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Marianne Duchamp Talks To Tursun Polat

From the 16.12.1995 issue of The Demotic Dreadnought
Translated from the French and Edited for the Internet by Marianne Duchamp

Q: There are conflicting rumours concerning the new film on which you're said to have begun work, 'Triads'. Is it neo-realist crime picture? Film noir cartoon? Social documentary? Is it to feature the Eisensteinian 'mass actor'? What exactly is it?

A: [Laughs] Only by partial coincidence of intention is there any relation to Eisenstein -- his unrealised plan to film the entire first volume of Capital. Unlike him, I will film only three or four chapters, those of the greatest abstractness, difficulty, and may I also say, significance -- including one not accessible in his time, the so-called 'sixth chapter'. Moreover, with the addition of extrinsic material we will accede to a sublation of one-sided objectivist and subjecto-autonomist perspectives. ... It is true that it will be in black-and-white.

Q: Your earlier work has been almost entirely comic. Do you plan to somehow render entertaining such austere subject-matter, or do you envision it more as a work of pedagogy?

A: The subject matter, if dry on the pages of a book, will be greatly liberated through two devices: state-of-the-art special effects and an unheard-of use of music. Music, if indeed it can still be called such, will play the same role in relation to the film text as that of punctuation to a printed text, but with two very important differences. First, our musical punctuation will be rich enough in symbols to incorporate several analogues from both formal and dialectical logic. Furthermore, the use of these symbols will be made clear to the audience, slowly, inductively...yes, pedagogically...from the very onset of the film. I think that rather than music as such, even programme music, it would be better to first think in terms of Sudre`s Solresol from the beginning of the 19th century, though this was, even though it was constructed of musical notes, every bit as modelled after verbality as are the various mutually unintelligible sign-languages of the modern world. ... Solresol, remember, was based on and was readily translatable into French. ... Our musical punctuation, on the contrary, will be unspeakable. Secondly, punctuation for the eye is, as etymology of the word makes clear even if we would forget it, 'punctual'; our punctuation for the ear on the other hand will be durative, repetitively so, much in the manner of certain minimalist compositions. This is why there need not be much fear that its signalling ... not only of formal-logical relations but even the helix-like unfolding of position, opposition, composition, re-position and contraposition... will be lost upon a moderately attentive audience.

Q: And the Eisensteinian mass-actor?

A: No. Neither mass-actor nor the stars. Not even voices. With a view toward the species-wide significance of the subject-matter, and, of course as to heighten the film's accessibility at this same level, not only will human speech be absent but many other normally found concretisations as well. The film consists of special effects from start to finish ... or call it an animation if you insist, but an animation whose distinction from non-animated special effects is nearly abolished...and an 'animation' which, you will know by now, eschews depiction of the 'animate'. Such use of written language ... chapter titles for the most will still be necessary despite the already highly comprehensible text of image and sound, will consist of exclusive-frame subtitles in some 50 simultaneous languages. The absolute a-national character of the film, important as it is, will thus have to be sacrificed to this small degree ... The poster, however, will be unutterable. No concessions! Not even a title; simply two triangles in polar juxtaposition, the smaller inside the larger, with a vertical upward pointing arrow in it. This is our graphical representation of dialectical movement.

Q: Can "Capital" be filmed without reference to social classes? Can social classes be depicted other than through concrete humans?

A: In so far as social classes exist, they can be amply referenced to without the depiction of the flesh-and-blood individuals found in realism. To make a movie about what you can easily see with your own two eyes is a waste of film-stock. You might as well make films like The Green Ray or Claire's Knee ... during the viewing of both, it does not embarrass me to relate, I swore continually ... or why not just show to audiences videotapes of strangers` weddings?? Both phenomena are the opposite poles -- the one cerebral, the other vulgar -- contained within cretino-realism's celebration of the immediate.

Q: 'So far as they exist'? Is, for example, a private chauffeur a member of the proletariat?

A: A question from the veritable cadavery of political debate.

