domingo, 30 de dezembro de 2012

The Sharpest Ideology: That Reality Appeals to its Realistic Character by Alexander Kluge

It must be possible to present reality as the historical fiction that it is. Its impact on the individual is real, is fate. But it is not fate, but made by the labour of generations of men who the whole time actually wanted and want something completely different.

In this sense it is in various respects simultaneously real and unreal. Real and unreal in every one of its individual aspects: collective wishes of men, labour power, relations of production, persecution of witches, history of wars, life histories of individuals. Each of these aspects themselves and all together have an antagonistic quality: they are a crazy fiction and they have a real impact.

This makes for rigidity. Frozen coldness. Men die as a result, are pulled apart, are subjected to bombing raids, are dead while alive, are placed in asylums as mad, etc.
Reality is real in that it really oppresses men. It is unreal in that every oppression only displaces energies. They disappear from sight but they con­tinue to work underground. The repressed is the source of all labour under­neath the terror of the real.

A so-called love scene is for example such a real fiction. We are all accus­tomed to measure such a scene in a film - or in reality - by 'realistic criteria', which are supposedly contained in this scene itself. The love scene, however, is only realistic if for example the future abortion is also built into it.

But also the history of all earlier abortions. The same applies to a love scene in reality whether or not the pair think of abortion, whether or not this is relevant for the concrete case.

All previous experience, also that excluded by contraception, also that of parents and grandparents and of all other love scenes, is present in the concrete scene. The conflict between tenderness and the untender consequences, the excessive expectation and how much of it is fulfilled, precisely this is the real content. All other perceptions are measured against the sharpness of this conflict. Iso­lated, reduced to the 'present', the love scene becomes ideological. The scene also becomes ideological if all the illusions are cast out. It could not take place.

The history of whole generations and of all its consequences stamps the capa­city or the incapacity for love, all forms of expression in the scene, all contact, all hesitation, the spontaneity. The foreshortened perception of the sexuality of the woman is real if it is thought that it applies to orgasm, but also her real sexual history, which goes on being narrated until the child is born, grows up, includ­ing the history of children, who through contraception are not conceived, but who then negatively determine any particular moment. Whole novels are in­volved, without which the individual scene is not realistic.

An admirer of reality lets things be, takes a walk through reality, ‘lives'. Apparently he has a congruous relation - no protest occurs. This is an error, however. How does it come about that the 'monstrous assembly of commodities' takes no notice of his human needs and that he doesn't notice this? 'In practice I can only relate humanly to things when things relate humanly to men'. Things do not, however, relate humanly to him.

How does it happen that he doesn't perceive this? The distorters of consciousness have already had their effect on him. He has to have destroyed all realism of the senses in order to attain and maintain his contentedness.

This highly ideological labour presupposes the protest, which must have occurred very early in this case, now the energy of protest has been worked off, transformed into 'harmony'. Social nature can produce no balanced relation to the real.

The motive for realism is never the confirmation of reality but protest. Protest ex­presses itself in various ways: through radical imitation (clowning, insistence, mimicry, surface coherence, absurdity, mimesis), through escape from the pressure of reality (dream, negation, exaggeration, invention, replacement of a problem by another, salto mortale, simple omission, utopia), or attack ('Destroy what is destroying you', aggressive montage, annihilation of the object, clicheing the opponent, self-doubt, representation taboos, destruction of the metier, guillo­tine).

The distinction between escape (schematism of the pressure of reality) and attack (schematism of the self-defence of the subject) is outwardly gradual and mostly not recognisable in reality. A variant of the attack, the annihilating reaction, is the violent righting of the inverted relation to things. The reactions of the apparatus of consciousness (imitation, escape) are repressed in the interest of a ‘rational', ‘balanced attitude'.

In all these cases protest (moral feeling, rage, reason) finds direct expression. This direct response, however, distorts the capacity to differentiate within rea­lity, the grid of attention. What is realistic in this response (the protest itself, the motive) and what is ideological (the result, the statement) cannot be separated from each other.

