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Avoiding the Subject

Avoiding the Subject: Media, Culture and the Object

Justin Clemens
Dominic Pettman
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Avoiding the Subject
    Book Description:

    What can Roger Rabbit tell us about the Second Gulf War? What can a woman married to the Berlin Wall tell us about posthumanism and inter-subjectivity? What can DJ Shadow tell us about the end of history? What can our local bus route tell us about the fortification of the West? What can Reality TV tell us about the crisis of contemporary community? And what can unauthorized pictures of Osama Bin Laden tell us about new methods of popular propaganda? These are only some of the thought-provoking questions raised in this lively and erudite collection of inter-related essays on the postmillennial mediascape. Students and teachers of visual culture, critical theory, cultural studies, film theory, and new media, will find a wealth of ideas and insights in this fresh approach to the electronic environment. Avoiding the Subject argues for a new sensitivity and empathy towards objects (including, and especially, human objects - such as refugees, "enemy combatants," collateral damage, etc.). Whether the focus be on the specifically postcolonial trauma of Australian detention centers, or the viral mutations of propaganda in the age of the internet, each chapter attempts to "avoid the subject" in order to escape the egocentric confines of our own subjective perspectives. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0588-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction: The Influence of Anxiety
    (pp. 9-22)

    This is a book about objects. More precisely, it is about the fate of objects in the contemporary world. Such objects are extraordinarily peculiar, volatile cocktails of media, genres, things, forms, materials, fantasies and phantasms. This book tries to confront these objects with three sets of interrelated questions. First, what is the status of objects in a “virtual” world? How are they produced, distributed and consumed? How do they differ from previous “epochs of objectness”? Second, how is the status of affect transformed by these objects? What sorts of subjective investments in objects are now possible or impossible? And how...

  5. Chapter 1: The Aesthetic Object A Break in Transmission: Art, Appropriation and Accumulation
    (pp. 23-36)

    In Woody Allen’s 1980 filmStardust Memories, a director is sitting in front of a live audience answering questions about his latest film. One audience member asks if a particular scene in his latest movie is an homage to the original version ofFrankenstein. The director replies: “An homage? No, we just stole it outright.” For a brief moment, this joke becomes a sly admission allowing us to glimpse the logic of appropriation in terms of aesthetic or intertextual poaching. For indeed, what separates an homage from a burglary, other than a stated intention by the artist? And who is...

  6. Chapter 2: The Love Object Relations with Concrete Others (or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Berlin Wall)
    (pp. 37-56)

    Meet Eija-Riitta Eklöf – Berliner-Mauer – for all intents and purposes a typical middle-aged woman living in the small village of Liden in Northern Sweden. The name, however, may have already alerted some readers to the fact that Eija-Riitta is not your ordinary Swedish woman, since she claims to have been married to the Berlin Wall since 1979.

    Perhaps it is best to hear the story straight from her (or at least, straight from her website):

    I have built models of The Berlin Wall, also models of other things, such as Bridges, Fences etc. I have made a number of models of...

  7. Chapter 3: The Elusive Object “Look at the Bunny”: The Rabbit as Virtual Totem (or, What Roger Rabbit Can Teach Us About the Second Gulf War)
    (pp. 57-80)

    This chapter begins with a decoy question: why bunny rabbits?

    Certainly, the bunny rabbit looms large in the Anglo-American imaginary as a virtual totem for ontological uncertainty; and it is this thematic consistency of the role played by rabbits in cultural texts and discourses which interests us here. For while an analytical map of any given animal could yield interesting hermeneutic patterns, the rabbit has proven itself to be a catalytic object for dialectical questions of presence and absence, as well as metaphysical explorations of madness, sanity, and those existential forms of psychic liminality which lie between these relative poles....

