The pre-metaphysics of Things through Iranian Cinema

May 31, 2009


It is all because of my fascination with perhaps arguable and no doubt problematic ideas of pre-metaphysical, non-cultural and a-human givenness of objects and things and of life stripped down to its minimum, that I suggest we watch some of the Iranian masterpieces, which i think presisely deal with the issues.

Here are some films to chose for our screening as well as the quotes from Hamid Dabashi’s seminal book on the Iranian cinema ‘Close Up’. let me know what you prefer cause I’ll be seeing those again in anyway 


Abbass Kiarostami: ‘Through the Olive Trees’ or ‘Close Up’ 

Kiarostami presents us with  a different kind of ‘morality’, a ‘countermorality’ emerges here that is entirely contingent on the reality of the event itself and not on abstract ethical imperatives.’ CU p. 55 Kiarostami’s cinema, from its very inception, is an aesthetics of the real, a countermetaphysics of the factual. It is here to filter the world and thus strip it of all cultures, narrativities, authorities, and ideologies.’ C.U P54

‘Close Up’


‘Through the Olive Trees’



 Rakhschan Bani-Etemad ‘Gilaneh’(2004)

If Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf’s cinema are two visual modes of rereading Iranian culture in order to tease out its virtuality and thus negotiate a creative emancipation from it, the cinema of Bani-Etemad is a visual assault on that culture’s Achilles’ heel, namely, its conception of femininity…Her work has a much wider spectrum of implications than the condition of Iranian women. What is at stake in her project is the constitution femininity as the weakest and most vulnerable point of a much wider pathology of power, cultural constituted, socially institutionalized, economically based and metaphysically theorized. Bani-Etemad’s cinema is a visual theorization against that violent metaphysics.’ C.U. P. 223

Bani-Etemad launches her destruction of patriarchal constitution of sexuality from the depth of her documented reading of Iranian society…The result is a cinematic cosmovision that renegotiates the whole colonially militated culture of capitalist modernity and its colonial consequences.’ C.U.23


‘From Iranian filmmakers Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (NARGESS; OUR TIMES) and Mohsen Abdolvahab comes a searing anti-war film presented in two parts. On the Iranian New Year of 1988, Gilaneh (Motamed Arya), a woman from the country whose only son Ishmael (Bahram Radan) is fighting in the Iran-Iraq war, takes a perilous trip into besieged Tehran with her pregnant daughter. Fifteen years later, on March 20, 2003, as another New Year approaches, fatigued Gilaneh cares for her bedridden son as TV newscasts cover America’s opening attack on Baghdad.’ 


 Samira Makmalbaf. ‘Blackboards’



Everything is on the verge of happening in Blackboard; everything is in a critical moment of expectation…The constellation of these emotive urges of expectation and urgency, accentuated by the imminent danger of an Iraqi gas attack, splits open the plaster of normalcy in the appearance of the real and pulls every aspect of the evident culture out for negotiation. The most critical moment Samira chooses for this negotiation is the pre-moment of naming, when things are still things and have no name. When the band of student-less teachers are wandering through the rugged mountains, desperate for students, we witness something more than Samira getting back at her teachers. In a brilliantly choreographed scene, a young woman who is milking a goat gives some milk to a teacher. He has finally persuaded a single boy to learn to write his name, and when the boy takes in this knowledge as the teacher drinks his milk. In this epiphatic scene, the camera oscillates between the milk and the chalk, between a living white substance and the dead, white knowledge…Instantly, a gunshot rings out and the boy falls dead. As the teacher is revived by his drink, the boy dies the moment he learns to write his name’ C.U. 274




the Opening Counterrealism meeting !

May 21, 2009


It was fun and rigorous, with Dipesh Chakrabarty joining us for a Q n A, which put some issues into focus and rather opened a lot more questions then we had time to discuss.

 One of the most interesting things that came only in retrospect to me was Dipesh mentioning his current work on global warming and the postcolonial perspectives on the issue of environment. I don’t know how it happened that we didn’t ask him to talk more about the exciting prospects of the postcolonial philosophy of science, which to my knowledge (and I still feel quite new to the debate, so let me know of any useful literature) is a rather underdeveloped and not widely discussed topic.

 Because of the pre-analytical ready- to-hand breaking into our everyday present-at-hand of the technology (the mic’s batteries ran out) we recorded only around 10 min of Dipesh talking. So, it seems, we’ll have to rely on the tradition of typing. My and Enrique’s thoughts and reflections are on their way and should be up in some time soon.

