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Date Published: 9/16/2003
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Making the World Safe for Fashionable Philosophy!


Joe Milutis


Fashionable Philosophy on the Road to Revolutions

A colleague of mine recently expressed malaise after showing The Matrix accompanied by assigned readings from Baudrillard's Simulations. According to her, students did not respond because the connections were too apparent, and that the theory was, in a sense, redundant with the film. But if Baudrillard is built into the structure of The Matrix 'snarrative in the way Freud is built into the narratives of Hitchcock's films, where was the undergraduate frisson that we remembered when reading, for example, Freud's theories of sexuality while watching Marnie? After some thought, I came to the conclusion that the difficulty rested in a fundamental misunderstanding of how Baudrillard worked within The Matrix, a misunderstanding that is widely shared. Because while the filmmakers often attempt to acknowledge their debt to Baudrillard, they get Baudrillard wrong. It's not that the connections are too obvious. Rather the connections really don't connect up and are superficial at best. It's as if the filmmakers read the first five pages of Simulations, and misread them at that. However, is this misreading a knowing one, one that sets viewers in interpretative unbalance, a theoretical vertigo that makes the Matrix Reloaded (which I will approach at the end of this essay), and Matrix Revolutions necessary and compelling sequels?

Near the beginning of The Matrix, Neo has hidden some data contraband inside a copy of Baudrillard's Simulations. The book is a joke of simulation in itself; bound in green cloth with gilt letters, it simulates the authority of a classic but has no backing or substance. It is all surface -- the inside has been cut out, is no longer essential. It is an empty prop in more ways than one. But is it a key to the film? Perhaps in the spirit of the logic of simulation, its presence merely simulates that there is an inner bookish meaning in what may be, in the end, a pure action film humdinger. A number of 90s films attempt the same sort of alliance between theoretical knowledge and film narrative. For example, in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, we find a love interest reading Barthes' Camera Lucida over the phone to a woman he thinks is Uma Thurman's character but who is in actuality her more brainy and ostensibly less physically desirable friend, played by Janeane Garofalo. If you remember, Barthes' book on photography is a meditation on the "punctum," the aspect of the photograph activated by subjective desire. The film seems to equate Barthes' "the punctum... is a kind of subtle beyond -- as if the image launched desire beyond what it permits us to see" [1] with the more sententious "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," or some other triteness about inner beauty à la Cyrano de Bergerac. In a similar way, in Permanent Midnight, Elizabeth Hurley's character is reading Heidegger, and I can imagine it is a way to announce that the film is a reading of Heidegger's notion of "standing reserve." The term designates stockpiled resources on hand that, while products of technological progress, remain useless until they can reenter into the system. Permanent Midnight is about talent as standing reserve, and what happens while people wait for the call -- the nightmare of waiting implicit in Hollywood work.

These books may signal merely the fashionability of their philosophies, if it weren't for the fact that they seem also to be presented as keys. If we were to read Baudrillard as a key to The Matrix, one would have to ask why we are still drawn to this authoritative fetish, even in the midst of cyberville -- locus of the death of both the author and the book. What kinds of interpretive traps do we get in by acknowledging the authoritative, rather than fashionable, presence of this book?

First and foremost, to gloss Baudrillard, for him, the truth is not that there is none, but that the question of truth or non-truth is an obsolescence. The difference between true and false is dissolved in the logic of Capital, as laws of the universe become subject to the primum mobile of exchange:

The real is produced from miniaturised units, from matrices, memory banks and command models -- and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. It is nothing more than operational. In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all. It is a hyperreal, the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere. [2]

In the logic of the hyperreal, "matrices, memory banks, and command models" generate the real, and this real is the world of the agents in The Matrix, not the imaginary, or transcendental "outside" which the film determines is "the real world." In fact, in Baudrillard's conception, there is no outside, or "ideal instance" from which to judge the simulation, and this lack of referentiality is the very definition of the simulation. In the film, both the agents of Zion and those of "the machine" are effectively outside, and productively alienated from, the system where they do battle. In the case of the machines, while the classic AI model of reality might hold within it some idea of an agency that could conspire to enslave all humanity and exploit its natural electromagnetic energies to power a theater of an eternal 1999, more sophisticated theories of computer intelligence recognize that reality is based on random evolutionary and connective principles without pattern. In a sense, in these theories of emergence, computers engender the universe of play of the postmoderns by never approximating some ideal of knowledge, but by creating new knowledge based on pressures and contingencies evolving through ever changing definitions of the real. In Baudrillard's nightmare view, a new totalitarianism, which cannot be resisted (since there is no stable "outside" to its functioning), evolves out of the matrix of AI, nuclear and genetic technology. But this vision is not the vision of The Matrix.

