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CTHEORY          
THEORY, TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE       VOL 26, NO 3   *** Visit CTHEORY Online: http://www.ctheory.net ***

 Article 133     03/09/16     Editors: Arthur and Marilouise Kroker

 Making the World Safe for Fashionable Philosophy!

 Joe Milutis
( , )

 Fashionable Philosophy on the Road to Revolutions

 A colleague of mine recently expressed malaise after showing ~The  Matrix~ accompanied by assigned readings from Baudrillard's  _Simulations_. According to her, students did not respond because  the connections were too apparent, and that the theory was, in a  sense, redundant with the film. But if Baudrillard is built into the  structure of ~The Matrix's~ narrative in the way Freud is built into  the narratives of Hitchcock's films, where was the undergraduate  frisson that we remembered when reading, for example, Freud's  theories of sexuality while watching Marnie? After some thought, I  came to the conclusion that the difficulty rested in a fundamental  misunderstanding of how Baudrillard worked within ~The Matrix~, a  misunderstanding that is widely shared. Because while the filmmakers  often attempt to acknowledge their debt to Baudrillard, they get  Baudrillard wrong. It's not that the connections are too obvious.  Rather the connections really don't connect up and are superficial at  best. It's as if the filmmakers read the first five pages of  _Simulations_, and misread them at that. However, is this misreading  a knowing one, one that sets viewers in interpretative unbalance, a  theoretical vertigo that makes the ~Matrix Reloaded~ (which I will  approach at the end of this essay), and ~Matrix Revolutions~  necessary and compelling sequels? 

 Near the beginning of ~The Matrix~, Neo has hidden some data  contraband inside a copy of Baudrillard's _Simulations_. The book  is a joke of simulation in itself; bound in green cloth with gilt  letters, it simulates the authority of a classic but has no backing  or substance. It is all surface -- the inside has been cut out, is  no longer essential. It is an empty prop in more ways than one. But  is it a key to the film?  Perhaps in the spirit of the logic of  simulation, its presence merely simulates that there is an inner  bookish meaning in what may be, in the end, a pure action film  humdinger. A number of 90s films attempt the same sort of alliance  between theoretical knowledge and film narrative. For example, in  ~The Truth About Cats and Dogs~, we find a love interest reading  Barthes' _Camera Lucida_ over the phone to a woman he thinks is Uma  Thurman's character but who is in actuality her more brainy and  ostensibly less physically desirable friend, played by Janeane  Garofalo. If you remember, Barthes' book on photography is a  meditation on the "punctum," the aspect of the photograph activated  by subjective desire. The film seems to equate Barthes' "the  punctum... is a kind of subtle beyond -- as if the image launched  desire beyond what it permits us to see" [1] with the more  sententious "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," or some other  triteness about inner beauty a la Cyrano de Bergerac. In a similar  way, in ~Permanent Midnight~, Elizabeth Hurley's character is reading  Heidegger, and I can imagine it is a way to announce that the film is  a reading of Heidegger's notion of "standing reserve." The term  designates stockpiled resources on hand that, while products of  technological progress, remain useless until they can reenter into  the system. ~Permanent Midnight~ is about talent as standing  reserve, and what happens while people wait for the call -- the  nightmare of waiting implicit in Hollywood work.

 These books may signal merely the fashionability of their  philosophies, if it weren't for the fact that they seem also to be  presented as keys. If we were to read Baudrillard as a key to ~The  Matrix~, one would have to ask why we are still drawn to this  authoritative fetish, even in the midst of cyberville -- locus of the  death of both the author and the book. What kinds of interpretive  traps do we get in by acknowledging the authoritative, rather than  fashionable, presence of this book?

