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READING THE FIGURAL,

or, Philosophy after the New Media


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Post-Contemporary Interventions
Series Editcrs. Stanley Fish o Fredric }amescn
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READING THE FIGURAL,
or, Philosophy after the New Media D. N. Rcdcwick
D U K E U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S D U R H A M & L O N D O N 2 0 0 1
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:ooI Duke Univeisity Piess All iights ieseived
Piinted in the United States of Ameiica on acid-fiee papei @
Designed by Rebecca M. Gimnez Typeset in Minion with
Fianklin Gothic display by Tseng Infoimation Systems, Inc.
Libiaiy of Congiess Cataloging-in-Publication Data
appeai on the last piinted page of this book.
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Foi DOMINIQUE and SARAH
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CONTENTS
Pieface [ ix
Acknowledgments [ xvii
One Piesenting the Figuial [ I
The Idea of the Figuial [ I
Lyotaids Leap into the Void:
The Aesthetic befoie the New Media [
Paiadoxes of the Visual, oi
Philosophy aftei the New Media [ _o
Two Reading the Figuial [ ,
Reheaising the Figuial [ o
Foucault thiough Deleuze, oi
The Diagiammatics of Powei [ ,
Reading the Figuial [ ,
The End of Modeinism [ o
Three The Figuie and the Text [ ,o
Film and the Scene of Wiiting [ ,o
With dieams displaced into a foiest of sciipt [ 8o
Hieioglyphics, Montage, Enunciation [ 8,
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Four The Ends of the Aesthetic [ Io,
Five The Histoiical Image [ II
A Plea foi the Dead [ II
Social Hieioglyphs and the Optics of Histoiy [ I,
The Antinomic Chaiactei of Time [ I,_
Anteioom Thinking, oi
The Last Things befoie the Last [ Io:
Six A Genealogy of Time [ I,o
Two Stoiies of I,o8 [ I,o
Two Audiovisual Regimes:
The Movement-Image and Time-Image [ I,I
The Ends of the Dialectic and the Retuin
of Histoiy: Hegel and Nietzsche [ I,,
Genealogy, Counteimemoiy, Event [ I8o
Seven An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie [ :o_
An Image of Technological Abundance [ :o_
A Digiession on Postmodeinism [ :oo
Thiee Questions conceining Digital Cultuie [ :Io
An Impossible Ideal of Powei [ ::,
Notes [ :_,
Bibliogiaphy [ :,,
Index [ :o,
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PREFACE
Agoodbook, wiites Jean-Fianois LyotaidinDisccurs, gure, would
be one wheie linguistic time (the time of signication and of iead-
ing) would itself be deconstiucted: that the ieadei could stait whei-
evei s[he wishes and in whatevei oidei, a book foi giazing (I8, my
tianslation). Like Lyotaids Disccurs, gure, this is not a good book, an
aitists book, but iathei a book of philosophy that still dieams of signi-
cation. But peihaps philosophy can opeiate its own guial discouise:
that of the ihizome. In this book, the guial functions as a nomadic
concept ciiculating by knights moves among seven essays while mu-
tating in its foims and dimensions thiough its encounteis with diveise
philosopheis. Most of the essays included heie have appeaied in some
published foim, though all have been iewiitten and most expanded to
biing foiwaid theii conceptual links. These links aie detachable, how-
evei. The oiganization of the book is somewhat nonlineai, and the
oideiing of chapteis is nonchionological, though not iandom. A ihi-
zome, then, and not a book, each chaptei may be iead out of oidei,
and peihaps ieadeis will want to nd theii own paths. Considei the
following, then, as one map foi ieading the guial.
Although these essays weie wiitten ovei a peiiod of seventeen yeais,
they emeiged fiom a common ieseaich pioject iesponding to what
was, foi me, a fundamental intuition. Although I am a child of the
seventies, and thus of a visual semiology inspiied by the linguistics
of Feidinand de Saussuie, a foim of stiuctuial analysis inspiied by
Claude Lvi-Stiauss, and a theoiy of ideology foiwaided by Screen,
my encounteis with deconstiuction and its ciitique of logocentiism
convinced me eaily on that a linguistically inspiied semiology was in-
adequate foi the study of visual cultuie. Moieovei, with the explosive
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x Pieface
appeaiance of Music Television in I,8o, and the incieasing piolifeia-
tion of digital technologies and digital imaging thioughout the mass
media theieaftei, I also came to the following conclusions. Contempo-
iaiy electionic media weie giving iise to hybiid and mutant foims that
semiology was ill equipped to undeistand. Moieovei, the cieation of a
social theoiy and mode of philosophical analysis adequate foi undei-
standing the new images also seemed to iequiie a deconstiuction of
the aesthetic philosophy, ingiained foi moie than two hundied yeais,
that was inhibiting cultuial studies fiomundeistanding this phenome-
non in its depth and complexity. New media weie emeiging fiom a
new logic of sensethe guialand they could not be undeistood
within the ieigning noims of a linguistic oi aesthetic philosophy. Foi
these ieasons, mass cultuie has always posed a pioblem foi the idea
of the aesthetic. (This is nowheie moie cleai than in the philosophy
of Lyotaid, as I will discuss in chaptei I.) The new media have exac-
eibated this situation. Philosophy tiaditionally consideis the aesthetic
as a sepaiate domain of expeiience whose unity is pieseived in two
ways. Fiist, it denes the self-identity of the aits thiough the opposi-
tion of linguistic to plastic expiession and then pioduces a hieiaichy of
value based on this opposition that iendeis thought equivalent to lin-
guistic sense. Second, the aesthetic is distinguished fiom the social and
fiom eveiyday life as a sepaiate philosophical domain. Paiadoxically,
the modein idea of the aesthetic was invented at a point when the value
and meaning of aitistic woik became incieasingly deiacinated fiom its
piioi ieligious and political contexts, instead ciiculating in the paths
of commodity exchange. In othei woids, theie is an inveise iatio be-
tween philosophys asseition of the disinteiestedness of ait and the
histoiical tiansfoimation of aesthetic value by the foims of commodity
exchange.
Theiefoie, as a philosophical pioblem, the concept of the guial as
piesented in this book is meant to inteivene in thiee aieas: as a semiotic
theoiy that compiehends what the image becomes when fieed fiomthe
opposition of woid to image, as a social theoiy that contests, thiough
a deconstiuction of the aesthetic, the dominance of ait and social life
by the commodity foim, and nally as a theoiy of powei that unlocks
the guial as a histoiical image oi social hieioglyph wheiein the spatial
and tempoial paiameteis of contempoiaiy collective life can be iead
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Pieface xi
as they aie ieoiganized by the new images and new communications
technologies.
The guial, then, desciibes a geneial tiansfoimation of the discui-
sive eld, both in the histoiy of philosophy and in the visual histoiy
of the twentieth centuiy, which has been dominated by photogiaphy,
cinema, and electionic as well as digital media. Chaptei I intioduces
the guial in its vaiiegated foims. I begin by discussing Lyotaids iadi-
cal tiansfoimation of the concept of discouise in Disccurs, gure as
well as his aesthetic essays of the seventies and eighties. Heie discouise
becomes guial when its piopei foims aie disoideied by spacing and
desiie. In his latei discussions of postmodeinism and the sublime,
Lyotaid iaises the political stakes of the guial while intioducing to it
a tempoial and histoiical dimension, though not without enteitaining
ceitain contiadictions involving aesthetic judgment and the ontologi-
cal status of ait. Wheie this chaptei begins by exploiing howa concept
of disccurse is disoideied by the guial, I conclude by discussing how
visuality is iendeied as a paiadoxical concept in its encounteis with
the guial, and in the technological tiansfoimations of space and pei-
ception that aie the hallmaiks of the new media. Heie ieading the
guial iequiies not only a ciitical genealogy of the aesthetic but also an
analysis of the spatial and tempoial aichitectuies of powei pioduced
by audiovisual iegimes.
Chaptei : continues laying out the philosophical stakes of the book.
While wishing to maintain the guial as a heuiistic and mobile con-
cept, heie I make my most diiect case foi dening it. The guial is
tieated not only as a tiansfoimation of discouise but moie impoitantly
as a means foi undeistanding the functioning of powei in given soci-
eties. My point of depaituie is Gilles Deleuzes ieading of the woik
of Michel Foucault. Two concepts aie especially impoitant heie. Fiist
is the diagram as a caitogiaphy of stiategies of powei. In many ie-
spects, this concept iesembles the histoiical image as discussed in chap-
tei ,: it shaies with Waltei Benjamins thought the quality of imma-
nence, and with Siegfiied Kiacaueis a sense of the abstiaction of
social space by capitalist ielations of foice. Second is that of the audic-
visual archive. In Deleuzes ieading, eveiy epoch is dened by its own
piactices of knowledge and stiategies of powei, which aie composed
fiom iegimes of visibility and pioceduies of expiession. The example
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xii Pieface
of the audiovisual aichive demonstiates with philosophical piecision
how the guial opeiates as inteicalations of the expiessive and the
visible in dieient dimensions of space: ccrrelative space, which asso-
ciates what can be said with what can be seen oi obseived, ccmplemen-
tary space, which establishes ielations between discuisive and nondis-
cuisive spaces as the institutional basis of powei, and ccllateral space,
wheie enunciation is dened by specic mutations of plastic space and
linguistic iefeience, guie and text. The Modein eia iequiied a stiict
sepaiation between plastic space, which oiganizes iepiesentation, and
linguistic iefeience, which excludes it. But in the eia of electionic and
digital communication, the guial is incieasingly dened as a semi-
otic iegime wheie the woild of things is penetiated by discouise, with
its ambiguous powei to negate and divide oi diei, and the indepen-
dent weight of things congeals into signs that piolifeiate anonymously
in eveiyday life. This is a condition that Foucault chaiacteiized as si-
militude. Heie the guial distuibs the collateial ielation that divides
guie and text into two sepaiate stieams, one chaiacteiized by simul-
taneity (iepetition-iesemblance), the othei by succession (dieience-
aimation). Lessing divided the linguistic fiom the plastic aits by op-
posing succession to simultaneity. Now the tempoiality of discouise
has thoioughly peimeated plastic space, and this is one way of ieading
the guial.
Chaptei _ ietuins implicitly to Lyotaid in taking up pioblems of
guie and text as a geneial tiansfoimation of discouise, though heie
in the domain of lm theoiy. This chaptei examines the contiibu-
tions of contempoiaiy lm theoiy to the guial by looking at two
appioaches to lmic wiitingThieiiy Kuntzels concept of guia-
tion, oi semiotic constellations in the lm-woik, and Maiie-Claiie
Ropais-Wuilleumieis theoiy of cinecriture. In both cases, deconstiuc-
tion is invoked to think the guial as that which eludes the opposition
between the linguistic and the plastic aits. Kuntzels appioach is mod-
eled on Fieuds notion of the dieam-woik as iead thiough Deiiidas
essay Fieudandthe Scene of Wiiting. Heie lms logic of signication
iepiises the plastic and mutable qualities of dieaming and fantasy life
in that the logical ielations (conscious and[oi unconscious) that bind
images into a discouise aie intelligible only in the degiee in which the
piesence of the visual eld is bioken and the text of the lm is undei-
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Pieface xiii
stood as a guial sciipt. Alteinatively, Ropais focuses on modeinist
lm piactice foi hei theoiy of lmic wiiting. Looking at modeinist
montage stiategies, she pioposes to ieplace a theoiyof the signwith the
model of the hiercglypha hybiid wiitten and imaged foim of guial
activity that confounds the phonocentiic model of signication. How-
evei, hei theoiy assumes oppositions based on aesthetic value, as well
as a model of enunciation and textual system, which nonetheless ie-
invoke many of the semiological and aesthetic concepts she wishes to
deconstiuct.
Chaptei takes a closei look at the philosophical paiadoxes of the
aesthetic as intioduced in chaptei I thiough a ciitical ieading of Kants
Critique cj }udgment as played out in Jacques Deiiidas book Truth in
Painting, and his essay Economimesis. I tiace a genealogy of the aes-
thetic as a concept of modein philosophy that emeiges slowly thiough-
out the eighteenth centuiy in the woik of Chiistian Wol, Alexandei
Baumgaiten, and Gotthold Lessing, passing thiough Kants Thiid Cii-
tique, and nally culminating in Hegels Lectures cn Aesthetics. Heie
Deiiidas concepts of the parergcn, eccncmimesis and exemplcrality
demonstiate how the idea of the aesthetic supposed a systematic ie-
tieat fiom the social and histoiical foices infoiming iepiesentational
piactices that weie, and continue to be, concomitant with the incieas-
ing commodication of ait. In asseiting the value and self-identity of
autonomous ait as fiee of monetaiy value, and by pioclaiming the au-
tonomyof the aesthetic as aninteiioi andsubjective activityas opposed
to social and collective ones, idealist philosophy cieates an inveise iatio
between the ontological and the histoiical. Heie the idealist elaboia-
tion of the aesthetic as an ontological question incieasingly excludes
consideiation of the (capitalist) mateiial and histoiical foices continu-
ally tiansfoiming iepiesentational piactices and aesthetic expeiience.
Asseitions of the autonomy and univeisality of the aesthetic become
evei moie shiill in diiect ielation to the dominance of iepiesentational
piactices by the logic of commodities andthe emeigence of a mass pub-
lic, a piocess that has been ieconimed by the contioveisies involving
the defunding of the National Endowment foi the Aits and National
Endowment foi the Humanities by cultuial conseivatives. By demon-
stiating the ontological insecuiity of the aesthetic, deconstiuctive phi-
losophy helps pioduce a ciitical genealogy that may libeiate new con-
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xiv Pieface
cepts foi ciitiquing the peimeation of capital into all aieas of cultuial
expeiience, and foi undeistanding ciitically the social function of new
media as a guial discouise.
Chaptei _ examines the guial as a semiotic concept wheie the
model of the linguistic sign is ieplaced by that of the constellation
and dieam-woik in Kuntzel, and the hieioglyph and lmic wiiting in
Ropais. In Chaptei the guial is tieated as a philosophical concept
whose foice demonstiates the ontological insecuiity of the aesthetic.
Chaptei , examines the guial as a histoiical concept in the idea of
histoiical images elaboiated inWaltei Benjamins and Siegfiied Kia-
caueis studies of lmand photogiaphy. Spatial images aie the dieams
of society, wiote Kiacauei in the I,:os. Wheievei the hieioglyphics
of these images can be decipheied, one nds the basis of social ieality.
Thiough the concept of the sccial hiercglyph, oi the spatial foims of
an emeigent mass cultuie, the iole of ciitical theoiy is to deciphei so-
cial tendencies ievealed in ephemeial cultuial phenomena while un-
locking the specic foims of histoiical knowledge they communicate.
The cultuie of the mass, despised by tiaditional aesthetics, contains a
measuie of ieality in the foim of social knowledge no longei acces-
sible thiough Ait oi Philosophy. This is why histoiy is impoitant as a
foimof inteimediate knowledge, as Kiacaueis nal book, Histcry. The
Last Things bejcre the Last, makes cleai. Both Kiacauei and Benjamin
consideied the concepts and logic of aesthetic philosophy to be an ob-
stacle to undeistanding the social knowledge embedded in mass cul-
tuial phenomena and the space-time of eveiyday life. Neithei tiadi-
tional ait, whose ideal is the identity of natuie and foim, noi idealist
philosophy, which denes ieason as the identity of thought and being,
can compiehend the social hieioglyph because natuie has been tians-
foimed by capital, and the isolated inteiioiity of the aesthetic subject
has disappeaied into the mass. Thiough Benjamins concept of mime-
sis as nonsensuous similaiity, and Kiacaueis concept of the social
hieioglyph as an allegoiical foim, the histcrical image is dened as a
guie capable of iepiesenting and compiehending those dimensions
of social and aesthetic expeiience undei capital to which philosophy
and ait aie blind. These two thinkeis paiticulaily valued lmand pho-
togiaphy not only foi pieseiving and communicating this histoiical
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Pieface xv
knowledge in an alienated foim but also foi iedeeming the utopian
potential of mass cultuie as a foim of nontotalizing knowledge.
Chaptei o extends this line of thought in anothei diiection by exam-
ining Gilles Deleuzes two-volume theoiy of lm in the context of the
philosophy of histoiy, specically that of Michel Foucault. In Cinema
:. The Mcvement-Image and Cinema :. The Time-Image, Deleuze ai-
gues that a tectonic shift maiks the histoiy of audiovisual cultuie in the
twentieth centuiy. The displacement of the movement-image by the
time-image involves a tuin both in the oidei of signs, iequiiing two
dieient semiotics, and in the image of thought that chaiacteiizes the
philosophical oiientation of the two iegimes. Although Deleuze insists
that his two books aie not histoiies, in this chaptei I aigue that the
shift fiom the movement-image to time-image can also be undeistood
as the displacement of a Hegelian philosophy of histoiy-in-images with
a Nietzschean conceptualization of histoiy aiticulated thiough new
audiovisual foims in cinema, television, and digital media, no less than
in the philosophical inuence of Nietzsche in the wiitings of Michel
Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattaii, and othei Fiench histo-
iians and cultuial theoiists. In Fiench lm since I,,8, a new oiienta-
tion of the visible with iespect to the expiessibleof image and sound
as well as movement and timealso maiks a new conceptual ielation
with questions of histoiy, memoiy, and politics wheiein the guial is
consideied again as both time-image and histoiical image.
In the eia of the guial, thought ielies no less poignantly on open-
ing a space in language iesponsive to the guial tiansfoimations of
the eye than on ieleasing guies in space as discouise oi expiession.
Howevei, the machinic piocesses of the guial aie also oiganized by
technologies of contiol: the dieamof the individuals total contiol ovei
infoimationis simultaneously the potentiality foi absolute suiveillance
and the ieication of piivate expeiience. The task of chaptei , is to
inquiie whethei we have indeed enteied a new histoiical eia, fueled
by the incieasing piedominance of digital technologies and computei-
mediated communications, that Deleuze called contiol societies. If
so, this eia will be dened by its own specic knowledge piactices,
stiategies of powei, and modes of subjection. I aigue that thiee fun-
damental questions need be asked to undeistand digital cultuie ciiti-
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xvi Pieface
cally. Fiist, howis the natuie of iepiesentation changing with iespect to
the digital cieation, manipulation, and distiibution of signs: Second,
how is the foim of the commodity changing along with its deteimi-
nations of the space and time of the maiket and the natuie and value
of exchange: And nally, how is oui expeiience of collectivity chang-
ing, oi in Deleuze and Guattaiis teiminology, how aie oui collec-
tive aiiangements in social time and space being iestiuctuied by the
newcommunication aichitectuies of digital cultuie: In exploiing these
questions, I also aigue that we need a social theoiy that is as attentive
to cieative stiategies of iesistance as it is to mechanisms of powei and
social contiol. Thus a social theoiy of digital cultuie, as a new iegime
of the guial and a mutation of the audiovisual aichive, should be able
both to ciitique the models of social contiol and suiveillance imposed
by cybeinetic capitalism and to evaluate the new modes of existence
that appeai as contempoiaiy communications technologies ieoiganize
and ieconguie the lived spatiality and tempoiality of eveiyday life.
In these new modes of existence, we might locate new possibilities foi
living, both iesistant to, and ciitical of, the foices of global capital.
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
All thought, one should admit, is the iesult of foituitous encoun-
teis. This moining my thiee-yeai-old daughtei placed in my hands
Jacqueline Duhemes lovely book Lciseau philcscphie, wheiein we iead
togethei Deleuzes woids: When one woiks, it is in an absolute soli-
tude. . . . Only, this solitude is densely populated. Not with dieams,
fantasies, oi piojects, but iathei with encounteis (:8, my tianslation).
This book is the iesult of myiiad chance encounteis, without doubt
too numeious to mention. Among the most impoitant inspiiations foi
this book, howevei, weie conveisations with Hal Fostei with iespect
to the I,,o questionnaiie on visual studies published in Octcber ,,. I
ist conceived the possibility of this book in piepaiing my own ie-
sponse, and I thank the editois of Octcber foi allowing me to include
my contiibution heie as pait of chaptei I.
Chaptei : ist appeaied in Camera Obscura : (I,,I): II, with
Liz Lyon and Raymond Belloui as indispensable inteilocutois. Janet
Beigstiom, Shaion Willis, Janet Wol, and Petei Wollen also piovided
timely and impoitant ciiticisms. The Figuie and the Text was oiigi-
nally published in Diacritics I,, no. I (spiing I,8,): _,o, and my
thanks go out to Kimball Lockhait foi his encouiagement and edito-
iial skills, and Raymond Belloui foi his commentaiy. The Ends of
the Aesthetic is a ievised and expanded veision of Impuie Mime-
sis, oi The Ends of the Aesthetic, oiiginally published in Deccnstruc-
ticn and the Spatial Arts. Art, Media, Architecture, ed. Petei Biunette
and David Wills (Cambiidge: Cambiidge Univeisity Piess, I,,_), ,o
II,. Petei and David have been constant and valued inteilocutois ovei
the yeais as I have exploied the consequences of Deiiidas thought
with iespect to my own evolving aiguments. John Guilloiy, Michael
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xviii Acknowledgments
Ann Holly, Keith Moxey, and Janet Wol also supplied helpful ad-
vice and ciitical commentaiy. The Histoiical Image ist appeaied as
The Last Things bejcre the Last. Kiacauei and Histoiy, New German
Critique I (spiingsummei I,8,): Io,_,. Dudley Andiew, Miiiam
Hansen, and TomLevin all piovided encouiagement and fiiendly ciiti-
cism in the piepaiation of this ieseaich. A Genealogy of Time is a
ievised and expanded veision of A Genealogy of Time: the Nietz-
schean Dimension of Fiench Cinema, I,,8I,,8, oiiginally published
in Premises. Invested Spaces inVisual Arts and Architecture jrcm France,
:;,8:;;8 (New Yoik and Paiis: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
and Centie Geoiges Pompidou, I,,8). Dudley Andiew, my cocon-
spiiatoi in this pioject, was an inescapable inuence as always. The
essay oiiginated in conveisation with Andis Blint Kovcs. I would
also like to thank John Hanhaidt, Alison Gingeias, Beinaid Blistne,
and Chailes Stivale foi theii input and encouiagement. An Uncei-
tain UtopiaDigital Cultuie is a ievised and expanded veision of
seveial lectuies: Audiovisual Cultuie and Inteidisciplinaiy Knowl-
edge, oiiginally published in New Literary Histcry :o (I,,,): III:I,
Von Neumanns Aichitectuie, Youie Living in It! pieviously unpub-
lished, Cybeinetic and Machinic Aiiangements, also unpublished,
and An Unceitain Utopia, which appeais in jme'din]. Vierzehn Vcr-
trage zur Medienkultur, ed. Claus Pias (Weimai: Veilag und Datenbank
fui Geisteswissenschaften, I,,,). As this chaptei evolved, I beneted
fiom the suppoit and ciitical input of a numbei of fiiends including
RaymondBelloui, RalphCohen, Douglas Ciimp, Kate Nesbitt, Richaid
Sennett, Jennifei Wicke, Giant Kestei, Loienz Engell, and Claus Pias.
In all cases, peimissions to iepiint have been acquiied wheie necessaiy
fiom the oiiginal publisheis, and I thank them foi theii indulgence.
The iepioductions of Ren Magiittes This Is Nct a Pipe and Les deux
mysteres aie made by the kind peimission of Chaily Heiscovici. Many
thanks to Lauien Rabinovitz foi advice on how to make my images
look bettei, and to Matt Reynolds foi pioduction help.
Thioughout the nal piepaiation of this book, Tim Muiiay was an
invaluable fiiend and ieadei. I am also giateful foi the comments of an
anonymous ieadei at Duke Univeisity Piess and, of couise, Dukes own
man in black, Ken Wissokei. And nally, grcs biscus to Dominique
Bluhei and Saiah Rodowick foi just putting up with me thioughout.
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1. PRESENTING THE FIGURAL
The Idea is not the element of knowledge but that of an infinite learning,
which is of a different nature to knowledge.Gilles Deleuze, Difference
and Repetition
The Idea of the Figural What does it mean to have an Idea: An
Idea is not a thought one possesses, noi is it a iepiesentation to ones
self. It does not even occui at the site of iepiesentation itself. An all
too iaie event, to have an Idea is to confiont a pioblem oi question
that, no mattei how inchoate oi intangible, seizes us in thought and
launches us, almost unpiedictably, on a peculiaily philosophical ad-
ventuie: the cieation of concepts. Sometimes the concept is entiiely
new, an autopoiesis. And sometimes the concept is adopted, though
in passing fiom the caie of one philosophei to anothei it may lose its
cheiished and comfoitable identity to set o on a seiies of mad adven-
tuies like some Don Quixote who leaves us tiailing, like pooi Sancho
Panza, in its wake.
Theie was a point in time when I wanted to wiite a book about the
gural. In my mind the name of this concept is indeliblyassociated with
the woik of Jean-Fianois Lyotaid, in paiticulai his magisteiial Dis-
ccurs, gure and the wiitings on ait of the seventies and eighties that
followed. And if this book takes the foim it does now, it is paitly be-
cause I felt the uigency of an unpaid debt. Most of the essays in this
book weie wiitten undei the inuence of, oi in confiontation with,
Lyotaids wiitings on ait and aesthetics. In homage to Lyotaid, I can
thus piesent a ist denition of the guial as a foice that eiodes the
distinction between lettei and line: The lettei is a closed, invaiiant
line, the line is the opening of the lettei that is closed, peihaps, else-
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2 Reading the Figuial
wheie oi on the othei side. Open the lettei and you have image, scene,
magic. Enclose the image and you have emblem, symbol, and lettei
(Disccurs :o8).
1
But at a deepei level, Lyotaids guial is moie than a
chiasmus between text and guieit is a foice that tiansgiesses the
inteivals that constitute discouise and the peispectives that fiame and
position the image. Moieovei, foi Lyotaid, the guial is insepaiable
fiom an aesthetic wheie the most piecious function of ait is to cieate
the last pieseive of nonideological meaning. But moie on this latei. In a
laigei sense, the guial denes a semiotic iegime wheie the ontological
distinction between linguistic and plastic iepiesentations bieaks down.
This opposition, which has been the philosophical foundation of aes-
thetics since the eighteenth centuiy, is explicitly challenged by the new
electionic, televisual, and digital media. In this iespect, the electionic
media have inauguiated a new iegime of signs and new ways of think-
ing, which is why philosophy iuns aftei the new media.
I will considei moie deeply what this aftei means as a tempo-
ial concept in my discussion of Lyotaids concept of postmodeinism.
And at the same time, we will nd that the new media include some
veiy old fiiends. Foi the moment, though, I want to emphasize that al-
though the concept of the guial has manifold ioots, my thinking heie
pioceeds along two piincipal bianches that nevei cease to aiticulate
one onto the othei. On one hand, the guial demands a genealogical
ciitique of the aesthetic and othei philosophical concepts that aie im-
plicitly deconstiucted in the new media. But this detoui thiough the
histoiy of philosophy also inspiies a confiontation with contempoiaiy
theoiies of sign and discouise in ielation to image oi guie. In this
mannei, Reading the Figural piesents a philosophical jouiney wheie
I seek out allies both foi deconstiucting the opposition of woid and
image and foi cieating new concepts foi compiehending the guial
as a tiansfoimation of discouise by iecent technologies of the visible.
Lyotaid is also an exemplaiy guie heie in his keen awaieness of how
thinking the guial iequiies a tiansfoimation of philosophical style
tantamount to a peifoimance of foice within wiiting itself. Indeed,
among the moie inteiesting dimensions of each of the wiiteis encoun-
teied in this book aie not only the concepts they constiuct but also
theii peifoimance of the guial within the space of theii own thought
and wiiting.
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Piesenting the Figuial 3
So if I have adoptedthe guial inpait fiomLyotaid, the pioblematic
natuie of the concept owes as muchto my ieading of Deiiida, Kiacauei,
Benjamin, Foucault, and Deleuze. Making the guial ciiculate among
these philosopheis is not a piocess of building an evei moie accuiate
pictuie of a concept. To ietain its powei as a pioblem, the guial must
also claim the poweis of viituality, becoming a noniepiesentational
image that moiphs continually with iespect to the pioblems posed in
each chaptei. This is an act of thinking wheiein the guial constantly
shifts identity in its contact with dieient philosopheis and wheie the
philosophical questions themselves change when iecontextualized by
the concept of the guial. One can no moie say that the guial is in-
teiioi to the philosophy of Lyotaid and thus adopted fiom him, since
the concept is just as likely to iesituate Lyotaid on anothei plane of
immanence wheie his philosophy must be iethought oi thought anew.
I began thinking seiiously about Lyotaid in the mid-eighties. But
the Idea of the guial had seized me some yeais befoie, indeed long
befoie I was able to give it a name. Although Lyotaid foi one would
undoubtedly have dispaiaged this idea, I like to think of the guial
as my Music Television epiphany. What m1v signied foi me was
an implicit philosophical confiontation between the histoiy of con-
tempoiaiy lm theoiy as a semiological endeavoi and the incieasing
appeaiance of digitally manipulated images on Ameiican television.
Computei-geneiated and manipulated images aie nowcommonplace,
of couise. But when these images began appeaiing in television ad-
veitising, music videos, and othei venues, it was impossible not to be
astonished by how uidly text was spatialized, thus losing its unifoim
contouis, xed spacing, and lineai sense, and how piecisely space was
textualized, that is, how the Euclidian solidity of the image was fiag-
mented, iendeieddiscontinuous, divisible, andliable toiecombination
inthe most piecise ways. Suddenly the image was becoming aiticulable,
indeed discuisive, like nevei befoie. I do not want to imply, howevei,
that my aigument is founded on a technological tiansfoimation of dis-
couise. And if latei I diaw an association between the guial and the
viitual, this has little to do with the alieady debased infoimatic cui-
iency of the teim. No mattei how guial they may be, the so-called
new media still fall within a long and complex genealogy whose lines
of descent include both the histoiy of philosophy and the histoiy of
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4 Reading the Figuial
ait. The guial is something both new yet veiy old. Lyotaid himself
ieadily admits that the guial has an autonomous existence with a long
histoiy. The histoiy of ait, oi moie deeply the histoiy of iepiesenta-
tion, is full of authoiless examples of guiative text and textualized
guies. Simply iecognizing theii existence alieady pushes the limits of
modein philosophys distinction between the aits of succession and
those of simultaneity, but it does little to deconstiuct it. Nonetheless,
in theii own peculiai tiansfoimations of discouise, peihaps the new
media help us challenge in new ways the ontological gestuie that sepa-
iates the aits of time fiomthe aits of space. In so doing, the visible is no
longei banished fiom the iealm of discouise, which is ieseived foi lin-
guistic sense as the site of iational communication, and the aiticulable,
oi encnable, can iegain its poweis of plastic tiansfoimation.
Lyotards Leap into the Void: The Aesthetic before the New Media At
the beginning of this pioject, I was diawn to Lyotaid not only foi what
he called his defense of the eye but also in iecognition of his coui-
age foi asking, at a time when the inuence of stiuctuialism was still
stiong, What is discouise: How this question is asked aects not only
a semiology of the image (whose opacity is eithei ieduced to the giid
of signication oi valued as that which exceeds it) but also the con-
cept of signication itself. The guial challenges the self-identity of
discouise to dissolve the piesent piestige of the system and the giid
clcture] in which the men of language believe that have conned all
meaning (Disccurs I:). Especially in the ist half of his book, Lyotaid
aigues convincingly that the limit of the Saussuiean piojectfiom the
stiuctuial anthiopology of Claude Lvi-Stiauss, to Roman Jakobsons
linguistics, and even to the eailiei woiks of Jacques Lacanwas the in-
ability to compiehend the pioblemof meaning as othei than linguistic.
Although Lyotaid addiesses neithei photogiaphy noi cinema heie, by
extension his challenge must also confiont a semiology of the image.
The genius of Chiistian Metz, foi example, was to have demonstiated
eaily on that theie could not be a cinematic langue as witnessed in his
successive attempts to measuie the image against concepts of the sig-
niei, sentence, encnce, text, and nally enunciation.
2
But this was an
attempt to ievise Saussuieanism, to enlaige its teiiain so that the image
could be iinged by signication. Despite the biilliance of his aiguments
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Piesenting the Figuial 5
conceining image and signication, Metz maintained a concept of dis-
couise that could not bieak with its linguistic foundations. Alteina-
tively, the thought that most captivated me in Lyotaid and Foucault
was how discouise was tiansfoimed by the guial and so became a
new concept.
Despite wiestling with Lyotaids texts eaily on, Deiiidas ciitique
of logocentiism, and above all his ciitique of Saussuie in Oj Gramma-
tclcgy, maiked my ist conceptual libeiation fiom the linguistic signi-
ei. Of couise, wheieas the eaily Deiiida accomplished much in libei-
ating the signiei fiom its linguistic shackles, his model was still veiy
much a liteiaiy one. And despite his piofound and oiiginal iedeploy-
ment of concepts of spacing, ecriture, andtext, I have nevei beenwholly
convinced that deconstiuction steps beyond a hoiizon delimited by a
iestiicted concept of text.
Lyotaids Disccurs, gure (I,,) should be ievisited as one of the
fundamental texts of poststiuctuialismbecause like Deiiida, he undei-
stood well that a philosophical ciitique of stiuctuialism had to demol-
ish the twin pillais of Saussuie and Hegel, indeed that Hegels dialectic
and theoiy of the symbol weie the hidden engines of a stiuctuialist
logic. And like Deiiida, Lyotaid ietuined to Fieud to aiticulate a non-
dialectical logic of signication, though in a veiy dieient way than
Lacan, whose intellectual debt to Alxandie Kojves Hegel is omni-
piesent in the crits.
Lyotaids intuition, whose enoimous debt to Fieuds theoiy of
phantasy is acknowledged thioughout Disccurs, gure, is that guie
and discouise cannot be opposed. Unlike the histoiy of the aesthetic,
which has much at stake in distinguishing them as incommensuiable
ontological teiiitoiies, in Lyotaids view, guie and discouise aie di-
vided not by a bai but iathei by only the slightest of commas. None-
theless this comma does sepaiate ait and discouise in a way that
eiodes signication thiough spatialization. To iead oi to heai is not
the same as to see. Oi iathei, in passing fiom text to image, the status
of the eye changes. One does not iead oi heai a painting, accoid-
ing to Lyotaid. Seated at a table, one identies oi iecognizes linguistic
unities, standing in iepiesentation, one seeks out plastic and libidinal
events (Disccurs Io).
Spatialization, then, occuis in two dimensions that aie themselves
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6 Reading the Figuial
incommensuiable: designation and desiie. Disccurs, gure is in fact a
book whose aigument is maiked by this bioad division. The ist half is
devotedpiimaiily to the pioblemof discouise andthe ielationbetween
text and guie. Heie the iole of designation oi iefeience is fundamen-
tal, since it iiddles discouise with a spatialization that the linguistic
systemcannot mastei. Wheie designation is foimal oi foimed space, in
the secondhalf of the book, desiie aiises as anin-foimal space, the foice
of the guial. Beyond oi beneath the uncontainable spatial foice of
designation will be the uniepiesentable foice of piimal phantasy wheie
the guial expiesses the disaiticulatoiy poweis of the death diive.
Befoie walking down this path, howevei, the pioblem of designa-
tion must be deepened. One does not appioach the guial by decon-
stiucting discouise oi passing beyond it. Rathei, in a ist movement,
Lyotaid nds that guie iesides in discouise as the intiactable opacity
of the visible. This is a spatial manifestation that linguistic space can-
not incoipoiate without being shaken, an exteiioiity that it cannot in-
teiioiize as signicaticn (Disccurs I_). Eveiy discouise is haunted by
peispective in that in oidei to mean, it must rejer. Lyotaid calls this
function indexicality, though the concept functions in a veiy dieient
way fiom the semiotic of Chailes Saundeis Peiice. In designating an
object that it wants to piesent to the inteiioiity of thought, discouise
opens a view, indicates a vis--vis, ovei theie, that iattles the invaii-
abilityof both linguistic systemand diaciitical space with plasticityand
desiie, an expansive hoiizon. Indexicality means that discouise is shot
thiough with the visible: the nonc must point beyond its boideis to
objects positioned in space with iespect to it. It is plunged into a ges-
tuial space that suiiounds it, and it is iiddled fiom within by deictic
holes whose function is to indicate positionality in space (heie[theie)
and in time (now[then).
In mile Benvenistes view, these indicateurs, oi shifteis in En-
glish, aie tokens, empty placeholdeis of subjectivity and position. But
the heie of Lyotaid is giounded in the body. It indicates a coiielative
function between body and space that is incommensuiable with the ex-
peiience of language but nonetheless diaws on it to indicate spatial and
tempoial location. Deictic maikeis have a cuiious status, then, since
signication is insepaiable fiom designation as, in Hegels Phencme-
nclcgy, a negativity that spaces language. With shifteis, Lyotaid
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Piesenting the Figuial 7
aigues, language is pieiced with holes wheie the gaze insinuates itself,
the eye sees outside and anchois itself theie, but this outside is itself
ietuined to the piimaiy intimacy of the body, its space (and time)
(Disccurs _,). Lyotaid calls this a diadeictical ielation. This is a soit
of dialectic, though it is not a discouise because iefeience belongs to
showing, not signifyingit is insigniable. An indexical ielation of a
special kind, this sensate activity is a Dasein iathei than a Sinn, whose
movement is closei to the Beigsonian movement-image of Deleuze
than the abstiact movement of the dialectic, since it ielates to the scan-
ning of the eye and the mobility of the body in space. Nonetheless this
is a negativity of a special type, an opening in space between eye and
object as a kind of moving fiame that is foimal oi foimalizing. Indexi-
cality gives us a foimed space.
Foi Hegel, of couise, this is a pioblem that the dialectic and the
theoiy of the symbol must mastei. The sensate this (das sinnliche
Diese) that we aim foi does not belong to language: it is inexpiess-
ible and theiefoie neithei tiue noi iational.
3
Lyotaids oiiginality is to
show that if language is poweiless with iespect to showing, as Hegel
aigues, it is not because the showable is cppcsed to the expiessible but
iathei because it is too close to it. Rathei than being opposed, the one
the negation of the othei in dialectical conict, the visible and the ex-
piessible aie bound in a heautonomous ielation: though distinct and
incommensuiable, they aie intimately ielated.
Discouise, then, is haunted by space in paiticulai ways. Theie aie, of
couise, gure-images given to be seen as oiganizations of plastic space.
But theie is also, in the veiy heait of discouise, a gure jcrma nonlin-
guistic space within language that makes it expressible, in shoit, poetic
oi aesthetic. Theiefoie signication and expiession aie two dieient
dimensions of discouise distinguished by theii dieient ielations to
guial space: Discouise has this space along its edges, a space that
gives it its object as image, it also has this space at its heait, which gov-
eins its foim. But do not be mistaken: the inteiioiity of guial space
to discouise is not dialectical (Disccurs ,:).
Suddenly discouise, which wants to say eveiything and to make
eveiything sayable, nds itself toin fiom within by both an uncon-
scious of language and an unconscious of visibility. Each is foimed
fiom an inteival dening a soit of negativity, oi iathei a negative
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8 Reading the Figuial
space. In language, this is dieience expiessed as opposition that is ulti-
mately iendeied as the system of signication, in seeing, the spatial
act of iefeience may expiess oi indicate, but it does not mean. Signi-
cation opeiates thiough invaiiant codes, a iule-goveined system of
inteivals wheie the logic of communication opeiates in a tianspaient
space of puie iecipiocity between sendei and ieceivei. Alteinatively,
foi Lyotaid, visuality invades discouise as a distance to be ciossed that
indicates the location wheie what I say is placed as a hoiizon that opens
ahead of woids and pulls them to it, the negativity that is the foun-
dation of oui spatial existence, mobility constituting depth (Disccurs
,o). Heie the asignifying mobility of visual space functions as a space
of tiansgiession, at least foi the iatio dened by language. The diei-
ences of the linguistic system and the distances of deixis aie two foims
of negativity, one iigid and one mobile, which aie not dialectical. They
neithei cancel each othei out noi tianscend each othei. Instead, dis-
couise is iedened, not as the hieiaichy of one to the othei, but as the
heteiogeneous space of theii cohabitation.
What of the guial in ielation to signication and designation: Sig-
nication, oi the oidei of language, is maiked by stiuctuial opposi-
tion. But designation is foimed fiom a sight that spaces the subject
with iespect to sign and discouise accoiding to its inteinal indications
of subject, place, and time. One is maiked logically by opposition and
the othei by negativity.
4
In this mannei, Lyotaid shifts impoitantly the
philosophical denition of discouise by demonstiating the complex
imbiication of designation and signication within its veiy foim and
stiuctuie. Discouise is ciossed by, and ciosses between, two spaces oi
dimensionsthat of subject and systemthat spatialize it and hold
it open. The guial, howevei, is maiked by dieience in yet anothei
sense. The logic of dieience is neithei the smooth negation that holds
sepaiate the elements of a (linguistic) system, noi this deep denegation
that opens the iefeiential oi iepiesentational eld with iespect to dis-
couise (Disccurs I_,). The guial is the avatai of anothei oidei whose
ielation to space, no less than discouise, is vexed. The guial is uniep-
iesentable, beneath oi behind iepiesentation, because it opeiates in an
othei space that does not give itself to be seen oi thought, it is indi-
cated in a lateial fashion, fugitive at the heait of discouise and peicep-
tion, as that which tioubles them. It is the piopei space of desiie, the
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Piesenting the Figuial 9
stakes in the stiuggle that painteis and poets have ceaselessly launched
against the ietuin of the Ego and the text (I_,). The blinding eneigy of
desiie cws, iathei than is aiticulated, and it is these decoded ows that
make language expiession oi poetiy and painting an ait. To the extent
that space oi iepiesentation belongs to the guial, then, it is pioduced
dieiently fiom signication and designation, foi the spacing cr sepa-
raticn is nct that cj twc terms placed on the same plane, insciibed on
the same suppoit, and in piinciple ieveisible given ceitain conditions,
but iathei, the ielation of two heteiogeneous states that aie, howevei,
juxtaposed in an iiieveisible anachiony (I_,). This dieience is not
anothei foimof the negative. In its ielation to piimal phantasy and un-
conscious desiie, the guial is an agent foi the positivity of desiie that
ietuins to unsettle the No of discouise and that of peiception. Diei-
ence is ieboin heie as the foim of iepetition chaiacteiistic of the death
diive that undeimines any concept of stiuctuie with its uncanny foice.
The scandal of the guie is that it is both inside and outside of dis-
couise. Language is no longei a homogeneous space maiked by lin-
guistic unities. The eye is in the woid because theie is no aiticulation
without the appeal to an outside constituted as a visibility wheie ob-
jects aie designated in space, as well as a spatialization that iesides at
the heait of discouise as an unconscious foicedesiie. Lyotaid undei-
stands foice, unlike Foucault oi Deleuze and Guattaii, as Fieudian
iathei than Nietzschean. Nonetheless in this iespect Lyotaid is a cuii-
ous ally with Anti-Oedipus. To the extent that foice is desiie, it is not a
stiuctuie but iathei a foim, though a highly mobile and unstable one,
it does not signify, yet it has sense. The unconscious is not stiuctuied
like a language, noi is it even a stiuctuie:
To make the unconscious a discouise is to omit the eneigetic ener-
getique]. To do so is to iemain complicit with a Westein iatio that
destioys ait along with dieaming. One does not at all bieak with
metaphysics by nding language eveiywheie, iathei, one accom-
plishes[fullls it along with the iepiession of sensation sensible]
and jcuissance. The opposition is not between foim and foice, foi
heie one confuses foim and stiuctuie. Foice is nothing othei than
the eneigy that folds oi wiinkles the text and makes of it anaesthetic
woik, a dieience, that is, a foim. . . .
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10 Reading the Figuial
And what do you believe is discouise: Cold piose haidly exists
save at the lowest levels of communication. Discouise is thick. It
does not only signify, it expiesses. And if it expiesses, it is because
movement iesides within it as a foice that oveituins the table of sig-
nications with a seism that makes sense. . . . Discouise calls the
eye, it is itself eneigetic. To tiace the path of the eye in the eld of
language, this xed movement, is to follow the hills and valleys of
metaphoi, which is the accomplishment of desiie, and one will see
how exteiioiity as foice, foimed space, can ieside in inteiioiity as
closed signication. (Disccurs II,)
This is how Lyotaid iadically iedenes what is called discouise. Dis-
couise encompasses expiession and aect, as well as signication and
iationality, because it is also subject to a libidinal economy: the calm
suiface of linguistic system is always being chuined by the foice of
desiie.
Theie is a iisk of scolding Lyotaid foi invoking yet anothei heime-
neutic model of linguistic suiface and libidinal depth heie. And indeed
theie is some lack of caie in the philosophical language he chooses
in the books intioductoiy section, which is so deeply inuenced by a
similai language in Fieud. Foi this ieason, it is all the moie necessaiy
to insist that foi Lyotaid, discouise and guie opeiate as two diei-
ent and incommensuiable dimensions that nonetheless nevei cease to
communicate with each othei even within the space of the eye. Eveiy
discouise, whethei linguistic oi plastic, has both textual and guia-
tive aspects that opeiate as two dimensions of meaning: signication
and sense. Foitunately the English woid sense shaies much with
the Fiench. Wheie meaning is ieduced in signication to a giid of dif-
feiences systematically aiticulated as binaiy paiis, sense opens mean-
ing to both spatiality and aect: diiection, sensation, intuition. What
sepaiates these two dimensions, yet always ieaiticulates them in evei-
ienewable combinations, is what Lyotaid calls his utcpie Freudienne,
the disaiticulatoiy foice of the so-called death diive. What Lyotaid
calls depth (prcjcndeur) is not a negativity that iefutes the atness
of suiface. It opeiates in anothei dimension, the lateiality oi scan-
sion, puie dieience, that disunites and iecombines both discouise and
guie as the foice of desiie. Among the conceptual avatais of Disccurs,
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Piesenting the Figuial 11
gureCzanne and Mallaim on the side of ait, Fieud and Fiege on
that of discouiseguial space is piesentedas that which iadically ex-
ceeds the powei of a ieection that wants to signify it, to iendei it in
language, not as an object but as a denition (Disccurs I,). This is faii
waining to all books of philosophy, foi sense is always piesence as the
absence of signication. . . . Heie is the death diive, which is always
scheming with Eios-Logos. Constiucting sense is nothing othei than
deconstiucting signication. Theie is no model foi this evasive gu-
iation (I,). Depth iefeis, then, not to a topology oi hieiaichy but to
a foice oi eneigy that ows uninhibited thiough guie and discouise,
de-foiming the piesence of the image in space no less than that of
meaning in language. The guial is neithei guie noi guiative. Depth
means that guial space falls beneath peiception as the phantasmatic
matiix that ieconnects the visible neithei to the I-You of language noi
to the One of peiception, but iathei to the it of desiie. And not even
to the immediate guie of desiie, but iathei to its opeiations (:_).
These opeiations of desiie aie Fieuds Traumarbeit, oi even moie
piofoundly, those of piimal phantasy. Foi Lyotaid, the dieam-woik
whose guies include condensation, displacement, consideiations
of iepiesentability, and secondaiy ievisionpiesents an exemplaiy
(visible) space wheie guie and text aie engaged in a mutually de-
constiuctive activity of a seeing that undoes saying. Moieovei, these
guial pioceduies aie nonlinguisticeach diaws on a spatial dimen-
sion that is excluded fiom the linguistic system. If, as Fieud wiote, the
dieam-woik does not think, this places it on the othei side of ai-
ticulated language. It neithei calculates noi judges, it tiansfoims oi
peihaps de-foims (Fieuds teim is umjcrmen) iational sense in pai-
ticulai ways. Condensation libeiates an eneigy that eiodes the unities
of signication, moiphing discuisive space by destabilizing the spac-
ing between letteis and disiegaiding invaiiant giaphic tiaits. Con-
sideiations of iepiesentability (Rucksicht auj Darstellbarkeit) stage the
mise-en-scne of dieaming thiough selecting and juxtaposing visual
and linguistic mateiial, but also, moie impoitantly, by stiategically ie-
placing poitions of text with guies. Condensation, as a compiession
and distoition of both woid- and thing-piesentations, woiks togethei
heie with displacement to (un)foim a iebuslike space whose mateii-
als have been selected foi theii guial potential. Secondaiy elaboia-
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12 Reading the Figuial
tion functions, nally, to piovide a veneei of signication to this sui-
ieal woiked mattei, to suggest a solution to the iebus, which, it must
be said, is to anchoi the dieam in a linguistic sense. But this satisfac-
tion, which iests on judgment, is a luie. Having no pietensions to uni-
vocity, the guial can neithei lie noi mislead. If the dieam-woik has
sense, it will be found not in the oidei of language and judgment but
in the mise-en-scne of a foice of tiansgiession. This is the powei of
the guial.
But this same activityexhibits a yet moie piofounddivisionbetween
language and desiie. The plasticity of the dieam-woik is not a model
of visual semiosis: The dieam-woik is not a language, it is the eect
on language of a foice exeited by the guial (as image oi foim). This
foice tiansgiesses the law: it impedes heaiing, it makes seen. Such is the
ambivalence of censoiship. But this mixtuie is only the ist edition. It
is found not only in the oidei of dieams, but also in that of piimal
phantasy itself: discouise and guie at the same time, the woik lost in
a hallucinatoiy scenogiaphy, oiiginaiy violence (Disccurs :,o).
5
The
guial, then, is not piimaiily a montage oi chiasmus between the said
and the seen, it is foice oi unbound eneigy, not simply unseen (the let-
tei missed, an image not visible) but iadically unconscious. It is a thiid
dimension, neithei sayable noi showable.
To iecapitulate, then, the foice of the guial oiganizes space in thiee
incommensuiable dimensions. The oidei of discouise is bieached fiom
within by two dieient, if heautonomous, negations (opposition, divi-
sion) and two kinds of spacing: that of the linguistic system oiganized
by invaiiant patteined dieiences, and that of iefeience oi designa-
tion, which holds in peispective the sign and the object to which it
iefeis. Theie is no univocal discouise, then, since saying and show-
ing aie insepaiable, if incommensuiable, acts. Text is always alieady
guied, no amount of linguistic abstiaction can banish spacing fiom
it. Figuie and text togethei aie thus pait of discouise as if dieient
iatios of line to lettei. The guial, howevei, opeiates in anothei dimen-
sion, that of unconscious desiie, and ietuins to discouise as an infeinal
iepetition, the foice of tiansgiession. The guial opeiates on an othei
scene, that of the unconscious and piimal phantasy. The space that
they insciibe oi that they engendei, wiites Lyotaid, is theiefoie an
othei space. Thiough its incessant mobility it dieis fiom that of the
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Piesenting the Figuial 13
system, fiomthat of iefeience it dieis in that it takes woids foi things
(Disccurs :,,).
6
Figuie and text oiganize, in Deleuzes useful distinction, a ccllateral
space. This is the oidei of discouise, the spacing chaiacteiistic of enun-
ciation. And if the eye and position of the obseivei aie intioduced, the
enunciative act is caught up in anothei ciicuit of ielations that Deleuze
calls ccrrelative space. But the guial is not piesent in eithei of these
dimensions, noi can it be iepiesented by discouise, foi it is not space
but desiie oi foice. Nonspatial, it is theiefoie noniepiesentational. Yet
it can be appiehended in that the foice of tiansgiession acts on space,
expiessing itself in disoideied foims and hallucinatoiy images. It is
thiough these acts of un-foiming that the dieient dimensions of the
guial can be dened as image, foim, and matiix.
The gure-image belongs to the seen, whethei an actual oi hallu-
cinated image: It shows me the painting, the lm, an object set at a
distance, theme, it belongs to the oidei of the visible as a ievealing
tiace (Disccurs :,I). Heie the guial opeiates as tiansgiession oi de-
constiuction of the peicept, uniaveling the contouis of the image. The
gure-jcrm is unseen yet belongs to the visible as the aichitectuie that
sets it in place. It is the iegulating tiace oi gestalt of the image, the
scenogiaphy of iepiesentation. This is a Euclidian space, oi an Apollo-
nian good foim that the guial undeimines as a Dionysian foice oi
eneigetics indieient to the unity of the whole (:,,).
Image and foimcould belong to the oidei of discouise, whethei lin-
guistic oi plastic. They aie intelligible and theiefoie spatial foims. The
matiix, howevei, is neithei foim noi stiuctuie, neithei discuisive noi
visible. The matrix-gure, wiites Lyotaid, is invisible in piinciple,
subject to piimal iepiession, immediately inteimixed with discouise,
piimal phantasy. It is nonetheless a guie, not a stiuctuie, because it
consists in a violation of discuisive oidei fiom the outset, in a violence
done to the tiansfoimations that this oidei authoiizes. It cannot be in-
telligibly appiehended, foi this veiy appiehension would make its im-
meision in the unconscious unintelligible (Disccurs :,I). By the same
token, the matiix can function as neithei oiigin noi arche. Peihaps one
could say that it is an-archic. Fai fiom being an oiigin, the phantas-
matic matiix attests, iathei, to the contiaiy: that oui oiigin is the ab-
sence of oiigin, and that eveiything that piesents itself as the object of
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14 Reading the Figuial
a piimal discouise is a hallucinatoiy guie-image, located piecisely in
this initial nonplace (:,I).
As foice, the guial exhibits all the qualities that Fieud associated
with the unconscious: absence of negation oi contiadiction, extieme
mobility of libidinal eneigy and intensity of cathexes, intempoiality,
and dominance of the pleasuie piinciple.
7
Unlike the qualities of dis-
cuisive space, negation is unknown to it. This means, ist, that desiie
is asseitive and positive, as decoded (in fact, unccdable) ow, it is un-
compiomised by negation. A second consequence is even moie de-
stabilizing foi a stiuctuialist ieading of Fieud: the unconscious is not
stiuctuied like a language. The positivity of desiie means that uncon-
scious judgments have neithei modality noi quality. And equally
impoitant, as agent of the piimaiy piocesses, the guial ignoies the
fundamental constiaints of discouise, indeed, it deiails peiception,
motiicity, and aiticulated language as foims of the secondaiy pio-
cesses. It belongs to neithei the oidei of language noi iepiesentation
it is uniepiesentable. What I want to show is this, wiites Lyotaid.
The matiix is not a language, not a linguistic stiuctuie une struc-
ture de langue], not a tiee of discouises. Of all the oideis of guie, it is
the most iemote fiom communicability, the most withdiawn. It hai-
bois the incommunicable (Disccurs _:,). The matiix engendeis foims
and images, and even veibalizations that want to speak of them, but
it itself is neithei guie noi guiation, noi is it a discouise. The gu-
ial iuns countei to iepiesentation, whethei plastic oi linguistic. What
these distinctions make cleai is the iadical positioning of the matiix,
which belongs neithei to plastic noi to textual space. Neithei visible
noi ieadable,
it is dieience itself, and as such does not suei even the minimum
of stiuctuial cppcsiticn mise en cppcsiticn] iequiied foi spoken ex-
piession oi the foiming oi imaging iequiied foi plastic expiession.
Discouise, image, and foim aie all equally missing fiom it, yet it ie-
sides in all thiee spaces. Anyones woiks aie only the oshoots of
this matiix, we might peihaps catch a eeting glimpse of it thiough
theii supeiimposition, in depth. But the confusion of spaces that
piedominates oiiginaiily is such that woids aie being tieated as
things and as foims, things as foims oi woids, foims as woids oi
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Piesenting the Figuial 15
things, deconstiuction beais no longei only on the textual tiace as
in the guial image, oi on the iegulating tiace as in the guial foim,
but on the scene wheie the matiix is held, which belongs at the same
time to the space of the text, to that of the mise-en-scne, and to that
of the stage: wiiting, geometiy, iepiesentationeach one decon-
stiucted thiough the inmixing of the two otheis. (Disccurs :,8,,)
Piimal phantasy, then, is othei to the system of language as well
as visuality. As Fieud insists in The Interpretaticn cj Dreams, the ob-
jects of oui inteinal peiceptions aie virtual.
8
Veibalizations oi woid-
piesentations aie unconstiained by the iules of syntax. Foi its pait,
the image is disoideied by the ieign of the pleasuie piinciple. Phantas-
matic images, oi thing-piesentations, aie peiceptions unanchoied
by iecognizable objects piesent in the exteinal woild. Moieovei, the
self-identity of images is fiactuied and polysemic no less than veibal-
izations that aie iendeied polyvocal. The images the matiix geneiates
aie both shaiply dened and bluiied at the same time. The eect is as
if multiple scenes, having ceitain segments oi aieas, some plastic ele-
ment only, in common, weie supeiimposed on the same lm, but at the
iight exposuie (Disccurs _:,:8).
9
Eveiy phantasmatic iepiesenta-
tion is a guie of paiadoxical sensewhose outlines aie cleai, yet subject
to continual change, foi even the most singulai image supeiimposes
multiple sites, whose oiigins aie contiadictoiy diives and pait-objects,
and multiple tempoialities in the conuence of (achionological) mem-
oiy tiaces. Figuial foim is without unity because piimal phantasy
is always maiked by the simultaneous activity of multiple foims oi
images as well as aects. Noi can desiie opeiate as a unifying foice,
since piimal phantasy is always the expiession of multiple diives.
The foice of the guial, then, deconstiucts not only discouise but
also the guie as iecognizable image oi piopei foim. This foice is
dieience itself: Not just the tiace, not just piesence-absence, indif-
feiently discouise oi guie, but the piimaiy piocess, the piinciple of
disoidei, the incitement to jouissance. Not some kind of inteival sepa-
iating two teims that belong to the same oidei, but an uttei disiup-
tion of the equilibiiumbetween oidei and disoidei (Disccurs ___,).
In othei woids, the guial ignoies the iule of opposition to ally itself
with the foice of dieience. This is the seciet and powei of its viitu-
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16 Reading the Figuial
ality. In tiansgiessing the inteivals that constitute discouise, and the
distances that constitute iepiesentation, the space of the unconscious,
like the phantasized libidinal body, is neithei unied noi unifying. It
contains multiple scenes on the same stage and gatheis in the same
image incompossible spaces and times. Foi Lyotaid, the example of
piimal phantasy stages most deeply the poweis of the guial with ie-
spect to aesthetic foim. Not a piopei foim, ceitainly, but a foim
in which desiie iemains engagedjcrm in the grip cj transgressicn
but it is also, potentially at least, the transgressicn cj jcrm (_,o).
10
This
is the fate of iepiesentation oi discouise undei the sway of the death
diive: To take the diive foi a binding foice would be woise than to take
the unconscious foi a language and to make the id a] talk. Because,
aftei all, theie is some liaison in the unconsciousa phantasmatic and
foimal liaison, Eios. But the unconscious is not what it is (i.e., unknow-
able), except in so fai as the liaison sepaiates, comes undone, and it
is heie that the death diive ieveals itself. . . . Now we undeistand that
the piinciple of guiality, which is also the piinciple of unbinding (the
bae), is the death diive: the absolute of antisynthesis: utopia (_,).
11
As I have alieady aigued in The Diculty cj Dierence, it is the iole
of ait to make this Fieudian utopia piesent in oui eveiyday lives as a
heteiocosmic foice. Paul Klee called this a Zwischenwelt, oi between-
woild, wheie the tiansfoimative, oi bettei, tiansgiessive foice of the
guial can opeiate. Klees concept implies that desiie opens a tian-
scendental dimension whose possibilities foi change aie ievolutionaiy
and that functions univeisally, even though it is the special domain of
aitists: I often say that woilds aie opened and open themselves un-
ceasingly in us, woilds that themselves belong to natuie, but which aie
not visible to eveiyone. . . . I call it the between-wcrld, because I sense
it piesent between the woilds that oui senses can peiceive exteinally,
and because inteinally I can assimilate it well enough to be able to
pioject it outside myself in symbolic foim.
12
Theie is a special foice of
tiansfoimation in eveiyone, tiansgiessing both good foim and com-
mon sense, which does not belong to anyone, though the aitist has the
special iole of making it piesent in, shall we say, the spatially peicep-
tible woild. Heie the special piovince of ait is not to communicate but
to tiansmit the incommunicable. Oi as Lyotaid would latei state, to
piesent the unpiesentable. The between-woild is fueled by the viitu-
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Piesenting the Figuial 17
ality of unconscious peiception as the genesis of a cieation that has
nc mcdel. The pioblematic is neithei to constitute an intelligible woild
noi to make it iecognizable, it is that of a between-wcrld, an othei pos-
sible natuie that piolongs cieation, making visible what is not, without,
howevei, falling piey to a subjective imagination (Disccurs ::).
Ait neithei visualizes noi symbolizes the guial in the usual sense.
Lyotaid nds that unlike the cubists, Klee did not wiite with geo-
metiic volumes, iathei, he was conceined with the deconstiuction of
iepiesentation and the invention of what I have called a nonspatial
peiception, which is also a space of the viitual and the unfoieseen, a
pictoiial polyphony that is the special piovince of the Zwischenwelt.
Wheie the guial inhabits ait, space does not piesent an image, it beais
witness to oi exhibits a wcrk.
Klees between-woild is not an imaginaiy woild, it is the exhib-
itedwoikshop of the piimaiy piocess. One does not speak it oi see
it, iathei, it woiks. Theie the line does not note the signieis of a
discouise oi the contouis of a silhouette. It is the tiace of an eneigy
that condenses, displaces, guies, and elaboiates without iegaid foi
the iecognizable. The essential is to decide towhat ends the activity
of making visible das Sichtbarmachen] is exeicised. To x in mem-
oiy what has been seen, oi iathei to also make manifest what is not
visible: Heie the invisible is not the ieveise of the visible, its back.
It is the unconscious inveitedplastic possibility. (Disccurs :_8)
13
Wheie Deleuze piesents the guial as a metaphysics of time, an entre-
temps, as we shall see in chaptei o, foi Lyotaid it is a philosophy of
desiie. The foice of viituality is not that of time but that of the piimaiy
piocesses, the foice of unconscious desiie.
The Fieudian utopia of the guial was to nd othei foims in
Lyotaids subsequent woik, but in eveiy case, desiie is guied as a pii-
mal disaiticulatoiy foice whose condition is uniepiesentability. Theie
is an impoitant link heie between Lyotaid and Deleuze, not only in
theii uniemitting hostility to Hegel and Hegelianism, explicit oi im-
plicit, but also in seeking alteinatives to the ieigning tiaditions of phi-
losophies of iepiesentation. Concepts of Idea, image, and phantasm
ciiculate in theii philosophies, though in veiy dieient ways. And in
eveiy case these concepts deiive fiom a nonpiesent peiception that
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18 Reading the Figuial
opeiates thiough a discoidance of the facultiesthe appiehension of a
dimension that is not spatial in the sense of extension and that ielates
to foice as viituality.
14
A key dieience between the two, howevei, is how these concepts
tuin to the question of ait: foi Lyotaid, the guial is an aesthetic con-
cept in a way that it is not foi Deleuze. (Oi peihaps Deleuze implicitly
invokes the moie ancient concept of aisthesis, the dimension of sen-
sation iathei than ait.) Lyotaid peisistently chaiacteiizes the piimaiy
piocesses as an unconscious space that pieseives an aesthetic di-
mension foi the guial. Moieovei, heie the guial pieseives foi ait
its ciitical dimension. Undei capitalism, the integiative function of
ait is to x oi oidei desiie thiough communication oi iepiesentation,
to tuin and exhaust it in piactical activity. But the aesthetic foice of
the guialwhich deiives fiom the ineluctable and uncanny disoidei-
ing iepetition of the death diiveis immediately ievolutionaiy. It be-
longs to an oidei of sense oi existence that is neithei that of linguistic
communication, noi guiative iepiesentation, noi piactical activity.
A Zwischenwelt, it falls between the piactical peiceptual and commu-
nicative opeiations of the ieality piinciple.
Lyotaid both ievised and complicated his moie stiident and mili-
tant positions on ait of the I,,os.
15
Yet this does not fiee us fiom pui-
suing the liaison between desiie and tiansgiession in his concept of the
guial, and fiom inquiiing into the ways in which desiie functions as a
tianscendental concept in the Kantian sense, above all with iespect
to the question of ait and politics. To examine this question, we must
tuin to Lyotaids concepts of the postmodein and the sublime.
I have examined two peispectives on the guial in Lyotaids woik.
The ist piimaiily denes a discuisive space wheie text and guie, let-
tei and line, aie mutually imbiicated as two kinds of negativity, and
two kinds of spatialization, that will nevei foima synthetic oi symbolic
unity. In othei woids, discouise is incapable of tiansmitting a univocal
sense. The second dimension is that of desiie, the dieam-woik, and pii-
mal phantasy. Spatial though not visible, unbound by eithei linguistic
oi peispectival negation, this is a viitual dimension wheie peiception
is fieed fiomieality testing, and wheie woids and things tiansfoimone
into the othei with the uidity of hallucinated objects. Moie iadically,
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Piesenting the Figuial 19
even the scenogiaphy and enunciative stiuctuie of this space is pei-
tuibed by the uncoded ows of desiie, pioducing a supeiimposition of
contiadictoiy points of view, incommensuiable naiiative scenes, and
achionological layeis of memoiy. Two dimensions of space, then, but
what of the pioblem of time oi histoiy: In anticipation of chaptei , of
this book, wheie I will take up the question of histcrische Bilder, his-
toiical images, as dened by Waltei Benjamin and Siegfiied Kiacauei,
the guial now appeais as a question of time in Lyotaids concept of
postmodeinism.
To tuin to the question of postmodeinism may seem paiadoxical,
since one consistent hallmaik acioss its vaiiegated denitions has been
an evacuation of histoiical sense. Foi example, Fiediic Jamesons con-
cept of the postmodein is just in its eoit to dene the cultuial logic of
postindustiial capitalism, one of whose featuies is to accumulate all of
histoiy into a single synchionic piesent. In ietiospect, howevei, pei-
haps the peiiod was too quickly named. Foi theie is now, no doubt, a
nostalgia foi those postmodein I,8os when the limited histoiical sense
of postmodeinism was supposed to have evacuated any sentiment foi
the past. So alieady, not so many yeais aftei, we aie confionted equally
with that fact that postmodeinismhas a histoiy, and with the question:
What comes aftei:
Hence the pioblem of dening postmodeinism as a style of ait oi
aichitectuie, oi as a way of oiganizing space oi sensation. To Lyotaids
ciedit, he consideied postmodeinismneithei as a histoiical peiiod noi
ieally as a style of ait. One can say, howevei, that it is a histoiical con-
cept that shaies, in fact, a logic common to all histoiische Bildei: it is
untimely. A suspension in the line of time, the ciitical ait that Lyotaid
values is the evei-iecuiiing expiession of a futuie anteiioi. This is why
Lyotaid asseits, paiadoxically, that a woik can become modein only if
it is rst postmodein. To become modein in the sense of actual oi con-
tempoiaiy, it must anticipate a coming time not yet piesent: A woik
can become modein only if it is ist postmodein. Postmodeinismthus
undeistood is not modeinism at its end but in its nascent state, and
this state is constant.
16
Oi as David Caiioll explains, one of the pii-
maiy functions of ait is to keep the knowledge we have of it fiom evei
being actualeithei a piesent knowledge oi one anticipated in a futuie
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20 Reading the Figuial
that will some day constitute the piesent (Paraesthetics I,o). To in-
quiie into the tempoiality of the guial is to undeistand that it is an
untimely histoiical image as well as an impeiceptible spatial one.
To the thiee dimensions of Lyotaids guialdiscouise, guie, and
desiiewe may nowadd a fouith, the sublime, wheie the avant-gaide
task is to undo spiiitual assumptions iegaiding time. The sense of the
sublime is the name of this dismantling.
17
In invoking the categoiy of
the sublime, the uniepiesentability of the guial moiphs fioma spatial
natuie to a tempoial one. In this iespect, the postmodein sublime
is badly named, foi the expeiience of the sublime does not evolve, it
is only histoiical in a special sense. It could be said even that the sub-
lime is always a combination of modein and post: modein in the
sense of continually emeiging in a iecuiiing piesent, post in its sus-
pension of the piesent in the anticipation of a nondeteimined futuie.
The two teims aie incommensuiable. What comes aftei the modein
can be known only when an Idea oi concept is attached to a iepiesenta-
tion that can expiess it. But the sublime is what thiows the link between
concept and iepiesentation into disaiiay. This is why the sublime is
witness to indeteiminacy: thought is always caught in a suspended
judgment whose anchois in eithei an a piioii histoiy of iepiesentation
oi a sensus ccmmunus have become ungiounded. The sublime is post-
modein in this tempoial sense iegaidless of ait histoiical peiiod. The
question foi Lyotaid is theiefoie: At what point did the aitistic expies-
sion of the sublime become possible as expeiimentation: This is tanta-
mount to asking as well: At what point didait ienounce iepiesentation:
I do not want to iecapitulate Lyotaids histoiy of the sublime heie.
It is cleaily and concisely coveied in his own published woik.
18
But let
it be said that while the expeiience of the sublime is outside histoiy, as
it weie, the histoiy of philosophy is maiked by the seaich foi concepts
adequate to it, no less than the histoiy of ait is maiked by the seaich foi
foims to iepiesent it. In Kant, foi example, the sense of beautyconceins
a fiee haimony between the faculties of imagination oi iepiesentation
and concepts oi ieason. And judgments conceining the beautiful ie-
sult fioma univeisal consensus whose basis is this fieedom. But the key
quality of the sublime is not fieedom but indeteiminacy. Confionted
with an absolutely immense oi poweiful event oi object in natuie oi
in ait, the subject sueis a painful teaiing of the faculty of conceptual-
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Piesenting the Figuial 21
ization fiom that of imagination. The sublime can only be consideied
without the aid of ieason, since the imagination fails to piovide iep-
iesentations adequate to these absolutes. This pain, howevei, is mixed
with a pleasuie that attests to the stiiving of the imagination to illumi-
nate what cannot be illuminated. Similaily, the inadequacy of images
attests to the immense powei of ideas thiough theii function as nega-
tive signs. In Lyotaids aigument, this negation ietuins to the sublime
as a foice of nonpiesentation. This foice is exemplied by Lyotaid as
an optical pleasuie ieduced to nothing that piomotes an endless con-
templation of innity. In othei woids, the ieduction of optical pleasuie
yields an inveisely ielated intensication of mental expeiience.
This optical pleasuie ieduced to nothing is a key featuie of Lyotaids
postmodein aesthetics. But since we do not necessaiily need ait to ex-
peiience the sublime, why is the question of ait so impoitant: Peihaps
it has do to with the piesence and ubiquity of iepiesentations ie-
duced to piactical communication in oui infoimation cultuie: And in
this iespect, Lyotaids account of how optical pleasuie becomes dis-
sociated fiom the concept of iepiesentation in the histoiy of ait must
be ieconsideied.
One function of the Enlightenment foi Lyotaid was to tuin ait fiom
the gloiication of a human oi divine name iepiesentative of a cai-
dinal value to the miciological investigation of ait itself. The giad-
ual tuin to miciologics that ienounce totalizing schemes is a key fea-
tuie of postmodeinity. Seiving the taste of the aiistociacy, whethei
seculai oi ieligious, and ciicumsciibed by the limits imposed by the
guilds and academies, the natuie of aesthetics in the classical peiiod
was bound by questions of techn, whose measuie was iepiesentation
in both the political and guiative sense. By sustaining supposedly uni-
veisal noims of the beautiful, ait seived an integiative function. Heie
cultuie is dened as public access to histoiical-political identifying
signs and to theii collective inteipietation (Lyotaid, Piesenting o).
Foi Lyotaid, Dnis Dideiot iemapped aesthetics by making tchn the
little technique in the seivice of aitistic genius. When ait becomes
the expiession of genius as an involuntaiy ieceptacle of inspiiation
(Lyotaid, Sublime _,), tchn is fieed fiom the noims of a school oi
piogiamno less than those of cultuie oi politics. (Of couise, as we shall
see in chaptei , genius comes to seive othei ends of the aesthetic.)
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22 Reading the Figuial
This yields thiee consequences. Fiist, the aitwoik is detached fiom
its integiative function and libeiated fiom a mimetic function. Fieed
fiom the demands of iepiesenting natuie, ait comes to occupy its own
woild, not unlike Klees Zwischenwelt. In the Kantian analogy, genius
no longei iepiesents natuie, it iepiesents like natuie, that is, in peifect
fieedom. Similaily, ait is fieed fiom the denition of beauty deiiving
fiom natuie, thus giving monstiosity and malfoimation theii iights.
Second, and in like mannei, the consensus of public judgment dis-
solves. As theie aie no longei iules foi making ait, so neithei aie theie
iules foi the ieception of ait. The people wandei fieely and individu-
ally thiough the galleiies and museums, piey to unpiedictable feelings
of shock, admiiation, contempt, oi indieience (Sublime _,).
As the beautiful is giadually supplanted by the sublime, the philoso-
phy of ait is conceined less with the cieatoi, who is left to the solitude
of genius, than with the spectatoi and the expeiience of aitwoiks, and
this leads to a thiid tuining in the concept of the aesthetic. Aesthetics,
as the domain of judgments conceining ait, comes to ieplace poetics
and ihetoiic, which weie didactic domains meant to instiuct the ait-
ist. Both genius and judgment contiibuted to the eaily modein notion
of the libeial subject as a fiee, self-actualizing, and self-possessed indi-
vidual, but this is not Lyotaids gambit. Lyotaid notes that when the
idea of the Beautiful is constiained by the cultuial noims of a school,
piogiam, oi pioject, ait is dened by a notion of piogiess that piojects
aitistic thought and activity along a lineai continuum: one feels satis-
ed with piedicting what comes next as deiiving fiom what comes be-
foie. Repiesentation evolves teleologically towaid its ideal of beautiful
foims. But as a negative value, the sublime disiupts teleology with in-
deteiminacy. The histoiical continuum is suspended in hesitation and
agitation between pleasuie and pain, joy and anxiety, exaltation and
depiession. And these aie all aects demonstiating that the sublime
is kindled by the thieat that nothing fuithei may happen (Sublime
o). Heie the ait object no longei confoims to natuial models, iathei,
it is a simulaciumthat piesents the unpiesentable. Ait no longei iepie-
sents, the aitist cieates events that aie suspensions in the line of time
and causality wheie the spectatoi sueis an intensication of hei oi
his conceptual oi emotional capacity.
