louisalthusser   8

Three Popular Films by Jean-Pierre Gorin - From the Current - The Criterion Collection
"Jean-Pierre Gorin’s three Southern California movies are so militantly unclassifiable that terms like documentary or essay film seem as hopelessly out of sync with the recalcitrant and frequently exhilarating works themselves as a Marxist harangue in a Burger King. Movie criticism is ill equipped to deal with these ecstatic operations, which get high on their own cunning strategies.

How on earth did this Sorbonne-educated son of Jewish Trotskyites, onetime student of Althusser, Lacan, and Foucault, pre-1968 Marxist firebrand and partner in crime of Jean-Luc Godard wind up in Greater San Diego making these peculiarly all-American movies? Let’s just say that he followed his desire. “Many political people have self-conscious and proclaimed interests that they call revolutionary,” he explained to Danish filmmaker and critic Christian Braad Thomsen in a 1974 Jump Cut interview. “But they also have unconscious interests that can be completely reactionary, even if they are linked to the revolutionary interests. There comes the point when I say: ‘Man, blow your mind, try to dig into your own unconscious, try to find where your investment and your interest is.’” During their misunderstood Dziga Vertov Group period, Godard and Gorin were struggling to find a new, living definition of the political: over the years, Godard went increasingly macro, enlarging his sense of his own consciousness to the point where it covered the entire expanse of Western civilization; Gorin went micro, allowing his films and the people and places and contradictions that nourished them to speak in their own idiosyncratic voices. Poto and Cabengo (1980), Routine Pleasures (1986), and My Crasy Life (1992) are, on one level, vastly different experiences, each with its own peculiar frame of reference and line of aesthetic attack. Taken together, they represent an unofficial “language” trilogy, in which varying styles and modes of American speech ravish and are ravished in turn.

Gorin was invited to Southern California by painter, film critic, and teacher Manny Farber, when Farber was in the process of building a visual arts department at the University of California, San Diego. As Gorin put it to writer Lynne Tillman in 1988, “The meeting with Farber was a determining one. As determining, in a sense, as my encounter with Godard years ago. The reading of his film criticism gave me a very different key to American cinema than the one I used in France, a way to ground it in the culture and its language, to pry it away from its own mythology. But more importantly, it’s from reflecting on his painting, his main activity for years by the time I met him, that I learned the most.”

While he was scrutinizing a new landscape through new eyes, Gorin found the story of Grace and Virginia Kennedy, a pair of twins from nearby Point Loma who, according to the press, spoke in their own private language. “The Loch Ness monster had been nowhere in sight that year, and I suspect the journalists felt the twins would be a good substitute,” Gorin told Tillman. “They built up a case which reeked of Wild Child mystique.” Gorin realized instantly that there was no private language but rather “a patchwork of southern lingo spoken by their father and of the deformations imposed on the English language by their German-born mother.” His newfound American friend the producer–star programmer–California gentleman Tom Luddy suggested filmmaker Les Blank as a cameraman, and Gorin began his inquiry into something that “had been so completely misconstrued. It seemed like an eminently dramatic premise: two kids who moved and sounded like hummingbirds, who for years had been privately deciphering the world for each other, who did not know why they had suddenly become the object of so much attention.” Poto and Cabengo (the names by which the twins sometimes called each other) is not a “portrait” of Ginny and Grace and their family, or a “probing look at the strange phenomenon of idioglossia,” but a rhapsodic layering of elements and relations, filmed by Blank in singingly lyrical motion and color. The film can be examined from multiple angles, each as valid, not to mention exciting, as the next.

“Does anyone else use sound as a totally filmic weapon?” wrote Farber of Godard. The same could be said of Gorin’s fix on the spoken word in Poto and Cabengo, and throughout the trilogy, a matter of tireless ethnographic curiosity, slaphappy connoisseurship, and an immigrant intellectual’s ironically tinged boosterism of his new culture—in fact, the title of one of Godard’s finest and least-known works nicely sums up this side of Gorin’s cinematic enterprise: Puissance de la parole. In Poto and Cabengo, you can practically taste the filmmaker’s joy as he circles around the katzenjammerian speech patterns of Chris Kennedy, the raunchy vulgarity of her Hispanic neighbors, and Tom Kennedy’s depressed Georgia drawl, and then contrasts those voices with the squeaky-clean cadences of the speech therapists and linguists, perfectly enunciating every syllable of their expert opinions.