This is least harmful in the case of imitation. Only the analytic interest, the clarity, of the statement is affected here. In the work forms of escape and attack the real determination can still be indirectly comprehended by trans­lating back. In the case of violent righting, of rationalising on the other hand, the original relation to reality is almost impossible to reconstruct, it has disappeared in favour of the clarity of statement, of the precision of the battlefront.

Thus not only reality as object is antagonistic but also every human method of work­ing on this reality, whether the effort operates within the real relations or whether it places itself above the object. What is realistic here, the anti-realism of the motive (pro­test, resistance) produces the unrealistic.

The key lies in the work process itself. First of all it is a question of producing the capacity of differentiation at any price: not the radicalising of the results (they are not the root) but the differentiation of the realism of the motive (first step).

The realism of the motive is determined by its confrontation with all the collective and individual, immediate (events) and mediated (reported knowledge) contents of experience. This takes place in the head and is real. It presupposes the method of association and an organised capacity of remembrance. The restruc­turing of sensuous interest to a sensuous-socialised, thoroughly analytic ‘second instinct'.

Inseparable from the realism of the motive is the realism of the method of opera­tion ofthe human perceptual apparatus (second step).

It has its own laws of motion. An analytic method is hidden in them, which has to be translated back. These laws of motion of the apparatus of consciousness are the outcomes of the work of protest of the whole human species, its living work. In an unreal social con­text (of alienation) they express themselves through resistances, distortions, in­hibitions, exaggeration, illusionary identification and subtraction, that is to say, in a completely unrealistic way. But it is precisely this resistance which provides their analytic, realistic key. ‘For only what does not fit into this world is true' (Adorno). The recognition of the realism of protest and of the realism of the hu­man brain with its reshaping reaction to reality, that is, the species given nature of protest, is the fundamental condition of realism.

This is the subjective side, to which corresponds the mediation of the objec­tive side: the actual situation (third step). Nowadays it is almost never 'naturally' available to the senses.
It has to be produced, constructively, reductively, even when it appears as though it has only been 'found'. This finding already presup­poses analytic and synthetic labour, otherwise nothing is found. This finding is active, because it is determined by the leaving out of everything else. It is 'etched out'. What the individual camera shot does not include is shaped into a situation. Only in this way can the pre- - and after- - history, which is intrinsic to every situation, be made visible.

It is always the question of a constellation. An actual situation in itself, that is, the mere individual shot, does not contain the organising element which makes it concrete. Thus the discovery of concrete situations presupposes the production of the means of production, the forms of authentic observation (fourth step). This produc­tion process is not for instance identical with the application of film technique or of styles. The production of the forms of expression must rather be concrete, following the analytic method, and respond to the proceeding steps 1 to 3. Strictly speaking, authentic laws of form would thus have to be newly developed for every film. In every case the taking over of formal laws from the history of the film has to be freshly tested for each new film.

The classical ideal of the unity of form and content will thus reveal itself as schematic. The realisms of the motive, of human perception (distortion), the realism of the actual, that is, social situa­tions and the realism of the filmic means of production - they are all formal laws of the social reality and not the substance of the individual film or of the individual artist's head. The alien formal laws of society in relation to the indi­vidual film material give the proportions of the resultant product.

The means of expression is the difference, the basic disharmony between the individual product and reality, not the easily fabricated harmony of the individual material with itself.

Finally the production of the horizon of experience (fifth step). Without such a context of experience, which mediates experience in the production of experience, neither motive nor perception of constellation can exist or direct themselves, nor are there criteria for the authenticity of the means of production. Without it there would be no collectivity.

This horizon of experience is the specific form of the public sphere, in which the whole cultural work of experience takes place. The reshaping of the public sphere is therefore the condition and at the same time that most important object which the realistic method works on and against.

It is not a question of waiting for the reshaping of the horizon of experi­ence, because for instance the separation of experiences through the compartmentalisation of the bourgeois public sphere hampers each of the steps named here, rather the uncompromising production of realistic products is itself the means of changing the horizon of experience by breaking through the limits of the public sphere. If it is a question for example of changing the cinematic hor­izon, then films are one of the means of expanding the horizon of experience.