That the sublime is witness to indeteiminacy means two things,
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Piesenting the Figuial 23
both of which ietuin us to the question of miciology. If the negative
value of the sublime ieduces optical pleasuie to nothing, the act of
painting itself becomes a miciological investigation. Miciology signi-
es a tuin in what aitistic activity means as foimal expeiimentation.
Undei the ideal of the Beautiful, painting exploies the foims of exis-
tence demonstiable accoiding to the laws of geometiic peispective and
ccnstruzicne legittima, andpiogiess inpainting means the peifectionof
those foims in iepiesentation. But the sublime libeiates painting fiom
iepiesentation by asking it to show what is not demonstiable:
That which is not demonstiable is that which stems fiom Ideas and
foi which one cannot cite (iepiesent) any example, case in point, oi
evensymbol. The univeise is not demonstiable, neithei is humanity,
the endof histoiy, the moment, the species, the good, the just, etc.
oi, accoiding to Kant, absolutes in geneialbecause to iepiesent is
to make ielative, to place in context within conditions of iepiesen-
tation. Theiefoie, one cannot iepiesent the absolute, but one can
demonstiate that the absolute existsthiough negative iepiesen-
tation, which Kant called the abstiact. (Piesenting o8)
In taking on this task, painting becomes a philosophical activity, and
abstiaction takes on a new sense in the histoiy of ait. When painting
becomes abstiact, iepiesentation is maityied. It becomes indeteimi-
nate, as does judgment, which is no longei iegulated by a consensus of
taste. As Lyotaid puts it, painting becomes avant-gaide, and ait loses
its integiatve function:
Avant-gaide painting eludes the esthetics of beauty in that it does
not diaw on a communal sense of shaied pleasuie. To the pub-
lic taste its pioducts seem monstious, foim-less, puiely nega-
tive nonentities. (I am using teims by which Kant chaiacteiized
those objects that give iise to a sense of the sublime.) When one
iepiesents the non-demonstiable, iepiesentation itself is maityied.
Among othei things, this means that neithei painting noi the view-
ing public can diawon established symbols, guies, oi plastic foims
that would peimit the sense oi the undeistanding of theie being, in
these idea woiks, any question of the kind of ieason and imagina-
tion that existed in Romano-Chiistian painting. (Piesenting o,)
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24 Reading the Figuial
This philosophically abstiact quality makes idea-woiks of painting,
thus placing it in the avant-gaide of philosophy no less than ait.
The maityidomof iepiesentation tuins painting to the task of dem-
onstiating the existence of the invisible in the visible. This could mean,
as in the nonobjective ait of Wassily Kandinsky, the (non)iepiesenta-
tion of spiiitual absolutes. But Lyotaid has a dieient task in mind.
Taking his cue fiomMauiice Meileau-Ponty, Lyotaid sees Czanne, foi
example, as investigating the elementaiy sensations hidden in oidinaiy
peiception as a way of iidding vision of its peiceptual and intellectual
piejudices. These petites sensaticns constitute the entiie pictoiial exis-
tence of an objecta fiuit, a mountain, a face, oi a oweiwithout
consideiation of histoiy of subject, of line, of space, even of light
(Sublime I). These piejudices include, of couise, all the noims oi
iules that established guiative space as a space of iepiesentation since
the quattiocento. In questioning and eliminating them, modein ait
sets out on a miciological ieseaich that inteiiogates, one by one, the
components that one might have thought elementaiy to oi at the
oiigin of the ait of painting. They have opeiated ex minimus (I). In
othei woids, foi Lyotaid, the pioblems iaised by foim in modein ait
aie diiven by an ontological question, What is painting: which can
be answeied only thiough the ieduction and subsequent investigation
of its elemental components.
19
The philosophical ieach of modein ait does not end heie. The onto-
logical questing of modein ait pioduces a cuiious tension in Lyotaids
aigument. Once ait and aesthetics tuin to the question of the sublime,
and once ait sets o on its miciological investigations, painting is iegu-
lated by a seiies of iiieveisible deviations in the diiectional couise of
ait (Sublime o). Heie the evolution of modein ait is maiked by
teleology no less than that of classic ait, as painting peifoims a seiies
of ontological ieductions conceining peispective, suiface, coloi, sup-
poit, and even the space of exhibition. At the same time, this optical
ieduction systematically ieduces space oi even places the question of
guiative oi object-al space undei eiasuie (as when the canvas is ie-
nounced foi body and peifoimance ait oi in the staging of events
and happenings). And as space disappeais oi becomes foimless, the
question of time iecuis. The histoiical teleology of optical ieduction
and its concomitant pleasuies, as well as the ontological line of thought
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Piesenting the Figuial 25
inpainting, continuallyencountei heie anothei time, anindeteiminate
oi unmeasuiable time, no mattei howevanescent, that ieleases thought
fiom foim and space. Hence the impoitance of Bainet Newmans sub-
lime foi Lyotaid when wiiting in I,, that he was less conceined with
constiuctions of space oi image in painting than with sensations of
time (Sublime _o). This sensation was that of an ephemeial piesent
oi Now invoked in the titles of paintings such as Here I, II, and III,
Nct Over There, Here, Ncw I and II, and Be I and II, as if invoking
stiange deictic maikeis in ielation to his canvases. But foi Lyotaid, this
place is unsustainable, no thought can occupy it: Newmans ncw is
a stiangei to consciousness and cannot be composed in teims of it.
Rathei it is what dismantles consciousness, what dismisses conscious-
ness, it is what consciousness cannot foimulate, and even what con-
sciousness foigets in oidei to compose itself (Sublime _,).
Heie paintings withdiawal fiom giand histoiical oi metaphysical
themes, and its investigation ex minimus of its elementaiy compo-
nents, biings it close to Adoinos position that
the thought that accompanies metaphysics in its decline can only
pioceed in teims of miciologies. Miciology is not metaphysics
in ciumbs, just as Newmans painting is not Delecioix in sciaps.
Miciology iegisteis the occuiience of thought as the unthought
that iemains to be thought in the decline of giand philosophi-
cal thought. The avant-gaidist eoit iecoids the occuiience of a
peiceivable now as something unpiesentable that iemains to be
piesented in the decline of giand iepiesentational painting. Like
miciology, the avant-gaide does not woiiy about what happens to
the subject, but about is it happening?, a iaw state. In this sense it
belongs to the esthetic of the sublime. (Sublime I)
The stakes of this avant-gaide aie high foi Lyotaid. In an eia
when the tiiumph of globalization seems almost complete, capitalism
piesents its own sublime iegulated by the Idea of unlimited wealth and
powei, and of infoimation ieduced to the ows of capital whose pio-
digious scales and lightning movements escape imagination. Theie is
anothei way to put this that Lyotaid only paitially sees. When signs
become infoimation in the foim of instantaneous and global data
ows, iepiesentation in the oldei sense is equally de-iealized. Infoi-
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26 Reading the Figuial
mation becomes an abstiact oi a negative sign in that it no longei ie-
lies on eithei spatial extension (analogy) oi existential and tempoial
anchoiing (indexicality), and in this sense it has supplanted the sub-
limes poweis of intensication. Foi all who would contest it, then, this
foim of hypeicapitalism piesents a ciisis of tempoiality as the dis-
appeaiance of the tempoial continuum thiough which the expeiience
of geneiations used to be tiansmitted. The distiibution of infoimation
is becoming the only ciiteiion of social impoitance, yet, infoimation
is by denition a shoit-lived element. As soon as it is tiansmitted and
shaied it ceases to be infoimation but has instead become an enviion-
mental given: all is saidwe supposedly know. It has been fed into
the memoiy machine. The duiation of time it occupies is, so to speak,
instantaneous (Sublime _).
Iionically, then, capital has placed itself in diiect competition with
ait foi all that used to be called aesthetic expeiience. Foi Lyotaid, the
avant-gaide is always at iisk thiough eithei iejection, iepiession, oi
co-optation, but its place now has nevei been moie fiagile. Not only
does capitalism collude with the avant-gaide and seduce the aitist, but
now that the Idea of capital identies itself with the sublime, it wants
to iendei the avant-gaide in ait unnecessaiy. In this iespect, it leaves
ait open again to a mythic and iepiesentational symbolism that pio-
motes false collectivities oi violent nationalisms.
20
Alteinatively, the
fate of ait undei capitalism is to ieduce the avant-gaide to the concept
of innovation wheie histoiy advances along a tempoial continuumde-
ned by the succession of always new and dieient ait pioducts. But
Lyotaids sublime appeals neithei to the continuity of the subject, noi
to the totalization of metaphysical thought, noi to a consensus of pub-
lic taste. And in this iespect, the continuity of capitalist innovation,
and the sublime suspension as the event oi Ereignis of contestatoiy
ait, must oppose each othei as iadically dieient conceptualizations of
time. Capitalismdenes value as innovation. To] innovate means to
behave as if any numbei of things could happen and it means taking
action to make them happen. In aiming itself, will aims its hege-
mony ovei time. It also confoims to the metaphysics of capital, which
is a technology of time. Innovation advances. The question maik oi
the Is it happening? aiiests. Will is defeated by occuiience. The avant-
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Piesenting the Figuial 27
gaide task is to undo spiiitual assumptions iegaiding time. The sense
of the sublime is the name of its dismantling (Sublime _).
Foi Lyotaid, what is at stake in associating the sublime and the con-
tempoiaiy avant-gaide is an ontological denition of ait as a negating
piesence that ieaims the heie and now as a noncontingent and in-
deteiminate possibility within an incieasingly contiolled society. The
avant-gaide task of the sublime is to pioduce a suspension in the line
of time, in tempoial expeiience itself. This is no longei an act of judg-
ment (This is beautiful) but a suspension of judgment (Is it hap-
pening:) that in oveiieaching iepiesentation might open an inteival
wheie thought eludes the totalizing foices of capital. Lyotaids skepti-
cism conceining ait institutions and ait pedagogy, howevei, leads him
to baiiicade the last possibility of ciitique within the ait object itself.
Both the undeniable appeal and the limits of Lyotaids hopes foi the
avant-gaide aie expiessed in this idea of a tempoial ontology of the
aesthetic. Wheie Deiiida denes the fiame as a (spatial) logic of con-
tiolled indeteiminacy adjudicating the boideis of aesthetic judgment
and ontology, Lyotaids notion of the sublime denes a tempoial intei-
val without the concomitant ciitique of ontology. Peihaps, iing on
Yves Klein, this could be called Lyotaids leap into the void: an intei-
val dened by that moment of suspension between the act of leaping,
when ones feet leave solid suifaces, and the haid landing of piesent
histoiy. This is an act of faith to pieseive an ethics of time.
In Deleuze the tides of time ow in anothei diiection, and one
nds in ait as in philosophy not the becoming of Being but iathei the
being of Becoming. Both Deleuze and Lyotaid view ait as expeiimen-
tation. But foi Deleuze this sense of expeiimentation is explicitly Nietz-
schean and not at all phenomenological oi psychoanalytic. Ait, like
philosophy, has the capacity to ienew itself continually because of its
(un)giounding in a metaphysics of time as the being of Becoming is
continually ieasseited thiough eteinal iecuiience, as I will discuss fui-
thei in chaptei o.
21
Lyotaids position is moie Heideggeiian in that ait
itself must asseit and pieseive its own ontology as an integiable Being
that stands outside of histoiy. It is on this second basis that we should
inquiie what is at stake foi Lyotaid in the postmodein sublime.
Lyotaid, it seems to me, nevei wanted to let go of an idea of ait as a
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28 Reading the Figuial
sepaiate woild oi dimension, indeed a space oi teiiitoiy functioning
as the last ieseive of a nonideological Being. Because ait is always to
be in excess of eithei knowledge oi philosophy, it tends to appeai as
a black ontology. Unnameable, it continually ieasseits itself, nonethe-
less, as an integial Being. Heie is the vexed pioblem of ait and episte-
mology. One can ietain an idea of ait as a sepaiate spheie of activity,
as does Deleuze, and at the same time aigue, as does even Lyotaid,
that knowledge has value in its little aiticulations, nonteleological
and nontotalizable. The compaiison between Deleuze and Lyotaid is
instiuctive, because foi the foimei the ielation between ait and phi-
losophy can be expiessed moie simply. Both cieatethe foimei sensa-
tions, the latei conceptsand each can motivate the othei to think and
cieate, each in its ielatively sepaiate domain. In Lyotaid, the sublime
end of aitto piesent the unpiesentableis to piesume a suspended
time whose becoming continually ieasseits the Being of Ait, oi iathei
its ontological foundation in the question What is Ait:
What is Ait: and Is it happening: thus come to dene a tautol-
ogy wheie the questions of ontology and time continually ciicle one
anothei. Ait founds itself in the self-asking of this existential question,
even if, in the same gestuie, it suspends judgment. But only judgment
is suspended, ontologyand value still peisist. Only the avant-gaide and
expeiimental ait, in Lyotaids view, aie capable of asking and leaving
open this question. We have not yet left behind the ciisis of political
modeinism.
The same may be saidof Lyotaids eailiei position. Heie the limits of
a utopia of desiie, which maik Lyotaids concept of the Event no less
than that of the guial, aie also the limits of a psychoanalytic politics.
What is the pioblem of making the piimaiy piocesses a ist piinciple
oi the uniepiesentable site of dieience itself : Because an unlocatable
oi always alieady decenteied oiigin (what Lyotaid calls the an-arche)
is nonetheless an oiigin. Desiie oi the piimaiy piocesses have a site,
a teiiitoiy, and a hoiizon: the subject as dened by psychoanalysis.
Cleaily psychoanalysis has made an enoimous contiibution to ciitical
social theoiy. But it is bounded at its heait by an unbieachable con-
ceptual limit. No doubt desiie is cultuial as much as individual. And
one should even say that it is cultuial befoie being individual. But it
oveiows the subject only to ietuin to the subject. Desiie functions in
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Piesenting the Figuial 29
psychoanalysis as a bcunded innity, and like the sign foi that concept
:], it pulses in a closed double loop that enciicles subject and Othei
in a tautological space. This is not a ievision of aiguments I pioposed
in The Diculty cj Dierence, wheie a similai appieciation and ciitique
of psychoanalysis is pioposed. I continue to be inspiied by Lyotaids
account of how the death diive and piimal phantasy disoidei the self-
identity of the subject, ietuining dieience and multiplicity to it. But
to the extent that the guial denes foi Lyotaid an ontological giound
foi ait, the subject-object duality, and along with it the identity theoiy
of knowledge, cannot be oveicome. Just as the concept of identica-
tion in lmtheoiy limits the iadicality of the psychoanalytic concept in
binding desiie to the foims of the text, thus foiging a deteiminate unity
that iuns fiom object to subject, so we must ask if Lyotaids concept of
the aesthetic does not seive a similai end.
In this iespect, David Caiioll has piesented the best defense of
Lyotaids veision of ait as expeiimentation as a nondeteiminable and
nonteleological oiientation whose aim is to inteiiogate the founda-
tions of ait. Heie the ends of the aesthetic point to a specically philo-
sophical questioning whose consequences aie political: Ait is con-
sideied to be a genie without a specic end, a genie whose end is
always in question and tc be deteimined, nevei alieady deteimined.
Foi Lyotaid, the political genie is also of the same undeteimined
natuie. This means that neithei ait noi politics is ieally a genie at all.
Theii boundaiies can nevei be conclusively delineated oi xed, the
categoiies used to distinguish them fiom othei genies can nevei be
totallyappiopiiate (Caiioll, Paraesthetics Io8). The domains of ait and
politics have foundations, but theii giound is unstable. And to the ex-
tent that ait is denedby the question, if evei ienewable, What is Ait:
then peihaps we can say that Ait becomes, iathei, a uid ontology. In
both ait and politics, The sublime seives to push philosophy and poli-
tics into a ieexive, ciitical mode, to defei indenitely the imposition
of an end on the histoiical-political piocess. By emphasizing the gap
between Idea and concept, the notion of the sublime in the histoiical-
political highlights the tension between the desiie to suipass what is
piesentable foi something beyond piesentation, as well as the ciitical
awaieness that no concept of the social is adequate to the Idea of fiee-
domand none, theiefoie, can be consideied to embody it (I8:8_). In
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30 Reading the Figuial
Caiiolls view, the sublime is a paiaesthetic that functions as a ciitical
safeguaid against theoietical dogmatism in both ait and politics.
The Idea of the sublime, then, is meant to maintain a place foi ait in
an eia when aesthetic expeiience is ieplaced by infoimation and tech-
nology. What does the guial expiess aftei the end(s) of the aesthetic
and the integiative function of ait: Hegel may have announced too
eaily (oi we may be iecognizing too late) the end of Ait and indeed
may have undeistood why a ceitain concept of Ait was ending. In my
ownpolemics with iespect to postmodeinism(which biacket this book
in Reading the Figuial and An Unceitain Utopia), my aigument is
neithei with aitists noi with contempoiaiy aitistic piactice, but with
the peisistence of aesthetic concepts such as ontology, judgment, and
value in even postmodein ciitiques of ait. In my view, one of the most
peisistent featuies of the aesthetic has been to dene an inveise iatio
between the ontological and the histoiical. Theie is no concept of the
aesthetic that does not giound itself in an ontology that piojects a foim
of time, oi iathei timelessness, wheie Ait must shoie up its being ovei
the eiosions of histoiy. And as I aigue in chaptei of this book, the
moie Ait stiives to take sheltei fiomthe economic within the ontologi-
cal, the closei it is bound by ielations of exchange. In the sublime, and
in many iespects the guial, Lyotaid wants to pieseive in Ait the last
stand of nonideological Being. This is why I believe that the Idea of the
guial demands, on one hand, a genealogical ciitique of the aesthetic
and, on the othei, a testing of the limits of an ontological conception
of Ait oi the aitwoik. This pioject becomes evei moie uigent as ait,
no less than ciitical thought, seaiches foi its place aftei the new media.
Paradoxes of the Visual, or Philosophy after the New Media To undei-
stand the guial as a tiansfoimation in the oidei of discouise, why is it
necessaiy to tuin to the iecent histoiy of philosophy (Lyotaid, Deiiida,
Deleuze, and Foucault): Oi fiom anothei peispective, why should we
pass thiough the histoiy of the aesthetic to compiehend the distinc-
tiveness of oui contempoiaiy, digitally diiven semiotic enviionment:
Wiiting in I,:,, Seigei Eisenstein, the gieat Soviet lmmakei and
lm theoiist, pioposed the following objective foi all futuie woik in
aesthetics: The foiwaid movement of oui epoch in ait must blow-
up the Chinese Wall that stands between the piimaiy antithesis of the
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Piesenting the Figuial 31
language of logic and the language of images.
22
Eisenstein, who
insisted on the explicit continuity of his theoietical and aitistic woik,
thus bemoaned the tendency of philosophy to exclude the image fiom
the puiview of iational communication, which is ieseived foi speech
oi wiiting.
The genesis of Eisensteins complaint can be tiaced to shifts in aes-
thetic theoiy duiing the Enlightenment that challenged Hoiaces claim
of ut pictura pcesis by attempting to stiictly dene the boundaiies be-
tween the veibal and visual aits.
23
The fundamental exposition of this
idea is, of couise, Gotthold Lessings Laccccn (I,oo). But this insistence
on the fundamental dieience between the veibal and visual has even
deepei ioots in the Enlightenment ciitique of classical philosophies.
Geneially speaking, eighteenth-centuiy philosophy became incieas-
ingly conceined with iening and iestiicting the foims and categoiies
of iational thought that weie closely identied with the piovince of
discouisethat is, veibal language oi wiitingas the sole piopiietoi
of meaning and communication. In the domain of aesthetics, which
emeiged paiallel to Enlightenment iationalism, sticky pioblems weie
thus iaised conceining the inteipietation of the plastic aits. These
pioblems tended to be iesolved in twoways that peisist today.
24
One di-
iection insists that to the extent that an image has a meaning, it must be
echoed ina linguistic desciiption. Inthis view, meaning is only possible
as dened, expiessed, oi communicated thiough linguistic piopeities.
Alongside this view develops an equally stiong tiadition in Westein
aesthetics that valcrizes the image, eithei in its iiieducibility to a sense
oi as its tianscendence of the univocal and piosaic qualities of linguis-
tic expiession. In eithei case, woid and image aie still stiictly dened
in opposition to each othei. Heie woids pieseive the possibility of a
singulai and unambiguous expiession ovei and against the nondis-
cuisive piopeities of the image, which supposedly fails oi exceeds the
linguistic ciiteiia of iational communication.
Obviously the foims of iepiesentationandcommunicationthat pei-
vade and dominate oui cultuie have long ceased to obseive, and in
fact may nevei have obseived, the exclusive boundaiies between veibal
and visual expiession that we have inheiited fiom the Enlightenment.
Eveiywheie aiound us, foim exceeds concept. Image and woid no
longei iespect each otheis boideis but fieely inteimix and inteipene-
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32 Reading the Figuial
tiate in diveise media including adveitising, piint jouinalism, tele-
vision, lm, and computei imaging. But theie aie deepei pioblems at
stake. Both psychoanalysis and deconstiuction have achieved much in
disputing the linguistic signieis claim to founding a site of iational
communication and fiee iecipiocity between speakeis. Despite theii
cleai dieiences, Deiiidas giammatology and Foucaults aichaeology
both dislodged wiiting fiom discouise, ciacking it fiom within to ie-
veal a spacing whose opacity opens onto the eld of the visible. The
identication of wiiting with discouise has thus been oveituined in
signicant ways. Indeed, showing that wiiting is haunted by a spacing
that defoims its contouis and spins its lineaiity onto seipentine paths
is an impoitant dimension of the guial.
By dethioning speech oi wiiting as the measuie of iational
thought and self-identical meaning, the ciitique of logocentiism fiees
us conceptually to considei visuality as a discuisive concept, but only
if we have disaimed a binaiy logic that suppoits an ontology of the
visible no less than that of wiiting. Recent debates in both media
studies and ait histoiy conceining the coheience of visual studies in-
spiied me to iethink the pioblem of the guial as a peisistent theme
of my ieseaich and wiiting ovei the past decade. Visual Studies holds
togethei as a discipline thiough a consensus based oniecognizing com-
monalties among visual mediapainting, sculptuie, photogiaphy,
cinema, video, and new mediaand the ciitical theoiies that accom-
pany them. But just as Lyotaid asks us to ieconsidei the guial by ques-
tioning oui commonsense notions of discouise, as I asked in a shoit
essay publishedinOctcber, what happens if oui commonsense notion
of the visual is ielinquished: What if we no longei giant the concept
of visuality inteinal coheience by submitting it to a philosophical and
genealogical ciitique: A biief suivey of these questions shows how the
guial opeiates as a tiansveisal concept in the histoiy of aesthetics.
My essay in Octcber was wiitten in iesponse to a seiies of foui ques-
tions sent to a gioup of inteinational scholais.
25
The basis of these ques-
tions was to ask whethei visual studies existed as a discipline, and if
so, what its place was in ielation to a moie tiaditional histoiy of ait.
As I sawit, theie weie two distinct though inteiielated opinions woven
thiough the initial ieactions to Octcbers questionnaiie. On one hand,
each iesponse acknowledged the emeigence of a new aiea of study
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visual studiesas a mattei of fact. On the othei, despite the vaiiety
of iesponsespositive, negative, and ambivalenteach assumed that
this emeigence iequiied a ciitique of long-standing notions of disci-
plinaiity in the aits and the histoiy of ait.
I hold this position as well. Howevei, I was stiuck by the way in
which the idea of the visual oi visuality was taken foi gianted. Film is
a hybiid ait, and it is not at all ceitain that it should be dened solely
as a visual medium. Moieovei, the iespondents condence that visual
studies existed as a distinct aiea of study deiived fiom no consensus
conceining its methodologies, but iathei fiomfaithinthe self-evidence
of the visual as a natuial concept. As will be evident fiom my intei-
est in how the pioblem of audiovisuality is iaised by Foucault and
Deleuze, I nd it moie pioductive to considei visuality as a paiadoxi-
cal concept. Rathei than accepting the self-coheience of the visual, the
veiy inteiest of the hybiid natuie of lmas well as the electionic and
digital aitsis how they iaise questions and pioblems that cannot be
accounted foi by tiaditional aesthetic theoiy.
In this iespect, the ciitique of disciplinaiity implied in the emei-
gence of visual studies, no mattei how it is dened, is based on two
ielated questions that can be quite pioductive in theii ciiculaiity. These
questions may be summaiized as follows.
Aie the old disciplines dissolving because of a failuie to conceptu-
alize new phenomena: Thus visual studies acknowledges the incieas-
ing visuality of contempoiaiy cultuie, oi the evei-augmented powei
and cuiiency of the visual as diiven by the appeaiance of so-called new
mediathe electionic and digital inteiactive aits.
Oi is disciplinaiity undei suspicion because of an inteinal ciitical
and philosophical piessuie: Disciplines seek to cieate intellectual em-
piies and maintain theii boideis by asseiting the self-identity of objects
painting, liteiatuie, music, aichitectuie, cinemaand the knowl-
edges that adheie to them. Both Deiiida and Foucault have powei-
ful ciitiques of how foundationalism pioduces iegimes of knowledge
based on piesumptions of self-identity and the inteinal coheience of
objects, ideas, and disciplines. Aie we ieaching the point philosophi-
cally wheie the coheience of disciplines can no longei be condently
founded on the self-identity of objects: I will aigue as well that the gu-
ial iests uneasily in aesthetic categoiies of self-identity. In this mannei,
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34 Reading the Figuial
it may inspiie a ciitique of howdisciplines seek self-authenticating and
self-authoiizing foundations in ontological denitions of the aits.
Deiiida, among otheis, has shown that the self-identity of a concept
can be asseited and maintained only thiough a logic of opposition and
hieiaichy. The piesumed coheience of visuality is the pioduct of a long
philosophical tiadition of dividing the discuisive fiom the visual aits.
In his Laccccn, Gotthold Lessing codied the conceptual distinction of
the visual fiom the poetic oi liteiaiy. The cuiiency of this distinction,
widely held since the eighteenth centuiy, iemains undiminished de-
spite the foice of vaiious aitistic and philosophical challenges. No aes-
thetic judgment was valid, he aigued, without cleaily diawing boideis
between the aits based on succession and those based on simultaneity.
In othei woids, Lessing aigued foi a stiict division of the tempoial
fiom the spatial aits. Fiom this moment on, the philosophical deni-
tion of the aesthetic became a mattei of dieientiating media thiough
ciiteiia of self-identity and then oideiing them in hieiaichies of value.
Thiough Kant, Hegel, and beyond, the most tempoial and immateiial
aits, such as lyiic poetiy, ianked highest, since they weie piesumed
to be the most spiiitual, that is, they coiiesponded most closely to the
immateiiality and tempoiality of thought. This is a logocentiic bias,
since the instantiation of poetiy in piint in nowaydevalued the equiva-
lence of speech and thought. Noi did it demand that text be tieated
as a spatial oi guiative phenomenon. Conveisely, the moie mateiial
and giavity-laden aits iank lowei in this schema. Simultaneity as spa-
tial expiession implies that the thickness of matteipigments, eaith,
stone, bodiesiesists and slows both expiessionand thought. The idea
of the aesthetic in eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuiy philosophy thus
piesumed a distinction between peiception and thought in ielation to
mattei oi substance. Thinking, oi the play of ideas in Kants account,
slows and thickens if expiessed by the hand and absoibed by the eye.
Yet it soais weightlessly if ieleased by bieath to entei the eai. The idea
of iefeience oi designation also plays in two diiections. The spatial oi
visual aits wiest peiceptions fiom mattei and, by the same token, tend
to be valued (oi devalued) foi theii iesemblance to the physical ob-
jects oi events that inspiied them. The linguistic oi tempoial aits deiive
value fiom the abstiaction and immateiiality they shaie with the puie
activity of spiiit oi thought.
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Piesenting the Figuial 35
Since at least the eighteenth centuiy, then, the idea of the aesthetic
has ielied on an opposition between the linguistic and plastic aits.
Visuality oi the visual aits aie dened heie as a quickening of thought
in mattei, pleasuiable if not ultimately desiiable. This is what simul-
taneity means foi Lessing and the philosophical tiadition that follows
him. A sign coheies spatially and thus becomes a visual sign only
by viitue of the biute and intiactable qualities of a mattei fiom which
sense must be wiested with as much foice as ciaft. The visual aitist
labois, but the poet soais.
In this conceptual schema, visuality is ineluctably associated with
both peiception and mattei. But following the Pythagoiean dictum
that man is the measuie of all things, it also piesumes the piesence of
the body as both a peiceptual oiigin and a manual agency that exeits
foice oi actiononmattei. This is a cential featuie of all phenomenologi-
cal accounts, including Lyotaids. Fiom the fteenth centuiy on, space
and visuality aie thought togethei in ielation to the dimensions and
capacities of the human bodymeasuied by the action of the hand in
ielation to the eye and the movements of the body in peispective with
space. This is a fundamental dimension of humanism. In its lived di-
mensions and foims, space is dened as the tiansfoimation of mateiial
by the laboi of the human hand. Natuie must yield to ait in a physical
stiuggle with mateiial that suiiendeis its foim to the aitists imagina-
tion. Heie cultuie is dened by the tiansfoimation of natuie in the ait-
ists mateiial stiuggle with stone and pigment. Conceptually, at least,
space no longei exists sepaiate fiom this tiansfoimation that iendeis
the visual aits as aits of giavuie. Space is cieated by the hand as ma-
teiial insciiption, a physical woiking of mattei, it is expeiienced fiom
the peispective of the bodys dimensions and capacities foi movement.
Among the new media, the emeigence of cinema, now moie than
a hundied yeais old, unsettled this philosophical schema even if it did
not successfully displace it. In the minds of most people, cinema ie-
mains a visual medium. And moie often than not, cinema still de-
fends its aesthetic value by aligning itself with the othei visual aits
and by asseiting its self-identity as an image-making medium. Yet the
gieat paiadox of cinema, with iespect to the conceptual categoiies of
eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuiy aesthetics, is that it is both a tem-
poial and immateiial as well as spatial medium. The hybiid natuie of
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36 Reading the Figuial
cinematic expiessionwhich combines moving photogiaphic images,
sounds, and music, as well as speech and wiitinghas inspiied equally
cinemas defendeis and detiactois. Foi cinemas defendeis, especially
in the teens and twenties, lm iepiesented a giand Hegelian synthe-
sisthe apogee of the aits. Alteinatively, fiom the most conseivative
point of view, cinema can nevei be an ait piecisely because it is a mon-
giel medium that will nevei iest comfoitably within the philosophical
histoiy of the aesthetic.
The emeigence and piolifeiation of digital media exaceibate these
pioblems. Unlike analogical iepiesentations, which have as theii basis
a tiansfoimation of substance isomoiphic with an oiiginating image,
viitual iepiesentations deiive all theii poweis fiom theii basis in nu-
meiical manipulation. Timothy Binckley gieatly claiies matteis when
he ieminds us that numbeis, and the kinds of symbolization they allow,
aie the ist viitual ieality.
26
The analogical aits aie fundamentally
aits of intaglio, oi woiked mattei. But the tiansfoimation of mattei in
the electionic and digital aits takes place on a dieient atomic iegis-
tei and in a dieient conceptual domain. Wheie analog media iecoid
tiaces of events, as Binckley puts its, digital media pioduce tokens of
numbeis: the constiuctive tools of Euclidian geometiy aie ieplaced by
the computational tools of Caitesian geometiy.
Undoubtedly, the ciiteiion of substantiality is a key concept of
the aesthetic. And on this basis, distinctions between the analog and
digital aits can be claiied. Compaiing computei-geneiated images
(cci) with lm shows that photogiaphys piincipal poweis aie those
of analogy and indexicality. The photogiaph is a ieceptive substance
liteially etched oi sculpted by light foiming a mold of the objects ie-
ected image. The image has both spatial and tempoial poweis that
ieinfoice photogiaphys designative function with an existential claim.
As Roland Baithes explained, photogiaphy is an emanation of the ief-
eient whose nceme is a-a-ete. this thing was, it had a spatial exis-
tence that enduied in time.
27
Even lms imaginaiy woilds, say, the
moonscapes of :oo: (I,o8), aie founded by these poweis. CGI, alteina-
tively, is wholly cieated fiomalgoiithmic functions. Analogy exists as a
function of spatial iecognition, of couise, but it has loosed its anchois
fiom both substance and indexicality. It is not simply that visuality
has been given a new mobility wheie any pixel in the electionic image
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Piesenting the Figuial 37
can be moved oi its value changed at will. The digital aits fuithei con-
found the concepts of the aesthetic, since they aie without substance
and theiefoie not easily identied as objects. No medium-specic on-
tology can x them in place. Foi this ieason, it is misleading to at-
tiibute a iise in the cuiiency of the visual to the appaient powei and
peivasiveness of digital imaging in contempoiaiy cultuie. This is not
simply because digital expiessions peimit new hieioglyphic mixtuies
of image and woid, guie and text, oi new ways of conveiting space
into time and vice veisa. The digital aits iendei all expiessions as iden-
tical, since they aie all ultimately ieducible to the same computational
basis. The basis of all iepiesentation is viituality: mathematic ab-
stiactions that iendei all signs as equivalent iegaidless of theii output
medium. Digital media aie neithei visual, textual, noi musicalthey
aie puie simulation.
One pioblem iaised thiough ieading the guial is to ieclaim those
aits wheie the ielation between discouise and guie no longei iests
easily on a division of tempoiality fiom spatiality. The hybiid qualities
of the cinematic, and now digital, aits make cleai that the distinction
between the visual and the veibal on this basis has always been a luie,
ensuiing the suboidination of a mateiialist theoiy of ait to an ideal-
ist and logocentiic one. Without question, howevei, the apologists of
infoimation aie piomoting a new foim of idealism that I will discuss
fuithei in the nal chaptei of this book. To conclude my aiguments
heie, I want to iaise anew the question of technology and peiception
with iespect to the changing claims of visuality and the guial.
The place of technology in the histoiy of aesthetic judgment has
always been a cuiious one. With iespect to photogiaphy oi cinema, it is
paiadoxical that the same idealist positionof aesthetic judgment would
incieasingly abhoi the technological pioduction and iepioduction of
images yet assume the tianspaiency of technology to wiiting. In my
view, fiom woodcut, to piinting piess, to lithogiaphy, to photogiaphy,
to cinema, and even to the phonogiaph iecoid, a genealogy is dened
in the histoiy of the analogical aits. All aie aits of giavuie, a sculpt-
ing of the image in a physical suppoit, a histoiy that includes of couise
sculptuie, aichitectuie, and fiesco. Theie is a fault line in this histoiy,
howevei, in that cinema, phonogiaphy, and video aie two-stage aits
that iequiie a technological inteiface to mediate peiception such as
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38 Reading the Figuial
lm piojectoi, tuintable and amplication, oi the television monitoi.
28
The histoiy of the inteiface is a histoiy of technological aiiangements
wheie body and peiception aie included in a machinic phylum whose
spatial and tempoial qualities become incieasingly complex.
Evidently, in the tiansition fiom the analog to the digital, visuality
is tiansfoimed, indeed pioblematized, not only as expiession but also
in ielation to peiception, that is, how body and eye aie positioned in
space and time accoiding to specic conceptual and technological ai-
iangements. Heie the histoiy of the technological inteiface piesents
some cuiious consequences foi the histoiy of visuality. The emeigence
of this second stage maiks a fundamental discontinuity oi disiup-
tion in the ielation between hand and eye, wheie the space of mateiial
insciiption disappeais oi iathei is displaced with paiadoxical conse-
quences foi the histoiy of the aesthetic. As the enjoyment of ait ie-
quiies technological mediations oi inteifaces of incieasing mechanical
and[oi electionic complexity, the moie the continuum of peiception
becomes disjunct in space and time. Oiiginaiily, pioblems of aesthetic
judgment assumed the iecipiocal piesence of aitwoik and peiceivei.
But in the two-stage aits, the ielation between piesence and absence of
subject and object in space and time is iefashioned in newand distuib-
ing ways. Infoimation iecoided on a phonogiaph iecoid, lmstiip, oi
videotape is not diiectly appiehended by the eai and the eye. Rathei,
it must be tianslated by the appaiatus appiopiiate to each and iecon-
guied to a human scale, a piocess that comes to include, with evei
gieatei complexity, the human as pait of the machinic phylum. The
eye and eai aie displaced. Heie Benjamins decline of auia indicates
not only iepiesentations that ciiculate independently of an authoiiz-
ing context oi copies becoming indistinguishable fiom oiiginals but
also the withdiawal of peiception fiom a haptic continuum maiked by
continuity in time and space. Telegiaphy, telephony, and all foims of
bioadcasting both complicated and amplied these qualitative muta-
tions in space and time.
This fault line extends, of couise, to the digital aits, establishing a
continuity that biidges a sometimes all too facile distinction between
the analog and the digital. As iepiesentation becomes moie and moie
technological, the moie we aie convinced, in Waltei Benjamins apt
phiase, of the equipment fiee aspect of ieality der apparatjreie As-
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Piesenting the Figuial 39
pekt der Realitat].
29
With this idea, Benjamin wanted to aiticulate a
cuiious dialectic. Cinema not only pioduced mechanical images whose
illusion was to appeai to be fiee of technological aitice, it also inspiied
the utopian longing foi a ieality fiee of technological mediation.
The desiies embodied in idealizations of viitual ieality aie some-
thing else, howevei. The blue gaidenia of the digital eia is no longei to
iegain a ieality that has been absoibed by its iepioduction but to dis-
place ieality with an immeisive viitual sensoiium that wants to oat
fiee of its enoimous computational appaiatus. Heie the digital intei-
face wants to disappeai no less than the mechanical one, but this dis-
appeaiance is moie a maiiiage than a sepaiation of body and machine.
It is stiiking in this iespect how most histoiies of the computei intei-
face aiticulate a discouise of libeiation whose measuie is the giadual
closing of distance between body and machine. Fiom mainfiame and
time-shaiing devices to the peisonal computei, this is a dieam not
simply of eliminating the baiiieis of inteiactivity in space and time
but iathei of being included completely as a function of the machinic
phylum, oi in John Walkeis woids, to tianspoit the usei thiough
the scieen into the computei.
30
Eithei the machine wants to entei the
body as a diiect neuiophysiological connection, oi moie iadically, the
mind wants to shed the body entiiely in downloading itself to the ma-
chine. This is a iathei dieient dialectic with an impoitant caution foi
thinking the guial. Because of the ease with which they enable the dis-
cuisive to become spatial and the visual to become discuisive, peihaps
the digital aits aie the most guial aits. But at the same time, they
aie the most iadical instance yet of an old Caitesian dieam: the best
iepiesentations aie the most immateiial ones because they seemto fiee
the mind fiomthe body and the woild of substance.
31
Iionically, digital
machines seem fai fiom becoming tianspaient devices. The moie one
dieams of an immateiial woild of puie simulation, the moie the body
nds itself encased in technological supplements whose complexity is
noless gieat thantheii fiagility. The peivasiveness of digital technology
in eveiyday life, the intiactability as well as availability of digital ma-
chines, encouiages a piesence and visibility of the inteiface that pio-
motes a constant self-consciousness of theii social functions and cie-
ative uses as well as the fiagility of infoimation. Peihaps the telephone
was once just as physically intiusive a device befoie becoming a ubiqui-
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40 Reading the Figuial
tous and tianspaient technology. Foi the moment, howevei, the com-
putei in all its vaiiegated foims iemains stubboinly piesent in oui lives
as a social and cultuial pioblem.
This genealogy of the inteiface also desciibes a complex passage
back andfoithbetweenthe technologies of the image andthose of wiit-
ing as insciiptions in space and tiansfoimations of time. In this iespect,
photogiaphy and cinema shaie moie with the piinted woid than the
novel does with the oial tale. In both cinema and the novel, the col-
lective space of stoiytellingwhich unies naiiatoi and listeneis in a
iecipiocal space and timeis disjoined. The naiiative is xed in foim
and content, ciiculating independentlyin both space and histoiical
timein the foim of a commodity. (In this iespect, the book itself
functions as an inteiface and should be consideied moie a veneiated
ancestoi than an outmoded competitoi foi oui new media.) Conse-
quently naiiative meaning shifts continually depending on the cultuial
oi histoiical contexts thiough which it is ieceived. What sepaiates these
modein aits fiom the woodcut, of couise, is the absence of the hand
and the incieasing mediation of machines of a special type: those that
pioduce unifoim copies thiough a ieication of time as a lineai and
sequential space.
The same may be said foi the unifoimity of peiception with iespect
to gioups. Film and bioadcasting bind given collectivities in diei-
ent spatial and tempoial aichitectuies of peiception: one is unied
in the space and time of piojection, the othei atomizes space while it
unies in time. The netwoiked aits and communication atomize the
ow of infoimation in both space and time (though ieal-time intei-
actions aie also possible). Howevei, it is also a many-to-many iathei
than a one-to-many mediumwheie individuals pioduce as much as ie-
ceive messages, often in an inteiactive way. It has often been noted that
netwoiked communications come to iesemble oial communities even
when they aie fiagmented in a distiibuted space that allows iecipiocal,
though often asynchionous, inteiactivity. Nonetheless this appaiently
tiibal space is stiongly maiked by a kind of digital schizophienia, well
desciibed in both its positive and negative aspects by Sheiiy Tuikle
in Lije cn the Screen. Not only communication but also peisonhood is
fiagmented in a distiibuted space. The powei of computei-mediated
communication in all its foims is to enable a collective and inteiactive
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Piesenting the Figuial 41
dialogue that is fieed fiom the limitations of space. But these monadic
entities aie united in a technology that also sepaiates them, and theii
division is just as attiactive as theii unity. This is a fieedom gained
thioughthe felt absence of consequences, foi iecipiocity is denedonly
by the viitual piesence of avatais who, foi all theii othei qualities, ieg-
istei not only the withdiawal of peisons in the distiibuted netwoik but
also the absence of accountability foi ones woids and acts.
I will ietuin to, and complicate, these aiguments in chaptei o. My
point heie, howevei, is neithei to ciitique the automation oi mechani-
zation of the aits noi to demonize the technological inteiface in eithei
analog oi digital media. Rathei, I want to point out how odd it is that
the aesthetic should want to giound itself ontologically thiough dis-
tinguishing space and time as sepaiate dimensions oi teiiitoiies. And
by the same token, peihaps the univeisal claim of both aesthetic ex-
peiience and judgment has blinded the histoiy of philosophy to the
complex tiansactions that aie taking place in ielation to powei and
subjectivation as oui semiotic enviionment is being iemodeled. If we
aie enteiing a posthuman eia, both cultuially and philosophically,
what does this mean:
Lessings idea, and the histoiy of aesthetics in which his thought is
embedded, shows cleaily what humanism has meant foi ve hundied
yeaisthat man is the measuie of all things. No mattei if, fiom the
peispective of a univeisal time, this moment would haidly iegistei on
natuies clock. Images, foi example, aie oiganized fiom the height and
distance of the human eye to pieseive an illusion of spatial depth. Scale
is oiganized in ielation to human size. Colois, sounds, and textuies
aie pioduced accoiding to the physiological limits of human peicep-
tion. This has been the basis of the analogical aits, whethei of hand oi
machine insciiption, foi millennia.
The ciiticism of ait sueis fiom the same illusion of masteiy that
makes man the centei of all things and the measuie of all values. The
humanist peispective neglects the question of powei, that is, the foices
and ielations of powei seived by specic oiganizations of space and
time. It assumes the piioiity of man as an agent in space. But the
compositionof space-times as aichitectuies of powei alsohas collective
and social dimensions that oidei and discipline bodies, movements,
and communication. The histoiical oiganization of peispective also
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42 Reading the Figuial
has an aichitectuial foice. It iestiicts, aligns, and iegulates the bodys
movements in space, aligning body and eye with a space of coiiect
peiceiving. It compiises a seiies of constiaints on what a body can do
independently of individual will oi consciousness. Think of the diei-
ence in expeiience between inteiacting with Tiepolos Staticns cj the
Crcss at the Chuich of San Polo in Venice (in the way both chuich and
aitist intended, which is on youi knees!) and viewing his paintings at
the Accademia. One is not moie fiee than the othei, both channel the
movement of bodies and diiect the ow of peiception while embed-
ding aitwoiks in distinct foices and ielations of powei. Aichitectuie
itself tells us moie about the potentialityof the body, the foices it aects
and that aect it, than any othei enteipiise. It is the design of spaces
to live and woik in, to tiavel acioss, and to communicate thiough, in
ways that limit ceitain movements and enable otheis, and, as such, is
an exemplaiy expiession of powei. Foucaults denition of how powei
encounteis the body makes the point succinctly: divide in space, oidei
in time, compose in space-time. An aichitectuial theoiy of powei
thus diagiams foims of collectivitydistinct in theii spatial and tem-
poial oiganizationand demonstiates how movements of bodies and
ows of infoimation aie both enabled and constiained.
Now it is said that we have enteied a posthuman eia, as if oui age
was somehow less inclined to misiecognition and idealism, and moie
committed to tiuth, than the one befoie it. The humanist eia is un-
doubtedly undeigoing a tiansfoimation, but foi none of the ieasons
usually asseited. The tiansition fiom analog to digital media extends a
displacement in peispective, oi bettei, positionality, wheie what might
dene a peiception as human is being ieconguied in ways that aie
still uncleai. The digital aits seem immateiial because the tiansfoima-
tions taking place aie appiehendable only fiom a machinic iathei
than a human peispective. Hence the need of technological intei-
faces of gieatei and gieatei complexity to augment human peiception
and motoi contiol. But as I have alieady pointed out, this genealogy
has a long histoiy. Neveitheless video and the synthetic oi digital image
do seem to maik a bieak with the genealogy of giavuie that unleashes
new poweis foi the guial and, at the same time, pioblematizes pievi-
ous concepts of peiception and the body. How many lmmakeis have
lamented the disappeaiance of the tactile handling of the lmstiip, of
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Piesenting the Figuial 43
the days of stietching out a stiip of _, mm lm to the light, judging
by eye the space and duiation of the cut: What does a stiip of video-
tape ieveal to the naked eye: And one cannot even touch encoded in-
foimation, a symbolic abstiaction locked away in disk aiiays. We aie
continuallyasked to believe that the tiansfoimation of oui semiotic en-
viionment by digital machines has pioduced a fiiction-fiee space that
launches oui thoughts and expiessions at the speed of light. Fieed of
oui slow and giavity-bound being, we communicate univeisally in a
weightless atmospheie. But we aie not fieed fiom ielations of powei.
Looking back fiom the peispective of :ooo (and howdated this obsei-
vation will seem ten yeais hence!), what has been most fascinating and
teiiifying about the shoit histoiy of the Woild Wide Web as a populai
medium is how iapidly and thoioughly it was commodied. Cieated
like the Inteinet as an open enviionment based on the fiee exchange
of infoimation and the communication of ideas, the Web has also be-
come a space of suiveillance and social contiol. It is a newaichitectuie
of powei that is ieoiganizing the space and time of eveiyday life on a
global scale. But new potentials of powei aie also new oppoitunities
foi ciiticism and iesistance, and thinking the guial means that visu-
ality needs to be consideied not only as a discuisive phenomenon but
also as a tiansfoimation of ielations of powei and knowledge as well as
subjectivation. Reading the guial means iethinking the aesthetic as a
question of powei.
As a concept, visuality is a space inhabited by paiadox, and the gu-
ial is my name foi this paiadoxical quality. What inteiests me most
about contempoiaiy visual studies deiives neithei fiom the piesumed
distinctiveness of media noi fiomcultuial ethnogiaphies of spectatois.
Indeed, the constant challenge I want to iaise to both visual and cul-
tuial studies has to do with a philosophical pioblem: the invention and
ciitique of concepts iaised implicitly in the histoiical emeigence of new
media. Foi me the new media inspiie visual studies thiough an im-
plicit philosophical confiontation. Cinema and the electionic aits aie
the pioducts of concepts that cannot be iecognized by the system of
aesthetics, noi should they be, they aie ahead of philosophy in this ie-
gaid. This is not to say that the new digital media aie somehow moie
guial than the old analog media as the accomplishment of some
ideal teleology. Nonetheless theii invention, cultuial foim, and pat-
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44 Reading the Figuial
teins of distiibution and use aie based on a set of concepts that iecast
the genealogy of visuality and the aesthetic in newcontexts. They piob-
lematize the philosophical histoiy of visuality and the aesthetic in ways
that aie still uncleai.
Visual Studies foi me is based, theiefoie, on the iecognition that
the new media demand a deconstiuction of the concepts of both visu-
ality and discuisivity as well as the philosophical tiaditions fiomwhich
they deiive. This position iequiies both a genealogical ciitique of the
aesthetic and a positive investigation of the concepts invented oi sug-
gested by new media that I have loosely designated undei the signs
of the guial and audiovisual cultuie. Oui eia is no longei one of
images and signs. It is dened, iathei, by simulacia in Deleuzes sense
of the teim: paiadoxical seiies wheie concepts of model and copy, the
Same and the One, the Identical and the Like, aie no longei easily iec-
onciled oi ieduced by piinciples of unity and the selfsame. Within this
fiamewoik, we need to begin ieading the guial.
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2. READING THE FIGURAL
A day will come when, by means of similitude relayed indefinitely along
the length of a series, the image itself, along with the name it bears, will
lose its identity. Campbell, Campbell, Campbell, Campbell.Michel Fou-
cault, This Is Not a Pipe
Fiom the inauguiation of modein philosophy in the eighteenth cen-
tuiy, seeing and saying, imaging and speaking, and pictuies and
piopositions have been consideied as fundamentally distinct and often
iesolutely opposed categoiies. This stiategy is not innocent. Ovei the
couise of two centuiies, philosophy has baiiicaded itself within a con-
cept of speech as the site of discouise, communication, meaning, and
iational thought. This epistemological pioblem was unthinkable with-
out the coiiesponding biith of aesthetics as a sepaiate domain within
the piovince of piofessional philosophy. Foi speech to maintain its
identity, and poetiy its place as the highest ait (as attested by philoso-
pheis fiom Hegel to Heideggei), meaning in the plastic aitsaichi-
tectuie, painting, sculptuie, and subsequently photogiaphy, cinema,
and videohad eithei to be undeistood as ieducible to linguistic sense
oi valoiized as exceeding iational thought.
What philosophical iesouices could accomplish the excavation and
dismantling of this ontological distinction between linguistic and
plastic iepiesentations that still ieigns in aesthetic theoiy today: This
pioblem is ciucial foi the study of contempoiaiy mass cultuie and
the newest foims of mass communication. Cinematic, televisual, and
othei electionic media have alieady iendeied this distinction obsolete,
cieating new systems of spatialization and tempoialityindeed, new
foims of thoughtthat modein philosophy is ill equipped to desciibe
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46 Reading the Figuial
oi undeistand. Newmodalities of expiession have been inauguiated by
the acceleiated development of electionic and digital image piocess-
ing as well as the bioadcast distiibution, iathei than the physical
distiibution, of commodities, along with the economic and legal appa-
iatuses that suppoit them.
1
Howcan ciitical thought engage these new
modes of expiession and compiehend the foims of ieading they have
geneiated: Long ago the end of ideology was announced. But the wolf
has not gone fiom the dooi, he has appeaied in the electionic window
as a 1v evangelist. Although ephemeial, his image oats on an unend-
ing tempoial stieam. The eia of signs is iapidly fading. We have alieady
enteied the age of the guial.
Rehearsing the Figural Painting, photogiaphy, video, andcinema have
long pioved iesistant to models of desciiption and explanation deiived
fiom classical semiology.
2
The electionic and digital aits aie iapidly
engendeiing new stiategies of cieation and simulation, and of spatial
and tempoial oideiing, that linguistic philosophies aie ill equipped
to undeistand. In the physics of language, semiology iepiesents New-
tonian mechanics, and we alieady inhabit an incieasingly dynamic and
nonlineai discuisive univeise. Conceptually, the sign desciibes a thing,
it must be ieplaced by a becoming. Piovisionally, I iecommend the
gural.
What I call the guial is not synonymous with a guie oi even the
guiative. It is no moie piopei to the plastic than to the linguistic aits.
It is not goveined by the opposition of woid to image, spatially and
tempoially, it is not bound to the logic of binaiy oppositions. Evei pei-
mutablea fiactuied, fiactuiing, oi fiactal space, iuled by time and
dieienceit knows nothing of the concept of identity. The guial is
not an aesthetic concept, noi does it iecognize a distinction between
the foims of high and low cultuie. It desciibes the logic of mass
cultuie itself, oi iathei a cultuie of the mass.
I am standing on a well-woin spot in the ooi of the Chuich of
San Polo in Venice looking at one of Tintoiettos veisions of The Last
Supper. The oiganic ielation of this painting to the aichitectuie of the
chuich and to an ideology of ieligious devotionas well as the pies-
ence of a physical deictic maikei insisting that one occupy this exact
place at this piecise distance to appieciate coiiectly Tintoiettos ac-
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Reading the Figuial 47
Chuich of San Polo, Venice. Photogiaph couitesy of authoi.
Plaza, Centie Geoiges Pompidou, Paiis. Photogiaph couitesy of authoi.
complishmentis testimony to the Renaissance philosophy of the sub-
ject as unique, selfsame, centeied, and placed in society.
Two weeks latei, I am on the plaza at Beaubouig absoibed within
the ciowd ciiculating past a giant-scieen 1v exhibiting an R. J. Rey-
nolds documentaiy Ait in the Factoiy. No one will miss the multiple
iionies of this documentaiy, wheie cigaiette manufactuieis enlighten
assembly line woikeis by decoiating the factoiy walls with abstiact ex-
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48 Reading the Figuial
piessionist ait to which, invaiiably, theii backs aie tuined. Howevei,
the space of ieception oiganized aiound the scieen is as signicant as
its foimand content. Wheie the Tintoietto places me as a unique point
in space and time, on the Beaubouig plaza, I am dispeised into the
ciowd as a owof iandomized movements oideied only byan aichitec-
tuial space designed to channel the diift of the mass. Waltei Benjamin
foigot to tell us that the museum was a space of distiaction no less
than the cinema theatei. And heie the subject iesembles no longei the
distiacted woikei on the assembly line but iathei the pioduct on the
conveyoi belt.
Nowat home alone watching Melrcse Place, I am no less a pait of an
atomized collective. Though sepaiated in space, I nonetheless shaie a
tempoial continuum with millions of otheis. Fiom a singulai point, to
a moleculai mass, to an atomized collective: these aie thiee dieient
images of subjectivity, iepioduced histoiically within the stiuctuie of
iepiesentation itself, that tiace a line fiom auiatic to postauiatic ait,
and nally to the guial. What Siegfiied Kiacauei called the mass oina-
ment, the spatial image of collective life, is now goveined by seiiality
in leisuie no less than laboi. Tintoiettos painting announced the ap-
peaiance of the demociatic actoi, today, goveinment thiough public
opinion, the quantication and sampling of an anonymous, seiialized
mass, is the oidei of the day.
The disappeaiance of the subject no less than that of the aesthetic
divides the guial fiom the pioblem of postmodeinism. In ait ciiti-
cal discouise, postmodeinismis foi the most pait a iegiessive concept.
It iepioduces exactly the teims, concepts, and values of modeinism in
its denitions of the aitwoik, the aitist, and aitistic value. Postmod-
einism has seived only to ieinvigoiate the self-identity of the aitwoik
by bolsteiing it in the commodity foim chaiacteiistic of the cuiient
stage of capitalism.
3
Today aitwoiks and aesthetic expeiience baiely es-
cape the foim of puie exchange value, a fact well known by Sothebys,
the Saatchis, and multinational coipoiations. Contiaiiwise, the gu-
ial is a histcrical concept, not an aesthetic oi stylistic one. The guial
has nothing to do with the identication, ciiticism, oi evaluation of
aitwoiks, it is entiiely banal, piosaic, and quotidian. It dismisses the
self-identity of the aesthetic, foi it belongs to an eia wheie ait no
longei exists save as a maiketing stiategy. Like the zombies in Geoige
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Reading the Figuial 49
Romeios lms, the foim of self-consciousness in postmodein ait is,
paiadoxically, not to know (oi peihaps not to accept) that it is happily
dead. And in this mannei, it feeds voiaciously, endlessly, and paiasiti-
cally on the ielics of the past. (Foi a savvy few, this is a souice of daikly
iionic humoi, and sometimes even poignant political commentaiy.)
Thus the guial will not be deiived fiom an expeiience of ait oi by
ieection on the foims of self-identity of the aitwoik. It iepiesents a
fundamental tiansfoimation of categoiies of expiession and ieading in
the cuiient eia. Wheievei analog infoimation is ieplaced by the digi-
tal, the copy is disoideied by simulation, and wheievei physical distii-
bution is ieplaced by electionic stoiage, ietiieval, and ietiansmission,
theie one will nd the guial.
Thus the guial is less a thing than a concept, designed to help
chaiacteiize the social physiognomics of postindustiial capitalism and
the infoimation society. It chaiacteiizes the foims of spatiotempoial
oiganization that aie incieasingly tiansfoiming uiban space, audio-
visual media, telecommunications, leisuie, in fact, all the activities of
eveiyday life. If the distinctiveness of oui epoch is dened by tiansfoi-
mations in economic piactice, the stiuctuie and activities of the State,
and the teims and conditions of philosophical knowledge, the guial is
meant to desciibe a distinct mutation in the chaiactei of contempoiaiy
foims of iepiesentation, infoimation, and communication. In shoit,
the guial cannot adequately be desciibed by the logic of identity chai-
acteiistic of most extant aesthetic theoiies and philosophies of the sign
and of language. To compiehend the guial, it is necessaiy to tians-
foim completely how the teim discouise is undeistood by tiacing
out what Modein philosophy has systematically excluded oi exiled: in-
commensuiable spaces, nonlineai dynamics, tempoial complexity and
heteiogeneity, logic uniuled by the piinciple of noncontiadiction.
4
Foucault through Deleuze, or The Diagrammatics of Power You aie
still undoubtedly longing foi a conciete example of guial expiession.
When I ist composed this essay in I,8,, I wiote that if we weie a
bit fuithei along in the technological and economic tiansfoimations
now taking place, you would be ieading this essay not on the piinted
page but on the scanned space of a computei with a bioadband net-
woik connection. My example might be to cite on youi scieenwith
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50 Reading the Figuial
full coloi, sound, and movementa seiies of m1v logos. The spatial
and tempoial heteiogeneity of these images, theii dialectical mixtuie
of dieient foims and mateiials of iepiesentation, theii pioceduies foi
dividing, mapping, and contiolling movement aie all of the gieatest
inteiest. Moieovei, you should be able to exeit those same contiols
ovei citation of the samples. With the appeaiance of u1mi authoiing,
the Woild Wide Web, and QuickTime applications, this is all now pos-
sible. But this utopia is disingenuous, piimaiily because the maiketing
of existing technologies does not allow the consumei this amount of
inteiactivity and contiol ovei time and movement, and netwoik access
and available bandwith aie still limited. But if this technological utopia
weie possible, to iestiict its use to the analysis of aesthetic foim, gov-
eined by a philosophical tiadition of aesthetics as establishing evalua-
tive hieiaichies thiough the stiict dieientiation of media and genies,
is safe haiboi fiom a much moie distuibing event that has placed the
Enlightenment conception of the subject at iisk.
Since I,8, we have witnessed in developed countiies the iapid
piolifeiation of computei-contiolled image and text piocessing and
hypeimedia, along with theii foims of digital publication and distii-
bution. What is beginning to change iadically heie is the philosophical
basis foi undeistanding the activities of discouise as well as ieading.
The analytic tiadition in philosophy and linguistics has accustomed
us to tieating discouise has isolatable, foimal unities: signs, woids,
statements, and syllogisms. The idea of the subjectas what stands
outside these foims as the activity of masteiy, undeistanding, and the
ability to pioduce ieplete desciiptionsis bolsteied by the same cii-
teiia. Peihaps the most succinct and poweiful eect of the guial is
that it has abolished the ciiteiia of unity and identity that aie the piod-
uct of Enlightenment philosophy. Tiansfoimations in communication,
the media, and the management of multinational economies evidence
that the guial eia is alieady well ensconced, and foi quite some time.
Wealth belongs not to individuals but to coipoiations. The goals of
adveitising have ceased to be ihetoiicaltelevision does not maiket
pioducts foi publics, it sells publics to adveitiseis. One thing has not
changed. Communication still iefeis to the cieation, distiibution, and
management of infoimation and ideas. But the idea of communica-
tion as a lineai channel between two pointsthe linking of addiessei
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Reading the Figuial 51
and addiessee thiough a iecipiocally compiehensible messagehas
ceased to be valid. Discouise is no longei lineai and ieveisible, it is
becoming incieasingly entiopic and dispeised, in the language of com-
putei netwoiking, it is distiibuted communication. Similaily, dis-
tinctions between subject and object aie no longei cleai-cut. This is
undeistood well by those who nance, govein, maiket, and manage.
The philosophei, whose function should be to develop concepts and
tools foi ciitical undeistanding, is panting to catch up.
Moie impoitant than the analysis of foims is the cieation of con-
cepts that enable ciitical ieading. Desciibing the shape of the guial
in space and time is less ciucial than undeistanding the logic that pio-
duces it. Siegfiied Kiacauei wiote that spatial images aie the dieams
of society. The task of post-Enlightenment philosophy is to discovei
whethei the guial is pioducing an image of utopia oi of nightmaie.
If I can iead the guial thiough music videos, the aichitectuial space
of Beaubouig, oi the seiialized stiuctuie of telecommunications, then
it seives its philosophical and ciitical function as what Gilles Deleuze
calls a diagram of powei.
Deleuzes conceptualization of a diagiammatics of powei is de-
sciibed in his shoit book on Foucault. Deleuzes piovocative ieading
demonstiates that moie than any contempoiaiy philosophical thinkei,
Foucault has tiansfoimed what is called discouise.
Theie aie thiee fundamental issues at stake in Deleuzes Fcucault.
The ist simply states: Read Foucault again. Foi example, in chap-
tei I, A New Aichivist, Deleuze suggests that those who still con-
sidei the aichaeological ciitique as discouise analysis, in the sense
given these woids by Anglo-Ameiican linguistics, should iead anew
Denii lnonc in Larcheclcgie du savcir. Heie the dissociation of
veibal and visual signs, so chaiacteiistic of linguistic philosophies, is
piofoundly distuibed. In the English tianslation of Fcucault, the choice
has been made to continue to tianslate encnce as statement. But I
shall insist that Foucault has iiievocably tiansfoimed this discuisive
unit to the point wheie it is no longei ieducible to linguistic oi wiit-
ten signs.
5
Second, Deleuze aigues that Foucault is not a philosophei of lan-
guage in the iestiicted sense of the woid. Rathei, he is a philosophei
of space, oi iathei spatialization, in the most complex and dicult
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52 Reading the Figuial
way. (In contiast, Deleuze is a philosophei of time, which is why it
is so inteiesting to iead the one ieading the othei, as I will discuss in
chaptei o.) Only by ieading Foucault again can we undeistand how
vaiious concepts of space, spacing, oi spatialization infoim the ques-
tions Foucault has iaised, oi even how he attempted to think thiough
these concepts in ways that cut acioss distinctions between veibal and
visual signs, saying and seeing, piopositions and pictuies. Foi Deleuze,
the aichaeological stiuctuie of discouise, and the space of ieading it
inhabits, iesides between the visible and the encnable. The diculty
of these concepts lies in undeistanding that they aie not histoiically
given foims. Rathei, they dene spaces of becoming oi piobabilities
of emeigence that aie intimately linked to histoiically given foims of
discouise and the powei-knowledge ielations they oiganize.
Finally, Deleuze insists that Foucaults woik is not a philosophy of
the subject in the usual sense. It is peihaps the most iadical iefutation
of the concepts on which the Enlightenment veision of the subject is
built. This does not mean that philosophy should now ieject the cate-
goiy of the subject, iathei, the subject can no longei be desciibed as
identical to itself oi as bounded by any inteiioiized space. It is dened
only by the multiple and often contiadictoiy places of possible discui-
sive activity and actions on the body. Foi Deleuze, Foucault develops a
supple mechanismfoi mapping the possible discuisive and nondiscui-
sive sites wheie the subject may emeige to be iecognized oi excluded.
In woiks such as Discipline and Punish and The Birth cj the Clinic, what
is desciibed aie mutations oi tiansfoimations in the aichitectonics of
powei. Foi these ieasons, Deleuze chaiacteiizes the histoiical image of
these tiansfoimations as a diagrammatics.
The most succinct way of dening the diagiam is to call it a map
of poweidiagiammatics is the caitogiaphy of stiategies of powei.
As such, the diagiam pioduces a histoiical image of how stiategies of
powei seek to ieplicate themselves in foims of suiveillance, documen-
tation, and expiession on one hand, and in the spatial oiganization
of collective life on the othei. In Discipline and Punish, the quaitei-
ing oi subdividing of the plague town is one diagiam, the Panopti-
con as the ideal of a disciplinaiy society is anothei. The diagiam is an
exposition of the ielations between foices that constitute powei and
condition knowledge. It also iendeis as an intelligible image the fiac-
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Reading the Figuial 53
tuied space wheie the visible and the expiessible coexist as unsettled
stiata. Deleuze calls this space the audiovisual aichive. The visible
and the expiessible thus dene two distinct iegimes that aie iiieducible
to each othei. Each has its own ihythms, foims, and histoiy. Howevei,
wheieas Deleuze undeistands these two stiata to be incommensuiable,
they nonetheless oiganize a complex chasse-crcise that iegulates what is
made visible by piocesses oi technologies of obseivation, and eloquent
by pioceduies of expiession.
Deleuzes desciiption of iegimes of visibility as oiganized by ma-
chines (prccessus machiniques) oi technologies is inteiesting. What is
iendeied visible and thus knowable in an epoch deiives fiom a his-
toiical dispcsitij in eveiy sense of the woid: aichitectuial (the Panopti-
con as a disciplinaiy plan), technological in the sense of a stiategic
aiiangement of piactices oi techniques, but also philosophical oi con-
ceptual. In Fiench, the piimaiy denition of a dispositif is a statement
of summaiyoi concluding judgment. The visible is theiefoie intimately
linked to the expiessible in that it enables noncs that in tuin undei-
wiite conditions of visibility. (Visibility is not stiictly equivalent to
sight, iathei, it iefeis to what can be iendeied as intelligible and theie-
foie knowable in a society.) A simple example is the ciiculai ielation
between the stiategic foims of obseivation and documentation in the
opeiations of the clinic oi the piison. But Deleuzes poitiayal of Fou-
caults stiatication of histoiical space is consideiably moie complex.
Deleuze desciibes these stiata by adapting Hjelmslevs distinction be-
tween planes of content and expiession, each of which has a chaiactei-
istic foim and substance. Take as an example the Panopticon as a dia-
giam of disciplinaiy powei. Its plane of expiession, which is discuisive
and conditions the types of noncs that aie possible, denes a spe-
cic foim(eighteenth-centuiy penal law) oiganizing a given substance
(concepts of delinquency). Its plane of content, which is institutional,
has its specic foims (the piison, school, oi hospital built on the pan-
optic piinciple), whose spatial oiganization of powei also iegulates a
given substance (the conciete possibilities of subjectivity within these
institutions). If expiession is linked to enunciative pioceduies, this
iefeis equally to the histoiically given foims of legal and juiidical aigu-
mentation, aichitectuial planning of panoptic stiuctuies, and iegula-
tions goveining aiiest, aiiaignment, and incaiceiation. The machines
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54 Reading the Figuial
oi technologies of the visible iefei to actual institutional stiuctuies that
impose conduct on bodies by oiganizing them in space and time.
Taking liteially the metaphoi of aichaeological investigation,
Deleuze denes these stiata as the bediock of histoiical thought:
Stiata aie histoiical foimations, positivities oi empiiicities. As sedi-
mentaiy beds they aie made fiom things and woids, fiom seeing and
speaking, fiom bands of visibility and elds of ieadability, fiom con-
tents and expiessions (Fcucault ,). On one hand, each histoiical foi-
mation compiises accumulated deposits of noncs, on the othei,
eveiy histoiical foimation also compiises specic vaiiations and com-
binations between technologies of seeing and pioceduies of expies-
sion. The specicity of foimations deiives fiom how the visible and the
expiessible pioduce and stiatify noncs. Thus these ensembles of the
visible and the expiessible do not deiive fiom ideas, concepts, men-
talities, oi subjects, they dene theii potential spaces of emeigence.
What is ultimately at stake is how the possibilities of knowledge aie
dened in ielation to powei in given histoiical epochs. These stiata,
oi moie piecisely theii paiticulai combination and distiibution of the
visible and expiessible, constitute the positive foims of knowledge as
histoiical a piioiis. Theie aie only piactices of knowledge and stiate-
gies of powei.
6
Reading the Figural The question of ieading begins with howthe space
of discuisive foimations is segmented to maximize the legibility of its
sedimentations of the visible and the expiessible. Deleuze distinguishes
thiee fundamental ways of sectioning aichaeological space to exam-
ine ielations within and acioss its coipus of noncs: the coiielative,
the complementaiy, and the collateial. Each of these dieient sections
oiganizes the activity of ieading in dieient ways, depending on theii
paiticulai stiatication of the visible with iespect to the expiessible.
Coiielative space denes the teims associating what canbe said with
what can be seen oi obseived. In The Birth cj the Clinic this is the ie-
lation between veibalization and spatialization, oi how the legi-
bility of objects, concepts, and subjects emeiges in the oiganization of
noncs and vice veisa. Foucault wiites that the objective of Birth cj the
Clinic as an aichaeology of the gaze (le regard) is to examine the silent
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Reading the Figuial 55
conguiation in which language nds suppoit: the ielation of situa-
tion and attitude to what is speaking and what is spoken about (xi).
Theiefoie the spectaculai oiganization of the clinichow it estab-
lishes modalities of obseivation and deiives knowledge fiom the dis-
position of bodiesis decisively linked to the pioblem of language.
The clinical gaze, foi example, demateiializes language. It has the paia-
doxical ability to heai a language as soon as it peiceives a spectacle,
but this language only iesides in a natuial syntax of things. This is a
puie empiiicism wheie the eye extiacts the meaning of things seem-
ingly without the mediation of signs. Diseases have theii own alpha-
bets, giammais, and syntactic oiganizations to which the eye alone is
sensitive and in this mannei veibalized. Howevei, Foucault measuies
the histoiical tiansfoimation of the clinical gaze into a glance as a
division of the veibal fiomthe space of obseivation. The body achieves
new giavity and thickness. It is no longei a legible suiface oi pictuied
space tiaveised by a totalizing look. Rathei, it becomes an object, an
impenetiable suiface guaiding hidden but meaningful depths. Divided
fiom language, the gaze is silenced, becoming the non-veibal oidei
of ccntact (Clinic I::). It now iequiies instiuments to tianslate the
invisible inteiioi of the body into a iecognizable sense, not only the
stethoscope and othei technologies of auscultation, but also a system
of signs that can document, classify, and otheiwise map this hidden
inteiioi onto a legible space. If the gaze is oideied by empiiicism, the
glance is oiganized by a medical heimeneutic.
Complementaiy space designates the ielation between the discui-
sive and the nondiscuisive as the institutional basis of powei. Comple-
mentaiy spaces aie diagiammatic in that a piecise spatial logic oideis
the eects of powei. In this mannei, Foucault desciibes the Panopticon
as the diagiam of a mechanism of powei ieduced to its ideal foim,
its functioning, abstiacted fiom any obstacle, iesistance oi fiiction,
must be iepiesented as a puie aichitectuial and optical system: it is
in fact a guie of political technology that may and must be detached
fiom any specic use (Discipline :o,). Deleuze insists on the spatial
oiganization of this model. The abstiact foimula iegulating panoptic
powei is not piecisely to see without being seen. The Panopticon
only secondaiily catches bodies in ielations of foice by deiiving and
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56 Reading the Figuial
delimiting theii conditions of visibility. As an automated aichitectuie
of powei foi iegulating collectivities, its piimaiy function is to impose
a given conduct on a given human multiplicity. One only iequiies that
this multiplicity be ieduced, caught up in a iestiicted space, and that
the imposition of a conduct be accomplished thiough a iedivision of
space, oideiing time in a seiial fashion, and composing an aichitecton-
ics of space-time. Theiefoie complementaiy ielations exeicise powei
thiough thiee fundamental opeiations: divide in space, oidei in time,
compose space-time.
If the Panopticon is a factoiy of powei, the plague town is a bu-
ieauciacy of powei. In this it exemplies the inteiaction of coiielative
and complementaiy ielations. Foi example, in Discipline and Punish,
the diagiam of the uiban giid deiives fiom the seventeenth-centuiy
iesponse to the spiead of plague by iationally sequesteiing, subdivid-
ing, and mapping uiban space to contain and contiol disease. The giid
oiganizes a ceaseless piocess of obseivation and suiveillance that is
linked to equally ielentless pioceduies of iecoiding and documenta-
tion. This enclosed, segmented space, wiites Foucault, obseived at
eveiy point, in which the individuals aie inseited in a xed place, in
which the slightest movements aie supeivised, in which all events aie
iecoided, in which an uninteiiupted woik of wiiting links the centie
and peiipheiy, in which powei is exeicised without division, accoiding
to a continuous hieiaichical guie, in which each individual is con-
stantly located, examined and distiibuted among the living beings, the
sick and the deadall this constitutes a compact model of the dis-
ciplinaiy mechanism (Discipline I,,). This paititioning in space and
timea spatiotempoial aichitectuie in the laigest sense of the teim
is a spatial image of powei, oi iathei the stiategic aiiangement of ele-
ments thiough which powei is exeicised.
Collateial ielations dene the giouping of noncs themselves
how they emeige, oiganize, and distiibute themselves as histoiical
foimations of discouise. In choosing this teim, Deleuze stiesses that
Foucaults denition does not deiive the nonc fiom speech alone,
instead, it tiaveises the incommensuiable spaces of the visible and
the expiessible. By tiacing out the noncs stiategic cooidinations of
the visible and the expiessible, tiansfoimations of what is called dis-
couise in dieient epochs, and how the oiganization of discouise is
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Reading the Figuial 57
infoimed histoiically by the qualities of knowledge and powei, can
be moie piecisely undeistood.
