blue-collar factory worker of old (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005). Marxism has a lot to say to this group but at the moment the message is somewhat scrambled. Followers of the theory of multitude and empire draw attention to the contradictions of ‘immaterial labour’ (Hardt and Negri 2000, 2005; Lazzarotto 2014) but this leads to no satisfactory critical praxis. What is clear from the above is that computer games reflect and allegoricise the contemporary work experience in various ways. I will ask how can Marxism take hold of this – what would a revolutionary game look like?
Graeme Kirkpatrick is Professor of Media Arts, Aesthetics and Narration at the University of Skövde. He has written about computer games, aesthetics and the contemporary social imaginary. His current work focuses on the meanings of ‘critique’; contemporary subjectification, and a defence of humanism against anti- and post-humanist positions.
Is there a film of national liberation struggle? The case of Yugoslavia and beyond
The lecture will reconstruct –through Benjaminian lenses– the ambivalent existence of the partisan film within the national liberation struggle during WW2, in Yugoslavia. Contrary to the post-war dominant genre platform – in 40 years around 200 films on the partisan struggle were shot – I am interested in much more hidden history of national liberation filmic activity. Very few theoretical sources on the topic exist, which makes reconstruction necessary but also more difficult for different additional reasons: firstly, most of the partisan films were lost, destroyed or are now scattered around different archives. Secondly, from a more theoretical perspective, partisan films were labelled simply as “partisan (film) documents”, which took away any aesthetical value and missed the point about the richness of the material and transformed conditions, in which partisan art and film, participated. I will analyse the role of partisan art and film in the struggle, which will emphasize the film as embodiment of the revolutionary promise and then present some of partisan film works concluding with the question of the politicisation of the archive, and its potential alignment with other experiences in the anticolonial struggles.
Gal Kirn is a political philosopher based in Berlin. He received his PhD in political philosophy on the University of Nova Gorica (Slovenia) and is engaged in topics of (post)socialist transition at the Workers'-Punks' University in Ljubljana. Currently he holds a postdoctoral fellowship granted by the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation and researches on the history of media at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His book "Partisan ruptures and contradictions of market socialism in Yugoslavia" is about to be published at Sophija. He (co)edited the books on post-fordism, Yugoslav Black Wave and Althusser.
‘Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits’ – the visual politics of the Different Class videos
Different Class, the 1995 seminal album by the band Pulp was the most socially conscious album of the 90's Britpop. The presented paper will examine different aspects of visual politics of the album, focusing on four videos directed by Pedro Romhanyi and their connection to the other elements of the visual sphere of the album. The main paradox of Pulpis that (unlike e.g. Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers) it became one of the symbols of Britpop, a genre that was integrated into the “Cool Britannia” fad, whereas Different class ironically undermined its optimism, revealing various social tensions of the 90s Britain. The paper will utilize various concepts from Marx and marxism-influenced thought (Bourdieu, Jameson, Haug) as well as popular music scholars (Ausslander, Hawking, Lipsitz, Whiteley) to show why Pulp's finest record is still important 20 years after its release.
Cassandra Junkie: Haute Bourgeoisie Crises in Rachel Getting Married
This paper provides a close reading of the 2008 American Oscar-nominated film Rachel Getting Married. It views it as a metaphor of the inability of global multicultural capitalism to resolve its contradictions. The paper analyzes how the film critically depicts the world of suburban New York City elites. It shows how, behind the seductive upper-middle class spectacle of multicultural and multiracial synergy, encoded by the wedding ceremony, unfolds a deep, violent and self-destructive drama of alienation, which gestures toward the shortcomings of recent visions of peaceful cosmopolitan global cohabitation.
Constantin Parvulescu is the author of Orphans of the East: Postwar Eastern European Cinema and the Revolutionary Subject (Indiana University Press, 2015) and the co-editor of A Companion to the Historical Film (Blackwell-Wiley, 2013). He is affiliated with West Universty of Timisoara, Romania, and University of St Gallen, Switzerland.