The film posits, in a fairly traditional way, another world -- a transcendental signified -- which guarantees the manifest world. In this way, The Matrix is less like Baudrillard and more like Midsummers' Night Dream or some other neo-Platonist fantasy. The Matrix keeps the reality principle in tact by positing a place from which simulation can be judged and compared. In many ways, computers have been sold to the public in the last 20 years by maintaining this reality principle -- gesturing to the potential not only for virtuality but also radicality and spirituality through home computing. Apple's famous 1984 commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, posited the Macintosh as a way to rage against Big Brother. Through choosing Apple, we would collectively explode the consensual hallucination, as the young punky woman in jogging attire did when she hurled a sledgehammer towards the television monitor. Later, computers would be sold as spiritual technologies, as references to eastern religions proliferated through computer ad copy -- a trend in which The Matrix marks an important cultural moment. But for Baudrillard, both radicalism and metaphysics have become simulations in themselves. Charming evocations of a past age, both leftism and spirituality (or at least their caricatures) posit or guarantee another world behind the false one, to which desires more righteous tend.

So if The Matrix is a moral tale positing that we should all try to search for the true meaning of life behind false appearances, then Baudrillard's Simulations is definitely not the correct manual for this application. More interestingly though, and to the credit of the filmmakers, is the idea that perhaps The Matrix is a moral tale about the problems of reading reality or film via outmoded authoritative structures such as the book, and by association Baudrillard or even film theory. Does the film intentionally get Baudrillard wrong? Have academics all over the world, in adopting The Matrix for their classes, taken the Baudrillard bait? It would seem that the main theme of this film, like an Edgar Allan Poe story in hyperdrive, is decoding -- not only the decoding that goes on in the plot, but the activity of audience decoding. If decoding a film via poststructuralist classics is a dead end, how does this film create an alternative?

The Electromagnetic Soap Opera

The first shot of the film is a blinking cursor, waiting for input. This cursor announces that there will be nothing to see, only a string of text operating at the level of the command line interface. This textual substrait of the image is referred to throughout, as the green and black of old-time computer screens imbue the image, in what can only be called "raster-chic." Decoding this machine language, one would need a form of what Woody Vasulka calls "machine semiotics,"[3] rather than Baudrillard or perhaps Lacan (whose Real is also quite different than that of The Matrix. However, there seems to be some subtle alliance between Lacan and Lewis Carroll or Jean Cocteau when Neo, before entering the "real world" will get covered and consumed by a mirror-like substance which, once he masters it, he consumes himself -- a Möbius strip-like rewrite of the "Mirror Stage.") The film's constant rain refers less to cloudbursts than to glitches at the level of this primary code, since it makes one think of the rain of data from the opening credits, The Matrix 's signature visualization of machine language. When a sprinkler system goes off inside the citadel of the agents, it seems less like it is extinguishing a fire, and more like it is extinguishing the image, as if data is malfunctioning to the extent that the system of false images will break down, allowing us to see the code. Even machine-gunned bullets hitting faux-marble columns seem more like disaggregated pixels than actual violence, a disturbance of in the image, a breaking through appearances to get at system knowledge. The true world of The Matrix, then, seems to be premised on a nostalgia for pre-interface computing. The dialog itself sounds like text-based VR (MOO or MUD-speak), a product of command-line computer culture, whose hackers and programmers -- indebted to Dungeon and Dragons -- live the world of flow-chart-like narrative choices: "Don't go down that road," "One of these lives has a future, the other does not," and the famous red pill/blue pill choice. Given the way the text-based interface is valorized in this film, Morpheus iconoclasm seems not merely to be directed toward the iconology of a slick pixelless interface, but toward cinema itself.