What is immediately impoitant foi my aigument is to follow Fou-
cault in asking: if the nonc is the fundamental unit of aichaeologi-
cal investigation, is it thendenedby some piinciple of unity, especially
one deiived eithei fiom linguistics oi fiom the study of language: In
othei woids, is Foucaults notion of the nonc fundamentally equiva-
lent tothe stiuctuie of piopositions, speechacts, oi sentences: Unques-
tionably, Foucault is testing his ielation to stiuctuialism, semiology,
and analytic philosophy, and some of the most inteiesting pages of
The Archaeclcgy cj Kncwledge aie dedicated to this pioblem.
7
Foi Fou-
cault, the nonc is iiieducible to the stiuctuie of piopositions whose
value deiives fiom being embedded in a hieiaichical ielation with axi-
oms of a highei level within a closed and unitaiy system. The unity of
piopositions iequiies eithei the exacting logical stiuctuie of the syl-
logism oi, paiadoxically, the foimal unity of aesthetic woik. Indeed,
the same piopositionfoi example, the famous The cat is on the
matcan seive iadically dieient functions depending on the enun-
ciative modality in which it is pioduced. Its appeaiance in a book by
Di. Seuss, iathei than as a philosophical aigument, will imply veiy dif-
feient values, although each may be chaiacteiized by an exacting ihe-
toiical oi poetic system. Moie impoitant, what is at stake is not the
obseivation that the meaning of a phiase changes in dieient contexts
but that the enunciative value of the phiase cannot be consideied as
identical to itself, it deiives only fiom its position within a piecisely
oideied set of logical ielations that aie fundamentally histoiical.
Noi can the nonc be ieduced to the stiuctuie of peifoimatives.
This is a moie inteiesting case because the piesumed identity of the
speech act is based on the exact coiielation of a statement and an
action: I piomise, deciee, agiee. Foucault unbinds the supposed unity
between events and woids that must obtain in the foimulation of pei-
foimatives by demonstiating that the act itself does not iemain the
same thioughout the seiies of statements: Ceitain speech acts can be
iegaided as complete in theii paiticulai unity only if seveial statements
have been made, each in its piopei place. These acts aie not constituted
theiefoie by the seiies oi sum of these statements, by theii necessaiy
juxtaposition, they cannot be iegaided as being piesent whole and en-
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58 Reading the Figuial
tiie in the least of them, and as ienewing themselves with each one.
So one cannot establish a bi-univocal ielation between the gioup of
statements and that of speech acts eithei (Archaeclcgy 8_8).
If the nonc cannot be ieduced by the ciiteiia of unity piopei to
piopositional logic, aesthetic unity, oi discouise analysis, neithei will it
be constiained by the ciiteiia of giammai and the stiuctuie of natuial
languages, in shoit, noncs aie not identical to sentences. Foucaults
comments in The Archaeclcgy cj Kncwledge, though biief, aie piovoca-
tive. Genealogical tiees, algoiithms, balance sheets, giaphs, and dis-
tiibution clouds all possess a highly iigoious giammaticality (since
they aie made up of symbols whose meaning is deteimined by iules
of usage, and whose succession is goveined by laws of constiuction)
(8:). Yet none of these is equivalent to ciiteiia dening units of natu-
ial language. Any sentences that may accompany them, Foucault ai-
gues, aie meiely inteipietation oi commentaiy, they aie in no way an
equivalent: this is pioved by the fact that, in a gieat many cases, only
an innite numbei of sentences could equal all the elements that aie
explicitly foimulated in this soit of statement. It would not appeai to
be possible, theiefoie, to dene a statement by the giammatical chai-
acteiistics of the sentence (8:).
This contiast of natuial language with mathematical and statis-
tical symbols is less piovocative than Foucaults examination of the
status of painting with iespect to the nonc. Heie the ielation be-
tween the visible and the expiessible is most complex and its implica-
tions most fai-ieaching. It heialds, in fact, the ist philosophical steps
towaid appiehending the guial.
In The Archaeclcgy cj Kncwledge, painting ieceives some biief but
inteiesting paiagiaphs. To examine the ielation between painting and
discuisive piactice, Foucault aigues, does not mean to tianspose the
silence of visual expiession into commentaiy on the latent discouise of
the paintei as the muimui of his oi hei intentions. Rathei, aichaeo-
logical analysis piies loose the limits of piactical knowledge that nd
expiession equally in aesthetic piactice and in the theoiies and insti-
tutional foundations of that piactice:
It would not set out to show that a painting is a ceitain way of
meaning oi saying that is peculiai in that it dispenses with
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Reading the Figuial 59
woids. It would tiy to show that . . . painting is itself a discui-
sive piactice that embodies techniques and eects. In this sense,
the painting is not a puie vision that must then be tiansciibed in
the mateiiality of space, noi is it a naked gestuie whose silent and
eteinally empty meanings must be fieed fiom subsequent inteipie-
tations. It is shot thioughindependently of scientic knowledge
ccnnaissance] and philosophical themeswith the positivity of a
knowledge savcir]. (Archaeclcgy I,, tianslation modied)
The question heie is how the pioblem of histoiical knowledge is em-
bodied in the nonc. The independence of painting fiom philosophi-
cal themes does not absolve the visual aits fiom the expiession of
thought. On one hand, the pioblem of ait cannot be undeistood as
an autonomous iealm sepaiate fiom eithei discouise oi knowledge-
powei ielations, on the othei, philosophys claims foi a monopoly on
concepts, as embodied in linguistic piopositions, aie being subtly but
unquestionably eioded.
This idea is moie diiectly and piovocatively expiessed in the iela-
tion between iesemblance and aimation ieheaised in This Is Nct a
Pipe. This small book evidences Foucaults fascination with how the
paintings of Paul Klee, Vassily Kandinsky, and Ren Magiitte inteiio-
gate philosophys exclusion of painting fiomthe eld of enunciation.
In so doing, they tiansfoim the identity of the nonc itself.
In an account whose bievity belies its histoiical bieadth, Foucault
aigues that two piinciples, iesemblance and aimation, goveined
Westein painting fiom the fteenth to the twentieth centuiies. What
he does not examine is the philosophical tiadition that iegulates the
oideiing of aesthetic signs accoiding to these piinciples. Indeed,
Foucaults desciiption of the ielation between aimation and iesem-
blance is moie a pioduct of the eighteenth centuiy. Emeiging with the
biith of aesthetics as a philosophical domain in the woik of Alexandei
Baumgaiten and Geoig Fiiediich Meiei, nding its most diiect histoii-
cal expiession in Lessings Laccccn and its development as pait of a
philosophical system in Kant, these two piinciples demand a sepaia-
tion between plastic iepiesentation, which oiganizes iesemblance, and
linguistic iefeience, which excludes it. Visibilities aie oiganized by
theii capacity to iesemble, and speech functions to biidge dieience.
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60 Reading the Figuial
(On fait voii pai la iessemblance, on paile tiaveis la diience Pipe
_,].) Hencefoith, Foucault aigues, the univeise of signs is divided into
two systems that may neithei meige noi inteisect, and whose ielation,
though unstable, iequiies the suboidination of one to the othei. Kants
thiid Ciitique is not fai away with its defense of the linguistic aits as the
highest, and indeed the most mimetic, because they iesemble the least.
What is essential, wiites Foucault, is that veibal signs and visual
iepiesentations aie nevei given at once. An oidei always hieiaichizes
them, iunning fiomthe guie to discouise oi fiomdiscouise to guie
(_:__).
Notice the simple but stiiking division that Foucault is on the veige
of oveituining. In the eia of aesthetic philosophy that he is ciiticizing,
expiession is ieseived foi linguistic activity, which oiganizes signs
and theiefoie meaning acioss dieience, the eld of the visible is that
of the representamen as imitation oi the silent iepetition of things.
Although iesolutely divided, in Foucaults ieading, these two oideis
nonetheless iemain coupled in a poweiful way: Let a guie iesemble
an object (oi some othei guie), and that alone is enough foi theie
to slip into the puie play of painting a statement nonc]obvious,
banal, iepeated a thousand times yet almost always silent. (It is like an
innite muimuihaunting, enclosing the silence of guies, investing
it, masteiing it, extiicating the silence fiom itself, and nally ieveising
it within the domain of things that can be named.) What you see is
that (Pipe _). Lacking eloquence, guies iisk dissolving back into
the woild of things, fiom which they have baiely sepaiated themselves
in the act of iepiesentation. To be meaningful, the visceial silence of
thing-iepiesentations must be enciicled and masteied by (linguistic)
statements. Wheie the image iesembles, the woid iefeis and in so doing
divides and dieientiates. It is essentially a nominalist eia.
Heie Foucault iecognizes in Magiitte a fellow (maveiick) philoso-
phei, but not in the same way that Lyotaid desiies to have philosopheis
and painteis keep company. Magiitte iecognized and aiticulated, be-
foie Foucault, the iule of these two piinciples in the histoiy of signs and
began to displace and ieconceptualize them. In this iespect, Magiittes
painting becomes foi Foucault an ait moie committed than any othei
to the caieful and ciuel sepaiation of giaphic and plastic elements. If
they happen to be supeiimposed within the painting like a legend and
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Reading the Figuial 61
its image, it is on condition that the statement contest the obvious iden-
tity of the guie, and the name we aie piepaied to give it (Pipe _,).
But theie is moie at stake than the asseition that in Magiittes paintings
the guie nally contests its aimative bond with the text. Foucaults
conception of what is called discouise oats thioughout his woik in
the I,oos, as does the status of the nonc, and this veiy indecisive-
ness is inteiesting. At times Foucault seems to accept at face value that
the nonc compiises a seiies of linguistic signs. Howevei, in the shoit
essays on Magiitte and Klee, the place of the nonc begins to shift and
tiemble, it no longei iests easily on the foundations of speech.
Foucault tieats in detail two of Magiittes woiks: Ceci nest pas une
pipe, a diawing fiom I,:o, and Les deux mysteres, a painting fiom I,oo.
Foucaults aiguments aie neithei commentaiies noi inteipietations.
They piesent an extended ieection on how Magiitte tiansfoims the
activity of ieading in ielation to guiative expiession. In the eia of ie-
semblance andaimation, the expiessivityof the visible is absoibedby
that of the linguistic. But if iesemblance yields aimation, if into the
puie play of the guie theie slips a statement, then the nonc is not
identical to a pioposition. Rathei, it iefeis to a ccllateral space wheie ie-
semblance andaimationemeige fioma specic divisionof thevisible
and the expiessible in the Modein eia. Repiesentation-iesemblance
geneiates statements. Thiough iefeience and naming, signs stop the
iepetitionof guies, linking woids tothings andthing-iepiesentations.
In the theoiy of signs chaiacteiistic of the Modein eia, the image of a
pipe is iead as This is a pipe. And the space of the nonc appeais to
be giounded in the following foimulation:

This is a pipe.
Magiitte distuibs the collateial ielation that divides guie and
text into two sepaiate stieams, one chaiacteiized by simultaneity
(iepetition-iesemblance), the othei by succession (dieience-aima-
tion). This does not simply mean that the text contiadicts the guie
oi vice veisa. Rathei, it is a question of a chiasma between the two
oideis of signs that Foucault illustiates in the guie of the calligiam.
As a sign, the calligiam fascinates Foucault because it unsettles the
lineai ow of the sentence, shapes it into what it names, and thus sub-
mits aimation to the lawof iesemblance. Conveisely, it populates the
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Ren Magiitte. Ceci nest pas une pipe (I,:o). Chaily Heiscovici, Biussels,
:ooo.
Ren Magiitte. Les deux mysteres (I,oo). Chaily Heiscovici, Biussels, :ooo.
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Reading the Figuial 63
Fumes, by Guillaume Apollinaiie.
guie with discontinuous letteis, teasing speech fiom the silence of
giaphic lines. In this mannei, the calligiam aspiies playfully to eace
the oldest oppositions of oui alphabetic civilization: to show and to
name, to shape and to say, to iepioduce and to aiticulate, to imitate
and to signify, to look and to iead (Pipe :I).
But the aspiiation of the calligiam is unfullled, it does not chal-
lenge the oideiing of signs that divides looking and ieading into sepa-
iate activities. The oideiing of letteis is too much conned by the shape
of iesemblance to be convincinglyaimative. The moment we iead the
decipheied sentence, the guie dissolves, and iesemblance is shatteied
by naming. The calligiamnevei speaks andiepiesents at the same mo-
ment. The veiy thing that is both seen and iead is hushed in the vision,
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64 Reading the Figuial
hidden in the ieading (Pipe :,). Foi Foucault, it is piecisely Magiittes
iecognition of this unfullled subveisiveness that is the seciet of his
painting. Recognizing that the powei of the calligiam is that it can
not yet say and no longei iepiesent, Magiitte ieconguies these two
negations on the space of his diawing. Simultaneously, the collateial
space of the nonc is tiansfoimed.
Foucault calls Magiittes diawing an uniaveled calligiam (un calli-
gramme dejait). In Ceci nest pas une pipe the calligiammatic text has
been peeled fiom the suppoit of the guie, iestoiing the two oideis
of signs to theii piopei spaces, but with a dieience. The absence of
letteis in the guie and the negation asseited by the text distuibs the
eld of designation to which the calligiam still belongs. Magiitte ie-
opened the tiap the calligiamhad spiung on the thing it desciibed. But
in the act the object itself escaped (Pipe :8). Foucault chaiacteiizes
the displacement fiom the Classical eia to the Modein as the substi-
tution of the age of meaning oi signication foi the age of iepiesen-
tation. Just as eailiei Velasquezs Las Meninas peifectly expiessed the
impending conclusion of the Classical eia, the paintings of Magiitte
announce the end of Modeinism as a philosophical epoch. Indeed, the
apogee of Modein thought is no doubt oidinaiy language philosophy
with its peifect faith in the collateial powei of languagethe ability
of woids to tie themselves convincingly to things, events, and actions.
In Magiittes paintings, this faith collapses undei its own weight like a
dying stai. Resemblance and aimation aie tiansfoimed as similitude.
The End of Modernism Saussuie, one of the last gieat Modein think-
eis, insisted that the ielation between the signiei (sound-image) and
the signied (concept) was aibitiaiy. Signication, the aimation of
meaning, occuis because woids aie divided fiom the things that they
nonetheless name and mastei. In semiology, speech alone seives the
collateial function of the nonc. In the Ccurs de linguistique generale,
foi example, the impoitance of wiiting is belittled as being a photo-
giaph of speech.
8
Consigned to iesemblance, it is a silent and giaphic
iepetition of what is ieally meaningful. Resemblance only iepeats once
befoie aimation appeais to pin it like a dead butteiy on a collection
table. Contiaiiwise, foi Magiitte it is the ielation between text and
guie that is aibitiaiy. With this discoveiy, the designative ceitainty
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Reading the Figuial 65
of aimation, in which this can always attach a name to a thing,
dissolves, unleashing the powei of iepetition.
Similitude thus denes an oidei of signs wheie the function of des-
ignation has lost its centiality. Magiittes diawing is emblematic of
a tiansfoimation in the collateial space of the nonc, a shifting of
its centeis of giavity, wheie the visible is no longei excluded fiom
the expiessible. The two iegimes aie now linked by a subtle and un-
stable dependency, at once insistent and unsuie, wheie guie and text
iefei incessantly one to the othei in embattled and contiadictoiy ways
(Pipe :o).
The Modein eia believed in the equivalence of enunciation and af-
imation. In the guial eia, the link between iefeience and aimation
disappeais, the visible and the expiessible evince a gieatei codepen-
dence, and the self-identity of the noncsplit along the fault line
wheie guie and text displace each otheiis no longei assuied by a
single aimation. Foi example, in Ceci nest pas une pipe, the des-
ignative function no longei stabilizes the ielation between text and
guie. Between text and guie, Foucault wiites, we must admit a
whole seiies of ciissciossings, oi iathei between one and the othei
attacks aie launched and aiiows y against the enemy taiget, cam-
paigns designed to undeimine and destioy, wounds and blows fiom
the lance, a battle . . . images falling into the midst of woids, vei-
bal ashes ciissciossing diawings . . . discouise cutting into the foim
of things (quoted in Fcucault oo). Within the fiame of this simple
diawing, guiation, aimation, and designation no longei coincide,
pioducing thiee contiaiy piopositions in ielation to a single nonc.
Moieovei, the piopositions themselves aie neithei wholly linguistic
noi wholly guiative, they also deiive complexly fiom this noncoin-
cidence. In the ist pioposition, the diawing of the pipe seives the
designative function (this), aiming that it is consubstantial neithei
with the seiies of phonetic sounds noi with the giaphic tiaces iepie-
sented by [ a pipe[. The diawing, by iefeiiing to the text, aims that
it is ineluctably divided fiom it. The second pioposition taigets the
sentence [ This is not a pipe[. Heie this iefeis to the demonstia-
tive pionoun of the sentence, which is capable of iefeiiing only to that
sentence, and is theiefoie neithei equivalent to, noi substitutable foi,
the guie that oats above it. Finally, the thiid pioposition designates
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Ceci nest pas une pipe: thiee piopositions.
the entiie nonc (ensemble of wiitten text and guied pipe) as asseit-
ing that it can no longei be ieconstituted as a calligiammatic meig-
ing of woid and image. The painting cannot be ieduced to a unity.
Split between guie and text, it keeps dividing, bianching, and iecon-
stituting possibilities of meaning. In Foucaults ieading of Les deux
mysteres, this piocess is even moie explosive, pioducing seven contiaiy
aimations in the possible conguiations and contestations that both
gioup and divide guie and text. Seven discouises in a single state-
ment nonc], wiites Foucault. Moie than enough to demolish the
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Reading the Figuial 67
foitiess wheie similitude was held piisonei to the asseition of iesem-
blance (Pipe ,).
The extent of the tiansfoimation of signs that has alieady occuiied
in the ielation between the visible and the expiessible is measuied
by this displacement of iesemblance by similitude. Accoiding to Fou-
cault, Resemblance piesupposes a piimaiy iefeience that piesciibes
and classes (Pipe ). Resemblance belongs to the eia of iepiesenta-
tion. It is goveined by an oiiginaiy authoiity, an authenticating model
that oideis and ianks all the copies that can be deiived fiom it. Con-
tiaiiwise, the similai is unleashed in a tempoial continuum without
oiigin oi nality. Goveined only by seiiality, the similai multiplies
vectois that can be followed in one diiection as easily as anothei,
that obey no hieiaichy, but piopagate themselves fiom small diei-
ences among small dieiences. . . . Resemblance piedicates itself upon
a model it must ietuin to and ieveal, similitude ciiculates the simu-
lacium as an indenite and ieveisible ielation of the similai to the
similai (). Lessing divided the linguistic fiomthe plastic aits by op-
posing succession to simultaneity. Now the tempoiality of discouise
has thoioughly peimeated plastic space. The analog has been ieplaced
by the digital.
Foucaults aiguments conceining Magiitte piovide a foundation foi
undeistanding the natuie of the noncs that aie foiming the audio-
visual aichive of the guial eia. But what mutations in the activity of
ieading aie occuiiing, and what do they poitend foi the place and
function of the subject:
By insisting onthe incommensuiabilityof the visible andthe expies-
sible, Deleuze chaiacteiizes the audiovisual aichive as inheiently dis-
junctive. Divided between piocesses identied with visibility and pio-
ceduies identied with enunciation, these stiata continually pioduce
out of theii veiy discontinuity the teims iegulating possible knowl-
edges. In The Order cj Things, Foucault wiites that the ielation of lan-
guage to painting is an innite ielation. It is not that woids aie impei-
fect, oi that, when confionted by the visible, they piove insupeiably
inadequate. Neithei can be ieduced to the otheis teims: it is in vain
that we say what we see, what we see nevei iesides in what we say. And
it is in vain that we attempt to show, by the use of images, metaphois oi
similes, what we aie saying, the space wheie they achieve theii splen-
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68 Reading the Figuial
doui is not that deployed by oui eyes but that dened by the sequential
elements of syntax (,). Dieient histoiical eias, and the dieient phi-
losophies of language and iepiesentation belonging to them, may be
dened by theii paiticulai negotiations of this division, which is one
of the pioblems inspiiing The Order cj Things. But this disjunctuie is
impoitant in and of itself. Foi Deleuze it is emblematic of the open-
endedness and iiieveisibility of histoiy as a space of becoming. This
movement is coincident with neithei a teleology noi an ideology of
piogiess. Rathei, it is a nonlineai dynamica potentiality without a
piedeteimined outcome. The iatio between the visible and the expies-
sible in a given epoch deteimines equally the essential iaiity of noncs
as well as the potential cieation of unfoieseen concepts. The pioblem
of the histoiical analysis of powei as a diagiammatic, then, is laigely a
question of what foims of oidei, iegulation, oi contiol appeai to man-
age this dynamic that pioduces equally the possibilities of libeiation
and domination.
In this iespect, Deleuze asseits that theie is no isomoiphism, ho-
mology, oi foimcommonto seeing andsaying oi the visible andthe ex-
piessible. At the same time, the guial eia is best chaiacteiized by Fou-
caults foimula desciibing the woik of Raymond Roussel: To speak
and to showin a simultaneous motion . . . a] piodigious . . . inteiweav-
ing. Speaking and seeing at the same time, although it is not the same
thing, although we do not speak of what we see, oi see that of which we
speak. But the two compiise the stiatum, and fiom one stiatum to the
next aie tiansfoimed at the same time (although not accoiding to the
same iules) (Deleuze, Fcucault o,). The impoitant thing is to desciibe
how and wheie these tiansfoimations aie taking place. If the function
of designation is iapidly disappeaiing, this means that oui cultuie is
less one of the simulacium than one wheie ieading diagonally ciosses
the ielation between woid-iepiesentations and thing-iepiesentations.
It is not a question of the piimacy of piint oi visual media but a fun-
damentally new stiatication of the audiovisual aichive with implica-
tions foi both expiession and ieading. The philosophical genealogy
pioducing the Modein eia divided the eye fiom the eai, such that the
voice giadually insinuated itself into the place of thought. Fiom the
moment that wiitten signs became the simple iepiesentation of pho-
netic sounds, and the voice became the emblem of thought piesent to
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Reading the Figuial 69
itself, the eye began to inhabit a ieduced space. The ielation of ieading
to visibility took place as a peculiai displacement: the appiehension
of the iegulai, lineai continuum of piint disappeaied into the vanish-
ing point of the ow of inteinal speech. In contiast, the guial has
exploded, fiagmented, and acceleiated iegimes of visibility. This does
not mean that the cultuie of the book will simply disappeai, though its
foims may change. But its dominance has been displaced, and along
with it the natuie of oui foims of thought, which, as both Peiice and
Voloinov have insisted, aie insepaiable fiomoui collective expeiience
of signs.
Foucault wiites that similitude has the powei to destioy identities.
This is because the incommensuiability of guie and text fiactuies the
identity of the nonc as well as the piocess of enunciation. Wheie des-
ignation no longei iefeis, the common giound between the signs of
wiiting and the lines of image typical of the cultuie of the book aie
eaced. On the page of an illustiated book, we seldom pay attention
to the small space iunning above the woids and below the diawings,
foievei seiving them as a common fiontiei. It is theie, on those few
millimeteis of white, the calm sand of the page, that aie established
all the ielations of designation, nomination, desciiption, classication
(Pipe :8). Now these boideis aie shifting and dissolving. In the eia
of electionic communication, the quotidian activity of the image that
illustiates and the sentence that comments have been disiupted by si-
militudean uncanny and paiadoxical iepetition piopelled by the ve-
locity at which the woild of things iecedes fiomthe giasp of signs. Heie
is a foimula foi the chiasma of the guial: discouise that penetiates
the foim of things with its ambiguous powei to negate and divide oi
diei, the independent weight of things congealing into signs that pio-
lifeiate anonymously in the eveiyday life of individuals. No wondei
that Foucault suggests Waihol as one of the ist philosopheis of the
guial (Campbell, Campbell, Campbell . . . ). Rathei than closing in
on itself, enunciation now obeys a centiipetal foice deiived fiom the
acceleiated oibit of the expiessible with iespect to the incieasing den-
sity of the visible. The velocity of iegimes of visibility agitates non-
cs like atoms in a paiticle acceleiatoi. But what new elementsas
concepts oi possibilities of thought and imaginationwill be cieated:
What possibilities of libeiation oi alienation will they heiald:
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70 Reading the Figuial
I will ietuin to these questions in chaptei ,. But to conclude heie,
two pioblems must be confionted conceining the appiopiiation of
Deleuze and Foucaults wiitings foi a theoiy of mass cultuie. The ist
conceins theii positions on ait. Foi the most pait, both diaw theii
examples fiom the piovince of high modeinism: Foucault wiiting on
Magiitte, Kandinsky, Klee, oi Waihol, Deleuze on Sybeibeig, Duias, oi
the guial in paintings of Fiancis Bacon. These aitists aie assumed to
belong to an aesthetic and philosophical avant-gaide. To what extent
can Foucaults and Deleuzes aiguments be used to compiehend the
moie piosaic life of signs in contempoiaiy Westein cultuie: Second, I
suggested eailiei that it was possible to iead a mass image dening
the possibilities of collective life in the oiganization of aichitectuial
space, the distiibutionof televisual images, oi othei foims of social iep-
iesentation. The puipose of the diagiam is to map the histoiical oiga-
nization of powei that iepioduces itself in these phenomena, and in
so doing to facilitate undeistanding of both the functioning of powei
and stiategies of iesistance. In the cuiient eia, if the identity of signs
has been exploded by similitude, if meaning no longei deiives fiom
an authenticating model, and if the qualities of time iendei guie and
text as equivalents iathei than hieiaichizing them, what mass image
denes the physiognomy of the guial:
Foucault implies that similitude is a potentially tiansgiessive cate-
goiy. But it is impoitant to emphasize that this is not an aigument
foi the ciitical capacity of modeinism oi the autonomous woik of
ait. When the ielation between iesemblance and aimation collapses,
so too does the identity of a convincing plastic space. This does not
mean, howevei, that painting oi any othei foim of ait disappeais, oi
that ait is obligated to iefei only to itself. The extent to which the
image insists on its self-identityoi to the extent that this ielation is
insisted on by aits institutionsis a measuie of the degiee to which
the image has ceased to iefei tc things, by becoming a thing of a pai-
ticulai oidei. Nonobjective ait: Such an idea is no longei possible.
9
What Clement Gieenbeig heialded as the utopian function of mod-
einism only maiked its piogiessive tiansfoimation into a commodity
goveined by exchange-value and the laws of capital. The quality of si-
militude has a utopian face, but it is also the guie of an incieasing
ieication of signs.
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Reading the Figuial 71
Similaily, it must not be foigotten that the implication of lms,
and now videos, modeinity is a histoiical concept that does not
necessaiily incline these media to eithei an avant-gaide oi a nonideo-
logical aesthetic capacity. Foi example, the iepiesentation of continu-
ous movement in both lm and video is only ensuied by a lineai
seiialization of fiames wheie the time and oidei of piesentation aie
xed, iendeiing peiception as an activity iationalized accoiding to the
constiaints of mechanical and electionic iepioduction. Even on m1v,
wheie vaiieties of fiagmentation and discontinuous movement aie the
noim iathei than the exception, the ineluctable tempoial ow of the
televisual continuum, measuied and iepioduced by the continuity of
the sound tiack, ensuies a centialized contiol that oideis time and
minimizes inteiactivity. The foice of this acknowledgment cannot be
ignoied, especially when the iuptuial capacity of guial discouise and
othei hieioglyphic foims is oveiemphasized byavatais of postmod-
einism. No doubt, the ciiculation and dissemination of signs (above
all thiough cinematic, televisual, and now digital media) has become
the piovince of the guial. But the potentially disiuptive foice of the
guial is constiained by at least thiee deteiminations. Fiist would be
the code of movement itself, with its oveideteimined iationalization
of peiception and limitation of usei inteiactivity. Second would be the
ieduction of the hieioglyphic image in the foimof a commodity. Foi
example, the acceleiated Eisensteinian montage of the moie spec-
taculai ciedit caid commeicials is tiansfoimed by the ideology it de-
liveis in thiity seconds: that in the cuiient state of capitalism, one in-
vests no longei in things but in the powei of unlimited exchange. The
explosion of signs is heie the global ciiculation of inteinational capital
itself. Thiid would be the incieasing seiialization of the audience, that
is, theii constitution thiough the institutional foims of bioadcasting as
an incieasingly atomized collective. In this iespect, it is not suipiising
that Magiittes ait has been so extensively plundeied by adveitising.
But then, it is not ieally a question of theft. Both emeige fiom a dis-
continuous chain of events that maik the tiansition to the guial eia.
The disappeaiance of designation is the most poweiful consequence
of the new digital technologies. But what foims of powei, and what
image of collective life, does this event augui foi the guial eia: The
immense vaiiety of expiessive foims and capacities pioduced by digital
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72 Reading the Figuial
technologies is deiivedfiomanelemental mathematic expiessionthe
bitand the technological expiession of powei in the guial eia is the
ability to manipulate totally the oiganization of quanta of infoimation.
Repiesentation no longei exists in the sense of distinctive dieiences
between media. Any sign can be stoied digitally and ieconstituted in
anothei foim, thus indexicality is no longei the measuie of the tiuth
of the image. The guial nonc is viitual, it does not necessaiily de-
iive fiom any piioi existence. Split fiom within by the noncoincidence
of guiation, aimation, and designation, signs piolifeiate in an end-
less tempoial stieam. The guial is the electionic and digital eia pai
excellence.
The technologies of guial expiession oei unpiecedented con-
tiol ovei the stiategies of divide in space, oidei in time, and compose
in space-time. This is a question not simply of what happens on the
scieen (cinematic, televisual, oi computei) but of how these technolo-
gies seive to dene, iegulate, obseive, and document human collectivi-
ties. The goals of inteiactive computing and communication that aie
in the vanguaid of ieseaich on new electionic media, while genuinely
utopian, must nonetheless be questioned, foi the dieam of the indi-
viduals absolute contiol ovei infoimationis simultaneously the poten-
tiality foi absolute suiveillance and the ieication of piivate expeii-
ence. The deciding factoi involves political questions conceining the
contiols ovei centialization and access. Ciitical theoiy must theiefoie
complement the aesthetic image of the guial with the mass image
it poitends. Without oiganized ciiticism and iesistance, the libeiating
foice of new infoimation- and image-piocessing technologies will un-
doubtedly yieldtothe acceleiating demands of a newcapitalism, diiven
by a fantasy of innite consumption and innite access to the daily lives
of individuals.
What is the mass image of the 1v audience: The distiibution
cloud, iathei than the geometiic iadii of the Panopticon, is peihaps the
most chaiacteiistic mass image of the guial eia. Dominated by sta-
tistical and demogiaphic models, the television audience is no longei
consideied as a subject capable of expiession, iathei, it is a mass that
is iandomly sampled. Bioadcasteis incieasingly conceive of theii
audience as a viitual, mathematic space iathei than a collectivity of
individuals. In theii cuiiently developed foims, statistical and demo-
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Reading the Figuial 73
giaphic ieseaich piolifeiate stiategies that depiive the body politic of
agency byconveiting it intoa viitualandtheiefoie quantiable, mea-
suiable, and manipulablespace, youi data image matteis and
little else. Voting and public paiticipation aie less meaningful than an
ephemeial public opinion, whose absuidly small samples, maigins
of eiioi, and contiol ovei what constitutes a piopei question aie a
mockeiy of demociatic ideals. Today a vote is a ,oo numbei and costs
you fty cents. Ciedit caids accepted.
Heie is anothei potential foimula: iandomized bodies, divided in
space but unied in time. This seiialization of the audience is analo-
gous to the oiganization of televisual images as disciete and discon-
tinuous spaces embedded in a tempoial continuum. The Citicoip com-
meicials of the late I,8os aie exemplaiy, if unexceptional, in this
iespect. In these ads, spatial links aie dissolved, iegiouping images in
distinct quanta. The fiagmentation and diveisity of these images aie
no less poweiful than the tempoiality that binds them, iepiesenting
the dieam of a univeisally pioductive capitalin education, agiicul-
tuie, and businesstouching all peoples and dissolving all divisions
of nation, iace, gendei, and class. Division oi sepaiation in space thus
becomes unity oi equivalency in time. The iesulting utopia: capital-
ism with a human face, supeiimposed on the anonymous ciphei of the
Citicoip building. The laboi peifoimed theie is no less poweiful foi its
incoipoieality: collecting infoimationandoiganizing electionic nan-
cial tiansactions on a global scale. Tempoiality is the mateiial and the
continuum that is most fundamental foi the exeicise of powei today.
This is why coipoiations imagine bodies foi themselves that aie singu-
lai yet univeisal. By piomoting an imaginaiy visibility in space, they
belie theii dieams of empiie in time. Now that global nancial mai-
kets aie electionically linked, multinationals can boast along with the
smallest convenience stoies, We nevei close. And theii piesence in
the daily lives of individuals is just as ubiquitous. Multinational coi-
poiations seek an imaginaiy image of global unity acioss iace, class,
and gendei dieience. In theii woild, all beings aie equal if they have
access to electionic ciedit, only economic dieience counts, and heie
the gap between the haves and the have-nots is evei widening. Heie
the tiaditional subject of enunciation has disappeaied. Unleashed in
a space of similitude, the singulaiity of the subject is displaced by iepe-
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Citicoip, because Ameiicans
want to succeed, not just
suivive. Citicoip TV
adveitising campaign.
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Reading the Figuial 75
tition. An individual is appealed to less than a capacity to exeicise
electionic ciedit, a univeisal capacity foi exchange in which the indi-
vidual is him- oi heiself exchangeable foi all otheis. The lesson heie
is that the potential foi libeiation oi domination inauguiated by the
guial will be decided by the following question: whethei individuals
aie enabled to dene, manipulate, and oiganize the tempoial capaci-
ties inheient in the new technologies, oi whethei the new technologies
will dene, manipulate, and oiganize subjectivity by deiealizing bodies
and tiansfoiming categoiies of identity thiough the modalities enabled
by digital infoimation piocessing.
Between the visible and the expiessible, no philosophei has been
moie attentive than Foucault to the chiasma wheie these activities
ceaselessly haunt one anothei, always pioducing new foims of expies-
sion and ieading. Foucault suggests that in the Classical eia, designa-
tion and naming seived as limits on this iadically pioductive capacity.
Designation peimitted ieading to pass suiieptitiously fiom the space
wheie one speaks to the space wheie one looks, in othei woids, to fold
one ovei the othei as though they weie equivalents. But if one wishes
to keep the ielation of language to vision open, if one wishes to tieat
theii incompatibility as a staiting point . . . instead of as an obstacle to
be avoided, so as to stay as close as possible to both, then one must . . .
pieseive the innity of the task (Order cj Things ,). Today the func-
tion of designation is being iapidly eioded by similitude, and thought
ielies no less poignantly on opening a space in language iesponsive to
the guial tiansfoimations of the eye than on ieleasing guies in the
space of expiession. What it means to ieadthe attenuation of a gaze
wheie language blossoms and disappeais, dancing with a concept that
inspiies the visibility of a yet unnamed thingis an activity undei-
going constant histoiical mutation and ienewal. This cieative activity
is as ceaseless as the attempts to contiol and delimit it. Theiefoie it is
evei moie ciucial to dene and encouiage its utopian face.
WhenWaltei Benjamin announced the eia of mechanical iepioduc-
tion moie than sixty yeais ago, he knew that ciitical theoiy stood at
a political ciossioads. New technologies of the visible yield new pio-
ceduies of expiession, and along with them, new potentials foi eithei
ieication oi libeiation. On the thieshold of the guial eia, we now
face the same political choices.
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3. THE FIGURE AND THE TEXT
The image is indeed located, with respect to the echo it might receive
from language, halfway between the semi-transparency of written titles
anddialogue andthe more or less complete opacityof music andnoise.
Raymond Bellour, The Unattainable Text
Film and the Scene of Writing :;,:. In Fiom Woik to Text, Roland
Baithes aigues that an epistemological shift and a displacement of ob-
ject have taken place in the eld of liteiaiy theoiy. This shift of focus
was in pait the pioduct of the seminais that inspiied S/Z, Baithess
wiiteily deconstiuction of Balzacs novella Sarrasine. In Baithess
ciiticism, the movement fiom woik to Text in the eld of liteiaiy
undeistanding is undeistoodas a tiansfoimationof the activityof read-
ing thiough the ciitical deployment of seven guies: method, genie,
signs, pluiality, liation (authoiship), ieading, and pleasuie.
At the iisk of an unjustiable ieduction, and noting that Baithes
makes no diiect iefeience to the undeniable inuence of Jacques Dei-
iida, this new objectthe Textmay be chaiacteiized as that which
opens the woik on to the eld of wiiting.
1
Foi Baithes, the woik is
an empiiical object, but the Text is a methodological eld oi a pio-
cess of demonstiation. Theiefoie the movement fiom woik to Text
opens onto a ieading whose puipose is to establish the intelligibility
of the liteiaiy object thiough a piocess of tiansposition oi iewiiting.
Wheieas the woik connes itself to the eld of the sign, a logocentiic
space wheie ieading is piesupposed as an exchange of meaning oi a ie-
cipiocal ielation between authoi and consumei, the Baithesian Text is
undeistood as an iiieducible pluial oi an expansive weave of signi-
eis, geneiated in the act of ciitical ieading and iecontextualization.
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The Figuie and the Text 77
What is iiieducible heie is the potential ielation between meaning and
text, which is nevei one of puie identity. Rathei than a consumption
oi exhaustion of the woik, ieading becomes instead an activity of fiee
play, an innite defeiial of the signied. Again, Baithess S/Z founds
an exemplaiy piactice in this iespect. Rathei than an inteipietation oi
explication, what Baithes achieves is simultaneously a detailed pictuie
of the piocesses and pioceduies of meaning subtending the ieadeily
woik and a complication of oui notion of ieading as a wiiteily ac-
tivity. In fact, ieading becomes a foim of wiiting, the actualization of
Text in new ciitical, theoietical, and social contexts.
:;,,. In The Unattainable Text (Le texte intiouvable), Raymond
Belloui begins by making diiect iefeience to Baithess essay: That
the lm is a text, in the sense which Baithes uses the woid, is obvious
enough (,).
Obvious enough. That Belloui iecognizes the full scope of his
iiony is by no means self-evident, and theie will be fuithei occasion
heie to question whethei his idea of a lm-text implies a ielation to
wiiting as Baithes denes it. Theie is little doubt, howevei, that Bel-
loui is acknowledging the piofound debt that lm semiology owes to
Baithes foi its theoiies of the text and of ieading. But of gieatei intei-
est is Bellouis attentiveness to the paiadoxical impasse with which lm
analysis confionts even the most iadical liteiaiy theoiies. Heie Belloui
obseives that textual analyses of liteiatuie such as S/Z benet fiom
the capacity to cite theii object, the liteiaiy woik. In othei woids, the
passage fiom the ieadeily woik to the wiiteily text in which the lattei
iecasts the intelligibility of the foimei is facilitated because both woik
and text shaie the same mattei of expiession: they both occupy the
eld of wiiting. Howevei, although this movement compiises a shift in
the epistemology of wiiting, it ultimately questions neithei the foun-
dations of that epistemology noi the piivilege that wiiting enjoys in
the communication of knowledge.
So heie is the paiadox that Belloui cannot iesolve, noi does he wish
to iesolve. On the one hand, the Baithesian notion of the text seems to
be achieved liteially by conventional piocesses of cinematic signica-
tion. (And heie, peihaps, Belloui would emphasize along with Waltei
Benjamin the modeinity of the cinema.) The cinematic text (since we
agiee ovei andagainst the piejudice of liteiaiycultuie that it has one)
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78 Reading the Figuial
is iiieducibly pluial. It iesists chaiacteiization by the univocal sign be-
cause it conjoins ve distinct matteis of expiessionphonetic sound,
music, noise oi sound eects, wiitten insciiptions, photogiaphic ieg-
istiationand because its piocesses of signication, its textuality, aie
constituted iiieveisibly and ineluctably by movement of, within, and
acioss images. Theiefoie it is by viitue of the qualities of pluiality and
movement, and a conjoining of spatiality and iegulated tempoiality,
that foi Belloui the lm is a text, but an intangible and uncitable one:
On the one hand, it spieads in space like a pictuie, on the othei it
plunges into time, like a stoiy which its seiialization into wiiting ap-
pioximates moie oi less to the musical woik. In this it is peculiaily
unquotable, since the written text cannct restcre tc it what cnly the prc-
jectcr can prcduce, a movement, the illusion of which guaiantees the
ieality (Unattainable :,, italics mine). Foi Belloui, even though the
lm is the most textual of texts, it is unattainable (intrcuvable), its
mateiiality cannot be giasped because it resists writing.
Because textual analysis in lm as in liteiatuie takes the foim of
wiiting, Belloui consideis the uncitability of the cinematic text to be
a pioblem (though not an oveiwhelming oi woiiisome one) foi two
ieasons. Fiist, the Baithesian notion of the text is little moie than a
theoietical ction oi a methodological convenience that is valued foi
the ieadings it pioduces. And this is no less tiue foi the methodology
of textual analysis in lm, as Chiistian Metz demonstiated so biil-
liantly in Langage and Cinema. Second, howevei, it often seems that
the mateiial intelligibility of the cinematic signiei is oveiwhelmed by
the illusion of piesence piesented by the moving photogiaphic image.
Theiefoie, just as Baithes iecasts the intelligibility of the ieadeily woik
(with its pietense to iealism and piesence) within the wiiteily text, so
too does Belloui aigue that knowledge of cinematic signication may
only be achieved by bieaking its fascination, stopping its movement,
decomposing and tiansposing it into the alien modality of wiiting,
even if one iegiets losing what is most specic to it.
2
Theie is much heie that I agiee with iegaiding the theoiy and piac-
tice of the textual analysis of lm. But one cannot help noticing the
symptomatic logic that confionts and denes the prcblem of the lm-
text in that textual analysis conceives the movement fiom image to
sciipt as the passage fiom illusion to knowledge. Belloui in fact iec-
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The Figuie and the Text 79
ognizes this logic in Baithes (That is why Baithes so stiongly mis-
tiusts eveiything that escapes the wiitten Unattainable :o]) but
ultimately does not avoid it. Aie we then to assume that the image
piesents no knowledge, that it is wholly imaginaiy, with nothing of the
symbolic iesiding within it, indeed, that it confounds intelligibility by
escaping wiiting:
3
Heie even poststiuctuialist theoiy nds itself iestating uncon-
sciously an epistemological piivilege that piioiitizes wiiting in iela-
tion to guial discouises such as painting, photogiaphy, and cinema.
Belloui, in fact, in casting about foi what is specic to the cinematic
text in ielation to what it shaies with liteiaiy, theatiical, musical, oi
pictoiial aits, consistently iefeis to wiiting as the measuie of citation-
ality and theiefoie knowledge oi iationality. To oveituin this philo-
sophical piejudice, it is necessaiy ist to undeistand that wiiting
has itself sueied a ieduction in opposition to the image, moving oi
not, and that this ieduction is in fact achieved by the logocentiic tia-
dition that still occupies and oveiwhelms the possibility of a semiotics
of guial discouise. In contempoiaiy lm theoiy, this piejudice de-
iives fiom the peisistent biases of Saussuiean linguistics, which mea-
suie the study of cinematic signication against the model of speech,
a stable and iepeatable code, and the univocal sign with all that fol-
lowspiesence, identity, and the tianscendental subject. One thinks
heie of the eaily essays of Chiistian Metz, foi example, and the inevi-
table quandaiy of how to constitute a semiology of the cinema when
that which seemed most fundamental to it constantly elided the foims
(e.g., double aiticulation) by which language was constituted as an ob-
ject of linguistic science. In this iespect, one can only look askance
at the ienaissance enjoyed by the concept of enunciation and othei
speech-act models of cinematic signication in the I,8os, especially in
Euiopean lm studies.
But what if we weie to attempt to oveituin this piioiitization, oi
at least to complicate it, opening up the pioblematic it piesupposes:
What if we weie to assume that the guial and plastic aits, iathei than
standing outside of wiiting, weie indeed themselves wiitten, that is,
staged on the scene of wiiting, as Deiiida has consideied it:
4
Fiist,
as I have alieady pointed out, the symptomatic place that wiiting now
occupies in lm theoiy as a kind of epistemological limit would have
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80 Reading the Figuial
to be oveituined. Second, it would be necessaiy to inteiiogate how
the pioblematic of wiiting might encountei and iedene, indeed,
might be iedened by, the potential intelligibility of guial discouises,
including that of the cinema.
In sum, what would it mean foi lm semiology to iecast textual
analysis as a pioblem of lmic wiiting: Oi to inteiiogate the con-
tinued piesence of Saussuiean concepts in lm theoiy and to open up
that eld to a giammatological ieection: Two possible avenues have
alieady been inauguiated in this iespect, one by Thieiiy Kuntzel undei
the name of guraticn and the ielation of cinematic signication to the
dieam-woik, the othei being Maiie-Claiie Ropaiss investigations into
the possibility of a cinematic wiiting (cinciituie).
With dreams displaced into a forest of script In The Film-Woik,
a textual analysis of Fiitz Langs M (I,_I), Thieiiy Kuntzel takes up the
movement fiom woik to text in a mannei that owes much to Baithes
and Belloui while extending theii ideas in a new diiection. Accoiding
to Kuntzel, the task of textual analysis is to demonstiate that the ction
lm pioduces an ideological ieading foiged ultimately by its techno-
logical conditions of piesentation. Heie the task of a textual ieading is
impeded by the code of movement thiough which the lm consti-
tutes itself as spectacle: piopelled by a lineai movement whose speed
and oidei of piesentation cannot be alteied (the speed of a sound lm
is mechanically iegulated at twenty-foui fiames pei second), lm nai-
iative imposes a contiolled ieading even at the level of its technological
possibility. Recalling foi the moment Baithess comments in S/Z on
the iiieveisibility of the pioaiietic and heimeneutic codes, lm may
nowbe undeistood to legislate the ideological constiaints of the classic
iealist text to an even gieatei degiee than that of the ieadeily novel
itself. An analytical desciiption that bieaks the iestiicted spatial and
tempoial sequencing of lmnaiiative theiefoie iequiies a specic kind
of inteivention in lms mode of piesentation: slowing oi stopping its
movement (continuity) to gauge the immobility (discontinuity) which
sustains it, isolating visual oi auial motifs, confionting and compaiing
them by means of ieveise motion. This situation is to heai-view the
lm the way no cinemagoei can, and tc rewrite the spectacle in the jcrm
cj a text to sciape away layeis of iefeiential opacity masking the woik
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The Figuie and the Text 81
of signication (Kuntzel, Film-Woik I:, italics mine). If one is
to undeistand the condition of the lms textuality, the lm must be
bioken down and ieconstituted. In both of Kuntzels lm-woik essays,
this piocess of fiagmentation and ieoideiing, which owes so much to
S/Z, is aimed at pioducing an account of lms guial activity: a pai-
ticulai weaving of visual and auial motifs that, like Fieuds notion of
the dieam-woik, is unavailable to conscious consideiation save in the
foim of secondaiy ievision.
Foi Kuntzel, textual analysis is theiefoie a specic activity of deci-
pheiment and tianscoding in which the object of analysis is tiansposed
fiom a ieadeily to a wiiteily modality. In this iespect, Kuntzel
oeis two possible solutions to the paiadox of le texte intrcuvable, both
of which might be consideied undei the iubiic of lmic wiiting.
On the one hand, the piocess of signication that stiuctuies the lm-
text must be undeistood as that which is iepiessed oi denied by its
ieadeily modality. Making explicit iefeience to Deiiidas Fieud and
the Scene of Wiiting, Kuntzel suggests that the iesemblance of lms
textuality to the dieam-woik implies a piimoidial wiiting oi aichi-
text beneath its spectaculai piesentation. In Fieuds teims, this gu-
ial wiiting is a Bilderschrijt. not an insciibed image but a guiative
sciipt, an image inviting not a simple, conscious, piesent peiception of
the thing itselfassuming it existsbut a ieading (Kuntzel, Film-
Woik oI, cited fiom Deiiida, Fieud :I8). On the othei hand, this
wiiting implies an epistemological pioblem wheiein both the ien-
deiing of the cinematic text and its ieading must be ieconsideied. The
lm must be iepiesented dieiently. The intelligibility of its textual
functioning is only possible at the piice of tiansfoimation: the uniavel-
ing of the naiiatives weave of images, sounds, and giaphic tiaces, and
the tiansposition of the lm into wiitten text thiough the activity of
ciitical deconstiuction that, paiadoxically, iestoies the intelligibility of
text by immobilizing the lm.
Dieam-woik, guiation, Bildeischiift. Kuntzels iecouise to these
teims is necessitated by the peculiai semiotic chaiactei of cinemato-
giaphic foims. Although often consideied as a piedominantly visual
iepiesentational system, lm shaies nothing of the immobility of con-
ventional pictoiial aitsthe time of lms peiception and meaning
is fundamentally dieient fiom photogiaphy oi the othei plastic aits.
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82 Reading the Figuial
Film deploys itself in space and time like speech oi wiiting, yet neithei
of these mateiials of expiession can fully account foi lms semiotic
heteiogeneity, which fieely tiaveises the piopei spaces of iepiesenta-
tion. Thus consideied, any iigoious account of cinematic signication
must ciitique the Saussuiean concept of the sign with its account of
a self-identical meaning pioduced by the union of (phonic) signiei
andsignied(mental concept). The pioblemof desciibing the lm-text
theiefoie poses acute pioblems foi a semiology of speech.
Howtotake holdof a textual block inwhichsoundandvisual mo-
tifs aie aiticulated without iecouise to a model which accounts foi
semiotic piactices othei than those of veibal languages (Kiisteva,
Semeictik ,:). Fieud elaboiated such a model in The Interpreta-
ticn cj Dreams with his notion of dieam-woik, the tianslation of a
latent text into a manifest text. . . . This opeiationthis pioduction
is subject to a iequiiement, the ccnsideraticn cj representability
(gard aux mcyens de la mise-en-scene in Jacques Lacans foimu-
lation ,II]): Of the vaiious connections attached to the essential
dieam thoughts, those will be piefeiied which admit of visual iep-
iesentation (Fieud _). The manifest text is not to be iead as a
diawing dessin]oi the lm as spectaclebut as a netwoik of
signieis, of teims which gure an absent teim, a chain of signieis,
a signied in ight. . . .
The guiation shapes the whole of the texts global stiuctuie:
it tianslates into the dieams specic mattei the logical ielations,
such as if, because, just as, although, eithei oi, and all othei
conjunctions without which we cannot undeistand sentences oi
speeches (Fieud _I:). (Kuntzel, Film-Woik ,,)
Because of this activity of guiation, of all the aits, lm is closest
both to iepioducing the logic of the dieam-woik and to tacitly piob-
lematizing the modeling of all semiotic phenomena accoiding to the
stiuctuie of speech. Heie, then, is a second justication foi bieaking
down the phenomenal ieading-time of lm with its stiictly iegulated
logic of succession and contiguity. It is only thiough this tiansfoima-
tion that textual analysis can pioduce an account of the laigely un-
conscious piocesses that deteimine the time of ieading and the logic
subtending all intelligible signs. Foi Kuntzel, lms ieplication of the
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The Figuie and the Text 83
discuisive logic of the dieamwhich is closest to aiticulating the logic
of unconscious thought withits mechanisms of condensation, displace-
ment, andconsideiations of iepiesentabilitycomes todesciibe a gen-
eiative systemstaging all semiotic phenomena. In The Film-Woik, :,
Kuntzel iefoimulates this aigument in teims of Kiistevas dieientia-
tion between the phenctext, the phenomenological foimof a signifying
system, and the genctext that both subtends and exceeds it as those
piimaiy piocesses that tiaveise the so-called iational space of piedica-
tive syntax and stable oi singulai meanings. Following Deiiidas essay
on Fieud, Kuntzel subsequently iefeis to this tiansveisal space, which
both falls below and exceeds speech and speech-oiiented models
of signication, as the othei scene, in fact, the scene of wiiting.
Kuntzels position might be undeistood bettei by exploiing anothei
equally potent analogy. Chaiacteiized byan ineluctable foiwaid move-
ment, the ieading that lmpiesupposes undeiscoies what both Roman
Jakobson and Roland Baithes have chaiacteiized as the piofoundly
metonymic chaiactei of naiiative. Theie is an implicit piioiitization
heie, stiongly chaiacteiistic of stiuctuialism, in the degiee to which
naiiatological studies have dominated the semiotics of aesthetic com-
munication. In piivileging metonymy ovei metaphoi, displacement
ovei condensation, and naiiation ovei guiation, this piioiitization is
giounded on the one hand in a metaphysics of speech, put foiwaid in
the notion that only linguistics can found a scientic semiology, and
on the othei by a laigely unconscious bias in favoi of the oial tiadition
in naiiative study. (Witness in this iespect the piofound inuence of
Claude Lvi-Stiausss mythological peispective as iegaids the foimei
and the inuence of Vladimii Piopp with iespect to the lattei. And in
the eaily essays iepiesented by Film Language, Metz may be undei-
stood to iepeat this bias to the extent that he could undeistand the
inauguiation of a lm semiology only as a naiiative semiology.)
Kuntzel, howevei, wishes to oveituin this system of piioiities. His
textual analyses of both M and, in The Film-Woik, :, The Mcst Dan-
gercus Game (I,_:) can theiefoie be undeistood as ievealing the foice
of metaphoi in the guial activity of lm, oi the stiuctuiing of dis-
placement by condensation. In this mannei, a ieading attentive towhat
Baithes teims the plural of the text is pioduced. Foi Kuntzel, the foi-
waid movement of the naiiative-iepiesentational lmis not exhausted
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84 Reading the Figuial
by metonymy alone. Rathei, it is bettei chaiacteiized as a relay of semic
clusteis oi ccnstellaticns. In The Film-Woik, :, the idea of the con-
stellation desciibes a complex guie that, ieplacing the concept of the
sign, accounts foi both the semiotic heteiogeneity of the lm-text and
its paiticulai dissemination of semes. This guie may be thieaded with
multiple matteis of expiession, specic and nonspecic codes alike,
giaphic, iconogiaphic, and auial tiaces all paiticipate in its stiuctui-
ing. Moieovei, in the movement fiom one constellation to the next,
the thiead of vaiious themes oi motifs is fieely mobile within the con-
joined matteis of expiession, binding togethei and uniaveling, giving
complex space to the ction in a pluial weave of signieis. Rathei
than a xed and conventional signication, theie is now movement
and spacing within the text. The constellation is theiefoie an unstable,
composite sign oi a oating guie, in its meaning, which the lmic
discouise is going to inseit into dieient signifying chains (Film-
Woik, : I_). In the eailiei essay, Kuntzel chaiacteiized this composite
guie as a stiuctuie of supeiimposition of signieis, which is pie-
cisely Lacans denition of Verdichtung in The Agency of the Lettei
in the Unconscious. The woik of condensation is thus chaiged with
paiticulai foice in any poststiuctuial theoiy of cinematic signication:
To speak of the woik of condensation within the textual system is to
abandon the analysis of lm-as-stiuctuie in oidei to follow a prccess.
stiuctuiing. The lm is not made up of segments of identical value,
inteiacting (as in Saussuies denition of value) to pioduce lmic sig-
nication, the lm is not spiead out at, it is only appaiently succes-
sive. It has its own foices of geneiation, compiession and ielaxation
(Kuntzel, Film-Woik, : :o).
In The Film-Woik, :, Kuntzel examines the foice of condensation
in the guie of the dooi knockei that opens The Mcst Dangercus Game.
This uncanny objectcaived in the foim of a centaui who, pieiced by
an aiiow, is iavishing a maidenis undeistood to seive a dual func-
tion in the naiiative. Fiist it liteially gives entiance to the ction on
the pait of the spectatoi. Beneath the opening ciedits, a hand ieaches
into the fiame and stiikes the knockei thiee sets of thiee times. Dis-
embodied, belonging as yet to no one and thus to eveiyone, this action
epitomizes the staging of the spectacle by the cameia so as to summon
foith the spectatoi as the absent subject of the naiiation. Latei, this
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Semic constellations in The Mcst Dangercus Game.
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86 Reading the Figuial
scene is iepeated with a dieience. It is now identied as the hand and
view of Rainsfoid, the heio of the naiiative, who has enteied the lm
as the spectatois agent, ielaying his oi hei look thiough the double
staging of cameia and diegesis. (A question, then, as Kuntzel points
out, of a dcuble identication that piesupposes, in even the most classi-
cal ctions, a fiagmented, dispeised, mobile subject.) Second, the dooi
knockei condenses within a singulai guie the paiadigmatic axis of the
lm as it comes undone and is iethieaded in the foim of the constel-
lations of the centaui, the aiiow, and the viigin. Each of these constel-
lations accounts foi a paiticulai binding of semes in dieiing semiotic
mateiials. The image of the centaui, foi example, is ieguied in the tap-
estiy that adoins Count Zaios castle, as well as in the physiognomies
of the insane Zaio and his seivant, Ivan. But moie impoitant, the de-
hiscence of this guie seives to distiibute the piincipal themes of the
naiiative: the unstable tiansaction between bestiality and humanity,
savageiy and civilization, huntei and hunted. The guiation of the
aiiow also opens a paiticulai signifying tiajectoiy: it is Zaios favoi-
ite weapon foi hunting the most dangeious game, it is the sign of his
piowess, the ist test to which Rainsfoid is put, and lastly the weapon
by which Zaio is defeated. The constellation of the viigin, howevei,
dieientiates itself in the following mannei. Wheieas the othei two g-
uies establish paiadigms chaiacteiized by instability, iteiability, and
the ieveisibility of teims, the guiation of woman, played out in the
chaiactei of Eve, is constant. The one paiadigmthat iemains incontio-
veitible is that which goveins sexual dieience. The ieveisibility of the
paiadigm huntei[hunted that caiiies the plot foiwaid as the conict
between men is foieclosed fiom the woman because she is the ultimate
piey, the stake of both plot and ction, desiie and signication.
The idea of the ielay is equally impoitant foi undeistanding how
Kuntzels emphasis on the guial foice of condensation complicates
the activity of ieading. On one hand, the concept of ielay accounts foi
the geneiation of text as the thieading and linking of semic clusteis
thiough a piocess of iepetition and displacement, on the othei, it stages
the possibility foi undeistanding a ieading-time that is asynchionous
and nonidentical with the piesentation-time of the lm. Instead of a
ielation of succession and contiguity, Relay should be taken, beyond
its accepted meaning in cybeinetics, in the sense of a gap left in a tap-
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The Figuie and the Text 87
estiy at the moment of changing to a dieient coloi (a discontinuity
of the text) which is lled at a latei moment apres-ccup] (a ihetoiical
pseudo-continuity) (Film-Woik o). What the lm-woik piesents
is no longei a sequence of signsa ieading that is lineai, piogiessive,
additivebut a complex guial activity, a cipheiment piesupposing
inteipietation and a ieading maiked by tempoial stiatication and
discontinuity. This would no longei be a ieading peifoimed by the
thetic subjectthe subject of lineai time, piedicative syntax, and pio-
giessive sense makingbut of the fiagmented subject, nonidentical to
itself, ievealed by psychoanalytic theoiy. It is, in Deiiidas gloss, the
subject of wiiting: The subject of wiiting is a system of ielations be-
tween stiata: . . . the psyche, society, the woild. Within that scene, on
that stage, the punctual simplicity of the classical subject is not to be
found. In oidei to desciibe the stiuctuie it is not enough to iecall that
one always wiites foi someone, and the oppositions sendei[ieceivei,
code[message, etc., iemain extiemely couise instiuments (Deiiida,
Fieud ::,).
To desciibe this complex space-time of ieading, Kuntzel adopts the
concept of apres-ccup, oi defeiied action, developed by Fieud in his
analysis of the Wolf Man. Heie Fieud demonstiated the stiuctuiing of
the phantasmatic text as the continued defeiial of the sense of an event,
too tiaumatic oi too piegnant with desiie, until such a time as mem-
oiy could piesent a context in which the event could be guied. De-
feiied meaning thus implies a paiticulai stiuctuie of iepetition wheie
displacement seives the needs of censoiship, and wheie condensa-
tion, with its exibility of signifying mateiials, seives the guiability
of desiie. Thus the space and time of ieading aie undeistood as an ac-
tivity of iepetition and iememoiation, oi in anothei Fieudian maxim
favoied by Kuntzel, it is a piocess of iemembeiing, iepeating, and
woiking-thiough. This notion of dieied meaning is close to Dei-
iidas desciiption of semiosis as dierance. Piogiess towaid meaning
is doomed to foieclosuie and theiefoie iepetition, causing the signi-
ei to scattei and dispeise while giving the text both momentum and
volume. Diawing on concepts fiom Jean-Fianois Lyotaids Disccurs,
gure, Kuntzel explicitly compaies this piocess to that of the enuncia-
tionof phantasyas desciibedinFieuds essay AChildIs Being Beaten.
In Fieuds analysis, this simple utteiance is shown to be the oiiginaiy
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88 Reading the Figuial
matiix of a sadomasochistic phantasy, a piimal scene that goveins
and peipetuates all subsequent stagings of that enunciation. Similaily,
the opening moves of the naiiative lmthe guiation of the dooi
knockei in The Mcst Dangercus Game, the ciiculation of the lettei M
that piesages the teiioi of the child muideiei in that lmaie ana-
lyzed by Kuntzel as foimulating a kind of aichitext oi piimaiy sciipt
that geneiates a secondaiily elaboiated naiiative and goveins its sub-
sequent iepetitions and guiations. It is heie that Kuntzels use of the
dieam-woik as a homology foi lmic textuality specically engages
the diama of psychoanalysis, insciibing within the guial discouise of
the lmthe stiuctuie of phantasy life towhich it gives enunciation. The
ielay that stages the discuisive oidei of the lmas the foiwaid move-
ment of the phenotext also iesponds to a logic that is othei, outside
the text, engaging the spectatoi in the regressive movement of dieams,
desiie, and phantasy life. In this mannei, guiation stages the pleasuie
of the lm-text as the mise-en-scne of desiie.
5
So the guie of the dooi knockei may be iead as establishing a thiid
vectoi in the ist images of The Mcst Dangercus Game, as it geneiates
a phantasmic matiix that gives foim and movement to the ielations of
desiie played out in the ction. What is most suggestive heie is that the
self-identity of the textthe integiity of its bodymust be placed in
question. The woik of condensation established by the guiability of
the dooi knockei might then be undeistood as foiging a coiiespon-
dence between thiee discuisive iegisteisthat of naiiativity, of guial
iepiesentation, andof the enunciationof phantasywhose boundaiies
aie mobile, peimutable, and by no means distinct.
Bilderschrijt, Verdichtung, apres-ccup. by this seiies of teims Kuntzel
desciibes the guial activity of lm as that which coiiesponds most
closely to the piimoidial wiiting that is the agency of the lettei in the
unconscious, oi that which gives meaning only in the foim of paia-
piaxes and othei gaps in language oi by iepetition in the foim of a
hallucinated object. The piocess of guiation that piopels the text by
continually iewoiking its semes, binding and dispeising them in a
polyphonic system, also conducts the spectatoi thiough two coteimi-
nous spaces, that of the manifest and latent, phenotext and genotext,
conscious and unconscious logic: The sex and violence (the sexual
violence) iepiessed by censoiship, thus iegain theii diamatic foice in
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The Figuie and the Text 89
this iepetition whichin displaced fashionmasks and ieveals them.
The reduplicaticn insciibes its pathcs in the foim of an echo inside the
image itself (Film-Woik oo).
This is the specic inteiest of Kuntzels woik foi textual semiotics.
What is at stake is not a language of lmbut a wiiting in images. And
the logical ielations (conscious and[oi unconscious) that bind images
into a discouise aie intelligible only in the degiee towhich the piesence
of the visual eld is bioken and the text of the lm is undeistood as
guial sciipt. To do so is to bettei undeistand the foims of ieading pie-
supposed by guial discouise as well as to pioduce ieading dieiently.
To do otheiwise is to iespect the image in the foim of the ieal and of
the self-identical sign that disguises the foice of the uncanny iesiding
within it as the staging of desiie.
Hieroglyphics, Montage, Enunciation Unlike that of Kuntzel, the woik
of Maiie-Claiie Ropais-Wuilleumiei in textual analysis has explicitly
examined the question lmic wiiting cinciituie] with iefeience to
Deiiidas philosophy. Foi Ropais, to intioduce the pioblem of wiit-
ing in lm theoiy is to advance the ciitique of linguistically oi pho-
netically based models of signication because cinematogiaphic signi-
cation, like the wiiting of dieams, exceeds phonetic wiiting and
puts speech back in its place (Deiiida, Fieud :I8).
Like Kuntzel, Ropais piesents lmic wiiting as ieplacing the cine-
matic sign with moie complex concepts. Heie she is inspiied by the
common inteiest of Fieud, Deiiida, and Seigei Eisenstein in picto-
giaphic sciipts (the iebus, the hieioglyph, the Japanese ideogiam) as
the model foi a guial activity that confounds the phonocentiic model
of signication. Accoiding to Ropais, Deiiida, thiough iefeience to
hieioglyphics, in which no sign has unique value, . . . puts foiwaid the
hypothesis that wiiting develops a multidimensional foim of signica-
tion, whose function is to shattei the unity and self-suciency of the
sign, thus of meaning (Oveiall Peispectives I). As a model foi cine-
matogiaphic signication, the hieioglyph is of inteiest because of its
mixing of phonic, giaphic, and guial matteis of expiession, as well as
its fundamental polyvalency. In the hieioglyph, a phonetic element can
symbolize anobject, tiansciibe anelement combinable withothei pho-
nemes, oi, thiough the juxtaposition of connected guies, foimulate
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90 Reading the Figuial
an entiiely newconcept: Each sign can be coveied in many diiections,
and beais the tiace oi the call of diveigent associations, which bieak
up its unity: foi wiiting undeistood in this way, guiative even in the
alphabet, fullness of meaning is shaken by the iefeience to the hieio-
glyph, wheieas the illusion of language, with enunciated oi tiansciibed
speech, develops it (Giaphic I,).
Foi Ropais, to the extent that hieioglyphic sciipts seemto oveituin
the Westein piejudice foi the iationality of woids as opposed to the
image, theii lesson is equally cleai to Fieud, Deiiida, and Eisenstein:
that of a wiiting that is not deiived fiom speech. Moieovei, Ropais
aigues that a theoiization of cinematogiaphic sciipt in this man-
nei contains a ciitique of logocentiism moie iadical than Deiiidas.
Thiough the intiinsic opposition of a theoiy of wiiting (ciituie)
to that of speech (parcle), deconstiuctive philosophy leaves the iadi-
cal heteiogeneity of sciiptuial foim unaddiessed. By focusing its cii-
tique on the piioiitization of speech ovei wiiting, the deconstiuctive
pioject leaves unexamined the equally iadical lesson of the hieioglyph,
which ieveals the piioiitization of woid ovei image. The cinema pio-
vides a paiticulaily feitile giound foi examining this issue, since its
semiotic potentiality ielies on the mobilization of diveise mateiials of
expiession. And as I have pointed out in my discussion of Kuntzel,
the stakes of this pioblem aie highei foi lm semiotics. The histoiical
development of cinema as a signifying piactice has been dominated
by an ideology of mimesis that, by deteimining the oiganization of
images accoiding to a schema of spatial continuity, lineai exposition,
and tempoial iiieveisibility, has piivileged lms iealist vocation: the
diiect adequation of images to things. By posing visual iepiesentation
as that which piovides diiect access to the ieal by shoit-ciicuiting sym-
bolic expiessionoi the mediationof wiiting, the exploitationof lms
mimetic faculty tends to sublimate signication in favoi of iconic pies-
ence. Similaily, the desiie to maiginalize lm and lm theoiy within
the piovince of populai cultuie might then be undeistood as an
eoit to exoicise guial discouise, since by ciicumventing wiiting, it
eludes and confounds the existing canons of philosophical knowing.
As I have aigued, this pioblem is at the ioot of the diculties that lm
has posed foi both linguistics and liteiaiy semiotics, and the eoits of
Baithes, Metz, and Belloui aie not exempt in this iespect. That Dei-
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The Figuie and the Text 91
iida has not followed thiough this line of questioning in no way undei-
mines the iadicalness of deconstiuction, it extends it into a new piov-
ince. If the ciitique of logocentiism is based on the demonstiation of
a scission inteinal to the sign and of the ieveisibility of the teims it
opposesspeech[wiiting, phcne/graphe, signiei[signiedthen this
ciitique applies no less foicefully to the opposition of giaphic and gu-
ial sciipt oi, in Fieuds teims, a piefeience foi woid-piesentation
as opposed to thing-piesentation. Because the cinema ielies so pio-
foundly on the mobilization and containment of dieience thiough a
multiplicity of codes and mateiials of expiession, the study of cine-
matogiaphic signication can make a denite contiibution to the eld
of giammatology.
Thus Ropaiss inteiest in hieioglyphic sciipts iesembles Kuntzels
inteiest in the dieam-woik in that both piovide a model of cinemato-
giaphic signication based on a mixed and peimutable sign. Ropais
would like to enlaige the accepted notions of montage in this ie-
spect, since the cinema oeis the possibility of disassociating image
and sound, fiactuiing one with the othei, oi fuithei, combining and
iecombining the guiation of things with that of letteis in its iep-
iesentations. Howevei, Ropais notes that the conventional naiiative-
iepiesentational lm too often modulates these possibilities of iup-
tuie by aligning image and sound in an analogical iepiesentation of
theii diegetic iefeient. It is the intention of hei textual ciiticism, then,
to focus attention on those lms in which one can detect piivileged
fiactuie zones oi wheie one can dene the iemaikable ielationships
seen foiming between the activity of wiiting, conceived in the hieio-
glyphic foim of editing, and wiitten iepiesentation, undeistood as
meie giaphic guiation (Giaphic I,). Of paiamount impoitance
to Ropais in this iespect aie the lms and theoiies of Seigei Eisenstein,
as well as othei modeinist lmmakeis such as Maigueiite Duias, Alain
Resnais, and Jean-Luc Godaid. (I will leave unquestioned, foi the mo-
ment, Ropaiss implicit piivileging of the epistemology of modein-
ism thiough its association with wiiting.)
It should come as no suipiise, then, that in a ieading of Deiiidas
Fieud and the Scene of Wiiting in Le texte divise, Ropais is stiuck
by his tianslation of Zusammensetzungen as montage. By this teim
Fieud attempts to desciibe the syntactical foice of connective ielations
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92 Reading the Figuial
in the dieam-woik. In paiticulai, Fieud suggests that the juxtaposition
of two images within the space of the dieam, oi the combination of two
elements within a guie of condensation, piesupposes a ielation of in-
telligibility if not a logical ielation pei se. This caution is put foiwaid
only because the iationality of the dieam, unlike that of speech, iadi-
cally excludes the ciiteiion of noncontiadiction. The copiesence of a
concept and its antithesis is the foundation of its sense, not its disman-
tling. If Deiiida nds in the dieam the piimoidial woik of the tiace,
it is piecisely because dieam logic is founded on the fiactuiing of the
self-identical sign.
Because the lm-woik, like the dieam-woik, peimits and even ie-
quiies an inteichangeability wheie woids aie sometimes guied as
things and things aie iendeied with the syntactical legibility of woids,
Ropais aigues that some of the most cheiished notions of lm semi-
ology must now be oveituined. She theiefoie pioposes that the study
of lmic wiiting should displace the pioblematic of the sign with that
of the text. Following Baithes, Ropais opposes the text to the woik,
which, founded on a speech-oiiented communications model, iendeis
as exchangeable the expiessivity of the authoi and the compiehension
of the ieadei thiough the agency of a common code. Similaily, Ropais
aigues in Le texte divise that textual analysis should displace the study
of lm language, oi the isolation of paiticulai cinematic codes, as the
object of lm semiotics: Textual analysis will considei a paiticulai,
alieady iealized objecta lmoi gioup of lms which appeai as stiuc-
tuiedby the mobilizationandweaving of codeswheieas semiological
studies dene language on its own teims by constiucting its possible
codes, which is to say the dieient systems of intelligibility authoiized
by its foims and mateiials (I, this and subsequent tianslations aie
mine). By undeimining the piedominance of the study of codes in lm
semiology, textual analysis becomes the agency that, by consideiing
the ioute of signication as a piocess iiieducible to the logic of the
sign, peimits the ieinsciiption of lm analysis, indeed the analysis of
the cinema, within the geneial pioblematic of writing (I,).
In Le texte divise, Ropais diaws on Emile Benvenistes theoiies of
enunciation and aesthetic communication foi the dynamic model of
the text she iequiies.
6
Accoiding to hei ieading, Benveniste attempts,
on the one hand, to dene the specicity of the system of language
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The Figuie and the Text 93
(langue) with iespect to the diveisity of its uses and, on the othei, to
undeistand the piocess of utteiing (encnciaticn) with iespect to the
diveisity of possible utteiances (noncs). To this end, Benveniste dis-
tinguishes between the opeiations of the sign and that of disccurse. The
function of the sign is identication, and its piopei spheie of action
is that of naming, discouise is conceined with the pioduction of mes-
sages, and its spheie of action is that of enunciation. Moieovei, the
prccess of enunciation is undeistood both to constitute and to eace
the eective boundaiies between sign and discouise: the intelligibility
of signs ielies on theii semantic modalization by discouise, the self-
identity of discouise is dissolved by its division into signs.
What inteiests Ropais ultimately is how this distinction might de-
sciibe the ielation between the hieioglyph (like Kuntzels condensa-
tion, a singulai and peimutable guie) and system (global actualiza-
tion of signs) in the geneiation of text, which is itself a singulai
discuisive instance. This ielation between a systemand its singulai mo-
ments seems to have much in common with the distinction between
langue and paiole, a cheiished notion of Saussuiean linguistics and a
stumbling block foi eaily lm semiology, but Ropais aigues against
this inteipietation. The ielation between sign and discouise is not one
of dialectical iecipiocity but one of iiieducible dieience, a disjunc-
tion of language with iespect to itself. The hieiaichization of meaning,
dened by linguistics as the pioblem of double aiticulation, can no
longei be iesolved by assuming the assimilation of paits to a whole.
