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US versus Stevens: The Affects of Law and Protection

The Market and Production of Affects: Ruling over Non-Communicative Expression

In 1999 Congress passed a statute aimed at stamping out an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 videos of perverse sexual interest, and distinct animal cruelty. It was conceptually organized with the child pornography Supreme Court case New York vs. Ferber (1982), which was decided such that States had the right to criminalized the distribution of even non-obscene depictions of children in sexual conduct partly upon the reasoning that prosecution of distribution of material in a “market” can be justified by virtue of its chilling, deterrent effect upon the crime of child abuse itself. The majority decision had several prongs to its reasoning (among them that the act of photographing a child in sexual conduct itself formed its own measure of abuse), but distinct was the thinking that government could restrict First Amendment restrictions through the logic of attacking markets without having to invoke the standard of obscenity.

The Congress aimed its statute at the production and distribution of so-named “crush videos”. In these videos dominatrix-like women in high heels or bare feet cruelly crushed to death small animals (chicks, kittens have been named). This statute makes it a crime to create, sell, or possess “any visual or auditory depiction” of “animal cruelty” if the act of cruelty is illegal under federal law or the law of the state in which the depiction occurred. What is excluded from this criminalization is any simulation of such an act of cruelty, which is not restricted under this statute.

The statute passed with very little relevance for nearly a decade without a single case of “crush video” prosecution, and an attested “drying up” of the market it was directed towards. This until a man was arrested for making and distributing dog fight videos under the logic of the statute, his conviction brought before the Supreme Court now, US vs. Stevens. In oral arguments before the court the Deputy Solicitor General, Mr. Katyal, argues in fact that the exclusion of simulated acts shows that the statute is not concerned with limiting the content of expression, but rather only its mode of production. As he claims,

MR. KATYAL: In one sentence, if — if – if Congress sees a compelling interest in regulating the means of production and does not target the underlying content, they can — they can regulate a depiction, so long as it leaves alternative mechanisms for that expression in place.

This is a compelling case filled with complex questions of Freedom of Speech and the morality of policed value, in fact reading the oral arguments was intriguing (I was surprised how incogent many of the Justice questions seemed to be), but mostly I would like to focus on the original intent of the statute and not on the question merely if the statute is overbroad. As a few of the Justices wished to know from the Respondent Attorney Patricia Millett, would Congress even be able to write a constitutional statute limiting “crush videos” if they tailored their language more distinctly – which is to say, more abstractly, can or should the production and distribution of images or sounds be limitable under a logic of controlling markets of otherwise illegal activity?

Critical Animal was the one who brought to my attention this case: Moral schizophrenia and the power of affect in US v Stevens. I went back and read the oral arguments and a few summaries (the Slate article is absurdly written). And then I went back and read the majority decisions in the Ferber case, the Miller obscenity case, and a few others mentioned in the case. And it was Critical Animal who drew to my eye the question of “affect” control which seems to lie within the question of First Amendment restrictions. Ultimately, what people (and animals) feel is the paramount concern, even though pressures of the law are directed upon other structural aspects of behaviors: in this case upon markets and production. It is upon that I really would like to place my imaginary glass. 

What is a Simulated Message?

As mentioned, part of the reasoning behind allowing simulated material of a pornographic, and otherwise criminal nature is that supposedly it distinguishes that the government is not going after the “content” of a message, but rather in the case of child pornography and then again in “crush videos” after the very modes of production which is itself criminal. The crime is in the making, not the saying. This is essential to the Ferber decision which recognized that photography itself is abuse, and also claimed as important that the perpetuation of the shame of the child through distribution perpetuated this abuse. Each of these points don’t readily apply to the subject of “crush videos”. Rather the logic is much more simple. Animals have to be cruelly killed in order to produce these real images. And the thought is that if you simply faked the cruel killing, the message would be preserved without the criminal production. This move towards simulated allowance forms one subtle part of the logic of Ferber on which the Congressional statute was built. That is to say, even though in New York vs. Ferber non-obscene material was restricted, it was the very braiding of “content” and “production” as criminal which established the government’s right.