All three films are conversations—conversations between people and between those people and the unlikely landscapes in which they dwell, between cliché and reality, inside and outside, difference and repetition, sound and image, filmmaker and subject, body language and verbal language, and, supremely, between Gorin and himself as he continually revises his own position relative to both the movie and his adopted country. They are explorations and self-explorations, pinpointing and opening up all the inconvenient details and exceptions that short-circuit any final judgments. At first glance, we sophisticates may feel like we have the Kennedy household, Routine Pleasures’ Pacific Beach & Western railway crew, and My Crasy Life’s West Side S.O.S., Sons of Samoa, 32nd Street gangbangers all figured out. We are disabused of such notions almost instantaneously. Every rhetorical move is either jarred or knocked out of place by a countermove, and we are left with a cinematic organism in which nothing is frozen and everything is in ceaseless motion. I honestly can’t think of another movie that keeps tunneling through its own foundation as relentlessly as these three do, each stopping just short of a complete cave-in.

In Poto and Cabengo (and Routine Pleasures as well), the filmmaker’s voice-over squeezes some comedy out of the spectacle of an “ex-Marxist” immigrant fretting over the degree to which he is still French or already American. It’s easy, and slightly misleading, to become fixated on Gorin’s deadpan delivery of his stylized and allusive commentary, in which he borrows Farber’s wisecracking deflations and turns them on the film in general and himself in particular. In his writing, Farber found a language that was scintillating, thrillingly dense with metaphors, and utterly precise, disarming both the reader and any conventionally authoritative voices, be they academic, moralistic, corporate, or political. Gorin adapts Farber’s strategy to his own purposes in order to maintain a one-to-one relationship with his subjects and his audience. While the voice-over scores a few comic points here and there and maintains a nice surface tension, its principal purpose is utilitarian: to steer the film up, down, and sideways, and finally guide us to the more unsettling seriocomic state of affairs deep within the material. The gap between Tom and Chris Kennedy’s vision of their economic situation and the gruesome reality is terrifyingly wide, a real-life version of early movie comedy’s fixation on the gulf between aspiration and achievement. The only reasonable response to the strange sight of this “close-knit” family sitting around their cardboard hearth is to laugh, as they might just do were they to wander into a theater and get a load of themselves. This is not the comedy of cruelty but of extreme identification.

Gorin’s American movies are handmade productions that now speak to us in two tenses. Three decades and a “digital revolution” later, they are among the most provocative artifacts of the last moment when movies really were made by hand, and when, for a precious few (Gorin, Godard, Glauber Rocha, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Robert Frank, Yvonne Rainer, Chantal Akerman), process was on an equal footing with product. As immediate, present-tense experiences, they are endlessly self-revealing, an array of clear aesthetic choices, made from a limited set of cinematic elements, combined, layered, pulled apart and put back together in different configurations to build a rich, winningly active surface texture in the mind of the viewer. They are rude and lovably inelegant movies, resisting any drift into sophistication or severity, and resembling nothing so much as the earliest sound productions of Walsh or Wellman as reimagined by a political firebrand who has just escaped from the prison house of his own theories.

But above all else, these are “popular” films, in the French sense of the term—populaire, or “of the people.” In other words, they begin and end at ground level, where life is lived out from instant to instant. Gorin wrote, “My Crasy Life has at its core a commitment, radical in its simplicity: to respect the voice of its ‘subjects’”—the voice and, by extension, the worldview and experiential horizon line. This can be said of all three movies.

In the cinema of Jean-Pierre Gorin, there is no such thing as a case study or a type. Just us, all in the same boat, whether we care to know it or not."
jean-pierregorin  film  potoandcabengo  2012  kentjones  sandiego  california  mannyfarber  jean-lucgodard  filmmaking  srg  mycrasylife  routinepleasures  1986  1992  1980  lacan  foucault  louisalthusser  michelfoucault  althusser  lesblank  tomluddy  lynnetillman  longbeach  ucsd  glauberrocha  jean-mariestraub  danièlehuillet  robertfrank  yvonnerainer  chantalakerman  babettemangolte  raymonddurgnat  sonsofsomoa  ethnography  samoa  gangs  margaretmead  losangeles 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Surveillance and Care | Snakes and Ladders
"Another day, another story about the legal trouble you can expect if you’re a free-range parent. This matters, a lot, and what’s at stake needs to be made clear.