  8. Chapter 4: The Media(ted) Object From September 11 to the 7-11: Popular Propaganda and the Internet’s War on Terrorism
    (pp. 81-92)

    If you happened to be browsing the Internet’s Newsgroups in October 2001, you would soon get the feeling that Osama Bin Laden is one unpopular guy. No matter which group you happened to be perusing, whether it be dedicated to model trains, stamp collecting or foot fetishism, a picture of Bin Laden was bound to have been posted by someone, somewhere. Nine out of ten of these pictures were hostile, and pretty much all of them were, at the very least, unflattering. In this chapter we look at a sample of these pictures – usually doctored photographs or crude homemade animations...

  9. Chapter 5: The Shared Object Abandoned Commonplaces: Some Belated Thoughts on Big Brother
    (pp. 93-108)

    As the social theorist Niklas Luhmann once remarked, “today will be yesterday tomorrow”. Logically irrefutable, this little aphorism also effectively summons up and summarizes those uncanny aspects of postmodern life – “insecure security”, “uncertain certainty” and “unsafe safety” – that beset everyone. Wherever you are, you hear new news every day, of war, terrorism, unemployment, earthquakes and typhoons, murders, more murders, fluctuating exchange- and interest-rates, low-tech genocide, global instability in the economic system, the resilient fragility of the environment, secret state organizations, and the banning of smoking from establishments where food is sold. Decisions concerning the future are made elsewhere, by others,...

  10. Chapter 6: The Moveable Object Public Transport: Jaunting from the Spaceship Nomad to the HSS Tampa
    (pp. 109-128)

    Allow us to begin with an extended quotation – a complete fragment from the notebooks of Franz Kafka:

    I stand on the end platform of the tram and am completely unsure of my footing in this world, in this town, in my family. Not even casually could I indicate any claims that I might rightly advance in any direction. I have not even any defense to offer for standing on this platform, holding on to this strap, letting myself be carried along by this tram, nor for the people who give way to the tram or walk quietly along or stand...

  11. Chapter 7: The Foreign Object The Floating Life of Fallen Angels: Unsettled Communities and Hong Kong Cinema
    (pp. 129-144)

    Wong Kar-Wai’sFallen Angels(1995)³ is one of the most arresting movies to emerge from the now internationally celebrated Hong Kong cinema. Initially appearing to be a cross betweenBlade Runner, After Hoursand MTV, it soon manages to carve its own idiosyncratic space in both the viewer’s psyche and the archive of Asian urban imagery. Following the dreamy movements of Hong Kong’sdemimonde, Wong’s film captures the hyper-alienated cultural climate of a city which has been cut loose from its previous colonial moorings, and now floats uncannily between the political grids which link Chinese and British history.

    In his...

  12. Chapter 8: The Abject Object Sovereignty, Sacrifice and the Sacred in Contemporary Australian Politics
    (pp. 145-176)

    In the vast work of postcolonial reconstruction that drives one of the primary, politically committed modes of contemporary global academic discourse, the Australian situation may appear of moderate, but not inordinate, interest. Australia is, geopolitically speaking, of only minor regional strategic importance; it is a notoriously peaceful place, devoid of violent public political struggles (unlike Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, or Palestine); its population is nugatory by world standards (approximately twenty million inhabitants); it is a developed first-world nation, preponderantly suburban and middle-class; it is widely touted as a successful multicultural state. As a ubiquitous local idiom declares, Australia is, indeed,...

  13. Conclusion: A Spanner in the Works
    (pp. 177-184)

    The first time I saw somebody die was while standing in a queue at the UBS bank in Geneva. Switzerland is a country famous for its anonymous banking system, and I was taught a swift lesson in the priorities of finance over any unexpected eruptions of “the real” that may occur in the marbled shrines of capitalism. An old man, waiting to make a deposit or withdrawal, or simply an inquiry, had a heart attack and collapsed. The already hushed bank went totally silent for a moment, as the echo of his cry dissolved in the distant corners of that...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 185-211)
  15. Index
    (pp. 212-216)