The two iegisteis of signication aie both iiieducible to and insepa-
iable fiom each othei, and theii coexistence intioduces a fundamental
heteiogeneity into the functioning of language. Theie is no sign that
is not always alieady a text, since its intelligibility ielies on the system
established by discouise, yet discouise cannot constitute itself except
thiough the mobilization of signs. The pioduction of sense ielies on
the dieiential movement between the two, and no identiable tian-
sition can be disceined that denitely divides sign fiom text: A hia-
tus sepaiates them, putting into ciisis any eventuality of hieiaichical
integiation and theiefoie any unitaiy model of signication (Le texte
divise :o). In sum, foi Ropais, meaning is an eect of the textual system,
and it is iiieducible to any punctual souice, be it authoi oi ieadei. It
has no decidable oiigins oi stable codes fiom which it can be deiived.
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94 Reading the Figuial
The textual enunciation theiefoie guaiantees the possibility of mean-
ing only as a piocess that ielies equally on the tempoiality of the system
as well as that of its constitutive moments. And it is heie that we ie-
join the paiadox of le texte intrcuvable, foi to inteiiupt the time of the
system, to aiiest the textual movement, is to iecognize the sign while
paialyzing the giounds of its intelligibility, to iegain the momentum
of the text is to dissolve the sign in the play of movement.
Ropais aigues that in the histoiy of lm theoiy, the most exem-
plaiy examination of this pioblem is found in Eisensteins wiitings of
I,:, and aftei, wheie a theoiy of montage is built on the model of
Japanese wiiting, poetiy, and diama.
7
Eisensteins thought on the ie-
lationship between the ideogiam and cinematic signication, foi ex-
ample, has a special inteiest foi Ropaiss theoiy of lmic wiiting in
two iespects. Fiist, in Ropaiss ieading, Eisenstein is said to aigue that
montage functions as much within as between shots. Theiefoie, as a
piinciple of cinematogiaphic oiganization, montage is tiansveisal: it
ciosses the space of the shot thiough the multiple codes it biings into
play in the constiuction of cinematic meaning. Fuitheimoie, Ropais
is fascinated by Eisensteins compaiison of the stiuctuie of montage
to that of the ideogiam, since both combine constitutive elements oi
signs based on a factoi of iesemblance to achieve a puiely abstiact
concept. Accoiding to Ropais, Eisenstein was seaiching foi an ab-
stiaction of the sign, not in the iepiesentation vehiculated by its ma-
teiials, but in the negaticn cj its representaticnal dimensicn, a negaticn
which may cnly be realized by a mcntage cj a certain typeconictual
not additional (Le texte divise _8, italics mine). The oiganization of a
textual system accoiding to the piinciple of montage is theiefoie op-
posed to the ielation of succession and contiguity on which conven-
tional denotation ielies. Instead, it maximizes ielations of conict and
discontinuity both within and between shots so as to guie a noniefei-
ential space of signication. The piocess desciibed by Eisenstein sup-
posed that montage emphasizes the discontinuities that sepaiate shots
such that they can no longei be consideied as extiacted fiomthe woild,
but iathei as jrames foimally constituted by the cameia: Fiom shot to
shot conict must be developed at all levels (lines, colois, lighting, vol-
umes . . . ). . . . Montage is ist of all a fiactuiing of the oidei of the sig-
nifying piocess (Le texte divise :). The possibility of a lmic wiiting
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The Figuie and the Text 95
is thus inhibited by the foice of iesemblance that attends photogiaphic
iepioduction. What the ideogiam iepiesents in this iespect is the pos-
sibility of a guial wiiting achieved thiough the combination of dis-
ciete entities with an iconic value into a signifying system whose value
is puiely symbolic (Eisenstein would say intellectual). Intellection is
thus supposed to pioceed thiough the appiehension of dieiences. A
textual system constituted by montage, oi what Ropais calls hieio-
glyphic editing, would theiefoie have an epistemological status dif-
feient fiom that of naiiative-iepiesentational lm. In addition, Ropais
submits that Eisensteins ideas weie moie iadical in piactice than in
theoiy. Foi example, Eisensteins theoietical denition of the montage
cell as a minimal unit of signication (a cinematic sign, albeit a con-
ictual, unstable one) is exploded by its piactical application. In its
oiganization of a text thiough conict at all levels of cinematic expies-
sion, montage tends to neutialize the self-identity of the shot, to fiag-
ment and open it out to signifying chains that aie iiieducible to any
univocal sense. Quite similai, in fact, to Benvenistes comments on the
iiieducibilityof sign to discouise and vice veisa, the tiansveisal activity
of montage in the spatialization of cinematic text tends to iesist oi dis-
allow its segmentation by the analyst. Ropais claims that this is indeed
the expeiience of hei analyses of Octcber (I,:8), the woik of montage
accomplishes multiple chains of signication that aie always combin-
ing and iecombining into newconguiations, newmeanings that iesist
cleai syntagmatic divisions.
8
In this iespect, montage becomes the veiy
sign of lmic wiiting. To the extent that montage nds its most iadi-
cal actualization in the systemof the cinematogiaphic text, it iesults in
the pioduction of signifying chains whose limits aie undecidable and
whose incessant woik, both open and ieveisible, bais the pioduction
of any signied, which would be the fieezing, closing, oi xation of
this piocess (Le texte divise ,).
It is on this basis, howevei, that the theoiies of lmic wiiting pie-
sented by Kuntzel and Ropais pait ways, foi while the foimei decon-
stiucts the epistemological piivilege of wiiting with iespect to guial
discouise, the lattei suggests that the deconstiuction of the logocentiic
sign is accomplished de facto by a ceitain oiganization of lmic dis-
couise. Moieovei, wheieas Kuntzel bases his theoiy of wiiting on a
ieconsideiation of the mcdes cj interpretaticn and reading that iecast
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96 Reading the Figuial
A bcut de scue. Sequence Io
The paiagiammatic foimula: Abdbs
m.ii voici-oviv:
Me-toi Jessica [ Au biseau
des baiseis [ Les ans passent
tiop vite [ vite vite vite [
Les souveniis biiss
iim.ii voici-oviv:
Vous faites eiieui, Sheiii, [
Notie histoiie est noble
et tiagique [ Comme le
masque dun tyian [
Nul diame hasaideux ou
magique [ Aucun dtail
indiient ne iend ntie
amoui pathtique.
the social intelligibility of texts, Ropais builds a theoiy based on the
deconstiuction accomplished by cinematic jcrms. This dieience in
emphasis is exemplied in hei analysis of Godaids A bcut de scue
(I,,,).
Ropaiss ieading of Abcut de scue follows a double movement: the
multiple play between two foims of wiitingthe cinematic and the
poeticthat aie continually inteipenetiating and combining with
each othei. Accoiding to Ropais, cinematic wiiting ciiculates ieex-
ively in the lm in the foim of giaphic tiacesmovie posteis, pho-
tos, cinema magazinesthiough which Michel, the Belmondo chai-
actei, foiges an imaginaiy identication, above all with the image of
Bogait. The poetic suiges textually in Ropaiss most piivileged fiac-
tuie zone, identied as sequence Io in the lm. This sequence develops
within the space of a single shot. Having gone to the movies to see a
Westein, Belmondo and Sebeig aie shown face-to-face close-up, illu-
minated by the ickeiing light ieected fiom the scieen. A male voice-
o iecites a text to which a female voice-o iesponds. This dialogue
is scatteied ovei two poems, one by Apollinaiie, the othei by Aiagon,
and is anchoied diegetically neithei to the chaiacteis, whose lips aie
otheiwise occupied, noi by the sound-o of the supposed cinema pio-
jection.
Thus sound has become disconnected fiomimage while poetic wiit-
ing ciiculates in the foim of disembodied voices. The cinematic sign is
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The Figuie and the Text 97
split by the disjunction of its two piimaiy iegisteis, and poetic wiit-
ing occupies speech while iunning ahead of it in a netwoik of asso-
nance, homonymy, andhomophony (trcpvite, evite, tragique, magique,
pathetique). In this biief moment, Ropais aigues, the disassociation of
image and sound made possible by montage has obscuied the bound-
aiies between guie and sign, speech and wiiting, and, in fact, the cine-
matic and the poetic, iendeiing themas open, multiple, and ieveisible.
So two semiotic phenomena conveige in this shoit passage: instability
cj the image, both iepiesentation and suppoit, lm and scieen, ction
and cinema, disccnnecticn cj the vcices, paited fiom what it designates,
toin apait by two equally impossible iefeiences. The diveigence of the
guiative and linguistic netwoik stems fiom the ielativity of theii dis-
junction: a play of tiaces and cioss-iefeiences, the text is diiected at an
image which comes undone undei the piessuie of anothei image itself
ieected in the text, the editing ciicuit, having become ieveisible, sets
up an open system of iefusal between guie and sign (Giaphic I,o,
italics mine).
This shoit sequence might be inconsequential if it did not contain,
in condensed foim, what is foi Ropais a system of the text of A bcut de
scue. This systemis oiganized by montage patteins, oi hieioglyphic
editing, that tend to destabilize the iegisteis of guial, sciiptuial, and
vocal piesentation. Each inteipenetiates the space that is piopei to the
othei, tiaveising both the mise-en-scne of the lm and the ction
it stages. The ciiculation of letteis foims a paiticulaily dense net-
woik of association in Ropaiss analysis of the lm. Foi example, the
line voiced fiom Aiagon in sequence Io (Au biseau des baiseis) is
condensed into a paiagiammatic foimula (Abdbs) that, accoiding to
Ropais, ciiculates willfully in the lm, insciibing itself at one point in a
fiagment of a movie postei (Vivie dangeuieusement, jusquau bout),
in the vocal alliteiation of the Aiagon poem (souvenii biiss), and
in the title of a book enlaiged on the scieen (Abracadabra). It thus
desciibes a ciicuit of tiaces that ultimately ietuins to the title of the
lm: A bcut de scue. In this mannei, wiiting opens a piivileged eld
that ciosses fieely between the gural (wheie wiiting is deployed in
space, iooted in iepiesentation, oi immobilized, as Ropais says, like
the photogiaph oi giaphic sign) and the spcken, which, fai fiom iefei-
iing back to speech as the oiigin and seat of meaning, implies instead
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98 Reading the Figuial
the unleashing of a paiagiammatic density in an explosion of phonetic
tiaces. Theiefoie the activity of montage stiuctuies the enunciation of
the text thiough a disjunction of cinematic signication with iespect
to itself. Heie the hieioglyph is poitiayed as a constant oscillation be-
tween guiation and sciiptiona foim always divisible and combin-
able, and a signifying knot that diiects meaning outwaid in evei moie
diveise yet ielated associational chains.
InRopaiss analysis, wiiting is associatednot only withhieioglyphic
sciipt and fiee play but also, paiadoxically, with a nality whose ulti-
mate signied is death. Otheiwise said, the wiitten woid ciiculates
within a moiibund economy. Thiough its iefeiences to the piess, the
novel, poetiy, and nally the cinema, wiiting names a tiajectoiy that
seals identity. Foi Michel Poiccaid, who is piotected by the multiple
guises that his closeness to the imaginaiy of cinema aoids him, this
means captuie and extinction. The nality of the text, its naiiative clo-
suie, is only ensuied by naming Michel and thus immobilizing him.
Moieovei, in Ropaiss ieading, this economy is ultimately goveined
by sexual dieience. It is heie that the guiation of wiiting makes a
staitling ieveisal. In the fiactuie zone of sequence Io, wiiting not only
becomes the souice of speech but also is chaiged with waiding o
the giaphic tiace whose body seems both desiied and piohibited, foi
the text of A bcut de scue iendeis this body as unequivocally femi-
nine, sealing it in the guiation of Jean Sebeig as Patiicia. Enteiing the
lm with New Ycrk Herald Tribune doubly emblazoned on hei body
and in hei voice, Patiicia (who desiies to be a jouinalist and a novelist)
is immediately associated with letteis. In Ropaiss ieading, Patiicia
ciiculates in the lm as the veiy embodiment of logocentiism: iedun-
dancy, iepetition of the voice in wiiting, in shoit, deadly monotony.
Like Michels foimei giilfiiend who spells pouiquoi in Lucky Stiike
boxes on hei wall, Patiicia demonstiates that the feminine body gives
foim to wiiting, stopping its ciiculation dead in its tiacks.
The ambiguity of wiiting peisists with the oialization tiiggeied by
Patiicia. She can spiead meaning as well as shoit-ciicuit it, and ap-
peais in tuin as the body-tuined-sign and the sign embodied, ex-
eiting a foice of attiaction mixed with iepulsion: both lettei and
liteiatuie, wiiting and cultuie, an andiogynous guie, who doubles
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The Figuie and the Text 99
foi Michel, in the double sense of the teim: because she gives him
away (in Fiench dcubler) to the police, and because with his piops
(hat, cigaiette, daik glasses . . . ) she takes on his iole as piotago-
nist . . . and his function as subject, mastei of vision and of the
vieweis inteipellation. . . . The desiie whose ambiguous object she
is thus seems insepaiable fiom a dispossession of identity foi the
one who desiies hei, Michel], sought in vain by a multitude of male
doubles, but who will stumble and die at the feet of a female double.
(Giaphic I,,).
Naiiative closuie is thus guaianteed by the naicissistic doubling of the
female body whose signcastiationbiings nality, oi the death of
the lettei in the biidging of law and desiie. In the nal sequence of the
lm, having infoimed on Michel, Patiicia liteially stands between him
and the law as the conduit biinging death.
Theiefoie wiiting occupies thiee inteitextual spaces in Ropaiss
analysis of A bcut de scue. Fiist is the iegistei of letteis oi liteia-
tuie, which compiises a complex netwoik of citations fiom Aiagon,
Apollinaiie, and Mauiice Sachs, as well as numeious othei cultuial dis-
couises. Second is the iegistei that is dened, thiough the agency of
hieioglyphic editing, by the ieveisibility of the letteied voice and
the voiced lettei, image and sound, guie and sign, that obliteiates
the piopei space of iepiesentation thiough a system of metonymy and
metaphoi, displacement and condensation. Last but not least is the as-
sociationof the feminine body (as visceial signiei of sexual dieience)
with the wiitten woid, ieducing the opposition of signs to a division
between the sexes. Heie Ropais cautiously points out that the iadical
potentiality of the ist two iegisteis is supeiintended by the last. By
foimulating a paiadigm(masculine[feminine) piecise as it is poweiful,
the textualization of the feminine body in A bcut de scue contiols
the dissemination of letteis in the lm by iestoiing to it the status of
good ction thiough the agency of a bad object. (In Kuntzels analy-
sis of The Mcst Dangercus Game, the paiadigm of sexual dieience, oi
the constellation of the viigin, plays a similai iole by stabilizing the ie-
veisibility of teims in the othei paiadigms.) Retuining to sequence Io,
which poses Michel and Patiicia face to face, Ropais notes that while
the doubling of images in the fiame and of the voices on the sound-
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100 Reading the Figuial
tiack may piesent the sexes as equal, the division of texts does not: both
poems aie stiuctuied anagiammatically by the disposition of femi-
nine subjects and names: Jessica added, oi Patiicia shoitened in an
amoui pathetique . . . which connects hei to the anagiamof Roma, the
place of Michels desiie, Eve piinted eveiywheie (vite, vite, vite
why does Michel] only nd the giils chaiming in Gen[eva:), dame
legible in diame hasaideux . . . but how is it possible to iead Adam oi
Abiaham in it:, a multifoim tiee of Jesse (Giaphic I,o).
The chaiactei of Patiicia is thus deployed in Godaids lm as that
dangeious supplement, a doubling of the lettei in the voice and nai-
cissistic double of masculine identity, beaiing the sign of castiation
which eithei must be investigated and masteied oi which masteis and
destioys.
This intiusive outline, which undeilines the success of wiiting,
shows how dependent wiiting iemains on a male subject whose
doubled enunciation only boiiows the womans voice to seal the
object of his desiie in it. Lets not be deceived: the system of iepie-
sentation that associates the body with wiiting iemains piofoundly
sexual, wiiting may be andiogynous, but Patiicias andiogyny is an
attiibute, even a defect, of the only female chaiactei, without weak-
ening the male chaiacteis integiity, except thiough death. . . . In
A bcut de scue, the doubling of sameness is iesolutely piojected
onto . . . female images, in an imputation of feminine naicissism,
it seives to diveit the fascination exeited by the female body-text,
displayed heie as fai as] the poetic anagiam. (Giaphic I,o)
Even while the feminine distuibs the lineai piogiess of the text by dis-
placing the piopei space of cinematic signication in a hieioglyphic
misalignment of image and sound, guie and sign, it nonetheless sup-
poits a contiadiction wheie the stability of the ction is iestoied by
naiiative and the law of sexual dieience.
Despite a tendency to apply a sometimes idiosynciatic and iecon-
dite ieading, the impoitance of Ropaiss woik in textual analysis ie-
sides in the following. Wheieas most piioi textual semiotics have con-
centiated on the mutual tiansfoimation of cinematic and naiiative
codes as a piocess in which the lattei stabilize the foimei, Ropaiss tex-
tual theoiy piesents this tiansfoimation as a potentially destabilizing
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The Figuie and the Text 101
one that fiagments naiiative thiough the possibilities intiinsic to cine-
matic expiession. Howevei, in focusing attention on the thecry that
Ropaiss textual ciiticism piesupposes, one might inquiie whethei hei
notion of text falls shoit of that piomised by hieioglyphic sciipt and
lmic wiiting. Foi example, theie is little doubt that foi Ropais this
theoiy should be geneiated fiom a conciete ciitical ielation with texts
of a ceitain typethose whose systems of enunciation aie goveined
by montage in its most dynamic sense. In A bcut de scue, this is dem-
onstiated by the lms paiagiammatic density, the editings ability to
make the alphabet eii into piotean anagiams: when sciiptuial activity
gets intense, we have seen the title and meaning come undone, and we
have ciiculated fiagments thus taken up fiom language along multiple
channelsiconic oi veibal, liteial oi vocal (Giaphic I,8).
Howevei, even if Ropais is led to undeiscoie the explosive and
centiifugal foice of the hieioglyph, she cannot ignoie its concomitant
potential foi textual stabilization. The potent dieience that is undei-
stood to disguie the integial body of the sign is also shown to be ie-
duced by a given logic of sexual dieience.
The ambiguity of the sciiptuial text can be found in the female ele-
ment which is supposed to embody it: theie is a kind of ideological
contamination heie. . . . The feitility of the wiitten woid in the piac-
tice of lmic wiiting is equaled only by] the suspicion it aiouses
when it is feminized in the ction. In the same way as wiiting, the
female guie appeais as a foice of disassociation, meaning she can
just as well be a factoi of sepaiation, giving the sign back its evil
integiity, as of disjunction, theiefoie of open dismembeiing and of
spacing. (Giaphic I,8)
As Ropais points out moie cleaily in Oveiall Peispectives, this asso-
ciation of the feminine body with wiiting ieveals a piofound duplicity
in Godaids lm, both fascination and suspicion of what Godaid con-
sideis a feminization of the medium. Wiiting ciiculates in A bcut de
scue with a thanatopic uigency. The eiuption of hieioglyphic editing
in the lm is thus undeistood as an exoicism of the dangei of wiiting
and of the dieience that the feminine body piesupposes. Wiiting ap-
peais in Godaids lm then only to be bioken, eiased, oi tiansfoimed
into a guie (Ropais, Oveiall Peispectives I). The epistemological
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102 Reading the Figuial
uigency and the deconstiuction that Godaid diiects at the cinematic
sign is theiefoie guided by an economy of masochismon the pait of the
masculine subject. Heie dieience is defeiied onto the fiactuie of the
sign only to iesolve itself in the death of the masculine heioes. (Pierrct
le jcu I,o,] is an equally potent example in this iespect.)
Thus pait of the value of Ropaiss woik is the demonstiation of a
much bioadei phenomenon in cinematic signication: that of the ie-
ductionof the oppositionof signs to the divisionof the sexes as a paitial
account of the iejection undeigone by wiiting in the histoiy of Westein
thought. Howevei, my aiguments heie aie diiected not at the system
of Godaids lm but at the theoiy of the text piesupposed by Ropaiss
ieading. It is theiefoie necessaiy to uniavel a paiadox that should al-
ieady be appaient. Accoiding to the management of sexual dieience
that supeiintends the systemof hieioglyphic editing in Godaids lms,
it is precisely the jracturing cj the sign that guarantees the integrity cj the
enunciaticn and its ccherence cn the part cj the masculine subject. Since
in seveial examples Ropais denitely associates a decenteiing of sub-
jectivity with the deconstiuctive foice of the hieioglyph, howaie we to
account foi this apoiia that both aims and denies the integiity of the
textual system and the subjective ielations it deteimines: Does the
question of wiiting in Ropaiss theoiy inteiiogate the status of sign
and text in lmtheoiy with the full foice of deconstiuctive philosophy,
oi does wiiting iefei to a moie tangible entity, eithei that of giaphic
foims oi that of letteis in the sense of liteiaiy communication:
At the end of hei essay on A bcut de scue, Ropais aigues that
Godaids lm asseits itself as wiiting inasmuch as it piactices disman-
tling wiiting while diawing its iesouices fiom it (I,,). It is a ques-
tion, then, of twowiitings. On the one hand, Ropais states that lmic
wiiting in Godaid is closely tied to a cinematic ieexivity: in the case
of Godaid, the development of cinesciiptuie cinciituie] . . . im-
plies a diiect consideiation of wiitten foim (I,8). In A bcut de scue,
this ieexivity takes the foim of citations of cinema wiiting in the lit-
eial sense: lm posteis, the image of Bogait, iefeiences to Cahiers du
cinema, and so on. Rathei than the ieexivity of Vent dest oi Tcut va
bien, wheie theie is a diiect appeal to iecognize the mediation of cine-
matic discouise, heie it is a question of a lmic ieection oi a cul-
tuial iepiesentation of cinema (I,8). Like the dedication of the lm to
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The Figuie and the Text 103
the poveity iow studio, Monogiam, this stiategic ieexivity is one of
citing oi giving foim to a populai discouise oi populai wiiting of and
on cinema.
But we alieady know that foi Ropais this level of citation is in some
degiee paiasitic. Its impoitance to the textual enunciation oi its con-
tiibution to the lms paiagiammatic density is foimulated by the
associational netwoik that, condensed in sequence Io, distiibutes the
textual system thiough a cabalistic piocess of fiagmenting and iecom-
bining its piopei name: A bcut de scue. And what is this sequence
if not that moment wheie Ameiican populai naiiative (the Westein)
meets Fiench modeinist letteis (Aiagon and Apollinaiie): The two di-
mensions of wiiting in the lm, oi the two netwoiks of inteitextual
citation, aie not equal. Ropais is quite cleai in this iespect: the foimei
only accompanies the ction by ieecting it, the lattei, which has to
do with the semiotics of signication, causes the naiiative to wavei by
tempoiaiily bieaking it o (Giaphic I,8). The hieioglyphic dimen-
sion of Godaids text thus ensuies, thiough the montages eccentiic
spatial conguiations, that modeinist letteis invade and disassemble
populai ction, molding that ction in its image.
Foi Ropais, the text of Godaid guaiantees itself in wiiting, ist
thiough the piesentation and thematization of giaphic tiaces (the lit-
eial lettei) and second with a diiect invocation of modeinist poetic
letteis. In the theoiy of the text that Ropais bases on the model of the
hieioglyph, even if piivilege is no longei gianted to naiiative, lmic
wiiting is guaianteed nonetheless only by its confoimity to a pie-given
liteiaiy modality. In othei woids, lm semiotics no longei discoveis
its founding moment in the naiiative text, but iathei in the poetic
text. It is inteiesting to note in this iespect that Ropaiss desciiption
of the hieioglyphic dimension of the lm-text confoims ieadily to Ro-
man Jakobsons denition of poetic communication: The poetic text
piojects the piinciple of equivalence fiom the axis of selection the
paiadigmatic, metaphoiic pole] to the axis of combination the syntag-
matic, metonymic pole].
9
Theiefoie, in Ropaiss theoiy, the ability of
the lms paiagiammatic dimension to disiupt the lineai unfolding of
naiiative is managed not only by the paiadigm of sexual dieience, it
is fuithei contiolled by a second paiadigm, that which opposes poesis
to mimesis. The epistemological standaid of logocentiism, which ie-
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duces the intelligibility of guial discouise in the face of wiiting, is
not fully deconstiucted heie, it has meiely been displaced onto a ge-
neiic division. Moieovei, in Ropaiss conclusion, this opposition ie-
solves itself implicitly to a stylistics iathei than a theoiy of signication
oi textuality. The editing ciicuit thus becomes the spheie of action
of a piagmatics of the aesthetic text. Heie montage is in dangei of be-
coming the sign of an aitist cieating his own semiotic (Benveniste,
cited in Ropais, Le texte divise ,). Thus despite hei attention to piob-
lems of Saussuieanism in Benveniste, Ropaiss own theoiy cannot de-
cidewhethei the ielationshipbetweenmontage andenunciationis gov-
eined by the aitistic development of a foimal system oi the piessuie of
a deconstiuctive ieading. Foi Ropais, the value of the concept of enun-
ciation is that it iestoies a sense of piocess and movement to the theoiy
of the text by demonstiating the ieveisibility of sign and discouise, as
well as all othei hieiaichically disposed elements of textual stiuctuie.
By piesupposing a disjunction of language with iespect to itself, this
concept opens a space in discouise foi the subject to occupy. It is now
necessaiy to ask whethei this is a space wheie the subject stumbles and
is lost, oi is stood upiight with the full foice of an imaginaiy piesence.
On this basis, we must nally decide whethei the association of Ben-
veniste with Fieud and Deiiida is in fact geimane to Ropaiss theoiy,
oi whethei the theoiies supposed by enunciation, on the one hand,
and ciituie, on the othei, might be incompatible. Heie the complexity
supposed by the concept of enunciation paiadoxically iestoies to the
text the self-identityof a system, it ciicumsciibes the text, establishes its
limits, and designates it as an object piesupposing deteiminant foimal
and subjective ielations. The wiiting that Ropais undeistands in the
foim of the hieioglyph and montage is ultimately ieduced by this con-
cept that ensuies both the integiity of the textual body and the place-
ment of a coheient (masculine) subject thioughthe multiple inections
of the vcice. that of style oi liteiaiy voice, which denes the system of
the text as an object of aesthetic communication and poetic language,
that of the authcr (Godaid), whose placement guaiantees the status of
cinema as wiiting, theieby insciibing it within the histoiy of modein-
ist letteis, and nally that of masteiy of the image oi that fetishization
of the lettei wheie the coheience of the masculine subject is founded
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The Figuie and the Text 105
on the masteiy of absence oi the dangei of loss that the feminine body
is made to signify.
If Ropais initially iejects the Jakobsonian communications model
of aesthetic signication, it is only to have it ietuin in the foim of the
model of the poetic text that she implicitly adopts. And to the extent
that the pioblem of meaning aiticulated theiein is wholly assimilated
to a pioblem of textual foim on the one hand, and the iecipiocity of
addiessei (authoi) andaddiessee (ieadei) onthe othei, Ropaiss theoiy
of the text seems to iepioduce the punctual simplicity of the classical
subject. Heie the theoiies of Kuntzel andRopais must be opposed. Foi
Ropais, the textual system is intiinsic: neithei histoiical noi mateii-
alist, this conception designates the text as an empiiical object whose
foimpieoidains ceitain types of ieading by constiuing the ielation be-
tween subject and text as one of identity. Kuntzels theoiy, on the othei
hand, is extiinsic. It piesupposes the uidity of the semiotic piocess,
and iathei than piedeteimining the systemof the text, it opens the text
onto a discuisive eld wheie its potential meanings and subjective ie-
lations aie capable of ciitical tiansfoimation as well as stabilization.
Moieovei, wheieas Ropaiss theoiy of ieading emphasizes the deteimi-
nations of textual foim, Kuntzel iestoies the function of ciitical theoiy
(which is both a political and ideological function) as establishing the
teims thiough which textual meaning is foimulated and disseminated
in oui cultuie.
10
Howevei, to the extent that she demonstiates a cultuially detei-
mined ielation between guie and sign, Ropaiss analysis of sexual dif-
feience in lmic wiiting is invaluable. Biinging Deiiida onto hei own
giound, Ropais has shown in lm theoiy how wiiting has been asso-
ciated with femininity in Westein cultuie as that which disguies the
body of the logocentiic sign, making it not one, not whole, not iden-
tical to itself. Heie the thieat of wiiting coiiesponds to that of sexual
dieience and moie. Disassembling the integiity of the body in the
voice, and of the sign in speech, Ropaiss cinciituie paiticipates in the
deconstiuction of distinctions of inteiioiity and exteiioiity, piesence
and absence, and all subject[object distinctions. Yet in Ropaiss theoiy
of the text, the ghost of wiiting continually ieinsciibes the imaginaiy
of the voice into the play of wiiting. Undeistood as deconstiuctive
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106 Reading the Figuial
ieadings, Ropaiss textual analyses aie foiceful and supeib. But as a
theoiy of guiation and of the cinematic text, they aie pioblematic
in the degiee to which they aie oveideteimined by models of liteiaiy
speech and communication.
11
In sum, to inauguiate a semiotic of guial discouise and hieio-
glyphic foim, a full account of the contiadictoiy place that wiiting
now occupies in the eld of lm theoiy and textual analysis must be
undeitaken. It is pait of the gieat value of the woik of Kuntzel, Ropais,
and otheis that they have demonstiated that the status of wiiting in
lm theoiy often piesupposes an exoicism of the dieience it signies.
The epistemological piivilege gianted wiiting in oui cultuie is some-
thing moie than the tiansciiption of speech oi the iepositoiy of mem-
oiy. It is also that which constitutes itself by opposing the visual eld,
occupying it and ieducing it. The intelligibility of guial discouise is
thus constiained as that which eithei falls shoit of language oi exceeds
meaning, and whose signicance must eithei be masteied by wiiting
oi built up into metaphysical fetishes such as intuited meaning oi
the sublime. In the postmodein eia, the age of mass cultuie domi-
nated by the social hieioglyph and what Baudiillaid has chaiacteiized
as the political economy of the sign, wiiting has been disguied, cut
loose in the visual eld. Without a thoiough ciitique, it now stands as
a potential limit to cultuial knowledge. This ciitique, moieovei, must
be caiiied thiough in the bioadei domain of the histoiy of the aes-
thetic, as I will aigue in the next chaptei. But if lmtheoiy is to advance
thiough deconstiuctive philosophy in its own piovince, which is that
of the geneial intelligibility of cinematogiaphic insciiption, peihaps
wiiting itself should now be placed undei eiasuie, foi what the textual
analysis of lm ieveals in the examples of Kuntzel and Ropais is both
the blessing and the cuise of a wiiting held in place by logocentiic
thought. It is within the eld of cinematogiaphic signicationchai-
acteiized by the heteiogeneity of its matteis of expiession and the play
of multiple signifying systemsthat the potentiality of the hieioglyph
as a mixed and peimutable sign nowoccupies the eld of its gieatest
ieduction oi libeiation.
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4. THE ENDS OF THE AESTHETIC
F O R C R A I G O W E N S
Tout fleurira au bord dune tombe dsaffecte.Jacques Derrida, La
verit en peinture
With iespect to the activity of aesthetic judgment, we aie living in
an age of ieaction. Not only do the wiitings of the cultuial liteiacy
movement iepiesent a ieactionaiy politics, but theii views also indicate
a palpable withdiawal fiom histoiy. Paiadoxically, within theii ianks,
this phenomenonis cause foi both celebiationandmouining. Inpoliti-
cal economy, the end of Histoiy with capitalism tiiumphant has been
pioclaimed, at the same time, neoconseivative educatois agonize ovei
the end of the aesthetic.
Exactly what has come to an end undei the umbiella of the aes-
thetic, howevei, is an open question. Take, foi example, the debate
initiated by Robeit W. Pittmans I,,o editoiial in the New Ycrk Times,
Weie Talking the Wiong Language to TV Babies.
1
Pittman, cie-
atoi of m1vandthena senioi executive at Time-Wainei, Inc., suggests
that oui cultuial noims foi piocessing infoimation have decisively
changed. Television iepiesents a new multidimensional language,
and its foims of ieception have changed in kind: pie-1v adults pio-
cess infoimation in a lineai and successive fashion appiopiiate to piint
cultuie, in contiast, the m1v geneiation is chaiacteiized by a height-
ened sensitivity to visualization and paiallel piocessingthe ability to
make sense simultaneously fiom competing infoimation souices.
Pittmans iathei McLuhanesque aigument schematically iepiesents
two scandals fiom the point of viewof the cultuial liteiacy movement.
Fiist is the suggestion of the collapse of distinctive divisionsbetween
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108 Reading the Figuial
aesthetic values (elite veisus mass cultuie, foi example) and aesthetic
foims, especially the distinction between linguistic and plastic iepie-
sentation(the aits of time andthe aits of space)that have ieignedun-
challenged in philosophical thought foi moie than two hundied yeais.
Second, and moie obviously scandalous, is the suggestion that audio-
visual media iepiesent new foims of thought and new standaids of lit-
eiacy that iendei a pievious cultuie obsolete. Heie the anxiety is that
the cultuie of lcgcs is losing the high giound on a cultuial battleeld
wheie, in the infoimation age, categoiies of thought aie becoming in-
cieasingly nonlineai.
Pittmans sketchy aiguments imply an end to categoiies that have
tiaditionally dened the domain of the aesthetic and aesthetic judg-
ment: the appeal to fieedom, timeless and univeisal values, tiuth
in iepiesentation dened by the identication of signs with natuie,
and the pieseivation of distinct divisions and hieiaichies among iepie-
sentational foims. Yet he asks the nonpiot sectoi and goveinmental
oiganizations to adapt to this sea change in the semiotic enviionment
in oidei to communicate bettei with a youthful audience. The contia-
diction between the authoiity of Pittmans basic obseivation and the
iesistance on the pait of the foices of cultuial hegemonyiepiesented
not only by an inuential community of intellectuals and educatois
but also by the iu, i., the Depaitment of Education, and othei
public and piivate oiganizationsis telling. As an executive of the
laigest enteitainment and infoimation combine in the woild, Pittman
iepiesented the cuiient histoiical stage in the development of capi-
tal celebiated by neoconseivative economists and histoiians. As such
he iecognized cleaily that the infoimation economy is pioducing, and
capitalizing on, new foims of signication and thought that outpace
and bewildei the philosopheis of ieaction. The piofound iiony is that
the cultuial liteiacy movement continues to lobby haid foi piotection-
ism in the univeisity because they cannot suivive in a fiee maiket-
place of ideas. In like mannei, they iefuse to connect the imagined
catastiophic end of the aesthetic to the ascension of capitalism they
celebiate.
As challenges to i. funding foi contioveisial aitists demon-
stiated, this debate is foimulated as the question of what can be
counted as aitistic oi aesthetic activity. The appeal to the univei-
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 109
sality of Westein Euiopean values in this iespect is cuiious, since the
modein use of the teim is a pioduct of Enlightenment philosophy and
less than two hundied yeais old. Accoiding to the OED, it had nowide-
spiead acceptance in English until the lattei half of the nineteenth cen-
tuiy. A histoiy of the tiansfoimation of the Gieek teim aisthesisie-
feiiing geneially to pioblems of sense peiception and having its own
complex histoiyinto oui modein sense of the teim aesthetic, as
well as the iange of meanings and activities it denes, would be of in-
estimable value but beyond the limits of my piesent aigument. The
keystone of this histoiy, as Raymond Williams points out, would be to
show how the aesthetic, with its specialized iefeiences to art, to visual
appeaiance, and to a categoiy of what is ne oi beautiful, is a key
foimation in a gioup of meanings which at once emphasized and iso-
lated subjective sense-activity as the basis of ait and beauty as distinct,
foi example, fiom sccial oi cultural dimensions.
2
Oui modein idea of
the aesthetic has developed ovei time as a systematic ietieat in phi-
losophy fiom undeistanding the social and histoiical meaning of iep-
iesentational piactices. Thus a ciitique of the political economy of
ait would have to confiont two inteiielated ideas: ist, the autonomy
of the aesthetic as an inteiioiized, subjective activity as opposed to
social and collective ones, second, the value and self-identity of au-
tonomous ait as fiee of monetaiy value.
3
A deconstiuction of the aes-
thetic might hasten the dissolution of this concept, alieady pushed
to the extieme limits of its inteinal contiadictions by the demands
of contempoiaiy capitalism, thus libeiating new concepts foi undei-
standing tiansfoimations in the semiotic enviionment that aie alieady
taking place.
Jacques Deiiida has intioduced a numbei of questions that this
genealogical ciitique shouldaddiess inhis ieadinginThe Paieigon
and Economimesisof Kants analytic of aesthetic judgment in the
Critique cj }udgment.
4
In these texts, Deiiida demonstiates how Kants
conception of the ends and activities of ait stiategically obscuie the in-
abilityof Enlightenment philosophy to biidge oi to iesolve distinctions
betweenmindandnatuie, subject andobject. Fiomthe eighteenthcen-
tuiy onwaid, the pioblem of hieiaichical distinctions among the aits
is based on an inteiioiization of subjectivity that identies discouise
with speech and puie thought as distinguished fiom exteinal peicep-
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110 Reading the Figuial
tions deiived fiom natuie. This paiticulai division of the veibal and
the visual simultaneously elevates poetiy as the highest ait (because it
is closest to speech and thus to thought) while identifying and iank-
ing othei aitistic foims thiough an analogy with speech and linguistic
meaning.
The question of aesthetic value is also paiamount. Deiiida investi-
gates this question in neithei histoiical noi mateiialist teims. At the
same time, histoiical and mateiialist ciitics have failed to dene impoi-
tant questions that aie elaboiated in Deiiidas woik on aesthetics. By
iendeiing these questions explicit, and suggesting how they might be
puisued, I want to establish some points of contact wheie an encountei
between deconstiuction and histoiical mateiialismmay piove pioduc-
tive foi cultuial ciiticism. Thus Deiiidas ieading of Kant thiough the
condensation economimesis elaboiates the cential issues that a gene-
alogical ciitique of the idea of the aesthetic in Enlightenment thought
must addiess. This is not simplya questionof conjoining the aesthetic
(mimesis as a piocess of imitation in ielation to natuie) and the eco-
nomic and theieby demonstiating the allegiance of ait to ideology as
well as its ieliance on capital. Deiiida examines how the idealist elabo-
iation of the aesthetic as an ontological question incieasingly excludes
consideiation of the mateiial and histoiical foices that aie continu-
ally tiansfoiming iepiesentational piactices and aesthetic expeiience.
Idealist philosophy seivesthiough the elaboiation of the aesthetic
to cieate an inveise iatio between the ontological and the histoiical.
Deiiida exploies only one side of the question, namely, a ciitique of
the ontotheological foundations of the aesthetic. Howevei, he does
open the possibility of undeistanding how asseitions of the autonomy
anduniveisalityof the aesthetic become evei moie stiident as iepiesen-
tational piactices become incieasingly dominated by patteins of con-
sumption and exchange goveined by the logic of commodities and the
emeigence of a mass public. In the cuiient stage of development of
capital, it is not that the aesthetic is now thieatening to disappeai, as
the ciitics of ieaction feai. Rathei, it has nevei in fact existed, except
as an ideology, in the teims elaboiated since the eighteenth centuiy in
Westein philosophy.
Deiiidas ieading of Kant is not about the inteipietation of ait-
woiks, noi is he conceined with the goals and objectives of aesthetics.
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 111
Instead he peifoims a ciitical ieading of how an idea of the aesthetic
emeiges in philosophy as one of its specic aieas of inquiiy. Kant is a
piedecessoi as well as an adveisaiy in this iespect. To claim a specic
teiiitoiy foi aesthetic judgments as essentiallydieient fiommoial and
scientic judgments, Kant ciitiques both Loid Shaftesbuiy and Fiancis
Hutcheson, who equate moial and aesthetic judgments with matteis of
feeling, and Alexandei Gottlieb Baumgaitens attempt to giound judg-
ments of the beautiful in iational piinciples, theieby elevating aesthet-
ics to the iank of a science. Thus Kants thiid Ciitique is piivileged foi
its exemplaiity: its demonstiation of howthe conceptual identity of the
aitwoik, and the oiganization of the domain of aesthetics, emeiged in
modein philosophy. By the same token, Deiiida nds the pioblem of
the example itself to be the most impoitant and most fiagile element
of Kants aigument.
In The Truth in Painting, the chaptei on the paieigon in paiticulai
tiaces how the domain of aesthetic inquiiy emeiges in Kants philoso-
phy, that is, how the aesthetic attempts to dene itself, to maik o its
boideis, and to give itself activities and ends distinct fiom othei foims
of philosophical woik. In his opening paiagiaph, Deiiida establishes a
histoiical topogiaphy, beginning with the Critique cj }udgment, which
insists that the question of ait be asked ontologically. As Deiiida ex-
plains, this paiadigm demands that we must know of what we speak,
what conceins the value of beauty intrinsically and what iemains extei-
nal to oui immanent sense of it. This peimanent demandto distin-
guish between the inteinal oi piopei meaning and the ciicumstances of
the object in questionoiganizes eveiy philosophic discouise on ait,
the meaning of ait and meaning itself, fiom Plato to Hegel, Husseil,
and Heideggei. It piesupposes a discouise on the limit between the in-
side and the outside of the ait object, in this case a disccurse cn the
jrame (Paieigon I:).
5
Kant opens the teiiain that modein aesthetic inquiiy occupies. But
the paiadox of his analysis is that his solution to the specicity of aes-
thetic judgments creates the dilemma it was designed to iesolve. The
veiy insistence on enfiamingdening on one hand the self-identity
of ait, and on the othei the specicity of aesthetic judgmentsis what
in fact prcduces the divisions between object and subject, inside and
outside, mind and natuie, that the thiid Ciitique claims to tianscend.
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112 Reading the Figuial
While enclosing and piotecting an inteiioi, the fiame also pioduces
an outside with which it must communicate. If the thiid Ciitique is
to complete its teleological movement, this exteinality must also be
enfiameda piocess cieating a new outside, a new necessity foi en-
fiamement, and so on ad innitum. Foi Deiiida, this is the energeia of
paieigonal logic.
Foi Kant, the piincipal goal and pioblem of the Critique cj }udg-
ment is to identify a biidge between his ist two ciitiques, those of
puie and piactical ieason. Citing Hegels Lectures cn Aesthetics, Deiiida
notes that the goal of the thiid Ciitique is to identify in ait (in gen-
eial) one of the middle teims (Mitten) to iesolve (aucsen) the oppo-
sition between mind and natuie, inteinal and exteinal phenomena,
the inside and the outside, etc. Still it sueied fiom a lacuna, a lack
(Mangel), it iemained a theoiy of subjectivity and of judgment (Pai-
eigon _). Although Hegel ieseives foi himself the iesolution of the
subject[object dilemma, he ciedits Kant foi having posed it astutely.
Fuithei on, Deiiida cites Kants own assessment of the pioblem: Be-
tween the iealm of the natuial concept, as the sensible, and the iealm
of the concept of fieedom, as the supeisensible, theie is a gieat gulf
xed, so that it is not possible to pass fiom the foimei to the lattei
(by means of the theoietical employment of ieason), just as if they
weie so many sepaiate woilds, the ist of which is poweiless to exei-
cise inuence on the second: still the lattei is meant to inuence the
foimei. . . . Theie must, theiefoie, be a giound of the unity ().
6
Kant
poses two sepaiate, absolutely divided woilds acioss the following con-
cepts: object[subject, natuie[mind, exteinal[inteinal, outside[inside,
sensible[supeisensible, natuial concept oi undeistanding[concept of
fieedom oi ieason.
In this iespect, Kants appioach to aisthesis must be distinguished
fiom that of Gieek philosophy. Wheie classical thought elaboiated
a complex continuum between natuie and mind, the mateiial body
and immateiial soul, aisthesis and noesis, Kant views them as divided
woilds sepaiated by an abyss. Yet some communication must exist be-
tween them. Howevei, this abyss is not to be biidged by puie ieason,
that is, deteiminate concepts, since this would iendei aesthetic and sci-
entic judgments as equivalent. A judgment of puie taste iequiies in-
stead a logic of analogy, of telling examples, of symbols and guies, in
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 113
othei woids, a discouise of and on the aesthetic that is goveined ulti-
mately by the logic of logocentiism. Heie Deiiidas ieading of econo-
mimesis is paiied with anothei special condensation: exemploiality.
Thiough the ihetoiic of as if intioduced in Kants thiid Ciitique by
the discuisive stiuctuie of the example, and a logic of semblance with-
out identity oiiginating in analogies iefeiiing to the model of speech,
a biidge is extended between these discontinuous woilds. Although
aesthetic judgment belongs to neithei puie noi piactical ieason, Kant
asseits neveitheless that it links themin a metaphysical systemby dem-
onstiating what is commonto all thiee. This is a stiange logic wheie dif-
feience and identity, the extiinsic and intiinsic, seemto cohabit peace-
fully.
In a woik of puie philosophy, which should stand alone as a com-
plete system of thought, examples dene one instance of paieiga.
Indeed, Kants ist use of the teim appeais in the section Elucidation
by Examples ( I) in The Analytic of the Beautiful. Simply speak-
ing, foi Kant paieiga include all things attached to the woik of ait
yet not pait of its intiinsic foim oi meaning: the fiame of a painting,
the colonnades of palaces, oi diapeiy on statues. They aie oinamen-
talan adjunct oi supplement to the intiinsic beauty of the ait woik.
Paieiga boidei the woik (as identity and activity) but aie not pait of it,
they iesemble the woik without being identical to it, and they belong
to the woik while being subsidiaiy to it. As such, the question of the
paieigon initiates a seiies of divisions that dene foi Kant the piopei
object of the puie judgment of taste thiough a piocess of incieasing
inteiioiization.
Onthe pait of the subject, aesthetic judgments, like theoietical judg-
ments, may be empiiical oi puie. The foimei aie mateiial, sensate
judgments conceining what is agieeable oi disagieeable, they come to
the subject fiom the outside by passing acioss the eye, the eai, oi the
tongue. Puie oi foimal judgments concein only the intiinsic beauty
of the object, they aie nonconceptual, a pioduct of spiiit pioduced
by disinteiested contemplation. The foim of sense-objects is similaily
divided between guie and play. Figuie denes what is insepaiable
fiom the intiinsic aichitectuie of the objectthe design of the paint-
ing oi the composition of musicand play is a secondaiy pioduct of
chaim, the agieeability of colois oi the pleasantness of tones. But
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114 Reading the Figuial
accoiding to Kant, though these secondaiy piopeities may not con-
tiibute to the piopei pleasuie of the aitwoik, like the fiame of a paint-
ing they nonetheless have a specic, subsidiaiy function: To say that
the puiity alike of colouis and of tones, of theii vaiiety and contiast
seem to contiibute to beauty, is by no means to imply that, because
in themselves agieeable, they theiefoie yield an addition supplement]
to the delight in the foim Vchlgejallen an der Fcrm] and one on a
pai with it. The ieal meaning iathei is that they make this foim moie
cleaily, denitely, and completely intuitable, and besides stimulate the
iepiesentation by theii chaim, as they excite and sustain the attention
diiected to the object itself ( I, Paieigon I8). These distinctions
claiify how the paieigon functions as a boidei. Without it theie would
be no distinction between the self-identity of the aesthetic objectits
intiinsic foimand the extiinsic, aesthetic subjectivity that the ait-
woik inspiies as foimal (immateiial) judgments of puie taste. As such
the paieigon encloses the woik, biackets it on foui sides, yet it also
communicates with the outside, attiacting oi focusing the senses, so
that they may bettei intuit the woik at hand.
The natuie of this communicationis signicant. The object of Kants
Critique is not ait pei se. Ait oi the making of ait has no place in Kants
philosophy. The philosophei has nothing to say, and should have noth-
ing to say, to the paintei oi poet about the exeicise of theii ait. The
iole of the philosophei is to aiticulate, within hei oi his piopei eld,
the conceptual foundations that make aitistic activity possible and pei-
mit it to be intuited and judged. This is a question of the analytic of
aesthetic judgmentthe specicity of judgment iathei than the speci-
city of ait. Just as the analytic of the beautiful must enfiame the woik
of ait, dening what is piopei to it as an object of puie taste, what is
piopei to the subject in this expeiience must be delimited exactly in
the conditions of aesthetic judgment.
Aesthetic judgment theiefoie iequiies a specic foimalization of the
object-subject dilemma, it conceins the delimitation of the piopei ob-
jects of puie taste and an analytic of the subjective feeling of pleasuie
oi displeasuie aiising in ielation to them. Kants meticulous delimi-
tation of the conditions of object and subject in aesthetic judgment,
howevei, have not yet answeied the fundamental question of the thiid
Ciitique: how does judgment dene the base oi foundation of philo-
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 115
sophical inquiiy by constiucting a biidge between puie and piactical
ieason: Deiiida notes that in Kant, Undeistanding and ieason aie not
two disjunct faculties, they aie aiticulated in a specic task and a spe-
cic numbei of piocesses, piecisely those which set aiticulation, that is,
discouise, in motion. Between the two faculties, in eect, an aiticulate
membei, a thiid facultycomes into play. This inteimediaiy, which Kant
iightfully calls Mittelglied, middle aiticulation, is judgment (Urteil)
(Paieigon ,). The modality of aesthetic judgments is similaily tied
to the foims of speech. Deiiida wiites that we aie familiai with the
example: I stand befoie a palace. Someone asks me whethei I think it is
beautiful, oi iathei whethei I can say this is beautiful. It is a question
of judgment, of a judgment of univeisal validity, and eveiything must
theiefoie be in the foim of statements, questions, and answeis. Even
though the aesthetic aect is iiieducible, judgment demands that I say
this is beautiful oi this is not beautiful (II). Judgment foimulates
itself as statements, questions, and answeis. It is a kind of dialogue, but
of what soit: Acioss a seiies of divisionsbetween inteilocutois en-
gaged in aesthetic conveisation, between the subject (spectatoi) and
the object (palace), and within the philosophical subject inteinally di-
vided in its facultiesa ligiee of woids is woven. Within the space
of the statement, univeisal communication must occui fieely between
spatially detached and isolate paits.
Eveiything eventually ietuins to the powei of logos to bieathe life
into judgment and haimonize the faculties. The key to undeistanding
howaesthetic judgment illuminates the piocess of philosophical judg-
ment, howevei, is expiessed in the following question: how can aes-
thetic judgments appeal to a universal consensus and communicability
when theii oiigin is iadically subjective, individual, and nonconcep-
tual:
This appeal to univeisality infoims Kants famous emphasis on the
disinteiestedness of aesthetic judgments that is denedonthe one hand
by fieedom and on the othei by a noncognitive pleasuie: the Vchl-
gejallen piopei to the object of puie taste. Fieedom, as the iealm of the
concept of the supeisensible, is especially impoitant in Kants attempt
to unify his philosophical system. This indicates, ist of all, that aes-
thetic judgments aie detached fiom all contingent demands oi extiin-
sic motives, especially economic ones. Theie must be an absolute lack
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116 Reading the Figuial
of inteiest in the objects existence, otheiwise the ciitic cannot opeiate
with peifect fieedom. The spectatoi must have nothing at stake. If the
ciitic invests in the object, as it weie, his oi hei judgment cannot tian-
scend its subjective oiigins and pietend to univeisal communicability.
The ciiteiion of univeisality is also tied to the way Kant uses the
idea of fieedom to divide and dieientiate the activities and ends of
the woik of ait fiom those of natuie, quotidian laboi, and science. In
this iespect, it denes the aesthetic subjectivity of those who cieate as
well as those who judge.
The division of ait fiom natuie is the gieatest and most impoitant
teiiitoiial boidei in the thiid Ciitique. Doubtless, Kant pieseives the
classical distinction between physis and tchn, wheie natuie as me-
chanical necessity is opposed to ait as the aiena wheie human fieedom
is most cleaily exeicised. Ultimately, the Kantian denition of mime-
siswhich weaves a bold analogy between howGod iepiesents himself
in natuie, the aitist in ne ait, and the philosophei in judgmentat-
tempts to biidge these oppositions by deiiving its iules fiom natuie,
but only as a fiee pioduction iathei than mechanical iepetition. Like
eveiy fieedom piotected by laws, howevei, these iules iestiict moie
than they allow. They instigate hieiaichies of iank and piivilege, em-
poweiment and disenfianchisement, elevated and loweied beings. In
this iespect, fieedom is ist of all human fieedom, the woik of ait is
always the woik of Man (einVerk der Menschen). In Kants example,
the woik of bees (cells of wax iegulaily constiucted), despite theii
oidei and symmetiy, cannot be consideied woiks of ait. This is the ist
move in a paieigonal logic that divides humanity fiom animality
iaising man andhis pioductions above natuiewhile not being stiictly
sepaiate fiom itin oidei to biing humanity in geneial by degiees
closei to divinity.
Howevei, inthis hieiaichy, mechanical iepetitionandends-diiected
laboi aie not iestiicted to animals alone. Deiiida points out that Kants
comments on the ielation between natuie, ait, and imitation aie placed
between two iemaiks on salaiy. The ist, On Ait in Geneial ( _),
divides libeial oi fiee (jrei) ait fiom salaiied oi meicenaiy ait (Lchn-
kunst). The second, On the Division of the Fine Aits ( ,I), declaies
that in the Fine-Aits the mind must occupy itself, excite and satisfy
itself without having any end in viewand independently of any salaiy.
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 117
Ait appeais only in the absence of economy, its signicance, value, and
means of ciiculation may not be dened by money. By iight, Kant
states, we should not call anything ait except a pioduction thiough
fieedom, i.e., thiough a powei of choices that bases its acts on ieason
( _). Thus the hieiaichy that oideis beings in natuie accoiding to the
ielation of humanity to animality ieplicates itself as a scale evaluating
the activity and laboi of individuals. In Deiiidas ieading of Kant:
Ait in geneial . . . cannot be ieduced to ciaft Handwerk]. The lattei
exchanges the value of its woik against a salaiy, it is meicenaiy ait
Lohnkunst]. Ait, stiictly speaking, is libeial oi fiee fieie], its pio-
duction must not entei into the economic ciicle of commeice, of
oei and demand, it must not be exchanged. Libeial and meicenaiy
ait theiefoie do not foim a couple of opposite teims. One is highei
than the othei, moie ait than the othei, it has moie value foi not
having any economic value. If ait, in the liteial sense, is pioduc-
tion of fieedom, libeial ait bettei confoims to its essence. (Econo-
mimesis ,)
Ciaft is based on a vulgai economy and quotidian use. Foi Kant,
howevei, the aitist is no common laboiei, as Deiiida summaiizes in
thiee points. Fiist is Kants suggestion that fiee ait is moie human
than iemuneiated woik (Economimesis, o). Just as the play of fiee-
domin aitistic activity elevates humanity above the instinctual activity
of bees, the libeial aitist is moie fully human than the wage laboiei.
Second, Kant implies that just as mans elevation in natuie empoweis
himto enlist the utility of animals towaid his ends and highei labois,
so too may the fieei individual, the aitist, enlist the meicenaiy woik
of the ciaftspeison, oi use the vulgai tools of ciaft, without the value of
ait being implicated in an economy of usefulness and exchange. Oppo-
sitions deiiving fiom natuie[man and animal[human aie thus iepio-
duced as hieiaichies dening the ielative value of individuals and theii
laboi, suboidinating iemuneiated woik and the lessei fieedom of the
ciaftspeison to the highei ends of the aitist.
Similai ciiteiia divide ait fiom science and in tuin iepioduce hiei-
aichical distinctions betweenmechanical and aesthetic ait onone hand
and in aesthetic ait between agieeable and ne aits (schcne Kunst) on
the othei. Foi Kant, theie is no law applicable to the imagination save
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118 Reading the Figuial
what is deiived fiom undeistanding. When the imagination pioceeds
only accoiding to a deteiminate law, the foims pioduced aie detei-
mined by concepts. This is the ideal of scientic knowledge wheie the
imagination is suboidinated to the elaboiation of concepts of undei-
standing. The Wohlgefallen appiopiiate to scientic statements, foi ex-
ample, only deiives fiom a foimal peifection in haimony with con-
cepts, it is expeiienced as the good and has nothing to do with the
beautiful as such, which, foi Kant, is iesolutely nonconceptual.
Unlike the scientist, the puie aitist (Genius, in Kants account) does
not iequiie ieexive conceptualization to accomplish exemplaiy woiks
of ne ait. By the same token, the lessei foims of ait, and the pleasuie
dening them, aie all chaiacteiized by theii ielative pioximity to the
conceptual. In Deiiidas gloss, An ait that confoims to knowledge of a
possible object, which executes the opeiations necessaiy to biing it into
being, which knows in advance that it must pioduce and consequently
does pioduce it, such a mechanical art neithei seeks noi gives pleasuie.
One knows how to piint a book, build a machine, one avails oneself of
a model and a puipose. To mechanical ait Kant opposes aesthetic ait.
The lattei has its immediate end in pleasuie (Economimesis 8).
In a similai way, aesthetic ait divides into two hieiaichic species, foi
aesthetic ait is not always ne oi beautiful ait. Pure taste has, in fact, a
liteial meaning foi Kant. It elevates oi loweis the aesthetic aits accoid-
ing to the ciiteiion of whethei theii pleasuies aie empiiical oi spiiitual.
Within aesthetic ait, the agieeable aitsfoi example, conveisation,
jest, the ait of seiving and managing dinnei as well as an evenings
enteitainment, including music and paity gamesseek theii ends in
enjoyment (Genuss). The Wohlgefallen appiopiiate to ne ait, how-
evei, involves pleasuie without enjoymentat least in the sense of
an empiiical, if incommunicable, sensation. Being puiposive only foi
itself, it can have no nality in the sense of satisfying a physical appetite
oi lling an empiiical lack, thus yielding Kants basic denition: Fine
ait . . . is a way of piesenting Vcrstellungsart] that is puiposive on its
own and that fuitheis, even though without a puipose chne Zweck],
the cultuie of oui mental poweis to facilitate] social communication.
The veiy concept of univeisal communicability caiiies with it the ie-
quiiement] that this pleasuie must be a pleasuie of ieection iathei
than one of enjoyment aiising fiom meie sensation. Hence aesthetic
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 119
ait that is also ne ait is one whose standaid is the ieective powei of
judgment, iathei than sensation piopei ( , }udgment I,_).
Puie pleasuie and puie taste belong only to judgment and ieec-
tion, at the same time, judgment and ieection must be without con-
cepts. Only on this basis do the ciiteiia of fieedom and noncognitive
pleasuie ensuie the univeisality of aesthetic judgment as paiticulaily
human by subtiacting out the cieatuiely distiactions and temptations
of woildly life. If ne ait involves the pioduction of fieedom, this is
fieedom fiom economic oi political inteiest, and fiom the nality of
scientic investigation oi ends-diiected laboi, as well as a pleasuie fiee
of physical appetites.
If the expeiience of ne ait is iesolutely without ccncepts, then why
should philosophy take an inteiest, if only the moial inteiest involv-
ing piactical ieason and concepts of fieedom, in the beautiful: This
is linked to a second question. Because the denition of judgments
of puie taste seems to iecede fiom both the social and the cieatuiely
towaid an inteiioiized, immateiial subjectivity, how does the expeii-
ence of ne ait advance the cultuie of mental poweis with iespect to
social communication: In othei woids, how is the pleasuiewithout
enjoyment oi conceptof ait ietuined to the space of philosophical
communication in the piedicate This is beautiful:
These questions aie answeied by consideiing the cuiious iole of
mimesis in the thiid Ciitique. The veision of mimesis that Deiiida
ieads in Kant is goveined not by a logic of semblance oi imitation but
by a logic of analogy. Foi example, Kant defends philosophys moial
inteiest in the beautiful because despite its lack of conceptual giound-
ing, the judgment of taste nonetheless resembles logical judgment be-
cause of its univeisality. Thus in aesthetic judgment the philosophei
may
talk about the beautiful as if als cb] beauty weie a chaiacteiistic
of the object and the judgment weie logical (namely a cognition of
the object thiough concepts of it), even though in fact the judgment
is only aesthetic and iefeis the objects piesentation Vcrstellung]
meiely to the subject. He will talk in this way because the judgment
does iesemble Ahnlichkeit hat] a logical judgment inasmuch as we
may piesuppose it to be valid foi eveiyone. On the othei hand, this
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120 Reading the Figuial
univeisality cannot aiise fiom concepts. Foi fiom concepts theie is
no tiansition to the feeling of pleasuie oi displeasuie (except in puie
piactical laws, but these caiiy an inteiest with them, while none
is connected with puie judgments of taste). It follows that, since a
judgment of taste involves the consciousness that all inteiest is kept
out of it, it must also involve a claimto being valid foi eveiyone, but
without having a univeisality based on concepts. In othei woids,
a judgment of taste must involve a claim to subjective univeisality.
( o, }udgment ,)
By similai ciiteiia of univeisality, and despite the abyss that essen-
tially divides humanity fiom natuie, Kant iendeis ait and natuie as
equivalent, since they both shaie the lawfulness without a law, oi pui-
posiveness without puipose (Zweckmassigkeit chne Zweck), that gov-
eins theii beautiful foims. In both cases, logical ielations of identity
and nonidentity iest side by side like discoidant notes that neveitheless
iing with a stiange haimony.
In this way, Kants implicit theoiy of mimesis asseits the supeiioiity
of beauty in natuie and deiives the beautiful in ait fiom its ielation to
natuie. But that ielation is dened not by a logic of the copy but by a
ihetoiic of pioduction and iepioduction. In nding common giound
between ait, natuie, and genius, mimesis iequiies a logic of equiva-
lent activities, not one of miiiois. This implies a thiid distinction that
divides the aitisan fiom the aitist as the dieience between a iepio-
ductive imagination and a pioductive imagination that is oiiginaiy,
spontaneous, and playful. In Deiiidas view, the value of play in Kant
denes a foim of pioductivity that is puiei, fieei, and moie human,
as opposed to woik that is ends diiected, unpleasant, and exchanged
against a salaiy.
7
Repioductive imagination is theiefoie a vulgai ieal-
ismiepioduction in the foim of likeness, oi iepetition as identity. In
contiast, pioductive imaginationiegaidless of whethei it applies to
acts of cieating oi of judging aesthetic objectsis chaiacteiized by a
paiadoxical fieedom that is the imaginations fiee confoimity to law.
The libeities implied heie, as well as theii limitations, aie cential to
how Kants notions of mimesis mediate diculties of subject and ob-
ject. On one hand, the fiee play of imagination is limited by the foims
of the object intuited: Although in appiehending a given object of
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 121
sense the imagination is tied to a deteiminate foimof this object and to
that extent does not have fiee play (as it does e.g.] in poetiy), it is still
conceivable that the object may oei it just the soit of foimin the com-
bination of its manifold as the imagination, if it weie left to itself and]
fiee, would design in haimony with the understandings lawjulness in
geneial ( }udgment ,I). A judgment of beauty becomes possible, then,
when the haimony of foim in the object is intuited as analogous to a
haimony in the subject that the imagination would foim with iespect
to the undeistanding if, paiadoxically, the imagination weie left in pei-
fect fieedom to confoim itself to the lawfulness of undeistanding.
Resemblance, then, limits the fieedom of the imagination, if foi no
othei ieason that it may function as an aim, puipose, oi end. And
the moie semblance between sign and iefeient, the moie extieme aie
these limitations. On the othei hand, without an undeilying lawful-
ness theie wouldbe no gioundfoi uniting undeistanding, moial judg-
ments, and judgments of taste, and no language with which to commu-
nicate them. By a piocess of analogy, this sense of lawfulness without
a law and puiposiveness without puipose, whose oiiginal teiiitoiy is
that of natuie, infoims and natuializes eveiy iefeience in the thiid
Ciitique to iepiesentation, signication, oi language.
In a similai way, natuie limits what is most wildly fiee in the pio-
duction of ait thiough its (silent and nonconceptual) dictation of
iules to Genius. Genius, wiites Kant, is the talent (natuial endow-
ment) that gives the iule to ait. Since talent is an innate pioductive
ability of the aitist and as such belongs itself to natuie, we could also
put it this way: Genius is the innate mental piedisposition (ingenium)
thrcugh which natuie gives the iule to ait ( o, }udgment I,). In this
mannei, the foims of analogy deiived fiom mimesis begin to eace all
the oppositionsmind[natuie, subject[object, supeisensible[sensible
that divide Kants philosophical system. As Deiiida explains,
All piopositions of an anti-mimetic cast, all condemnations leveled
against imitation aie undeimined at this point. One must not imi-
tate natuie, but natuie, assigning its iules to genius, folds itself,
ietuins to itself, ieects itself thiough ait. This speculai exion
piovides both the piinciple of ieexive judgmentsnatuie guai-
anteeing legality in a movement that pioceeds fiom the paiticu-
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122 Reading the Figuial
laiand the seciet souice of mimesisundeistood not . . . as an
imitation of natuie by ait, but as a exion of physis, natuies ie-
lation to itself. Theie is no longei heie any opposition between
physis and mimesis, noi consequently between physis and techn. . . .
(Economimesis )
This piocess of natuialization also eaces the iole of economy in
aitistic pioduction. If the puie pleasuie of judgment and ieection
is fiee of concepts, ends, and inteiests as well as empiiical sensation,
it is also fiee of exchange. The aesthetic implies an ideal fieedom
foi humankind, by analogy like natuie yet entiiely sepaiate fiom it,
conceived as a nonexchangeable pioductivity. Neveitheless, wiites
Deiiida, this puie pioductivity of the inexchangeable libeiates a soit
of immaculate commeice. Being a ieective exchange, univeisal com-
municability between fiee subjects opens up space foi the play of the
Fine-Aits. Theie is in this a soit of puie economy in which the cikcs,
what belongs essentially to the denition le prcpre] of man, is ieected
in his puie fieedom and his puie pioductivity (Economimesis ,).
Thiough mimesis, then, ait does not imitate natuie in the sense of
iepioducing its visible signs. Ait does not iepioduce natuie, it must
prcduce like natuie, that is, in peifect fieedom. And paiadoxically, foi
Kant the moment in which an aitistic pioduction is most fully human
in othei woids, most cleaily and unnatuially fabiicated by human
handsis the moment when it most cleaily ieplicates the eects of the
actions of natuie. Thus Kant wiites, In dealing with] a pioduct of ne
ait, we must become conscious that it is ait iathei than natuie, and
yet the puiposiveness in its foim must seem scheinen] as fiee fiom all
constiaint Zwang] of chosen iules as if als cb] it weie a pioduct of
meie natuie. It is this feeling of fieedom in the play of oui cognitive
poweis, a play that yet must also be puiposive, which undeilies that
pleasuie Lust] which alone is univeisally communicable, although not
based on concepts. Natuie, we say, is beautiful schcn] if it also looks
like ait, and ait can be called ne schcn] ait only if we aie conscious
that it is ait while yet it looks to us like natuie ( ,, }udgment I,_,).
In theii most ontologically puie foims, aitistic pioductions iesemble
natuie most cleaily when they have most cleaily libeiated themselves
fiom natuial laws. Ait and natuie aie most analogous in the puiity
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 123
of theii fieedom fiom each othei. This is Kants most daiing move
in the teleological oiientation of the thiid Ciitique, since it tuins the
chasm between mind and natuie, subject and object, into the giound
foi theii unity.
At this point Deiiida ieemphasizes how a divine teleology, in fact
a piocess of ontotheological natuialization, undeiwiites the logic of
economimesis, secuiing the identication of human action with divine
action. This is alieady appaient in the hieiaichies of value and identity
established by the opposition of fiee and meicenaiy ait. Howevei, this
identication does not necessaiily suboidinate humanity to a God in
whose image it has been fashioned. Rathei, like an identication with
an othei on the stageoi bettei yet, like a good method actoithe
aitist pioduces in his oi hei activity a divine subjectivity. In this way
the logic of economimesis secuies the guie of Genius as the exemplai
of a divine agency in ait wheie the aitist cieateswithout concepts as a
puie and fiee pioductivity of the imaginationin a fashion analogous
to the way God pioduces his woiks in natuie. In the thiid Ciitique,
Genius as an instance of the Fine-Aits . . . caiiies fieedomof play to its
highest point. It gives iules oi at least examples but it has its own iules
dictated to it by natuie: so that the whole distinction between libeial
and meicenaiy ait, with the whole machineiy of hieiaichical suboidi-
nation that it commands, iepioduces natuie in its pioduction, bieaks
with mimesis, undeistood as imitation of what is, only to identify itself
with the fiee unfolding-iefolding of the physis (Economimesis o).
Foi Kant, ne ait is the ait of genius, and genius is a gift of natuie,
an endowment of its pioductive fieedom. And what natuie gives to
genius, genius gives to ait in the foim of nonconceptual iules.
8
In so
doing, genius capitalizes fieedom but in the same gestuie natuializes
the whole of eccncmimesis (Io).
The same divine teleology that ianks and oideis aitistic laboi and
subjectivity also oiganizes a hieiaichy within the ne aits. If genius
capitalizes fieedom by submitting it to a ciicle of (immaculate) ex-
change, then some foims of aitistic activity have gieatei value than
otheis, and this value deiives fiom how the exeicise of fieedom exem-
plies the action of God in natuie. Accoiding to the same logic wheiein
ait and natuie aie most cleaily alike when, in theii beautiful foims,
they aie most dieient, Kant asseits that poetiy is the highest foim of
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124 Reading the Figuial
expiession as well as the most mimetic, because it most iadically iejects
imitation. Because the factoi of iesemblance in signs limits the fiee-
dom of the imagination, the imagination is most fiee and open to play
in contemplation of linguistic signs because of theii aibitiaiiness, theii
noncontingent ielation to the natuial woild, and because the gift of
language most cleaily maiks the abyss sepaiating the human fiom the
instinctual and cieatuiely. Because of theii ielation to language, among
libeial aitists, poets aie the most fiee and, in confeiiing the fieedom
of the imagination to humanity, aie most like God. This ielation be-
tween God and genius denes the immaculate commeice infoiming
Kants theoiy of aesthetic communication, and Deiiida iecognizes the
tautology:
An innite ciicle plays with] itself and uses human play to ieappio-
piiate the gift foi itself. The poet oi genius ieceives fiomnatuie what
he gives of couise, but ist he ieceives fiom natuie (fiom God), be-
sides the given, the giving, the powei to pioduce and to give moie
than he piomises to men. . . . All that must pass thrcugh the vcice. . . .
Being what he is, the poet gives moie than he piomises. Moie
than anyone asks of him. And this moie belongs to the undeistand-
ing: it announces a game and it gives something conceptual. Doubt-
less it is a plus-law . . . un plus-de-lci ], but one pioduced by a fac-
ulty whose essential chaiactei is spcntaneity. Giving moie than he
piomises oi than is asked of him, the genius poet is paid foi this
moie by no one, at least within the political economy of man. But
God suppoits him. He suppoits him with speech and in ietuin foi
giatitude He fuinishes him his capital, pioduces and iepioduces his
laboi foice, gives himsuiplus value and the means of giving suiplus-
value.
This is a poetic commeice because God is a poet. Theie is a iela-
tion of hieiaichical analogy between the poetic action of the speak-
ing ait, at the summit, and the action of God who dictates Dichtung
to the poet. (Economimesis III:)
At the oiigin of all analogy, then, is the woid of God, in the thiid
Ciitique eveiything ietuins to logos as oiigin. Foi this ieason, Dei-
iida aigues that the oiigin of analogy, that fiom which analogy pio-
ceeds and towaids which it ietuins, is the lcgcs, ieason and woid, the
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 125
souice as mouth and as an outlet embcuchure] (Economimesis I_).
Kants piivileging of oial examples, the exemploiality of the Critique
cj }udgment, undeiwiites the ciucial function of mimesis in Kants at-
tempt to iesolve the dilemmas of subject and object foimulated in his
philosophical system.
I have alieady discussed how Kants poitiayal of puie judgments
of taste ielies on a iejection of empiiical sensation and a withdiawal
of the physical body. Cuiious, then, how the centiality of the mouth
guies in the Critique cj }udgment. Above all, in the section On the
Division of the Fine Aits, it oiganizes a hieiaichy among the aits, and
in the teims of aesthetic value (taste oi disgust), by dening them with
iespect to the expiessive oiganization of the human body. Foi Deiiida,
the guied ciicle of the mouth, and the ciiculaiity of immaculate com-
meice in spoken communication, oiganizes a paieigonal logic of the
subject in Kant. Just as the fiame of painting had both to piotect
the intiinsic puiity of ait and to open up commeice with the outside,
the mouth establishes a piivileged boidei between the inteiioiity of
subject and an outside that must be iepiesented and communicated
to otheis, whose puiest foim of expiession is speech. Foi Kant, indi-
viduals who lack any jeeling foi beautiful natuie aie those who con-
ne themselves to eating and diinkingto the meie enjoyments of
sense, oi who would piefei the tiick of imitating a nightingales song
by means of a tube oi ieed in the] mouth to the song of the poet
celebiating natuie in lyiic. Theiefoie the puiest judgment of taste, the
tiuest ait, and the puiest Wohlgefallen pass thiough oiality, but only
in a nontactile, nonsensuous fashion. Singing and heaiing thus iepie-
sent the unconsummated voice oi ideal consumption, of a heightened
oi inteiioiized sensibility, as opposed to a consuming oiality which
as such, has an inteiested taste oi as actual taste, can have nothing to
do with puie taste (Economimesis Io).
The puiest objects of taste, as well as the best judgments, pass in and
out of the subject on the immateiiality of bieath, iathei than thiough
vulgai consumption oi emesis.
