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).
Thrilled to announce that Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D! will be part of this year's IMPAKT Media Festival in the Netherlands. This year's theme is 'The Future of the Past' which couldn't be more relevant.
The Future of the Past (In A World Well Documented)
We live in a world in which more information has been recorded over the past decade than in all the centuries that came before. Seas of data are ever-expanding. How will this affect our memory and the perception of time? The Impakt Festival 2015 concerns the changes to our conception of personal and collective histories that this mass data collecting brings about.
Will digital technologies, social media timelines, our uploads and e-mail histories allow us to keep perfect accounts of the past? Gone will be the guessing of what someone looked like or how an event unfolded? Will advanced presentation technologies make going back in time a more real, accurate and even immersive experience – or should we, paradoxically, worry about digital amnesia? What are the economic mechanisms behind the accumulation of data; and likewise, who owns the information and who controls of the access to it?
The recording and distribution of data not only influences our perception of the past, the analysis and extrapolation of data can consequently create a different perception of the future. In The Future of the Past we will investigate the changing concepts of personal and collective memory and how the general perceptions of history and future are evolving.
The Idealistic And Classic Notions Of Documentation and Knowledge
From ancient times onwards, it has been the drive of humankind to accumulate an all-encompassing knowledge of the world. The construction of that knowledge and the effort of documenting the world can be recognised through culture’s collective attempt to develop science, categorise, to memorise and to be remembered. Now, in the Digital Age, the Internet, technology and social media have leant enormous momentum to the accumulation of this knowledge. The tools for accessing, sharing and contributing are within everyone’s reach. A wide range of platforms allow us to contribute to networks and amass information: Internet encyclopaedias are a democratic sum of the efforts of a ubiquitous critical mass and almost everything on earth is documented in some form or another. How does this influence our perception of present, past and future?
The (Im)Perfection Of Personal And Collective Data Storage
Upon the realisation that electronic images and digital data didn’t live up to their promise of eternity, a further dimension was added to the discussion on the archiving and preservation of information, books, films and audio-visual files. Not only does the medium appear imperfect, inadequacies can often arise in the processing of both personal and collective pasts. Despite mass data capture, we forget to make back-ups and entire libraries and archives are threatened and in search of new accommodation. How do we deal with the risks of digital amnesia?
Data As An Economic Factor
In our digital age we are constantly informed. News, media and friendships are closer than ever. The world is more accessible and comfortable than we’d foreseen. But most recent developments confront us with much more radical consequences of the ever increasing storage and accessibility of data. When we take and share information, navigate and accept cookies, we leave traces of our doing – information that perfectly lends itself for other purposes than the acquisition of knowledge in the idealistic sense of the word. Data is the ‘oil’ of the 21st century: our online behaviour has been rendered an economic factor. How can we ensure the safeguarding of our rights as individuals against the corporate commodification of our online footprints? How can we develop transnational legislation, if at all, and in which form would this “Digital Magna Carta” manifest?
Is Our Sense Of Past And Future Getting Less or More Perfect?
We are obsessive self-archivists. We can scroll back on our timelines forever, but what gets lost if the process of remembering is no longer based on creative reconstruction but on the click-and play of digital data? Are we forgetting to remember?How does collective memory develop in a perfectly documented world? Modern technologies allow us to retroactively sharpen the lens through which we analyse documents and artefacts from the past, unveiling new data and new perspectives. What impact will new information concerning the past have on our current assumptions regarding social equality, justice or international conflict? How do we deal with the differences between the trivial and the essential in this “Capture All” era?The Future is no longer a dark fathomless cloud, but a set of patterns and connections that can be controlled and predicted when we collect enough relevant data. Some argue that predicting the future will become more accurate now it is increasingly based on scientific calculations of probability. While we should scrutinise the accuracy of these prophetical claims, the philosophical, ethical and political consequences of these forecasts should be contemplated. It is safe to say that our perception of the future is changing because of these technological transitions.
The Dynamics Behind Contemporary Data Collection
When once archives used to be carefully curated, limited to the essential and studied to gain knowledge, contemporary data clouds adhere to a totally different dynamic. They are continuous registrations of live moments and they are mined for demographics, ideas and experiences. Automatic scans are made generating meta-information on all kinds of subjects—from the momentous to the mundane. How will we decide what to store and what to discard or will others decide this for us? How to condense or prioritise in order to avoid spending half our lives looking back on the other half? Smart data-mining apps will aid us in processing the information we have already stored, but who sets their settings and creates our memories? And will we be able to enforce a right to be forgotten in a world that by definition keeps recording all dimensions of our behaviour?
The Impakt Festival 2015 The Future of the Past will offer reflections and new ideas on the future of ‘history’ and on the future of the ‘future’, including existing and new notions of ‘memory’, the ‘past’, ‘recollection’, ‘prediction’, in the framework of the almost unlimited data recording and storage capacities that are (being) developed in the world today.
Historical, poetical, technological and philosophical approaches will be combined to discuss the question of how a digitally created and conserved memory will construct our conceptions of the past and the future?
In a world well documented, future and past will not be what they used to be.