In tandem with this foregrounding of text and the semiology of the command line is another system of meaning that challenges traditional textual analysis -- the electromagnetic. The Matrix is a plausibly engineered fictional world in that its Rube Goldberg of digital and electromechanical technology is not mere mise-en-scene, adding to the film's hyperfuturism shot through with retrofuturist charm, but is productive of the dramatic tensions and narrative solutions of the film, i.e. infrastructure is protagonist, and a misunderstood one at that. The matrix's Achilles heel, it would seem, is that it is not purely digital, but is designed to feed off natural bioenergy -- in effect, it is dependent on the human heart. This feature places the film in the sub-genre I like to call "the electromagnetic soap opera." This category includes any science fiction motivated by the combination of electromagnetic science and Theosophical mysticism, whose characters operate in worlds where invisibles blur in the orgone haze of wavelength, plasma and prana, where forbiddingly complex technospheres generate impossible scenarios which are nevertheless explainable and controllable via the powers of the heart and the understanding of true nature. Star Wars, Johnny Mnemonic, The 5th Element, and most of Japanese anime (notably in the television series Neon Genesis Evangelion ) engage in this technoscientific mysticism. Because the matrix enslaves natural bioenergy, it would seem that the traditional call to the pulsations of the heart would be suspect. In the history of cosmological mysticism -- origins of the science of electromagnetism -- the powers of the heart are what provide direct access to more absolutely exterior sources of energy (the sun, the heavens). They are also what connect human to machine when God is replaced by a ubiquitous nexus of energies, the pulse that modulates all materiality. Yet in the world of The Matrix, the sky has been scorched, sundering the ethereal connection between human and heaven. It is a spiritual as well as material pollution, since natural energy no longer comes from the cosmos. Electromagnetic energies no longer connect human electricity to deep space. Left without even a Gnostic deity, or the pagan blessing of a sunny day, humanity is constantly on the verge of becoming posthuman.

When Neo is plugged into the system, running off his own electromagnetic energy, like all citizens of the matrix he is susceptible to the agents and can be possessed by them. The transport chairs are networked through a system of old-fashioned black rotary phones, ostensibly utilizing "old" copper wire technology. Cell phones, in contrast, are associated more with the agents (when they are used by the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, it is only for communication in moments of helplessness and as a device of betrayal). On the one hand, the rotary phone represents merely a way to get into the system that is unpoliced. On the other, copper wire is posited as the means of transport, as if its ability to translate electrical, analogue impulses rather than packets of zeros and ones makes it a vehicle for channeling what is essentially human -- a humanity that is reduced to its electrical ontology and thus exploited in an extreme way; Neo is twice reminded of his "coppertop" status.

In the cosmology of computer languages, an electromagnetic pulse is initially translated into ones and zeros, off and on -- and this translation marks the primal alienation of the digital from the referentiality of the analogue. Those ones and zeros of machine language -- the liveliness of which is indebted to natural energetics in the same way a mill runs off the energy of a river -- are then parsed into different levels of programming language. Programming language is then manipulated by means of the interface, at which point, one need not be conscious of the deeper levels of system management. For The Matrix, the agents (programmers) come up against hackers who question the ways in which they've organized these languages. "We couldn't find the programming language to describe your perfect world." In a sense, like the soap opera, The Matrix tries to approximate this perfect world through obsessive telephoning. But The Matrix also resembles a particularly postmodern form of Naturphilosophie, or rather a new etherealism. If the mill's exploitation of natural resources through the process of industrialization once inspired writers to imagine the river without its industry, so here, the exploitation of electromagnetism in the 20th century (from radio, to television, and the computer), has inspired a subgenre of science fiction that tries to imagine the world of frequencies and waves without the technology that enframes them. This electromagnetic etherealism far from positing distinct worlds promises a continuum, a real which, rather than existing outside of the system, more properly infiltrates all -- and code is its double, 1s and 0s piggybacking each pulsation of the real.

When Morpheus says "Welcome to the real world," we are perhaps convinced, instead of any continuum, of the divisions between real and false that the film proffers. The whole color palette changes in the Nebuchadnezzar, from the raster-green to a more Calvin-Kleiny blue, grey, brown. In this way, the distinction is made between a world based purely on code (green/black) and one which, while hooked into the world of code, is exploiting the electromagnetic in a more industrial paradigm. Throughout, we get the sense that Morpheus isn't entirely right on, that he's like some 60s Marxist who has lost touch with the world but who is nevertheless groovy, so we suffer him when he says things like "I'm here to free our mind." His insistence on the Nebuchadnezzar as the real world is perhaps just what Baudrillard calls a "reality effect." There's always the even more "real" Zion, and at least one crew member (Cypher) mutines against Morpheus' concept of the real. Neo's messianic powers outright derive from a misreading or reinterpretation of Morpheus' teachings. While Morpheus' Mosaic dogma posits an outside of the system, Neo literally dives into the system by which he is enslaved (when he dives into the body of the agent); when he emerges at the other end, we are led to believe that the code is a reality that even the agents don't understand. Up to this point in the film, the green and black colors signify that the world is illusion, but paradoxically, when Neo sees the green and black code everywhere, he has attained true knowledge (one could say that, instead of approximating a Christian messiah, he is here a kind of super-Jew -- Christ without the reality principle of the break from Judaism, Christ without Christianity, Christ with Kabbala). Morpheus' battle is that of the typical man versus machine. Neo's affinity for the machine world unsettles the terms of this battle, and his colleagues marvel "he's a machine."