Q: Do you object to this query about the class character of a particular individual because there exists in the world no social classes, only occupations, or for more elegant reasons?

A: First, there are differences, and not mere differences but oppositions of the first order, between the sociologic conception of socio-economic categories on the one hand and the hegelo-communist conception of social-class on the other.

In the sociological conception, socio-economic categories, including 'class' and an inexhaustible number of constituent sub-strata, are defined:
a) beginning with the particular i.e. the individual, i.e. analytically/inductively;
b) as transtemporal aggregates of individuals who share commonalties of occupation, income, and even culture;
c) as static and normal presence within any society, i.e. biologically.

In the hegelo-communist conception, social-classes are defined
a) beginning from the whole i.e. the social-form i.e. synthetically/deductively;
b) as active bearers of the mutually opposed historical interests inherent within the social-form;
c) with a view toward the abolition of State and Economy; i.e. necrologically.

Q: Do you mean that the question regarding the chauffeur is faulty because it fails to make clear which set of criteria are to be applied - the sociological, or the hegelian?

A: Certainly that is not the problem. To my mind, 'proletariat' is a term proper to hegelo-communism, and so it is naturally according to the latter's criteria than I dissolve this question which is fallacious not only because we know nothing about this abstractly examplary chauffeur other than his occupation but more importantly because there is a question as to the usefulness, appropriateness and function of willy-nilly attributing particular 'class' membership to individuals.

Q: Then, if not necessarily a member of the proletariat, would you allow that a chauffeur is a member of the working-class?

A: But this question should be asked of a sociologist, not a communist.

Q: Hegelian-communism recognises no working-class?

A: That is a purely sociological, quantifiable aggregate of abstact individuals, membership or not in which is determined by various passive and quantifiable factors of the type mentioned earlier. They may say working-'class', but what they mean is 'workers', 'labour', 'working-people', etc.

Q: Is there then no relationship between working-class and proletariat?

A: First, there is problem ... and it is sociology's problem not ours ... of what strata are included in its working-'class': Blue-collar workers? The permanently unemployed? White-collar workers? Any employee who is not in a position to hire and fire? All of these? Or is it that ...

Q: By 'sociology' you mean...

A: ...Not just the academic discipline but also that way of thinking. ...   but to continue ... Second, there can be overlap between any of sociology's categories and the proletariat; and in the case of certain definitions of 'working-class', perhaps a statistically pronounced overlap, but the two cannot be identified either in concept or in reality.

Q: What is the proletariat then?

A: When, where and to the extent it exists, it is the obverse of Capital; that is to say, it is not Capital`s object but rather its active counter-pole.

Q: Which is to say ...?

A: That means, unlike sociology's categories, the proletariat can to a greater or lesser extent, de-phenomenalise and re-phenomenalise. You must give your attention to the word 'active'; it is not an ornamentation. As mere object of capital, something on which Capital acts and operates, oppressing it in this way and that way, extracting surplus value from it etc., there exists no proletariat; that is simply variable capital, or the working-'class'. The proletariat is a subject, if not a full subject, at least a subject-in-its-becoming. In its full subjecthood it can be likened to, in a broad and very anachronistic sense, a 'party' ... not a party as a formal organisation, but a party nonetheless ... Now, a party is something that pursues its specific interests. Likewise, the proletariat is a community-of-struggle which is led by its objective needs...not its 'consciousness', a stupid idealism of the first negate itself by establishing communist society.  ... Perhaps we could just replace the word 'class' with 'party', but given the modern sense of this word I'm afraid it would lead to even greater misunderstandings.

Q: And if is said that a so-defined proletariat, defined in reverse by a final cause, can exist only in the teleological imagination?

A: [Huffs] Well, communist theory will not disappear on the strength of this debating point. Capital itself generates hydraulic motion toward communism, if not so manifestly in praxis, at  least toward its theorisation. Marxo-hegelian categories, even including social-class as defined above, can be put into into the dust-bin, but at lower levels of abstraction still there are generated inducto-analytical communisms, some taking sociology's socio-economic category 'the workers' as its subject-motor; others rejecting even this as an intolerable Dictatorship of the Abstract. Stirner was no communist ...  neither of course was Hegel for that matter ... but a stirnerist communism, which so particularises the subject that the motor toward communism is found in individual egoism, is no oxymoron. Conceptualisation of the communist movement is a continuum; hegelo-abstract at one end, inducto-concrete at the other. I think the hegelian will make a more unusual movie.

