Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Here we are now entertain us

This is a paragraph from an essay Musil wrote about Bela Belazs’s famous book about film, Visible Man:
The observations that I will add in the following concern these contact and luminal surfaces. The question of whether Film is an independent art or not, which is the entering point for Balazs’s effort to make it one, incites other questions that are common to all the arts. In fact film has become the folk art of our time. “Not in the sense, alas, that it arises from the spirit of the folk, but instead in the sense that the spirit of the folk arises from it,’ says Balazs. And as a matter of fact the churches and the cults of all the religions in their millennia have not covered the world with a net as thick as that accomplished by the movies, which did it in three decades.”

As is so often the case with these Viennese intellectuals, Musil is astonishingly sensitive to the changes being wrought by modernity – with the wisdom; of nemesis perched on the apocalyptic battlements. His  reference is shrewdly to religion, rather than to other forms of art – that is, his reference is to the community of souls. The soul as Musil knew was dying out as an intelligible part of modern life. Modernism – or perhaps one should say the industrial system, under the twin aspects of the planned economy and capitalism – operated as a ruthless commissar in the great purge of interiority- and in that purge, killed, as a sort of byproduct, the humanist notion of art. In retrospect, the whole cult of art stood on the shakiest of foundations. What was really coming into being was something else – the entertainment complex. Film’s effect was not some technological accident, but a phenomenon in the social logic that was bringing us to where we are today, when the primary function of the subject is not to think – that antique cogito – but to be entertained. Here we are now, entertain us – Nirvana’s line should have a place of honor next to cogito ergo sum in the history of philosophy, I am entertained, or I am not entertained – these are the fundamental elements of subjectivity. God himself, within these parameters, is nothing other than the first entertainer, world without end.

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