In a sense, then, The Matrix sets up a philosophical argument, of which the references to Simulations are not the last word and the key, but rather first steps towards another set of arguments -- which may, in the end, turn out to be Baudrillard dialectically recharged. The very color-coding of the film, created in order to convince viewers about the divisions between the real world and the simulated one, is just a code, as dubious as the code of the agents. The color red, color of false leads (as in a "red-herring") is utilized in this scheme to denote distraction of false reality. A woman appears in a red dress in the construct to warn Neo of the deadly consequences of distraction, and Cypher, the apostate, wears a red sweater in the Nebuchadnezzar. But it is also through the agency of the red pill that anyone is ever able to get to Morpheus' "real world." In this way, if we go beyond one layer of color-coding in the film, another layer contradicts it or calls it into question (if we wanted to remain within the postmodern model here, these layers would not take us deeper and deeper but would exist simultaneously as their own self-sustaining interpretive fictions, just as choosing not to "overanalyze" a film exists in a world with its own physis just as does the world of the rigorous reading). For the film, it would seem that our interpretations more than our actions are what carry us along and determine our fate. Consider, for example, the multiple interpretations of the message of the Oracle, or a crucial, casual misread by Cypher at the moment when Neo is about to go "down the rabbit hole." As the impact of the red pill starts to disrupt the input/output signals through which Neo is wired to the mass-hallucination, Cypher says, "Kansas is going bye-bye." Of course, in The Wizard of OZ, Kansas is the "real world" and OZ is the world of fancy, so Cypher's evocation is completely upside-down. It would seem that the hull of the Nebuchadnezzar is the very Kansas, with all its depression-era hardship, that has been lost to the OZification of culture. Cypher is a character who is always getting his dichotomies mixed up, and in the end finds himself on the wrong side of them. It would seem, then, that the film equates evil with unsubtle thought.

The comparison to OZ, though, is instructive, not merely because of the color palette change signifying transport from real to fantasy, nor, as a colleague has pointed out, because of the production of the film in Australia. Even OZ deconstructs its own reality principle implicit in the color shift that announced color film to the world (in the same way The Matrix announced flo-motion and virtual camera work). Consider the depiction of Dorothy's Kansas, a dust bowl idyll which now may seem as fantastic as OZ if we appreciate Kansas' particular conjunction of technology and culture specific to a time now lost but not, by far, outside of the matrix of the machine. When we first are introduced to Auntie Em, she is busying herself with a chick incubator, leading us to wonder if in the biotech future there will be stranger reasons for Dorothy's lack of mother. When Dorothy sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by a mechanical reaper, her enmeshedness in this machine's reality undoubtedly also has a certain science fictional charm. (Similarly, in the "real" of The Matrix, the crew wears artfully detangled sweaters that remind us of the computer's origin in the Jacquard loom, and of the impossibility of disengaging ourselves from the warp and woof of machine reality.) The Wizard of OZ, while emerging from that homespun American mystical vitalism described in its own epigram as a "kindly philosophy" that "Time has been powerless to put... out of fashion," has a covert cynicism. Dorothy is an ingénue who cannot fathom the constantly dire situation that history and circumstances have placed her wards. While the film's dialogue ends on an upbeat note ("There's no place like home!") the soundtrack strikes a sour note, as if to point out that Dorothy's idea of home, as well as her fantasy, is at worst delusional or cretinish at best a fragile fiction conceived to hold off time and history -- the forces that will serve to potentially bankrupt her wards (Almira Gulch, aka the Wicked Witch of the West, owns half of the county, after all), and scatter their provisional family structure to the wind.[4]