Anna suggested we do some other session on Chakrobarty again in June to finalize some points. We could read some of his more recent stuff then!


How to do things with farts: Factory Work and Subversive Farting

May 21, 2009

I work part-time in a Factory in Berlin, on a traditional assembly-line. Its 12hours shifts so i thought there would be plenty of time to think about what occurs according to Marx’s theory of value. Although the occassional mental reliefs when one can gasp at the theoretical implications of work were rare. So i sought mental relief not in a theorized rationalization but in reflections on the concrete activities of working and farting (or rather the burned sulfur smell on the assembly line), through a Benjaminian ‘Profane Illumination’

Marx writes of work: ‘He not only effects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realises a purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which he must subordinate his will. And this subordination is no mere momentary act. Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process demands that, during the whole operation, the workman’s will be steadily in consonance with his purpose. This means close attention. The less he is attracted by the nature of the work, and the mode in which it is carried on, and the less, therefore, he enjoys it as something which gives play to his bodily and mental powers, the more close his attention is forced to be. (Capital Chapter Seven: The Labour-Process and the Process of Producing Surplus-Value)

This was quite obvious when subjected to traditional disciplnary assembly-line procedure. It is an insight that doesnt emerge in service-jobs where your communicative personality is subsumed into some sort of production process, since the labour-activity is expirienced as an authentic ‘being yourself’, like a bartender or something. Although the line is thin, call center jobs involve an equal mechanization of bodies, minds and voices. Alienation it seems should be a self-evident concept, but i suppose its out of fashion since yuppie/media jobs involve now some sort of project of self-realization, of the pursuing of the prescribed inner purpose, like being a creative and autonmous market actor.

Im posted at the sulfur-section of the solar panel assembly line. A group of 3 workers waits every 5 minues for a box containing the panel-to-be to come out of an oven onto a portable conveyor belt, that looks like a foosball table. Someone weighs a few grams of Sulfur, which are distributed on the side of the box that will contain the next unprocessed panel that will be inserted in at the front of the conveyor belt oven. A second worker takes the hot panel, where the sulfur has been burnt onto to the next station in the assembly line. I was mostly unscrewing and screwing the bolts of the box after the processed panel had been replaced by a new one to be inserted into the front.

I made some jokes to entertain during the occasional free minute. But i aimed to deploy a humour that employs its immediate surroundings, that designtes the immediate symbolic surroundings through their materiality. This strategy emerged, as a counter to the jokes of another worker, who put a piece of black tape on his upper lip and did the hitler things. I also passed through a stage of conservative joking. There was an air-brush to blow away dust, and while waiting i used it to fan my sweaty forehead and made the same joke “Im in a convertible car, or on the Titanic”. This joke like the Hitler makes external references and introduces them to the immediate surroundings, but doesnt challenge them, they are just a prop like the square bit of black tape to put on your face. Its an escapist joke, wishing to be somewhere else, more bourgeois (The joke wouldnt work as an escapist relief i had said “Im in a hurricane”)

A subverisive joke would have as its butt the concrete, or more specifically the arbitraryness and fragility of what we assume to be the concrete. A made a fart joke that brought in the materiality of the situation, not of the general economic materiality, which people there were quite aware of, but of what we were up to. When the boxes were opened for the processed panel to be taken to the next stage, there was sometimes still a wiff of the burned sulfur, so i said “Either someone farted or someone has been burning sulfur nearby”. The fart is just a signalling to the joke and its butt, because if someone had actually farted it would be embarassing rather than funny. If the joke had just been “Did someone fart” it would have been incomplete, what was added was the concrete dimension, the literal incorporation of the surroundings: that we were burning sulfur. The comic signalling of the fart allowed a suspension of what we were seamlessly and continually doing. It brought to display our material surroundings, momentarily bringing the activity of burning sulfur into a fragility. This seemed clear since one of the workers quickly responded in a serious tone “No, the smell comes from the burned sulfur in the box”, in order to performatively reassert the taken for grantedness and self-evidentness of our material undertaking, in order to pull back the symbolically suspended material process of the assembly line that was the butt of the fart joke.