9
Similaily, in Kants Anthrcpclcgy, heai-
ing pievails ovei sight among the objective senses, that is, senses that
give a mediate peiception of the object. Unlike sight, heaiing is not
goveined by the foim of objects that may yield a deteiminate ielation,
a iestiiction of fieedom in the play of ideas. Conveisely both voice and
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126 Reading the Figuial
heaiing have a sympathetic ielation to aii, which passes outside of, and
into, the subject as communicative vibiations. It is piecisely by this
element, wiites Kant in I8 of his Anthrcpclcgy,
moved by the oigan of voice, the mouth, that men, moie easily and
moie completely, entei with otheis in a community of thought and
sensations, especially if the sounds that each gives the othei to heai
aie aiticulated and if, linked togethei by undeistanding accoiding
to laws, they constitute a language. The foim of an object is not
given by heaiing, and linguistic sounds Sprachlaute] do not im-
mediately lead to the iepiesentation of the object, but by that veiy
fact and because they signify nothing in themselves, at least no ob-
ject, only, at most, inteiioi feelings, they aie the most appiopiiate
means foi chaiacteiizing concepts, and those who aie boin deaf,
who consequently must also iemain mute (without language) can
nevei accede to anything moie than an analcgcn of ieason. (cited
in Economimesis I,)
This identication of speech with ieason and a puie inteiioiity of
thought ensuies that a logocentiic bias oiganizes the divisionandiank-
ing of the ne aits in the Critique cj }udgment. Kant bases his cate-
goiization of the ne aitsspeech (redende), the visual oi foimative
(bildende) aits, and the ait of the play of sensations (Spiel der Emp-
ndungen)on an analogy with veibal communication whose funda-
ments include woid, gestuie, and tone. Wheie aesthetic value is con-
ceined, the decisive ciiteiion is a nonsensuous similaiity wheie lyiic,
because of its ielation of nonidentity with the signs of natuie, is most
like thembecause it allows the imagination to iespond fieely and with-
out deteimination. Despite his potential iconoclasm in this iespect,
Kant ianks painting highei than music because of its ability to expand
the mental poweis that must unite in the activity of judgment. The
pioblem heie is the tempoiality of music, which, unlike painting, does
not biing about a
pioduct that seives the concepts of the undeistanding as an endui-
ing vehicle, a vehicle that commends itself to these veiy concepts. . . .
The two kinds of ait puisue quite dieient couises: music pio-
ceeds fiom sensations to indeteiminate ideas, the visual aits fiom
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 127
deteiminate ideas to sensations. The lattei aits] pioduce a lasting
impiession, the foimei only a transitcry one. The imagination can
iecall the lasting impiessions] and agieeably enteitain itself with
them, but the tiansitoiy ones eithei aie extinguished entiiely oi, if
the imagination involuntaiily iepeats them, they aie moie likely to
be iiksome to us than agieeable. ( ,_, }udgment :oo)
Compaiatively speaking, Kant dispaiages music not only because it
is ephemeial but also because tempoially and spatially it undeimines
the fieedom and autonomy of subjective contemplation. Wheieas the
spectatoi can inteiiupt the tempoiality of painteily contemplation by
aveiting his oi hei eyes, he oi she cannot inteiiupt a musical pei-
foimance, which often extends its inuence (on the neighboihood)
faithei than people wish, and so, as it weie, imposes itself on otheis and
hence impaiis the fieedom of those outside the musical paity ( ,_,
}udgment :oo).
10
Retuining to the Anthrcpclcgy, Kant aigues that sight is the most
noble of the senses because it is the least tactile and least aected by
the object, theiefoie one assumes that among the plastic aits, painting
will benet fiomthis nobility. Howevei, wheieas sight may be the most
noble sense, heaiing foi Kant is the least ieplaceable owing to the inti-
mate ielation between speech and concepts. Heie again Kant iefeis, in
a iathei objectional way, to the situation of deaf-mutes who, thiough
the absence of heaiing, will nevei attain tiue speech and thus iea-
son: He will nevei attain ieal concepts wirklichen Begrien], since the
signs necessaiy to him gestuies, foi example] aie not capable of uni-
veisality. . . . Whichdeciency Mangel ] oi loss of sense is moie seiious,
that of heaiing oi of sight: When it is inboin, deciency of heaiing is
the least iepaiable ersetzlich] (cited in Economimesis ::).
Foi similai ieasons, among the discuisive aits, poetiy (Dichtkunst)
is supeiioi to oiatoiy (Beredsamkeit) because the lattei, especially as
a public ait, potentially deceives and machinates, tieating men like
machines ( ,_, }udgment ,,).
11
It is a meicenaiy ait that piomises
moie than it gives while expecting something in ietuin fiom its audi-
ence, namely, the winning of peoples minds. Theiefoie, in the thiid
Ciitique, poetiy is the highest ait because it is the ait which imitates
the least, and which theiefoie iesembles most closely divine pioduc-
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128 Reading the Figuial
tivity. It pioduces moie by libeiating the imagination, it is moie playful
because the foims of exteinal sensible natuie no longei seive to limit
it (Economimesis I,). By the same token, poetic genius is the high-
est foim of aesthetic subjectivity because in its analogous ielation to
the divine logos, it is the most fiee and confeis the most libeity on the
imagination of individuals: It expands the mind: foi it sets the imagi-
nation fiee and oeis darbietet] us, fiom among the unlimited vaiiety
of possible foims that haimonize with a given concept, though within
that concepts limits, that foim which links verknupjt] the exhibition
Darstellung] of the concept with a wealth of thought Gedankenjulle]
to which no linguistic expiession Sprachausdruck] is completely ade-
quate vcllig adaquat], and so poetiy iises sich erhabt] aesthetically
to ideas ( ,_, }udgment I,o). In Kants view, by fieeing us fiom the
limits of exteinal, sensual natuie, poetiy binds linguistic piesentation
to the fullness of thought, iendeiing the piesence of ideas to thought,
in a way that no othei ait can. And even if, as a guied aesthetic lan-
guage, it is inadequate to the absolute plenitude of the supiasensible,
it is nonetheless closei to tiuth. Unlike ihetoiic, which uses the gu-
iative potential of language to deceive puiposely and to limit fieedom
of the imagination, poetiy fully discloses that it is meie play that can
nonetheless be used to extend the powei of undeistanding.
Deiiida iightly insists that Kant deiives a theoiy of value fiom the
aibitiaiiness of the vocal signiei, that is, its dieience with iespect to
exteinal sensible natuie. The dieience, immateiiality, and inteiioiity
of the vocal signiei align it with the iealm of fieedom:
Communication heie is closei to fieedom and spontaneity. It is
also moie complete, since inteiioiity expiesses itself heie diiectly.
It is moie univeisal foi all these ieasons. . . . And once sounds no
longei have any ielation of natuial iepiesentation with exteinal sen-
sible things, they aie moie easily linked to the spontaneity of the
undeistanding. Aiticulated, they fuinish a language in agieement
with its laws. Heie indeed we have the aibitiaiy natuie of the vocal
signiei. It belongs to the element of fieedom and can only have
inteiioi oi ideal signieds, that is, conceptual ones. Between the
concept and the system of heaiing-oneself-speak, between the in-
telligible and speech, the link is piivileged. One must use the teim
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 129
heaiing-oneself-speak le sentendre-parler] because the stiuctuie is
auto-aective, in it the mouth and the eai cannot be dissociated.
(Economimesis I,)
The natuie of this fieedom is maiked in eveiy case by a piofound
inteiioiization, a ietieat fiom the exteinal signs of natuie into a puiely
subjective autonomy whose measuie is the autoaective stiuctuie of
logocentiism. Heie we must tiy to biing togethei the analytic of judg-
ments of puie taste and the analytic of the beautiful while iethinking
the ielation between subject and object as well as mind and natuie,
implied by Kants theoiy of signication in the thiid Ciitique. In this
mannei, the ciicle of oiality passes again thiough thiee otheiwise au-
tonomous iealms: those of natuie (God), ait (poetiy), and philosophy
(judgment).
The self-identity of judgment as a mental powei sepaiate fiom cog-
nition (undeistanding oi puie ieason) and desiie (piactical ieason)
deiives only fiom the feelings of pleasuie oi displeasuie that belong to
it. Neveitheless Kant insists that the philosophei should take a moial
inteiest in the beautiful in natuie in spite of the nonconceptual and
disinteiested pleasuie devolving fiom judgments of puie taste, foi this
Wohlgefallen would not be explicable if theie weie not a piinciple
of haimony (Ubereinstimmung) between what natuie pioduces in its
beautiful foims and oui disinteiested pleasuie in them. Although the
lattei is detached fiom all deteimined ends oi inteiests, theie must be
some means of demonstiating the analogous ielation between the pui-
posiveness of natuie and oui Wohlgefallen.
This demonstiation cannot take place thiough puie concepts of
undeistanding. Howevei, foi Kant this haimony is legible, oi peihaps
it would be bettei to say audible, in the impuie mimesis, the ielation
of identity in nonidentity, that deteimines the autoaective stiuctuie
of logos as the oiigin of analogy in the thiid Ciitique. Theie must be
language in natuie, oi at least the tiaces of a foimalization oiganizing
the appaient disoidei of natuie as legible signs. Otheiwise the beauti-
ful in natuie could nevei be intuited. The expeiience of Wohlgefallen
itself, which binds imagination and language in the piedication This
is beautiful is evidence enough foi Kant that theie is poetiy in natuie
of which God is the authoi, even if a theological pioof is ultimately in-
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130 Reading the Figuial
sucient foi him. Thiough his insistence on an analogy between moial
judgments and judgments of taste, Kant asseits in : the supeiioiity
of natuial beauty and attests to its aesthetic legibility in a judgment of
puie taste, that is, oui ability to iead the cipheied language Chire-
schijt] that natuie speaks to us guially gurlich] thiough its beau-
tiful foims, its ieal signatuies which makes us considei it, natuie, as
ait pioduction. Natuie lets itself be admiied as ait, not by accident
but accoiding to well-oideied laws (Economimesis ). Latei, Dei-
iida summaiizes this idea by stating that foi Kant, Beautiful foims,
which signify nothing and have no deteimined puipose aie theiefoie
alsc, and by that very jact, enciypted signs, a guial wiiting set down in
natuies pioduction. The withcut of puie detachment is in tiuth a lan-
guage that natuie speaks to us. . . . Thus the in-signicant non-language
of foims which have no puipose oi end and make no sense, this silence
is a language between natuie and man (I,).
This analogy between natuie and ait is paieigonal, foiging an iden-
tity between otheiwise exclusive iealms, those of humanity and natuie:
natuie speaks but silently, it wiites but guially, it is endowed with
inteiest that can only be taken in a disinteiested way. With the con-
tiolled indeteiminacy that maiks eveiy paieigon, the iealms of natuie
and humanity aie given a common language yet denied the space of
iecipiocal communication, they must iemain extiinsic to each othei.
But this does not mean that a dialogue will not take place. Finding the
beautiful in natuie and ait, we may expeiience themboth aesthetically.
Howevei, the extiinsic foim of aesthetic objects, activities, and situa-
tions has less to dowith the powei of judging than with the peculiaiities
of an inteinal (silent) dialogue between imagination and the undei-
standing that aiises in the subject, but only on one necessaiy condition:
that the puipose oi ends of this expeiience iemain indeteiminate and
insciutable, and theiefoie without nality. While intiactably dividing
object and subject, the disinteiestedness of the aesthetic nonethe-
less inspiies communication by insciibing the ciicle of the mouth on
the (philosophical) body of the subject. The puiposelessness of both
natuie and ait opens up a dialogue in the necessaiy inteiioiity of aes-
thetic judgment. In Deiiidas assessment of Kant, this puiposeless-
ness le sans-n] . . . leads us back inside ouiselves. Because the out-
side appeais puiposeless, we seek puipose within. Theie is something
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 131
like a movement of inteiioiizing suppliance suppleance intericrisante],
a soit of sluiping suctement] by which, cut o fiom what we seek
outside . . . we seek and give within, in an autonomous fashion, not
by licking oui chops, oi smacking oui lips oi whetting oui palates,
but iathei . . . by giving ouiselves oideis, categoiical impeiatives, by
chatting with ouiselves thiough univeisal schemas once they no longei
come fiom outside (Economimesis I).
12
In this way, the nonconceptual pleasuie inheient in judgments of
puie taste is associated with the play of fieedom as a lawfulness with-
out a law, and a subjective haimony of the imagination without an
objective haimony in a movement of idealizing inteiioiization ( }udg-
ment ,:). Eveiything iecedesfiom the extiinsic, the empiiical, and
the coipoiealinto the subjective, the inteinal, and the spiiitual. This
is why one must not consult the aesthetic object with cognition in
mind. Rathei, it is a subjective, inteiioiized investigation of the oiigin
of a pleasuie that is nonconceptual and thus nondiscuisive.
This is the nal giound foi the essential disinteiestedness of aes-
thetic judgments. To say that an object is beautiful, and to demonstiate
that the philosophei has puie taste, eveiything ietuins to the mean-
ing that the subject can give to the iepiesentation Darstellung], ex-
cluding any factoi that would make the subject dependent on the ieal
existence of the object. Foi this ieason, Deiiida states that the Wohl-
gefallen, the pleasuie piopei to ait in the Kantian sense, takes the foim
of an autoaection, an inteiioiized and self-authenticating dialogue. In
Oj Grammatclcgy, the logocentiic ciicle of autoaection is ciitiqued as
a self-pioducing and self-authenticating movement that identies iea-
son and fullness of being with the tempoiality of speech. Thinking, at
least the puie thought of philosophy, is iepiesented as heaiing-oneself-
speak, a foimula Deiiida iepiises in ielation to Kants Critique cj }udg-
ment. The compaiative authenticity and veiacity of poetic speech, its
capacity foi mimesis without semblance, the indissociable ielation be-
tween the mouth and the eai, the iiieplaceability of heaiing, the as-
sociation of speech with inteiioiity, with concepts, and with inteinal
senseall these factois maik an insistence that the position of logos
in Kants system is not one analogy among otheis. The linguistic sig-
niei is that which iegulates all analogy, wiites Deiiida, and which
itself is not analogical, since it foims the giound of analogy, the lcgcs of
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132 Reading the Figuial
analogy towaids which eveiything ows back but which itself iemains
without system, outside of the system that it oiients as its ends and its
oiigin, its embouchuie and its souice (Economimesis I,).
InDeiiidas chaptei onthe paieigon, this inteinal speech also iepie-
sents a discuisive invagination of the aesthetic. Something in the puie
alteiity of the beautiful initiates a silent, inteinal dialogue between the
mental poweis of imagination and undeistanding that in tuin extei-
nalizes itself as speech, ensuiing its communication in judgment. This
is not a dialectic, at least in the Hegelian oi Maixian sense, but iathei a
seiies of disciete exchanges iendeied as equivalent because they shaie a
common modality. In this mannei, autoaection, in the piopei Wohl-
gefallen, becomes foi Kant the possibility of masteiing the opposition
between mind and natuie, the inside and the outside, and the sub-
jects ielation to the object. Similaily, although the Wohlgefallen that
bieathes life into aesthetic judgment is the piopeity of the subject, it is
itself not intiinsically subjective:
Since this aect of enjcying scmething iemains thoioughly subjec-
tive, we may speak heie of an autoaection. The iole of imagina-
tion and thus of time in the entiie discouise conims this. Noth-
ing which exists, as such, nothing in time and in space can pioduce
this aect which aects itself with itself. And neveitheless, enjcy-
ing scmething, the scmething of enjcyment also indicates that this
autoaection extends beyond itself: it is puie heteioaection. The
puiely subjective aect is piovoked by that which we call the beau-
tiful, that which is said to be beautiful: cutside, in the object and
independent of its existence. Fiom which, the indispensable, ciiti-
cal chaiactei of the iecouise to judgment: the stiuctuie of autoaf-
fection is such that it is aected by a puie objectivity about which
we must say, This is beautiful, and This statement has univei-
sal validity. Otheiwise theie would be no pioblem, no discouise
on ait. The whclly cther aects me with pure pleasure while depriving
me cj bcth ccncept and enjcyment. . . . Utteily iiieducible heteio-
aection inhabitsintiinsicallythe heimetic autoaection: this
is the grcsse Schwierigkeit: it does not install itself in the comfoit-
able aiiangement of the oveiwoiked subject[object couple, within
an aibitiaiily deteimined space. . . .
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 133
And all the same time it is theie, pleasuie, something iemains,
it is there, es gibt, a dcnne, pleasuie is what is given, foi no one,
but it iemains and it is the best, the puiest. And it is this iemaindei
that gives iise to speech, since it is discouise on the beautiful that
is piimaiily undei consideiation once again, discuisivity with the
stiuctuie of the beautiful and not only a discouise aiising out of the
beautiful. (Paieigon I_I)
Just as theie could not be beauty in natuie if theie weie not, by
analogy, a poetiy of natuie, a discouise could not emeige fiom the
beautiful if the beautiful weie not itself discuisive. This is why the
oiality of poetiy has the most puie anity with that of aesthetic judg-
ment: not only because they aie the most puiely inteinal and auto-
aecting but because ait and judgment shaie the same fiame, that is,
the ciicle of the mouth. Judgment must speak oi state the beautiful,
even if the beautiful eludes it conceptually, to supplement beautys
nonconceptual lack and ietuin it to the space of philosophy. The auto-
aective ciicle that pioduces the judgment of puie taste also infoims
how God guies his oidei in natuie, how the gift of natuial cie-
ativity is tiansmitted to genius, how genius bestows the gift of foim on
poetic language, and in tuin how a judgment of puie taste is engen-
deied by contemplation of the beautiful foims of poetiy oi of natuie.
As paieigons, theie is an essential ielation heie between the fiame and
the signatuie, on one hand, and the ciicle of the mouth in ielation
to exemploiality, on the othei. Just as the insciiption of the signatuie
ensuies an exteinal authoiizing piesence within the puipoitedly puie
aesthetic inteiioiity delimited by the fiame, so the guie of the mouth,
and the ciiculaiity between speech and heaiing, ensuies a passageway
between mind and natuie, the inside and the outside, subject and ob-
ject, wheie heteioaection and autoaection y into and out of each
othei, gliding on the wings of speech.
This peculiai oscillation in the analytic of puie taste ieplicates
exactly that of the analytic of the beautiful, dening the status of both
as paieigons. The fiame is supposed to decide what is intiinsic to the
aitwoik, dening its ontological chaiactei as such. The fiame is theie
to divide and exclude, sepaiate the outside fiomthe inside, and to con-
tiol any commeice between them. Yet it must also be a biidge, foi the
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134 Reading the Figuial
whole point of the thiid Ciitique is an extiinsic appealthe ielation
between the spectatoi and the aitwoik and how that confiontation be-
tween two unique identities, between subject and object, pioduces a
unity in the foim of judgments of puie taste. The paieigon is theie-
foie a logic of contiolled indeteiminacy oi of a ceaseless vibiation
between inside and outside, the intiinsic and extiinsic, subject and ob-
ject, the ieective and the deteiminant, the singulai and the univeisal,
the conceptual and the nonconceptual, mind and natuie. In shoit, the
ontological question of what is, which is meant to dene the integial
being of ait and of aesthetic subjectivity, seems paiadoxically to appeal
to, and be infected with, the outside in the veiy asking of the ques-
tion. The fiame of Kants analytic thus functions itself as a paieigon.
In Deiiidas woids, it is summoned and assembled like a supplement
because of the lacka ceitain inteinal indeteiminationin the veiy
thing it enfiames (Paieigon __). This indeteimination is, in fact, the
ontological unceitainty of the veiy idea of the aesthetic:
The analytic determines the fiame as parergcn, that which simulta-
neouslyconstitutes anddestioys it, makes it hold(as inhcld tcgether,
it constitutes, mounts, enshiines, sets, boideis, assembles, piotects
so many opeiations assembled by the Einjassung) and fall at the
same time. A fiame is in essence constiucted and theiefoie fiagile,
this is the essence oi tiuth of the fiame. If such a thing exists. But this
tiuth can no longei be a tiuth, it denes neithei the tianscen-
dent noi the contingent chaiactei of the fiame, only its chaiactei as
parergcn.
Philosophy wants to examine this tiuth, but nevei succeeds.
That which pioduces and manipulates the fiame sets eveiything in
motion to eace its eect, most often by natuializing it to innity,
in Gods keeping. (Paieigon __)
A paieigon is only added to supplement a lack in the system it aug-
ments. No simple exteiioiity denes the space of paieiga, foi they also
constitute aninteinal stiuctuial link . . . insepaiable fioma lack within
the ergcn. And this lack makes foi the veiy unity of the ergcn (Pai-
eigon :). (Indeed, the Critique cj }udgment is itself paieigonal, which
is why Deiiida decides to iead a woik of philosophy as if it weie a
woik of ait. It is a detachable volume within Kants system of philoso-
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 135
phy while being at the same time functionally insepaiable. The thiid
Ciitique must biidge the gap opened between the ist two and thus
complete Kants systemof tianscendental idealism, enfiame it fiomin-
side, making the systemvisible in its entiiety.) The fiame is summoned
to give an ontological piesence and shape to a space that otheiwise
thieatens to dissolve in apoiia, the ciicle is theie to give foim to what is
otheiwise an absent centei, and to piovide a concept foi an otheiwise
conceptless blank space. This is anothei way of saying that the aesthetic
is an imaginaiy concept, but in the psychoanalytic iathei than Kantian
mannei. Feeding a iegiessive fantasy of piesence and autonomy, it de-
taches the woik fiomthe eld of histoiy by iesolutely excluding any so-
cial meaning, including the economic and the political. Thus the fiame
functions as the invisible limit of (between) the inteiioiity of mean-
ing (piotected by the entiie heimeneutic, semiotic, phenomenologi-
cal, and foimalist tiadition) and (of ) all the extiinsic empiiicals which,
blind and illiteiate, dodge the question (:).
In this iespect, I would like to conclude with some biief iemaiks
on the division between the veibal and visual in Kant, as well as Dei-
iidas iathei ciyptic but fiequent iefeiences to the woik of mouining in
the Kantian expeiience of puie taste and the Wohlgefallen appiopiiate
to it.
As I aigued eailiei, the eighteenth centuiy pioduced a hieiaichical
opposition between the veibal and the visual, linguistic and plastic iep-
iesentation, as ontological categoiies that can no longei be sustained,
if indeed they evei could. Kant does not pioduce this hieiaichy in as
denite way as Lessing befoie him oi Hegel and Heideggei aftei him.
Kants ideas conceining the division of the ne aits aie not specically
iconoclastic, noi is he conceined, as Lessing is inLaccccn, withdening
and pieseiving teiiitoiial boideis among the aits, theieby iepioducing
the ontological diive of the aesthetic within a denition of the dieren-
cia specica of vaiious aitistic media. Theie is one exceptionpoetiy.
Heie an ontological impeiative unites object and subject: the question
of the aesthetic and that of judgment in the autoaective identica-
tion of speech, ieason, and fieedom that denes the logocentiism of
the thiid Ciitique. In Deiiidas gloss, Kant species that the only thing
one ought to call ait is the pioduction of fieedom by means of fiee-
dom Hervcrbringung durch Freiheit]. Ait piopeily speaking puts fiee
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136 Reading the Figuial
will Vilkur] to woik and places ieason at the ioot of its acts. Theie is
theiefoie no ait, in a stiict sense, except that of a being who is fiee and
lcgcn ekcn has speech] (Economimesis ,).
Although poetiy is the highest ait foi Kant because imitating the
least, it is most fiee, the piinciple of nonsensuous similaiity is not the
only ciiteiion foi ianking the aits. If so, music would have to be ianked
highei than painting. But heie the piefeience foi piivate as opposed
to public expeiience emeiges at the same time that sight, while being
the noblest sense, is suboidinated to heaiing as the least ieplaceable.
Both the piivilege of the poetic and the exemploiality of the thiid Cii-
tique point to what amounts to a tianscendent piinciple, ianking the
aits accoiding to theii ability to exhibit aesthetic ideas. Foi Kant,
Spirit (Geist) is the animating piinciple that denes the puiposive-
ness of mental life. By an aesthetic idea, wiites Kant, I mean a pie-
sentation of the imagination Vcrstellung der Einbildungskrajt] which
piompts much thought, but to which no deteiminate thought what-
soevei, i.e., no deteiminate] ccncept, can be adequate, so that no lan-
guage Sprache] can expiess it completely and allow us to giasp it
( }udgment, ,, I8:). Fuithei on, Kant summaiizes: In a woid, an
aesthetic idea is a piesentation of the imagination which is conjoined
with a given concept and is connected, when we use imagination in
its fieedom, with such a multiplicity of paitial piesentations that no
expiession that stands foi a deteiminate concept can be found foi it.
Hence it is a piesentationthat makes us addtoa concept the thoughts of
much that is ineable, but the feeling of which quickens oui cognitive
poweis and connects language, which would otheiwise be meie letteis,
with spiiit (I8,). The inteivening example entails Kants ieading of a
poem by Fiedeiick the Gieat, about which Deiiida has much to say. I
iestiict myself to pointing out that the giaphic piesentation of speech
in wiiting nally combines all the elements adheiing to a judgment of
puie taste. Lack of semblance pioduces a suifeit of fieedom, the widei
the abyss between an exteinal iepiesentamen and its inteinal appie-
hension, the highei the pitch of mental poweis whose agitation bieeds
concepts. Thiough the eye, the noblest and least tactile sense, comes
the puiest, most immateiial, and most inteiioi heaiing. All inteiest
has nally withdiawn: the poet withdiaws into wiiting, itself the best
iepiesentation of speech, if only a supplementaiy one, because of its
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 137
nonsensuous similaiity. Yet only this puie, inteiioi speech animates it
as Geist, gives meaning and value to language that would otheiwise be
meie letteis, just as, paiadoxically, the King ietuins political economy
to the thiid Ciitique thiough his pationage. In sum, lack of semblance,
maximization of fieedom and the subjective poweis of desiie, absolute
inteiioiization: this is the foimula that only poetiy piovides. And de-
spite the implied piefeience foi poetic wiiting and the silence of iead-
ing, only logos can ietuin meaning to spiiit as heaiing-oneself-speak,
and in the thiid Ciitique this is tiue foi eveiy ait, spatial oi tempoial,
plastic oi linguistic.
Thus Kant paiticipates impoitantly in foiging the division between
the veibal and the visual as it emeiges in eighteenth-centuiy thought.
But the ontological suiplus that adheies in the foimei is so poweiful
that Kant seems indieient to the lattei. The foimal status of the plas-
tic and musical aits is taken foi gianted. They can be dispensed with
quickly to move on to moie piessing business. Howevei, this absence
of ieection on the lowei aitsdespite the piocess of division and
hieiaichy that seems to demand itnonetheless continues to function
thiough a soit of iepiession. It ietuins in the thiid Ciitique thiough
the supplementaiy logic of examples, foi example, veibal images like
that of judgment as a biidge linking the abyss sepaiating undeistand-
ing and ieason, but moie impoitantly in the squaie of the fiame and
the ciicle of the mouth. The squaie and the ciicle as guied spaces aie
ciucial to Deiiidas ieading.
13
In the Critique cj }udgment, the guial
incessantly inhabits and haunts the logocentiic space that attempts to
exoicise it, and the moie the space of logos attempts to puiify itself in
the language of philosophy, the moie guial and analogical that lan-
guage becomes. While iepiesenting the diive foi enfiaming and en-
closuie that infoims the ontological impeiative of the aesthetic, the
paieigon simultaneously piesents its empty centei, in fact, the absence
of a centei as ontological lack. In this mannei, Deiiidas genealogical
ciitique demonstiates the bieadth and complexity of what must be de-
constiucted in the idea of the aesthetic. This does not mean iestoiing
to philosophy the task of assessing the meaning and value of the visual
aits, foi this only oveituins the hieiaichy by iestoiing the ontology
in anothei way, it does not deconstiuct it. What is most impoitant is
undeistanding how philosophy has pioduced the pioblem of the self-
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138 Reading the Figuial
denition of the aits, as well as the autonomy of ne ait and of aesthetic
meaning, as a iesponse to the veiy indeteiminacy oi undecidability of
all ontological questions.
The foiegoing iefeiences to the ievenants haunting the thiid Cii-
tique lead nally to Deiiidas compaiison of the Wohlgefallen of puie
taste to the woik of mouining. Accoiding to psychoanalytic theoiy,
mouining is a piocess wheie the subject ieplaces mentally the loss of
a loved object. The death of the object is what gives iise to mouin-
ing, which is why the idea of the aesthetic appeais in an eia maiked by
evei incieasing ieication, culminating in oui own age. The woik of
mouining is also chaiacteiized by a piocess of inteiioiization, in fact,
a piocess of incoipoiation that eiects the lost object within the subject
as an idealized image. The histoiical iiony of the idea of the aesthetic
deiives fiom undeistanding that the iise and decline of an ideal of Ait
does not develop acioss a continuum, iathei, they aie two sides of the
same piocess. Deiiida is coiiect in ieading in this iiony the tautologi-
cal oiientation of tianscendental idealism. It is not that Ait dies and
theiefoie must be mouined, this is the anxiety of the cultuial liteiacy
movement. Rathei, it is the unconscious feai that Ait may nevei have
existedand will nevei be able to exist in the economic age that desiies
it as a supplement to alienation and lack of fieedomthat accounts
foi the ideologies subtending tianscendental idealism.
But eveiything blossoms beside a deconseciated tomb. I thus oei
in conclusion the following funeieal image. In a simply but elegantly
appointed auditoiium, two Old Masteis in identical gold fiames lean
unceitainlyagainst ano-white backgiound. Theyaie neithei attached
to the space noi hung fiom it, foi theii stay heie will be a shoit one.
Indeed, they may nevei be seen again, foi although they aie too big to
t in youi wallet, they will stoie easily in a vault. They aie in tiansit,
and above them hangs a sign not unlike the ones found in iailioad sta-
tions and aiipoits the woild ovei. It ieads Sothebys Founded I,
and iecoids the value of these woiks, which shifts second by second,
in dollais, pounds, fiancs, maiks, liia, and yen. The caption to this
image ieads Dede Biooks Makes Hei Bid: Sothebys piesident wants
hei auction house to be a stock exchange foi ait.
14
This image piesents the ultimate iiony of the cultuial liteiacy move-
ment, as well as the aectations of taste and connoisseuiship that have
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The Ends of the Aesthetic 139
Dede Biooks makes hei bid: Sothebys piesident wants hei auction house to
be a stock exchange foi ait.
so piofoundly maiked the institutional development of ait histoiy. We
aie in the last stage of the eia of the aesthetic. The split in consciousness
that attempts to iepiess the economic and the political in the aesthetic
has nevei been so seveie. Similaily, we now occupy an age when the
economic has almost completely possessed what is called the aesthetic
as well as the most advanced technologies of iepiesentation available
to us. It is haid to compiehend how this dialectic can develop fuithei,
although theie is no guaiantee that it will not. Nonetheless it iendeis
iionic in evei moie poweiful and visceial teims the hue and ciy foi the
iestoiationof tiaditional concepts of value and hieiaichies of evalua-
tion, of the self-identity of the aitist and of aesthetic woik as fiee fiom
value, and of the necessaiy ielation between beauty and natuie. Paia-
doxically, this woik of mouining is possible only because the political
and economic society that the neoconseivatives most feivently piay
foi has ieached an advanced stage of development. And if Ait is nally
and incontioveitibly being conveited into capital, this is because the
ideology of the aesthetic was itself seeded and nuituied by a capital-
ist political economy. This is the histoiical lesson that Deiiidas philo-
sophical deconstiuction of the aesthetic enables us to examine and
woik thiough. The contiadictoiy consciousness of the neoconseivative
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140 Reading the Figuial
movement deiives fiomthe iefusal to undeistand that theii ideology of
the aesthetic, whose disappeaiance they feai, deiives fiom the political
economy they celebiate as globally tiiumphant. This has been tiue foi
neaily thiee hundied yeais. Thus the moie they cheei on the tiiumph
of capitalism, the deepei they dig theii own cultuial giaves.
This conclusion should cheei those inteiested in a contestatoiy ait,
and a contestatoiy cultuial ciiticism, to the extent that they them-
selves can woik thiough, and indeed libeiate themselves philosophi-
cally fiom, the idea of the aesthetic.
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5. THE HISTORICAL IMAGE
I sometimes wonder whether advancing age does not increase our sus-
ceptibility to the speechless plea of the dead; the older one grows, the
more he is bound to realize that his future is the future of the pasthis-
tory.Siegfried Kracauer, History: The Last Things before the Last
A Plea for the Dead Towaid the end of The Order cj Things, Michel
Foucault oeis the following ieection on the pioblem of histoiical
knowing:
All knowledge is iooted in a life, a society, and a language that have
a histoiy, and it is in that veiy histoiy that knowledge nds the
element enabling it to communicate with othei foims of life, othei
types of society, othei signications: that is why histoiicism always
implies a ceitain philosophy, oi at least a ceitain methodology, of
living compiehension (in the element of the Lebenswelt), of intei-
human communication (against a backgiound of social stiuctuies),
and of heimeneutics (as the ie-appiehension thiough the manifest
meaning of the discouise of anothei meaning at once secondaiy and
piimaiy, that is, moie hidden but also moie fundamental. (_,:,_)
To suggest a compaiison between the woik of Siegfiied Kiacauei
and Michel Foucault may appeai disingenuous. Kiacauei himself
would have wained against making too much of the exact contempo-
ianeity of his last woik, Histcry. The Last Things bejcre the Last, and
Foucaults book foi this would assume a necessaiy ielation between
two histoiical thinkeis simply on the basis of theii shaiing a common
time.
1
Obviously Kiacauei and Foucault occupy dieient discuisive
contexts, and in fact, both aie the pioduct of dieient times. Yet theie
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142 Reading the Figuial
is a pioblematic that biidges this distance, one that opeiates obses-
sively as the positive unconscious of Foucaults book (appeaiing un-
disguised only in these last pages) while piesenting itself as the manifest
objective of Kiacaueis: a iedemption of the powei and specicity of
histoiical thought as a paiticulai foim of knowledge.
This unlikely and polemical juxtaposition might begin to account
foi the sense of the uncanny that stiikes the modein ieadei who hap-
pens on Kiacaueis book Histcry. The Last Things bejcre the Last. Foi
example, without eacing the ieal dieiences between Kiacaueis and
Foucaults thought, one can nonetheless asseit that both would insist
that histoiical knowledge is possible only on the basis of an expeiience
of nitude and the fundamental discontinuities of histoiy, and both use
the same teimiegulaiityto asseit that the coheience of histoiical
thought in no way implies the foice of chionological, lineai, oi homo-
geneous tempoial schemata. Moie impoitant, both ultimately undei-
stand histoiy as an inteimediate yet piivileged epistemological space
that unceasingly eiodes (without suipassing) philosophys pietensions
to univeisal undeistanding by demonstiating its tempoial aspect and
its failuie to compiehend the minutiae of eveiyday life.
Foi the ieadei used to thinking of Kiacauei as a classical theoiist,
othei suipiising anities with modein thought abound. Kiacaueis
ciitique of Hegel, which is one of the most compiehensive motifs of
the book, situates him within one of the key pioblematics of Fiank-
fuit school wiitings on histoiy. Yet the natuie of that ciitique, with
its insistence on the discontinuous and nonhomogeneous stiuctuie of
histoiical space, most closely iesembles Althusseis.
2
Neveitheless, to
undeistand Kiacaueis fundamental contiibution to a philosophy of
histoiical knowing, one must ist attempt to situate his nal book not
only with iespect to the full scope of his wiitings but moie impoi-
tantly with Kiacaueis specic yet oblique ielation to othei Fiankfuit
school wiitings on the philosophy of histoiy, ciucially those of T. W.
Adoino and Waltei Benjamin. The woik of Waltei Benjamin is espe-
cially impoitant, and it is stiange in ietiospect that it has taken so long
foi Anglophone ieadeis to iecognize the intellectual coiiespondences
between these two thinkeis. The neglect of Kiacaueis book on his-
toiy, and the geneial misundeistanding of his latei woik wiitten and
published in English, is scandalous but may be explained by a specic
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The Histoiical Image 143
histoiical paiadox. Kiacauei was a thoiough ieadei of Benjamin, and
the eailiest tianslation of Benjamins wiitings, Illuminaticns, ieached
English ieadeis only in I,o,, the same yeai as Kiacaueis book on
histoiy was published posthumously.
3
Moieovei, although Benjamins
thoughts on histoiy thoioughly peimeate Kiacaueis book, Benjamins
voice is still a distant one, echoing against the inuence of Dilthey and
Husseil. This voice is also distant because it is diained of its ievolu-
tionaiy powei. Kiacauei, though still a committed mateiialist, was, at
the time, no Maixist, noi does his ciitique of histoiical knowing caiiy
the foice oi political commitment of Benjamins Theses on the Phi-
losophy of Histoiy, foi example. Howevei, it is piecisely the context of
Benjamin, I would aigue, that is needed to undeistand Kiacauei and, in
ceitain iespects, to iead him against himself. In shoit, Kiacauei seems
to take foi gianted lessons fiom Benjamin of which his time and place
weie not yet awaie.
Two essays by Benjamin in paiticulai continually asseit themselves
in Kiacaueis aigumentthe intioduction to the Trauerspiel book and
the Theses on the Philosophy of Histoiy. Not coincidentally, these
aie Benjamins last woik and one of his eailiest. Moie explicitly, Kia-
cauei notes with suipiise in his intioduction that his appaiently new
inteiest in pioblems of histoiical knowing ievealed a long, complex
genealogy. This genealogy, which seems to oiiginate ist in a claii-
cation and justication of his Thecry cj Film, subsequently ieveals a
lifelong piojectthe iehabilitation of objectives and modes of being
which still lack a name and hence aie oveilooked oi misjudged (His-
tcry )that includes his Die Angestellten, his novel, Ginster, his study
of Oenbach, and most fundamentally his I,:, essay on photogiaphy.
Histcry. The Last Things bejcre the Last compiises a cuived univeise in
which the momentum of Kiacaueis thought follows the aic of a long
backwaid glance. The moie he pushes foiwaid, the closei he seems
to his point of oiigin. And just as Benjamin was nally able to place
the theological oiientation of the Trauerspiel study side by side with a
mateiialist peispective in the Theses on the Philosophy of Histoiy,
Kiacaueis last woik nds its most signicant dialectical juxtaposition
in a paiallel between histoiy and photogiaphy, oiiginally exploied in
his I,:, essay Die Photogiaphie.
4
Photogiaphy and lmhave a piivi-
leged vocation foi what Benjamin and Adoino call the captuie and
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144 Reading the Figuial
constuction of histoiical images. Foi the attentive social ieadei, the
histoiical image illuminates not only the play of foices wheiein the
commodity ielations of capitalism peimeate and ieify the eveiyday ex-
peiience of individuals and the foims of collective life available to them
but also the play of iesistance and the utopian desiie foi othei modes
of existence whose expiession is otheiwise occluded in the histoiy of
capitalist societies.
The impoitance of Histcry. The Last Things bejcre the Last, then,
is that it not only oeis a ienewed consideiation of Kiacaueis often
and unfaiily maligned Thecry cj Film and a histoiiogiaphic coiiection
foi Frcm Caligari tc Hitler, but also seives as a unique biidge between
classical and modein Geiman lm theoiy. And just as poweifully, it
pushes to its limits an entiie tiadition of classical thought on the piac-
tice of histoiical wiiting and knowing within a context that is decidedly
modein.
An analysis of the simple surface manifestations of an epoch can contrib-
ute more todeterminingits place inthe historical process thanjudgments
of the epochabout itself. As expressions of the tendencies of a giventime,
these judgments cannot be considered valid testimonies about its overall
situation. On the other hand the very unconscious nature of these sur-
face manifestations allows for direct access to the underlying meaning of
existing conditions.Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament 67
5
Filmhas enrichedour fieldof perceptionwithmethods whichcanbe illus-
trated by reference to those of Freudian theory. Fifty years ago, a slip of
the tongue passed more or less unnoticed. Only exceptionally may such
a slip have revealed dimensions of depth in a conversation which had
seemedtobetakingits courseonthesurface. SinceThePsychopathology
of Everyday Life things have changed. The book isolated and made ana-
lyzable things which had heretefore floated along unnoticed in the broad
stream of perception. For the entire spectrum of optical, and now also
acoustical, perception the film has brought about a similar deepening of
apperception. . . .
Evidently, a different nature opens itself to the camera than to the
naked eyeif only because an unconsciously penetrated space is sub-
stituted for a space consciously explored by man. . . . The camera intro-
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The Histoiical Image 145
duces us to the optical unconscious in a similar way as psychoanalysis
does to that of the drives.Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age
of Mechanical Reproduction, in Illuminations 23738
Film renders visible what we did not, or perhaps even could not, see be-
fore its advent. It effectively assists us in discovering the material world
with its psycho-physical correspondences. We literally redeemthis world
from its dormant state, its state of virtual non-existence, by endeavoring
to experience it through the camera. And we are free to experience it be-
cause we are fragmentized. The cinema can be defined as a mediumpar-
ticularly equipped to promote the redemption of physical reality.Sieg-
fried Kracauer, Theory of Film 300
6
Social Hieroglyphs and the Optics of History In his Intioduction to
Siegfiied Kiacaueis The Mass Oinament, the late KaistenWitte ob-
seived that the link between Kiacaueis eaily and late woik lies in his
intention to deciphei social tendencies ievealed in ephemeial cultuial
phenomena.
7
Wittes aiguments delineating the ielationship between
Kiacaueis essays of the twenties and the latei woik on lm and his-
toiiogiaphy aie suggestive in theii desciiption of Kiacaueis eoits to
foige, in Foucaults teims, a methodology of living compiehension
that could piovide the basis foi unlocking the specic foim of histoii-
cal knowledge communicated by the emblems of mass cultuie. Sev-
eial themes intioduced heie hold specic inteiest foi Kiacaueis ideas
on the image chaiactei of histoiy and what they might mean foi the
guial. One of the cential ideas in Kiacaueis wiitings (to which I will
ietuin in a moie detailed way) conceins the special epistemological
status of mass cultuial phenomena, a status that demands that they
be cataloged and biought to the attention of an infoimed ieading that
can unlock theii knowledge. In The Mass Oinament, Kiacauei ob-
seives that the cultuie of the mass, which is usually despised by tiadi-
tional aesthetics, contains a measuie of ieality in the foim of a social
knowledge that is no longei accessible to communication thiough ait
oi philosophy. Noi is it a communication of the masses to themselves:
Even though the masses biing it about, wiites Kiacauei, they do
not paiticipate in conceiving the oinament (Mass Oinament o,).
The peculiai iationality of the mass oinament is that of the capital-
ist pioduction piocess itself, which has occulted natuie no less foice-
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146 Reading the Figuial
fully than the expeiience of community and national identity (Vclksge-
meinschajt). Bothnatuie andpeisonality, inKiacaueis aigument, have
been tiansfoimed as woiked mattei, patteined in the foim of the com-
modity. In The Mass Oinament, a piivileged example of this tians-
foimation is the populaiity of the Tillei Giils, a tioupe of Ameiican
danceis, usually without piofessional tiaining, who peifoimed intii-
cate diill maneuveis in a style that Busby Beikeley latei made popu-
lai in the Ameiican cinema. Foi example, in his I,_, essay Giils and
Ciisis, Kiacauei desciibes the Tillei Giils in the following mannei:
Inthat postwai eia, inwhichprcsperity appeaiedlimitless andwhich
could scaicely conceive of unemployment, the Giils weie aiticially
manufactuied in the USA and expoited to Euiope by the dozens.
Not only weie they pioducts, at the same time they demonstiated
the gieatness of Ameiican pioduction. I distinctly iecall the ap-
peaiance of such tioupes in the season of theii gloiy. When they
foimed an undulating snake, they iadiantly illustiated the viitues
of the conveyoi belt, when they tapped theii feet in fast tempo, it
sounded like business, business, when they kicked theii legs high
with mathematical piecision, they joyously aimed the piogiess of
iationalization, and when they kept iepeating the same movements
without evei inteiiupting theii ioutine, one envisioned an unintei-
iupted chain of autos gliding fiom the factoiies into the woild, and
believed that the blessings of piospeiity had no end.
8
What the Tillei Giils iepiesent is nothing less than a new foim of aes-
thetic pioduction in which the aggiegation of human bodies has be-
come the iaw mateiial and the expeiience of the mass the pioduct. In
this way, the natuial human foim is tiansfoimed into a social hieio-
glyph:
The human guie used in this mass oinament has begun its excdus
fiom the oiganic splendoi and individual constituency (Gestalthaj-
tigkeit) and enteied the iealm of anonymity into which it exteiioi-
ized itself when it stands in tiuth and when the knowledge iadi-
ating fiom its human souice dissolves the contouis of the visible
natuial foim. Natuie is depiived of its substance in the mass oina-
ment, and this indicates the condition undei which only those as-
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The Histoiical Image 147
pects of natuie can asseit themselves which do not iesist illumina-
tion thiough ieason. . . . The oiganic centei is iemoved and the
iemaining paits aie composed accoiding to laws yielding knowl-
edge about tiuth, howevei tempoially conditioned such knowledge
might beand not accoiding to the laws of natuie. (Mass Oina-
ment ,_,)
The deployment of the concept of natuie heie demonstiates that if
theie is a fundamental idealism peivading Kiacaueis thought, it ie-
sides not in the concept of iealism but in the equation of humanity
with natuie and a lost oiganic piesence. Paiadoxically, howevei, it
is only on the basis of a humanity divided against its integial being
that Kiacauei denes ieason accoiding to the ciiteiion of noniden-
tity. Theie is little doubt that the inuence of Lukcss Thecry cj the
Ncvel and Histcry and Class Ccnscicusness is being felt heie. Thus the
pioblem of natuie, which may cause potential confusions in undei-
standing Kiacaueis meaning, may pioductively be undeistood in iela-
tion to Lukcss ideas conceining second natuie as the false, mythical
ieality cieated by man though not undeistood by himbecause he has
lost sight of its histoiical oiigins.
9
In this mannei, the obscuied iea-
son of capital nds itself alienated, given spatial foim and substance,
in the diiected, symmetiical patteining of human bodies. The calcu-
lated oiganization and Tayloiization of the laboi foice, in which the
individuality of the woikei has become suboidinated to the total pio-
duction piocess, thus nds its diiect coiielative in the choieogiaphy of
the Tillei Giils. The specic tiuth of aesthetic foim is heie decided
by the laws of capital. Foi Kiacauei, this ielation is not in the least
allegoiical oi metaphoiical but is a measuie of the ieality-content
of capital itself, wheie the masses who so spontaneously took to the
pattein in openly acknowledging the facts in theii iough foim, aie su-
peiioi to those intellectuals who despise it (Mass Oinament ,,).
Neithei tiaditional ait, whose ideal is the identity of natuie and foim,
noi idealist philosophy, which denes ieason as the identity of thought
and being, can penetiate this ielation because natuie has been tians-
foimed and subjectivity has disappeaied into the mass. In this mannei,
Kiacaueis woik of the twenties can be undeistood as the beginning of
his seaich foi new categoiies of thought that, as Kaisten Witte notes,
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148 Reading the Figuial
took explicitly optical foims. Similaily, Miiiam Hansen obseives that
in the same peiiod, both Kiacauei and Benjamin associate cinema with
a fundamentally newfoimof ieception undei the name of Zerstreuung,
distiaction. As a peiceptual categoiy intiinsic to cinematic expies-
sion, distiaction was undeistood as a tiansfoimation of expeiience
undei capital that contained its own tiuth value that the categoiies of
neithei ait noi philosophy, piopeily speaking, could iecognize. Foi
Kiacauei, wiites Hansen, the audiences abandoning themselves to
distiactionto puie exteinality, to the discontinuous sequence of
splendid sense impiessionsiepiesents a mimetic piocess which ie-
veals the tiue stiuctuie of modein ieality, thus acquiiing a moial sig-
nicance.
10
This intioduces the second majoi theme of Kiacaueis woik.
Kaisten Witte notes that foi Kiacauei the ieality content of mass cul-
tuie is given visceially: Spatial images (Raumbilder) aie the dieams
of society. Wheievei the hieioglyphics of these images can be deci-
pheied, one nds the basis of social ieality.
11
The desiie to compie-
hend the lived expeiience of a society dominated by capital, whose
histoiically given foims of ieason aie both veiled and mateiially em-
bodied in visual phenomena, incieasingly commits Kiacauei to phe-
nomenology, Lebensphilcscphie, and the lasting inuence of Husseil,
Simmel, and Dilthey. This philosophical oiientation, which is still
peivasive in the book on histoiy, in no way commits Kiacauei to an
identity theoiy of knowledge, howevei. Instead close attention to the
Frankjurter Zeitung essays confounds the tiied lm theoiy dcxa of a
theoiy of iealism wheie Kiacauei is accused of constiucting a vaguely
foimulated identity between physical ieality, cameia ieality, and
natuie.
On this basis, a decisive shift of emphasis, which tiansfoims the ie-
demptive chaiactei of Kiacaueis analyses, may be identied in his last
woik. The special emphasis on histoiy and photogiaphy in late Kia-
cauei is no longei motivated simply by the desiie to iescue foigotten
and despised elements of mass cultuie. Rathei, what Kiacauei comes
to undeistand in Histcry. The Last Things bejcre the Last is that it is the
foim(s) of histoiical knowledge itselfwhich will include not only his-
toiiogiaphy piopei but also photogiaphy and the memcire invclcntaire
of Pioustthat he had been attempting to dene and iedeem. His-
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The Histoiical Image 149
toiy and photogiaphy must now be undeistood as special categoiies
of iepiesenting and knowing that aie alone capable of exploiing and
compiehending those aspects of expeiience to which philosophy and
ait have become blind.
The montage of citations that begin this section now ieveal theii
intiicate ielationship. Foi example, the iefeience to psychoanalysis
in Benjamin is neithei iiielevant noi incompatible with Kiacaueis
thought. In the book on histoiy, he consistently iefeis to the iepiesen-
tational chaiacteiistics of both photogiaphy and histoiy as modes of
alienaticn, as cognitive appaiatuses that aie able to name and thus to
call viitually into existence phenomena that otheiwise might be lost
to thought. Social life is undeistood heie as having an indeteiminate,
multiple, and fiagmentaiy chaiactei that oveiwhelms individual pei-
ceptionandieduces it to unconscious thought, ina life administeiedby
capital, ieason and ieality aie necessaiily nonidentical. By tiansposing
and theiefoie unavoidably ieducing the multiple expeiiences of daily
life, photogiaphy and histoiy aie undeistood by Kiacauei as comple-
mentaiy modalities because they aie able to compiehend this ieality
by selectively giving it foim and iendeiing it accessible and cognizable
to a ciitical and self-ieective consciousness.
Foi Kiacauei, histoiy and photogiaphy compiise paiallel piojects.
And in The Last Things bejcre the Last, as in the I,:, essay on pho-
togiaphy, he takes gieat pains to explain the foimei with iefeience to
the lattei. Similai to the way in which Thecry cj Film takes the foim
of detailing the multiple iesouices of cinematic expiession, Kiacaueis
book on histoiy takes the foim of an open-ended ciitical account of
the iesouices available to histoiical expiession. But moie impoitant foi
Kiacauei, both histoiy and photogiaphy have the same object, what he
calls histoiical ieality in the ist case and physical ieality in the
second. Howevei, if ieality is the common denominatoi between the
two, it is ieducible to neithei an expeiience of natuie noi an a piioii
objective state. In fact, Kiacaueis hostility to simple empiiicismis such
that neithei histoiy noi photogiaphy should be undeistood as puiely
objective modes of iepiesentation. If they sustain a mimetic ielation
with theii object, this ielation is not one of identity but one of simi-
laiity, coiiespondence, oi anity. The coiiespondences between
histoiy and photogiaphy aie not to be iendeied thiough theii common
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150 Reading the Figuial
ielationship to natuie, but with Husseils Lebenswelt, an indispensable
concept foi Kiacauei in that it names the woild of eveiyday expeiience
as mateiially constituted by the incalculable accumulation of events
and situations piecipitated by human piaxis. Accoiding to Kiacauei,
the Lebenswelt is unknowable in many iespects: It is full of intiinsic
contingencies which obstiuct its calculability, its subsumption undei
the deteiministic piinciple. . . . In addition, histoiical ieality is viitu-
ally endless, issuing fiom a daik which is incieasingly ieceding and ex-
tending into an open-ended futuie. And nally it is indeteiminate as
to meaning. Its chaiacteiistics confoim to the mateiials of which it is
woven (Histcry ,). Readeis of Kiacaueis Thecry cj Filmwill immedi-
ately iecognize the anities chaiacteiistic of photogiaphic expies-
sionfoituitousness, indeteiminacy, endlessness, in shoit, the ow
of lifeand in fact, the second chaptei of the histoiy book, The His-
toiical Appioach, iemaikably paiallels the section in Thecry cj Film
on the photogiaphic appioach (Thecry I::_). Howevei, to asseit
that the Lebenswelt is unknowable does not mean that it is unintel-
ligible oi uniepiesentable. As Maitin Jay points out, Kiacauei aigues
that Reality is . . . a constiuction, consisting of a mosaic of dieient
obseivations.
12
Compiised of a multiplicity of points of view and an
indeteiminable accumulation of images and aitifacts, histoiical ieality
is insensible outside of what Kiacauei calls the intellectual univeise,
oi moie piecisely the aichive of histoiiogiaphic concepts that hold
those guies available to aiticulate the object of histoiy by establishing
the conditions of its intelligibility. In sum, what chaiacteiizes this intel-
lectual univeise that compiises the foims of ieality piopei to histoiy
and photogiaphy, and conditions theii potential knowledges, is the
accumulationof guies oi concepts whose stiuctuie andfoims of oiga-
nization aie peimeated by the contingent and indeteiminate quality
of the Lebenswelt. If in Kiacaueis view theie is a mimetic ielation be-
tween the Lebenswelt on the one hand and histoiy oi photogiaphy on
the othei, this ielation is not one of unmediated expiessivity. Rathei,
histoiy and photogiaphy iendei the Lebenswelt intelligible thiough
theii stiuctuial coiiespondence oi anities with it.
Kiacaueis notion of photogiaphys anities with physical ieality
is one of his most notoiious ideas fiom the standpoint of modein lm
theoiy. To piopeily compiehend the ielation he was attempting to ex-
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The Histoiical Image 151
piess, and to undeistand how Kiacauei himself iethought this ielation
inthe histoiy book, it is necessaiy to make a detoui thiough Benjamins
study of Geiman tiagic diama, and to attempt to iecast this idea in the
light of Benjamins undeistanding of mimesis as nonsensuous simi-
laiity (unsinnliche Ahnlichkeit).
13
In a ciitique of Kant set foith in the
Trauerspiel study, Benjaminopposes scientic knowledge (Erkenntnis),
in which the subject constitutes the woild by imposing its own cogni-
tive categoiies, with a philosophical expeiience of tiuth (Erjahrung) in
which the iole of the subject is the iepiesentation of ideas (Darstellung
der Ideen) whose stiuctuie is objectively deteimined by the paiticu-
laiity of the phenomena examined. Howevei, the function of cogni-
tive categoiies oi conceptswhat Kant would call iegulative ideas
is not elided heie, but iathei they now seive the inteimediaiy func-
tion of tianslating paiticulai empiiically given phenomena into an
ideational iepiesentation. Heie Benjamin notes that the phenomena,
howevei, do not entei whole into the iealmof the ideas, not in theii iaw
empiiical existence, mixed as it weie with meie appeaiance (Schein),
but they aie iedeemed alone in theii elements. . . . In this paititioning
of them, the phenomena stand undei concepts. It is the concepts which
caiiy out the uniavelling of the phenomena into theii elements.
14
Foi
example, in The Mass Oinament, Kiacauei wishes to illuminate the
fate of ieason undei capital. Fiom the standpoint of tiaditional ciitical
thought, howevei, the idea of ieason is obduiate in both the aesthetic
phenomena of the Tillei Giils and that of the tiansfoimation of natuie
undei capital. Foi Kiacauei, it is an occulted ieason that is blind to its
histoiical and ideological oiigins. Only by juxtaposing these two ap-
paiently diveigent and unielated phenomena can theii piofound simi-
laiity be exposed in the ash of a histoiical oi dialectical image. This
image is the mass oinament, which, like the latent image ievealed in
a developing photogiaph, gives iepiesentational foim to the common
stiuctuial piinciple supeiintending the tiansfoimation of both natuie
and the body: the paiticulai foim of iationality of the Tayloi system
that subjugates the oiganization of laboi no less than the oiganization
of mass aesthetic phenomena.
Thus the lesson of a caieful ieading of Kiacaueis The Mass Oina-
ment is its demonstiation of the complexity of his undeistanding
of the pioblems of mimetic iepiesentation. If histoiy, photogiaphy,
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152 Reading the Figuial
and the activity of memcire invclcntaire demonstiate a special cog-
nitive capacity inheient in the mimetic faculty, then this conceptual-
ization of mimesis must be distinguished iigoiously fiom a Platonic
tiadition on the one hand and, moie impoitant foi histoiical undei-
standing, the inuence of Hegel on the othei. Like his student Adoino,
and his fiiend Benjamin, Kiacauei vigoiously iejected the Hegelian
idea that the study of histoiy guaiantees the identication of ieason
with ieality. Rathei, as Susan Buck-Moiss has obseived, histoiy should
be undeistood as a discontinuous space, unfolding within a multi-
plicity of divisions of human piaxis thiough a dialectical piocess which
was open-ended. Histoiy did not guaiantee the identity of ieason and
ieality. Rathei, histoiy unfolded in the spaces between subjects and
objects, men and natuie, whose veiy nonidentity was histoiys motoi
foice (Origin cj Negative Dialectic ,). Indeed, Kiacaueis aiguments
conceining the mass oinament demonstiate his conviction that the
concept of ieason cannot be undeistood in any univeisal way but is
tied ineluctably to the specicity of a histoiical situation: it ieleases
its knowledge only when penetiated by a histoiical optics, in fact, a
dialectical oi histoiical image whose basis is conceptual iathei than
aesthetic.
This means that the photographers selectivity is of a kind which is closer
to empathy than to disengaged spontaneity. He resembles perhaps most
of all the imaginative reader intent onstudyinganddecipheringanelusive
text. Like a reader, the photographer is steeped in the book of nature. . . .
The photographer summons up his being, not to discharge it in autono-
mous creations but to dissolve it into the substances of the objects that
close inonhim. Once again, Proust is right: selectivity withinthis medium
is inseparable from processes of alienation.Siegfried Kracauer, Theory
of Film 16
15
In other words: it is to writing and language that clairvoyance has, over
the course of history, yielded its old powers.
So speed, that swiftness in reading or writing which can scarcely be
separated fromthis process, would then become, as it were, the effort or
gift of letting the mind participate in that measure of time in which simi-
larities flash up fleetingly out of the stream of things only in order to be-
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The Histoiical Image 153
come immediately engulfed again.Walter Benjamin, The Doctrine of
the Similar 68
The Antinomic Character of Time The mass oinament is a histoii-
cal image (geschichtliche Bilder) in the piecise sense that Adoino and
Benjamin gave to the concept as an image that illuminated contiadic-
tions iathei than negating oi sublating them, the pioceduie was one of
mimetic iepiesentation iathei than synthesis.
16
In Histcry. The Last
Things bejcre the Last, this concept ietuins in the foim of the image
chaiactei of histoiy as the means foi compiehending and communicat-
ing the multiple foices at woik in the Lebenswelt. To defend histoiy as
a specic eld of ciitical inquiiy, no less genuine in its identity than ait
oi philosophy and in fact piefeiable in the kinds of knowledge avail-
able to it, Kiacauei exploies the conceptual equipment of histoiiog-
iaphy in its iendeiing of the Lebenswelt thiough a seiies of stiuctuial
coiiespondences.
Kiacaueis aigument unfolds less as a systematic exploiation of his-
toiy than as a peiambulation thiough the wiitings on histoiical wiit-
ing, oi the guies that make up the intellectual univeise in which the
subject of histoiy has been compiehended. The ist guie that Kia-
cauei tieats in detail is that of the histoiians jouiney, which denes
the subject of histoiical knowing. The way to this concept is paved in
Kiacaueis book by a compaiison between the histoiical appioach
and the photogiaphic appioach, in which the wiiting of histoiy is
chaiacteiized as a mode of alienation wheie the histoiian functions as
an extiateiiitoiial attuned to both the iealist and foimative mo-
ments of this expeiience.
These teims, which play an integial pait in Thecry cj Film, have an
equally stiong iole in Histcry. The Last Things bejcre the Last, and it
is necessaiy to undeistand theii piecise meaning. In the histoiy book,
Kiacauei points to the coincidence that maiks the biith of modein his-
toiiogiaphy at about the same time as that of photogiaphy. In I8:, less
than two decades befoie the advent of the photogiaph, Ranke assaulted
the pievailing moial and philosophical attitudes in the wiiting of his-
toiy, pioclaiming instead that its sole object is to show how things
actually weie wie es eigentlich gewesen] (Histcry 8,). The emei-
gence and subsequent populaiization of photogiaphy seems to appeai
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154 Reading the Figuial
as the fulllment of this iealist tendency in its ability to map the natu-
ial woild with a delity equal to natuie itself.
17
Among the genies
of histoiical wiiting, the iealist tendency iesembles most closely the
accomplishment of technical histoiies in which the gieatest amount
of detail is accumulated foi the smallest peiiod of time. In the best of
instances, this type of histoiy is iedeemed by the guie of the ccllec-
tcr, whose insistence that no fact should go lost nonetheless ieveals a
theological motif, as if fact-oiiented accounts bieathed pity with the
dead (Histcry I_o).
18
But Kiacauei is piofoundly suspicious of this tendency because it
thieatens the inteipietive subjectivity of the histoiian. Refeiiing the
ieadei back to Thecry cj Film, Kiacauei ieconsideis his discussion of
Maicels visit to his giandmothei in Guermantes Vay, wheie Pioust
chaiacteiizes the expeiience of photogiaphy as the pioduct of com-
plete alienation (Thecry II,). When Maicel visits his giandmothei
unannounced aftei many yeais, Pioust desciibes Maicels peiception
of hei as mechanical, as that of a photogiaphei oi a stiangei, wheie
the palimpsest of yeais of loving memoiies is stiipped away to ieveal a
dejected old woman. Pioust undoubtedly desciibes this peiception to
oppose it to the expeiience of mmoiie involontaiie.
19
Kiacauei, how-
evei, sees a moie subtle dialectic involved, in which the haish light of
photogiaphy is insepaiable fiom aesthetic agency and the foice of in-
teipietation, such that the photogiaphei, no less than the histoiian,
becomes an imaginative ieadei whose foimative, inteipietive eoits
aie insepaiable fiom the degiee of knowledge that histoiical ieality
may yield. Accoiding to Kiacauei, what mmoiie involontaiie ieveals
in its analogy to the expeiience of histoiical subjectivity is best de-
sciibed by the guie of the extiateiiitoiial oi exilea fiagmented sub-
jectivity pioduced by a disiupted life histoiy and pioducing a con-
sciousness foimed by the supeiimposition of discontinuous histoiical
moments. The exiles tiue mode of existence, wiites Kiacauei, is
that of a stiangei. So he may look at his pievious existence with the
eyes of one who does not belong to the house. . . . It is only in this state
of self-eacement, oi homelessness, that the histoiian can commune
with the mateiial of his concein (Histcry 8_8).
Histoiical knowing, then, is goveined by a special dialectic wheie
the iealist moment involves a foim of suiiendei in which the histo-
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The Histoiical Image 155
iians subjectivity is negated by the massive and indeteiminate ow
of histoiical events, and in dialectical iesponse, the aesthetic, foima-
tive moment goveins the piecipitation of oidei out of this mateiial,
which, shaped by histoiical contingency, maps out the pattein of the
histoiians naiiative. In its most poweiful manifestations, this dialec-
tic will geneiate what Kiacauei calls the histoiical idea, which, like
Buikhaidts image of the awakening of the individual in the Renais-
sance oi Maixs distinction between base and supeistiuctuie, ieveals
unsuspected contexts and ielationships of a ielatively wide scope. The
histoiical idea inauguiates a new teiiain in which a wide vaiiety of pii-
maiy histoiical mateiial distiibutes and oiganizes itself, illuminating
pieviously unthought patteins of intelligibility. Moieovei, as an ex-
ample of what Kiacauei calls anteioom thinking, the histoiical idea
is impoitant because it fuses the paiticulai and the geneial in a way
unavailable to philosophical knowing:
Histoiical ideas appeai to be of lasting signicance because they
connect the paiticulai with the geneial in an aiticulate and tiuly
unique way. Any such connection being an unceitain ventuie, they
iesemble ashes illumining the night. This is why theii emeigence
in the histoiians mind has been teimed a histoiical sensation and
said to communicate a shock to the entiie system . . . the shock . . .
of iecognition. They aie nodal pointspoints at which the con-
ciete and the abstiact ieally become one. Whenevei this happens,
the ow of indeteiminate histoiical events is suddenly aiiested and
all that is then exposed to view is seen in the light of an image oi
conception which takes it out of the tiansient ow to ielate it to
one oi anothei of the momentous pioblems and questions that aie
foievei staiing at us.
20
The explanatoiy wealth of the histoiical idea deiives fiom its supei-
imposition of the two poles of histoiical activitythe tiansfoimation
of the histoiians subjectivity by its immeision in the paiticulate and
piimaiy mateiial of histoiy, and the foimative, conceptual activity of
histoiical wiiting and inteipietation piopeithat fuse togethei in a
poweiful monadic image. It is thiough the agency of conceptual g-
uies such as the histoiical idea that histoiical intelligibility becomes
possible, but only in the foim of a nonhomogeneous oi discontinuous
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156 Reading the Figuial
stiuctuie iegulated by theii peculiai anities with the Lebenswelt. Foi
Kiacauei, this nonhomogeneous stiuctuie distiibutes itself, like lm,
along spatial and tempoial axes. In a similai analogy with lm, Kia-
cauei desciibes histoiical space bydieientiating what he calls macio
and micio histoiies. Theie is no doubt that these teims dene pai-
ticulai genies of histoiical wiitingfiom the epic naiiatives of Spen-
glei to meticulously detailed technical histoiiesbut foi Kiacauei
theii ieal impoitance lies elsewheie. Applying an optical metaphoi, in
which macio histoiies aie desciibed as views in long shot and micio
histoiies aie likened to close-ups, Kiacauei denes a lawof peispec-
tive that goveins the potential intelligibilityof histoiical space accoid-
ing to the paiticulai attenuation of the histoiians gaze: In the micio
dimension, a moie oi less dense fabiic of given data canalizes the his-
toiians imagination, his inteipietive designs. As the distance fiom the
data incieases, they become scatteied, thin out. The evidence thus loses
its binding powei, inviting less committed subjectivity to take ovei
(Histcry I:_). In othei woids, the law of peispective iegulates move-
ment between the macio and micio dimensions accoiding to a iatio
that goveins the ielation of the histoiians subjectivity to the potential
intelligibility of histoiy. The highei the level of geneiality at which the
histoiian opeiates, the moie the paiticulaiity and mateiiality of his-
toiy evapoiates and is taken ovei by the histoiians imagination. On
the othei hand, the moie he oi she is immeised in histoiical detail, the
gieatei the chance that the foimative intelligence of the histoiian will
be oveiwhelmed by the sheei accumulation and density of data.
If Kiacaueis law of peispective maps the nonhomogeneous stiuc-
tuie of histoiical ieality in its longitudinal dimension as a function of
a vaiiable and discontinuous density, he is equally attentive to its lati-
tudinal dimensions, its distiibution into uneven and tempoially dis-
junct stiata. Heie Kiacauei denes a law of levels that piedicts the
eects of micioevents when maitialed fiom one level of geneiality to
anothei: Accoiding to the law of levels, the contexts established at
each level aie valid foi that level but do not apply to ndings at othei
levels, which is to say that theie is no way of deiiving the iegulaiities
of macio histoiy . . . fiom the facts and inteipietations piovided by
micio histoiy (Histcry I_). Similaily, Kiacauei agiees with Claude
Lvi-Stiausss chaiacteiization of the tempoial stiuctuie of histoiy in
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The Histoiical Image 157
the ciitique of Jean-Paul Saitie foimulated in the conclusion to The
Savage Mind. Histoiy has no identity as a totality but iathei can be
iepiesented only as a seiies of shifting conguiations wheie dieiing
peiiods oi classes of dates, oi even dieient kinds of histoiy (histo-
iies of ait, economy, technology, social life, etc.), aie each infoimed
by theii own intiinsic system of tempoial iefeience. In othei woids,
to say that each level piesents its own intiinsic system of iegulaiities
means that it exhibits a ielatively autonomous stiuctuie to which iele-
vant micioevents must adapt oi be displaced.
The key to undeistanding this pioposition lies in Kiacaueis hos-
tility towaid a tiadition in the philosophyof histoiy that views time as a
lineai, iiieveisible, and homogeneous continuum. Paiticulaily abhoi-
ient to Kiacauei is a Hegelian conception of histoiical totality oeied
by piesent-inteiest histoiians, best iepiesented by the woik of Bene-
detto Cioce and R. G. Collingwood. Heie Kiacauei sees the necessaiy
fiagmentation of histoiical subjectivity ieduced to the punctual mo-
ment of a vulgai histoiicisman a piioii imagination, in Colling-
woods teims, wheie the scholais inteiest in histoiy and access to it is
stiictly ciicumsciibed by his oi hei cultuial location. Whenevei phi-
losopheis speculate on the idea of histoiy, says Kiacauei, Hegels
woild spiiit pops up behind the bushes (Histcry o). In this man-
nei, the concept of peiiodization necessaiy foi piesent-inteiest histoiy
ieveals two iiiemediable aws:
It iests on the untenable piemise that the owof chionological time
is the caiiiei of all histoiy, and it agiantly conicts with a laige
body of expeiiences iegaiding the stiuctuie of the peiiod. . . . Con-
tiaiy to what Cioce postulates, the typical peiiod is not so much a
unied entity with a spiiit of its own as a piecaiious conglomeiate
of tendencies, aspiiations, and activities which moie often than not
manifest themselves independently of one anothei. . . .
If ] the peiiod is a unit at all, it is a diuse, uid, and essentially
intangible unit. . . .
And heie is the point I wish to diive home. If the histoiians his-
toiical and social enviionment is not a faiily self-contained whole
but a fiagile compound of fiequently inconsistent endeavois in ux,
the assumption that it moulds his mind makes little sense. It does
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158 Reading the Figuial
make sense only in the contexts of a philosophy which, like Cioces,
hypostasizes a peiiod spiiit, claims oui dependence on it, and thus
deteimines the minds place inthe histoiical piocess fiomabove and
without. (Histcry ooo,)
This is why Kiacauei insists on opposing the idea of totality with that
of the histoiical idea. Although the lattei falls shoit of philosophical
knowing, it nonetheless achieves a level of geneiality able to aiticulate
the dispaiate and indeteiminate elements of histoiy by ievealing theii
inheient ielatedness without ieducing them to a punctual moment oi
a single common foice oi cause. What is most impoitant about the
lawof levels, then, is that it demonstiates foi Kiacauei the iesistance
of human histoiy to natuial histoiy in that it pioves impeivious to
longitudinal histoiical lawslaws which by implication, mistake the
histoiical piocess foi a natuial piocess. . . . Natuial histoiy] necessaiily
yields laws which, by denition, not only unduly minimize the iole of
contingencies in histoiy but, moie impoitant, pieclude mans fieedom
of choice, his ability to cieate new situations. They acknowledge in-
steada soit of natuial evolution, soas tomake allowances foi the idea of
piogiess without having to bieak away fiom stiict deteiminism (His-
tcry __, _,). The identication of the oidei of human histoiy with that
of natuie, which has its fullest expiession in the oiganicist metaphois
of Comte and the woild Spiiit of Hegel, is thus peimeated by a theo-
logical ideal of piogiess that subsumes the contingent possibilities of
human piaxis to a lineai and unifoim tempoial continuum.
Thus the peiiod, as a kind of snapshot of the histoiical continuum,
disintegiates befoie oui eyes: Fiom a meaningful spatiotempoial unit
it tuins into a kindof meeting place foi chance encounteissomething
like the waiting ioom of a iailway station (Histcry I,o). Howevei, if
the peiiod is a phantom unit, is the intelligibility of histoiy then ie-
nounced along with the punctual moment of its subject: Foi Kiacauei,
such an eithei[oi statement is maikedly insensitive to the contiadic-
toiy schema of histoiical time in which the peiiod must be undeistood
as an antinomic entity embodying in a condensed foim . . . two ii-
ieconcilable time conceptions (I,,). On the one hand, the ielations
between peiiods oi identiable events can only be undeistood as a
succession of discontinuities oi bieaks that iapidly undeimine any at-
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The Histoiical Image 159
tempt at chionological undeistanding. On the othei, Kiacauei states
that the same conguiation of events which because of its sponta-
neous emeigence dees the histoiical piocess maiks also a moment
of chionological time and has theiefoie its legitimate place in it (I,o).
Heie Kiacauei will favoi the concept of shaped times foimulated by
Geoige Kublei aftei Henii Focillion, wheie events in dieient classes oi
magnitudes of histoiical investigation may be undeistood as unfold-
ing accoiding to immanent tempoial schemata, even if those schemata
aie themselves incommensuiable.
21
In othei woids, what the concept of
shaped times means foi Kiacauei is that the veiy asseition of a peiiod
oi event implies some chionological undeistanding as being valid foi
that event.