 First and foremost, to gloss Baudrillard, for him, the truth is not  that there is none, but that the question of truth or non-truth is an  obsolescence. The difference between true and false is dissolved in  the logic of Capital, as laws of the universe become subject to the  'primum mobile' of exchange:
The real is produced from miniaturised units, from matrices,       memory banks and command models -- and with these it can be       reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be       rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or       negative instance. It is nothing more than operational. In fact,       since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer       real at all. It is a hyperreal, the product of an irradiating       synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without       atmosphere. [2]

 In the logic of the hyperreal, "matrices, memory banks, and command  models" generate the real, and this real is the world of the agents  in ~The Matrix~, not the imaginary, or transcendental "outside" which  the film determines is "the real world ." In fact, in Baudrillard's  conception, there is no outside, or "ideal instance" from which to  judge the simulation, and this lack of referentiality is the very  definition of the simulation. In the film, both the agents of Zion  and those of "the machine" are effectively outside, and productively  alienated from, the system where they do battle. In the case of the  machines, while the classic AI model of reality might hold within it  some idea of an agency that could conspire to enslave all humanity  and exploit its natural electromagnetic energies to power a theater  of an eternal 1999, more sophisticated theories of computer  intelligence recognize that reality is based on random evolutionary  and connective principles without pattern. In a sense, in these  theories of emergence, computers engender the universe of play of the  postmoderns by never approximating some ideal of knowledge, but by  creating new knowledge based on pressures and contingencies evolving  through ever changing definitions of the real . In Baudrillard's  nightmare view, a new totalitarianism, which cannot be resisted  (since there is no stable "outside" to its functioning), evolves out  of the matrix of AI, nuclear and genetic technology. But this vision  is not the vision of ~The Matrix~. 

 The film posits, in a fairly traditional way, another world -- a  transcendental signified -- which guarantees the manifest world. In  this way, ~The Matrix~ is less like Baudrillard and more like  _Midsummers' Night Dream_ or some other neo-Platonist fantasy. ~The  Matrix~ keeps the reality principle in tact by positing a place from  which simulation can be judged and compared. In many ways, computers  have been sold to the public in the last 20 years by maintaining this  reality principle -- gesturing to the potential not only for  virtuality but also radicality and spirituality through home  computing. Apple's famous ~1984~commercial, directed by Ridley  Scott, posited the Macintosh as a way to rage against Big Brother.  Through choosing Apple, we would collectively explode the consensual  hallucination, as the young punky woman in jogging attire did when  she hurled a sledgehammer towards the television monitor. Later,  computers would be sold as spiritual technologies, as references to  eastern religions proliferated through computer ad copy -- a trend in  which ~The Matrix~ marks an important cultural moment. But for  Baudrillard, both radicalism and metaphysics have become simulations  in themselves. Charming evocations of a past age, both leftism and  spirituality (or at least their caricatures) posit or guarantee  another world behind the false one, to which desires more righteous  tend.

 So if ~The Matrix~ is a moral tale positing that we should all try to  search for the true meaning of life behind false appearances, then  Baudrillard's ~Simulations~ is definitely not the correct manual for  this application. More interestingly though, and to the credit of  the filmmakers, is the idea that perhaps ~The Matrix~ is a moral tale  about the problems of reading reality or film _via outmoded  authoritative structures _such as the book, and by association  Baudrillard or even film theory. Does the film intentionally get  Baudrillard wrong? Have academics all over the world, in adopting  ~The Matrix~ for their classes, taken the Baudrillard bait? It would  seem that the main theme of this film, like an Edgar Allan Poe story  in hyperdrive, is decoding -- not only the decoding that goes on in  the plot, but the activity of audience decoding. If decoding a film  via poststructuralist classics is a dead end, how does this film  create an alternative? 