Might a Fart be something subversive (if we read it into “bodily collective innervation” and “revolutionary discharge”)
“The collective is a body, too. And the physis that is being organized for it in technology can, through all its political and factual reality, only be produced in that image sphere to which profane illumination initiates us. Only when in technology body and image so interpenetrate that all revolutionary tension becomes bodily collective innervation, and all the bodily innervations of the collective become revolutionary discharge, has reality transcended itself to the extent demanded by the Communist Manifesto”” (Walter Benjamin – Surrealism The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia)

I have a Marxist Fart-Joke:  What does one do when “all that is solid melts into air”?

Yes Men Workshop

May 21, 2009

Andy Bichelbaum from the Yes Men was in Berlin for a workshop, where he discussed with activists their plans for actions in a YesMen tradition. In the evening we went to see his new movie ‘The Yes Men Fix the world” and here are a few thought about their strategy.

This is fantastic, spoiling the glamour of the red carpet and shifting the spectators gaze onto the rotten core of the glamourous spectacle, bringing into focus the absuridity of the festivity and its pomp.

The YesMen exemplified this intrusion and subtraction well that i talked about in my previous post on the G20 protest. Their innovative strategy is revealed when their at their comic best, when they play the corportate exaggerations (like WTO representative, McDonals, Halliburton and the Survivaballs), rather than in their simulation of Corporate Social Responsbility (like Hurricane Kathrina or the infamous 300 million viewed Union Carbide Bhopal disaster intervention, that is when they’re strategy is “identity-correction”, where they demask and denounce the individual corporations negligence, putting up logos of corporations and personifying the cause of troubles). In these latter Corporate Social Responsibility stunts, the aim is somekind of positive project, an alternative agenda/possibility. In the first variation of YesMen stunts, exaggeration and grotesqueness’ are the main techniques. I think they differ from Billionares for Bush and the like, because they go through the process of intrusion and therefore undertake the work of breaking the binary to get at that non-binaric stance momentarily reached by the subtraction. For Example when you see those security / weapons manufacturers ask questions about how the new Halliburton Survivaball suite could withstand biological attacks then you witness their state of being duped of their dupidity, which shows how the whole weapons industry depends on the nodding support and forced awe and applause directed at positions of power (also in the classic WTO example of the yesmen, where people still clap at the end). Somehow the systems symbolic power is revealed, to the viewer, or the non-dimwitted. But it seems its not so much a matter of wit, as the fact of not being materially immersed in the structuring envirments that ritually calls for your mental and bodily obidience to those with the sceptre and crown. But by switching these insignias of power in the immersed environment (the survivaballs at the Conference-Hall for Corporates listening to the hotshots) they reveal the relations which sustain the corporate fests. As with the survivorballs suits when the crash the BMW gala in Berlin (the video above), the grotesqueness of the gowns and all those bodies dressed in suits is amplified.

So the intrusion is the mimicking /performing of the e.g. Corporate-Capitalist symbolic identity, but the attendees dont notice these impersonations, for them it would be ‘buisness as usual’”. This is more destabalizing than ‘denouncing’, since it allowes a momentary burst of laughter, an incredulity and anxiety that contains an awareness of the fragility and arbitraryness of the Symbolically based mechanism of corportate power.

(Ill try to post radical jokes at the end of each post)
Stephen Colbert – what happens if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it – then my illegal logging buisness is succeeding

a (non) formalist film or a play i’d like to make one day

May 5, 2009


the cast and stage directions:


thebes and oedipus (both at the same time):


Reading greek tragedy through marx e.g. as the allegory of capitalist s collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.

The forsaken u.s. military radar i. e. the pinnacle of overproduction, hedonism and imperialism is the blinf oedipus And the buerocratic strong hold of creon 

creon himself: image (or visibility, perceptibility, and..the ‘human animal’ ?)

polynicessound (and how do the unburried dead sound? Maybe, various ‘ internationals’ slowed down  to the point where its just an indesernible, inhuman sound  playing at the same time out of  sync)

ismene: time (her indecisiveness makes the film go on)

chorus: nothing (absent) no morality

antigone: montage (only one cut , every image is contained within the other before antigones  act)

and i want another character to appear after the cut

the raven from passolini’s  ‘the hawks and the saprrows’ to walk inside of the derelict radar interiors

starts in 1.3 minutes
he will say something wise and silly and look out of  the window
and there will be all the multitudes of people from the anti G20 anti Nato
protests marching together