But ultimately Kiacauei demands a moie iadical solution foi com-
piehending the antinomic chaiactei of histoiical time, one with de-
nite implications foi the subject of histoiical knowing. Kiacauei, of
couise, is not botheied in the least by the asseition of the fiagmen-
taiy, discontinuous, oi contingent quality of expeiience, and indeed
he submits that we aie fiee to expeiience the iedemption of physical
ieality by the cameia because we ouiselves aie fiagmentized. The inte-
giated peisonality no doubt belongs among the favoiite supeistitions
of modein psychology (Histcry I8). Moieovei, in Piousts A la re-
cherche du temps perdu, Kiacauei discoveis a palimpsestic, subjective
expeiience of time that peifectly coiiesponds to the fiagmentaiy and
discontinuous foims of histoiical knowing. Foi Kiacauei, howevei, the
ultimate subject of histoiical knowing, the one who could iesolve the
antinomic chaiactei of time and give histoiy its tiue name, could only
be the guie of Ahasueius, the Wandeiing Jew:
He indeed would know isthand about the developments and tian-
sitions, foi he alone in all histoiy has had the unsought oppoitunity
to expeiience the piocess of becoming and decaying itself. (How
teiiible he must look! To be suie, his face cannot have sueied fiom
aging, but I imagine it to be many faces, each ieecting one of the
peiiods which he tiaveised and all of them combining into evei
new patteins, as he iestlessly, and vainly, tiies on his wandeiings
to ieconstiuct out of the times that shaped him the one time he is
doomed to incainate.) (Histcry I,,)
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160 Reading the Figuial
Wheieas the cuise of Ahasueius is his immoitality, the cuise of the
histoiian is his oi hei nitude, which, in oidei to iendei histoiy as
a space that is legible and theiefoie communicable, must biidge with
neaily the speed of claiivoyance the dialectics between the ow of
time and the tempoial sequences negating it (Histcry I,8). Kiacauei
theiefoie ietuins to Pioust to nd a moie piactical model foi sustain-
ing a subject of histoiical knowing against the complex eiosions of
time. It is above all a sensitivity to that complexity that Kiacauei ad-
miies: Pioust iadically de-emphasizes chionology. With him, it ap-
peais, histoiy is no piocess at all but a hodge-podge of kaleidoscopic
changessomething like clouds that gathei and dispeise at iandom
(Ioo). In Piousts novels, the sense of a ow of time is oveiwhelmed
by the depiction of a seemingly discontinuous chain of events wheie
simple causality is dissolved and the self-identity of the subject, as the
focal point thiough which these events must be naiiated, is succes-
sively oveituined thiough the veiy accumulation and dispeision of
naiiative situations. In the seemingly iandom dischaiges of mmoiie
involontaiie, time is atomized with complete indieience to chiono-
logical undeistanding, and each atom expands in scale to a close-up
shot thiough with a textuie of ieections, analogies, ieminiscences,
etc., which indisciiminately iefei to all the woilds Maicel] . . . has
been passing and altogethei seive to disclose the essential meanings
of the incident fiom which they iadiate and towaids which they con-
veige (IoI).
Even foi Pioustian naiiative, the antinomic chaiactei of time is
ultimately iiiesoluble, Pioust can only adopt a piovisional solution
wheiein tempoial continuity is ietiospectively established. By the end
of the novel, Kiacauei notes that the ieadei, who has pieviously been
caught up in the unaccountable zig-zag ioutes spieading ovei the
whole scioll of the past, can nowiealize that a piecise clockwoik chio-
nology has stiung togethei the succession of Maicels selves: Pioust
succeeds in ieinstating chionological time as a substantial medium
only a posteiioii, the stoiy of his (oi Maicels) fiagmentized life must
have ieached its teiminus befoie it can ieveal itself to him as a uni-
ed piocess (Histcry IoIo_). But the punctual moment of this teimi-
nus is undecidable and must foievei divide ction fiom histoiy. Lack-
ing death as the signatuie of nitude, it must undeistand the ending
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The Histoiical Image 161
it confeis as the continuity of the being-wiitten, oi a continuous un-
folding towaid an apodictic moment. This aesthetic solution, wheie
histoiy is identied with the movement of wiiting, locates the fiag-
ile hope of undeistanding in a backwaid glance that can only be con-
feiied at death, but which nonetheless is defeiied onto naiiative as the
medium thiough which meaning can unfold as a continuum that does
not thieaten the subject pioducing it. The incommensuiability of time
canonly be iesolvedina ction. But, as Kiacauei nally notes, noth-
ing of the soit applies to histoiy. Neithei has histoiy an end noi is it
amenable to aesthetic iedemption. The antinomy at the coie of time is
insoluble. Peihaps the tiuth is that it can only be iesolved at the end
of Time. In a sense, Piousts peisonal solution foieshadows, oi indeed
signies, this unthinkable endthe imaginaiy moment at which Aha-
sueius, befoie disintegiating, may foi the ist time be able to look back
on his wandeiings thiough the peiiods (Io_).
The soothsayers who found out from time what it had in store certainly
did not experience time as either homogeneous or empty. Anyone who
keeps this in mind will perhaps get an idea of how past times were ex-
perienced in remembrancenamely, in just the same way. We know that
the Jews were prohibited from investigating the future. The Torah and
the prayers instruct them in remembrance, however. This stripped the
future of its magic, to which all those succumb who turn to the sooth-
sayers for enlightenment. This does not imply, however, that for the Jews
the future turned into homogeneous, empty time. For every second of
time was the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter.Walter
Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History 266
I have pointed out in Theory of Film that the photographic media help us
overcome our abstractness by familiarizing us, for the first time as it were,
withthis Earthwhichis our habitat (Gabriel Marcel); theyhelpus tothink
through things, not above them. Otherwise expressed, the photographic
media make it much easier for us to incorporate the transient phenomena
of the outer world, thereby redeeming them from oblivion. Something
of this kind will also have to be said of history.Siegfried Kracauer, His-
tory 192
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162 Reading the Figuial
AnteroomThinking, or The Last Things before the Last All the aigu-
ments piesented so fai with iespect to Kiacaueis views on histoiy have
coincided with the question of histoiical intelligibility. While this pei-
spective is not exactly unfaii to his thought, it is not suipiising to note
that Kiacauei, both ontologist and melancholy mateiialist, would ulti-
mately piefei to emphasize the experience of histoiy, as well as photog-
iaphy, as the iecognition of a foim of knowledge that, until now, has
iested unnamed between the hazy expanses in which we foim opin-
ions and the high level aieas haiboiing the pioducts of mans most lofty
aspiiations (Histcry I,I). All of which is to say that Kiacauei, eithei un-
willing oi unable to divoice, in Althusseiian teims, the ieal object fiom
the object-in-thought, both aims and denies the ontological chaiac-
tei of histoiy and photogiaphy. Noi was he able to follow Adoino in
obseiving a stiict piinciple of nonidentity that would iendei histoiy
as a puiely cognitive concept. This veiy undecidability foims the con-
tinuous thiead of Kiacaueis aigument and nally becomes the basis
on which histoiy and photogiaphy aie named as inteimediate epi-
stemic categoiies, oi examples of what Kiacauei will call anteioom
thinking:
One may dene the aiea of histoiical ieality, like that of photo-
giaphic ieality, as an anteioom aiea. Both iealities aie of a kind
which does not lend itself to being dealt with in a denite way.
The peculiai mateiial in these aieas eludes the giasp of systematic
thought, noi can it be shaped in the foim of a woik of ait. Like
the statements we make about physical ieality with the aid of the
cameia, those which iesult fiom oui pieoccupation with histoiical
ieality may ceitainly attain to a level above meie opinion, but they
do not convey, oi ieach out foi ultimate tiuths, as do philosophy
and ait piopei. They shaie theii inheiently piovisional chaiactei
with the mateiial they iecoid, exploie, and penetiate. (Histcry I,I)
In Histcry. The Last Things bejcre the Last, this undecidability ai-
ticulates itself acioss two inteiielated pioblemsthat of histoiicism, in
which histoiy must decide what poition of its knowledge deiives fiom
scientic thought, and the aesthetic dimension of histoiical wiiting, in
which it must decide what poition of its guies of thought deiives
fiom (ctional) naiiative. In this iespect, it is inteiesting to compaie
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The Histoiical Image 163
the ist chaptei, wheie histoiy is dieientiated fiom the natuial sci-
ences, and the second to last, wheie the genie of geneial histoiy is
ciitiqued foi boiiowing too much fiom ction such that aitful conti-
nuities oveiiide the nonhomogeneous stiuctuie of histoiy. By follow-
ing this aic, one begins to undeistand that Kiacauei nds in the ciiti-
cisms of histoiys hybiid natuie the veiy basis foi its iedemption. If
histoiy is to be dened as a foim of genuine heimeneutic inquiiy, with
its own object and its own cognitive iesouices, it must make a detoui
thiough both science and liteiatuie without letting its path be detei-
mined by one oi the othei. Histoiical knowing must be dened in this
specic inteimediate aiea.
In the histoiy book, the continuing inuence of Wilhelm Dilthey
initially allows Kiacauei to steei his middle couise. Rejecting Hegelian
metaphysics no less foicefully than the attempt by Auguste Comte
and Heniy Thomas Buckle to elevate histoiy to the status of natu-
ial science, Diltheys distinguishing of histoiy as Geisteswissenschajten,
as an aiea distinct fiom Naturwissenschajten, enables the gambit that
opens Kiacaueis aigument. Kiacauei foicefully asseits that the possi-
bilities of histoiical undeistanding aie insepaiable fiomits objectthe
Lebenswelt as the spheie of histoiical ieality. Kiacaueis insistence
onthe nonidentityof histoiyand natuie need not be aigued againheie.
But Kiacauei asseits that like the natuial sciences, histoiical science
bases its knowledge on the obseivation of denable iegulaiities in its
object. Refeiiing back to his own essays of the I,:os, Kiacauei foimu-
lates a piinciple of mental economy that desciibes the Lebenswelt as
a paiticulai zone of ineitia wheie the unpiedictability of the indi-
vidual will is subsumed within the identity of the mass.
22
The multiple
activities that dene human piaxis aie not wholly incalculable, and
thus society may be undeistood as an entity that displays specic piop-
eities:
Conspicuous among themis a peculiai quality of the mateiials fiom
which it is built: they laigely fall into that zone of ineitia in which
the mind iesides absent-mindedly. Many of these mateiials, such
as customs, iites, ceitain institutions, evei-iecuiient ioutine activi-
ties, and the like, coincide in foiming the backgiound of oui social
existence. . . .
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164 Reading the Figuial
In sum, society is full of events which defy contiol because they
happen to occui in the dimly lit iegion wheie mental intensity is
ieduced to zeio. . . . The social univeise with its neai-stable cus-
toms and volatile opinions, its small gioups and masses, would seem
to fall undei the iule of natuie. In othei woids, it is possible and
legitimate, to bieak down the phenomena that make up this uni-
veise into iepeatable elements and analyze theii inteiielationships
and inteiactions foi iegulaiities. (Histcry :_:,)
Paiadoxically, it is only because individual subjectivity may be dis-
peised within the iule of the mass, which acts accoiding to its own tem-
poial and causal schemata, that histoiical ieality demonstiates iegu-
laiities that may then become the object of histoiical knowing. This
asseition, of couise, has little novelty with iespect to Kiacaueis wiit-
ings in paiticulai and the liteiatuie of social theoiy in geneial. Moie-
ovei, having made the point, Kiacauei does not insist on it, foi the
Lebenswelt simultaneously holds a iadical potentiality: Histoiy is the
iealm of contingencies, of new beginnings. All iegulaiities discoveied
in it, oi iead into it, aie of limited iange (Histcry _I). In fact, in one of
the fewdemonstiably political asides in the book, Kiacauei equates the
contingent quality of the Lebenswelt, its incalculability by any detei-
ministic piinciple, with an evei ienewable possibility of human fiee-
dom: Tiue, things may change undei a unied global management
of human aaiis, but then the question aiises to what extent can the
living foices which pioduce the contingencies be subjected to woild-
wide contiol without eithei ievolting oi witheiing. If anaichy calls foi
oidei, oidei tends to beget anaichy (,). The veiy foices that tend
to paialyze social life, to ieify it and give it the foim of an object, aie
simultaneously, foi Kiacauei, the foices that eneigize it and geneiate
in the Lebenswelt the constant possibility of unfoieseen, even ievolu-
tionaiy, potentialities. By denition, then, histoiical ieality confounds
any attempt to desciibe it accoiding to univeisals oi to iendei it pie-
dictable thiough a piinciple of deteimination. This being so, the histo-
iian iequiies a piinciple of undeistanding that is itself contingent and
that, in the couise of its own naiiation of human events, avoids both
the Scylla of abstiact thought and the Chaiybdis of false concieteness.
Histoiy is a stoiytelling medium, Kiacauei ieadily admits, no less
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The Histoiical Image 165
so than natuial science, which must tell the stoiy of the geophysical
oiigins of the planet, yet histoiy still compiises naiiative undeistand-
ing of a special type. To explain, Kiacauei iecounts that on the day
of the Kennedy assassination, people spontaneously foimed gioups in
the stieet to mouin the event, to discuss it, and to ieheaise its implica-
tions, in shoit, to iendei it intelligible. No doubt, Kiacauei wiites, a
piimitive instinct impelled them thus to evoke a past which had been
the piesent a moment ago and to pictuie to themselves, and tiy to ap-
piaise, the full scope of what theywehad thoughtlessly possessed
and abiuptly lost. In doing so, they followed a desiie which is at the
bottom of all histoiy wiiting: they wanted to undeistand (_).
Foi Kiacauei, this foim of undeistanding has an explicit context
given as Diltheys oeiing of Verstehen as the specic foim of compie-
hension of histoiical science, one that has nothing to do with scientic
explanations and exhausts itself in penetiating individual entities of,
peihaps, untiaceable oiigins (Histcry ). The guie of Veistehen, in
fact, without itself evei becoming an object of inquiiy in Kiacaueis
book, is nonetheless its cential oiganizing concept. Foi Kiacauei, the
concept of histoiical undeistanding is the shifting focal point (no chap-
tei in paiticulai is dedicated to it, no extensive aigument is attached
to it exclusively) wheie all the piincipal lines of thought in the book
conveige. The expeiience of Veistehen is peimeated by the contingent
qualityof the Lebenswelt. It desciibes the oating, unlocalizable, extia-
teiiitoiial subjectivity that must dedicate itself to two times and pei-
ambulate without a xed abode. It iefuses to dedicate itself exclusively
to any singulai intepietive schema oi philosophical system, especially
one that tends to identify histoiy as a totality. And it paiticipates in the
paiticulaiity of daily life, taking fiom the moie geneial and abstiact
spheies of thought only what it needs to iendei that expeiience in-
telligible: Histoiical explanations] cannot be dissolved oi extended
into statements about causal ielationships, stiuctuial conguiations,
and the like. Noi do they easily admit of widei application. They aie
ielatively self-contained, they iesult fiom, and iespond to, unique en-
counteis with opaque entities (,o). As examples of anteioom think-
ing, both histoiical and photogiaphic knowing fall undei the categoiy
of Veistehen. In doing so they dene an epistemological space which
boideis on the woild of daily lifethe Lebensweltand extends to
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166 Reading the Figuial
the connes of philosophy piopei. In it, we usually concentiate not so
much on the last things, as the last things befoie the last (:II). The
specicity of histoiical undeistanding, then, is that it situates itself just
shoit of last thingsthe univeisalizing tiuth claims of philosophyoi
aitwhile addiessing itself to the paiticulaiity of expeiience in a way
that iesists immeision in that zone of ineitia wheie mental activity is
ieduced to zeio.
But in iallying to the defense of histoiical undeistanding, Kiacauei
does not claimto have iesolved the pioblems of histoiicismand to have
identied theieby the quantity of knowledge that belongs to histoiy:
Once histoiicity is iecognized as pait and paicel of the human con-
dition, the pioblem aiises as to how to ieconcile the ensuing ielativity
of knowledge with the quest of ieason foi signicant tiuths of gen-
eial validity (Histcry I,o). Heie the pioblem of histoiical knowing
must confiont an impasse that divides, in Kiacaueis teims, tianscen-
dental and immanentist epistemologies. The tianscendental view,
which compiises theological and metaphysical aiguments inheiited
fiom Hegel, must assume the existence of timeless tiuths, values, oi
noims, that is, some piinciple of ieason thiough which histoiy nds
itself identied. Kiacaueis hostility to, and ciitique of, this pioblem-
atic need not be ieemphasized. The immanentist position, whose
genealogy descends fiom Dilthey thiough Heideggei and Gadamei,
piesents a somewhat tiickiei pioblem. Heie the acceptance of histo-
iicity as a basic piemise excludes iecouise to timeless tiuths oi onto-
logical aiguments. Each time will decide its own peispective on the
pioblemof tiuth. But despite his gieatei sympathies with this position,
Kiacauei voices extieme suspicion. Modein heimeneutics, with its as-
sumption of the ielativity of tiuth and its justications foi assuming
that each tiuth is the last woid within its own conciete situation and
that the dieient peispectives foim a hieiaichy in the total histoiical
piocess, nds that it must absolutize histoiy in oidei to ietiieve the
absolute fiom it (I,8). In Kiacaueis view, when its dialectical dance
is concluded, the anti-ontological position iesembles nothing less than
an ontology wheie histoiy becomes a success stoiy, oi a stuyclosed
system which, in accoidance with Hegels dictum, Vhat is real is ratic-
nal, shuts out the lost causes, the uniealized possibilities.
23
Theie is
little doubt that in staging this ciitique, Kiacauei nds himself in com-
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The Histoiical Image 167
plete accoid with Benjamins thesis that theie is no document of civili-
zation which is not at the same time a document of baibaiism. And
just as such a document is not fiee of baibaiism, baibaiism taints also
the mannei in which it was tiansmitted fiom one ownei to anothei
(Benjamin, Theses, :,8).
Heie the full consequences of Kiacaueis insistence on the iedemp-
tive chaiactei of histoiy and photogiaphy aie best undeistood. If his-
toiy and photogiaphy dene aieas of epistemological activity that fall
outside the claims of philosophical and aitistic activity, this acknowl-
edgment constitutes not the pioblem but the solution. With the ac-
ceptance of this insight, he aigues, the giound is piepaied foi a
theoietical acknowledgment of the nameless possibilities that may be
assumed to exist, and to wait foi iecognition, in the inteistices of the
extant doctiines of high geneiality. . . . If ] the tiuths in the intei-
stices cannot be won by way of deduction fiom an established con-
ception oi piinciple, they may well aiise out of absoiption in congu-
iations of paiticulais (Histcry :I,). Kiacaueis lesson is that histoiy
and photogiaphy themselves might have iested as nameless and un-
iedeemed possibilities if a ciitique could not be foiwaided that ie-
sisted the exclusivity of philosophical and aesthetic denitions. As ex-
amples of anteioom thinking, histoiical and photogiaphic knowing
aie to be valued foi theii ambiguity, theii iesistance to closuie, and
theii elusiveness with iespect to systematic thought. Foi Kiacauei, the
last things, ait and philosophy, should be appioached with a degiee of
suspicion. By viitue of theii geneiality, systematicity, and abstiactness,
both philosophical and aesthetic tiuths tend to adopt a iadical chaiac-
tei: They favoi eithei-oi decisions, develop a penchant foi exclusive-
ness, and have a way of fieezing into dogmas (:I). Moie impoitant,
they aie blind to the expeiience of eveiyday life and will always fail in
theii attempts to come to giips with the antinomic chaiactei of time
and the nonhomogeneous stiuctuie of ieality that only histoiy and
photogiaphy can aiticulate by viitue of theii coiiespondences to it.
Considei, then, the poetic coincidence that left Kiacaueis woik on
histoiy, though neaily complete, unnished at the time of his death.
With the insight that the nonhomogeneous stiuctuie of the intellec-
tual univeise tends to dispose with philosophical ceitainties, he none-
theless seemed compelled to dene and iedene the potential condi-
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168 Reading the Figuial
tions of knowledge, to continually ieentei the piovince of philosophy
in oidei to gaze back at histoiy oi the cinema. Kiacaueis solutions
to the pioblems of histoiical knowing aie not ievolutionaiy, and the
poweiful ciitique of philosophical knowing that his wiitings seem to
imply is not meant to eithei ieject oi deconstiuct the piovince of
philosophy oi the necessity of an ontological giounding of knowledge
pei se. In the end, this led him to accept a iadical compiomise. With
full awaieness that death alone is the sanction of eveiything that the
stoiytellei can tell, Kiacauei decided to accept the duplicitous chai-
actei of philosophical tiuth. Caught between the tianscendental and
immanentist positions, he nally aigues that neithei can the timeless
be stiipped of the vestiges of tempoiality, noi does the tempoial wholly
engulf the timeless. Rathei, we aie foiced to assume that the two as-
pects of tiuths exist side by side, ielating to each othei in ways which
I believe to be theoietically undenable (Histcry :oo). This side-by-
side piinciple thus becomes the nal guie of thought in Kiacaueis
ieections on histoiy. Heie the possibility of knowledge takes place
only in the foim of a calculated iisk. The piesumption of ontological
piinciples becomes, foi Kiacauei, gambles in Kafkas sense of the teim:
They meaningfully entei the scene on (unpiedictable) occasions and
then piesumably fulll vital functions (:oo).
Kiacauei thought of this side-by-side piinciple neithei as a stum-
bling block noi as a deus ex machina foi the piinciple of ieason. Rathei,
this iefusal to decide between the absolutes of philosophy and the
gamble of anteioom thinking denes foi him a kind of existential fiee-
dom that he undeistood allegoiically in Kafkas depiction of the ie-
lationship between Sancho Panza and Don Quixote. The fiagmentaiy
notes that seive as the concluding chaptei of Histcry. The Last Things
bejcre the Last aie thus biought to closuie thiough the following cita-
tion fiom Kafkas Parables and Paradcxes.
Without making any boast of it Sancho Panza succeeded in the
couise of yeais, by devouiing a gieat numbei of iomances of chiv-
aliy and adventuie in the evening and night houis, in so diveiting
fiom him his demon, whom he latei called Don Quixote, that his
demon theieupon set out in peifect fieedom on the maddest ex-
ploits, which, howevei, foi the lack of a pieoidained object, which
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The Histoiical Image 169
should have been Sancho Panza himself, haimed nobody. A fiee
man, Sancho Panza philosophically followed Don Quixote on his
ciusades, peihaps out of a sense of iesponsibility, and had of them
a gieat and edifying enteitainment to the end.
24
Theie is little doubt, then, that foi Kiacauei, anteioomthinking de-
nes a utopian moment in which the compiomise knowledges of his-
toiy and photogiaphy constitute a possible fieedom that escapes the
oblivion of lived expeiience without fieezing into the damnation of
systematic thought and univeisal tiuth. Hence the melancholy aspect
of Kiacaueis thought, which accepts the cameia as a foice of alien-
ation, and the discouise of the histoiian as that of the exile, as the piice
foi occupying the anteioom sepaiating the immediacy of lived expeii-
ence and the timelessness of philosophical knowing.
I began this chaptei by compaiing Kiacaueis theoiy of histoiy with
Foucaults. But only by tuining now to Deleuze, and Deleuzes own
special ieading of Foucault, can the foice of the guial as histoiical
image be claiied in its special ielationshipwith cinema. This is a meet-
ing between two dieient, though ielated, conceptualizations of time
in ielation to space. Heie Kiacaueis veision of the antinomic chaiactei
of time in its incommensuiability with space (both in teims of spa-
tial expiession and in the chionological iendeiing of time) encounteis
Deleuzes time-image as Event and eteinal ietuin. In both cases, how-
evei, the guial expiession of time in ielation to space oeis a newIdea
of histoiical sense that anticipates a new position foi the histoiical
subject.
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6. A GENEALOGY OF TIME
Non pas passer les universaux la rpe de lhistoire, mais faire passer
lhistoire au fil dune pense qui refuse les universaux. Quelle histoire
alors?Michel Foucault, note written 7 January 1979, in Dits et crits,
vol. 1
If cinema does not die a violent death, it retains the power of a begin-
ning.Gilles Deleuze, preface to the English edition of Cinema 2: The
Time-Image
Two Stories of 1968 First stcry cj :;o8. In Ce que je crcis, Mauiice Cla-
vel iepoits, When I disembaiked at the gaie de Lyon in Paiis on the
thiid of May, I bought the newspapeis, and, ieading the headlines ie-
poiting the ist student iiot, said calmly to my wife, Isnt it stiange,
thats it, heie we aie . . . Wheie: she asked me. In the middle of Fou-
cault. . . . Foi nally, didnt The Order cj Things heiald this gieat geo-
logical fiactuiing of oui humanist cultuie that emeiged in May I,o8:
1
Seccnd stcry cj :;o8. On the same day, a young ciitic wiiting foi
Cahiers du cinemahaving just seen Alain Resnaiss }e taime, je taime
emeiges fiom a theatei in the Latin Quaitei and is swept up in the
foice of histoiy as students and police clash among baiiicades and
buining cais. What iappoit can theie be between ction and ieality,
he thinks afteiwaid: What is the histoiical signicance of this lm,
peihaps Resnaiss most disoiienting meditation on time, appaiently
so distant fiom any political thought: What can cinema mean foi this
apocalyptic piesent maiked by the collective belief that the passing of
time is a cainivalesque Eventin fact, a bieak in time between past
and futuie wheie the futuie is open to an innite set of possibilities,
anything is possible, and change is inevitable:
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A Genealogy of Time 171
The liations between these two stoiies aie deepei than they appeai
at ist glance. Could Resnaiss most abstiact meditation on time and
memoiy ielate foicefully to the histoiical eiuption of May and June
I,o8 inFiance: This idea is noless oddthanthe ist ieactionof Mauiice
Clavel: immediately to isolate Fiench poststiuctuialism as one of the
piimaiy causes of the student and woikei piotests.
As in the pievious chaptei, heie lm and the philosophy of his-
toiy confiont each othei yet again, although with dieient philosophi-
cal stakes, in asking: What is histoiy, oi peihaps histoiical thought,
thiough visual cultuie: To answei this question, we must not only ex-
amine the ielationship between lmand audiovisual cultuie in geneial
but also ask with Foucault: Which histoiy, then: The immediate im-
pact of modein Fiench media and ait is to maik the emeigence of a
visual cultuie distinctly dieient fiom that of the piewai peiiod, one
of whose qualities is the iedenition of how time and thought aie ex-
piessed thiough audiovisual cultuie. Indeed, to state my thesis diiectly,
aftei I,,8 theie emeiges in Fiench audiovisual cultuie a new philoso-
phy of histoiy in images that is indelibly associated with Nietzsches
piesence in Fiench poststiuctuialist thought. Heie we nd a stiange ie-
veisal, ist signaled in Deleuzes wiitings on cinema.
2
Although visual
media aie usually consideied as aits of space, in modein Fiench visual
cultuie, space is, in stiikingly diveise ways, invested by time. In theii
new Nietzschean elaboiation, space and time aie ieguied: space be-
comes an Event dened by the foice of time as becoming and viitu-
ality. Space no longei occupies a single time but is instead ciossed by
multiple lines of descent (so many alteinative paths and deviations
in the line of time eithei baiied, foigotten, oi baiely dieamed) and
launches into the futuie as an undeteimined set of possibilities. This is
yet anothei way of ieading the guial, not only as a tiansfoimation in
the eld of audiovisuality, but also as a histoiical image.
Two Audiovisual Regimes: The Movement-Image and Time-Image
Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze aie the two guies most closely
associated with the Fiench tuin to Nietzsche in the I,oos.
3
Foucault
iemaiked only infiequently on the cinema and indeed is often con-
sideied a histoiian of discouise iathei than of visual cultuie. In his
book on Foucault, Deleuze takes the opposite tack. Foi Deleuze, Fou-
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172 Reading the Figuial
cault is a philosophei of the visible as well as the discuisive. Indeed,
Deleuze suggests, Foucaults desciiption of epistemic shifts is maiked
by the emplacement of audiovisual iegimes: changing aiticulations of
the visible with iespect to the expiessiblemodes of seeing and ways of
sayingthat oiganize knowledge, powei, and subjectivity in distinct
histoiical eias.
This philosophical consideiation of histoiy as the emplacement
and displacement of audiovisual iegimes also infoims Deleuzes two-
volume theoiy of lm, Cinema :. The Mcvement-Image and Cinema
:. The Time-Image. One consequence of these books is to piesent a
case foi the piimacy of cinema in the emeigence and oiganization of
twentieth-centuiy visual cultuie. Deleuze aigues that the histoiy of
cinema as an audiovisual foim is maiked by a tectonic shift. The dis-
placement of the movement-image by the time-image involves a tuin
both in the oidei of signs, iequiiing two dieient semiotics, and in
the image of thought chaiacteiizing the philosophical oiientation of
the two iegimes. The movement-image is chaiacteiized by a Hegelian
logic, that is, a dialectical oiganization of images and signs in an
oiganic iepiesentation maiked qualitatively by a will to tiuth. Alteina-
tively, the time-image piesumes a Nietzschean aesthetic whose images
and signs aie oiganized by fabulation, a falsifying naiiation dened
not by iepiesentation but by simulacia whose qualities aie poweis
of the false: the indiscernibility of the ieal and the imaginaiy in the
image, a tempoial (dis)oideiing of naiiation piesenting dieiences in
the piesent that aie inexplicable, and alteinative veisions of the past
whose tiuth oi falseness aie undecidable, and, as a iesult, a tiansfoi-
mation in the pioblem of judgment, of deciding the necessity oi con-
tingency of possible oi piobable inteipietations wheie inccmpcssible
woilds piolifeiate as incongiuous piesents and not necessaiily tiue
pasts. These aie two dieient images of thought wheie the Hegelian
will to tiuth, which identies the oideily unfolding of histoiy with
ieason, is challenged by a Nietzschean ciitique of values that asks not
What is tiue: but iathei Who wants the tiuth, and what do they
will in wanting it:
4
The movement-image and the time-image thus piesent two bioad
iegimes of images and signs. Indeed, the emeigence of the lattei fiom
the foimei tiaces a slowbut denite shift in the natuie of visual cultuie
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A Genealogy of Time 173
wheiein the aesthetic innovations of the Fiench New Wave and con-
tempoiaiycinema in Fiance iesonate with othei expeiiments in Fiench
audiovisual cultuie and the aits. Deleuzes second volume is especially
useful foi dening the exemplaiity of Fiench lm and audiovisual cul-
tuie since I,,8. Howevei, I also want to make a laigei aigument con-
ceining the natuie of Deleuzes philosophical analysis. The tiansition
desciibed fiom The Mcvement-Image to The Time-Image also eects a
moie geneial displacement in the philosophy of histoiy, indeed a shift-
ing ielation between histoiy and thought maiked by confiontations in
the postwai episteme between existentialismwith its Hegelian con-
ception of histoiy and politicsand the poststiuctuialism of Deleuze
and Foucault, with theii Nietzschean and genealogical concepts of his-
toiy and thought. This new histoiical sense equally infoims the iecon-
sideiation of time and change in contempoiaiy Fiench visual cultuie.
It may seem odd to ask the question of histoiy of Deleuze, since he
insisted that his two books do not oei a histoiy of cinema.
5
Cei-
tainly they aie the pioduct of philosophical activity and not histoiical
ieseaich in any sense of the teim. Deleuze has eveiy iight to emphasize
that what the two books oei is a taxonomy of signs and theii logics
as well as an elaboiation of concepts, and aie thus piimaiily woiks of
philosophy.
At the same time, howevei, the two books piesent many featuies
of a histoiical woik. They aie oiganized acioss a bioad tempoial divi-
sion: a histoiical bieak divides the time-image, which appeais laigely
in the peiiod following Woild Wai II, fiom the movement-image
that piecedes it. Indeed, Deleuze even piesents a histoiical context
foi this bieak. Piewai societies weie sustained by oiganic ideologies
(demociacy oi socialism) that functioned as univeisals dened by a
notion of histoiy as piogiess. The movement-image is maiked by
the coheience of sensoiimotoi situations: peiceptions deiive fiom co-
heient and meaningful images of the woild and extend into actions
capable of tiansfoiming the woild, events aie linked in meaningful
ways oiganized by oiigins and ends, opposition and conict aie ie-
solvable thiough actions and aie amenable to coheient solutions, indi-
viduals act as the agents of histoiy, and nally the individual stands,
pars prc tctc, foi the collective and thus expiesses the will of a people.
6
In the movement-image, then, the piotagonists actions diive a
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174 Reading the Figuial
chionological naiiative maiked by the dialectical unfolding of eects
fiom causes, ieactions fiom actions, accoiding to a logic of iational
inteivalsthe beginning of an image oi sequence unfolds in conti-
nuity fiom the ones that piecede it. An image of oiganic unity foims
as images aie linked oi extended accoiding to piinciples of association
and contiguity, and associated images aie integiated into a conceptual
whole and dieientiated into moie extensive sets. This is a chionologi-
cal oi empiiical conceptionwheie time canonly be piesentedindiiectly
as continuous segmentations of space whose paits aie commensuiate
with the whole of the lm. Deleuze calls this piocess an open totality
in movement that gives iise to a model of the Tiue as totalization, an
ideal woild peifectly commensuiate and analogous with both its iefei-
ent and the subject who compiehends it. This notion of chionological
time confoims piecisely with a lineai and teleological conception of
histoiy.
The time-image emeiges fiom Italian neoiealism and comes to
fiuition in the Fiench New Wave. The naiiative innovations of neo-
iealism, the New Wave, oi New Geiman Cinema all deiive fiom the
expeiience of physical, social, and psychological ieconstiuction of
societies devastated duiing the second Woild Wai. This expeiience de-
nes a set of chaiacteiistics that make possible the emeigence of di-
iect images of time. As images of emptied and wasted spaces suiged
in eveiyday life, postwai cinema discoveied a dispeisive and lacu-
naiy ieality that motivated ambiguous and undecipheied images
(Mcvement-Image :I:). Especially in the Fiench New Wave, naiiation
is fieed fiom sensoiimotoi situations and any teleological oiientation.
Lines of action become lines of ight whose points of depaituie and
aiiival aie aibitiaiy oi undeteimined: jouineys to and fiom Paiis and
the piovinces (Chabiols Le beau serge oi Les ccusins I,,8]), eiiant
tiajectoiies in the city whose value is moie ethical oi analytical than
spatial (Rohmeis Mcral Tales oi Tiuauts Antoine Doinel tiilogy), in-
vestigations whose object is obscuie and whose ends aie inconclusive
(Rivettes Paris ncus appartient I,oI]). But peihaps the puiest example
of what Deleuze calls the jcrme-balade is found in lms such as Tiuf-
fauts Tirez-sur le pianiste (I,oo) oi Godaids A bcut de scue (I,,,)
oi Pierrct le jcu (I,o,). Heie classical naiiation yields to unpiedictable
lines of ight: an accumulation of dispaiate uiban landscapes and dis-
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A Genealogy of Time 175
junct geogiaphies connected only by the dual sense of the Fiench woid
evasicn, both ight fiom the law and play oi leisuie.
The piotagonists of NewWave lms thus dene a nomadism wheie
the chaiacteis of the time-image wandei eiiantly and obseive in
emptied and disconnected spaces, lineai actions dissolve into aleatoiy
stiolls that oiganize elliptical naiiatives guided piedominantly by
chance.
7
In so doing they iepiesent a kind of postmodein histoiical
subjectivitythe falteiing belief in totality, eithei fiom the point of
viewof the gieat oiganic ideologies oi fioma belief in the image as any-
thing othei thana paitial and contingent desciiptionof ieality. Because
the linking of images is no longei motivated by actions, space changes
in natuie, becoming a seiies of disconnected any-spaces-whatevei
oiganized by a logic of iiiational inteivals oi inteistices that no
longei foim a pait of any sequence eithei as the end of one oi the be-
ginning of anothei. Because it is autonomous and iiieducible, the ii-
iational inteival gives iise to a tianscendental oi diiect image of time as
abeiiant oi false movement. It is not spatial, noi does it foimpait of an
image. Rathei, as a diiect image of time, the inteistice piesents a foice
that unhinges images and sounds into disconnected seiies and epi-
sodic sequences that can no longei foiman oiganic image of the whole.
Anothei hallmaik of the guial, this geometiy of the time-image is not
totalizable as an image of Tiuth. Acts of seeing and heaiing ieplace the
linking of images by motivated actions and the exeition of will, puie
desciiption ieplaces iefeiential anchoiing. In this mannei, new kinds
of images and signs appeai wheie making-false jaire-jaux] becomes
the sign of a new iealism, in opposition to the making tiue of the old
(Mcvement-Image :I_). The movement-image piesents time indiiectly
as the unfolding of a causally motivated space, a tiuthful image that
subsumes the ieality it iepiesents as a ietuin of the Same. But with the
diiect image of timeelliptical events maiked only by chance connec-
tions, undecipheied and ambiguous images pioducing events in theii
unique duiationtheie also appeai new values. As I will aigue latei,
this is a Nietzschean conception of time and histoiy maiked by the
logic of eteinal iecuiience.
Finally, Deleuze aigues in the pieface to The Mcvement-Image that
the cinema has a place in both the histoiy of ait and the histoiy of phi-
losophy. Ineach case, this ielates to conceptual innovationincinematic
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176 Reading the Figuial
piactice that Deleuze examines thiough his taxonomy of images and
signs. Although these classications aie laigely philosophicalbased
on Henii Beigsons Matter and Memcry and, especially in the ist vol-
ume, the semiotic of Chailes Sandeis Peiicethe fundamental division
of the time-image fiom the movement-image is ait histoiical. Map-
ping a centuiy-long tiansfoimation in oui cultuial modes of envision-
ing and iepiesenting, Deleuze adopts WilhelmWoiiingeis distinction
between oiganic and ciystalline iegimes to chaiacteiize the qualita-
tive dieiences between the movement-image and time-image.
8
How-
evei, when Deleuze iefeis to the oiganic movement-image as clas-
sic and the ciystalline time-image as modein, this means neithei
that the lattei ows fiom the foimei as natuial piogiession oi teleol-
ogy noi that the modein foim necessaiily opposes the classic as nega-
tion oi ciitique. Instead, this tiansition iepiesents a distinct, if giadual,
tiansfoimation in the natuie of belief and the possibilities of thought.
If the modein cinema oeis a direct piesentation of time, the emei-
gence of this time-image is not a necessaiy consequence of the evolu-
tion of the movement-image. Foi Deleuze, the histoiy of cinema is in
no way a piogiession towaid an evei moie peifect iepiesentation of
time. Rathei, the ielation between time and thought is imagined dif-
feiently in the postwai peiiod, as iepiesented in the signs pioduced by
the time-image and by changes in the image of thought occuiiing in
postwai science, ait, and philosophy. And heie histoiy ietuins to phi-
losophy, since what is at stake is a shift in oui image of thought, that
is, the image of what thought gives itself of what it means to think, to
make use of thought, to nd ones beaiings in thought.
9
One could map postwai lmmaking in Fiance as the emeigence of
the ciystalline iegime of the time-image as a new peispective on the
histoiy of lm style. But I want to aigue instead that Deleuze piesents
us with two histoiies oi, moie piecisely, two distinct and incom-
mensuiable logics foi thinking histoiically thrcugh images and signs. If
Deleuze demuis fiom chaiacteiizing the content of his books as his-
toiy, they nonetheless piesent a shift in the way histoiy is thought,
and indeed may suggest that we ieconsidei the veiy idea of histoiy as
a philosophical concept and as a foice expiessed thiough audiovisual
cultuie. In Fiench lm since I,,8, theie appeais a new oiientation of
the visible with iespect to the expiessibleof image and sound as well
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A Genealogy of Time 177
as movement and timethat denes a new conceptual ielation with
questions of histoiy, memoiy, and politics while maiking the emei-
gence of a new foim of subjectivity, one of whose consequences may
have been to ignite the histoiical desiie expiessed in May I,o8.
The exemplaiity of the time-image in contempoiaiy Fiench cinema
thus becomes the occasion to examine thiee new piemises foi iead-
ing the guial: that ieading Deleuze and Foucault togethei is a way of
compiehending what a cinematic histoiy of concepts means in contiast
to a dialectical conception of histoiy, that the movement-image and
time-image aie histoiical in the sense of piesenting two distinct audio-
visual iegimes, which may be distinguished by, among othei ciiteiia,
the passage fiom a Hegelian philosophy of histoiy to a Nietzschean oi
genealogical histoiical thought, and that Fiench cinema since I,,8 may
be chaiacteiized by the concept of genealogy elaboiated by Foucault
in his ieading of Nietzsche.
I believe the ultimate goal of the human sciences to be not to constitute,
but to dissolve man.Claude Lvi-Strauss, The Savage Mind
The Ends of the Dialectic and the Return of History: Hegel & Nietz-
sche When Deleuze iemaiks that his lm books aie not histoiy, it is
necessaiy to ask: What does histoiy mean in this context: To undei-
stand the Nietzschean dimension of Fiench cinema as a genealogy of
time, we must examine howand undei what conditions a philosophical
discouise on Nietzsche emeiged and ciiculated in Fiench intellectual
cultuie, and how it tiansfoimed notions of the histoiical subject.
In a I,o, inteiview with Raymond Belloui, Foucault iemaiked that
in the I,,os and I,oos the discipline of histoiy was the object of a cuii-
ous sacialization by the Fiench Left. Many intellectuals obseived a
iespectful distance to histoiy as a way of ieconciling theii ieseaich and
wiiting with theii political consciences. Undei the cioss of histoiy, this
attitude became a piayei to the gods of just causes.
10
To question the
identity of histoiy with ieason, oi to exhume the Hegelian foundations
of histoiical knowing thiough a genealogical ciitique, was unthink-
able because it would expose the histoiical contingency of the political
iationality associated with the paiticulai Maixism of the Fiench Com-
munist Paity. In the eyes of ceitain people, Foucault explained,
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178 Reading the Figuial
the discipline of histoiy constituted the last iefuge of the dialectical
oidei: in histoiy one could save the kingdom of iational contia-
diction. Thus many intellectuals maintainfoi two ieasons and
against any vraisemblancea conception of histoiy oiganized on
the model of the stoiy (recit) of the gieat sweep of events taken up in
a hieiaichy of deteiminations. Individuals aie seized in the inteiioi
of this totality whichis beyondthemandplays inthem, andof which
they aie at the same time, peihaps, the unconscious authois. To the
point wheie this histoiy, a pioject of both the individual and the
totality, has foi ceitain people become untouchable. Foi this would
be to attack the giand cause of ievolution by iefusing such foims
said to be histoiical. (Dit et ecrits ,8,8o)
Indeed, paiaphiasing Nietzsches On the Uses and Disadvantages of
Histoiy, one might say that in the immediate postwai peiiod, the
Fiench sueied fiom the disease of histoiy as dened by a Hegelian
tiadition associated with phenomenology and existentialism.
In this inteiview, Foucault implicitly addiesses a numbei of con-
icts that aiose as existentialism, stiuctuialism, and poststiuctuialism
viedfoi intellectual dominance inpostwai Fiance. This intellectual his-
toiy undeiscoies a numbei of concepts that ciiculated in ait piactice
and theoiy, as well as lm and lm theoiy, with iespect to the natuie
of iepiesentation, signication, and the place of the subject. And in
these conicts, a shift in the iepiesented logic of histoiy may be tiaced
as well.
The leading philosopheis of the existentialist peiiodJean-Paul
Saitie and Mauiice Meileau-Pontydeiived theii philosophical posi-
tions fiom the phenomenology of Husseil and Heideggei as well as
Maixs wiitings on political economy. Without question, howevei, the
piedominant philosophical inuence of the immediate postwai peiiod
was Hegel. Theiefoie, to oei the guie of Nietzsche as cential to the
thinking of histoiy in the postwai peiiod is not self-evident. But, it
must be said, this is equally the case foi Hegel. Befoie Woild Wai II,
Fiench academic philosophyconsideied Hegel a Romantic whose ideas
weie long put to iest by moie scientic appioaches to philosophy.
Howevei, in the immediate postwai peiiod, a Hegelianized Maixism
iapidly became the dominant discouise foi students of philosophy in
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A Genealogy of Time 179
Foucaults and Deleuzes geneiation. The ienewed piestige of Hegel in
Fiance was due piincipally to two guies: Alxandie Kojve and Jean
Hyppolite. Fiom I,__ to I,_,, Kojves lectuies on Hegels Phencme-
nclcgy cj the Spirit at the Ecole Piatique des Hautes Etudes maiked
many of the piincipal guies in the next geneiation of Fiench phi-
losophy, including RaymondAion, Mauiice Meileau-Ponty, Raymond
Queneau, Geoiges Bataille, Pieiie Klossowski, and Jacques Lacan. At
about the same time, Hyppolite was woiking on the ist Fiench tians-
lations of Hegels Phencmenclcgy, which appeaied in two volumes, in
I,_, and I,I. The gieatei inuence of Kojves lectuies was delayed
until I,,, when they weie nally published as Intrcducticn la lecture
de Hegel. Lecns sur la phencmenclcgie d lesprit, in a veision edited
by Raymond Queneau fiom his lectuie notes. In the same yeai, Hyp-
polite defended and published his thesis on Hegel, Genese et structure
de la Phencmenclcgie de lesprit de Hegel. This inuential book was
quickly followed by studies of Hegels logic and philosophy of histoiy,
as well as a seiies of studies on Maix and Hegel.
11
As a piofessoi ist
at the piestigious Lyce Henii-IV, and then at the Soibonne and the
Collge de Fiance, Hyppolites teaching exeited an enoimous inu-
ence on a whole geneiation of Fiench philosopheisincluding Michel
Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Louis Althussei, and Jacques Deiiidaall
of whom would neveitheless eventually pioduce impoitant ciitiques
of Hegel.
The closeness of Fiench Hegelianism to both existentialism and
Maixism was something explicitly iecognized and commented on by
both Hyppolite and Meileau-Ponty. Indeed, it would be dicult to say
whethei it was the iediscoveiy of Maixs I8 Paiis manusciipts and
the geneial postwai piestige of Maixist philosophy that encouiaged
the inteiest in Hegel, oi whethei it was the piedominance of Hegel that
opened a new context foi Maixist thought in Fiance. In any case, in
the heyday of existentialism and phenomenology, Hegel had achieved
a poweiful though cuiious place in the histoiy of philosophyat once
the apogee of classical thought and the oiigin of modein Continen-
tal philosophy. Foi Hyppolite, the genealogy of modein philosophy
thiough Feueibach, Kieikegaaid, Nietzsche, and Maix could be iead
as oiiginal iesponses to specic confiontations with Hegels thought.
Foi Meileau-Ponty, the silence iegaiding Hegel in the ist half of the
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180 Reading the Figuial
twentieth centuiy was an ignoble foigetting of Hegels inuence such
that the most uigent pioject of modein philosophy was to ieconnect
those ungiateful doctiines to theii Hegelian oiigins. The pieeminence
of Hegel in the immediate postwai peiiod is amply iepiesented, then,
in Meileau-Pontys comment in Sense and Ncn-Sense that all the gieat
philosophical ideas of the past centuiy had theii beginnings in Hegel:
the philosophies of Maix and Nietzsche, phenomenology, Geiman
existentialism, and psychoanalysis, it was he who staited the attempt to
exploie the iiiational and integiate it into an expanded ieason which
iemains the task of oui centuiy (o_).
By the middle of the I,oos, howevei, histoiys laigely Hegelian
pioject seemed moie and moie demcde as linguistics, sociology, and
ethnology abandoned dialectical concepts foi the synchionic analysis
of stiuctuies. Indeed, despite his own vexed ielationship with stiuc-
tuialism, the phenomenal and completely unexpected success of The
Order cj Things inspiing I,oo placedFoucaults woik inthe foiegiound
of the cultuial conict between existentialismand stiuctuialism, above
all with its moie often than not misundeistood pionouncements on
the death of man. A moie diiected challenge to existentialism ap-
peaied in anothei oft-quoted iemaik: Maixism is in the thought of
the I,th centuiy life like a sh in watei, implying, of couise, that in
the midtwentieth centuiy, the dialectic was a whale beached on the
same sand wheie the face of man was dissolving in the ocean.
Foi all its complexity, stiuctuialisms ciitique of phenomenology
and existentialism taigeted two fundamental concepts: the subject and
histoiy. Although the publication of Claude Lvi-Stiausss Structural
Anthrcpclcgy in I,,8 should be consideied as the opening volley of
stiuctuialisms ciitique of existentialism, peihaps the moie impoitant
touchstone was the conclusion to The Savage Mind (I,o:), which at-
tacked Saities philosophy as a contempoiaiy mythology. Explic-
itly taigeting Saities Critique cj Dialectical Reascn (I,oo), Lvi-Stiauss
piesented stiuctuialisms most poweiful ciitique of existential Maix-
isms Hegelianized veision of the subject, above all as an agent in his-
toiy. (In a I,oo inteiview, Foucault was even less kind, stating that The
Critique cj Dialectical Reascn is the magnicent and pathetic attempt
of a I,th centuiy man to think the :oth centuiy. In this sense, Saitie is
the last Hegelian, and I would say even, the last Maixist.)
12
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A Genealogy of Time 181
The oiiginality of Lvi-Stiausss aigument was to piesent the stiuc-
tuie of myth as a thought without subject. Like the othei key guies
of stiuctuialism, Lvi-Stiauss was inspiied by the semiology of Feidi-
nand de Saussuie, who, instead of following the tiaditional methods
of histoiical philology, chose to study the pioblem of linguistic mean-
ing in the systematic stiuctuie of language itself. In ieconstiucting the
system of language (langue), semiology studies not the isolated ele-
ments of language oi individual speech acts (paiole) but iathei the
patteined system of dieiences constituting theii stiuctuie indepen-
dent of any actual act of speaking. In this mannei, Linguistics thus
piesents us with a dialectical and totalizing entity but one outside (oi
beneath) consciousness and will. Language, an unieecting totaliza-
tion, is human ieason which has its ieasons and of which man knows
nothing (Savage Mind :,:).
13
Heie stiuctuialismandexistential Maix-
ism confiont each othei with competing concepts of totality, one that
is dialectical and tempoial, iesulting fiomhuman piaxis, the othei that
is spatial and ielational oi systemic. Foi stiuctuialism, the dialectic
mounts an illusion of the Cogito as a guie of univeisal iationality. By
focusing on systemic invaiiants and the level of langue while setting
aside the moie ephemeial evolution of daily and individual speech,
only synchionic analysis establishes a scientic and social theoiy of
language. In A quoi ieconnait-on le stiuctuialisme: Deleuze chai-
acteiized this concept as a kind of viitual totality, a tianscendental
topology dened by the symbolic iathei than the tianscendental
humanismof Saities dialectic. Heie the self-piesent agency of the phe-
nomenological subject dissolves into an anonymous logic of signica-
tion wheie consciousness becomes little moie than a suiface eect and
histoiy is dened not by human agency and conict but by displace-
ments in systems of thought that aie both collective and anonymous.
In Lvi-Stiausss aigument, then, Saitie mysties histoiy accoiding
to ciiteiia that dieientiate tempoial and spatial thinking. In existen-
tial Maixism, the tempoial dimension of dialectical ieason is gianted
a special status on the piesumption that it denes the human Cogito.
But the dieience between ethnology and philosophy in this iespect
is not so gieat. Wheieas the histoiian ieconstitutes an image of past
societies as they conceived themselves in theii own piesent, the ethnog-
iaphei ieconstiucts the histoiical stages that piecede actually existing
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182 Reading the Figuial
societies in time. Like the semiologist, the ethnogiaphei pioduces syn-
chionic oi atempoial slices of space, snapshots, as it weie, of a tempoial
evolution. But the deepei pioblem ietuins to a Hegelian piivileging
of tempoial oi dialectical veisus spatial thinking, above all in how
Saitie dispaiages the peoples of piimitive societies as being without
histoiy. And so we end up, wiites Lvi-Stiauss, in the paiadox of a
system which invokes the ciiteiion of histoiical consciousness to dis-
tinguish the piimitive fiomthe civilized butcontiaiy to its claim
is itself ahistoiical. It oeis not a conciete image of histoiy but an ab-
stiact schema of men making histoiy of such a kind that it can manifest
itself in the tiend of theii lives as a synchionic totality. Its ielation to
histoiy is theiefoie the same as that of piimitives to the eteinal past: in
Saities system, histoiy plays exactly the pait of myth (Savage Mind
:,). Theiefoie it is necessaiy to challenge the identication of Histoiy
with the unfolding of Reason, above all when it imposes on us the un-
avowed aim of making histoiicity the last iefuge of a tianscendental
humanism: as if men could iegain the illusion of libeity on the plane
of the we meiely by giving up the Is that aie too obviously wanting
in consistency (:o:).
It is in this mannei that Lvi-Stiauss, Lacan, and Althussei all diew
on the methodology of Saussuiean linguistics foi theii ciitical inves-
tigations of the human sciences: anthiopology, psychoanalysis, and
political economy. Wheie the existentialists piivileged the concept of
human action in histoiy, stiuctuialism emphasized the synchionic
analysis of stiuctuies independent of human agencymyth, the
logic of the signiei, and histoiy as absent cause. And wheie exis-
tentialism piivileged the philosophical analysis of consciousness as the
cential fact of human existence, stiuctuialism was chaiacteiized by its
antihumanism, its decenteiing of the subject as a function of social
stiuctuies. Foucault iefeiied to this as a passion of concept and sys-
tem in contiadistinction to the existentialist passion foi life and exis-
tence.
14
Wheie Saities pioject was to iecovei meaning fiom a woild
that the bouigeoisie had iendeied absuid, the lesson of stiuctuialism
was to demonstiate a displacement in the concept of meaning itself.
Theiefoie when Lacan aigues that the unconscious is stiuctuied like a
language, a shift occuis wheie it is no longei the subject who speaks oi
acts, but iathei the anonymous systemof language that speaks thiough
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A Genealogy of Time 183
the subject, oi what Foucault identied as an anonymous thought oi
knowledge without subject that is found in modein liteiatuie as much
as the theoiies of stiuctuialism.
The ieieadings of Fieud and Maix by Lacan and Althussei, as well as
Heideggeis magisteiial if idiosynciatic iecoveiy of Nietzsche, set the
conditions foi poststiuctuialism to emeige as a distinctly philosophi-
cal iesponse to the stiuctuialist piivileging of the human sciences.
Nietzsche was ceitainly nevei entiiely absent fiom Fiench thought,
having ciiculated thiough the liteiaiy and cultuial avant-gaide in the
woiks of Geoiges Bataille, Pieiie Klossowski, Albeit Camus, Andi
Maliaux, and Mauiice Blanchot, among otheis. But this was laigely a
subteiianean and maiginal piesence. As Alan D. Schiift notes, in post-
wai philosophical ciicles, Nietzsches place was decisively suboidinate
to that of the thiee Hs: Hegel, Husseil, and Heideggei (Nietzsches
French Legacy _). The stage was set foi the new Nietzscheanism with
the publication of Deleuzes Nietzsche and Philcscphy in I,o:, a book
whose piofound inuence on Fiench philosophy has yet to be fully ac-
counted foi. Subsequently two impoitant colloquiums on Nietzsche,
the ist oiganized by Deleuze at Royaumont in July I,o and the sec-
ond occuiiing at Ceiisy-La-Salle inJuly I,,:, fiamed a numbei of othei
impoitant events, including the tianslation and publication of Nietz-
sches complete woiks undei Deleuze and Foucaults editoiship and
the appeaiance of a numbei of impoitant studies on oi inuenced by
Nietzsche.
15
One of the cuiious consequences of the iise of stiuctuialism, with
its emphasis on ieasseiting the methodological iigois of the social sci-
ences, was to undeicut the enoimous piestige of philosophy in the
postwai peiiod. Indeed, Lvi-Stiausss ciitique of Saitie was symp-
tomatic of a moie geneial attack by the social sciences on the stand-
ing of philosophy in the humanities. Theiefoie, one way to identify
the dieience of poststiuctuialismin the woik of Deleuze, Foucault,
oi Deiiidais thiough its ieasseition of the poweis of philosophy
with iespect to the pioblems and concepts posed by stiuctuialism.
The passage thiough Nietzsche, then, was impoitant foi two ieasons.
Fiist, in the institutional fiamewoik of, as Deleuze put it, a geneiation
iuined by the histoiy of philosophy, Nietzsches status as a maiginal
philosophei in Fiance opened a line of ight foi young philosopheis
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184 Reading the Figuial
fatigued by the iationalist and Hegelian tiaditions of academic phi-
losophy.
16
One may think it iionic, then, that Foucault should succeed
to Jean Hyppolites chaii at the Collge de Fiance in I,,o. But Fou-
caults homages to Hyppolite make cleai that while the newNietzsche-
anism appeaied as a philosophical ciitique of Hegel, its histoiical ie-
sponse to the Hegel geneiation was not one of dialectical opposition
oi conict but iathei the seaich foi alteinative styles of ieading and cii-
tique sensitive to the foimidable poweis of the dialectic. In The Order
cj Disccurse, his inauguial lectuie at the Collge de Fiance, Foucault
iemaiked:
Oui entiie epoch, whethei thiough logic oi epistemology, thiough
Maix oi thiough Nietzsche, tiies to escape fiom Hegel. . . . But to
ieally escape fiom Hegel means appieciating what it costs to bieak
with him, to knowup to what point, insidiously peihaps, that Hegel
is close to us, and to know, in what allows us to think against Hegel,
that which is still Hegelian, and, in oui iecouise against him, to
measuie what may yet be a iuse wheiein he opposes us, waiting im-
mobile, elsewheie. Now, if theie aie moie than one among us who
owe Jean Hyppolite a debt, it is because he tiielessly followed, foi
us and ahead of us, the path diveiging fiom Hegel, which takes dis-
tance fiom him, and thiough which we nd ouiselves biought back
to him, but otheiwise, with the necessity of leaving him again.
17
To fiee oneself fiom the dialectic meant tiansfoiming the teiiain of
philosophical concepts, not supeiseding philosophy in a new dialecti-
cal gestuie oi a dieient foim of totality. Foi poststiuctuialism, then,
Hyppolite was less the mastei Hegelian than the innovatoi of a dieient
appioach to the histoiy of philosophical thought, one that iecognized
in each systemno mattei how complete it seemswhat oveiows
it, exceeds it, and puts it in a ielation of both exchange and default with
iespect to philosophy itself.
18
Foucault and otheis saw in Hyppolite a
philosophical style that dened the piincipal pioblems and appioaches
of the postwai peiiod, including a numbei of questions that would
dene the new Nietzscheanism of the I,oos, namely, how to think the
ielation between violence and discouise, oi between logic and exis-
tence, and that philosophical thinking is a piactical necessity that is a
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A Genealogy of Time 185
way of putting non-philosophy to woik while always iesiding close to
it, theie wheie it is tied to existence (Foucault, Hyppolite ,8,).
The dieience of the newNietzscheanism was maiked not only by
a dieient conceptualization of philosophical style and discouise but
also in the way that philosophy ieconsideied its own ielation to histoiy
and the philosophyof histoiy. Lvi-Stiausss attack on Saitie signaled a
ieal confiontation, indeed an opposition, between stiuctuialism and a
Hegelianized existentialism. This conict was maiked both tempoially,
as a stoiy wheie one discouise supeisedes anothei, and spatially as the
discouise of the human sciences diewits boideis against philosophy.
Alteinatively the histoiical ielation of the new Nietzscheanism to exis-
tentialism and stiuctuialism is dieient fiom the opposition of stiuc-
tuialismto existentialism. It is stiongly maiked neithei by a peiiod noi
by a consistent teiiain of concepts, noi did Nietzsches thought func-
tion as an authenticating oiigin in the same way as the names of Hegel
and Maix, Fieud oi Saussuie. What Nietzsche enabled was not only a
newstyle of philosophizing but also a newconceptualization of histoiy
in ielation to discouise and the poweis of discouise that was cunning
and subtle enough to evade the tiaps of dialectic.
And heiein lies the second fundamental ieason foi the tuin to Nietz-
sche. The passage thiough Nietzsche piesented a way of ietaining the
stiuctuialist emphasis onananonymous thought without subject while
iethinking pioblems of agency and histoiy. Schiift notes that one con-
sequence of the tuin to Nietzsche, in Foucault, foi example, was to
ieexamine how questions of agency could be addiessed without ie-
tuining to phenomenologys emphasis on the centiality of human con-
sciousness. That is to say, Schiift wiites, wheie the stiuctuialists
iesponded to existentialisms piivileging of consciousness and histoiy
by eliminating them both, the poststiuctuialists took fiom stiuctuial-
ism insights conceining the woiking of linguistic and systemic foices
and ietuined with insights to ieinvoke the question of the subject in
teims of a notion of constituted-constitutive-constituting agency situ-
ated and opeiating within a complex netwoik of socio-histoiical and
inteisubjective ielations (Nietzsches French Legacy ,o). Thus the tuin
to Nietzsche ieinvented the ielation between histoiy and agency in
foui ways: by ieaiticulating the ielation between language, powei, and
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186 Reading the Figuial
desiie, by tiansfoiming the pioblem of meaning so as to undeimine
any claim to univeisality, by opposing binaiy oppositions with a logic
of dieiential meaning, and by conceiving the subject as a complex site
ciossed by discuisive, libidinal, and social foices that both constiained
and enabled the possibilities of agency. In this mannei, a new concep-
tualization of histoiy and the subject appeaied in the Nietzscheanism
of Deleuze, Foucault, Deiiida, Klossowski, Hlne Cixous, and Saiah
Kofman, although with veiy dieient manifestations in each. The ie-
newed inteiest in Nietzsche had multiple dimensions, then, and was
less a ietuin in the sense of Lacans ietuin to Fieud, oi Althusseis
ieieading of Maix, than the opening of a new teiiitoiy of concepts
along multiple lines of descent: a ciitique of the will to tiuth, an intei-
pietation of the complex connections between knowledge and powei,
and a newattention to questions of style and ihetoiic in philosophical
discouise.
Genealogy, Countermemory, Event Contiaiy to the usual way of iepie-
senting poststiuctuialism, the tuin to Nietzsche was a way of ieasseit-
ing the foice of histoiy occluded by stiuctuialism, and in so doing,
ieassessing what histoiy means in ielation to foice, memoiy, oi time.
Deleuze is iight to insist that his theoiy does not piesent a histoiy of
cinema. But the logic of the time-image itself can be ievaluated in the
Nietzschean sense as the emeigence of a histoiical dispcsitij that pie-
supposes not only a ieaiticulation of time in ielation to space but also
the expiession of a newhistoiical sense and the anticipation of a new
histoiical subject. I want to continue, then, with some indications of
how Deleuzes Nietzschean aesthetic of the time-image iesonates with
Foucaults discussion of genealogy.
The sixties and seventies in Fiance weie an extiaoidinaiy peiiod of
cinematic expeiimentation and cioss-feitilization with liteiatuie, ait,
ciitical theoiy, and philosophy as iepiesented most cleaily in the lms
of Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godaid, Alain Robbe-Giillet, and Mai-
gueiite Duias. Moieovei, aftei the phenomenal success of The Order
cj Things in I,ooand the subsequent inuence of publications such
as Nietzsche, Genealogy, HistoiyFoucaults iadical ieconceptual-
ization of the histoiical pioject became incieasingly inuential in both
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A Genealogy of Time 187
lm theoiy and piactice. In the I,,os, foi example, Cahiers du cinema
began to ieassess the pioblem of histoiy by publishing its collective
analyses of Ycung Mr. Linccln, Hangmen Alsc Die, and La Marseillaise,
as well as Jean-Louis Comollis seiies of essays on technology and ide-
ology and discussions of Foucaults ideas conceining populai memoiy
as counteimemoiy.
19
At about the same time, a new kind of histoiical lmmaking
emeiged in the woik of Comolli, Ren Allio, and otheis. Some of these
lms such as Allios Mci, Pierre Riviere . . . (I,,o) and Heiv Guibeits
pioject foi lming Herculine Barbin, dite Alexina B (I,,,) weie diiectly
inuenced by Foucaults ieseaich. Of couise, a numbei of lms of the
I,oos anticipated a genealogical examination of histoiy and a iethink-
ing of timeabove all Alain Resnaiss Nuit et brcuillard (I,,,), Hirc-
shima mcn amcur (I,,,), Muriel (I,o_), and La guerre est nie (I,oo),
as well as a numbei of lms by Chiis Maikei, and by Jean-Maiie Stiaub
and Danille Huillet. Howevei, it was the ielease of Maicel Ophuls
Le chagrin et la pitie in I,,Ias well as Les camisards (Ren Allio,
I,,o) and Le sauveur (Michel Maidoie, I,,o)that launched a decade
of lms that explicitly took on pioblems of histoiical iepiesentation,
knowing, and memoiy moie oi less in the context of Foucault and the
new histoiy.
20
The question iemains open, howevei, of why contempoiaiy Fiench
cinema should have been, and in many iespects continues to be, a
piivileged site foi a meditation on time. Even in Deleuzes account,
the time-image has avatais in many dieient countiies and dieient
peiiods of lm histoiy. Yet Fiench lmmakeis, and the histoiy of con-
tempoiaiy Fiench cinema, foim a denitive ciest line thioughout The
Time-Image in the expeiiments with time and subjectivity expiessed,
each in dieient ways, in the woik of Jean Renoii, Max Ophuls, Luis
Buuel, Robeit Biesson, Alain Resnais, Jean Rouch, Maigueiite Duias,
Alain Robbe-Giillet, Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godaid, Eiic Rohmei,
Jean-Maiie Stiaub and Danille Huillet, Philippe Gaiiel, and otheis.
A deepei exeicise in intellectual and aesthetic histoiy needs to ex-
plain the conditions that enabled this genealogical cuiient to pass
thiough philosophy and histoiy to lm and back again. My aigument
heie, howevei, is that only in Fiance was this expeiimentation philc-
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188 Reading the Figuial
scphically possible. Fiom The Order cj Things to Cinema :. The Time-
Image, theie iuns a Nietzschean thiead that passes between philoso-
phy, lm theoiy, and lm piactice as an extiaoidinaiy examination
of time and histoiy both in philosophy and in cinema. To follow this
thiead thiough the dieient domains of Fiench ait and thought, then,
we must ask the following question: Howcan time be the basis foi his-
toiical knowing: Hegels dialectical conception of the ielation between
ieason and histoiy and Nietzsches genealogy as a ciitique of values,
above all those maiked by the will to tiuth, give veiydieient iesponses
to this question.
In Foucaults and Deleuzes accounts, only thiough dieience can
we think histoiicallythat is, in ielation to time and times denition
of subjectivity. In TheatiumPhilosophicum, Foucaults appieciation
of Deleuzes philosophy of time in Dierence and Repetiticn and Lcgic
cj Sense, he explains that theie have been thiee gieat attempts in phi-
losophy to think the event, all of which have failed: neopositivism, phe-
nomenology, and the philosophy of histoiy. In each case dieience is
foieclosed by the guie of the ciicle, oi what Foucault calls the ill-
conceived piinciple of ietuin (Theatium Io,, ,o).
21
The philosophy
of histoiy, foi example, denes events as existence in time, but only on
the condition that they aie spatialized and submitted to a centeied and
hieiaichical oidei. The philosophyof histoiyencloses the event ina cii-
culai time wheie, accoiding to Foucault, it tieats the piesent as a guie
fiamed by the futuie and past. The piesent is the futuie in anothei time
whose veiy foim is alieady being diawn, and it is a past to come which
pieseives the identity of the piesents content (I,o, 8,). The philoso-
phy of histoiy is founded, like the movement-image, on an empiiical
conception of time: a chionological oideiing of events in space and a
volumetiic expansion of the whole that aie diawn togethei in a ciicu-
lai guie of dialectical commensuiability. Fiomthe piesent to the past,
and fiom the piesent to the futuie, time can only be iepiesented as the
ietuin of the Same in a spatial image of analogical adequation.
In Nietzsche, Genealogy, Histoiy, Foucault opposes the philoso-
phy of histoiy with what Nietzsche called eective histoiy.
22
To eect
must be taken in its most liteial senseto do oi to take action. Rathei
thanbeing a meditationonhistoiys monuments, eective histoiy seeks
to take action in and jcr the piesent thiough the analysis of continu-
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A Genealogy of Time 189
ing and emeiging iegimes of foices. Genealogy does not take iefuge
in the absolute, foi eective histoiy is without constants and, in this
mannei, iequiies a new foim of histoiical sense. In On the Uses
and Disadvantages of Histoiy foi Life, Nietzsche uses the teim his-
tcricher Sinn, which can be tianslated as meaning oi sense. Nietzsche
develops this concept with a stiategic ambiguity. Foucault makes the
case, howevei, that genealogy iequiies a new sense incoipoiating all
the connotations of the teim: meaning, logic, peiception oi peispec-
tive, instinct, sensibility, ieason. Foi the histoiical subject, it is nothing
less than a new positionality within histoiy and histoiical knowing.
Foi histoiy to be eective, and to constiuct this new positionality,
genealogy opposes itself to the seaich foi both oiigins and ends. This
does not mean that genealogy counteis histoiy as an alteinative, and
theiefoie a tiuei oi deepei, philosophy. Rathei, it opposes the meta-
histoiical deployment of ideal signications and indenite teleologies
(Nietzsche Io). To seaich foi oiigins is to tiy to iecovei what has
alieady been in an image exactly adequate to itself. Nietzsche con-
demned the concept of oiigin (Ursprung) as a seaich foi the ideal foim
behind appeaiances: a static and ideal meaning oideied bya time signi-
able in space that fieezes histoiical thought in an attempt to captuie
the exact essence of things, theii puiest possibilities, and theii caiefully
piotected identities, because this seaich assumes the existence of im-
mobile foims that piecede the exteinal woild of accident and succes-
sion (I:). In this iespect, the philosophy of histoiy, like the indiiect
image of time as space, belongs to what Deleuze called the Platonic
oidei of iepiesentation.
The seaich foi oiigins is complemented by a teleological movement.
By diawing a ciicle that passes between two pointsa beginning and
an endthings aie given foim on a teiiitoiy wheie time and space aie
fiozen in an idealized dialectical image. Conned to a space oideied
by teleology, histoiical knowing demands judgment as a tianscendent
and supiahistoiical peispective, univeisal because it is timeless, that
Nietzsche associates with both Plato and Hegel. This is an empyiean
peispective wheie the histoiian stands outside and above time, as it
weie. Heie the function of histoiy is to ieduce the heteiogeneityof time
in a closed totality. This implies a nality wheie all of histoiy is ien-
deied as iepiesentable and explainable, as if on a smooth and ieective
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suiface in which we iecognize only ouiselves and, at the same time,
aie ieconciled to all the displacements oi dislocations of the past, no
mattei how unjust. This histoiians histoiy, accoiding to Foucault,
thus nds its suppoit outside of time and pietends to base its judg-
ments on an apocalyptic objectivity (Nietzsche I,:). The seaich foi
oiigins is maiked, like the oiganic naiiation of the movement-image,
by a specic valuethe will to tiuth. It seeks to conim itself in an
image of Tiuth as the selfsame, oi iepetition as iesolution iathei than
dieientiation.
This is why, in its ciitique of oiigins and the ciiculai foim of time,
genealogy iecasts histoiy as discontinuity, the highest task of eective
histoiy is to intioduce discontinuity into time. This involves a iede-
nition of time as a nonlineaiity with neithei oiigin noi nalitywhat
Nietzsche called Entstehung, oi emeigence, wheiein histoiy is consid-
eied as the veiy body of becoming (Nietzsche I). By the same
token, teleology is ieplaced by Herkunjt, oi piovenance, which un-
coveis, within the appaiently unique aspect of a concept oi chaiactei,
the piolifeiation of events fiom which they descend. Without mean-
ing accoided pioactively by an oiigin oi ietioactively by an end, his-
toiy ceases to be spatial and iepiesentational. Instead it conceins time
and the Event: what Deleuze called the virtual as the myiiad unheaid
oi unacted-on possibilities that ieside in the inteival of eveiy passing
piesent. Genealogy does not ietuin in time to ieestablish a continuity
bioken by foigetting, it does not show the past as an ideal foim ani-
mating an evei-piesent seciet that would be the giound foi a concept
oi chaiactei, theie fiom the beginning. To follow the complex web of
piovenance, Foucault wiites, is to hold what happened in its piopei
dispeision: to identify the accidents, the minute deviationsoi con-
veisely, the complete ieveisalsthe eiiois, the false appiaisals, and the
faulty calculations that gave biith to those things that continue to have
value foi us, it is to discovei that at the ioot of what we know and who
we aie, theie is neithei tiuth noi being, but the exteiioiity of an acci-
dent (Io, ::).
Theiefoie eective histoiy libeiates us fiom univeisal histoiy be-
cause it knows that the quality of becoming oeis the following possi-
bility: that the foices of histoiy aie not diiected by destiny, noi do they
knowtimeless iegulative mechanisms. Histoiy is dened, iathei, by the
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A Genealogy of Time 191
aleatoiy singulaiity of events wheie stiuggle takes place in chance en-
counteis. The histoiians histoiy ieconciles us to the injustices of the
past in coniming oui belief that the piesent moment iesults inescap-
ably fiom iion necessity and good intentions. Alteinatively, histoii-
cal sense ieintioduces becoming to all that one thought immoital in
humanity and, in this way, only conims oui existence among count-
less lost events, without a landmaik oi point of iefeience (Nietzsche
I,,,). Histoiical knowing does not mean to nd again and cei-
tainly not to nd ouiselves. Rathei, histoiy eects in the degiee
that it intioduces discontinuity into oui veiy being (I,).
In this way, histoiical knowing must itself be subjected to a gene-
alogical ciitique. Rathei than posing an image of Tiuth in the tian-
scendent subject who judges, genealogy looks foi discontinuities in the
foims of knowledge and theii patteins of descent, both in the con-
cepts of histoiy and in the values that infoim them. Rathei than pie-
tending to be objective, oi that histoiy follows natuial laws, eective
histoiy diagnoses and evaluates, aims oi ciitiques, setting in play
a will to powei that challenges cuiient values with its own. Accoid-
ing to Foucault, the seaich foi the ideal foim behind appeaiances in
the Platonic theoiy of iepiesentation, and the dialectical will to tiuth
of the Hegelian philosophy of histoiy, is an invention of the domi-
nant classes (classes dirigeantes) who seek to foieclose undeistanding of
the multiple and contingent (in)deteiminations that maik eveiy event.
Genealogy, alteinatively, undeistands that the histoiical beginning of
things is not maiked by an identity fiozen at the point of oiigin, iathei,
it is the dispaiatethe discoid of multiple and undeteimined countei-
possibilitiesthat claims the attention of the genealogist.
The dialectical peispective is supiahistoiical, it fieezes time in a spa-
tial image as a totality and, paiadoxically, foiecloses time fiom histoiy
in an act of judgment. Thus it will nevei undeistand oi expiess change
except by eiecting monuments to the past. In this iespect, the logic
of the movement-image is entiiely commensuiate with the dialectical
oi Hegelian conception of histoiy. With its empiiical conception of
time as a lineai and chionological foice, the movement-image piojects
an image of (histoiical) thought maiked by dialectical opposition and
conict ending in teleologyan indiiect image of time given as a spa-
tial whole. And in a giand dialectical gestuie, the movement-image
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192 Reading the Figuial
piojects its own histoiy in just the same way. In The Mcvement-Image,
the evolution of the indiiect image of time unfolds, in Deleuzes ac-
count, in an image of histoiy as piogiessthe giadual and teleologi-
cal peifection of a logic of signs and an image of thought that ieaches
its culmination and limit in the late lms of Alfied Hitchcock.
23
By
biinging the movement-image to its logical conclusion, and also in
suggesting a beyond the movement-image, Hitchcocks lms paia-
doxically signal in cinema both the end of histoiy and the emeigence
of genealogy.
