In 1967, just after the de-colonization of Algeria, Franz Fanon wrote “being colonized by a language has large implications for one’s consciousness. To speak… is to exist absolutely for the other…it means, above all, to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization.” (1967: 17). Fanon’s thoughts are particularly relevant today, wherein past presents haunt the Ethernets, and people continue to don “white masks” so as to consider themselves universal subjects, equally participating in societies that advocate equality, abstracted from appearance. The real/virtual interface of global cultural relations places a heavy emphasis on the intercultural accountings of identity, memory and consciousness.
The conventional wisdom on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up is that it questions the possibility of perceiving “reality” non-reflectively; that active signification, semiotic interpretation and conceptual meaning-production necessarily interject between the perceiving subject and the perceived object. By this reading, the true meaning of the events in the park in Blow-Up can only be brought to light through the mediating function of Thomas’s (David Hemmings) photographs, and their reconstitution in the form of a semiotic narrative.
Framed in medium close shot, a young skinhead–head shaven, the tatoo of a swastika on his forehead–stands up abruptly and moves towards the camera. Sustained by the movement of the apparatus, his body appears to be projected forward as if smashing into the viewer’s face. The actor’s aggressive body language is reinforced by the slightly lingering camera and the discordant punk music creating a visual choc, a moment of characteristic high tension in this opening sequence.
Proprioception: from “proprius-ception, ‘one’s own’ ception (…) the ‘body’ itself as, by movement of its own tissues, giving the data of, depth”
(Charles Olson, “Proprioception”)
Up until now, it has not proved common in philosophy for readers to experience the breathless rush through sensory landscapes one finds in novels by William Gibson, or better, Jeff Noon (Vurt, Pollen). Philosophers of most stripes like to recapitulate; to reconstruct a context; to take you back a few steps in time and show you the emergence of an idea. Granted, there have been a few books in recent years coming out of the phenomenological tradition which emphasize the most physical…
“I cannot understand the function of the living body except by enacting it myself,
and except in so far as I am a body which rises towards the world.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“Nothing will come of nothing: speak again!”
William Shakespeare, King Lear
It would be legitimate to speak of ‘natural signs’ only if the anatomical organisation of our body produced a correspondence between specific gestures and ‘given states of mind’. The fact is that the behaviour associated with anger or love is not the same in a Japanese and an occidental. Or, to be more precise, the difference in behaviour corresponds to a difference in the emotions themselves. It is not only the gesture which is contingent in relation to the body’s organisation, it is the manner itself in which we meet the situation and live it.