Multiplexing Marx and the Googlement of Ideology
The main question of this research deals with Marx's conceptual legacy, which cannot be limited to his impact on the nineteenth century, nor to the political practices specific to the twentieth century. The argument is that we are witnessing the alteration of many of the ideas of the author of Das Kapital in the new millennium. There are two working hypothesis about this transformation of Marxism, which is happening due to two main external pressures. First there is the ascendance of the “Google doctrine” (Morozov 2011), which leads to the googlement of ideology, that is the transmutation of key notions like class struggle or alienation produced by a fake liberation of individuals. The second is generated by the impact of the contemporary cinematic imaginary, which I call the multiplexing of Marx, where capitalism, as Karl Marx so lucidly predicted, becomes its own farce, a manifestation of the generalized orgy of significations.
Using three cinematic case studies, from three different genres, all screened during 2013 (The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese, 2013; The Internship, Levy, 2013; and Elysium, Blomkamp, 2013) the paper is designed to elaborate on the concepts of “googlement” of Marxist theory and “multiplexing” Marxist ideas. One of the questions to be addressed is also how would Max Weber re-define the classical connection between the Protestant ethics and the new spirit of capitalism. In the contemporary un-ascetic version of “mongreal” capitalism, neo-marxism and neo-liberalism are continuous parodies of each other, mockeries of their own mental representations. The Internship is a relevant example for what happens when capitalist exploitation, which knows no boundaries, is transformed into a form of happy-go-lucky environment.
The other example comes from the transformation of the memories of Jordan Belfort into a fascinating form of obscenity and debauchery. Martin Scorsese takes the greed for commodities and capital and twists it into desirable daily life forms. The everyday practices of the bourgeois, clogged with superficiality and free entertainment are projected into an acceptable perverse way of life. Anything abnormal goes, all that is absurd is desirable, any offensive gesture becomes natural for this multiplex-capitalism. It is not simply the image of a degenerate society, it is a mutated form of abjection, where the contemptible becomes delectable.
Last but not least, using as an example the story from Elysium, where the director is using his trade-mark mechanism of describing the divisions in society as support for sci-fi narratives, we can describe a process of fictionalization of the differences between the well to do, the elitist and segregationist groups and the poverty stricken exploited. Blomkamp's main character (played by Matt Deamon) is Max, a transparent reference to Ma(r)x, who apparently carries a political message (similar to what the director did in District 9). Elysium seems to provide us a neo-Marxist extraction, a criticism of smalls group exploiting larger social groups, where the military are corrupted and support the political control, where the removal of social rights by the intervention of the militarist and industrial machine over the general population is negatively charged. Yet in this form of “Marxism for Dummies” all political relevance is devoid and even the class struggle is projected as a desirable outcome of a neoliberal revolution. The Communist ideal society is transformed into a fictional Elysium, where the promise of the proletarian victory is substituted with the special effects of the cinematic illusion. At the end, the revolution of the proletariat is transformed into a virtual experience. Thus there is no need for real political struggle, cinema and video games can finally substitute any social conflicts.
Doru Pop is associate professor at the Faculty of Theatre and Television, Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj in Romania, where he researches visual culture and media studies. He has an MA in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a PhD in the philosophy of visual culture from Babeș-Bolyai University. In
2012 he was a Fulbright fellow at Bard College, New York, where he taught a course on the Romanian recent cinema. His most recent book is Romanian New Wave Cinema: An Introduction (McFarland & Company, 2014).