 The Electromagnetic Soap Opera

 The first shot of the film is a blinking cursor, waiting for input.  This cursor announces that there will be nothing to see, only a  string of text operating at the level of the command line interface.  This textual substrait of the image is referred to throughout, as  the green and black of old-time computer screens imbue the image, in  what can only be called "raster-chic." Decoding this machine  language, one would need a form of what Woody Vasulka calls "machine  semiotics,"[3] rather than Baudrillard or perhaps Lacan (whose Real  is also quite different than that of ~The Matrix~. However, there  seems to be some subtle alliance between Lacan and Lewis Carroll or  Jean Cocteau when Neo, before entering the "real world" will get  covered and consumed by a mirror-like substance which, once he  masters it, he consumes himself -- a Mobius strip-like rewrite of  the "Mirror Stage.") The film's constant rain refers less to  cloudbursts than to glitches at the level of this primary code,  since it makes one think of the rain of data from the opening  credits, ~The Matrix's~ signature visualization of machine language.  When a sprinkler system goes off inside the citadel of the agents,  it seems less like it is extinguishing a fire, and more like it is  extinguishing the image, as if data is malfunctioning to the extent  that the system of false images will break down, allowing us to see  the code. Even machine-gunned bullets hitting faux-marble columns  seem more like disaggregated pixels than actual violence, a  disturbance of in the image, a breaking through appearances to get at system knowledge. The true world of ~The Matrix~, then, seems to  be premised on a nostalgia for pre-interface computing. The dialog  itself sounds like text-based VR (MOO or MUD-speak), a product of  command-line computer culture, whose hackers and programmers --  indebted to Dungeon and Dragons -- live the world of flow-chart-like  narrative choices: "Don't go down that road," "One of these lives  has a future, the other does not," and the famous red pill/blue pill  choice. Given the way the text-based interface is valorized in this  film, Morpheus iconoclasm seems not merely to be directed toward the  iconology of a slick pixelless interface, but toward cinema itself.

 In tandem with this foregrounding of text and the semiology of the  command line is another system of meaning that challenges  traditional textual analysis -- the electromagnetic. ~The Matrix~ is  a plausibly engineered fictional world in that its Rube Goldberg of  digital and electromechanical technology is not mere mise-en-scene,  adding to the film's hyperfuturism shot through with retrofuturist  charm, but is productive of the dramatic tensions and narrative  solutions of the film, i.e. infrastructure is protagonist, and a  misunderstood one at that. The matrix's Achilles heel, it would  seem, is that it is not purely digital, but is designed to feed off  natural bioenergy -- in effect, it is dependent on the human heart.  This feature places the film in the sub-genre I like to call "the  electromagnetic soap opera." This category includes any science  fiction motivated by the combination of electromagnetic science and  Theosophical mysticism, whose characters operate in worlds where  invisibles blur in the orgone haze of wavelength, plasma and  'prana', where forbiddingly complex technospheres generate  impossible scenarios which are nevertheless explainable and  controllable via the powers of the heart and the understanding of  true nature. ~Star Wars~, ~Johnny Mnemonic~, ~The 5th Element~ , and  most of Japanese anime (notably in the television series ~Neon  Genesis Evangelion~) engage in this technoscientific mysticism.  Because the matrix enslaves natural bioenergy, it would seem that  the traditional call to the pulsations of the heart would be  suspect. In the history of cosmological mysticism -- origins of the  science of electromagnetism -- the powers of the heart are what  provide direct access to more absolutely exterior sources of energy  (the sun, the heavens).  They are also what connects human to  machine when God is replaced by a ubiquitous nexus or energies, the  pulse that modulates all materiality. Yet in the world of ~The  Matrix~, the sky has been scorched, sundering the ethereal  connection between human and heaven. It is a spiritual as well as  material pollution, since natural energy no longer comes from the  cosmos. Electromagnetic energies no longer connect human electricity  to deep space. Left without even a Gnostic deity, or the pagan  blessing of a sunny day, humanity is constantly on the verge of  becoming posthuman. 

 When Neo is plugged into the system, running off his own  electromagnetic energy, like all citizens of the matrix he is  susceptible to the agents and can be possessed by them. The  transport chairs are networked through a system of old-fashioned  black rotary phones, ostensibly utilizing "old" copper wire  technology. Cell phones, in contrast, are associated more with the  agents (when they are used by the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, it is  only for communication in moments of helplessness and as a device of  betrayal). On the one hand, the rotary phone represents merely a way  to get into the system that is unpoliced. On the other, copper wire  is posited as the means of transport, as if its ability to translate  electrical, analogue impulses rather than packets of zeros and ones  makes it a vehicle for channeling what is essentially human -- a  humanity that is reduced to its electrical ontology and thus  exploited in an extreme way; Neo is twice reminded of his "coppertop"   status.