But the stronger strain of Ferber logic that is aimed at “crush videos” (and then eventually dog fighting videos) is the notion that if indeed the photographic (or auditory) reproduction of criminal activity serves to strengthen a “market” for such material, and thus the renewed criminal acts for the production of further commercial products, the advertisement and sale itself can be targeted with the aim of drying up the market itself. (In the case of Ferber it was the sale of images of a 15 year old boy masturbating that was seen as part of an entire child pornography network of crimes.) The 1982 Ferber logic of restraint against future criminal processes itself was checked in Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition (2002) which decided that simulated digital images of child pornography could not be criminalized under the logic that they could be and had been used to seduce children into sexual behavior. This is to say that, if simulated images might be used instrumentally to forward the process of a crime, in the context of a “market” of child pornography, this “speech” cannot be Constitutionally constrained (Ashcroft), but if the sale of simulated non-obscene depictions operate as part of a market of criminal act depictions this “speech” can be Constitutionally restricted (Ferber, somewhat under the Brandenburg Test). The statute against “crush videos” negotiates these two aspects, allowing simulated images (despite that such images might foment a market), under the strong notion that the government is after an illegal mode of production. In a sense, the argument against simulated material/market connection is sacrificed to bolster the “mode of production” logic of the law.

This distinction between content and production is a philosophically interesting one, for it presupposes that there is a distinct content of these crush videos (and then dog fight videos) that is left protected by the Constitution. You can go ahead and “say” whatever a crush video says, as long as you don’t commit a crime in making it. And what is the “message” that is protected under such a distinction? Or oral arguments it is summarized by Justice Alito, repeating the reasoning of Justice Scalia:

JUSTICE ALITO: What about crush videos, which apparently were the focus of Congress’s attention when it drafted these? Now, I suppose by an analogy to what Justice Scalia just said about the message of dog fighting videos, the people who produce crush videos think they have a message, and the message is that this is — this is sexually exciting or it’s exciting in some way to see a woman in high heeled shoes crushing a little animal to death.

We are given to think that this message is stateable in a great number of ways. The high heeled woman could step on a stuffed kitten, or the camera could cut away at the right moment, or the event could be drawn  or animated, or, conceivably it could be stated just as Justice Alito has stated it. But really, is this the “speech” (what I would like to think of as the “expression”) of a crush video? It seems like an odd thing to say. Indeed as the idea that a painting could be criminalized and replaced by with a word expression of its depicted without loss of its message would tell you, something is missing.

Justice Breyer actually puts his finger right on it, there is a sense that crush videos actually communicate “nothing” which is to say, they gravitate towards a pole which lacks distinct verbal (one wants to say “rational”) content. He places this idea under the question of whether there is any possible construction by which Congress could restrict the speech of crush videos (aside from the statute under review). As Beyer sees it, there might be a class of things which devoid of content rather appeal to “instincts”:

…JUSTICE BREYER: But the point — the point I guess is when you say yes to this, what you are thinking is that, just as real obscenity when depicted does nothing communicative but rather appeals to the instinct of lust, so Congress could find a category of things that do not communicate, but appeal to the instinct of sadism; and that is true when other creatures are killed for the pleasure of the people who want to see them killed. Now, that’s what you are saying. Now – and I think maybe that’s true (32)

And Beyer continues the line of thinking, rebutting the argument offered by the Respondent (and by the earlier Scalia/Alito description) that crush videos possess content:

JUSTICE BREYER: I think what — I think what’s going on is — is not — your conflating two things. One is you are trying to produce education about something that has no communicative value. In so far as you are trying to make an argument or educate, of course, it is protected, but the government, here, is saying I think the statute is intended to forbid a different thing entirely, and it’s hard to draw a line.

Maybe it’s impossible; but promoting a thing which communicates nothing, but appeals to people’s worst instinct, that is not to advocate it or not to advocate it.