1) The parents here are accused by the state of “child neglect,” but what they are doing is the opposite of neglect — it is thoughtful, intentional training of their children for responsible adulthood. They instructed their children with care; the children practiced responsible freedom before being fully entrusted with it. And then the state intervened before the children could discover the satisfaction of exercising their freedom well.

2) What’s happening here is fundamentally simple: the surveillance state enforcing surveillance as the normative form of care. The state cannot teach its citizens, because it has no idea what to teach; it can only place them under observation. Perfect observation — panopticism — then becomes its telos, which is justifies and universalizes by imposing a responsibility to surveil on the very citizens already being surveilled. The state’s commandment to parents: Do as I do.

3) By enforcing surveillance as the normative form of care, the state effectively erases the significance of all other forms of care. Parents might teach their children nothing of value, no moral standards, no self-discipline, no compassion for others — but as long as those children are incessantly observed, then according to the state’s standards the parents of those children are good parents. And they are good because they are training their children to accept a lifetime of passive acceptance of surveillance. The Marxist theorist Louis Althusser used to speak of the ways that culture can be transformed into an “ideological state apparatus” — that’s what our society wants to do to parenthood."
panopticon  surveillance  parenting  freerangeparenting  government  alanjacobs  2015  cps  freedom  control  parenthood  children  ethics  morality  culture  ideology  louisalthusser  observation  care  caring  althusser 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Devil’s Bargain — Medium
"The question Graeber wants to put to us is this: To what extent are our imaginations shaped — constrained, limited — by our having had to live with the technological choices made by the military-industrial complex — by industries and universities working in close collaboration with the government, in a spirit of subservience to its needs?

Or, to put it another way: How were we taught not even to dream of flying cars and jetpacks? — or, or for that matter, an end to world hunger, something that C. P. Snow, in his famous lecture on “the two cultures” of the sciences and humanities, saw as clearly within our grasp more than half-a-century ago? To see “sophisticated simulations” of the things we used to hope we’d really achieve as good enough?"



"As I noted earlier, this seems to cover a very different subject than his meditation on flying cars and the absence thereof — but it’s really about the same thing, which is: the impact of economic structures on imagination. For Graeber it could scarcely be accidental that a world devoted to utility-maximizing, acquisitive market-based behavior would create a theory that animals, indeed the very genes of creatures, invariably behave in a utility-miximizing, acquisitive way in the Great Market of Life."



"For those whose ideas have been shaped so thoroughly by the logic of capitalism, people like Prince Kropotkin who see mutual aid as a factor in evolution, or who would go still further and see play as simply intrinsic to being alive — Graeber doesn’t cite J. Huizinga’s Homo Ludens here, but he should — are just nuts. They’re not seeing the world as it obviously really is.

But, Graeber suggests, maybe what’s obvious from within the logic of late capitalism isn’t so obvious from another point of view; and maybe what’s nuts according to the logic of late capitalism is, again from another point of view, not necessarily nuts. Maybe there is more in heaven and earth, Professor Dawkins, than is dreamt of in your evolutionary biology.

In a famous passage from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek — the much-anthologized chapter called “Seeing” — Annie Dillard cites the naturalist Stewart Edward White on how to learn to see deer: “As soon as you can forget the naturally obvious and construct an artificial obvious, then you too will see deer.” That is, you have to learn to pick out certain now-and-for-you-insignificant elements in your visual field and reassign them to the realm of the significant. And this is true, not just for the visual but also for the mental field. But it is also and equally true that our constructions of the artificial obvious are not invariably reliable: sometimes they are wrong, and if we then forget that they are our constructions, and think of them as the natural obvious, as the way things just are … we’re screwed.

This is Graeber’s point. And you don’t have to agree with him about the playfulness of worms to see its importance. Our social and economic structures prompt us, every day and in a hundred different ways, to see certain elements of our mental field as significant while ever-so-gently discouraging us from noticing others at all. And when it comes to the constructions of our mental worlds, as opposed to our visual fields, we might be missing something more lastingly important than a guy in a gorilla suit.

All of these reflections started with my reading of a 1945 article about the entanglements of the arts with universities, at a time when universities were in danger of becoming what they have since largely become: “social and technical service stations.” Let’s try now to get back to those concerns."