The Return to "The Desert of the Real"

In the raging campaigns against fashionable philosophy, more kindly philosophies return with a vengeance, without distance or irony, and with implicit anti-intellectual intent. But I would argue that they are only received as such, because seemingly naïve Naturphilosophie can be a rather sophisticated reaction to a reality that has outstripped even our most sophisticated theorizations of it. For The Matrix and especially The Matrix Reloaded, it is the moment when interpretation must give way to action. The charm of this action series, however, is the fact that action is determined by the quality of interpretation. The simple impulse and intuitive leap is qualitatively determined by a prior engagement with complexities. People who stream into today's current "mind bending" films might be willing to undertake only so many philosophical gymnastics, which is why the complaint about Matrix Reloaded seems to be nearly unanimously towards the long discursive segments of the film. No doubt, these disquisitions are undertaken by fellows who were perhaps chosen for their comic-book evocation of whiteness in this afrocentric sequel -- The Head Councilor, The Merovingian, and The Architect -- and we are in this way asked to question their ideas. But the benevolent Councilor starts to clarify for viewers what Neo was already intuitively aware of by the end of the first movie: that the machine is everywhere, there is no outside, and that the issue is not one of true and false, human and machine, but rather one of control. Here, we have, in a sense, had a Baudrillardian homecoming. The strict boundaries between the dream world and the world of reality are broken down in Reloaded, compounded by strange intercutting between matrix, Zion, and Nebuchadnezzar. The first sense we get of the weakness of these barriers between worlds is when we see Neo haunted by dreams of the matrix. One would have to ask, how does one dream about a dream world (unless its real)? Recall Zizek's description in The Sublime Object of Ideology of the Lacanian notion of the dream:

[T]he Lacanian thesis [is] that it is only in the dream that we come close to the real awakening -- that is, to the Real of our desire. When Lacan says that the last support of what we call 'reality' is a fantasy, this is definitely not to be understood in the sense of 'life is just a dream', 'what we call reality is just an illusion', and so forth. We find such a scheme in many science-fiction stories: reality as a generalized dream or illusion. The story is usually told from the perspective of a hero who gradually makes the horrifying discovery that all the people around him are not really human beings but some kind of automatons, robots, who only look and act like real human beings; the final point of these stories is of course the hero's discovery that he himself is also such an automaton and not a real human being.... The Lacanian thesis is, on the contrary, that there is always a hard kernel, a leftover which persists and cannot be reduced to a universal play of illusory mirroring. The difference between Lacan and "naïve realism" is that for Lacan, the only point at which we approach this hard kernel of the Real is indeed the dream. When we awaken into reality after a dream, we usually say to ourselves 'it was just a dream', thereby blinding outselves to the fact that in our everyday, wakening reality we are nothing but a consciousness of this dream. [5]

So it is that, while the rebels maintain a pose (or repose) of slumber in their transport chairs, they do so without seeming to sleep... as if they work at rectifying a trauma, which remains in the Real.

There is no discovery of a truth in the Matrix movies, or rather, each one has a truth, which continues to overturn another. The first Matrix offers in a sense a more childlike view of the world, while Matrix Reloaded becomes cynical only to return to the childlike again (and Neo will have to retain whatever childlike impetuosity he has retained from the first film, in order to maintain a connection to his power). We could also say that The Matrix pits mechanical social realism versus digital hyperrealism, while Matrix Reloaded asserts a digital-mechanical continuum (the opening code-rain of Matrix Reloaded becomes the gears of an old mechanical punch-clock), and the ubiquity of programming (with differences drawn between the poorly written and the upgraded). In this new version, Morpheus becomes immediately suspect... he's wearing the red sweater of delusion, and the film shows how his vision is questioned by his peers, clouded by desire, and finally exposed as its own dream. His last line in Reloaded may be a call to reload the terms of racial politics, but it also points to the irrational aspect of his righteous single-mindedness about what is real: "I dreamed a dream and now that dream is gone from me."