It is to try to make money out of it, and that’s what they think, I believe, the statute is aimed at (49)

Aside from the value judgment offered as to which instincts are the worse ones, or even if one can make a contentless appeal to an instinct of some kind, Justice Breyer it seems has really touched on something. There is the sense that at bottom, content appeals operate in context to contentless appeals to instinctual aspects of human beings, and people make money out of this through markets. Could it be that Breyer exposes the nerve pulse of Capitalism itself: to production and exchange of goods through markets given to contentless appeals? Critical Animal, as I mentioned above, supplies the right word, “affects”. Breyer opens up the question whether the Constitution protects affects at all, that is, our capacity to feel and even to organized our feelings (or have them organized for us). Perhaps this will become more clear in the next section.

What Good is the Non-Simulated Depiction?

Here I invoke a critique I made of some thoughts forwarded by Latour and a co-author on the nature of Copies and their Original: The Copiousness of Copies. Some of the ideas forwarded there should put into bolder relief some of what is truly at stake in the arguments about speech and content in the Congressional (likely overbroad) statute against crush videos. There I argue that what distinguishes a “good copy” from a “bad copy”, each made from an “original” are three factors that are weighed against each other:

  1. The copy’s loyalty to germane causes – this means that when we appreciate an original as the source of a great many copies, this is done in the context of the preservation of traces of causes we read as germane to the importance of the original in the first place, and good copies preserve these traces. A photocopied dollar bill has effaced important traces of the causes that produced the original. Yet Warhol’s soup cans preserve important causes that produced the depicted soup can.
  2. Richness of causes to be discovered – here, a good copy is one which maintains a deep record of possibly discovered causes that produced the original, traces which may lead to causes of the original later to be found germane. A detailed digital photograph of a painting may preserve brushstroke pattern thought unimportant, later to be a valued.
  3. Fecundity of interrelations which promote its own replication – these are unto the very nature of the copy itself, and speak of the capacity of that copy to find itself replicatable, producing other copies of itself. In this sense a photograph of a painting is a good copy if it leads to further photographic duplications (put into artbooks, on post cards).

In this way a copy is good if it retains valued aspects of the original (which are themselves traces of causes), holds the capacity for the discovery of other yet to be valued aspects of the original, and itself due to its nature becomes the source for further copies. This stands in amendment of Latour’s idea that sheerly it is the copiousness of copies that establishes their good.

So where am I going on this? I want to explore the exact nature of the communication of the legislated against crush videos, just what it is that they are doing, how they are doing it, and how the notion of simulated replacement might not preserve the “speech” expression of their production.

Primary of difficulty is the Petitioner’s claim that a simiulated act in film, for instance, could retain the exact same message as a non-simulated act. The reason why this is of extreme difficulty – as I hoped to expose through my brief journey into a theory of the copy, is that one could never delimit exactly what causes are the germane ones to be captured by any one expression. This is to say, the point in watching a film of the “crush” variety is not simply to expose oneself to the “idea” of crushing, or even to the idea that such an act is good, exciting or preferred, but actually to submit oneself to the extreme details of such an act. And its given realness, the great variety of detail captured (whether it be a quality of smile of such a woman, the tempo of a hesitation, the color or grade of light on a surface, the pitch of an animal protest and the accorded response or lack thereof, all of these plastic effects), communicate themselves to the viewer with an aim to affective transformation, just as they do in a painting when compared to a prose summary. When one exposes oneself to the rich capture of the criminal act (it being criminal being secondary to it being real), provides a certain amplitude of a power of communication which defies any content definition. To say that one could simply “simulate” this process of communication by either changing the “content” of what is shown, or registers (media) is to simply lose track of what communication and ultimately expression is. The veridical nature of the expression is precisely that which contains the power of transformation that drives the expression in the first place. 

