"All the "citizens"(5b) were still free to trot out their old saw according to which it is only the use to which some technical application is put that "causes the problem," whether that application happens to be DDT, high-speed trains, river-polluting polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), agent orange, asbestos, cloning, Monsanto's Round-Up herbicide, the Internet, cell-phones, nuclear power, or you-name-it. Once the alarm has been is raised, all that is required is to take more security precautions in the future; to reinforce the institutions of modern democracy - stepsister to techno-science; to help governments take decisions; to assert one's independence; and so on and so forth - with everything becoming more participatory by virtue of opinion polls, referendums and "consensus conferences." In this way an end will be put to the aberrations of "neoliberalism." Last but not least, "good" genetically modified organisms will thus become acceptable, however little they may be "public" in any sense of the word."
-- Rene Riesel
* * *
The radical utopic fantasy of these early decades of the 21st century will be quite unlike that envisioned by socialist-modernists a century before: not more technology but less, and not more State but less. No large buildings but rather converted caves, no smooth infrastructure but broken roads with sprouting plants overtaking asphalt. With Opinel & hatchet in hand, we shall retreat to secluded cottages and build community bonds with our crusty peasant neighbors down the hill, and bike mechanics and failed doctors and so on, and maybe, if we're lucky, we can lead rich and full and not entirely toxic lives. Guy Debord eventually chose to live in relative seclusion; he created a glorious and mysterious facade for those who hated him. He says he lived off the land; I'd like to think in his wooded home he and his friends hunted, smoked, chopped wood, picked fruits, tended a garden and canned vegetables, read books, had sex, and got raging drunk every night so they slept off hangovers constantly. How true this all was, I don't know. (I have been reading Ran Prieur's amazing website for some months now and I suggest my readers do the same if they haven't dropped by already.) A long while back I opined on the peculiarities of some of the leading lights of festival art cinema, how these 'profound eccentrics' of the world were creating feature films that seemed to really tap into something: Reygadas, Alonso, Apichatpong, Rodrigues, Guiraudie, and others--what I think I am starting to understand is a certain wilding depicted in their texts. Or a re-wilding. The secluded adventures, the attention to "lumpen" groups, and occasionally the unusual behaviors in broken-up cities (think again of Pedro Costa, or Guerín's En construccion) and in the beautiful wilderness of Japón or Tropical Malady are not picturesque landscapes but ventures into places one can bring oneself to live, amidst the people who have not totally been claimed by the failed experiments of the last two decades. (I really should catch up with Reygadas' last two films...) All manifest today's utopic impulse. Which is not a society built up, but one that's crumbling down and the elusive promise of good life falling perhaps at our very feet so that we don't have to sell our labor for it. All the protagonists and characters in these films are microlevel, local, trying to escape some things, trying to find some things. The thing that most struck me about Guiraudie's No Rest for the Brave is how it seems to exist in a world where time doesn't really matter, where clocks don't seem to exist or have much importance--there's simply the cycle of light/dark, and the duration it takes to get from one place to another. (This whole phenomenon could explain explain part of the renewed interest this decade in Tolkien, of which of course I'm considering the blockbusters films themselves, too, as symptomatic and not causal. But I'm not yet sure that Hollywood has really been very perceptive about catering to this particular mass impulse...) This is what I'm leaning towards right now.
(Addendum: Actually, regarding this fantasy and corporate entertainment, it's not that I want to say that the studios and networks don't cater to some of these very real fantasies and impulses in our "collective unconscious"--it's more that I think they're timid and behind-the-curve, so far, about dealing with the decomposition of at least some huge aspects of our global society. Lost may be a tropical fantasy of survival & community, V for Vendetta and The Matrix saga may imagine a euphorically dystopic separation of society from the State, but they direct these energies back into old ways, and by extension old power structures. Sooner or later they will surely become more clever about exploiting not simply the possibility of rupture, but the thing that these profound eccentric art filmmakers are mining, i.e., the experience, the phenomenology, the direct freedoms and delights and terrors of these coming scenarios. More later.)