Love can save the day: charting two decades of love and sex within capitalism as seen through the cinematic lens of Bret Easton Ellis
I will investigate the notions of love and sex in the neoliberal era in the film adaptations of Bret Easton Ellis’s works, including Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, The Informers, American Psycho as well as the Paul Shrader directed and Ellis written The Canyons, charting nearly two decades of capitalism’s reign as seen through Ellis’s lens. Approaching these films with three distinct theories of love and sex, namely romantic love as theorised by Alain Badiou, sex as revolution as proposed by Wilhelm Reich and sex as erotic capital as argued by Catherine Hakim, I will propose a new consideration of these notions and lay out the political significance of love and sex within neoliberalism, as well as its revolutionary potential. Through close reading of these films I will reveal the dangers of love and sex being commodified and point to the ways in which they can be saved. Utilising theories by writers such as SlavojŽižek and bell hooks, I will position my argument within recent theoretical trends and argue for a reconsideration of the significance of love and sex within capitalist society, to put it at the forefront of the struggle to overthrow the current political system.
Kamila Rymajdo is a Creative Writing PhD student at Kingston University, having gained an MA in Creative Writing and a BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Manchester. She is also the founder of Witch*unt, a female fronted Hip Hop, house and electro club night which takes place monthly in Manchester, and in its first year of existence has gained recognition from publications such as DJ Mag, The Skinny, Manchester Evening News and Diva Magazine, with Queer Contact Festival including it in its 2015 programme.
The Production of Hesitation in Space
In my presentation, I will position and study the strategies of the production of space through the films of contemporary Romanian cinema. My analysis relies on Lefebvre’s writings on the social construction of space: this methodology allows me to investigate the dialectical connection between experiential spatial practices and the geometrical-abstract representation of space in order to arrive at the notion of lived space. The concept of lived space refers to society’s symbolic visual strategies that are produced and modified over time through their use. Lefebvre’s conceptual work can be utilized in a productive way in screen studies, if the symbolic visual strategies he identified are specified and closely described as tropes. I argue that this central trope of new Romanian cinema is hesitation.
With hesitancy I refer to a mode of representation that visualizes a spatial uncertainty, thereby interrogating the status and function of moving images that revolve around social-historical topics. The films I will analyze do not attempt to detect reassuring explanations and simplistic causes for the historical events or phenomena they illustrate. Much rather they construct complicated relationships between images and realities by offering conflicting versions of historical and social agency.
Laszlo Strausz is an Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest. His work has, among others, appeared in Film Quarterly, Jump Cut, Film-Philosophy and Romani Studies. His work focuses on contemporary East-Central European screen media, cultural memory, and the politics of film style.
Carnival on Mars: Alinor Azevedo’s leftist cinema
Alinor Azevedo (1914-1974) was one of the most active and productive scriptwriters in the history of Brazilian cinema. From the 1940’s to the 1960’s he worked for some of the most important Brazilian film studios (Atlântida Cinematográfica and Vera Cruz, for instance) writing screenplays for prominent films, such as Moleque Tião (1943), Não Adianta Chorar (1945), Carnaval no Fogo (1949), Carnaval em Marte (1955) and Assalto ao Trem Pagador (1962), among several other titles. Azevedo had a key-role in the rise and success of the chanchada, the Brazilian film genre initially based on a blend of comedy and the musical, extremely successful in box-office terms throughout the 1940’s and the 1950’s. In addition to his career as a filmmaker/scriptwriter, Azevedo was a member of the Comunist Party and had a clearly leftist political posture. The aim of this paper is to put Azevedo’s political convictions and films side by side in perspective and, by means of analyzing some of his most remarkable works, to identify leftist or Marxist subtexts in some of his highly popular films - which had been generally regarded as pure mass entertainment and, sometimes, as escapist comedies, and whose cultural value has been rediscovered over the last few decades. In sum, Azevedo’s work is contemporary with an eventful era in Brazilian politics, from the 1940’s to the 1960’s, and the hypothesis herein is that his leftist ideas might have impregnated his films in a far more sophisticated way than the one which is generally acknowledged.