And while surely there exist simulations which could fool a prospective viewer into thinking that they are watching the Real, what drives the transaction is the actual promotion of a direct (or as near as direct) contact with a said person (the dominatrix of a kind), and that event. In the end “content” in terms of restateable “ideas” simply does not exist, any more than the notion that the content of the “Mona Lisa” is that “Women are inscrutable”. In fact the reason why we see the “original” that is hanging in the Louvre is so as to be transformed, at whatever level of awareness, by the hand that painted it, centuries ago.

This is not to say of course that crush videos should be legalized, or must be protected by the Constitution, but only that the particular argument by the government is highly flawed. More interesting perhaps is the other aspect of the Ferber decision that in fact inspired the case against Stevens, and in particular that uncovered by Justice Breyer: what the statute is aimed at is not “content” but at markets that trade on pure affects (leaving aside the notion that there is an appeal to an “instinct”  which is base or not). Indeed, this is right to the core of Capitalist endeavors, one might argue, the marketed trade of “experiences” which never can be reduced down to either a logic of “content” or “use value”. What is wrong with crush videos, at least in Justice Breyer’s view, is that they trade in just experiences meant to transform the viewer, and the problem the government faces is how to police these experiences (or that market), especially when their production involves criminal cruelty. There is a sense in which the consumer’s experiences, her or his affects, drive the market for produced experiences of another, criminal kind. The very circularity exposes perhaps the very affect-driven nature of markets themselves, all markets. In this case the affects of a cruelly killed small animal (and the imagined affects of a dominatrix) are transformed into a nexus for the affects of a perverse viewer.

What remains to be thought is Justice Breyer’s important qualification that it is not just contentless affects that mark out this case (at least in terms of the crush videos the statue was written for, but perhaps also in terms of dog fighting). It is that these products appeal to what is worst in humans, an instinct of “lust” or “sadism”. To this Justice Scalia offers the suitable defense to Ms. Millett:

JUSTICE SCALIA: I would have thought that your response to Justice Breyer’s comment about catering to people’s worst instincts in the area of the First Amendment, at least, would have been that it’s not up to the government to decide what are people’s worst instincts.

If — if the First Amendment means anything, that’s what it means.

If this is so, indeed the government has no first amendment leverage upon which to stand against markets of affects in terms of a primary value of the “instinct” they appeal to.

It cannot be over looked that this social contest I believe really does touch on the very engine of Captialist relations, and the need social justice has for restraining the kinds of affects people can purchase in trade (both in the production of products – i.e. the restriction of child labor for instance, but not animal torture in meat industries – and in the enjoyment of products). I think part of this is due to the very way that we read and interpret the behaviors and lives of others. We do this primarily through affective imagination, and the threat that there may be markets that have established themselves under the trade of certain affects – and little is as entrenched as a thriving market will be – invades the very boundaries of our interpretive bodies. If we want to understand “those perverts” to some degree, insofar as we do think we understand them, if only to reject them, we must enter into the affective states that they pursue. It is for this reason that the logic of the Ferber case makes the most social sense, lacking though perhaps the necessary argumentative, constitutional anti-market logic to extend it far beyond the exceptional case of child pornography (as the “child” stands as one of the ground work anchors of American sensibilities).

The concept of “worst instinct” really is a proxy term for the very threat that such traded affects present to the logic of markets themselves. And as Justic Scalia points out the First Amendment is poised as a leverage point between that hidden threat of Capitalist relations (that non-communicative, traded affects will transform subjects), and the necessary freedoms of expression that mark out just what constitutes a freely expressing subject or citizen. I must be free to express myself, yet the market place of expressive affects (accelerated as it has been by media technologies) risks intensity points that may subvert the very order of markets in the first place. To this degree, really, the affects involved in product production often must be masked or ideologically recoded, as best as possible. Animals who suffer for the meat industry are hidden behind happier chicken labels, while videos that expose viewers to real animal cruelty invoke traction for government action against markets. What the US vs. Stevens statute tries to do is incise the very mode of production of a market, in the logic of a child pornography in which reproduction constitutes a crime in itself, and as such under a proviso of simulated content freedoms attempts to side step the problem of freedom of expression. As the rationality of simulated replacement breaks down the true aim of the law is exposed as directed towards the markets of affects themselves, which is perhaps where all true social friction resides: the transmission and capitalization of experience.

