Saturday, June 23, 2007

Häxan by Benjamin Christensen: The Devil Comes to Earth

Via DC's: Häxan: pix, info, two clips, three analyses (and there is much more information there):

Häxan integrates fact, fiction, objective reality, hallucination, and different levels of representation—all within a first-person discourse. In the intertitles, Christensen addresses us directly, saying “I.” The mixture of narrative modes in Häxan is astonishing for its freedom and audacity. Early on, Christensen establishes a modern, scientific point of view, stating flatly, “The belief in evil spirits, sorcery, and witchcraft is the result of naïve notions about the mystery of the universe.” After a lecture-with-slideshow-style prologue on ancient and medieval cosmology, diabolism, and sorcery, the first of the film’s narrative recreations unfolds in a sorceress’ underground workshop in 1488. The sequence that follows is, up to a point, objective. But the film soon complicates its logical flow by dissolving from the workshop to a scene in which the sorceress’ client gives a love potion to a monk. The viewer can’t be sure whether the second scene is a flash-forward to an event occurring in the future or, as seems more likely, a representation of the client’s fantasy.

Starting with this ambiguity, the film takes us farther away from a world in which recognized laws of cause and effect hold sway, leading us into a space where the irrational is always ready to intrude in lurid forms. At times, Häxan appears to be a literal depiction of the imaginings of people of medieval Europe—the cinematic equivalent of the medieval woodcuts that illustrate the prologue. Christensen denies us cues indicating the points at which the film jumps from one level of reality to another. As a result, the obscene incursions of the devil (an unforgettable performance by Christensen himself) are consistent with the tonality of the film: the devil belongs to the film’s world even as he disrupts it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Photographic Darkroom Where The Reality Photographs Are Actually Produced

The Khronos Projector
"the night as a dark eye in the middle of a luminous sky"

Incidentally, one image in Nova Express keeps coming back to me and I don’t quite understand it: the gray room, “breaking through to the gray room.”

I see that as very much like the photographic darkroom where the reality photographs are actually produced. Implicit in Nova Express is a theory that what we call reality is actually a movie. It’s a film, what I call a biologic film. What has happened is that the underground and also the nova police have made a breakthrough past the guards and gotten into the darkroom where the films are processed, where they’re in a position to expose negatives and prevent events from occurring. They’re like police anywhere. All right, you’ve got a bad situation here in which the nova mob is about to blow up the planet. So The Heavy Metal Kid calls in the nova police. Once you get them in there, by God, they begin acting like any police. They’re always an ambivalent agency. I recall once in South America that I complained to the police that a camera had been stolen and they ended up arresting me. I hadn’t registered or something. In other words, once you get them on the scene they really start nosing around. Once the law starts asking questions, there’s no end to it. For nova police, read technology, if you wish.

From The Paris Review Interviews: William Burroughs
PDF of the Interview

Amazon Link: Nova Express by William Burroughs



"We can do things with the social environment... this is now taking data from everybody... the entire collective memory of visually what the earth looks like... and link all of that together. All of those photos become linked together and they make something emergent that's greater than the sum of the parts."
- Blaise Aguera y Arcas

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Unporny Valley: Humanoid Sex Dolls and Zombie Bukkake

Susannah Breslin, in her blog The Reverse Cowgirl, has a fascinating adaptation of the Uncanny Valley hypothesis.

From the Wikipedia article:

Mori's hypothesis states that as a robot is made more humanlike in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong repulsion. However, as the appearance and motion continue to become less distinguishable from a human being's, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-to-human empathy levels.

This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a "barely-human" and "fully human" entity is called the Uncanny Valley. The name captures the idea that a robot which is "almost human" will seem overly "strange" to a human being and thus will fail to evoke the empathetic response required for productive human-robot interaction.
This image is provided:

Breslin's beautiful detournement into the "Unporny Valley":

Friday, June 08, 2007

Moraines, Drumlins, and Eskers: Thou Art the Murderer of God!

Jeremiah 36 - Baruch Writes Jeremiah's Prophecies, Dore

The problem is not religion but religious orthodoxy and the form it takes in human institutions. Throughout history, most moral thinkers - from Socrates to Christ to Francis of Assisi - eschewed the written word. Once moral teachings are written down they become, in the wrong hands, codified and used to enforce conformity, subservience and repression. Writing, as George Steiner has recognised, freezes speech. The moment the writers of the gospels recorded Jesus's teachings, they began to kill their message. There is no room for prophets within religious institutions - indeed within any human institution. Tribal societies persecute prophets; open societies tolerate them at their fringes. Today, our prophets are usually found not within the church but among artists, poets and writers who follow, as Socrates or Jesus did, their inner authority, an authentic religious impulse.

- From New Statesman: False Gods by Chris Hedges

[image source]

Glaciers erode the rock underneath them. A glacier can "carve" a valley, wearing away rocks and soil through abrasion and plucking up and moving large pieces of rock and debris. The glacier pushes this earth and rock forward as it advances, almost like a conveyor belt, and dumps it to the side along the way or at the end of the glacier (deposition). Depositional features include moraines, drumlins, and eskers.

When, however, the path again curved round a rock, all at once the landscape changed, and Zarathustra entered into a realm of death. Here bristled aloft black and red cliffs, without any grass, tree, or bird's voice. For it was a valley which all animals avoided, even the beasts of prey, except that a species of ugly, thick, green serpent came here to die when they became old. Therefore the shepherds called this valley: "Serpent-death."

Zarathustra, however, became absorbed in dark recollections, for it seemed to him as if he had once before stood in this valley. And much heaviness settled on his mind, so that he walked slowly and always more slowly, and at last stood still. Then, however, when he opened his eyes, he saw something sitting by the wayside shaped like a man, and hardly like a man, something nondescript. And all at once there came over Zarathustra a great shame, because he had gazed on such a thing. Blushing up to the very roots of his white hair, he turned aside his glance, and raised his foot that he might leave this ill-starred place. Then, however, became the dead wilderness vocal: for from the ground a noise welled up, gurgling and rattling, as water gurgleth and rattleth at night through stopped-up water- pipes; and at last it turned into human voice and human speech:--it sounded thus:

"Zarathustra! Zarathustra! Read my riddle! Say, say! WHAT IS THE REVENGE ON THE WITNESS?

I entice thee back; here is smooth ice! See to it, see to it, that thy pride do not here break its legs!

Thou thinkest thyself wise, thou proud Zarathustra! Read then the riddle, thou hard nut-cracker,--the riddle that I am! Say then: who am I!"

--When however Zarathustra had heard these words,--what think ye then took place in his soul? PITY OVERCAME HIM; and he sank down all at once, like an oak that hath long withstood many tree-fellers,--heavily, suddenly, to the terror even of those who meant to fell it. But immediately he got up again from the ground, and his countenance became stern.

"I know thee well," said he, with a brazen voice, "THOU ART THE MURDERER OF GOD! Let me go."

- Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Chapter LXVII, The Ugliest Man , Frederich Nietzsche

Amazon Link: Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Frederich Nietzsche

[Hedges/Steiner via Mombacho]

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Women in Art: All in the Eyes

Via WFMU's Beware of the Blog:

It is all over the place... but if you haven't seen this, you should. It was the shift into the Mona Lisa right there at the beginning, that lifting of the gaze outwards, that set the hook for me.

Van Arno: The Soul is Extracted and Judged by Weight

The Soul is Extracted and Judged by Weight
cell vinyl and oil on wood panel
24" X 36" - Van Arno