 In the cosmology of computer languages, an electromagnetic pulse is  initially translated into ones and zeros, off and on -- and this  translation marks the primal alienation of the digital from the  referentiality of the analogue. Those ones and zeros of machine  language -- the liveliness of which is indebted to natural energetics  in the same way a mill runs off the energy of a river -- are then  parsed into different levels of programming language. Programming  language is then manipulated by means of the interface, at which  point, one need not be conscious of the deeper levels of system  management. For ~The Matrix~, the agents (programmers) come up  against hackers who question the ways in which they've organized  these languages. "We couldn't find the programming language to  describe your perfect world."  In a sense, like the soap opera, ~The  Matrix~ tries to approximate this perfect world through obsessive  telephoning. But ~The Matrix~ also resembles a particularly  postmodern form of 'Naturphilosophie', or rather a new etherealism.  If the mill's exploitation of natural resources through the process  of industrialization once inspired writers to imagine the river  without its industry, so here, the exploitation of electromagnetism  in the 20th century (from radio, to television, and the computer),  has inspired a subgenre of science fiction that tries to imagine the  world of frequencies and waves without the technology that enframes  them. This electromagnetic etherealism far from positing distinct  worlds promises a continuum, a real which, rather than existing  outside of the system, more properly infiltrates all -- and code is  its double, 1s and 0s piggybacking each pulsation of the real. 

 When Morpheus says "Welcome to the real world," we are perhaps  convinced, instead of any continuum, of the divisions between real  and false that the film proffers. The whole color palette changes in  the Nebuchadnezzar, from the raster-green to a more Calvin-Kleiny  blue, grey, brown. In this way, the distinction is made between a  world based purely on code (green/black) and one which, while hooked  into the world of code, is exploiting the electromagnetic in a more  industrial paradigm. Throughout, we get the sense that Morpheus  isn't entirely right on, that he's like some 60s Marxist who has lost  touch with the world but who is nevertheless groovy, so we suffer him  when he says things like "I'm here to free our mind." His insistence  on the Nebuchadnezzar as the real world is perhaps just what  Baudrillard calls a "reality effect." There's always the even more  "real" Zion, and at least one crew member (Cypher) mutines against  Morpheus' concept of the real. Neo's messianic powers outright  derive from a misreading or reinterpretation of Morpheus' teachings.  While Morpheus' Mosaic dogma posits an outside of the system, Neo  literally dives into the system by which he is enslaved (when he  dives into the body of the agent); when he emerges at the other end,  we are led to believe that the code is a reality that even the agents  don't understand. Up to this point in the film, the green and black  colors signify that the world is illusion, but paradoxically, when  Neo sees the green and black code everywhere, he has attained true  knowledge (one could say that, instead of approximating a Christian  messiah, he is here a kind of super-Jew -- Christ without the reality  principle of the break from Judaism, Christ without Christianity,  Christ with Kabbala). Morpheus' battle is that of the typical man  versus machine. Neo's affinity for the machine world unsettles the  terms of this battle, and his colleagues marvel "he's a machine."

 In a sense, then, ~The Matrix~ sets up a philosophical argument, of  which the references to _Simulations_ are not the last word and the  key, but rather first steps towards another set of arguments --  which may, in the end, turn out to be Baudrillard dialectically  recharged. The very color-coding of the film, created in order to  convince viewers about the divisions between the real world and the  simulated one, is just a code, as dubious as the code of the agents.  The color red, color of false leads (as in a "red-herring") is  utilized in this scheme to denote distraction of false reality. A  woman appears in a red dress in the construct to warn Neo of the  deadly consequences of distraction, and Cypher, the apostate, wears  a red sweater in the Nebuchadnezzar. But it is also through the  agency of the red pill that anyone is ever able to get to Morpheus'  "real world." In this way, if we go beyond one layer of color-coding  in the film, another layer contradicts it or calls it into question  (if we wanted to remain within the postmodern model here, these  layers would not take us deeper and deeper but would exist  simultaneously as their own self-sustaining interpretive fictions,  just as choosing not to "overanalyze" a film exists in a world with  its own 'physis' just as does the world of the rigorous reading).  For the film, it would seem that our interpretations more than our  actions are what carry us along and determine our fate. Consider,  for example, the multiple interpretations of the message of the  Oracle, or a crucial, casual misread by Cypher at the moment when  Neo is about to go "down the rabbit hole." As the impact of the red  pill starts to disrupt the input/output signals through which Neo is  wired to the mass-hallucination, Cypher says, "Kansas is going  bye-bye." Of course, in ~The Wizard of Oz~, Kansas is the "real  world" and OZ is the world of fancy, so Cypher's evocation is  completely upside-down. It would seem that the hull of the  Nebuchadnezzar is the very Kansas, with all its depression-era  hardship, that has been lost to the OZification of culture. Cypher  is a character who is always getting his dichotomies mixed up, and  in the end finds himself on the wrong side of them. It would seem,  then, that the film equates evil with unsubtle thought. 