In a certain sense crush videos hyperstate the very conditions of production, the powers of transformation of living material via its affective capacity and its representation, in trade.

Related blog post and another, and another posting around the web

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28 responses to “US versus Stevens: The Affects of Law and Protection

  1. anodyne lite October 18, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Very interesting, I love the way you’ve laid this out.

    What instantly comes to mind is the fact that, while the Supreme Court is arguing over the means of production versus content in the case of crush videos, we have hosts of situations where the same sadistic impulse or desire you’ve described (to watch small animals be killed, to see power manifested in all its sublime glory) is being satisfied–albeit most of them simulated– in TV shows, films, movies, and most obviously, video games. The look of sheer glee on a child’s face when it “kills” the hedgehog or soldier or whichever animal on a videogame is something the nasty perv with the crush videos can barely dream of anymore. And yet most people would worry far more about the old perv watching simulated crush videos than they would the small child making simulated thrill kills.

    I’m thinking also about Japanese anime where simulated cartoon rape gets a pass, and gets consumed as part of a daily diet of high octane comic imagery, without anybody thinking much of it.

    These are just specific examples, but I think they fit well within your analysis.

    What I also wonder about in the context of simulation and pornography is: could this logic that the Supreme Court is relying on actually cause a bigger problem in the long run? I.e., could allowing realistic and simulated child porn (or other illegal types) ultimately create an “aura” around the unsimulated kind, making it more coveted among fetishists and creating an even more underground, more high demand, more highly priced black market for the “real thing”?

  2. kvond October 19, 2009 at 11:27 am

    AL: “I’m thinking also about Japanese anime where simulated cartoon rape gets a pass, and gets consumed as part of a daily diet of high octane comic imagery, without anybody thinking much of it.”

    Kvond: The question I try to raise is whether or by what legal mechanism, such affect productions could be restricted (and whether it is here, in the pornographic/violence Capitalist-Democracy meets its event-horizon limit.

    In the oral arguments Justices do wonder aloud about the time when technology would simply make the difference between real and simulated porn indistinguishable. For instance, I’m sure it is already the case, as in the use of The Waking Life, Scanner Darkly animation style.

    But you can see where the problem lies. In the Ferber case wherein the restriction of simulation was upheld, it was argued that some productions of Romeo and Julliet would qualify as simulated child porn.

    AL: “What I also wonder about in the context of simulation and pornography is: could this logic that the Supreme Court is relying on actually cause a bigger problem in the long run? I.e., could allowing realistic and simulated child porn (or other illegal types) ultimately create an “aura” around the unsimulated kind, making it more coveted among fetishists and creating an even more underground, more high demand, more highly priced black market for the “real thing”?”

    Kvond: I wonder if it works this way though. It could be. Does the “snuff film” gain eroticism through all the “fake” deaths seen on tv, film and video. It seems the question of simulation and markets is perhaps more complex than that. Ultimately though, it is affects themselves, and how to control them that is at stake. What lies beneath the freedom of speech, is freedom of expression, and what lies beneath the freedom of expression is the freedom to feel. And it is really at the level of feeling that we most object to the existance of others. The wrong others simply feel the wrong things.

  3. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    a few years back I was noticing in zack snyder’s version of ”the dawn of the dead” that the film works very viscerally, via the attenuation of affect, even as the script and the characters are totally mediocre, not even fit for a comic book. generally the adoption of animation poetics (which are very affective, and corporeal) has marked cinema indelibly in the 21st century.

