«Alan Cholodenko (The) Death (of) the Animator, or: the Felicity of Felix PartI: The Kingdom of Shadows1 The night of the 4th of July 1896 was a ...»
To say that the ‘ur’ attraction of cinema, of film, is the uncanny, indeed is the Cryptic Complex, is to say that the ‘ur’ attraction of cinema, of film, is animation, for not only is animation of the order of the uncanny, of the Cryptic Complex, the uncanny, the Cryptic Complex, are of the order of animation, of animation as the animatic.
So, recasting, indeed reanimating, Gunning, when Gunning says that the shock, the attraction – that is, the simultaneous attraction and repulsion, fascination and dread – at seeing what was still ‘come to life’ founds the cinema, persists in it and reemerges from it, he is unwittingly saying that animation ‘founds’ cinema, persists in it and reemerges from it. And more: he is unwittingly saying that the uncanny, the Cryptic Complex, the animatic, ‘founds’ cinema, persists in it and reemerges from it. That lifedeath, at once the life of death and the death of life, ‘founds’ cinema, persists in it and reemerges from it. Lifedeath is not simply the inanimate become animate, and vice versa. Rather, and according with Derrida’s logics of it as both/and, neither/nor, at the same time, it is the inanimate become animate and the animate become inanimate at the same time, that is, both animate and inanimate, neither animate nor inanimate, at the same time – an ‘animate A proposal I made earlier, in note 19 of my article ‘“OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”: The Virtual Reality of Jurassic Park and Jean Baudrillard,’ pp. 82-83.
Animation Studies – Animated Dialogues, 2007
inanimate.’ Lifedeath is animation as the animatic: both alive and dead, neither alive nor dead, at the same time. Such is the ‘foundation,’ the foundation without foundation, of cinema. And of animation.
Such is for us the first, last and enduring attraction of cinema as form of animation as form of the animatic: the uncanny reanimation of the dead as living dead. And at the same time, the uncanny reanimation of the living, including the spectator, as living dead. A reanimation supported by the very conditions of viewing in this in-between space, this (non)place, Christian Metz’s place of ‘licit illicitness’ (Metz 1975, p. 65), this crypt, the haunted house, of the movie theatre itself, where all become again what they were never not.
So for us, put (ostensibly) simply, animation as the animatic is the uncanny spectre of cinema, what animates and at the same time deanimates cinema. That is, cinema thought solely as of the order of presence, essence, identity, self-identity, production, reproduction, pure productivity, ‘the reality principle,’ ontology, the Good – what I have called elsewhere cinema thought only in terms of the subject and his desires and as only a mode of production and appearance. What that spectre calls for is as well the thinking of all cinema (and all aspects of all cinema, including the author, genre, the Imaginary, ideology, spectatorship, etc., all aspects of all films) through the superior life of the object, the world and its games, to which for me animation bears privileged relation. In other words, the spectre calls for the thinking of all cinema through animation.
Through animation as the animatic and its apparatus, which subtends the cinematic apparatus, and through its modes of Seduction, play, dissemination and disappearance. Through the animatic as lifedeath, as Cryptic Complex, as the hauntological – what would be the life of the illusion of life, thought by me after Derrida, as well as after Jean Baudrillard (his notions of Seduction, Illusion – the genie’s illusion of the world – Evil, irreconcilability, etc.), after Freud, Gilles Deleuze and others, too. What would be a view from the necrospective, what I have called a ‘vanishing point of view,’ a spectrography, a cryptography, a thanatography (Cholodenko 2004, p.
111) – an address of the thanatic ‘economies’ of film.
Of course, the spectre, as privileged figure of cinema, likewise privileges the legion of forms with which it – as living dead, as the ‘undead’ – populates the cinema. Even as it makes the ghost film privileged, as it does the horror, gore, science fiction, crime, detective and thriller genres.
Even as it turns spectatorship into spectreship, into haunting and being haunted, cryptically incorporating and being cryptically incorporated. Even as it turns Plato’s Cave and all theorised in its light, including in the modelling of cinema by Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry et al., indeed all modellings of cinema in terms of an ontology of the image, into the special case, the conditional, reduced form, of the hauntological, of the crypt, the haunted house, of cinema. Even as it puts paid to any and every effort by the ‘ghostbusting’ analysts/theorists of cinema to master, exorcise, conjure away and eradicate this spectre, including putting paid to Metz’s, indeed anyone’s, dream of a Theory of Everything (TOE) cinematic.4 So, to ‘conclude’: ironically, paradoxically, animation as the animatic privileges death over life, and makes every encounter with cinema as form of animation as form of the animatic an encounter with death. Thanks to the animatic, the excluded, the ‘blind spot’ – animation – and the excluded of all excluded, the ‘blind spot’ of the ‘blind spot’ – death – are always already reanimated and reanimating, are always already back.
In terms of Stephen Hawking’s aspiration for a TOE of the universe, see my ‘The Nutty Universe of Animation.’
References Cholodenko, A 1997, ‘”OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”: the virtual reality of Jurassic Park and Jean Baudrillard,’ in N Zurbrugg (ed), Jean Baudrillard, Art and Artefact, Sage Publications, London, republished 2005 in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, January, Bishops’ University, Canada (ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies).
Cholodenko, A 2000, ‘The illusion of the beginning: a theory of drawing and animation,’ Afterimage, vol. 28, no. 1, July/August.
Cholodenko, A 2004, ‘The crypt, the haunted house, of cinema,’ Cultural Studies Review, vol. 10, no. 2, September.
Cholodenko, A 2006, ‘The nutty universe of animation, the “discipline” of all “disciplines”, and that’s not all, folks!,’ in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, January, Bishops’ University, Canada (ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies).
Derrida, J 1986, ‘Fors,’ in N Abraham & M Torok, The Wolf Man’s Magic Word: A Cryptonomy, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p. xxiii.
Derrida, J 1994, Specters of Marx, Routledge, New York.
Gunning, T 1986, ‘The cinema of attraction: early film, its spectator and the avant-garde,’ Wide Angle, vol. 8, no. 3/4, p. 70.
Gunning, T 1989, ‘An aesthetic of astonishment: early film and the (in)credulous spectator,’ Art and Text 34, Spring, pp. 34, 35, 38.
Harding, C & S Popple, In the Kingdom of Shadows, Cygnus Arts, London.
Metz, C 1975, ‘The Imaginary Signifier,’ Screen, vol. 16, no. 2, Summer, p. 65.
© Alan Cholodenko