 The comparison to ~OZ~, though, is instructive, not merely because of  the color palette change signifying transport from real to fantasy,  nor, as a colleague has pointed out, because of the production of the  film in Australia.  Even ~OZ~ deconstructs its own reality principle  implicit in the color shift that announced color film to the world  (in the same way ~The Matrix~ announced flo-motion and virtual camera  work). Consider the depiction of Dorothy's Kansas, a dust bowl idyll  which now may seem as fantastic as OZ if we appreciate Kansas'  particular conjunction of technology and culture specific to a time  now lost but not, by far, outside of the matrix of the machine. When  we first are introduced to Auntie Em, she is busying herself with a  chick incubator, leading us to wonder if in the biotech future there  will be stranger reasons for Dorothy's lack of mother. When Dorothy  sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by a mechanical reaper, her  enmeshedness in this machine's reality undoubtedly also has a certain  science fictional charm. (Similarly, in the "real" of ~The Matrix~,  the crew wears artfully detangled sweaters that remind us of the  computer's origin in the Jacquard loom, and of the impossibility of  disengaging ourselves from the warp and woof of machine reality.)  ~The Wizard of Oz~, while emerging from that homespun American  mystical vitalism described in its own epigram as a "kindly  philosophy" that "Time has been powerless to put ... out of fashion,"  has a covert cynicism. Dorothy is an ingenue who cannot fathom the  constantly dire situation that history and circumstances have placed  her wards. While the film's dialogue ends on an upbeat note  ("There's no place like home!") the soundtrack strikes a sour note,  as if to point out that Dorothy's idea of home, as well as her  fantasy, is at worst delusional or cretinish at best a fragile  fiction conceived to hold off time and history -- the forces that  will serve to potentially bankrupt her wards (Almira Gulch, aka the  Wicked Witch of the West, owns half of the county, after all), and  scatter their provisional family structure to the wind.[4]


 The Return to "The Desert of the Real"