    • kvond October 19, 2009 at 1:12 pm

      I think that this is a very important point. The whole animation as “virtual reality” (false reality) can be considered the leverage point of all of Western Civ, at least since the very first animation movie houses: stained glass cathedrals in the dark. What seems to be happening, at least in so far as media has accelerated the capacity to exchange and transfer affect, it is not that the “virtual reality” that is false, but rather it is the very mode of what is historically real. These “visceral” projects are very condensed human powers.

  4. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Kvondique, what do you mean by ”stained glass cathedrals” in dark? Animation is to be found much earlier, in the Altamira caves. I have to note in passing that although I do not detect the same kind of proclivity in le discours phantasmagorique de kvondique for adumbration that one encounters in le discours de fox dominique, you do have a tendency to drop words without explaining them to less gifted, or informed, non-academic readership.

    Jonathan Beller is really great on the way the corpus of the cinema, including the viewer’s eye apparatus, serves as a surplus-extracting machine, but with animation you have the additional element of metamorphosis; the ability to metamorphose is at the heart of Capital’s functioning.

    • kvond October 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm

      PC: I have to note in passing that although I do not detect the same kind of proclivity in le discours phantasmagorique de kvondique for adumbration that one encounters in le discours de fox dominique, you do have a tendency to drop words without explaining them to less gifted, or informed, non-academic readership.

      Kvondique, what do you mean by ‘’stained glass cathedrals” in dark?…

      Kvond: Hmmmm. Which vocabulary word went over your head? Stained? Glass? Cathedral? Dark? Are these two academic? And even if they were, poetry takes its own discourse diction for a reason.

      And yes, if you want to count cave painting as animation, this is fine too, or mystery cult initiation locations. But this is the reason why I said “at least”.

  5. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    And yet most people would worry far more about the old perv watching simulated crush videos than they would the small child making simulated thrill kills.

    Anodyne I do not feel entirely comfortable discussing psychoanalysis on Kvondique’s blawg, but what you captured here intuitively is the age-old psychoanalytic principle of displacement whereby the Unconscious content or desire is mistranslated to what one would term a ”safe area”, for the concerned parent would rather look at the bourgeouis (as Eloise Doyle likes to say – ”decent”) image of the pervert, than imagine such a thing as the possibility that their child is fulfilling THEIR OWN perverted desires. In this way, as Lacan’s Purloined Letter demonstrated, the problem is sitting right in front of their noses, but THEY DON’T SEE IT.

    While watching Lars Von Trier’s surprisingly mature and intelligent ANTICHRIST, I felt that the corrupted Garden of Eden is presented as just such a double-bind virtual reality (which connects us also with Kvondique’s argumentations here) where Adam and Eve walk through life with their eyes wide shut.

  6. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Kvond: Hmmmm. Which vocabulary word went over your head? Stained? Glass? Cathedral? Dark? Are these two academic? And even if they were, poetry takes its own discourse diction for a reason.

    No Kvondique it was far more prosaic, I literally don’t understand what the association is between the stained glass cathedral and animation, were the icons on the stained glass animated?

    The Altamira drawings move, and often appear in sequence.

    • kvond October 19, 2009 at 6:46 pm

      So the problem isn’t my academic prose, its not understanding an analogy or reference, fair enough but confusing (sorry I don’t read D. Fox’s blog). By my view cathedrals represented visual magic boxes of such visual impression their frame like technicolor presentations of narratives to the illiterate were spectacular forerunners of our movie houses. Now, whether these images moved is less of importance to me than the visual discrepency between the average optical experience of its audience, and the experience within the cathedral. Someone else might think that ONLY if images move is there a valuable reference point. I find there to be many reference points in history for our media’d transportation of affects.

      Further, of course, cathedral images were seen by wide populations and were part of an entire ideologically constructed message, while the Altamira drawings had no such wide-spread social effect. But hey, cave drawings are great too.

  7. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    By my view cathedrals represented visual magic boxes of such visual impression their frame like technicolor presentations of narratives to the illiterate were spectacular forerunners of our movie houses.

    so you’re talking about the icons being presented in a SEQUENCE? You could have, like, just said so.

