1. In The Loop
A friend who happens to be a DJ once commended me for knowing (and liking) Burial; I noted Burial was rather hard to not know about. Similarly, as we started talking about movies, I argued that David Lynch was practically mainstream. I was wrong, in one very specific sense – Our culture, and specifically the digital realm, has completely obliterated the logic of mainstream/niches. Anyone can play a game of Six Degrees of Bacon on Wikipedia with music, television, literature… and very easily end up here, or here, or here. Finding out about any one of these is trivial; Pitchfork – paradoxically, by which I mean not paradoxically at all, Mecca of “alternative” music – publishes reviews on Mogwai and Isis and Burial (and how). The Guardian and just about every other news-outlet will review any new David Lynch movie. There are no mainstreams and niches, there are only loops of varying sizes.
“Haven’t heard anything about Starcraft 2 competition in a while” – “Yeah, the game is kinda dead now.” It wasn’t dead, of course – my friends and I had simply stopped visiting TeamLiquid and r/starcraft, had stopped playing the game ourselves, had stopped watching streams of tournaments. We hopped out of the loop, and afterwards felt like reality had fundamentally changed. It is for the same reason that the “reddit hive-mind” up-votes completely contradictory “AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO HATES/LOVES/IS INDIFFERENT TO [Kanye West, IdrA, drug legalization, math, reality, ron paul, cats]“-threads on any given day, and that people will complain equally about liberal and conservative circlejerks, about Terran and Protoss balance whine… Because all of these are highly insulated loops of roughly similar size, and one can always easily tune in and out of them. Breaking Bad, “the greatest show on earth” (nope), has had less than two million viewers throughout most of its run, yet everyone you know seems to talk about it. On the other side of the spectrum, it is entirely possible to have never heard about Beyonce, or Lady Gaga, or Justin Bieber, or [...] – let alone to have heard a song by them.
Mainstream and Niche imply the logic of a dichotomy; but there are only Loops, and all of us are parts of various Loops – and while some (Beyonce, The Simpsons, Michael Bay) may be larger than others (Burial, Homeland, David Lynch), who themselves are larger than even smaller ones (Rosetta, Rectify, Michael Haneke) (different media of art too – television as more popular than theatre etc..), it is nevertheless utterly trivial to find one’s way into any one of these Loops, and just as trivial to not enter any such Loop. There are differences in size, sure, but there is no single Mainstream, and there is no true Niche.
(The 90s might have been, though I do not know, I didn’t live in them, the last instance of a time of exclusive subcultures through which one identified; now one is part of numerous loops, which one however never completely identifies with. The only thing that matters now is how eclectic your music collection is. Subcultures were a highly conservative kind of art curation wherein one liked highly similar works of music – now one picks the “cream of the crop” of any number of highly dissimilar Loops – a method of curation that is either far more or far less complex.)
The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.
An email by Nachlasse, on The Tree of Life:
I think Malick is a wonderful director. I’ve never noticed such beautiful camerawork – and one really has to pay attention here. Throughout the film there are shots of people walking, first – the mom teaching the baby how to walk by holding him and following him step by step – notice, the camera shifts in a tempo that follows a walking step, the camera is not merely moving, the camera walks with them literal-fucking-ly, out of step with both the mom and the child, but with them, after them, through the tempo of the walk. Malick does this throughout the film with walking scenes, there was one where Sean Penn was walking in the desert that is filled with hole-y rocks, and he’s sidestepping and moving and walking in this dessert, and the camera moves as if it were hinged onto a horizontal pole, and swung from left to right in a tempo that lags after Penn moves. I am so sorry to all of you, but this is fuck shit brilliant. Who’s doing the walking? Who is the camera? The camera is the very subject of the subject, the subject that is through being the subjective. [...]
Fabius doesn’t like this film and I can understand why. Scrubs allows us to believe in a distance, that what is genuine, within life, is always hidden through the mediation of something not. This distance is not the same distance in the tree of life. Fabius like scrubs, and only because of this, does he need to fully immerse himself into the movies, the games, that he wrote about. This is a different type of immersion from tree of life. [...]
I rarely understand Nachlasse, he is wading knee-deep in Heidegger and I have never read a line by Heidegger. So I can only offer an interpretation of what I think Nachlasse was trying to convey and let him correct me if I am wrong, but basically, Tree of Life is supposed to avoid the pitfalls of representation, it is not representation, it is short-circuiting representation, it simply is. I’m not buying it, everything on the screen is representation, there is no different type of immersion, this is representation, not only representation, but representational techniques par excellence, a neat trick, I will grant, but therefore only a more sophisticated kind of representation.
Within literature, Modernism, so university tells me, was a crisis of perception, of finding truth, can truth be found, can we even get there. Post-Modernism, so university tells me, says that truth is not only unreachable, but rather that there is no truth. Modernism was about finding a new entrance, Post-Modernism says there isn’t one, or maybe lots of them.
This is modernism, no longer the attempt to paint (photo-)realistically, but the surface is giving way to what might be a psychological portray, a representation not of the face (although through the face) but rather of the emotions of the person portray, the inner workings – we are trying to find a deeper level of truth.
Remember, we can never leave representation, but we could at least act like it; try and use “a neat trick”, so why not use the momentary disruption of the digital glitch to insert a “deeper” truth, to at the very least act as if we were breaking representation and could show a moment of pure, unfiltered reality? But there is nothing beyond the glitch. The glitch offers no deeper truth, does not even try to do so. The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none.
The glitch, in disrupting the screen, gives way to nothing at all, only inert emptiness staring back. The screen is true.