 In the raging campaigns against fashionable philosophy, more kindly  philosophies return with a vengeance, without distance or irony, and  with implicit anti-intellectual intent. But I would argue that they  are only received as such, because seemingly naive 'Naturphilosophie'  can be a rather sophisticated reaction to a reality that has  outstripped even our most sophisticated theorizations of it. For  ~The Matrix~ and especially ~The Matrix Reloaded~, it is the moment  when interpretation must give way to action. The charm of this  action series, however, is the fact that action is determined by the  quality of interpretation. The simple impulse and intuitive leap is  qualitatively determined by a prior engagement with complexities.  People who stream into today's current "mind bending" films might be  willing to undertake only so many philosophical gymnastics, which is  why the complaint about ~Matrix Reloaded~ seems to be nearly  unanimously towards the long discursive segments of the film. No  doubt, these disquisitions are undertaken by fellows who were perhaps  chosen for their comic-book evocation of whiteness in this  afrocentric sequel -- The Head Councilor, The Merovingian, and The  Architect -- and we are in this way asked to question their ideas.  But the benevolent Councilor starts to clarify for viewers what Neo  was already intuitively aware of by the end of the first movie: that  the machine is everywhere, there is no outside, and that the issue is  not one of true and false, human and machine, but rather one of  control. Here, we have, in a sense, had a Baudrillardian homecoming.  The strict boundaries between the dream world and the world of  reality are broken down in ~Reloaded~, compounded by strange  intercutting between matrix, Zion, and Nebuchadnezzar. The first  sense we get of the weakness of these barriers between worlds is when  we see Neo haunted by dreams of the matrix. One would have to ask,  how does one dream about a dream world (unless its real)? Recall  Zizek's description in _The Sublime Object of Ideology_ of the  Lacanian notion of the dream:
[T]he Lacanian thesis [is] that it is only in the dream that we       come close to the real awakening -- that is, to the Real of our       desire. When Lacan says that the last support of what we call  'reality' is a fantasy, this is definitely not to be understood       in the sense of 'life is just a dream', 'what we call reality is      just an illusion', and so forth. We find such a scheme in many       science-fiction stories: reality as a generalized dream or       illusion. The story is usually told from the perspective of a       hero who gradually makes the horrifying discovery that all the       people around him are not really human beings but some kind of       automatons, robots, who only look and act like real human       beings; the final point of these stories is of course the hero's       discovery that he himself is also such an automaton and not a       real human being... . The Lacanian thesis is, on the contrary,       that there is always a hard kernel, a leftover which persists       and cannot be reduced to a universal play of illusory mirroring.       The difference between Lacan and "naive realism" is that for       Lacan, the only point at which we approach this hard kernel of       the Real is indeed the dream. When we awaken into reality after       a dream, we usually say to ourselves 'it was just a dream',       thereby blinding outselves to the fact that in our everyday,       wakening reality we are nothing but a consciousness of this       dream. [5] 

 So it is that, while the rebels maintain a pose (or repose) of  slumber in their transport chairs, they do so without seeming to  sleep ... as if they work at rectifying a trauma, which remains in  the Real.

 There is no discovery of a truth in the ~Matrix~ movies, or rather,  each one has a truth, which continues to overturn another. The first  ~Matrix~ offers in a sense a more childlike view of the world, while  ~Matrix Reloaded~ becomes cynical only to return to the childlike  again (and Neo will have to retain whatever childlike impetuosity he  has retained from the first film, in order to maintain a connection  to his power). We could also say that ~The Matrix~ pits mechanical  social realism versus digital hyperrealism, while ~Matrix Reloaded~  asserts a digital-mechanical continuum (the opening code-rain of  ~Matrix Reloaded~ becomes the gears of an old mechanical  punch-clock), and the ubiquity of programming (with differences drawn  between the poorly written and the upgraded). In this new version,  Morpheus becomes immediately suspect ... he's wearing the red sweater  of delusion, and the film shows how his vision is questioned by his  peers, clouded by desire, and finally exposed as its own dream. His  last line in ~Reloaded~ may be a call to reload the terms of racial  politics, but it also points to the irrational aspect of his  righteous single-mindedness about what is real: "I dreamed a dream  and now that dream is gone from me."

The revealed ubiquity of programming in the sequel overwhelms the  possibility of actual choice, but there is, once again, a return to  the powers of the heart from out of the Baudrillardian vertigo , and  also a return to action. The Oracle, who turns out to be a program  herself, is an intuitive program, of lesser mind than the Architect,  but her intuitive nature makes her more powerful than the Architect  who knows too much. While Neo pains himself over the choice of  accepting her offer of a piece of red candy, it's just candy, after  all. The status ultimately accorded to interpretative keys has  perhaps been reduced in ~Reloaded~ to the status accorded the wizened  keyman -- "handy." It is, after all, Neo's connection to Trinity  which gives him his super powers. At the end of ~Reloaded~, Neo  stops the sentinels dead in their tracks with a surge of electricity  from his body. Prior to this moment, Neo's powers have only been  actuated in the virtual world of the matrix, but here, they are  working in the supposed "real," and from the heart as it were.  Instead of the power to hack and reprogram, this power to stop the  sentinels is electromagnetic, auratic -- a Theosophical burst of  chakra energy -- encouraging one more suspension of interpretation  before the last episode.

