Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Location: Rochester, United States

Chronically curious モ..

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Slavoj Žižek and cinema

That excellent Dryden theatre last night screened all three of a 3-part series, The Pervert's Guide to Cinema by Sophie Fiennes (yes, Ralph & Joseph's sister), in which Slavoj Žižek psychoanalyses films. For a 3X50min session, it was most provocative, thoughtful, very funny and should've come with a "Spoiler's Ahead" warning.

Also, it would probably have helped to have seen all the films SŽ refers to during the course of the documentaries.

SŽ starts by asking what it means to desire something, and contends that all desire is something that must be taught to us. Further, that films provide us with a version of reality that reflects, but also drives our own desires (presumably for those who actually watch films).

This is followed by loads of psychoanalysis of a bunch of films. While very entertaining and funny - he frequently appears to be in the same room as some shot, to some very comic effect.

SŽ himself enters into the reality of films (rather like in the film Last Action Hero). According to him, the identification with films is impossible to avoid. That, despite the blatant fakeness, it nevertheless evokes in us pretty real emotions. But is not the whole world like that? According to SŽ, you need a symbolic structure to interpret the world, but I guess the distance from someone like me is that according to him, these symbolic structures are acquired from the environment and are merely frames in which to understand (what passes for) reality. Instead, the current view from the kind of cognitive perspective of mine, a large part of these structures come out of the gene-envronment interaction, and are as deterministic (stochastic) as this interaction itself.

On sexuality, SŽ makes a strong dichotomy between men and women. On the male side, in the sexual act there is a (mentally construed) third person, who is the true object of sex. While, for women, sex is the thing that they will talk about afterwards. Of course, not as simple as this, but without any hint of justification, the split and the analysis seems far too tied to Wester norms; making them a cultural artefact, which ofcourse, is what according to him everything is, including desire.

At one point, SŽ talks about video game personas. He analyses the difference between a diffident, geeky/nerdy and his superhuman game alter-ego not as the making up of a lack in the former through the latter, but rather as the latter being the true self (the id and its libido), and the former the (super-ego controlled) 'external' self that obeys the constraints of the society.
Surely this is abundantly clear to every game player? Some research on this point would be SO useful! As a gameplayer, it certainly works the second way for me :)
But! If this is true, then where is all the social-based acquisition of structures coming from?

In the end, SŽ seems to be saying something that is probably true of all art anywhere and is not limited to the cinemas that, as caricatures of reality, they are in a sense more real than reality itself, and help us to understand and grasp reality. This is precisely the point that I think art meets science- a scientific model of the brain is not the brain, it's a caricature. It's a caricature that, like the paintings of the impressionists, captures the essence and shows us the deeper reality of something that can be quite mundane.

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Anonymous mafalda said...

Zizek is a genious. I saw a documentary on him called Zizek! you have to see it if u have't already
kisses my dear

June 09, 2007 10:42 PM  

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