    Now I’d like you to explain what you mean here

    it is not that the “virtual reality” that is false, but rather it is the very mode of what is historically real.

    are you referring to the standard mcluhanian reversal whereby movies are real, and reality is a fantasy, or something else

    • kvond October 19, 2009 at 7:04 pm

      As to your question about reality and falsity, in contemporary society, VR is marked by its irreality in many respects, but when it comes to markets of affective transfer, these are VERY real transformations.

      Negri (as do Gatens and Lloyd) make this point about the imaginary in Spinoza. The imaginary is the very shape and mode by which concrete history progresses (not just a falsity). This is something much lost when thinking about the importance of the imaginary in Spinoza. This does not make “reality” a fantasy in any kind of reversal. I don’t know what exactly is meant by “reality” in your thought. Fantasy (or better, the imaginary) plays a primary role in our powers of social action.

  8. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    animation is re-animation, it is the bringing back to life of dead matter. thusly the ”undead”, the virtual reality, is animation in its essence. but here you seem to suggest more, namely that the undead/the spectral also has a material presence, whether expressed as an affect, or the movement of the ghost. what the dawn of the dead showed me is that the affect can be channeled in such a way that the body of the film, not its meaning, takes charge. here we walk on thin ice: is this dangerous, or liberatory?

    • kvond October 19, 2009 at 7:34 pm

      PC: “animation is re-animation, it is the bringing back to life of dead matter…”

      Kvond: As a pantheist and a panpsychist I deny this basic premise, as well as the notion that there is anything such as “dead matter” (ie. matter pushed around by abstract laws).

      Animation is simply, in my view, a change and intensification of animation in other forms. I find talks of “ghosts” “hauntings” “the dead” just big projective fantasies.

  9. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    for the purpose of this conversation we can adopt these terms as metaphors, not necessarily implying that dead matter indeed exists, or doesn’t.

    • kvond October 19, 2009 at 7:49 pm

      But that is I suppose where we part. I don’t find these metaphors helpful, either in terms of analysis of what is literally actually happening in animation, film, or in understanding its place in society. This was kind of my point in the post above, in particular when it comes to questions of “simulation” and affect control.

      This doesn’t mean that as an animator you can’t find these metaphors meaningful to what you do, it is just that they cannot aid our conversation, from my point of view.

  10. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Kvondique you’re fairly tight downstairs, and penetration is difficult. If we go from your panphysicism then we face the problem as to WHY PEOPLE SEE GHOSTS and I don’t wanna get into that because it’s nothing to do with the conversation!!! Or let me put it differently, precisely if we operate on the plane of immanence then the ghost is just as valid as the next thing.

    • kvond October 19, 2009 at 8:20 pm

      Well, I disagree altogether on whether the question of why of ghosts is important. In fact Spinoza wrote a very interesting letter (at least to me) in response to a father who felt he had a premonition of his son’s death. It goes right to the issue of what are the powers of imagination? This has significant political consequences, which I tried to touch on in the above post, but I also discuss this here:

      https://kvond.wordpress.com/2008/06/06/spinoza-and-the-caliban-question/

      The “why” is most important.

      But I certainly agree that if we are talking in philosophy of immanance, the “ghost” is just as real as anything else. This is precisely Negri’s point on Spinoza, and it is just this reason that any ultimate division between dead and undead in questions of simulation are not helpful.

  11. the voice of parodic reason October 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    But I certainly agree that if we are talking in philosophy of immanance, the “ghost” is just as real as anything else.

    Ok if you can live with that, then I can push it a bit deeper in: so is your post saying that the affective manipulation (in the pornography) works because the pornographic film itself, as a material medium, has a body, or an energetic value. if so,why don’t we see/understand that?

    • kvond October 20, 2009 at 3:57 am

      But we do see that. It is part of the very reason why in the Steven’s case the mode of production itself is criminalized. It is precisely because of that “energetic value”.