 The Matrix films reload a number of arguments. One can think of the  Marxist meme from the "Theses on Feuerbach" about philosophy versus  action. The Althusserian cunning of Agent Smith's greeting of "Mr.  Anderton" (he's always trying to convince Neo that he's only human)  opens up rickety anti-humanist debates. But the argument that  remains most trenchant seems to be the one which leaps out of the  debate, or at least tries to. Thinking about the green codes, I  begin to think not only of emerald cities and green witches, but I  think of that famous definition of green by the late and legendary  experimental filmmaker, Stan Brakhage. He was indubitably aware of  his naivete when he asked readers to: "Imagine an eye unruled by  man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional  logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but  which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure  of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the  crawling baby unaware of 'Green?'" [6] Brakhage got a lot of flack  for this type of film theorization over the years of his long and  productive career. But his gambit, which was the gambit of  Eisenstein as well, was that something remained within the image,  beyond the word, exceeding the peremptory force of language. Hollis  Frampton, in many ways the anti-Brakhage, described the seductions of  what he called "logophobia" in this way: 

 Eisenstein was at once a gifted linguist, an artist haunted by the  claims of language -- and also, by training, an engineer. It seems  possible to suggest that he glimpsed, however quickly, a project  beyond the intellectual montage: the construction of a machine, very  much like film, more efficient than language, that might, entering  into direct competition with language, transcend its speed,  abstraction, compactness, democracy, ambiguity, power ... a project,  moreover, whose ultimate promise was the constitution of an external  critique of language itself. If such a thing were to be, a  consequent celestial mechanics of the intellect might picture a body  called Language, and a body called Film, in symmetrical orbit about  one another, in perpetual and dialectical motion. [7] 

 Is this the machine where Neo finds himself? Between the powers of  the textual and the powers of the image, between analysis and  emersion, the past and fashion's flair, interpretation and change, is  precisely where Neo tries to find the future, or at the very least a  'tertium quid'. But will the action hero be able to save the world  once again?

 Notes:

 [1] Roland Barthes, _Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography_.  1980. Trans. Richard Howard. (NY: Hill and Wang, 1981), 59.

 [2] Jean Baudrillard. _Simulations_. Trans. Paul Foss, et al.  (NY: Semiotext[e], 1983), 3.

 [3] Woody Vasulka and Charles Hagen. "A Syntax of Binary Images: An  Interview with Woody Vasulka." _Afterimage 6_, nos. 1/2 (Summer  1978), 20-31.

 [4] After writing this paragraph, I thought I should finally read  Salman Rushdie's BFI Film monograph on ~The Wizard of Oz~, thinking  that his take might be similar. As one could imagine, Rushdie did  take a cynical stance towards the film's notion of "home," however  merely as a question of cosmopolitan taste. For those with good  luck, good looks, and a talent for living, there is indeed a home in  ~OZ~. The dreary Kansas should be left behind. However, I would  insist on the unstable balance between these two no-places. "No  place like home" could literally mean that home is nowhere, utopian.  Kansas is already post-natural, a place adrift like OZ, and the two  places merely form two extremes of what we would now call diaspora.  See Salmon Rushie. _The Wizard of OZ_. (London: BFI, 1992).

 [5] Slavoj Zizek. _The Sublime Object of Ideology_.  (NY: Verso,  1989), 47.

 [6] Stan Brakhage. "Camera Eye -- My Eye." From _New American  Cinema: A Critical Anthology_, ed. Gregory Battcock. (Dutton, 1967),  211.

 [7] Hollis Frampton. "Film in the House of the Word." From _Circles  of Confusion: Film/ Photography/ Video Texts 1968-1980_. (Rochester:  Visual Studies Workshop P, 1983), 85.

 Joe Milutis is a writer and media artist.  He is Assistant Professor  of Art at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches sound  art production. Current projects include, in addition to a book  length manuscript on the ether, an experimental episodic musical  about memory, repetition, and an interminable, totalitarian  Christmas. Written work has appeared in _Cabinet_, _Afterimage_,  _Artbyte_, _Wide Angle_, and _Experimental Sound and Radio_ (ed.   Allen Weiss), among other places.




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