omniscient perspective


“[In our era] the computer screen [becomes] the ultimate window, but a window [that] not so much allow[s] you to receive data as to view the horizon of globalization, the space of  its accelerated virtualization…”

Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2000), 16.

“But  while architectural changes in the window were coincident with changes in perspective in modern painting early in the twentieth century, the media of film and television retained  a perspectival frame through the “modern” period. The moving image offered  multiple perspectives through the sequential shifts of montage and editing; yet, aside from a few historical anomalies, it has only been with the advent of digital imaging technologies  and new technologies of display in the 1990s that the media “window” began  to include multiple perspectives within a single frame.

Now, a variety of screens — long and wide and square, large and small, composed of grains, composed of pixels — compete for our attention without any (convincing) arguments  about hegemony.”

Anne Friedberg, “The Virtual Window” in Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition, ed. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Kindle Edition, 2003), 4710-4714. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Hardcover Edition, 2004), pp. 347-348.

With all his tools man improves on his own organs, both motor and sensory, or clears away barriers to their functioning. Engines place gigantic forces at his disposal, which he can direct, like his muscles, wherever he chooses; the ship and the aeroplane ensure that neither water nor air can hinder his movements. By means of spectacles he can correct the defect of his ocular lens; with the telescope he can see far into the distance; and with the microscope he can overcome the limits of visibility imposed by the structure of the retina. In the camera he has created an instrument that captures evanescent visual impressions, while the gramaphone record does the same for equally fleeting auditory impressions; both are essentially materializations of his innate faculty of recall, of his memory. With the help of the telephone he can hear sounds from distances that even the fairy tale would respect as inaccessible. Writing is in origin the language of the absent, the house a substitute for the womb — one’s first dwelling place, probably still longed for, where one was safe and felt so comfortable.

What man, through his science and technology has produced in this world, where he first appeared as a frail animal organism and where every individual of his species must still make his entry as a helpless babe — ‘oh inch of nature!’ — all this not only sounds like a fairy tale, but actually fulfils all — no, most — fairy-tale wishes. All these assets he can claim as cultural acquisitions. Long ago he formed an ideal conception of omnipotence and omniscience, which he embodied in his gods, attributing to them whatever seemed beyond the reach of his desires — or what was forbidden him. We may say, then, that these gods were cultural ideals. Man has now come close to reaching these ideals and almost become a god himself. Admittedly only in the way ideals are usually reached, according to the general judgement of humanity — not completely, in some respects not at all, in others only partly. Man has become so to speak, a god with artificial limbs. He is quite impressive when he dons all his auxiliary organs, but they have not become a part of him and still give a great deal of trouble on occasion. However, he is entitled to console himself with the fact that this development will not have come to an end in AD 1930. Distant ages will bring new and probably unimaginable advances in this field of civilization and so enhance his god-like nature. But in the interest of our investigation let us also remember that modern man does not feel happy with his god-like nature.

– Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents [1930]. David McLintock, trans. New York: Penguin, 2002, pp. 35-37.

How can we stop fashioning the discipline of film studies into a mirror of postcolonial world geopolitics? Can the neocolonial logic of film studies be corrected by going back to that perennial epistemological question, “Can we ever know the Other as the truly Other?” The problem here is not that this question is too complicated to be sufficiently answered by any response; that is, the problem is not the impossibility of the answer but the formulation of this particular question itself. By construing the Other as the sole bearer of difference, ths seemingly sincere question does nothing but conceal the fundamentally problematic nature of identity of the self.

The so-called imperialist misrepresentation or appropriation of the Other is an oxymoron. The Other cannot be misrepresented, since it is always already a misrepresentation. Imperialism starts to show its effect not when it domesticates the Other but the moment it posits the difference of the Other against the identity of the self. This fundamental imperialism of the self/Other dichotomy can never be corrected by the hermeneutics of the Other or cross-cultural exchange; on the contrary, the latter reinforces the imperialist logic under the guise of liberal humanism, or what Spivak calls ‘neocolonial anticolonialism.’”

Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, “The Difficulty of Being Radical: The Discipline of Film Studies and the Postcolonial World Order” in Masao Miyoshi and H.D. Harootunian (eds.) Japan in the World (Durham, N.C.: 1993), p. 353.

It’s natural that the French should more or less dominate the age. They are a chemical nation and in them the chemical sense is most widely developed, and they always conduct their experiments — not least in moral chemistry — on a grand scale. Likewise, the age is also a chemical one. Revolutions are universal, chemical not organic movements. Big business is the chemistry of a great economy, and there’s probably an alchemy of the same kind, too. That the novel, criticism, wit, sociability, the most recent rhetoric, and all previous history have a chemical makeup is self-evident. But until we have reached the stage of being able to characterize the universe and classify mankind, we have to be content with brief notes on the prevailing mood and individual mannerisms of the age, without even being able to draw a profile of the giant. For how would we go about finding out if the age is really an individual or perhaps only the collision point of other ages without this kind of preliminary knowledge? Where exactly does it begin and where does it end? How is it possible to understand and punctuate the contemporary period of the world correctly, if one can’t even foresee the general outlines of the subsequent one? By analogy to what I said before, an organic age will follow a chemical one, and the the citizens of the next solar revolution will probably think much less of us than we do now, and consider a great deal of what we now simply marvel at as only the necessary preliminary exercises of humanity.

– Friedrich Schlegel’s fragment no. 426 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

Perhaps one has to be arch-modern in order to gain a transcendental perspective on antiquity. Winckelmann felt the Greeks like a Greek. Hersterhuis, on the other hand, knew how to circumscribe modern amplitude beautifully with ancient simplicity, and from the height of his culture he cast, as if from a free frontier, equally meaningful glances into the old and the new world.

– August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 271 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.