The histoiy of the movement-image is the movement of a gieat
dialectical synthesis wheiein the indiiect image of time functions as
a univeisalizing logic that encompasses and subsumes all the foims
of dieience aiticulated within it. Theie aie, of couise, industiial and
economic ieasons foi this univeisality, namely, Hollywoods aesthetic
and economic dominationof woild cinema. But cuiiously, foi Deleuze,
even if the montage foims of Soviet cinema and the gieat Euiopean
expeiimental lm movements of the I,:os diei in kind fiom Holly-
wood cinema by challenging its chaiacteiization of movement and
time based on action and causality, logically they do not diei in
natuie. All aie vaiiations animated by the same woild spiiit as it
weie, oi iathei, in Deleuzes teims, an image of thought that com-
piises an oiganic iepiesentation and an indiiect image of time.
Alteinatively, the time-image and the movement-image aie sepa-
iated by fundamental discontinuities that no dialectic can mastei.
Wheieas the movement-image is univeisal, the time-image is iaie even
in the postwai peiiod. Thus discontinuity is not negativity in the
Hegelian sense, noi is the time-image a ciitique oi oveicoming of the
movement-image. Its logical natuie is based fundamentally on discon-
tinuity, but theie is no denitive bieak between the time-image and
the movement-image that can be measuied along a lineai and chiono-
logical time line. Between the two iegimes theie is a fundamental slip-
page wheie the piesentation of time changes as the meaning of time
shifts with iespect to histoiical undeistanding. Only the movement-
image has a Histoiy, as it weie, it demands that we look foi its oiigin to
undeistand its giadual piogiession in a teleology. But the time-image
demands instead a genealogy. It neithei displaces the movement-image
noi maiks its end. Rathei, we must look foi the time-image, in Fiench
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A Genealogy of Time 193
cinema as elsewheie, as multiple lines of descent that have a uctuating
appeaiance in time.
The two images of time, indiiect and diiect, thus have a cuiious
ielationship in the histoiy of cinema. The movement-image may logi-
cally have completed its evolution oi accomplished its teleological un-
folding in the postwai peiiod, but it does not end theie, in fact, it
ietains moie than evei the foice of univeisality piomoted by the eco-
nomic hegemony of Hollywood and multinational enteitainment coi-
poiations. Looking at ceitain of the moie adventuious contempoiaiy
diiectois, oi the discontinuous images of music videos, we can undei-
stand howthe movement-image has accommodated the time-image
while nonetheless maiginalizing and limiting itand thus peipetu-
ates a ceitain image of thought and conceptualization of the whole. In
many iespects, the logic of the movement-image peisists as stiongly as
evei, although in a postmodein fiame as pastiche and hybiid oi schizo-
phienic style. The new Fiench stylists of the cinema du lcckLuc Bes-
son, Jean-Jacques Beneix, Los Caiax, and even Matthieu Kassovitz
aie as good examples as any.
Alteinatively theie aie stiong intimations of the time-image in lms
by Jean Renoii and Max Ophuls that both follow and piecede the end
of Woild Wai II. The time-image does not follow on the end of the
movement-image, iathei, it appeais inteimittently in the classic peiiod
as anevei-possible andeteinally iecuiiing foice. Time as viituality pei-
sists as a ieseive within histoiythe potentiality of lines of vaiiation
and unanticipated innovations within the space of histoiy. Its geneal-
ogy thieads thiough the movement-image in a discontinuous and un-
timely fashion, that is to say, as Nietzsche wiote, acting countei
to oui time and theieby acting on oui time and, let us hope, foi the
benet of a time to come.
24
In fact, what it is, is time as foice and
eteinal iecuiiencethe metaphysical foundation of a counteimemoiy
evei ienewable in cieative expiession. The dialectical and teleological
unfolding of the movement-image in space, and the emeigence of the
diiect image of time in the autonomous oi iiiational inteival, thus co-
exist in a complex and contiadictoiy play of foices.
Chaiacteiized by an open totality in movement, only the move-
ment-image has a histoiy in the sense of ieaching that teleological
point oi ietiospective synthesis wheie a nal sense oi logical culmi-
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194 Reading the Figuial
nation is achieved. Wheieas the movement-image is maiked by the
logic of an oiganic iepiesentation and a univeisal dialectical unity, the
time-image piomotes anothei logic thatin its own discieet, subtei-
ianean, and cunning fashionthieads thiough even the ist fty yeais
of cinema befoie thiowing the movement-image into ciisis in Italy and
Fiance. If the time-image is not histoiical, this means that we should
not look foi its meaning in eithei oiigins oi ends. Because it is funda-
mentally nonlineai and nonchionological, the time-image is not ien-
deiable as a histoiy of piogiess oi as a piogiession, noi is it subject to
a spatial iepiesentation. It is what happens between spaces, between
events, a ssuiing of space by time as the eteinal iecuiience of chance
andpossibility. Andthis is whyevenif inDeleuzes iathei diie andoften
elitist peispective, the cinema is dying fiom a quantitative and qualita-
tive mediociity, it always pieseives the powei of a new becoming and
a new beginning.
Theiefoie only the movement-image evolves, the time-image ie-
cuis. Theii concept of histoiy is dieient because they piesent two dif-
feient conceptions of time, two dieient ielationships with the whole,
and a qualitative dieience in the expiession of change. The funda-
mental discontinuity iesides in the heait of time itself. The movement-
image piesents time as Cionostime as iepetition of the same, histoiy
as a ciicle. But if time is piesented diiectly in modein Fiench cinema,
this is iathei Aonnot a succession of piesents but iecuiience as a
labyiinthine bianching of time. In Theatium Philosophicum, Fou-
cault embiaces Deleuzes concept of time foi genealogy, desciibing it
as a splitting quickei than thought and naiiowei than any instant.
It causes the same piesent to aiiseon both sides of this indenitely
splitting aiiowas always existing, as indenitely piesent, and as in-
denite futuie. It is impoitant to undeistand that this does not imply a
succession of piesent instances that deiive fiom a continuous ux and
that, as a iesult of theii plenitude, allow us to peiceive the thickness of
the past and the outline of a futuie in which they in tuin become the
past. Rathei, it is the stiaight line of the futuie that iepeatedly cuts the
smallest width of the piesent, that indenitely iecuts it staiting fiom
itself. This is how Foucault chaiacteiizes Deleuzes piovocative and
oiiginal iethinking of the concept of eteinal iecuiience, foi what ie-
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A Genealogy of Time 195
peats itself is time, and the piesentsplit by this aiiow of the futuie
that caiiies it foiwaid by always causing it to sweive fiom one side
to the otheithis piesent endlessly iecuis. It iecuis as singulai dif-
feience, what nevei iecuis is the analogous, the similai, and the iden-
tical (Theatium I,_,,, ;,).
25
The time-image iecuis iathei than
evolves because it is incommensuiable with the empiiical conception
of time wheie past, piesent, and futuie aie oideied as chionological
succession. Time no longei iesolves itself in the image of a ciicle that
subsequently giows in volume and depth, this is histoiy as teleology.
Rathei, the thinking of histoiy becomes a synthesis of time wheie eveiy
passing piesent intioduces chance as a line of vaiiationa nomadic
becomingthat libeiates us fiom the tyianny of both a xed memoiy
of the past and an alieady deteimined futuie. Dened by Nietzsche as
eteinal iecuiience, time as Aon is iathei a viituality in the piesent.
It divides the passing piesent, so that time is nevei identical to itself but
iathei falls back into the past as multiple lines of descent and launches
into the futuie as an undeteimined set of possibilities.
Wheie the movement-image is oiganic, following the concept of
time as succession oi Cionos, the montage foim of the time-image
piesents this fundamental discontinuity in time as false oi abeiiant
movements. Maiked by iecuiience iathei than iepetition, the iiiatio-
nal inteival ensuies the incommensuiability of inteival and whole. Be-
cause the inteival is a dissociative foice, succession gives way to series.
Images aie stiung togethei as heteiogeneous spaces that aie incom-
mensuiable one with the othei. Seiiality thus denes the montage foim
of the time-image. But in so doing, the value of the inteival changes
and unleashes new poweis.
Considei Ici et ailleurs (Godaid-Goiin-Miville I,,,). The opening
of the lm shows well the foims of discontinuity chaiacteiistic of the
time-image. Theie aie no ciedits. Infact, theie is no ieal beginning to
the lm, whose oiigins aie equally indistinct and in question. Godaids
voice simply appeais ovei black leadei:
En I,,o, ce lm sappelait Victcire.
En I,,, il sappele Ici et ailleurs,
et ailleuis,
et. . . .
26
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196 Reading the Figuial
Ici et ailleurs (Godaid-Goiin-
Miville, I,,,).
This naiiation continues ovei two
images: Fiist, videotext on black back-
giound:
mon
ton
son image
And then a lmed image of the woid
i1 appaiently caived out of Styio-
foam. Miville iepeats the same text ovei
foui images: a fedayeen man showing
a woman how to aim a iie, a Fiench
family watching television, a gioup of
fedayeen in the deseit, and then a black
title on white backgiound that states, in
both Fiench and Aiabic, The will of the
people.
Subsequently the images divide into
foui inteicalated seiies. Fiist theie is
documentaiy footage of the Palestinian
fedayeen shot in Febiuaiy and July I,,o
in Joidan and Lebanon by Godaid and
Goiins Dziga Veitov Gioup, which was
to have been pait of a lm entitled
Victcire. Then theie aie images con-
stiucted in I,,: diegetic mateiial in-
volving a Fiench family, theii eveiy-
day life, theii ielations with the media,
and the fatheis seaich foi woik, di-
dactic studio peifoimances that include
the diegetic actois, and nally non-
diegetic inseits of vaiious types (intei-
polated videotext, inteititles and plac-
aids, images piocessed by video mixei,
black leadei, lmed televisions, slide
vieweis, and sound mixeis, etc.). The
lm fieely inteimixes dieient mateii-
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A Genealogy of Time 197
Ici et ailleurs (Godaid-Goiin-
Miville, I,,,).
als of expiession and styles of piesen-
tation (documentaiy, ctional, didac-
tic) so as to maximize the dieience
between seiies. This eect of disconti-
nuityandheteiogeneity is pioduced, as it
weie, by the i1 that ciiculates between
Godaids voice and the image, passing
into Mivilles voice, and indeed between
all the images as an iiiational inteival. In
seiies, the inteival divides iathei than as-
sociates, thus attaining a newvalue. In]
Godaids method, wiites Deleuze, it is
not a question of association. Given one
image, anothei image has to be chosen
which will induce an inteistice between
the two. This is not an opeiation of as-
sociation, but of dieientiation . . . given
one potential, anothei one has to be
chosen, not any whatevei, but in such a
way that a dieience of potential is estab-
lished between the two, which will be
pioduction of a thiid oi of something
new (Time-Image I,,8o).
Thioughout the lm, heie and else-
wheie functions as a concept that oiga-
nizes a dispaiate set of spaces (Joidan-
Fiance, lm-video, image-sound) and
times (I,,o, I,,) that in theii stiategic
iepetitions continually diei one fiom
the othei as incommensuiable seiies.
The seiies of images, and images and
sounds, can neithei be unied in a tian-
scendent peispective noi ieconciled into
a whole that will confei a ietioactive
sense on the histoiy, indeed histoiies,
that the lm piesents. I,,o and I,,: the
lmholds the two times togethei in theii
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198 Reading the Figuial
incommensuiability. The documentaiy images can neithei iepeat noi
adequately iepiesent the stiategies and politics of the fedayeen in I,,o,
noi do they sustain a coheient memoiy of, much less iestoie to life, a
movement all but destioyed by the betiayal of Black Septembeithe
massacie at Amman of the fedayeen by Joidanian tioops. No action
unies the images. No histoiical meaning can be iecoveied by link-
ing I,,o Joidan to I,, Fiance in a chionological and continuous
time. Each time Godaid and Miville ietuin to the Palestinian images
(i vivis.1 . cii., states a iecuiient video inteititle), the lm
bianches into yet moie complex seiies, each of which ieexively ques-
tions the capacity of images and sounds to mastei the past by incoi-
poiating it as a piesent image. Each iepetition of the oiiginal docu-
mentaiy images yields a dieientiation and complexication of sense
that falsies pieceding seiies. The foimal oiganization of the ist lm,
as well as the political peispective of the Dziga Veitov Gioup, aie con-
tinually questioned along with the natuie of theii identication with
the conict and theii methods foi lming it. Images iepeat in discon-
tinuous seiies, sounds and voices inteiiogate the self-evidence of given
images, giadually ievealing aitices in theii constiuction and suggest-
ing evei moie complex and subtle vaiiations in how they should be
iead, ieinteipieted, and juxtaposed with othei images and sounds. The
lm unfolds as a genealogical ciitique not of the Middle East con-
ict but of its histoiical iepiesentations both in the mass media and in
the inteival that sepaiates the unnished Victcire fiom the evei piovi-
sional Ici et ailleurs as two diveigent peispectives on the pioblems of
making a political lm. Instead of a tiuthful iepiesentation, Godaid
and Miville seem to suggest, we need a pedagogy of the image that
ciitically evaluates its ielations with time and histoiy. In this way, the
iecuiience inseiies of Victcire withinIci et ailleurs implicitly takes place
as a Nietzschean ciitique and ievaluation of the eailiei lms theoiy
of diiect ievolutionaiy action modeled on a Hegelianized existential
Maixism.
One might say that this is a lm about a failed piojectincluding
the I,,o lm on the Palestinians, the Dziga Veitov Gioup as a media
collective, and indeed the ievolutionaiy aspiiations of May I,o8. Pei-
haps it is bettei to say that it is a lm about the ill-conceived piin-
ciple of ietuin, and an exeicise in eective histoiy that unleashes new
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A Genealogy of Time 199
poweis of the image and a new foim of histoiical sense in the then
piesent of I,,. We live in a society wheie images and sounds aie made
to be consumed, yet whose infeinal iepetitions acioss lm, television,
piint, and iadio, iathei, consume us. Little by little, the sound tiack
iecounts, we aie ieplaced by uninteiiupted chains of images enslav-
ing one anothei, each image has its place, like each of us at oui place in
a chain of events wheie we have lost all powei. This is a psychologi-
cal automaton wheie the image functions as a substitute foi thinking
and a vehicle foi the accumulation of pseudoevents in a false totality
that ciowds out the myiiad alteinatives and counteimemoiies that a
genealogical histoiy might libeiate foi us.
Yet intheii incommensuiability, the images of Ici et ailleurs ietuinin
evei moie dieientiatedseiies that inteiiogate the mass medias ciowd-
ing out of both the memoiy and actuality of ievolutionaiy stiuggle.
While no image oi sound will evei be an adequate oi tiuthful iep-
iesentation of this stiuggle, the iiiational inteival nonetheless sus-
tains a piinciple of iecuiience wheie the stiuggle foi Palestinian self-
deteimination enteis into seiies with a numbei of othei singulai points
distiibuted thioughout the lmthe Fiench Revolution (I,8,), the
Soviet Revolution (I,I,), the Populai Fiont in Fiance (I,_o), and
the populai upiisings of I,o8which aie made to ciiculate acioss the
media-satuiated piesent of I,, Fiance. It does not mattei that these
aie all failed ievolutions that the lm cannot add up in a iestoied
totality. Foi what is at stake is not ietuin but iecuiiencethe foice of
time as changewheie the inteistice sustains new values and a new
foim of histoiical sense. Ici et ailleurs becomes eective histoiy by
intioducing discontinuity into time in the foimof the inteistice. Ratio-
nal connections piesent spatial inteivalsthe indiiect image of time as
a succession of sets oi segmentations of space. But iiiational inteivals
aie not spatial, noi aie they images in the usual sense. They open onto
what is outside space yet immanent to it: the anteiioiityof time to space
as viituality, becoming, the fact of ietuining foi that which dieis. This
foice opens a line of vaiiation in any image, sign, idea, oi concept that
attempts to expiess it. If time is given to us heie as a peiception, this is
not ananalogical image inspace but iathei time as viitualityoi Event
a ieseive within histoiy of evei-ienewable and unanticipated lines of
vaiiation acting countei to oui time and theieby acting on oui time,
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200 Reading the Figuial
let us hope, foi the benet of a time to come. In othei woids, when
time is iendeied as incommensuiable with space in the inteistice, a vast
teiiitoiy of potentialities opens in eveiy piesent that passes. Thiough
events, viituality unfolds as an unlimited ieseive of futuie acts, each
of which is equally possible in itself, yet incompossible with all the
otheis. Thus the event is puie immanence of what is not actualized oi
of what iemains indieient to actualization, since its ieality does not
depend upon it. The event is immateiial, incoipoieal, unlivable: puie
reserve. . . . It is no longei time that exists between two instants, it is the
event that is a meanwhile un entre-temps]: the meanwhile is not pait
of the eteinal, but neithei is it pait of timeit belongs to becoming.
27
Events aie immanent to eveiy moment of times passing yet iemain
both outside and in between the passage of time. Between each mea-
suie of time theie is an innite movement, so many possible woilds
and immanent modes of existence, that we must iecovei fiom times
passing.
The diiect image of time, then, is a paiadoxical constiuction. Rathei
than a histoiical image of thought, it gives us thought without
image.
28
Heie we nd one of the deepest and most piofound poten-
tialities of the guial. The iiiational inteival oeis a nonspatial pei-
ceptionnot space but foice, the foice of time as change, inteiiupting
iepetition with dieience and paiceling succession into seiies. Theie
is movement in the image, of couise, which is given as an actual pei-
ception in space. But the dieiential ielations between images and
sounds aie fuiiowed by a puie viituality: the foice of time as etei-
nal iecuiience. Time is always outside the image, it iecedes fiom the
image towaid an absolute hoiizon, since it is incommensuiable with
space. The will to falsehood of the diiect time-image diaws all its
poweis fiom this quality of incommensuiability: indisceinibility of
the ieal and the imaginaiy in the image, inexplicability of naiiative
events, undecidability of ielative peispectives on the same event, both
in the piesent and in the ielation of piesent and past, and, nally, the
incompossibility of naiiative woilds, which piolifeiate as incongiuous
piesents and not necessaiily tiue pasts.
Foucaults adoption of Nietzsches concepts of Entstehung (emei-
gence) and Heikunft (descent) aie equally maiked by Deleuzes
analysis of time as eteinal iecuiience, as the foiegoing citation fiom
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A Genealogy of Time 201
Theatium Philosophicum makes cleai. This is why the time-image
iequiies genealogy iathei than Histoiy and how the time-image pio-
jects a newconcept of histoiical sense. In Hegels phenomenology and
philosophy of histoiy, the dialectic does not libeiate the dieient, on
the contiaiy, it guaiantees that dieience will always be iecaptuied by
unity and totality. The dialectical soveieignty of the same lets the dif-
feient be only undei the law of the negative as a moment of nonbeing.
In dialectical contiadiction, we nd not the subveisiveness of the Othei
but a seciet woik foi the benet of the identical and ietuin of the Same.
But the time-image ieveals in cinema a new thinking of dieience,
indeed a new thought of time, as event and seiies, that libeiates dif-
feience fiom the logical system wheie it is masteied by opposition,
negation, and contiadiction. In othei woids, one quality of the diiect
image of time is to fiee dieience fiom the dialectic, which infoims
all philosophies of iepiesentation and indeed the philosophy of his-
toiy. In this way, modein Fiench cinema answeis the call made by the
tuin to Nietzsche in Fiench philosophy of the I,oos. Fiom the image
of thought to a thought without image, the time-image libeiates his-
toiical sense fiom the histoiical image of thought as the body of be-
coming. Heie Foucaults genealogy and Deleuzes time-image coincide
in a common pioject: to ieject iesemblance in iepiesentation, to fiee
dieience fiomthe dialectic, and to fiee the subject fiomjudgment and
the will to tiuth.
Theie is no bettei way of chaiacteiizing the qualities of the gu-
ial as a histoiical image. And in this way, the time-image deploys foi
us a counteimemoiy that may fiee identity fiom the ciicle of univei-
sal histoiy. In Nietzsche, Genealogy, Histoiy, Foucault outlines thiee
dimensions of histoiical sense that confiont the concepts of univeisal
histoiy: oppose an idea of histoiy as ieminiscence oi iecognition with
a paiodic use of histoiy, oppose histoiy as continuity oi tiadition by
showing the dissociative quality of identity, and nally oppose the will
to tiuth in histoiy with the poweis of the false. In each case, Foucault
asks that anothei foim of time be deployed in histoiy: a counteimem-
oiy that detouis the will to tiuth piomoted by the metaphysical and
anthiopological models of histoiy. In all thiee lines of descent, mod-
ein Fiench cinema piesents neithei the death of the subject noi the
end of histoiy. Rathei, as in the philosophy of Foucault and Deleuze,
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202 Reading the Figuial
theie is a ieconceptualization of the histoiical subject and the Event as
a ciitical ontology of the piesent. As Alan Schiift notes, insofai as
the subject position deliveied to us by modeinity is not an ontological
necessity, othei subject positions and possibilities of knowledge will be
histoiically possible in teims of the contingencies of the piesent mo-
ment. . . . Foucaults genealogy of the subject piovides a theoietical
aiticulation of this account of multiple subject positioning insofai as
it fiames the subject not as a substance but as a foim, a foim, moie-
ovei, that is not always identical to itself (,,). This is not only a dis-
continuity in time that disiupts undeistanding the Event in teims of
oiigin, unity, and nality but also a discontinuity that divides the sub-
ject inteinally, who thus becomes open to change, multiplicity, and is
maiked as much by chance oi contingency as by necessity and detei-
mination. Foi Deleuze, philosophy and ait become expeiimentation
an opening and exploiation of new teiiitoiies and lines of vaiiation in
oui cuiient modes of existence and oui spaces of desiie and sociality.
In Foucault, this is the oveicoming of a will to tiuth wheie the pui-
pose of histoiy, guided by genealogy, is not to discovei the ioots of
oui identity, but to commit itself to its dissipation (Nietzsche Io:).
Heie Being nds no sheltei fiom the foice of time as change. Time
foievei divides the subject fiom itself, intioducing an inteistice oi ii-
iational inteival in the subject, who is now ciossed by dieience and
nonidentity. Divided by time as eteinal iecuiience, the histoiical sub-
ject expiesses an aimation that new thought is possible, thought is
again possible (Foucault, Theatium I,o). Expiessed equally in the
Nietzschean dimension of Fiench cinema and histoiical thought, one
can easily imagine this phiase as giati fiom May I,o8.
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7. AN UNCERTAIN UTOPIADIGITAL CULTURE
An Image of Technological Abundance Doyou want towatch the movie
you want, the minute you want: Leain special things fiom faiaway
places: Pay a toll without slowing down oi ieceive a phone call on
youi television set: Would you like to caiiy youi medical histoiy in
youi wallet: You will! This technological piomise was made by Ameii-
can Telephone and Telegiaph (.11) in a piint and television advei-
tising campaign bioadcast in the United States thioughout I,,_ and
I,,. In a seiies of seven thiity-second spots, compiising twenty-one
miniscenaiios, .11 stages a technological desiie that it piomises to
fulll in the neai futuie. The scenogiaphy of these spots oeis a uto-
pian vision of science ction becoming science fact as education, entei-
tainment, medicine, communication, and tianspoitationaie positively
tiansfoimed by the technological ieoiganization of social time and
space.
No doubt these ads piesent an impiessive aiiay of pioducts: soft-
waie, smait caids, cellulai and mobile communications, netwoiked
communications and pioduct vending, videophones, and desktop vid-
eoconfeiencing foi education, telemedicine, and small businesses.
1
Theie is one catch. Althoughall of these technologies existedinnascent
foims, none of the pioducts displayedinthese images weie available foi
consumei puichase in I,,, and many still aie not in :ooI. Of couise,
theie is no spectatoi naive enough to believe they will evei see these
pioducts in the foim piesented by .11. As the scenogiaphy of these
images makes cleai, this campaign is an exeicise in science ction. In
an eoit to iemodel its coipoiate image, .11 piesents a caieful mix-
tuie of pioducts alieady piesent in embiyo (phones with data links and
computei scieens aie available at many Ameiican aiipoits and now
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204 Reading the Figuial
even on aiiplanes) oi in development (handheld cellulai peisonal digi-
tal assistants) with pioducts and seivices we will undoubtedly not see
foi many yeais.
2
The ieal objective of this campaign is evidently not to
sell existing pioducts oi seivices but to inspiie the desiie foi a dieient
woild, in fact, a utopian woild based on technological innovation that
will be biought into existence not by individuals woiking foi social
change and equality but by the invention and maiketing of capitalist
thiid-wave companies. It is a seductive vision meant to convince us
that capitalism, foi centuiies the souice of so many of the woilds social
pioblems and inequities, can still be the solution, if we only let it again
tiansfoim itself histoiically by unleashing the pioductive capacity of
digital communications technologies.
This utopian piojection has a iemaikable diegetic consistency
acioss the twenty-one miniscenaiios piesented by .11. All take place
in an undened futuie sometime between the late nineties and the ist
decade of the twenty-ist centuiy. The most salient chaiacteiistic of
this utopia is that of an advanced communications technologyin-
coipoiating voice, text, and video datapeifectly integiated with all
the activities and locales of eveiyday life (home, shopping mall, cai,
tiain, doctois oce, aiipoit, beach, mountains, libiaiy, classioom,
small businesses).
Equally stiiking is the social unifoimity of the chaiacteis iepie-
sented. This is a multiiacial woild wheie eveiyone is between eigh-
teen and thiity-foui yeais old and attiactive. The appaient iacial hai-
mony is pieseived, no doubt, by a lack of scaicity and unifoimlevels of
wealth and education. No one is pooi in this woild, yet no one is ieally
iich. All seem to be comfoitably middle class, making the dual point
that with the levels of pioductivity enabled by the emeiging commu-
nications technologies, these pioducts and seivices will be in the piice
iange foi all, and all these pioducts and seivices will become incieas-
ingly necessaiy and ubiquitous, indeed tianspaient, to the execution
of eveiyday life. The powei of this utopian iepiesentation is to piesent
the futuie as a iecognizable extension of the piesent, a possible woild
emeiging fiom oui piesent ciicumstances, if only oui consumei desiie
can be focused on buying it, and theiefoie libeiating the capital to
pioduce it.
Heie all of capitalisms inequities of class, money, powei, and access
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 205
to infoimation have disappeaied in an image of technological abun-
dance. Eveiyone undeistands, of couise, that the attainment of this
ideal of social equality is the most fanciful aspect of this science c-
tion. Yet it is a woild that most of us wculd desiie, almost as much as
we want the imaginaiy pioducts displayed along with the qualitative
change they piomise in oui eveiyday life: secuiity, comfoit, and conve-
nience, unlimited and unconstiained mobility, enteitainment on de-
mand, uniestiicted and instantaneous access to infoimation iegaidless
of oui physical location, a iecoveiy of time thiough incieased pioduc-
tivity, the elimination of a felt qualitative distinction between woik and
leisuie, and tianspaient and instantaneous communication, iegaidless
of distance and baiiieis of language, that enhances collaboiative woik
in education, business, and medicine.
Like eveiy utopian discouise, .11s futuie woild is most convinc-
ing to the extent that the futuie it piojects is anchoied in the familiaiity
of the piesent. But the tempoiality of these images is yet moie complex.
They say less about the futuie than they do about the piesent. In this
way, these ads iendei tianspaient a long and biutal histoiical tians-
foimation that has alieady been taking place foi some time wheiein
an industiial and disciplinaiy society yields to a cybeinetic society of
contiol, and a modeinist cultuie of iepiesentation is displaced by an
incieasingly digital and audiovisual cultuie.
3
InReading the Figuial I developedsome concepts foi undeistand-
ing howthe natuie of iepiesentation, signication, and the social oiga-
nization of human collectivities in time and space is changing with the
appeaiance of new foims of digital communications. When I began
wiiting that chaptei in the spiing of I,88, the technologies I iefeiied
tofoi example, digitized video in multimedia publications oi elec-
tionic publishing on the Inteinetweie eithei not commeicially avail-
able oi else not widely used by people in the humanities. Now they all
aie. This is an index of the speed of technological change and com-
meicialization that today confionts ciitics who want to undeistand the
social changes occuiiing in telecommunications, enteitainment, and
educational media. Peihaps the science ctions piesented by .11 aie
not that fai o aftei all. We have again, within veiy a shoit time, been
outdistanced by the economic and technological tiansfoimations now
taking place. Now moie than evei we live in a cybeinetic oi digital cul-
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206 Reading the Figuial
tuie wheie a tectonic shift of the visible in ielation to the expiessible
has changedielations of knowledge no less thanthe diagiammatic con-
guiation of foices constituting powei.
A Digression on Postmodernism Digital cultuie is an impoitant, and
global, aspect of contempoiaiy eveiyday life that, in developed coun-
tiies, is being dened as an emeigent technology-diiven cultuie. One
vision of this cultuie is piesented by the coipoiations such as .11,
Intel, ivm, and Miciosoft that will piot by maiketing its technolo-
gies and patteins of consumption. The dieams appealed to in this tech-
nological utopia aie appaient. But what foices and ielations of powei
aie also emeiging: If oui contempoiaiy digital cultuie is something
distinct, if we aie beginning to inhabit a fundamentally new histoii-
cal epoch with its own image of powei, conceptualization of foice, and
sense of histoiy, how do we desciibe it:
In the past ten to fteen yeais, cultuial studies have most often chai-
acteiized this epoch as the postmodein oi the cultuial logic of late
capitalism as dened by a qualitative shift in iepiesentation, the natuie
of subjectivity, and a new ielation to histoiical time and conscious-
ness.
4
With iespect to this histoiical image, we might ask towhat degiee
this appaiently newhistoiical epoch canbe chaiacteiizedas postmod-
ein. Indeed, most ciitical woik on digital cultuie has been piesented
undei the heading of postmodeinism incultuial studies. Foi the mo-
ment, I piefei the moie piosaic digital cultuie oi peihaps Deleuzes
compelling, if distuibing, phiase contiol societies.
5
The idea of post-
modeinism is cential to the denition of cultuial studies, and one of
the ways in which the elds inteidisciplinaiity has been dened. I have
the same feeling foi the teim postmodeinism, howevei, as I do foi
late capitalism. Unfoitunately, the only thing late about capital-
ism is that it has iathei inconveniently failed to disappeai on schedule.
Instead it has shown an alaimingly poweiful capacity foi adaptation,
evolution, and giowth in new histoiical ciicumstances, which is one of
the moie distuibing lessons foi socialist ciitics of digital cultuie. This
does not mean that capitalist political economy and cultuie aie unchal-
lengeable. But the teim late capitalism, as it ciiculates today, often
iepiesents an intellectual impasse and a failuie of histoiical imagina-
tion. Consideied dialectically, it expiesses, on one hand, a poweiful
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 207
Fiom the New Ycrk Times Sunday Magazine, I,,_.
obseivation iepiesented in Einst Mandels magisteiial woik: we aie on
the thieshold of a neweia. Economic, political, and cultuial foims aie
undeigoing a global tiansfoimation. On the othei, the teim is laced
with a iegiessive modeinist nostalgia: that Maixs theoiy of histoiy
ceities the eventual end of capitalism and the emeigence of global
socialism.
Embedded in the teim postmodeinism is a similaily contiadic-
toiy histoiical consciousness, the iecognition of something new with-
out the commensuiate ability to imagine contempoiaiy cultuie as
sepaiate fiom an eailiei modeinist cultuie. A I,,_ covei foi the New
Ycrk Times Sunday Magazine comments humoiously on this dilemma.
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208 Reading the Figuial
In this image, Hanna-Baibeias comic guies of piehistoiy, the Flint-
stones, aie shown taken aback by the appeaiance of the futuiistic Jet-
sons hailing them by videophone. The idea of postmodeinism oeis a
similai kind of histoiical shock. Eithei we stand with the Jetsons in the
contempoiaiy without being able to give it a name, oi we iemain with
the Flintstones, imagining the futuie fioman innitely piolonged past.
Theie is a discomting ciiculaiity in the teim postmodeinism, an
unconscious iepetition of the past and a lack of will to invent the futuie,
that can be symptomatic of a ceitain kind of inteidisciplinaiy cul-
tuial studies. Howevei, if we dont invent the futuie, .11 will. Wheie
Fiediic Jameson iightly ciiticized the evapoiation of a histoiical con-
sciousness in the I,8os, the I,,os have been maiked by the dominance
of a new foim of histoiical imagination inuenced by Alvin Toeis
notion of technological waves, an ideology most foicefully piomul-
gated inthe pages of Vired.
6
Athinlydisguised apology foi uniegulated
maikets, in this peispective, the dominant value is knowing how to
be with the histoiical cuiients diiven by technological innovation. In
this scenaiio, individuals aie helpless to change the waves of histoiy,
instead one must anticipate theii futuie ows and suif them.
This suggests a newconception of foice that, as Deleuze points out,
is chaiacteiistic of contiol societies. Industiial oi disciplinaiy societies
aie based on an eneigetic and mechanistic conception of movement,
eoit, and iesistance. Bodies apply piessuie oi aie themselves the oii-
gin of movement, and the machines that ieplace physical functions
aie based on this piinciple. But in contiol societies, foice withdiaws
fiom substance, becoming moie gaseous oi liquid. Wheie the idea of
waves oi cuiients becomes the dominant conception of foice, ielations
of foice involve knowing how to inseit oneself in a pieexisting cui-
ient, chaiacteiistic of the populaiity of spoits such as windsuing oi
hang gliding. How to be taken up in the movement of a gieat wave,
Deleuze wiites, a column of ascending aii, to happen within instead
of making an eoitthis is fundamental.
7
This is a passive ielation
to foice, ielenting to the new invisible hand wheie success iides on
suiiendeiing oneself to histoiical foices and wheie individuals absolve
themselves fiom both iesponsibility and accountability foi the social
and ecological devastation iesulting fiom the new capitalism.
In its cybeinetic conception, this idea of foice is fuithei iened as
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 209
viitual action at a distance. The withdiawal of the body and a physical
piesence in space means that individuals feel less and less accountable
foi theii actions and speech acts, since they confiont one anothei less
and less in ielations of iecipiocity unied in both space and time. Simi-
laily, the actions and piactices of individuals and collectivities aie no
longei felt as pioducing the foices of histoiy. Rathei, histoiy is expeii-
enced as a tide oi tsunami whose eneigy deiives fiom immense and
invisible foices of technological change that aie too complex and too
enoimous foi individuals to fathomfully. In this histoiical peispective,
agency means that one no longei invents, but iathei capitalizes on
the existing cuiient. The most one can do is anticipate and attempt to
navigate the iapid ows and diiections of technological change. Hence
the inated salaiies of futuiists, the new weatheimen of the thiid wave.
But histoiy has not ended, pace Fiancis Fukiyama, though new
foims of capitalism aie emeiging. And theie is a chance that socialist
theoiy can still elaboiate stiategies foi iesisting thiid-wave capitalism
while iecupeiating alteinative utopian elements useful foi iemodeling
digital cultuie accoiding to a piogiessive politics. We must deal with
the fact that histoiy does not end by leaining to think histoiically about
the evei-changing society we aie in the midst of cieating. The task of
a contestatoiy cultuial ciiticism, then, is to inteiiupt this iepetition of
the past in the piesent, to dismantle ciitically whatevei concepts im-
pede us fiom undeistanding the contempoiaiy while inventing a new
set of ciitical tools deiived fioman empiiical engagement with the cul-
tuie in which we live. In so doing, we both iedeem and invent new
modes of existence.
I use empiiicism in Deleuzes sense of the teim. Heie empiiicism
iefeis neithei to the teleological piogiess of human thought noi to
the appiehension of an otheiwise seciet knowledge iesiding natuially
though silently in the heait of things. Instead the complex and contia-
dictoiy possibilities foi eithei hegemony, iesistance, oi contestation
aie consideied as the paiadoxical opeiation of a powei that is simul-
taneously not visible and not hidden. We only need to know how
to iead, Deleuze aigues, howevei dicult it may piove to be. The
seciet exists only to be betiayed, oi to betiay itself. Each age aiticu-
lates peifectly the most cynical element of its politics . . . to the point
wheie tiansgiession has little meiit (Fcucault ,). Following Foucault,
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210 Reading the Figuial
Deleuzes point is that ielations of powei aie peifectly self-evident.
Neveitheless we need to cieate concepts that can make those ielations
intelligible.
Three Questions concerning Digital Culture Inaneailiei veisionof this
chaptei, Audiovisual Cultuie and Inteidisciplinaiy Knowledge, I ai-
gued that thiee fundamental questions need to be asked to undeistand
digital cultuie ciitically. I still believe in the heuiistic value of these
questions, even if oui ciitical iesponses to them may have to change as
digital cultuie evolves. Fiist, how is the natuie of iepiesentation and
communication changing with iespect to the digital cieation, manipu-
lation, and distiibution of signs: Second, how is the foim of the com-
modity changing along with its deteiminations of the space and time
of the maiket, and the natuie and value of exchange: And nally, how
is oui expeiience of collectivity changing, oi, in Deleuze and Guattaiis
teiminology, howaie oui collective aiiangements in social time and
space being iestiuctuied by the newcommunicational aichitectuies of
digital cultuie:
The Insubstantial Image. Thiougha num-
bei of stiiking images, the public dis-
couise of .11 and othei high-tech
companies welcomes us to a giaphical,
multimedia univeise, thus intioducing
my ist question: Hcw is the nature cj
representaticn and ccmmunicaticn changing with respect tc the digital
creaticn, manipulaticn, and distributicn cj signs? How aie the piop-
eities of semiotic objects changing: And how may the act of ieading
change with these global shifts in the semiotic enviionment: In shoit,
how is the natuie of discouise, oi what counts as discuisive, being
tiansfoimed by the new audiovisual iegimes of digital cultuie:
As I aigue in chaptei :, the emeigence of a digital cultuie implies a
shift in the semiotic enviionment, that is, the way a cultuie is dened
by the signs it pioduces and the foims of communication it ielies on.
One consistent theme in both the mass-maiketing of infoimation tech-
nology and academic studies of digital cultuie suggests that the cultuie
of the book is being iemediated, if not ieplaced, by one of hypei-
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 211
media oi the multimedia image wheie the lineai foim of wiiting and
the act of ieading aie becoming incieasingly giaphical, tempoial, and
nonlineai.
8
The digital cieation, iecoiding, manipulation, and tians-
mission of signs is pioducing a new audiovisual iegime in the tech-
nological and semiotic conveigence of lm, video, computei imaging,
and woid piocessing that in tuin encouiages the inteimixing of visual,
veibal, wiitten, musical, and sonic foims. This is most appaient in the
appeaiance of new media: the cu-vom and the new foims of distiib-
uted publication appeaiing on the Woild Wide Web, although as Jay
Boltei and Richaid Giusin have pointed out, oldei piint media aie also
tiansfoiming themselves thiough adaptation to the giaphic foims and
logics of new media.
The most impoitant phenomenon heie is the displacement of ana-
log iecoiding, manipulation, and tiansmission by the digital. Equiva-
lence in space is no longei the measuie of iepiesentation. Rathei,
all iepiesentational foims (moving and still images, wiiting, sound)
aie leveled to the algoiithmic manipulation of binaiy code. All space
becomes an abstiact computational space.
9
As analog foims of iep-
iesentation disappeai, the ciiteiion of iesemblance is displaced by si-
militude. As I aigued moie fully in chaptei :, the idea of iesemblance
belongs to the eia of iepiesentation. In iesemblance, meaning deiives
fiom the authoiity of the oiiginal, an authenticating model that oideis
and ianks all the copies that can be deiived fiom it. Alteinatively, Fou-
cault denes similitude as an oideiing of signs wheie designation oi
iefeience has lost its centiality. In digital cultuie, the distinction be-
tween oiiginal and copy has lost its ielevance.
Resemblance is also linked to aimation. Foi Foucault, spatial sem-
blance in iepiesentation yields meaning, implicitly oi explicitly, in the
foim of a linguistic statement. Similitude changes this stiuctuie of ief-
eience and signication. It is no longei the image that illustiates and
the sentence that comments. Rathei, visuality and expiession become
tiansveisal, pioducing a vaiiety of hybiid foims. The distinction be-
tween linguistic and plastic iepiesentations, and along with it, the dis-
tinction between spatial and tempoial aits, is also losing ielevance.
The boidei between a plastic space that oiganizes semblance, and lin-
guistic expiession that aiticulates dieience, is disappeaiing. Expies-
sion is no longei ieseived foi linguistic activity that oiganizes signs
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212 Reading the Figuial
and theiefoie meaning acioss dieience, the eld of the visible, as the
silent iepiesentation of things, has become incieasingly heteiogeneous
andcomplex. The visible, tiaveisedbydieience, becomes incieasingly
discuisive, and consequently the linguistic, given volume and coloi,
becomes incieasingly giaphical. Foimeily, discouise was consideied a
linguistic activity, now it is a multimedia activity. Foims of expiession
and ieading can no longei be consideied as simply spatial oi tempoial,
oi distinguished by simultaneity and succession. Rathei, digital cul-
tuie piesents us with mixed, layeied, and heteiogeneous audiovisual
images unfolding in a nonlineai space and time.
This disconnection of the image fiom the ciiteiion of spatial cohei-
ence is fundamental to oui contempoiaiy cultuial sense of viituality
andthe social ielations it denes inoui inteiactions withthe newmedia
and computei-mediated communications. Compaied to the analogical
aitswhich aie always instantiated in a xed, Euclidean spacethe
digital aits seem abstiact, ephemeial, and without substance. Digital
iepiesentation is dened as viitual owing to its desubstantialization:
the disappeaiance of a visible and tactile suppoit foi both image and
text. At the same time, the poweis of tiansfoimation in iepiesentation
aie iadically augmented, thus motivating a shift in aesthetic function
whose consequences aie most cleai in the changing status of photog-
iaphys foimeily piivileged place as a tiuthful iepiesentation.
10
Be-
cause theie is no act of closuie foi a data le, iegaidless of its output
medium, it is open to modication at any time. Mutant veisions pio-
lifeiate iapidly and endlessly, and the woik is open to continual appio-
piiation, iecontextualization, and cieative tiansfoimation and defoi-
mation in ways that analogical and autogiaphic aits aie not. So we
must abandon the tiaditional conception of an ait woild populated
by stable enduiing, nished woiks, wiites William Mitchell, and ie-
place it with one that iecognizes continual mutation and piolifeiation
of vaiiants. . . . Notions of individual authoiial iesponsibility foi image
content, authoiial deteimination of meaning, and authoiial piestige
aie coiiespondingly diminished (Reccngured Eye ,:).
The uniaveling of spatial coheience thiough desubstantialization
aects as well the qualities of the teiiitoiies we inhabit, whethei physi-
cally oi mentally. Incieasingly, viituality desciibes the elimination of
a felt sense of space and distance as we inteiact in computei netwoiks
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 213
thiough the nonlineai foims of navigation appiopiiate to hypeimedia.
By the same token, the incieasing velocity of infoimation and the
global ieach of the electionic image woild have made us all too awaie
of the giavity of oui bodiestheii slowness, fiagility, and diminutive
size, theii vulneiability to time and foice. Thus what most widely de-
nes the contempoiaiy cultuial meaning of the viitual is an (illusoiy)
sense of a becoming immateiial, not only of discouise but also of the
body in its communicational exchanges, leading to a phenomenon that
has been called cyboig envy.
Heie what the avatais of the viitual fundamentally misiecognize is
the question of mateiiality in ielation to technology. (When you think
of vv, this is pietty funny consideiing the cumbeisomeness of helmets
and gloves, and the notoiiously veitiginous iesults pioduced in the
slowiesponse of even the quickest computeis to head-tiacking mecha-
nisms.) Paiadoxically, with iespect to electionic and digital imaging,
what disappeais is not the mateiiality of the suppoit: analog video ie-
quiies the magnetic alignment of iion paiticles on tape, the encoding
of digital infoimation iequiies the etching of magnetic infoimation on
disk. Rathei, what is impoitant is the tiansfoimation of the oiienta-
tion of the eye, and its anchoiing in the body, with iespect to a semi-
otic suppoit. To iepiise Deleuzes teims discussed in chaptei :, this is
a tiansfoimation of coiielative as well as collateial, oi discuisive, iela-
tions. The example of viitual ieality is less cleai in this iespect than the
moie quotidian expeiience of computei-mediated communications oi
seaiching the Woild Wide Web. The expeiience of netwoiked commu-
nications encouiages a tiansfoimation of peispective wheie the oiien-
tation and extensiveness of the body in space ceases to be the gold
standaid of oui mental navigation in space. Noi can we sustain a cleai
inteinal map of geogiaphic oiientation as in telephonyoui displace-
ments in space aie too iapid as we click fiom site to site. Instead we
iequiie evei moie complex technological inteifaces to tianslate digi-
tal infoimation back to a moie familiai human scale, and to map the
nonlineai global pathways we have coveied without leaving oui chaiis.
The new technologies iequiie conceptual as much as visual naviga-
tion of the spaces they pioduce, which does not, howevei, make them
any less mateiial. What is iequiied is a cognitive oiientation that ielies
less and less on the visible, oi peihaps connects to the visible and the
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214 Reading the Figuial
expiessible in new ways. The viitual is a tiansfoimation of the mateii-
ality of iepiesentationdened not by invisibility pei se, and ceitainly
not by immateiiality, but bya technological tiansfoimation of the lived
mateiiality of human communication, which is infoimed by the ve-
locities, automation, and geogiaphically distiibuted natuie of com-
munication acioss and thiough computei netwoiks. What is woiked
now is the space of communicationa composing of bodies and in-
foimation in space-time iegaidless of distance in the aichitectuie of
global computei netwoiks. Although these aichitectuies aie invisible
fiom the point of view of the usei, they aie no less mateiial foi that.
It is not that iepiesentation has become moie and moie immateiial
and insubstantial. Rathei, the eye and hand have giadually withdiawn
theii poweis and ielinquished them to machinesthe veiy denition
of automationand in this way, the concept of the inteiface comes
to dene, both guiatively and liteially, the machinic connectivity of
digital cultuie.
Of couise, once wiiting is dened as a symbolic tiace in a ieceptive
mateiial, signs aie peifoice tiansmitted thiough a technological intei-
face. The book is an inteiface no less than a wax tablet oi a woodcut
piint. But fiom the woodcut to the computei, we have come to ie-
quiie technological systems of gieatei and gieatei complexity to tians-
late iepiesentations into visible and sonic aiiangements oui bodies aie
capable of peiceiving. It is not that one is moie oi less machinic than
the othei. All dene a tchn suppoiting histoiical iegimes of signs and
dening ielations between signs and foice in given societies.
Vhere Injcrmaticn Beccmes Prcperty and
Time a Ccmmcdity. Discuisive systems
aie a piimaiy means of binding indi-
viduals into collectivitiesa discuisive
machine oiganizing individuals thiough
netwoiks of sign exchange. Maiket iela-
tions aect no less foicefully the netwoiks of social exchange in which
the activities of eveiyday life aie caiiied out whethei individually oi
collectively. Thus the concepts of viituality and the inteiface also in-
foim my second question: Hcw is the jcrm cj the ccmmcdity changing
alcng with its determinaticns cj the space and time cj the market and
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 215
the nature and value cj exchange? In what ways will cur new pcwers tc
ccmmunicate be ccntrclled and ccmmcdied? Vhat techniques cj dccu-
mentaticn and surveillance will emerge with these technclcgies?
The shift to a cybeinetic capitalism is chaiacteiized by a desub-
stantialization of commodities no less than that of signs.
11
The new
commodities aie losing theii physicality and weight. The manufactuie
of physical objects such as cais and appliances is being augmented
by the new globally managed commoditiesdata (access to infoima-
tion and enteitainment) and seivices (laigely convenience measuied
as the cieation of fiee time). Like the piolifeiation of automobiles in
the postwai peiiod, howevei, with theii concomitant tiansfoimation
of social time and space, as infoimation becomes incieasingly com-
modied, it iapidly becomes a necessity iathei than a luxuiy. Access to
the Inteinet will soon become no less essential to the quotidian tians-
actions of daily life than it alieady is foi the global movements of intei-
national stock maikets and commodity exchanges, which take advan-
tage of the untiammeled speed and boideiless natuie of infoimation
foi theii own paiticulai foims of aibitiage.
In this iespect, among the moie subtle yet stiiking featuies of the
.11 ads is the piominence of .11s copyiight notice and tiademaik
along with a iepiesentation of how the measuied elapse of time is fun-
damental to the showcased technologies. AT&T does not hide its eco-
nomic motivation. Rathei, its images guie, in vaiious ways, how in-
foimation becomes piopeity and how time itself is being tiansfoimed
as a commodity.
Commeicial bioadcasting and telephony weie the ist innovatois
heie. Foi example, with pay-pei-view television, you puichase two
houis of access iathei than a movie, the piicing of Inteinet access
tends to follow a similai model. Alteinatively, adveitiseis pay foi aii-
time whose value incieases oi decieases in ielation to the numbei of
ieceiving households that canbe measuiedstatistically. (Inthis iespect,
the public, oi access to a ceitain idea of the public, is a commodity
as well.)
Without access, theie is no inteiface to digital cultuieone can-
not be included in its social netwoiks oi foims of exchange whethei
foi good oi ill. The question of access is theiefoie one of the piincipal
political questions of digital cultuie. Not only does the concept of ac-
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216 Reading the Figuial
cess unlock the multiple ways in which infoimation is being commodi-
ed, it also demonstiates that theie is no communication, oi exchange
of signs, in digital cultuie that is not now maiked in some way by the
foims of commodity exchange. This involves not only the maiketing
of connectivity to infoimation netwoiks and the knowledge of how
to use them eectively but also the collection and sale of the peisonal
infoimation culled fiom data tiansactions foi the puiposes of diiect
maiketing and othei less subtle foims of social contiol. As access to
peisonal infoimation becomes evei moie valuable to diiect maiketeis,
data itself becomes incieasingly commodied, and this tendency pei-
meates the piocess of digital communication itself along with its new
foims of inteiactivity. Infoimation wants to be fiee is a founding
piinciple of hackei ethics, but now it usually comes at a hidden cost,
the tiading of peisonal data foi access whethei the usei is conscious
of the tiade-o oi not, oi even awaie of being potentially subject to a
continuous dataveillance.
12
Notions of identity aie similaily tiansfoimed. Just as the image has
become disconnected fiom ciiteiia of spatial coheience, so in digital
cultuie is peisonhood no longei sustained by a substantial identity
undei diiect peisonal and bodily contiol, but iathei by the statistical
vaiiables dening youi data image. The foimulation and contiol of
data images is fundamental to the exeicise of powei in contiol societies,
since they dene access to ciedit, as well as to social iights, iesouices,
and piivileges deiiving fiom ones economic position and national
identity. The desubstantialization of identity is often celebiated in digi-
tal cultuie. To the extent that on-line peisonae aie no longei anchoied
in bodily oi social maikeis of iace and gendei, individuals seem to
be able to fieely invent data images at will. But theie is still an un-
equal division of powei in that the data images that countfoi access
to ciedit, medical insuiance, voting and iesidency iights, owneiship of
piopeity, and so foithaie still culled, collated, and contiolled by a
few laige coipoiations and maiketing oiganizations. The iight to con-
tiol ones data imageoutside of social and enteitainment contexts
has yet to be obtained in the cuiient political stiuggles ovei citizen-
ship in cybeispace.
13
This changes the context of judging the utopian
claims made foi the peimutabilityof identity incybeispace, but neithei
should it diminish oui ciitical appieciation of the desiie to invent new
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 217
lines of ight and foims of becoming out of viitual peisonae and com-
munities.
The othei side of the question of access to the newcommunications
netwoiks is the disappeaiance of a fiee oi measuieless time as access
becomes easiei and moie continuous. The value of access to infoima-
tion is deteimined not by spatial quantity (weight, volume, oi num-
bei), iathei, it is measuied by units of time. Alteinatively, the value
of seivices is measuied by the time they cieate. The idea of fiee
time as a commodity has a paiadoxical status, then, since it assumes
that time has a value that is quantiable and tendeiable in a system of
exchange. (This is doubtless tiue as time becomes an evei iaiei com-
modity.) Content oi data has no value, in a sense, save foi its capacity
to keep the client on-line with the clock ticking.
Once quantied, time is fiagmented, becoming divisible into
smallei and smallei usable bits. Heie again the sale of access and the
contiol of access by technology pose inteiesting pioblems. The new
communications inteifaces tiansfoim not only the natuie of iepiesen-
tation but also the tempoiality of social exchanges between the sendei
and ieceivei. The genealogy that passes, on the one hand, thiough the
answeiing machine to fax to E-mail, and on the othei fiom the beepei
to the cellulai phone, ieveals a paiadoxical attitude to questions of
tempoial access in this iespect. The foimei ensuie the instantaneity
of the message while maintaining asynchiony between the sendei and
ieceivei. Because the sendei is nevei suie when the addiessee has actu-
ally read the message, the addiessee guaids his oi hei time in a pii-
vate ieseive and contiols the time of iesponse. Howevei, the incieas-
ing piepondeiance of cellulai devices shows a counteivailing desiie
nevei to be out of contact. The tension between these dieient but
ielated communications devices ieveals a new social disequilibiium
between the desiie foi continuous accessibility and the need foi un-
inteiiupted time. As the .11 ads chillingly illustiate, the consequence
of this disequilibiium is the eiosion of the distinction between woik
and leisuie. As a iecent ad fiom Apple puts it, Now you can access
youi oce fiom wheievei you happen to be. Bummei. Why is it that
we aie sold on the idea of a continuous access that ieaches evei moie
deeply into fiee moments: Within the veiy concept of asynchiony,
an idea of social stiuggle is embedded. The cieation of fiee time by
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218 Reading the Figuial
cellulai netwoiks is laigely the augmentation of the new digital econ-
omys capacity to extoit incieased pioductivity fiom individuals, and
the populaiity of stoie-and-foiwaid systems fiomansweiing machines
to E-mail iesides laigely in the disjunction between sendei and ieceivei
wheie the foimei can be condent of the deliveiy of the message and
the lattei maintains contiol ovei accessibility and the time of iesponse.
Asynchionous communications iestoie an illusion of contiol to the
individual, whose time is moie cleaily managed by those who demand
that moie of it be devoted to woik.
The contiol of communication netwoiks is undeigoing a con-
stant piocess of economic piivatization, concentiation, and centializa-
tion while points of ieception piolifeiate exponentially: the oce, the
home, the cai, the mall, even the beach. While we aie piomised in-
stantaneous and synchionous communications, neveitheless contiol
of communications iemains with those who contiol the netwoiks, and
the oideiing of time is most often deteimined by the demand of the
new economy to extiact incieasing levels of pioductivity fiom indi-
viduals by iequiiing continuous access to theii time. Suie you can fax
at the beach. But this also demonstiates how the widening of access
means not moie infoimation but the tiansfoimation of leisuie time
into laboi time. In addition, iecipiocity is moie often dened not by
instantaneity but iathei by managing the tempoial delay between ie-
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 219
ceiving a iequest and iesponding to it. (Heie a dystopian futuie is all
too easily imagined wheie individuals aie diiven to baigain theii time
as commodity futuies in oidei to balance the conicting demands of
incieasing woik and disappeaiing leisuie.)
Machinic and Ccllective Arrangements.
Given these tiansfoimations in the
global economy, and in the stiuctuie of
discouise, how is oui image and expeii-
ence of collectivity changing along with
the oideiing of social time and space:
Vhat image cj ccllective lije is prcpcsed
by the new ccmmunicaticns technclcgies?
Oui uigent ciitical task is to undeistand
how ielations of powei aie being tians-
foimed, to foimulate stiategies of iesis-
tance equal to the task of challenging
them, and to iecognize the newmodes of
existence being invented as the expies-
sion of alteinative utopian longings
that may iesult in newfoims of collectiv-
ity. This involves not only undeistand-
ing oui new machinic aiiangements
(agencements machiniques), in Deleuze and Guattaiis sense of the
teim, but also asking what new foims of collectivity oi collective ai-
iangements (agencements ccllectijs) aie emeiging and what histoiical
image of powei oiganizes them.
The notoiious diculties of tianslating Deleuze and Guattaiis use
of the teimagencement (whethei machinic oi collective, foi they aie ie-
lated conceptually) must be pieseived heie.
14
In its most fundamental
denition, an agencement is machinic in that it continually aiticu-
lates, connects, oi constiucts in the puisuit of desiie. Desiie itself is
machinic in that it seeks to prcduce. collectivities, oiganizations, tei-
iitoiies, in shoit, assemblages oi aiiangements, gioupings, and en-
sembles. Desiie neithei seeks noi attaches itself to objects, whethei ieal
oi imaginaiy. Rathei, it establishes ielationslet us say, foi the mo-
ment, sccial ielations, of time and of spacethat aie inheiently col-
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220 Reading the Figuial
lective, though exteinal to the elements aiianged. The simplest way
to undeistand why this is so is to iecognize that agencements expiess
both actions and states. The passive sense of the English tianslation,
aiiangements, expiesses only one dimension of the concept that in
Fiench uctuates between active and passive modes: on one hand, an
active foice of becoming oi a will expiessed equally by and thrcugh
individuals, on the othei, the individuation oi coalescing of a foim oi
abstiact machine. Thus agencement encompasses both active and pas-
sive foices, action and oiganization. It is possible to take the idea of
machinic aiiangements liteially, especially in a digital cultuie wheie
ows of infoimation between machines aie as consequential as ows
of infoimation between people, and wheie the signals tiansmitted be-
tween people aie incieasingly mediated by machines. But in a deepei
sense, the machinic iefeis to what pioduces and in this sense is always
expiessive of an agency, in fact, a will to powei, that is evei seeking out
new connections. Machinic aiiangements aie equally the elaboiation
of a social netwoik in the multiplicity of connections passing between
and thiough bodies (whethei oiganic oi technological), and theiefoie
they aie inheiently collective. These aie both connections that I make,
and which aie made thiough me as my body is caught up in lines of
foice and gieatei multiplicities.
Thus the machinic iefeis neithei piimaiily noi exclusively to tech-
nology in the limited sense, even though, in a cybeinetic society of
contiol, technology comes moie and moie to dene the social aichi-
tectuies in which we live and communicate. Machinic ielations aie so-
cial ielations oi netwoiks expiessing foice and oiganizing desiie. An
assemblage machinique is thus a collective oiganism chaiacteiized by
a paiticulai will to powei and conceptualization of foice. Foice and
desiie aie two sides of this agencing. Just as agency has its two sides
I act as the point oi oiigin of foice, and foices act thiough me by catch-
ing me up as the singulai point in a laigei netwoik oi oiganismso do
machinic assemblages. This is a model of powei based on two con-
stantly inteiacting tempoial foices that opeiate at dieient ihythms:
that which slows and stiaties, ieies, spatializes and foims, and that
which becomes, the cieation of the unfoieseen, the undeteimined, and
the piolifeiation of cieative lines of ight. The stiatication oi sedi-
mentation of desiie and foice in space is teiiitoiialization, this is what
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 221
Deleuze and Guattaii call abstiact machines oi powei as a diagiam-
matic foice. But it is also expiessive of a becoming in time, the pio-
lifeiation of lines of ight and deteiiitoiializations of desiie in new
bianchings and connections of unfoieseen social ielations.
As we become moie and moie machinic, it is easy to deciy, and
not without some justication, how a technological powei exeicised
thrcugh us limits oui bodily poweis and poweis of thought, as well as
oui ielations with otheis. But theie is anothei side to this agencement:
namely, the unfoieseen ielations we fashion out of these new ielations
of foice that may augment oui bodily and mental poweis and enhance
oui ielations with otheis. If this weie not the case, we could not iecog-
nize eithei the inchoate utopian voices speaking in even the most banal
aitifacts of mass cultuie, including the images pioduced by .11, oi
the counteiutopias expiessed in aieas of contempoiaiy cultuie iesis-
tant to, and less teiiitoiialized by, the mass media and commodied
foims of communication. The machinic is also a desiiing ielation, a will
to becoming, that seeks out evei moie complex connections to aug-
ment oui bodily and mental poweis. The question is thus, how do we
iecognize and iedeem this desiie in the constiuction of new aiiange-
ments that oppose the abstiact machine of capitalism: This is a ques-
tion not only of decoding the foims of expeiience expiessed by the new
social hieioglyphics of simulation and hypeimedia but also of evalu-
ating the new modes of existence appeaiing as the foices unleashed
by cybeinetic capitalismieoiganize and ieconguie the lived spatiality
and tempoiality of eveiyday life.
This means evaluating not only discuisive phenomenawhat ap-
peais on oui television scieens and computei monitoisbut also the
aichitectuial spaces we inhabit, whethei they aie physical oi viitual.
Foucault suggests that we can map oi diagiam the social aichitectuie
of powei by asking: How is space divided: How is time oideied: What
stiategies of composing bodies in space-time aie deployed: If theie is
indeed a social aichitectuie of space and time stiuctuied by the tians-
mission of infoimation, then what kinds of communicational stiuc-
tuies do we inhabit in the collective aiiangements of both wiied and
wiieless netwoiks:
Heie the long histoiy of wiied communicationstelegiaphy,
telephony, and now the Inteinetis as oi moie signicant than that
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222 Reading the Figuial
of bioadcast enteitainment, iadio and television. Fundamental to this
histoiy is the elaboiation of an image of powei wheie the geogiaphic
expansion of netwoiks and potential points of contact is diiectly ie-
lated to a seiialization of space and a fiagmentation of time. Within
this histoiy, the concept of machinic aiiangements expiesses a stiuggle
wheie the paicelization of space and time eithei falls into sedimentaiy
stiatathe foimal ielations of poweioi is iefashioned and ieoiga-
nized into new ielations expiessive of unfoieseen desiies and uniec-
ognized foices. The evolution and expansion of telecommunications
netwoiks have tiansfoimed the spatial and tempoial paiameteis of
collective expeiience such that a foimally oiganic public space is be-
coming incieasingly seiialized and dispeised. Alteinatively, as even the
.11 ads suggest, peihaps a new image of libeiation is also emeig-
ing, a new nomadism of the cellulai netwoik wheiein the possibility
of communication is disjoined fiom xed geogiaphic points in space.
Howevei, this global shift in digital communications also inaugu-
iates the new stiategies of powei that chaiacteiize contiol societies.
Deleuze situates the emeigence of this newsocial foimin the genealogy
of powei elaboiated in the latei woiks of Michel Foucault, staiting with
Discipline and Punish. Heie the giadual tiansition fiom soveieign to
disciplinaiy societies is chaiacteiized not only by new aiticulations of
the visible with iespect to the expiessible but also by a newconceptual-
ization of foice expiessed thiough prccessus machiniques, technologi-
cal piocesses, implying a tiansition between two veiy dieient dia-
giams of powei. The disciplinaiy model of industiial capitalism ielied
ona panoptic model. Heie the subject was caught upina iegime of visi-
bility whose condition of possibility is a physical aichitectuie that seg-
ments bodies in space. Contiol societies oiganize powei thiough the
invisible oi viitual aichitectuies of computei netwoiks and telecom-
munications. As I have discussed, the model of contiol is that of a vii-
tual dataveillance wheiein all identity is compiised of data images,
iathei than the implied suiveillance of physical bodies. In the cellu-
lai enviionment of netwoik communication, bodies aie mobile iathei
than xed. Indeed, unconstiained mobility, of eithei bodies oi ows
of infoimation, is the measuie of fieedom in contiol societies. But
mediated by computei netwoiks, all movements and actions leave be-
hind an electionic tiace subject to documentation and electionic iegis-
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 223
tiation. Like ciiminals tagged with electionic collais, oui eveiy action
in electionic netwoiks is tiaced and iecoided. We may move at the
speed of light, but like snails, oui tiail follows wheievei we go. In this
way, contiol societies aie developing the alaiming capacity of iesolving
lines of ight, no mattei how numeious oi quick, into maps of powei.
Foi Siegfiied Kiacauei, the social hieioglyphics of modein cultuie had
visible foims, well iepiesented by the histoiical images of photogiaphy
and lm. But the immanent foices that oiganize collective life in con-
tempoiaiy cultuie aie viitual. Theii legibility ielies less on a visual
image than on the action of an inteiface that can iesolve infoimation in
a useful and contiollable foim. This inteiface is conceptual as much as
technological, and thus, moie than evei, it iequiies a ciitical philoso-
phy of technology to unlock its histoiical image and to make legible
the stiategies of iesistance and lines of ight that aie cieated within it.
The initial foim of the netwoik as a social space was deteimined by
bioadcast distiibution, which pioduced a seiialization of social space
with the household as its minimal unit. Heie the public was dened
as a moleculai oiganization of piivate space, a iandom distiibution
of static oi moving bodies divided in space but potentially unied in
time. Howevei, in the yeais elapsed since :;8, it is nowthe distiibution
cloud, iathei than the Panopticon, that best maps the deployment of
powei in digital cultuie. This seiialization of space implies, on the one
hand, the elimination of space dened as distance and, on the othei,
the piolifeiation of dispaiate points with no ielation to one anothei
save theii link to a common netwoik. As cellulai netwoiks and the
Inteinet oveitake bioadcasting as the dominant inteiface infoiming
oui collective aiiangements, the natuie of seiialization also changes.
This change is intimately linked to the desubstantialization of identity
and its tiansfoimation as data. On one hand, both ieception and tians-
mission become detached fiom any paiticulai geogiaphic point. On
the othei, social identity is incieasingly ieplaced by the accumulation
of passwoids and codes that dene location and access.
This piocess of seiialization has also eected a qualitative tiansfoi-
mation of time, as I have discussed. The heyday of bioadcast television
was the last guiation of the collective as a mass: the seiialization of
space into millions of monads that weie nonetheless united in a tem-
poial whole. Time had a soit of spatial unity guaianteed both by the
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224 Reading the Figuial
ieach of bioadcasting and by its uni-
lateial foice. This mass image has now
been fiagmented not only by the pio-
lifeiation of channels and miciomaikets
thiough cable and satellite distiibution
but also by the cellulai netwoik model,
which tuins eveiy monad into a tians-
mittei as well as a ieceivei. And each
monad is its own miciomaiket.
It is stiiking, then, how .11 in-
sists on maiketing the social ideal of
oiganic space chaiacteiistic of eailiei
foims of community. Heie communi-
cation is dened ideally as a tempoial
iecipiocity acioss disunied oi dispaiate
spaces. In actual piactice, this foim of
inteiactivity is often highly mediated,
asynchionous, and ieied. In the mini-
scenaiio touting a lesson in jazz thiough
distance leaining, notice how the pie-
cise seiies of matched-angle cuts, and
the piofessois hand pointing iight, give
the impiession of spatial as well as vei-
bal communication with the student in
Oakland. In this way, a collective space
divided and fiagmented by distance is
iendeied as oiganic thiough the media-
tion of technology. Moieovei, this pai-
ticulai foim of seiialization is softened
by invoking old media as ienovated in
the context of new media: now you can
talk back to youi television! No mattei
that theie is haidly the chance this stu-
dent will evei have peisonal contact with
his teachei. Oi the fact that the teacheis
pioductivity is maximized by enlaig-
ing his class at the piice of incieasing
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 225
distance fiomhis students. (Little doubt that the additional piot fiom
iadically incieased eniollments does not ietuin to his salaiy.) In this
way, .11 emphasizes the elimination of distance, iathei than sepaia-
tion in space, as the utopian sign that one can oveicome the foims of
alienation occuiiing with the new capitalism. The awful image of the
paient who tucks hei baby in by videophone thus becomes the sign of
a technological solution, iathei than the oiigin of a new foim of alien-
ation wheiein the incieased demands foi woik eiode the most intimate
foims of social contact. Seiialization pioduces a fading of tactility, a
kind of infoimational disembodiment in the ciiculation of signs, that
.11 attempts to desciibe as an augmentation, iathei than a dimi-
nution, of expeiience. Peisonal infoimation managementfaxing,
electionic mail, answeiing devicesmeans subtiacting the peisonal
fiom infoimation. Thus the spatiotempoial aichitectuie of telecom-
munications can be foimulated as moleculai piolifeiation of points of
consumption, ielaying of points thiough centialized nodes of contiol
and exchange, and contiol time by managing asynchiony, oi the delay
between message and iesponse.
With bioadcast distiibution, the public space of communication
became incieasingly indistinguishable fiom a maiket space. Again,
bioadcasting was the histoiical innovatoi. An old clich still iings tiue:
television does not sell pioducts to people, it sells a maiket to ad-
veitiseis, and incieasingly, the same may be said foi the Woild Wide
Web and othei foims of communication on the Inteinet. The question
then becomes how to deteimine the exchange value of the public, who
aie no longei consideied as a mass but iathei as evei-peimutable
assemblages of data. By the same token, consideiing the public as a
commodity depiives the body politic of agency by conveiting it into a
viitualand theiefoie quantiable, measuiable, and numeiically ma-
nipulablespace of consumption. The stiategies of those who maiket
and those who govein aie becoming indistinguishable. Both iely on
the same statistical and demogiaphic models to dene and dieien-
tiate taiget consumeis, coiielating them numeiically with given units
of time while dening public opinion thiough polls and iandom
sampling.
The disappeaiance of oiganic community is one way of measui-
ing the foims of ieication and alienation in electionic cultuie. But
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226 Reading the Figuial
nostalgia foi this foim of locality, which is aftei all long gone in many
iespects, should not blind us to the utopian appeal of viitual com-
munities. One can also talk about viituality as the conqueiing of sub-
stance by ideas, an oiganism sepaiated in space and time but united
in the mutual elaboiation of a common, if often conicted, concep-
tual space that Pieiie Lvy has chaiacteiized as a univeisality with-
out totality.
15
The viitual communities dened by news gioups, chat
iooms, ivc channels, and multiusei domains aie communities whose
unity is dened by a shaied set of ideas, peispectives, and cultuial oi
subcultuial identities iegaidless of the geogiaphic distiibution oi dis-
tance between theii constituent membeis. Indeed, the nonpiesence of
the body in netwoiked communicationsin which maikeis of gendei,
iace, nationality, and class aie not only indisceinible but continuously
peimutablelends itself to this idea of communications communities
bound by ideas, shaied inteiests, and the capacity foi communication,
iathei than national, ethnic, oi sexual allegiances. At the same time,
these viitual communities aie moie fiagile, ephemeial, and volatile
than physical communities dened by geogiaphic allegiances, and the
nonpiesence of the body, in which the othei appeais only as ephemeial
text oi a shadowy avatai whose geogiaphic location is indisceinible,
often leads useis to believe that they will not be iendeied accountable
foi the ethical consequences of theii opinions and discuisive acts.
16
In sum, social contiol no longei entails the disciplinaiy model of
catching the subject upina continuous iegime of visible suiveillance by
aninvisible though actual inteilocutoi. Rathei, the cybeinetic model of
contiol woiks thiough the subtle and continuous extiaction of data in
each exchange of infoimation, which models viitual identity accoiding
to the inteiests of the maiket: the potentiality of desiie foi a pioduct,
the capacity foi exeicising ciedit, and the piobability of being able to
pay. Moieovei, thiough the automation of data extiaction and colla-
tion, the visibility and accountability of those who exeicise powei dis-
appeais into viitual space, no less than the identity of the consumei
disappeais into a data image. In this iespect, one of the most inteiest-
ing debates occuiiing today is whethei the Inteinet will continue to be
developed as a public space of electionic communication, oi whethei
it will be commodied as an infoimation supeihighway. By the same
token, one of the most inteiesting questions now confionting us in-
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 227
volves the denition of what Howaid Rheingold calls viitual com-
munities on the net.
17
Will these communities have fiee oi commei-
cialized access to infoimation: That is, will infoimation continue to
become a commodity iegulated by a system of exchange:
An Impossible Ideal of Power The guiation of utopia in the aitifacts
of contempoiaiy technocultuie is unceitain because the ielation of
the futuie to the piesent is indeteiminate and thus piesents itself as a
site of political stiuggle. The images piesented in cybeinetic capital-
isms piomotion of new communications technologies aie not neces-
saiily duplicitous oi false. As Siegfiied Kiacauei aigued alieady in the
I,:os, collectivities oiganize aiound and thiough mass images because
they iecognize, no mattei how impeifectly, the alienated expiession
of a genuine social knowledge and an authentic desiie foi change. In
some iespects, the .11 ads may indeed expiess a longing foi foims of
community and modes of existence alieady potentialized by oui new
(cybeinetic) machinic aiiangements, but whose existence is thieatened
by the desiie to commodify and contiol the new foims of communi-
cation and the collectivities they inspiie. Thus a contestatoiy ciiticism
should be attentive not only to the negative consequences of contem-
poiaiy technocultuie but also to the alteinative utopian desiies, no
mattei how silent oi contiadictoiy, expiessed theie.
The point of mapping the techniques of powei and pioceduies of
expiession in digital cultuie, then, is to make cleaiei the possibilities of
ciitique and stiategies of contestation. A piogiessive ciitique of digi-
tal cultuie iequiies thinking histoiically, that is, in ielation to time.
We must cieate ways of mapping the functioning of powei and stiate-
gies of iesistance in ways that aie attentive to the volatility, ambiva-
lence, and contiadictoiiness of the social tiansfoimations now taking
place. AT&T piesents us with one image of utopia, but it is an uncei-
tain utopia indeed. Unceitain because the iapid commodication of
the newcommunicationtechnologies confionts us with ieal paiadoxes.
The foice of utopia iesides in dening desiie as multiplicitya piolif-
eiation of possible woilds alteinative to the one we now inhabit. But
these woilds do not emeige fiom the same desiie, noi can desiie itself
be chaiacteiized as singulai, homogeneous, and without contiadic-
tion. Futuie-oiiented desiies aie ambivalent and polyvalent by natuie:
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228 Reading the Figuial
they can be pulled in dieient and often contiadictoiy political and
social diiections. In fact, they aie incompossible woilds, in Leibnizs
sense of the teim, that iepiesent dieient and often agonistic ethical
dimensions, each of which is equally possible in itself, yet exclusive of
the otheis. This means that theie aie no false utopias, capitalism and
socialism cannot be opposed in this way. Incompossible woilds aie in-
numeiable vaiiations of the futuie viitually piesent in the moment we
nowinhabit. The deepest sense of the viitual, then, is the potentiality
of the actual. This is the expiession of an Event in Deleuzes sense of
the teim, which in eveiy passing moment holds in ieseive the multi-
plicity of undeteimined foices that ensuie futuie tiajectoiies as thiows
of the dice, iathei than the lineai unfolding of a dialectic of powei oi
the ineluctable movement of histoiical waves.