The revealed ubiquity of programming in the sequel overwhelms the possibility of actual choice, but there is, once again, a return to the powers of the heart from out of the Baudrillardian vertigo, and also a return to action. The Oracle, who turns out to be a program herself, is an intuitive program, of lesser mind than the Architect, but her intuitive nature makes her more powerful than the Architect who knows too much. While Neo pains himself over the choice of accepting her offer of a piece of red candy, it's just candy, after all. The status ultimately accorded to interpretative keys has perhaps been reduced in Reloaded to the status accorded the wizened keyman -- "handy." It is, after all, Neo's connection to Trinity which gives him his super powers. At the end of Reloaded, Neo stops the sentinels dead in their tracks with a surge of electricity from his body. Prior to this moment, Neo's powers have only been actuated in the virtual world of the matrix, but here, they are working in the supposed "real," and from the heart as it were. Instead of the power to hack and reprogram, this power to stop the sentinels is electromagnetic, auratic -- a Theosophical burst of chakra energy -- encouraging one more suspension of interpretation before the last episode.

The Matrix films reload a number of arguments. One can think of the Marxist meme from the "Theses on Feuerbach" about philosophy versus action. The Althusserian cunning of Agent Smith's greeting of "Mr. Anderton" (he's always trying to convince Neo that he's only human) opens up rickety anti-humanist debates. But the argument that remains most trenchant seems to be the one which leaps out of the debate, or at least tries to. Thinking about the green codes, I begin to think not only of emerald cities and green witches, but I think of that famous definition of green by the late and legendary experimental filmmaker, Stan Brakhage. He was indubitably aware of his naiveté when he asked readers to: "Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of 'Green?'" [6] Brakhage got a lot of flack for this type of film theorization over the years of his long and productive career. But his gambit, which was the gambit of Eisenstein as well, was that something remained within the image, beyond the word, exceeding the peremptory force of language. Hollis Frampton, in many ways the anti-Brakhage, described the seductions of what he called "logophobia" in this way:

Eisenstein was at once a gifted linguist, an artist haunted by the claims of language -- and also, by training, an engineer. It seems possible to suggest that he glimpsed, however quickly, a project beyond the intellectual montage: the construction of a machine, very much like film, more efficient than language, that might, entering into direct competition with language, transcend its speed, abstraction, compactness, democracy, ambiguity, power... a project, moreover, whose ultimate promise was the constitution of an external critique of language itself. If such a thing were to be, a consequent celestial mechanics of the intellect might picture a body called Language, and a body called Film, in symmetrical orbit about one another, in perpetual and dialectical motion. [7]

Is this the machine where Neo finds himself? Between the powers of the textual and the powers of the image, between analysis and emersion, the past and fashion's flair, interpretation and change, is precisely where Neo tries to find the future, or at the very least a tertium quid. But will the action hero be able to save the world once again?


Notes
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[1] Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. 1980. Trans. Richard Howard. (NY: Hill and Wang, 1981), 59.

[2] Jean Baudrillard. Simulations. Trans. Paul Foss, et al. (NY: Semiotext[e], 1983), 3.

[3] Woody Vasulka and Charles Hagen. "A Syntax of Binary Images: An Interview with Woody Vasulka." Afterimage 6, nos. 1/2 (Summer 1978). 20-31.

[4] After writing this paragraph, I thought I should finally read Salman Rushdie's BFI Film monograph on The Wizard of OZ, thinking that his take might be similar. As one could imagine, Rushdie did take a cynical stance towards the film's notion of "home," however merely as a question of cosmopolitan taste. For those with good luck, good looks, and a talent for living, there is indeed a home in OZ. The dreary Kansas should be left behind. However, I would insist on the unstable balance between these two no-places. "No place like home" could literally mean that home is nowhere, utopian. Kansas is already post-natural, a place adrift like OZ, and the two places merely form two extremes of what we would now call diaspora. See Salmon Rushie. The Wizard of OZ. (London: BFI, 1992).

[5] Slavoj Zizek. The Sublime Object of Ideology. (NY: Verso, 1989), 47.

[6] Stan Brakhage. "Camera Eye -- My Eye." From New American Cinema: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock. (Dutton, 1967), 211.

[7] Hollis Frampton. "Film in the House of the Word." From Circles of Confusion: Film/ Photography/ Video Texts 1968-1980. (Rochester: Visual Studies Workshop P, 1983). 85.


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Joe Milutis is a writer and media artist. He is Assistant Professor of Art at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches sound art production. Current projects include, in addition to a book length manuscript on the ether, an experimental episodic musical about memory, repetition, and an interminable, totalitarian Christmas. Written work has appeared in Cabinet, Afterimage, Artbyte, Wide Angle, and Experimental Sound and Radio (ed. Allen Weiss), among other places.

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