Q: Standing then at the hegelian end of the continuum, and returning to the original question, is it invidious to attribute to social class the membership of individuals? This would seem a fantastical and illogical claim. How could it be that social classes could be composed of persons without persons being members of these classes?

A: Some precisions are in would be much easier if 'proletariat' and 'proletarian' were non-transitive verbs possessed of gradability, but such is not the case, certainly not in our formo-logical French ... I wonder if all languages are equally enthralled to staticity; they say Hopi isn't. ... The point is that it is not 'a person', his formal occupation, or 'a person's consciousness' that is class-characteristic  ... and the function of activity is much more significant than what the agent of that activity 'thinks' it is doing; 'consciousness' can be either completely divorced from praxis, or lag considerably behind it, or interface with it only sporadically. ... What is class-characteristic is how 'a person' functions in relation to class-interest ... or, let us say: what can be called class-characteristic is a specific activity (including of 'a person') in a specific time-frame and condition, and what historical class-interest, even in miniature, is served by that behaviour. There, you have made me say something quite silly with this forced inducto-logical description of the classicity of 'an individual'. I feel as though I have tried to put on my trousers by pulling them down over my head, or put on my hat by pulling it up over my feet.

Q: My question arises from the two-day discussion at Les Mondains a la Con between the film critics Luiciano Pombasti and Heidi Von Blutlos. Von Blutlos said that she felt unbearable ennui at Bunuel's later films as they are exclusively about and advance the world-view of the bourgeoisie. Pombasti, who as you probably know will tolerate no criticism of Bunuel, said this was patently untrue, and cited the appearance of the proletariat manifested in the person of the chauffeur in Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Von Blutlos asked on what grounds this class-membership was attributable. Pombasti held that it was self-evident: a paid-employee, one moreover who is despised for the way he drinks wine; if not a proletarian what else could he be? Von Blutlos said that this was gross confusion, and after consulting with Dr. Summers, declared that the proletariat is defined by taking part in production. Chauffeuring is a branch of the service industry, not a branch of production; the chauffeur is therefore no proletarian. Their conversation grew rancorous and unsettling to persons at nearby tables.

A: [Snorts] I see. One must conclude that it is the priest who is the film's proletarian par exellence. Did he not, by becoming a gardener, 'enter production' as a waged-worker?

Q. But didn't the priest ask for the job simply because he enjoyed garden work rather than out of need? And was the garden produce grown for sale? Or was it for direct use by the homeowner, much as in the feudal mode of production, where the manorial ...

A. I am joking.

Q. Then what do you really think about their arguments, especially the criterion of production?

A. From our point-of-view it is a total nonsense. Defining the proletariat according to such criteria as 'taking part in production' ... or even worse, of being 'direct-producers of surplus-value' is simply more sociology. A leftist or marxological sociology, but sociology all the same.

Q Then, in your view, the proletariat is truly absent from the film?

A. Aside from the controversy surrounding the person of the chauffeur, from what little we know about him, a barely more intelligent case could be made that the old man seeking extreme unction from the priest -- and shot by the priest once his identity is known from the photograph -- had at one time in his youth been a 'member' of the proletariat: at least we know that long before, as employee of the parents of the priest, as result of some unstated oppression or ill-treatment by them, he did away with them. But if this already very dubious claim, once accepted, were to lead to viewing him as old man on his death bed as still a 'member of the proletariat' this would be a serious and criminal concession to metaphysical staticity. Whether or not the proletariat is present in this movie, an altogether untendentious surrealistic satire of a certain social stratum in France, is certainly not a question that would occur to me! I can only say that this cafe fashion of spot-the-prole is without value.

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