"My point is: I don’t like seeing journalism being drawn so consistently into the same self-justifying, self-celebrating circles that the American university itself was drawn into during and following World War II. As R. P. Blackmur rightly feared, the intimacy between universities and government did not end when the war ended; it only intensified, and the fact that those universities became our chief patrons of the arts, especially literary writing, at the very moment that they crawled permanently into bed with government and industry, cannot be without repercussions for artists.

The best guide to the rise of creative programs in particular is Mark McGurl’s The Program Era, and it’s fascinating how McGurl repeatedly walks right up to the edge of a clearly articulated critique of this system without ever crossing it. In the penultimate sentence of his book he writes, “Is there not more excellent fiction being produced now than anyone has time to read?” Then he starts a new paragraph before giving us the book’s last sentence: “What kind of traitor to the mission of mass higher education would you have to be to think otherwise?” Oh clever man!

Yes, there is a great deal of skillfully written post-World-War-II fiction available to us, indeed more than we could ever read. But how much of it embodies the kind of imaginative otherness that, as David Graeber reminds us, our social/cultural/economic contexts militate against? How much of it, shaped as it is in institutions that owe their continued existence to their affiliation with the military-industrial complex, envisions ways of life radically other than the ones we now experience? How much of it offers more than increasingly sophisticated simulations of worlds we already know, can predict, feel comfortable in? How much, in shirt, is conducive to genuine hope?

I guess what I’m asking for is pretty simple: for writers of all kinds, journalists as well as fiction writers, and artists and academics, to strive to extricate themselves from an “artificial obvious” that has been constructed for us by the dominant institutions of our culture. Simple; also probably impossible. But it’s worth trying. Few things are more worth trying.

And I am also asking universities to realize and to reconsider their implication in those dominant institutions. I don’t demand that schools sever their ties with those institutions, since that would be financially suicidal, and economic times for higher education are hard enough as it is. But there need to be more pockets of resistance: more institutions with self-consciously distinctive missions, and within institutions more departments or even just informal discussion groups who seek to imagine the so-far unimaginable.

Finally, I am asking all this of myself. I’m fifty-five years old. I’ve probably got twenty or so years to think and write at the highest level I’m capable of, and in those years I want to surprise myself. I don’t want merely to recycle and redeploy the ideas I have inherited. I know that this is easier for me, a white American man with a secure job, than it is for many others. But then, that’s all the more reason for me to do it.

Fifty years ago, Jacques Derrida gave a lecture that would become very famous, and created a stir even as he presented it. When the talk ended, the first questioner was Jean Hyppolite, and he asked Derrida what his talk was “tending toward.” Derrida replied, “I was wondering myself if I know where I am going. So I would answer you by saying, first, that I am trying, precisely, to put myself at a point so that I do not know any longer where I am going.”"
2014  alanjacobs  education  culture  highereducation  highered  davidgraeber  whauden  rpblackmur  louisalthusser  adamkirsch  militaryindustrialcomplex  power  funding  academia  creativity  play  economics  imagination  richarddawkins  canon  corporatization  corporatism  mutualaid  peterkropotkin  homoludens  johanhuizinga  seeing  stewartendward  anniedillard  californiasundaymagazine  technology  siliconvalley  capitalism  latecapitalism  journalism  writing  jacquesderrida  jeanhyppolite  markmcgurl  context  resistance  utopia  pocketsofresistance  courage  possibility  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  althusser 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Social contract - Wikipedia
"This raises the question of whether social contractarianism, as a central plank of liberal thought, is reconcilable with the Christian religion, and particularly with Catholicism and Catholic social teaching. The individualist and liberal approach has also been criticized since the 19th century by thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche & Freud, and afterward by structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers, such as Lacan, Althusser, Foucault, Deleuze or Derrida."
socialcontract  philosophy  politics  social  history  karlmarx  marxism  nietzsche  freud  deleuze  foucault  louisalthusser  lacan  christianity  individualism  liberalthought  post-structuralism  stucturalism  religion  jacquesderrida  gillesdeleuze  michelfoucault  althusser  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco
Althusser & Us
Issue of Borderlands about Althusser.
philosophy  louisalthusser 
december 2010 by hauntedtapedeck

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