A thoughtful analysis of Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! this week in L'EMERGERE DEL POSSIBILE. Thanks also to Dedda DeAngelis for generously submitting the English translation below.
Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! (USA, 2015, 21') is based on Second Life, a virtual reality videogame from which Berman draws a cinematic reality essentially coextensive not only to the reality of video places but also to the expansive one, defined in time and space, in which we live daily. Berman’s short actually moves further away from other cinema works dealing with the world of videogames, such as for example Phil Solomon’s masterpiece, Rehearsals for retirement (USA, 2007, 11') or Harun Farocki’s latest experimental works, merged in the Parallel I-IV tetralogy (Germany, 2014, 43’). In the end her short materializes into an experience that ultimately dismantles the video ludicity that is, at least formally, its structure, in order to recover a primal, fundamental absence. Moreover, the Utopia in the title is specifically what is missing (Thomas More), besides the composition of an otherness, which reaffirms its present absence while fading away and appearing beyond its presence. Thus the utopia of the video becomes a cinematic heterotopia; which is what Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! actually is, as a film and not as a videogame. After all, the channeling of the videogame apparatus of Second Life turns out to be the acceleration of relationships which determine the nature of the place as such, as another reality, a second life, specular to an earlier, invisible one, which is nothing else but our everyday life. On the contrary, Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! is instantly a suspended place, a “placeless place”, whose only move is to be while not being and to find its placement in its very displacement. “If you can imagine it, you can create it”, but the avatar through which the player lives a second life claims now all its ontological substance, since it is not played any longer, but seen. By sliding her videogame into cinema, Annie Berman not only transvalues the merits of Second Life, she also makes them absolute, which is to say she unties the bonds that define them as a videogame. For this reason if Second life is a utopia Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! is a heterotopia, since it is not any longer an absence but the very presence of such absence; and cinema is precisely what makes such negativity present. Thus clearly such negativity does not disappear, it stays present and Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! is such permanence. That said, we must examine the fact that the negativity, the video game is not totally deleted; what is left is the graphics, which means, at a deeper level, that what remains is the absence of time. The absence of time, the very nature of Second Life, is devastating from the cinematic viewpoint, for the simple and not banal reason that the director, as Gilles Deleuze teaches after Tarkovskij, is the one who works with blocks of time, the one who carves them. The 3D in the title refers to nothing but this: there is only space, the fourth dimension is absent, and such absence is, as we have guessed by now, the present absence we mentioned, an absence that cinema only can make present. What makes it present? The eternity of capitalism, thus its emptiness. If cinema works with time and if time, in Marxist terms, is what capitalism is based on, then we could say that Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D!, because of its absence of time, is really heterotopic insofar as it is utopic. But the term utopic will not designate the impossible site (οὐ-), but rather the beautiful site (εὖ); beautiful, mind you, not because there is no capitalism, but because of its inherent inaccessibility and impossibility. Post-neo-futurist capitalism is not a joke, it simply does not exist. It exists there, in the impossible beauty of the digital and synthetic site. Now, one of two things: tertium non datum. Annie Berman is not a reactionary, she certainly does not want to admit that if timeless capitalism exists there, it cannot exist here, since here it implies space and time. Her criticism results rather from an abolition of the law of the excluded middle: capitalism exists here and there, with or without time. There is a place, which is far from utopic and which deviates from the very coordinates of capitalism, which would claim to be the excluded middle. This place is cinema, the film itself. Deleuze wrote: “This is the old curse which undermines the cinema: time is money. If it is true that movement maintains a set of exchanges or an equivalence, a symmetry as an invariant, time is by nature the conspiracy of unequal change or the impossibility of equivalence, thus it is money.” And there certainly is an eternity in capitalism, so much so that it is not enough to eliminate the fourth dimension in order to stay out of it. It is as though, in spite of the imperviousness of capitalism and inside its boundless space, there were holes, or heterotopies where the balance of power, as usually understood and defined, is overturned.Broadly speaking we call these places Film, which does not mean that cinematically there is no capitalism, (films are and will continue to be produced) but rather that a product (of capital) cannot be cinematic. There is therefore something that evades capitalism and this is Cinema (what the protagonist of Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! finds at the end of her search). And by cinema we mean all the environments defined in space and time which allow, within capitalism, an experience unrelated to it, an event not only different in its mechanical technique, but which cannot be controlled by its police (for Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! the experience is plasticized in the Oculus Drift).