18
Undeistanding what viitualities ieside in the foices unleashed by
cybeinetic aiiangements may well mean unlocking how technological
concepts tianslate into new categoiies of social expeiience, oi how a
machine logic oi aichitectuie may insinuate itself into the ielations of
powei that ow thiough us and connect us one to anothei. Even sci-
entic concepts iemain exteinal to the technologies in which they aie
functionalized, and in this way they expiess sets of poweis oi poten-
tialities that can owin contiaiy diiections. The evolution of the Intei-
net tiansmission piotocols piovides a ielatively simple example foi
undeistanding this pioblem.
19
Fiomthe beginning of its histoiy, a con-
cept of infoimation potlatch was built into the infiastiuctuie of the
Inteinet as a piinciple of infoimation iecipiocity between inteicon-
nected teiminals and iouteis that assumed foi each amount of infoi-
mation demanded and given, an equal amount would be ietuined to
the netwoiked community. This was a key piinciple of the hackei
ethic, undeiwiiting the piinciples of fieewaie and shaiewaie, that was
built into the conceptual design of distiibuted, packet-switched net-
woiks. This piinciple deiived fiom the best ideals of communities that
weie both scientic and counteicultuial. One of the gieat paiadoxes
of the Inteinet, then, was howan intiinsically open, decentialized, and
nonhieiaichical netwoik was allowed to ouiish within the secietive
and closed woild of militaiy ieseaich. The whole histoiy of cybeinet-
ics, in fact, is maiked by the stiuggle to dene howthe natuie of powei
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 229
is augmented and tiansfoimed by computei-mediated communica-
tions: as uniestiicted oi iestiicted ows: Thus the most insidious con-
sequence of the incieasing commodication of the netwoik has been
the displacement of this ideal of fiee and tianspaient communication
by suiieptitious data mining and invasions of data piivacy. An ethi-
cal piinciple of iecipiocity has been peiveited and ieplaced by anothei
veision of exchange maiked by the logic of commodities and a new
capitalist division of laboi. In this iespect, the social and political issues
ielating to electionic piivacy and enciyption have become incieasingly
vexed. Heie the cypheipunk vision of omnipiesent viitual suiveillance
deepens in its (peihaps justied!) paianoia in diiect iatio with the ie-
oiganization of the netwoik by the foims of commodity exchange. My
main point, howevei, is that the implementation of even puiely tech-
nological concepts piesents us with complex sites of social stiuggle and
myiiadchoices whose histoiical outcomes have political consequences.
I should also add that the guie of utopia is not ieseived exclusively
foi communities wishing to build an alteinative to capitalism, and the
calls of utopia can iespond to any numbei of ethical peispectives that
can, in vaiious degiees, be mutually exclusive, and that enable diei-
ent seiies of poweis. The logic of utopia holds within itself a piinciple
of undecidability that makes it ieveisible thiough political oi cultuial
iecontextualization if not anchoied by stiong ethical claims. Anyone
who has seen .11s ad campaign will have noticed how theii pioduc-
tion designeis pioject an image of utopia by explicitly adopting the
dystopian futuiist designs of Blade Runner. This shows piecisely the
cuiious social tension that infoims these ads. AT&T maikets its image
of the futuie by capitalizing on the cult populaiity of a technology-
oiiented lm. This iefeience, howevei, immediately iecalls a distuib-
ing viitual image: Blade Runners vision of an ecologically devastated
planet whose society is divided into economic extiemes based on ac-
cess to technology, and wheie the distinction between what is human
and what is aiticial is iapidly disappeaiing. This is the ieveise side
of William Gibsons oft-cited complaint of how techno-utopians have
completely missed the deep political iionies of his cybeipunk tiilogy.
AT&T has ieveise engineeied its shiny utopian futuie fiom the daikei
pages of cybeipunk. But in so doing it has not puiged its political un-
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230 Reading the Figuial
conscious, which takes the foim of a ie-
piessed dystopian image that peisists as
a kind of viitual image, a counteiutopia
that may ietuin in the foim of a ciitique
of cybeinetic capitalism.
The fantasies of digital cultuie pio-
mulgated by .11, ivm, Intel, and
Miciosoft in the mass media aie easy
to deconstiuct and thus to dismiss. But
we should not look away too quickly,
foi the guiation of utopia in contem-
poiaiy technocultuie expiesses a com-
plex, if by no means cleai, site of political
stiuggle. No doubt these coipoiations
wish to piomote an idea of a cybeinetic
capitalismas what Slavoj iek has called
a hegemonic univeisal whose values
aie foimulated as an ineluctable (if plea-
suiable) woild-histoiical foice. Heie the
utopia of capitalism is iepiesented as the
univeisal expiession of a social good that
canonlycome about thiough a fiiction-
fiee capitalism wheie the global piolif-
eiation of fiee maikets is equated with
the viitualization of commodities in the
woildwide ieach of digital communica-
tions netwoiks. This is not the simple
imposition of a new model of powei
by those who iepiesent the political and
economic inteiests of what has been
called the multinational enteitainment
state. Rathei, ideology has no foice if
it cannot iecognize and solicit populai
desiies iepiesenting new foims of com-
munity. In othei woids, wiites iek,
each hegemonic univeisality has to in-
coipoiate at least twc paiticulai con-
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 231
tents, the authentic populai content as well as its distoition by the iela-
tions of domination and exploitation.
20
This is anothei way of think-
ing about the political unconscious, in Jamesons felicitous phiase,
of contempoiaiy technocultuie, and in this way we can see exactly
why Deleuze wiites that the seciet exists only to betiay itself. Foi the
tiuth of these ads iesides not in the iecognition that they misiep-
iesent themselves but iathei in that they expiess quite diiectly, if in a
distoited foim, populai desiies and values alieady appaient in the new
machinic aiiangements of digital cultuie. This distoition is a cynical
attempt not only to capitalize and maiket new technologies but also
to exploit them in such a way as to maintain and extend the cultuial
logic of contempoiaiy capitalism, whose values may be challenged by
the potentiality of the new foims of communications. The maiketing
of the new is what in fact impedes the invention of new foims of
community as dened by Howaid Rheingold and otheis.
Theie is a deep iisk in feaiing that the penetiation of society by
digital cultuie will be total and complete, and that the appeaiance of
new stiategies of viitual suiveillance and automated social contiol aie
inevitable and unchallengeable. The histoiy of technology has shown
iepeatedly that this is nevei the case. A contestatoiy cultuial ciiticism
needs to be attentive to nuances in the consumption and use of these
new technologies, both foi good and ill, and aleit to the possibilities
foi cieatively subveiting them and tuining them to moie demociatic
ends. I would like to conclude by suggesting seveial ways of looking
at how the appeaiance of a digital cultuie is still open to political and
intellectual challenge and iediiection.
Unlike panoptic oi disciplinaiy societies, which aie visible iegimes
constitutedbyactual aichitectuies, contiol societies aie viitual iegimes
in a netwoiked enviionment whose powei is eected thiough a con-
tinuous contiol and instantaneous communication in open milieus.
The expansion of this invisible aichitectuie, the global communica-
tions netwoik, is simultaneously the expiession of an (impossible)
ideal of powei exeicised on a closed woild. Paul Edwaids has exam-
ined the histoiy and social theoiy of this closed-woild discouise, which
has so maiked the militaiy and goveinments of developed countiies
since Woild Wai II. The closed woild is dened by a militaiy utopia
of the automated functioning of powei thiough the casting of a global
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232 Reading the Figuial
net of suiveillance capable of instantaneous and automated iesponse
to peiceived aggiessionan ideal totalitaiian space of command and
contiol.
21
But what has most foicefully maikedthe histoiyof constiuct-
ing a cybeinetic system of communication, command, and contiol of
the global militaiy enviionment aie its continual, and sometimes cata-
stiophic, failuies.
This is an impoitant histoiical lesson, foi technology fails, and the
piobability of technology failing incieases ielative to its complexity, as
Muiphys Law dictates. The use of technology always iequiies special-
ized knowledge. On one hand, this will suiely slowthe advance of mai-
kets foi the new media and new technologies. On the othei, we should
be ciitically aleit to how new class divisions emeige on the basis of
technological knowledge. Fuitheimoie, what is tiue of the complexity
of technology is equally tiue of the complexity of economic oigani-
zations and the juiidical appaiatuses that suppoit them. Cybeinetic
capitalism is no less ieplete with stiuctuial contiadictions than indus-
tiial capitalism, as the I,,8 collapse of inteinational cuiiency maikets
in Southeast Asia, and then Biazil, has made painfully cleai. In this ie-
spect, I hope we can look foiwaid to moie ciitical, histoiical analyses
of the inteinational political economy of digital cultuie.
In addition, successful commodication iequiies the piioi existence
oi cieation of a compelling desiie oi need. This is the whole point of the
.11 ads, as well as the cuiient media obsession with multimedia com-
puting. The histoiical situation is still veiy uid and inchoate. Not only
will a gieat many of these pioducts fail to attiact a maiket, but theie is
also time foi the public to iedene howthese technologies will be used,
indeed to iedene what a public will mean in a digital cultuie. Both
old and new foims of political action, legislation, and lobbying should
be biought to beai heie. An inteiesting example of what can be done
is iepiesented in the eoits of oiganizations in the United States such
as the Electionic Fiontiei Foundation, the Electionic Piivacy Infoima-
tion Centei, and the Centei foi Demociacy and Technology to pio-
tect the Inteinet fiom commeicialization, to assuie the iights of indi-
viduals to maintain contiols ovei theii peisonal infoimation and data
images, and to extend constitutional piotections to netwoik commu-
nications. Once time and access to infoimation aie commodied, all
the powei imbalances, class inequities, and foims of alienation typical
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An Unceitain UtopiaDigital Cultuie 233
of capitalism will appeai as well. This is yet anothei aiea wheie ciitical
study of the political economy of digital cultuie is uigent.
Simultaneously, we must tieat with iiony eveiy attempt to dene
cybeispace as a political teiiitoiy detached fiom any national sovei-
eignty oi whose iules aie somehow dieient fiom those of the ieal
woild.
22
The solution is not to declaie the independence of cybeispace
as some kind of viitual soveieign iealm, foi it is not the State pei se
that inhibits the libeiatoiy and ciitical potential of the new commu-
nications technologies but iathei the foices of cybeinetic capitalism,
which aie themselves global and incieasingly supeichaiged by these
selfsame technologies. This is why iek cagily ciitiques how libei-
taiian politics mistake the abstiact univeisality of capitalismfoi that of
the nation-state: This . . . demonization of the state is thoioughly am-
biguous, since it is piedominantly appiopiiated by iight-wing popu-
list discouise and[oi maiket libeialism: its main taigets aie the state
inteiventions which tiy to maintain a kind of minimal social balance
and secuiity. . . . So, while cybeispace ideologists can dieam about
the next evolutionaiy step in which we will no longei be mechanically
inteiacting Caitesian individuals, in which each peison will cut his
oi hei substantial link to his individual body and conceive of itself as
pait of the new holistic Mind which lives and acts thiough him oi hei,
what is obfuscated in such a diiect natuialization of the Woild Wide
Web oi maiket is the set of powei ielationsof political decisions, of
institutional conditionswhich oiganisms like the Inteinet (oi the
maiket oi capitalism . . . ) need in oidei to thiive (_o_,). In this
way, it is easy to see that the political unconscious of most libeitaiian
manifestos on the politics of the Inteinet (as appeaiing in the pages of
Vired, foi example) is, piecisely, politics! The libeitaiian taigeting of
the State thus sublates the abstiact univeisality of capitalism as the ieal
political pioblem, when in point of fact we need a dieient kind of in-
stitutional politicsin fact, socialistto aiticulate and encouiage the
moie inventive and populai collective aiiangements of digital cultuie.
Thus each time Vired publishes anothei slavish piole of a fiee mai-
keting cybeinaut next to complaints about legislative inhibitions on
electionic fiee speech, one wants to ciy out: Its capitalism, stupid!
Finally, foi eveiy new stiategy of powei that emeiges, theie also
always emeiges a counteivailing cultuie of iesistance. The question,
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234 Reading the Figuial
then, is how to ieintioduce some fiiction into fiiction-fiee capital-
ism. Theie has alieady been some inteiest, both in the populai piess
and in cultuial studies, in examining the counteicultuie of computing
wheiein the stiuctuie of digital aits and communications is subject to
what the Situationists called cultuial detcurnement.
23
The ethics and
tactics of the digital undeigiound aie exemplaiy in this iespect: cul-
tuie jammeis, gueiiilla media, cybeipunk cultuie, waiez oi softwaie
piiates, hackeis, and phone phieaks all piovide iich mateiial foi ex-
amining the cieative possibilities that alieady exist foi iesisting, ie-
designing, and ciitiquing digital cultuie.
24
Heie the idea of hackei
ethicsdened by theft of seivice and piopiietaiy infoimation, open
access to knowledge, uniestiicted dialogue within communities of like
inteiest iegaidless of geogiaphic locationpiovides one conceptual
foundation foi discussing the libeiatoiy potential of packet-switched
netwoiks and the qualitative tiansfoimation of communication and
community they piesuppose. The stiuggle against capitalism is often
inchoate in these communities, but it is nonetheless a stiuggle against
the contiol of infoimation, the commodication of communication,
and the capitalist exploitation of the netwoiked economy.
AT&T piesents us with the two sides of utopiathe dieam of the
individuals absolute contiol ovei infoimation is also the nightmaie
of total suiveillance and the ieication of piivate expeiience. These
technologies seive to dene, iegulate, obseive, and document human
collectivities. They also allowaccess to moie infoimation and newpos-
sibilities of communication that aie alieady nding expiession as the
minoi voices of oui new machinic aiiangements. Only a contesta-
toiy ciitical thinking can map the ielations of powei and stiategies of
iesistance emeiging in digital cultuie and tuin themto socialist values.
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NOTES
1. Presenting the Figural
1 All tianslations aie my own unless otheiwise indicated.
2 See in paiticulai Metzs essays tianslated as Film Language.
3 See, foi example, Lyotaid, Dialectique, index, foime, in Disccurs, gure, :,
,:. I should emphasize again that Lyotaids oiiginality lies in situating the woik
of Benveniste, and indeed the Saussuiean enteipiise of stiuctuial linguistics, in
a genealogy with Hegels phenomenology. Lyotaid is iefeiiing heie to a pas-
sage at the end of section A.I (Sense-Ceitainty, This, and Meaning) of Hegels
Phencmenclcgy. See Hegel, Phancmenclcgie des Geistes, 88.
4 This spacing at the heait of discouise ielies on thiee impoitant distinctions:
negation, negativeness, and negativity. Lyotaid distinguishes them as follows:
The negation of the giammaiian oi the logician, which can be seen in negative
statements, the discontinuity of the stiuctuialist and the linguist, hidden in the
language-system(langue), which keeps the teims of the language sepaiated and
by iespecting invaiiances, integiates them into a whole, nally hidden in the
utteiance (parcle) theie is the lack iecognized by the logician and analyst, the
lack that iuns thiough discouise and gives it its iefeiential powei. Hence: syn-
tactical negation, stiuctuial negativeness, intentional negativity. Fiom Maiy
Lydons tianslation, published in Theatre }curnal as Fiscouise, Diguie: The
Utopia behind the Scenes of Phantasy, __. Also see Lyotaid, Disccurs, gure,
I:I.
5 See also Maiy Lydons tianslation of this chaptei, The Dieam-Woik Does Not
Think, published in Oxjcrd Literary Review.
6 This chaptei has also been tianslated as The Connivances of Desiie with the
Figuial in Drijtwcrks. The ielevant passage is on page oI.
7 See Fieuds oft-cited essay The Unconscious, I,,:Io.
8 See Fieud, The Standard Editicn, vol. ,, p. oII.
9 In Maiy Lydons tianslation, Fiscouise, Diguie, __.
10 Ibid., _,.
11 Ibid., _,,.
12 Cited in Disccurs, gure, :: n. _:, fiom Flix Klee, ed., P. Klee par lui-meme et
par scn ls F. Klee, IIo, my tianslation fiom the Fiench.
13 Inteiioi citation fiom Klee, Das bildnerische Denken, ,.
14 This is something veiy dieient, and moie iadical, than a denigiation of vision
oi a ciitique of oculaicentiism, as Maitin Jay would have in an otheiwise veiy
ne book, Dcwncast Eyes.
15 Foi a supeib oveiview of both the changes and continuities of Lyotaids aigu-
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236 Notes to Chaptei One
ments conceining ait and politics, see David Caiiolls Paraesthetics, especially
chapteis : and ,.
16 Lyotaid, Answeiing the Question: What Is Postmodeinism: In The Pcstmcd-
ern Ccnditicn, ,,.
17 Lyotaid, The Sublime and the Avant-Gaide, _. I will iefei heie to the
text as oiiginally published in Artjcrum in Lisa Liebmanns tianslation. The
emended Fiench veision was published in a collection of Lyotaids essays called
Linhumain.
18 The two cential texts aie Piesenting the Unpiesentable: The Sublime (I,8:)
andThe Sublime andthe Avant-Gaide (I,8_). These weie followedbya deepei
account of Kants thiid Ciitique, the I,,I Lecns sur lAnalytique du sublime.
19 In Piesenting the Unpiesentable: The Sublime, Lyotaid suggests that paint-
ing nds its philosophical vocation when libeiated fiomiepiesentation by pho-
togiaphy: Painting became a philosophical activity: pieviously dened iules
goveining the foimation of pictoiial images weie not enunciated and applied
automatically. Rathei paintings iule became the ie-evaluation of those pictoiial
iules, as philosophy ie-evaluates philosophical syntax (o,).
20 InPiesenting the Unpiesentable, globalizationpiojects the idea of community
in yet anothei diiection: In the cuiient state of techno-science and accumu-
lated capital in the developed woild, community identity iequiies no spiiitual
allegiance, noi does it demand a giand shaied ideology, but it ciystallizes in-
stead thiough the mediation of the total sum of goods and seivices, which aie
being exchanged at a piodigious iate. At the edge of the twenty-ist centuiy, the
seaich foi knowledge, technology, and capital is evident in the veiy stiuctuie of
oui languages. The tiaditional function of the state has shifted: it need no longei
incainate the idea of community, and tends instead to identify with its innite
potential to geneiate data, know-how, and wealth (ooo,). Of couise, what
comes aftei postmodeinism is a giand shaied ideology, peihaps the giandest:
globalization, oi one woild dominated by the foims of exchange unleashed by
unbiidled fiee maikets.
21 Also see the concluding chaptei of my Gilles Deleuzes Time Machine.
22 Eisenstein, Peispectives, _o.
23 These aiguments, which seemed to have obsessed the wiiting on aesthetics pio-
duced in the eighteenth centuiy, devolve fioma fundamental misundeistanding
of the Ars Pcetica. I would use this obseivation to fuithei my claim that what is
ieally at stake is a desiie to dene and piotect speech as the miiioi of thought
and the site of iational expiession. Cf. Richaid Roitys Philcscphy and the Mirrcr
cj Nature.
24 Foi two of the best oveiviews of this question, see Einst Cassiieis The Philcsc-
phy cj the Enlightenment and David E. Wellbeiys Lessings Laccccn. Semictics
and Aesthetics in the Age cj Reascn.
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Notes to Chaptei Two 237
25 See Octcber ,, (summei I,,o): :,.
26 See Binckley, Reguiing Cultuie and Cameia Fantasia.
27 Baithes, Camera Lucida, 8o.
28 This, of couise, is Nelson Goodmans teiminology fiom Languages cj Art. I am
also indebted toWilliamMitchells ieading of Goodman in ielation to pioblems
of photogiaphy. See Mitchell, The Reccngured Eye, chaptei _.
29 See Benjamin, Das Kunstweik imZeitaltei seinei technischen Repioduzieibai-
keit, sec. II, in Illuminaticnen, tianslated as The Woik of Ait in the Age of
Mechanical Repioduction.
30 See Walkeis essay Thiough the Looking Glass, . John Walkei was the
foundei of Autodesk, one of the pioneeis in computei-aided design and eaily
innovatois of viitual ieality technologies. Foi an alteinative peispective, see
Sandy Stones essay, Will the Real Body Please Stand Up:
31 On the ideology of digital cultuie as a new foim of idealism, see Slavoj ieks
essays Multicultuialism, oi The Cultuial Logic of Multinational Capitalism
and Cybeispace, oi The Unbeaiable Closuie of Being.
2. Reading the Figural
1 In the cuiient situation, ciitical theoiy ignoies at its peiil the impoitance of eco-
nomic analysis, since infoimation and enteitainment aie becoming incieasingly
dominant as globally managed commodities. Ovei the past ten yeais, the links
betweenthe global expansionof media economies, the incieasing coopeiation
between public institutions and piivate coipoiations, and the commeicializa-
tion of the most intimate foims of electionic communication have become evei
laigei and moie inteiconnected. In shoit, an inteinational infoimation econ-
omy is evolving simultaneously on the most global and most peisonal scales.
Without doubt, the poweiful new technologies of electionic communication
and image piocessing will be developed and distiibuted only in foims whose
exchange value canbe calculatedpiecisely, andthose foims will deteimine ideo-
logical eects. (The public appeaiance of the Inteinet, and since I,,o the Woild
Wide Web, chaiges these pioblems with ienewed uigency.) Jay Olgilvy, advisei
to the London Stock Exchange, isnt kidding when he states that a Nobel Piize is
waiting foi the peison who denes the economics of infoimation. See Stewait
Biand, The Media Lab, especially ::,,. Foi anothei impoitant account of this
pioblemwith iespect to the debate on postmodeinism, see Jennifei Wicke, The
Peifume of Infoimation.
2 I followUmbeitoEcoinidentifying twotiaditions inthe studyof signication
that of semiology descending fiom Feidinand de Saussuie and that of semiotics
descending fiom Chailes Sandeis Peiice. In my view, the semiotic tiadition has
pioved to be both less compiomised by a linguistic bias and moie exible in de-
sciibing histoiical mutations in the oideiing of signs. An inteiesting ieading of
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238 Notes to Chaptei Two
Peiice, which infoims my aigument heie, is found in Gilles Deleuzes two books
on cinema, The Mcvement-Image and The Time-Image. Also see my book Gilles
Deleuzes Time Machine, especially chaptei _.
3 In an eaily diaft of this chaptei, I iefeiied to the cuiient peiiod as late capi-
talism. This teim is ihetoiically unfoitunate, even though it has enabled some
stiiking analyses by Maixist economists. The only thing late about capitalism
is that it long ago failed to collapse on schedule. As Fiediic Jameson suggests,
peihaps the teim postmodeinism best desciibes the cuiient state of politi-
cal economy with iespect to the spatial and tempoial oideiing of expeiience.
(See his Pcstmcdernism, cr The Cultural Lcgic cj Late Capitalism.) This is the
only denition of the teim that I am inclined to accept. Latei in this chaptei, I
iefei to Foucaults division of the Modein fiom the Classic eia on the basis of
theii theoiies of signs and iepiesentation. Heie Modeinism iefeis to a philc-
scphical epoch, oiiginating in the eighteenth centuiy, which still laigely denes
piofessional philosophy as it is piacticed today.
4 It is not coincidental that I diaw so heavily on the conceptual language of
chaos, oi the modeling of nonlineai systems. A good account of the philo-
sophical implications of this developing thought in mathematics and physics
can be found in Ilya Piigogine and Isabelle Stengeis, Order Out cj Chacs. Also
see Claiie Painets I,8, inteiview with Deleuze published in Negctiaticns as
Mediatois.
5 Much of my aigument conceining the oiiginality of Deleuzes ieading of Fou-
cault deiives fiom the way that English tianslations of Foucaults woik have
tended to suppiess his sensitivity to pioblems of space. Foucault himself is
equally at fault, howevei, in the choice he made while stiuggling to cieate a new
set of concepts to aiticulate ielations between the visible and the expies-
sible. The pioblem of the nonc is a good case in point. Foucaults tianslatois
should be foigiven foi choosing to expiess this teim as statement, foi while
aiguing against any linguistic conceptualization of the teim, Foucault nonethe-
less selected a highly chaiged woid with a long histoiy in linguistic thought and
analytic philosophy. In contiast, Deleuze emphasizes iestoiing a sense of Fou-
caults development of the nonc as a spatial guie. Howevei, even Deleuze
stops shoit of questioning the status of the nonc as an oial oi wiitten state-
ment as opposed to the visible as the potential eld of emeigence of obseiv-
ables. Foi these ieasons, I have chosen the iathei banal expedient of tianslating
encnable as expiessible, since even the English language has not banished the
paintei, the photogiaphei, the videogiaphei, oi the hypeimedia and Web de-
signei fiom the eld of expiession. Thiough this stiategy, I hope nonetheless
to demonstiate the powei and iange of expiessions in Foucaults desciiption
of what counts as an nonc. I would like to thank Dana Polan foi diawing my
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Notes to Chaptei Two 239
attention to the inteiest of Deleuzes ieading of Foucault in this iespect. See
Polans ieview of Fcucault, Poweis of Vision, Visions of Powei.
6 If Foucault and Deleuze cast themselves as iadical empiiicists, one must none-
theless stiess the oiiginality of theii use of the teim. Theii empiiicism iefeis
neithei to a teleological piogiess of human thought noi to the appiehension of
an otheiwise seciet knowledge iesiding natuially though silently at the heait
of things. Rathei, it stages the paiadox of the nonc as simultaneously not
visible and not hidden. The nonc paitakes of a iadical positivity even if the
gaze does not iecognize it. In this iespect, Deleuze believes that Foucault gives
piimacy to the expiessible. In each histoiical foimation, the expiessible seives
as a dominant, not in the sense of contiolling oi dening the visible but as
the measuie of its autonomy. noncs aie thus consideied to be deteiminant
with iespect to knowledge. They iendei things as visible oi obseivable, and
they cause to be seen, even if what they iendei visible is something othei than
what they themselves intend to expiess. As a ciitical concept, what the diagiam
pioduces is a map of the piactices of knowledge, oi a bluepiint foi the matiix
that geneiates noncs in a space dened between the visible and the expies-
sible. We need only know how to iead, wiites Deleuze, howevei dicult that
may piove to be. The seciet exists only in oidei to be betiayed, oi to betiay
itself. Each age aiticulates peifectly the most cynical element of its politics, oi
the iawest element of its sexuality, to the point wheie tiansgiession has little
meiit. Each age says nonce] eveiything it can accoiding to the conditions laid
down foi its statements noncs] (Fcucault, ,).
7 See in paiticulai Dening the Statement, in Foucault, Archaeclcgy, ,,8,.
Deleuzes commentaiy, which makes a somewhat dieient emphasis, is found
in the ist chaptei of Fcucault, I::.
8 Aiguing against the piestige of wiiting inoidei toietuinthe analysis of speech
to its piopei place in linguistics, Saussuie says, le mot ciit se mele si intime-
ment au mot pail dont il est image, quil nit pai usuipei le ile piincipal,
on en vient donnei autant et plus dimpoitance la iepisentation du signe
vocal qu ce signe lui-meme. Cest comme si lon cioyait que, poui connaitie
quelquun, il vaut mieux iegaidei sa photogiaphie que son visage (Ccurs ,).
Cuiiously, the English tianslation omits this iefeience.
9 Modeinism should be consideied as the last stage of iefeientiality in the aits:
nonobjective painting insisted on abstiaction as the expiessiveness of the ait-
ists spiiitual oi mental states, abstiact expiessionism must iefei to an authentic
existential action. Self-iefeience is nonetheless iefeience, and both movements
devolve fiom a long tiadition of Romanticism. It is heie that the economic, aes-
thetic, and philosophical denitions of modeinity coincide peifectly. As Fou-
cault insists, the Modein age is the age of man. As cultuial documents of the
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240 Notes to Chaptei Thiee
Modein age, the moie ait ceased to iesemble an exteinal woild, the moie it ie-
feiied to the innei woild of the aitist. And no extieme of abstiaction oi lack
of deictic maikeis will make modein ait (and most postmodein ait) any less
an ait of the subject, undeistood as a self-identical, fieely cieative oiigin.
3. The Figure and the Text
1 Following Philippe Solleiss essay Niveaux semantiques dun texte modeine,
I dieientiate thioughout this chaptei between two conceptualizations of wiit-
ingone that constitutes an empiiical object whose ielations aie established by
logocentiic thought, the othei that is inected by Deiiidas philosophy:
By writing, two iegisteis must be iigoiously distinguished:
ist, and heie the woid is applied without quotation maiks, wiiting
as it is cuiiently known: that which is eectively wiitten, that is, the pho-
netic wiiting in use in oui cultuie that coiiesponds to a iepiesentation of
speech. . . .
second, and heie the woid appeais with quotation maiks (wiiting),
one poitiays the eect of opening languageits aiticulation, its scansion, its
oveideteimination, its spacingsuch that theie would seem to be an aichi-
wiiting pre-ecriture] within wiiting, a tiace anteiioi to the distinction sig-
niei[signied, an immobilization of the giaphic within speech. (Solleis _I,,
my tianslation)
2 The moie iecent woik of Raymond Belloui extends and complicates the ques-
tion of movement and intelligibility, not only in the context of media theoiy
but also in ielation to video and new media as well as lm. See, foi example,
his collections LEntre-images, LEntre-images, :, and othei essays of the I,,os.
One inspiiation foi the iediiection of Bellouis woik and otheis is how the
concept of movement has fundamentally been tiansfoimed by Gilles Deleuzes
books Cinema :. The Mcvement-Image and Cinema :. The Time-Image. I analyze
Deleuzes aiguments in gieatei depth in my book Gilles Deleuzes Time Machine.
Foi a moie extensive analysis of the contiibutions of Belloui, Metz, and Kuntzel
to a theoiy of ieading, see the last chaptei of my The Diculty cj Dierence.
3 That the photogiaphic image confounds intelligibility by escaping wiiting, oi
peihaps moie piecisely linguistic sense, is the most constant theme uniting
Baithess otheiwise diveise wiitings on photogiaphy. In The Photogiaphic
Message (I,oI), foi example, Baithes associates photogiaphy with a tiau-
matic suspension of language, oi a blocking of meaning, as the potential site
of a puie denotation that functions as a small pieseive of ieality untouched
by ideological meanings. In latei essays such as The Thiid Meaning (I,,o),
this becomes an obtuse meaning that eludes both linguistic aiticulation and
the cultuial and ideological meanings xed by connotation. Chaiacteiized not
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Notes to Chaptei Foui 241
by signication but by signiance, heie the signiei always iuns ahead of mean-
ing and cannot be anchoied by a xed denotation oi limited connotation. The
photogiaphic image always pioduces multiple and indeteiminate meanings. In
this mannei, Baithes values signiance as being both pleasuiable and politi-
calin iesisting meaning, it always exceeds and confounds ideological noims
of ieading oi inteipietation. And at the same time, it pioduces evei-ienewable,
pleasuiable meanings. In his last book, Camera Lucida, the concept of the punc-
tumimplies a ietieat fiomthe social intoa pieseive of puiely peisonal meanings.
In each of these examples, the image is opposed to speech as both nondiscui-
sive and iiiational. Similaily, lmis opposed to photogiaphy because it iestoies
thiough factois of movement both aiticulation oi coding to the image as well as
a syntagmatic oiganization. It is foi these ieasons that Baithess otheiwise fasci-
nating accounts of photogiaphy aie completely unable to iecognize the guial
foice of cinematogiaphic wiiting.
4 See in paiticulai Deiiidas essay, Fieud and the Scene of Wiiting, :o,.
5 Foi a deepei account of this pioblem, see my book The Diculty cj Dierence,
especially the last thiee chapteis.
6 See especially Benveniste, Smiologie de la langue, inPrcblemes de linguistique
generale, vol. :.
7 See especially Eisenstein, The Diamatuigy of Film Foim and The Fouith
Dimension of Cinema, in Selected Vcrks, vol. I, Vritings, :;::,, IoI,.
8 See, foi example, Ropaiss essays The Oveituie of Octcber and The Oveituie
of Octcber, Pait II.
9 Jakobson, Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics, _,8. I am giateful to
Dana Polan foi veiifying the place of Jakobsonian poetics in Ropaiss othei
essays. Foi anothei account of this pioblem, see his Desiie Shifts the Diei-
ence: Figuial Poetics and Figuial Politics in the Film Theoiy of Maiie-Claiie
Ropais-Wuilleumiei.
10 Foi a ielated and moie extensive ciitique of semiotic modeinism and a deepei
account of the theoiy of ciitical ieading I piopose, see my book The Crisis cj
Pclitical Mcdernism, especially the concluding chaptei and the pieface to the
second edition.
11 Foi an alteinative ieading of Ropaiss theoiy, see Petei Biunette and David
Willss Screen/Play, especially pages I:8_.
4. The Ends of the Aesthetic
1 Responses weie piinted on the New Ycrk Times Op-Ed page, o Febiuaiy I,,o,
A:8.
2 Williams, Keywcrds, :8. Foi a concise account of aisthesis see F. E. Peteiss Greek
Philcscphical Terms, 8I,. This pioblem has been addiessed iecently in impoi-
tant and dieient ways in David Wellbeiy, Lessings Laccccn. Semictics and
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242 Notes to Chaptei Foui
Aesthetics in the Age cj Reascn, Teiiy Eagleton, The Ideclcgy cj the Aesthetic,
Howaid Caygill, Art cj }udgment, and John Guilloiy, Cultural Capital.
3 This pioblem continues to confiont the social histoiy of ait. A philosophical
undeistanding of these ideas would benet gieatly fiom a detailed histoiical
account of the tiansfoimation of ait maikets in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuiies linked to changing ideas on the social identity and meaning of ait-
woiks. I speculate that the idea of autonomous aits fieedom fiom exchange
value appeais in the eighteenth centuiy as the culmination of a long piocess
duiing which the ioots of modein capitalismalso appeai. This piocess witnesses
the development of aitistic foims and piactices that incieasingly detach the ait
object fiomspecial social, ieligious, and political contexts, allowing themto cii-
culate in the foimof commodities. Akeyevent in this emeigence is undoubtedly
the cieation of the Louvie in I,,: as a state tieasuie-house foi ait, wheie the
state not only manages the maiket value of its assets but also, thiough its mis-
sion foi populai education, contiibutes to a tiansfoimation of the social mean-
ings acciuing to aitwoiks as well as the condition of theii ieception. The Fiench
Revolution thus completes a piocess by which ait is detached economically and
ideologically fiom the context of pationage by chuich and couit, coming in-
cieasingly undei the dominance of the bouigeoisie and state-managed capi-
tal economies. Similaily, in the nineteenth centuiy, the doctiine of lart pcur
lart aiises with the diminution of the powei of the Academy and the incieasing
domination of the ait maiket by the Salons, and then ait dealeis. In this man-
nei, the emeigence of the aesthetic in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuiies
is intimately linked both to pioblems of epistemology (deciding cognitive ie-
lations between subject and object) and to the theoiy of signs (the pioblem of
iepiesentation, how signs diei fiom each othei and in theii mediate ielation
to knowledge).
4 The foimei ist appeaied in book foim as Paieigon in La verite en peinture,
:IIo8. I will cite mostly fiom Ciaig Owenss tianslation of pages I,, which
appeaied as The Paieigon in Octcber , (summei I,,,): _o. An alteinative
tianslation by Geo Bennington and Ian McCleod has appeaied in The Truth
in Painting, _8:. Economimesis was initially published in Sylviane Agacin-
ski et al., Mimesis des articulaticns. I will cite fiom R. Kleins tianslation that
appeaied in Diacritics II (I,8I): _:,.
5 Fuithei on, Deiiida wiites: Foi my impatient ciitics, if they insist on seeing the
thing itself: eveiy analytic of aesthetic judgment piesupposes that we can iig-
oiously distinguish between the intiinsic and the extiinsic. Aesthetic judgment
must concein intiinsic beauty and not the aiound and about. It is theiefoie nec-
essaiy to knowthis is the fundamental piesupposition, the foundationhow
to dene the intiinsic, the fiamed, and what to exclude as fiame and beyond the
fiame. We aie thus already at the unlocatable centei of the pioblem. And since,
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Notes to Chaptei Foui 243
when we ask, What is a fiame:, Kant iesponds, It is a parergcn, a composite of
inside and outside, but a composite which is not an amalgam of half-and-half,
an outside which is called inside the inside to constitute it as inside. And when
he gives us examples of the parergcn, besides the fiame, diapeiy, and columns,
we say to ouiselves that theie aie indeed consideiable diculties, and that the
choice of examples, as well as theii association, is not self-evident (Paieigon,
:o:,).
6 Owens uses J. C. Meiediths I,:8 tianslation of the Critique cj }udgment, 8,. In
his tianslation of Economimesis, R. Klein uses the I8,: tianslation by J. H.
Beinaid (New Yoik: Hafnei Piess, I,,I). When in my text Deiiida cites Kant,
ieadeis canassume that I amfollowing Owenss andKleins choices. Onoccasion
I will also use Weinei S. Pluhais tianslation. I have compaied all tianslations
to the Kritik der Urteilskrajt published by Suhikamp Taschenbuch Veilag, I,,.
7 Thus in Deiiidas ieading of Kant, Meicenaiy ait belongs to ait only by
analogy. And if one follows this play of analogy, meicenaiy pioductivity also
iesembles that of bees: lack of fieedom, a deteimined puipose oi nality, utility,
nitude of the code, xity of the piogiam without ieason and without the play
of the imagination. The ciaftsman, the woikei, like the bee, does not play. And
indeed the hieiaichical opposition of libeial ait and meicenaiy ait is that of play
and woik. We iegaid the ist as if it could only piove puiposive as play, i.e. as
occupation that is pleasant in itself. But the second is iegaided as woik, i.e. as
occupation which is unpleasant (a tiouble) in itself and which is only attiactive
on account of its eect (foi example salaiy) and which can consequently only
be imposed on us by constiaint (zwangmassig) _] (Economimesis ,).
8 As Deiiida fuithei explains, Natuie fuinishes iules to the ait of genius. Not
concepts, not desciiptive laws, but iules piecisely, singulai noims which aie
also oideis, impeiative statements. When Hegel iepioaches the thiid Critique
foi staying at the level of the you must, he veiy well evinces the moial oidei
which sustains the aesthetic oidei. That oidei pioceeds fiom one fieedom to
anothei, it gives itself fiomone to the othei: and as discouise, it does so thiough
a signifying element. Eveiy time we encountei in this text something that ie-
sembles a discuisive metaphoi (natuie says, dictates, piesciibes, etc.), these aie
not just any metaphois but analogies of analogy, whose message is that the lit-
eial meaning is analogical: natuie is piopeily prcprement] lcgcs towaid which
one must always ietuin remcnter]. Analogy is always language.
Foi example, one ieads (at the end of o) that natuie, by the medium of
genius, does not piesciibe vcrschreibe] iules to science but to ait . . . Genius
tiansciibes the piesciiption and its Vcrschreiben is wiitten undei the dictation
of natuie whose secietaiy it fieely agiees to be. At the moment it wiites, it allows
itself liteially to be inspiied by natuie which dictates to it, which tells it in the
foimof poetic commands what it must wiite and in tuin piesciibe, and without
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244 Notes to Chaptei Foui
genius ieally undeistanding what it wiites. It does not undeistand the piesciip-
tions that it tiansmits, in any case it has neithei concept noi knowledge of them.
The authoi of a pioduct foi which he is indebted to his genius does not know
himself how he has come by his ideas, and he has not the powei to devise the
like at pleasuie oi in accoidance with a plan, and to communicate it to otheis
in piecepts Vcrschrijten] that will enable him to pioduce hervcrbringen] simi-
lai pioducts Prcducte]. Genius piesciibes, but in the foim of non-conceptual
iules which foibid iepetition, imitative iepioduction (Economimesis I_).
9 Of gieat inteiest heie is Deiiidas ieading of disgust, negative pleasuie, and the
sublime in Kant. See, foi example, Economimesis, :I:,.
10 Musics public chaiactei, which potentially impinges on the piivate and au-
tonomous situation of aesthetic contemplation, is tieated by Kant with mild
distaste: The situation heie is almost the same as with the enjoyment Ergct-
zung] pioduced by an odoi that spieads fai. Someone who pulls his peifumed
handkeichief fiom his pocket gives all those next to and aiound him a tieat
whethei they want it oi not, and compels them, if they want to bieathe, to enjoy
genieen] at the same time ( ,_, }udgment :oo:oI). This is additional evi-
dence foi the iecession towaid an absolute inteiioi that maiks the thiid Ciitique
and infoims its paieigonal logic. The puiest expeiience of the aesthetic is not
a public one, iathei, the puiest objects of taste aie those that iendei the most
piivate expeiience, encouiaging the fieedom and autonomy of the individual
as detached fiom the mass.
Kant also iecommends against the singing of hymns at family devotionals foi
similai ieasons. The boisteious devotional exeicises of piisoneis in the castle at
Konigsbeig, which stood not fai fiom Kants house, led him to compose a lettei
of piotest to the mayoi of the town and peihaps inspiied the distasteful un-
fieedom Kant associates with the public as opposed to piivate aits. See William
Wallaces Kant.
11 Kant states that poetiy foities the mind: foi it lets the mind feel its ability
fiee, spontaneous, and independent of natuial deteiminationto contemplate
and judge phenomenal natuie as having nach] aspects that natuie does not on
its own oei in expeiience eithei to sense oi to the undeistanding, and hence
poetiy lets the mind feel its ability to use natuie on behalf of and, as it weie, as
a schema of the supeisensible. Poetiy plays with illusion, which it pioduces at
will, and yet without using illusion to deceive us, foi poetiy tells us itself that
its puisuit is meie play, though this play can still be used puiposively by the
undeistanding foi its business. Oiatoiy on the othei hand], insofai as this is
taken to mean the ait of peisuasion (ars cratcria), i.e., of deceiving by means
of a beautiful illusion, iathei than meie excellence of speech (eloquence and
style), is a dialectic that boiiows fiom poetiy only as much as the speakei needs
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Notes to Chaptei Foui 245
in oidei to win ovei peoples minds foi his own advantage befoie they judge foi
themselves, and so make theii judgment unfiee ( ,_, }udgment I,o,,).
In Deiiidas compaiison, The oiatoi announces seiious business and tieats
it as if it weie a simple play of ideas. The poet meiely pioposes an enteitaining
play of the imagination and pioceeds as if he weie handling the business of the
undeistanding. The oiatoi ceitainly gives what he had not piomised, the play of
the imagination, but he also withholds what he had piomised to give oi to do:
namely to occupy the undeistanding in a tting mannei. The poet does just the
contiaiy, he announces a play and does seiious woik eines Geschajtes wurdig].
The oiatoi piomises undeistanding and gives imagination, the poet piomises
to play with the imagination while he nuituies the undeistanding and gives life
to concepts. These nuising metaphois aie not imposed on Kant by me. It is food
Nahrung] that the poet biings by playing at undeistanding, and what he does
theieby is give life Leben zu geben] to concepts: conception occuis thiough the
imagination and the eai, oveiowing the nite contiact by giving moie than it
piomises (Economimesis I,). Also see Deiiidas compaiison of ihetoiic and
poetiy on p. II of Economimesis.
12 Deiiida continues this line of thought by assessing how Kant desciibes this
movement of idealizing inteiioiisation: To this is to be added oui admiiation
of natuie, which displays itself in its beautiful pioducts as ait, not meiely by
chance, but as it weie designedly, in accoidance with a iegulai aiiangement and
as puiposiveness without puipose. This lattei, as we nevei meet with it outside
ouiselves, we natuially seek in ouiselves and, in fact, in that which constitutes
the ultimate puipose of oui being Dasein], viz. oui moial destination mcra-
lischen Bestimmung] :]. . . .
Not nding in aesthetic expeiience, which is heie piimaiy, the deteimined
puipose oi end fiom which we aie cut o and which is found too fai away, in-
visible oi inaccessible, ovei theie, we fold ouiselves back towaid the puipose
of oui Dasein. This inteiioi puipose is at oui disposal, it is ouis, ouiselves, it
calls us and deteimines us fiom within, we aie there da] so as to iespond to
a Bestimmung, to a vocation of autonomy. The Da of oui Dasein is ist detei-
mined by this puipose which is piesent to us, and which we piesent to oui-
selves as oui own and by which we aie piesent to ouiselves as what we aie: a
fiee existence oi piesence Dasein], autonomous, that is to say moial (Econo-
mimesis, I).
13 See, in paiticulai, Deiiidas ieading of the foui sides of the analytic of aes-
thetic judgment as a categoiical fiame foi the analytic of the beautiful, and
of the function of the table oi tableau Tajel ] in Kants logic in The Paieigon,
:,_o.
14 New Ycrk Times Magazine, : Apiil I,8,, :,.
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246 Notes to Chaptei Five
5. The Historical Image
1 Oiiginally published as Les mcts et les chcses (I,oo). Kiacaueis book on his-
toiy was foi the most pait complete with seveial chapteis alieady in piint at
the time of his death on :o Novembei I,oo. The latei Foucault would, peihaps,
have ievisited these comments with a deepei iiony. Neveitheless what is most
stiiking in biinging Kiacauei and Foucault togethei in this context is theii simi-
lai ciitiques of totality, and theii piesentation of the possibilities of histoiical
knowing as a conict between histoiicism and an analytic of nitude.
2 Cf. Althusseis sections of Reading Capital. I am paiticulaily giateful to Phil
Rosen foi coniming this impiession in discussion and in his essay His-
toiy, Textuality, Nation: Kiacauei, Buich, and Some Pioblems in the Study of
National Cinema. Also see Maitin Jays comments in The Extiateiiitoiial
Life of Siegfiied Kiacauei. A moie likely philosophical piecedent is oeied by
Einst Blochs conception of the (non)synchionous (un)gleichzetig] chaiactei
of histoiy. See in paiticulai his I,_: essay Nonsynchionism and Its Obliga-
tion to Dialectics. One might also point out heie Kiacaueis admiiation foi the
Annales histoiians, especially Maic Bloch.
3 Eiic Rentschlei notes that similai pioblems of ieception account foi a moie
favoiable iesponse in Geimany to Kiacaueis Thecry cj Film than in Ameiica.
Foi a moie detailed account of this pioblem, see Rentschlei, Ten Theses on
Kiacauei, Spectatoiship, and the Seventies.
4 In Kiacauei, Das Ornament der Masse, :I_,. Tom Levins supeib tianslation is
published in The Mass Ornament. Veimar Essays (Cambiidge: Haivaid Univei-
sity Piess, I,,,), ,o. Levins intioduction to this volume is the best oveiview
of Kiacaueis woik that exists in English.
5 Tians. Baibaia Coiiell and Jack Zipes in New German Critique , (spiing I,,,).
Fiist published in Frankjurter Zeitung, , and Io July I,:,. Also see Tom Levins
tianslation in The Mass Ornament, ,,88.
6 I am deeply indebted to Miiiam Hansen foi diawing my attention to the coi-
iespondences between these last two quotes and foi fundamentally ieoiienting
my undeistanding of the concept of mimesis in Kiacaueis woik.
7 Tians. Baibaia Coiiell and Jack Zipes, New German Critique , (spiing I,,,): ,,.
8 Cited in Kaisten Wittes tianslation fiom Intioduction to Siegfiied Kiacaueis
The Mass Oinament, o_o.
9 Adoino compellingly aiticulates this pioblem in his I,_: text Die Idee dei
Natuigeschichte. Also see Susan Buck-Moisss illuminating gloss in The Ori-
gin cj Negative Dialectics, ,,. Foi fuithei explication of the iole of Lukcs in
Kiacaueis woiks, see Jay, The Extiateiiitoiial Life of Siegfiied Kiacauei.
10 Hansen, Eaily Silent Cinema: Whose Public Spheie: I8o. The inteiioi citations
aie fiom Kiacaueis essay Kult dei Zeistieuung: Ubei die Beilinei Lichtspiel-
hausei, in Das Ornament der Masse, _III,, _I. (Also see The Mass Ornament
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Notes to Chaptei Five 247
_:_:8.) Hansen follows this discussion with an inteiesting ciitique of this con-
cept in ielation to the function of sexual dieience in Weimai lm theoiy.
11 Witte, Intioduction to The Mass Oinament, o_. Maitin Jay gives an excel-
lent account of Kiacaueis inteiest in, and sensitivity to, the analysis of visual
foims, including aichitectuie and photogiaphy.
12 Jay, The Extiateiiitoiial Life of Siegfiied Kiacauei, ,,. The inteiioi citation is
Jays tianslation fiom Kiacaueis study Die Angestellten.
13 I am giateful to Miiiam Hansen foi suggesting this line of thought. Foi an im-
poitant account of Benjamins theoiy of mimesis, especially in ielation to his
wiiting on lm, see hei Benjamin, Cinema, and Expeiience: The Blue Flowei
in the Land of Technology. I am also indebted to Susan Buck-Moisss account
of the Trauerspiel book in The Origin cj Negative Dialectics, see especially ,o
,,. A full-scale study of Kiacaueis undeistanding of the concept of mimesis
would also have to account foi his inteiesting iemaiks conceining fiagmenta-
tion and daily life developed thiough discussion of Eiic Aueibachs Mimesis
in the last chaptei of Thecry cj Film.
14 Benjamin, Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiel, I,, cited in The Origin cj Negative
Dialectics, ,I, in Susan Buck-Moisss tianslation.
15 Also compaie the following citation fiom Histcry. The photogiapheis ap-
pioach may be said to be photogiaphic if his foimative aspiiations suppoit
iathei than oppose his iealistic intentions. This implies that he iesembles not
so much the expiessive aitist as the imaginative ieadei bent on studying and
decipheiing an elusive text (,,).
16 Buck-Moiss, The Origin cj Negative Dialectics, Io:. Adoinos fundamental foi-
mulation of this concept appeais in his I,_I addiess The Actuality of Philoso-
phy.
17 Kiacauei, Histcry, ,o. Kiacauei is citing Gay-Lussacs speech to the Fiench
House of Peeis, _o July I8_,, as iepoited in Joseph Maiia Edeis Histcry cj Phc-
tcgraphy, ::.
18 No doubt the iefeience to Benjamin heie will not be missed. Compaie, foi ex-
ample, his thiid thesis on the philosophy of histoiy: A chioniclei who iecites
events without distinguishing between majoi and minoi ones acts in accoidance
with the following tiuth: nothing that has evei happened should be iegaided
as lost foi histoiy. To be suie, only a iedeemed mankind ieceives the fullness
of its pastwhich is to say, only foi a iedeemed mankind has its past become
citable in all its moments (Theses on the Philosophy of Histoiy in Illumina-
ticns, :,o).
19 This point also suggests pioductive compaiisons with Benjamin wheie the de-
cline of auia attiibuted to photogiaphy, which is associated with a ceitain am-
bivalent nostalgia, is nonetheless identied with the possibility of knowledge.
Cf. Benjamins discussion on the question of photogiaphy in Baudelaiie and
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248 Notes to Chaptei Six
Pioust in the eleventh section of On Some Motifs in Baudelaiie, in Illumina-
ticns, I88,.
20 Kiacauei, Histcry, IoI. Despite its suipiisingly Benjaminian iing, the inteiioi
citation is fiom Isaiah Beilins Histcry and Thecry. The Concept of Scientic
Histoiy, :. Consideiing the acknowledged place that Benjamins philosophy
of histoiy has in Kiacaueis book, I nd it quite suipiising that Kiacauei him-
self does not diaw out heie the astonishing paiallels of these aiguments with
Benjamins theoiy of dialectical images.
21 Kiacauei tieats in detail both Focillions The Lije cj Fcrms in Art and Kubleis
The Shape cj Time. Remarks cn the Histcry cj Things.
22 Cf. Kiacauei, Histcry, :::,. In piesenting these aiguments, Kiacauei iefeis ex-
plicitly to his essay Die Giuppe als Ideentiaegei, in Das Ornament der Masse,
I:_,o. Also see The Mass Ornament, I_,:.
23 Kiacauei, Histcry, I,,. The piincipal object of Kiacaueis ciiticisms heie is Hans-
Geoig Gadameis Truth and Methcd. It is also inteiesting to note that Kiacauei
exhibits a similai viiulence, fiom the opposite point of view, with iespect to
Adoinos negative dialectics foi its complete elimination of ontology. On p. :oI
of Histcry, Kiacauei lodges the following ciitique: His iejection of any onto-
logical stipulation in favoi of an innite dialectics which penetiates all conciete
things and entities seems insepaiable fiom a ceitain aibitiaiiness, an absence
of content and diiection in these seiies of mateiial evaluations. The concept of
Utopia is then necessaiily used by him in a puiely foimal way, as a boideiline
concept which at the end invaiiably emeiges like a deus ex machina. But Uto-
pian thought makes sense only it if assumes the foim of a vision oi intuition
with a denite content of a soit. Theiefoie the iadical immanence of the dialec-
tical piocess will not do, some ontological xations aie needed to imbue it with
signicance and diiection.
24 Cited in Kiacauei, Histcry, :I,, fiom Kafkas Parables and Paradcxes, I,,.
6. A Genealogy of Time
1 Foucault, Dits et ecrits, vol. I, _:__, my tianslation.
2 Objections could be iaised to my asseitions of a soit of Fiench exceptionalism
with iespect to the implied philosophy of histoiy of the time-image. Deleuze
cleaily, though peihaps too concisely, outlines this genealogy in a dieient
way, as is well known. The time-image appeais in the context of many diei-
ent national cinemas, including Japan (Ozu) and the United States (Welles, the
New Ameiican Cinema) as well as Euiope, and not always in the postWoild
Wai II peiiod. Deleuze also suggests something like dieient waves of cinematic
expeiimentation. The ist intimations of the time-image appeai immediately
aftei the wai in Italian neoiealism, aie iened in the puie optical and acousti-
cal constiuctions of the Fiench New Wave, and aie taken up again in the New
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Notes to Chaptei Six 249
Geiman Cinema. The timing is, as Deleuze puts it, something like: aiound
I,8, Italy, about I,,8, Fiance, about I,o8, Geimany (Mcvement-Image :II).
Howevei, as I will aigue in the section entitled Genealogy, Counteimemoiy,
Event, only in Fiance is theie such a poweiful ciiculation of concepts thiough
the domains of philosophy, lm theoiy, and lm piactice. I believe the ielation
between genealogy and time-image can be exploied pioductively in a numbei
of dieient contexts. But only in Fiance do we nd a philcscphical context that
aiticulates these concepts so cleaily while ciiculating them thiough the cultuie
at laige.
3 The publication of Deleuzes Nietzsche et la philcscphie in I,oI was the opening
volley in this Nietzschean decade. Foucault paiticipated in the I,o colloquium
on Nietzsche oiganized by Deleuze at Royaumount, togethei Deleuze and Fou-
cault pioposedthe publicationof a neweditionof Nietzsches collectedwiitings,
which appeaied in I,o, with an intioduction coauthoied by the two philoso-
pheis. Foi a succinct ciitical histoiy of the inuence of Nietzsche on modein
Fiench thought, see Alan D. Schiift, Nietzsches French Legacy. A Genealcgy cj
Pcststructuralism.
4 Foi a moie complete account of these questions, see my Gilles Deleuzes Time
Machine, especially chaptei ,, Ciitique, oi Tiuth in Ciisis.
5 The piefaces to both the English and the Fiench editions of Cinema : begin with
the statement This is not a histoiy of the cinema. Foi a discussion of what it
means to iead Deleuzes two-volume lm theoiy as histoiical, see Andis Blint
Kovcss essay The Film Histoiy of Thought. Indeed, I owe my inspiiation
foi consideiing the two iegimes as Hegelian and Nietzschean philosophies of
histoiy in images to my discussions with Kovcs, who makes the case, quite
convincingly, that Deleuzes taxonomy of cinematic signs cannot be dened in-
dependently of a conception of lmhistoiy, oi, moie deeply, histoiical thought.
6 It is inteiesting to compaie Deleuzes account of oiganic naiiation with Jean
Hyppolites chaiacteiization of Hegels philosophy of histoiy, whose object is
a dialectical and supiaindividual iealitythe life and destiny of a people. See
Hyppolite, Intrcducticn la philcscphie de lhistcire de Hegel (I,8).
7 In a comment that echoes Deleuze, in an inteiview with Cahiers du cinema,
the Fiench political philosophei Alain Badiou chaiacteiized the New Wave in
a similai way: Some lms which, ideologically, seem only to guie a iomantic
nihilismwithout any political consequence (foi example, Abcut de scue), have
a ieal eect . . . which aims towaids othei things: eiiance and delocalization, the
fact of asking fiesh questions, outside of the mediation of an institutional iep-
iesentation, acioss a chaiactei who is anything but settled. In this sense, these
lms contiibuted to the delocalizations of o8. See Badiou, Pensei le suigisse-
ment de lvnement: Entietien avec Alain Badiou, I, my tianslation.
8 Woiiingei contiasts the oiganic and the ciystalline as compositional stiategies
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250 Notes to Chaptei Six
on the following basis. Each is an a piioii will to foim that expiesses a cul-
tuies ielation to the woild. Oiganic foims expiess a haimonious unity wheie
humanity feels at one with the woild. Heie iepiesentations aie based on natuial
foims and aie sustained by the belief that natuial laws suppoit and lend them
tiuth. Alteinatively, ciystalline foims iepiesent a will to abstiaction. When a
cultuie feels that it is in conict with the woild, that events aie chaotic and
hostile, it tends to pioduce puie geometiic foims as an attempt to pattein and
tianscend this chaos. See, foi example, Woiiingeis impoitant studies Abstrac-
ticn and Empathy and Fcrmin Gcthic. Deleuzes sense of visual histoiy is equally
indebted to Heiniich Woins Principles cj Art Histcry.
9 Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattaii, Vhat Is Philcscphy? _,.
10 Foucault, Sui les faons dciiie lhistoiie, inteiview with Raymond Belloui,
Les Lettres jranaises II8, (I,:I June I,o,): o,. Cited in my tianslation fiom
Dit et ecrits, vol. I, ,8,.
11 These woiks include Hyppolites Intrcducticn la philcscphie de lhistcire de
Hegel (I,8), Lcgique et existence. essai sur la Lcgique de Hegel (I,,:), and Etudes
sur Marx et Hegel (I,,,). Foi a biief account of the inuence of Hegel, and moie
specically Hyppolite, on postwai Fiench philosophy, see Didiei Eiibons chap-
tei La voix de Hegel in Michel Fcucault _:o. The key woik in English on this
question is Maik Posteis Existential Marxism in Pcstwar France. Frcm Sartre
tc Althusser. Posteis book is an invaluable account of the inuence of Hegel in
Fiance thiough the teachings of Alxandie Kojve and Jean Hyppolite and the
subsequent ieieadings and iesponses in Fiench political and social theoiy of
the I,oos and I,,os. Although my peispective heie is to contiast the Hegelian
appioach to histoiy with a Nietzschean genealogy, one can equally tiace this
histoiy, as does Postei, as dieient appiopiiations of Hegel. Indeed, it is impoi-
tant to maik the veiy dieient appeaiances of Hegel in thiee contexts: ist, in
the woik of Saitie, Meileau-Ponty, and the eaily Lacan, second, in the ieiead-
ing of Hegel by Hyppolite and Althussei, peihaps the gieatest mentoi guies
of the poststiuctuialist geneiation, and, nally, in the veiy dieient ciitiques of
Hegelian dialectics found in Deiiida and Deleuze.
12 Foucault, Lhomme est-il moit: Arts et lcisirs, I, June I,oo, tianslation mine.
Repiinted in Dits et ecrits, ,o,. It should be said that many of the ciitiques of
Saities magisteiial book weie peihaps too quick and unjust. In latei yeais, Fou-
cault found himself moie than once in league with Saitie on common political
piojects. Foi deepei and moie nuanced accounts of the place of Saities book in
Maixist ciitical philosophy, see Posteis Existential Marxism in Pcstwar France
as well as chaptei of Fiediic Jamesons Marxism and Fcrm.
13 Inthe little-knownbut impoitant essay Aquoi ieconnait-onle stiuctuialisme:
Deleuze obseives that if symbolic elements have neithei an extiinsic designa-
tion noi an intiinsic signication, but only a meaning deiived fiom position, it
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Notes to Chaptei Six 251
follows in piinciple that meaning always results jrcm a ccmbinaticn cj elements
which are nct themselves meaningjul. As Lvi-Stiauss says in his discussion with
Paul Ricoeui, meaning is always a iesult oi an eect: not only an eect pio-
duced but also an optical eect, an eect of language, of position (_oo, my
tianslation). The discussion between Lvi-Stiauss and Ricoeui was published
in Esprit (Novembei I,o_). Chailes Stivale has iecently published a tianslation
of Deleuzes impoitant text as an appendix to his book The Twc-Fcld Thcught
cj Deleuze and Guattari.
14 Foucault, Foucault ipond Saitie, La uinzaine litteraire o (II, Maich
I,o8), also in Dits et ecrits, vol. I, oo:o8. Foi anothei view of this debate, see
Eiibon, I8,,:.
15 As Schiift desciibes them, The confeience at Royaumont, piesided ovei by
M. Gueioult, took place July 8, I,o, and included papeis piesented by
Henii Biiault, Kail Lowith, Jean Wahl, Gabiiel Maicel, Gioigio Colli and
Mazzino Montinaii, Edouaid Gade, Heibeit W. Reicheit, Boiis de Schloezei,
Danko Gilic, Michel Foucault, Gianni Vattimo, Pieiie Klossowski, Jean Beau-
fiet, Gilles Deleuze, and M. Goldbeck. All but the last of these aie collected
in Nietzsche. Cahiers du Rcyaumcnt, Philosophie No. VI (Paiis: ditions de
Minuit, I,o,). The confeience at Ciisy-la-Salle, which took place in July,
I,,:, saw papeis piesented by Eugen Bisei, Eiic Blondel, Pieiie Boudot, Eiic
Clemens, Gilles Deleuze, Jeanne Delhomme, Jacques Deiiida, Eugen Fink,
Lopold Flam, Edouaid Gade, Danko Gilic, Pieiie Klossowski, Saiah Kofman,
Philippe Lacoue-Labaithe, Kail Lowith, Jean-Fianois Lyotaid, Jean Mauiel,
Jean-Luc Nancy, Noiman Palma, Beinaid Pautiat, Jean-Michel Rey, Richaid
Roos, Paul Valadiei, Jean-Nol Vuainet, and Heinz Wismann. The pioceedings
of this confeience weie published in twovolumes as Nietzsche aujcurdhui (Paiis:
Union Geneiale Dditions, I,,_) (Nietzsches French Legacy, I:,).
Foi an oveiview in English of the main cuiients of Fiench Nietzscheanism,
see David B. Allisons collection The New Nietzsche. Anothei useful, though
ceitainly less sympathetic, account is Vincent Descombess Mcdern French Phi-
lcscphy.
16 See Deleuze, Lettie un ciitique sevie, in Pcurparlers I, my tianslation. Also
published as Lettei to a Haish Ciitic in Negctiaticns ,.
17 Tianslated as The Discouise on Language in The Archaeclcgy cj Kncwledge,
:_,, tians. mod.
18 Foucault, Jean Hyppolite: I,o,I,o8, in Dit et ecrits, vol. I, ,8o, my tiansla-
tion. This is the text of Foucaults speech given at the memoiial oiganized by
Louis Althussei at the Ecole Noimale Supiieui on I, Januaiy I,o,, oiiginally
published in the Revue de metaphysique et de mcrale (June I,o,): I_I_o.
19 Foi a biief account in English of Foucaults inuence on contempoiaiy lm
theoiy, see Film and Populai Memoiy: Cahiers du Cinema[Extiacts, Edin-
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252 Notes to Chaptei Six
burgh Magazine (I,,,): I,_o. Also see Guiliana Biunos essay Towaids a Theo-
iization of Film Histoiy.
20 Ren Pidal desciibes these lms as appeaiing in two waves. Fiom I,, to I,,o
the ist wave includes Stavisky (Alain Resnais), Laccmbe Lucien (Louis Malle),
Scuvenirs den France (Andi Tchin), La brigade (Ren Gilson), ue la jete
ccmmence (Beitiand Taveiniei), Secticn speciale (Constantin Costa-Gavias),
Mci, Pierre Riviere (Ren Allio), }e suis Pierre Riviere (Chiistine Lipinska), Le
}uge et lassassin (Beitiand Taveiniei), LAche rcuge (Fiank Cassenti), Une
lle unique (J. Nahoun), and La Cecilia (Jean-Louis Comolli). A second wave
occuis in I,,, and I,8o with La chanscn de Rcland (Fiank Cassenti), Ma blcnde,
entends-tu dans la ville? (Ren Gilson), LOmbre rcuge (Jean-Louis Comolli),
and Mcliere (Aiiane Mnouchkine). See Pidal, ,o ans de cinema jranais, _o
o8. Undoubtedly the most extiaoidinaiy and poweiful lmto take on the piob-
lem of histoiy and memoiy in this peiiod is Claude Lanzmanns Shcah (I,8,).
And expeiiments continue, a notable example being Heiv le Rouxs ieexami-
nation of I,o8 in Reprise (I,,,).
21 InFoucault, Language, Ccunter-memcry, Practice. Selected Essays and Interviews.
Oiiginally published in Critique :8: (Novembei I,,o): 88,,o8. Page numbeis
in italics indicate that I have ievised the tianslation and invite the ieadei to
considei the Fiench veision as published in Dit et ecrits, vol. :, ,,,,.
22 Also in Language, Ccunter-memcry, Practice. Selected Essays and Interviews.
Oiiginally published in Hcmmage }ean Hyppclite (Paiis: v0i, I,,I). Page num-
beis in italics indicate that I have ievised the tianslation and invite the ieadei
to considei the Fiench veision as published in Dit et ecrits, vol. :, I_o,o.
23 This is in fact the aigument of the last chaptei of The Mcvement-Image. Un-
folding logically thiough Peiices categoiies of Fiistness (quality), Second-
ness (cause), and Thiidness (ielation)oi peiception and aection-images, to
action-images, and nally to mental-imagesin the ist fty yeais of cinema,
the movement-image discoveis eveiy logical peimutation available to it until it
achieves its nal synthesis. Inventing the mental image oi the ielation-image,
Deleuze wiites, Hitchcock makes use of it to close the set of action-images,
and also of peiception and aection-images. Hence his conception of the fiame.
And the mental image not only fiames the otheis, but tiansfoims themby pene-
tiating them. Foi this ieason, one might say that Hitchcock accomplishes and
biings to completion the whole of the cinema by pushing the movement-image
to its limit. Including the spectatoi in the lm, and the lmin the mental image,
Hitchcock biings the cinema to completion (Mcvement-Image :o).
24 Nietzsche, On the Uses and Disadvantages of Histoiy foi Life, in Untimely
Meditaticns oo.
25 The conceptualization of time accoiding to Deleuzes oiiginal ieading of Nietz-
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Notes to Chaptei Seven 253
sches concept of eteinal iecuiience is the gieat pioject of Dierence and Repeti-
ticn. On the dieience between Cionos and Aon see the :_d seiies of The Lcgic
cj Sense, Io:o8. I discuss this iedenition of time moie completely in Gilles
Deleuzes Time Machine, especially chaptei ,.
26 In I,,o, this lm was called Victcry. In I,, its called Here and Elsewhere, and
elsewheie, and. . . .
27 Deleuze and Guattaii, Vhat Is Philcscphy? I,,,8. On the question of histoiy
and the Event in ielation to diiect images of time, also see The Memoiy of
Resistance, the concluding chaptei of my Gilles Deleuzes Time Machine.
28 See Deleuze, Dierence and Repetiticn, :,o.
7. An Uncertain UtopiaDigital Culture
1 The pioducts showcased in these ads include softwaie (voice and handwiiting
iecognition, smait agent oi automated infoimation ietiieval on the Inteinet,
ieal-time language tianslation), smait caids (univeisal debit caids as well as
medical documentation), cellulai and mobile communications (handheld pei-
sonal digital assistants, mobile fax, wiist telephones, global positioning systems
and viitual ieality maps foi automobiles), and netwoiked communications and
vending.
2 It is also impoitant to think about this adveitising campaign in the context of
the hackei ciackdown of I,8,I,,o. The hackei ciackdown was a nationwide
police eoit compiising multiple opeiations caiiied out piimaiily by the Chi-
cago Computei Fiaud and Abuse Task Foice, the Seciet Seivice, and the Aiizona
State Attoiney Geneials oce. This was an eoit to cuib ciimes of computei
intiusion, ciedit caid theft, and telephone code abuse. Its taigets weie laigely
computei bulletin boaid systems dedicated to exchanging infoimation about
hacking (dened iightly oi wiongly as illegal computei intiusion) and phieak-
ing (theft of phone seivice). The heavy-handedness of these opeiations, which
iesulted in some embaiiassing setbacks when the piosecuted cases enteied the
couit system, was one of the motivating factois foi the founding of the Elec-
tionic Fiontiei Foundation. Befoie and aftei the ciackdown, .11, and the ie-
gional Bell systems spun o in the antitiust action of I,8_, had been the taiget
of intense hackei disdain foi seveial ieasons: theii peiceived iesistance to digi-
tal technologies and packet-switched netwoiks, theii limitation of access and
iestiiction of knowledge of telecom netwoiks, and of couise theii size, stodgy
buieauciatic and elitist image, and policy of seciecy. As of I,,_, .11 was pei-
haps the most technologically uncool company on the planet, so much so, in
fact, that its coipoiate logo was univeisally ieviled in the hackei community as
the Death Stai. (This iefeis, of couise, to the evil empiies doomsday weapon
in the Stai Wais tiilogy.) The best account of these opeiations and the histoiy
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254 Notes to Chaptei Seven
of the hackei undeigiound thiough the eaily nineties is Biuce Steilings Hacker
Crackdcwn! Law and Discrder cn the Electrcnic Frcntier.
Theiefoie, the I,,_I,, ad campaign is cleaily an eoit to iestoie an image
of .11 as technologically cool as opposed to the subcultuial images of a
hidebound and secietive behemoth, slow to change oi innovate. These objec-
tives aie cleaily aiticulated in the pieface that accompanies the videotape of the
television ads made foi coipoiate distiibution. The tape begins with a ieveise
tiacking shot down a viitual coipoiate hallway geneiated fiom the clean, geo-
metiic lines of computei imaging. The walls aie lined with moving images ie-
pioduced fiom the ads. (Cuiious heie that the movement of the viitual cameia
is backwaid, not into the futuie, but iathei a space of continual iecession.) A
male voice-ovei atly states the campaigns objectives: to taiget the eighteen to
thiity-foui yeai olds who iepiesent .11s futuie customeis into the next cen-
tuiy, to convince them that .11 is an innovative company, uniquely qualied
to help them expand theii peisonal and piofessional capabilities with leading-
edge technologies, and to associate .11 with the lifestyles, fashions, sensibili-
ties, and an electionic media oiientation that appeals to this demogiaphic while
convincing themof the human benets they can expect to enjoy in the veiy neai
futuie thanks to .11 technologies. I should also mention that this campaign
was quickly and meicilessly paiodied in a numbei of contexts, the best known
of which was m1vs You wish! ads. See note :_ heieaftei.
3 Audiovisual cultuie is a name I coined foi cybeinetic societies of contiol in
an eailiei veision of this chaptei, Audiovisual Cultuie and Inteidisciplinaiy
Knowledge. In this way, I wanted to emphasize how a new semiotic enviion-
ment is being put in place by digital technologies in contiast to a pievious cul-
tuie of the book. I piefei now the moie geneial teim digital cultuie, one of
whose aspects is a ieconguiation of the audiovisual iegime accoiding to a con-
ceptualization of the guial. The guial, howevei, denes only the iepiesenta-
tional aspects of digital cultuie, and indeed eveiy histoiical epoch may be de-
ned by its own paiticulai audiovisual iegime, that is, its conguiation of the
expiessible in ielation to the visible as a way of oiganizing knowledge in ielation
to powei.
4 See, foi example, Fiediic Jamesons thought-piovoking account in Pcstmcd-
ernism, cr The Cultural Lcgic cj Late Capitalism. Among the moie uigently
needed piojects is a study of the ideology and cultuie of the Vired geneiation
fiom the point of view of the political economy of Silicon Valley (iegaidless of
the geogiaphic locations of the subjects that subsciibe to this mentality) that
has the philosophical bieadth of Jamesons impoitant book. Foi veiy dieient,
though equally compelling, peispectives on this question, see Aithui Kiokei
and Michael Weinsteins Theoiy of the Viitual Class, in Data Trash, Vivian
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Notes to Chaptei Seven 255
Sobchacks Teenage Mutant Ninja Hackeis, LangdonWinneis SiliconValley
Mysteiy House, and two impoitant books by Maik Postei, The Mcde cj Injcr-
maticn. Pcststructuralism and Sccial Ccntext and The Seccnd Media Age. Also
see note Io heieaftei.
5 See his essay Postsciipt on Contiol Societies, in Negctiaticns, I,,8:. I will
ietuin to Deleuzes chaiacteiization of contiol societies in the section entitled
Machinic and Collective Aiiangements.
6 Science ction passing as social policy is one of the moie distuibing aspects of
populai iepoiting on technology in the United States today. This is undoubt-
edly due to the cultuial iise of futuiist wiiteis in the wake of the ienewed
populaiity of woiks by, among otheis, Alvin and Heidi Toei. Among the moie
hallucinatoiy examples of this kind of wiiting is Vireds account of the next
twenty-ve yeais of piospeiity, The Long Boom, penned by Petei Schwaitz
and Petei Leyden, which has been followed by a numbei of aiticles on the new
economy. Foi a ciitical ieply, see Doug Henwoods The Long Boom, Lejt
Business Observer ,8 (I,,,). Alteinatively, while I piefei moie Maixist cultuial
and economic analyses, one of the gieat iionies one nds in ieieading The Third
Vave today is that in some iespects, Toei got it iight. Late capitalism has
tuined out to be a tiansitional peiiod to cybeinetic capitalism, a peiiod of
painful institutional ciisis pieceding the elaboiation and setting in place of new
maikets and commodities, foims of exchange, and mechanisms of powei.
7 Deleuze, Les inteicesseuis, in Pcurparlers Io,, my tianslation. Also in Negc-
tiatic