      What it comes down to, I believe, is that when we are experiencing certain affects as a viewer, we attribute their cause through a variety of registers. In film, sometimes, only a small degree of these effects are attributed to the aesthetic, the camera’s presence, the value of the medium (which does not mean that the are not more strongly there). But indeed there is a kind of “energetic value” permanence that carries the action into a kind of rich, very present contact. The viewer is engaged in a proximate way they might not necessarily feel if even present to the action.

      But it is also the case that film provides effective transfer of events (both real transfer through the capture of indexical detail, and conceptual transfer because photo=truth in our society at times). It is for this reason that a simulated event capture (let us say an animated “crush video”), which not carry the same (which is to say equivalent) affective transfer, or power to transform, as a filmed one.

  12. the voice of parodic reason October 21, 2009 at 2:41 am

    But indeed there is a kind of “energetic value” permanence that carries the action into a kind of rich, very present contact.

    It’s still difficult to conceptualize this without some kind of a concrete example, do you have any particular film or video or game in mind?

    • kvond October 21, 2009 at 11:23 am

      The energetic value, at least in my mind, is simply the capacity to effect. Speaking of it in terms of something which “carries the action” is something more of a projection. The value is in a film/viewer assemblage, a mutuality.

      Take for example, if you want one, this short, animation like clip from Tarkovsky (what I began this post with : https://kvond.wordpress.com/category/andrei-tarkovsky/
      There are all sorts of aesthetic determinations, the slow motion compartmentalizations, the abstractions of the background layers, the telephoto flattening (imitative of iconography, perhaps), but apart from the rest of the film, apart from the contrast this natural image makes with the war and art of man, much of these energitic value components lose their force. You could place this clip within a context of a documentary on rare horse breeds and suddenly all those aesthetic features lose their significance. The abstractions actually get in the way then, one is looking to be affected by the detail the film captures.

      Other than this, I’m not sure what you are asking.

  13. the voice of parodic reason October 24, 2009 at 1:10 am

    The value is in a film/viewer assemblage, a mutuality.

    well certainly i would say that the new millenium brought the kind of a transformation of cinema whereby the cinematic language has become increasingly tied to the bodily apparatus, along deleuze’s theorizing in the CINEMA books, and you can see this especially now with ”real 3D” which doesn’t so much pull the viewer in(although it does that, too) as much as it opens up this ”hauntological” plane behind the screen, engaging the viewer quite literally on a visceral level… etc…

    however, as a good professor of mine once said, but THERE IS STILL THE CUT (unless you’re talking virtual theatre)… you have to read this analysis by peretz of brian de palma

  14. kvond October 24, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I have no idea what the “hauntological plane” is. In fact the loose way that the term “hauntological” is used across the internet is somewhat is somewhat of a mumbojumbo (and I say this as an officionado of evocative philosophy terms). For me, because as a spinozist I deny the ontology of lack, “haunto” anything doesn’t make any sense.

    The “cut” as in the cut of the edit (instead of any Lacanian cut) indeed I hold in great value. I read the cut as Tarkovsky theorizes it, as part of a density volume analysis (which he compares to water passing through pipes of various gauges) that establishes the power of affects.

    Sorry, I’m not going to read peretz’s analysis.

  15. anodyne lite October 25, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I like what you say about ghosts and “death” being projective fantasies, Kvond, it seems almost like vitalism taken to a perverse degree where it becomes interesting again. I suppose ‘vitalism’ is the wrong word; it’s more panpsychism, as you say. Still, I think I felt my mind expanding for a second trying to wrap itself around that, which was a nice feeling.

    • kvond October 25, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      cool. it is meant I think to be literally expanding of the mind, to open out its cognitive borders (not in a new age sense, but in a practical, constitutive sense). we regularly take things like “absence” to be a real force, closely related to the logic of capitalism itself.

  16. Pingback: Pornographic Ecology: Hearthism and the Logic of Political Action « Frames /sing

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