 On the other hand reality itself produces a breaking through of the classical horizons of the public sphere. For instance: forms of perception, contents of rea­lity penetrate the cinema, which did not originate in the cinema but arise from the permanently changing reproduction of society. The cutting out of the sec­ondary in favour of the primary, for example the feet or the body in the interest of the close-up, is prepared through the social cutting into shape of labour power. Only if this is given in the experience of the audience can the film make film language out of it. All this has the character of a construction site.

It is fundamentally imperfect and it is therefore permissible to make an outline of the realistic method without taking into account that neither one's own films nor film history, neither the practice of today's author films nor the films of the proletcult movement, nor the work of groups of political film-makers can fill in this outline, because it is anyway only provisional.

Cinema, author film, political film are a programme unrealised. For this reason it is not a contradiction when radical method and early capitalist forms of production of 1810 stand side by side in the practical work of author films. Another aspect: it is not a contradiction when one ex­presses ruthless modernity, that is, formal laws of the present, in the most primi­tive possible forms of the silent film.

I do not take up the silent film in my films for stylistic reasons, but because it is a question of 'radically' keeping open the ele­mentary roots of the film as long as the total structure of the cinema is only a programme. This is the source of the need for robustness. Not because it is a ques­tion of robustness, but because it answers elementary interests of the audience, who have this robustness, the unfinished, the open character of a building site in themselves. Therefore method: yes, but antiprofessional, with all imperfec­tions: ‘cinema impure'.

Some additional comments: the method described above of violent righting (rationalistic procedure) has to be excluded. The direct interest in a realistic re­sult, which is contained in it and is in itself correct, makes every one of the necessary steps impossible. It is not so much a stumbling as a damaging of the means of production, of the object of production, of the apparatus of conscious­ness and a chopping to pieces of the raw material of experience. It cannot be too strongly opposed.

Against this, the method of imitation together with the examination of all the escape  movements of the human subjective apparatus offer outstanding new material. These movements contain the whole collective historical store of ex­perience, admittedly fragmented into individual segments together with distor­tions, which result from the antagonisms of subjective and objective reality, that is to say, the complete raw material of historical experience - in a disguised form. Whoever does not have the confidence to engage with this material can forget about the realistic method.

The finding of situations is an extraordinarily comprehensive and radical la­bour of construction. One gets an idea of it if one observes how in his novel Ulysses James Joyce writes more than a thousand pages to concretise 24 hours of the average man Leopold Bloom.

Proust: capacity for remembrance in seven volumes. The concreteness of the situation presupposes a radical complexity of the narration. All forms of expression of the bourgeois public sphere - the prin­ciple of actuality, the obviousness of the points, the grammar itself, the grid of the language of communication, the ways of organising narrative interests and types, including the epic, etc. - fragment the complexity of perception, which is in fact the basic form of the senses.

My intention is to make clear what the pro­duction of sensuous concreteness, the production of filmable situations is. The reason why such a grasping and narration of situations does not exist in any medium lies in the fact that too little labour power is invested in this direction.
Reality does produce such complexes in natural form. It is simply that they remain unnarrated. Reduction and construction, both methods of production of 'scenes', are possible artistic forms of expression but they are also real forms, with which history cuts men into shape for its own novel of reality. All aesthetic laws of form are in this sense read off from reality and never 'artistic invention'. They are also always produced in the heads of the audience before they occur to an author. The author merely has the possibility of using them correctly or falsely.

What does apply is the following: either social history narrates its novel of reality without regard for men or men narrate their counter-history. They can only do this, however, on the level of the complexity of reality. This demands in the most literal sense the 'art object', an aggregate of art objects. Sensuousness as method is not a natural product of society.

Translated by David Roberts

In: Alexander Kluge: Raw Material for the Imagination. Amsterdam, 2012, pp. 191-196.

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