Monday, January 22, 2007


"But technology is little more than the outer emblem of symptom by which a systemic variety of concrete situations expresses itself in a specific variety of forms and form-problems. It is not a random variety, and sometimes seems best described in developmental--or better still, in undeven-developmental--language: as when, for example, Edward Yang's film Terrorizer seems to raise the question of the belated emergence of a kind of modernism in the modernizing Third World, at a moment when the so-called advanced countries are themselves sinking into full postmodernity. The residues of the modern will then offer one clue or thread for these explorations."

-- Fredric Jameson, "Introduction: Beyond Landscape," to The Geopolitical Aesthetic

"Pirate videos are marked by blurred images and distorted sound, creating a material screen that filters audiences' engagement with media technologies and their senses of time, speed, space, and contemporaneity. In this way, piracy creates an aesthetic, a set of formal qualities that generates a particular sensorial experience of media marked by poor transmission, interference, and noise. Contemporary scholars of technology returning to the Frankfurt school have stressed that technology's operation on the body is a key factor in producing a sense of shock--the complex training of the human sensorium associated with modern urbanism ... What is less discussed is how technology influences through its failure as much as through its successes."

-- Brian Larkin, "Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy" (Public Culture 16.2, 2004, 289-314), p. 291 -- in this passage Larkin mentions Benjamin, Crary, Doane, Hansen, Kracauer, Schivelbusch, and Virilio

"Films made in Hollywood and intended for distribution in an organized, domestic circuit are copied by pirates; sent to Asia or the Middle East, where they are subtitled; recopied in large numbers as videocassettes, video CDs (VCDs are the dominant technology of media storage in much of Asia), or DVDs; and then reshipped mainly within the developing world. In recent years, as Nigeria has become progressively disembedded from the official global economy (with the single exception of its oil industry), it has become ever more integrated into a parallel, unofficial world economy that reorients Nigeria toward new metropoles such as Dubai, Singapore, and Beirut (what AbdouMaliq Simone [2001] more broadly calls the "worlding of African cities." See also Bayart, Ellis, and Hibou 1999; MacGaffey and Banzenguissa-Ganga 2000; Mbembe 2001)."

-- Larkin 293

"The roots of all Nigerian film (whether English, Hausa, or Yoruba) in piracy means that the physical quality and look of Nigerian video films has been determined by the formal qualities of pirate infrastructure. Piracy standardized a particular quality of reproduction; both filmmakers and distributors believe that while people like Nigerian videos, they will not pay higher prices for better image or sound quality. Because the new Hausa videos are dubbed using the same machines as pirate films, because they rely on the same blank cassettes and are distributed through the same channels, piracy has created the aesthetic and technical horizons for nonpirate media.


"I have argued elsewhere (Larkin 1998-1999) that media technologies do not just store time, they represent it. As Stephen Kern (1983) has written, different societies can feel cut off from history or excessivelya ttached to the past--without a future or rushing toward one. Technology, especially the media, often provides the conduit for our experience of being "inside" or "outside" history. The materiality of media creates the physical details and the quotidian sensory uses through which these experiences are formed. ... In postcolonial societies, such as India or Nigeria, this sense is intensified due to the powerful link between technology and colonial rule, where modern technology was part of a civilizing mission of colonial power (Adas 1989; Mrázek 2002; Prakash 1999; Spitulnik 1998-1999)."

-- Larkin 303

And a final provocative thought on cinema in modernity, cinema's capacities for modernism:

"And the worst of it is that I've still got this notion that there's more true modernity in a Walsh western than in a Robbe-Grillet film conundrum. All it comes down to is that I finally gave up the word 'classic' because there has probably never been a classic cinema (in my view there have been pioneers, moderns and mannerists) and put up the idea that if the cinema is the art of this century, a century is too little not to remain and go on being 'the present.' So the avant-garde in the cinema has never really interested me. I mean the avant-garde proclaimed, committed, in struggle, the avant-garde which has often been only an accompaniment to that other history the history of terror in the twentieth century."

-- Serge Daney, in an interview with Philippe Roger (from the 1980s?)

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