Queering Bakhtin: The Carnival of Sexuality in Eytan Fox’s The Bubble
For Bakhtin, carnival implies a “ludic undermining of all norms”. It celebrates an abolishment of hierarchies and freedom from convention and restriction. The carnivaleque recoups what is marginalized and excluded by society and seeks opposing and radical centralizations. Bakhtin celebrates what he terms “the materialized body,” and in this process, the lower body stratum, and with it, copulation becomes a “positive corrosive force”. To date, there have been few attempts to read Bakhtin within a queer context. Nonetheless, Israeli director Eytan Fox’s 2006 The Bubble, a film focusing on a gay love affair between an Israeli border guard and a Palestinian is replete with carnivalesque underpinnings, from the raves in held in Tel Aviv by young Israeli young Palestine supporters to the context of free love in which they circulate. Most subversive is the film’s merging of straight and gay sex, which brings the latter to the center. The celebration of gay sexuality in Fox’s film metaphorically poses an alternative to broader sociopolitical divides in contemporary Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Political Dimension of Feature Films directed by Przemysław Wojcieszek
Przemysław Wojcieszek, a Polish director born in 1974, in his film works concentrates on portrayingthe so-called ‘Poland B’, which consists of provincial towns, villages or housing projects located in the suburbs of large cities. His protagonists, just like places in which they live, are also excluded from the mainstream discourse. In my paper I will analyse Wojcieszek’s films through the concept of the ‘political’, as defined by Chantal Mouffe. This concept points to the possibility of alternative, essential for democracy, which is contrasted with the neoliberal order, which foreclosures change. The director shows the political firstly, by giving voice to the characters in various ways rebelling against dominant order; secondly, by criticizing neoliberalism; thirdly, by concentrating on ‘Poland B’, and finally, using terms of Mouffe, by emphasizing the necessity of antagonism and collective identities.
Grzegorz Wójcik is a PhD student at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, writing a thesis about generation X in Polish prose and fiction cinema.
Freely Shaping the Virtual in Accordance with a Consciously Adopted Plan: ‘Species-being’ and Games of Empire
The question of ‘species-being’ (Gattungswesen) has been argued to have recently resurfaced in Marxist theory. Marx had employed the concept, which centrally designates man’s possession of a specific character – objectively producing himself in both his activity and resultant works, and to be conscious of doing so – to reconsider the tradition of human essence whilst arguably avoiding the pitfalls of ahistorical thinking, but more importantly to undergird his critique of capitalism. In Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter’s book Games of Empire, ‘species-being’ was emphasised as designating humanity’s collective ability to transform its own nature, being particularly applicable to the pace of change in the informational era. The authors had argued that this potential for human transformation partly resided in the possibility of a deeply ambivalent game culture being channelled towards collaborative, constructive, and experimental productions. This would evade what has traditionally been seen as that which is most antithetical to the realisation of shaping the material world in accordance with consciously adopted plans, to ‘species-being’: the private ownership of the resources that drive species-being change. This paper will examine these claims. In addition, the tension inherent within ‘species-being’, embodied in the dispute between humanist Marxists who have been inclined to evoke it as a loose theory of human nature with which to critique capitalism, and structuralist Marxists, who have rebutted what they have seen as essentialism, will be proposed to provide fertile terrain with which to think quasi-transcendental categories and engage with the potential of computer games to harness playfulness and promise the genuine realisation (verwirklicht) of the player’s purpose in the material of the game. The reasoning for Marx’s requirement of an objective world, which is governed by physical rules outside of human intervention, as the matter or stuff upon which human beings are able to actualise their purposes, will be further considered as a criterion in relation to putative productive realisation invirtual worlds (e.g. building calculators in Minecraft).
Feng Zhu is a PhD student in the department of sociology at the university of Manchester. His research is in subjectification and desubjectification in relation to computer games, focusing on: dialectically thinking continuity and rupture; formalism and ontological distinctiveness; the immanent critique of poststructuralist accounts of the project of ‘freedom’, or how to break from constitutive subjectivity; and the concept of ‘totality’ as a procrustean bed but also as a ‘virtual’ with the capacity to ground a form of thinking that