Volume 11, Number 1 (January, 2014)
Author: Dr. Alan Cholodenko
I see dead people (Sear, 1999).
In undertaking an articulation of the relation of such a sight of death to animation, and animation to it, let me begin by asserting something whose nature is for me inextricably imbricated in that articulation and relation. That is, for me, animation bears not merely a significant but a singular importance to the contemporary world. I made this a key claim of my Introduction to The Illusion of Life 2: More Essays on Animation (2007). I write there:
…since The Illusion of Life was published [in 1991], animation – indeed, the animatic – has increasingly come forward, presented itself, as the most compelling, indeed singular process of not only contemporary film but the contemporary world. (Cholodenko, 2007: 68-69)
In thinking this singular importance of animation to the contemporary world, it is animation’s privileged relation to Freud’s uncanny – a relation I have elaborated in many places3 – that is paramount for me and that this paper will explore further. The uncanny in turn forms one part of my notion after Derrida of the Cryptic Complex of animation, a Complex composed of the uncanny, the return of death as spectre, endless mourning and melancholia and cryptic incorporation, a Complex I first proposed for cinema, for film as a form of animation, in my 2004 article ‘The Crypt, the Haunted House, of Cinema’ (Cholodenko, 2004a: 107)4 .
In Part I of this paper, I reiterated a key proposal of that article, that the spectre is ‘ur’ figure of cinema and the uncanny ‘ur’ experience of cinema, indeed the Cryptic Complex is ‘ur’ experience of cinema; but that ‘ur’ must go in quotation marks, since for me there is no essence to the spectre, the uncanny and the Cryptic Complex. And I concluded there that the first, last and enduring attraction of cinema as form of animation is animation, animation as the animatic, as the uncanny reanimation of the dead as living dead5 . And at the same time, the uncanny reanimation of the living, including the spectator, as living dead. As what I call after Derrida lifedeath – at once the life of death and the dead and the death of life and the living. The animatic lifedeath of the Cryptic Complex is for me the ‘foundation’, the foundation without foundation, of cinema and movies – of film animation. As the animatic is of all animation, its singular attraction6 .
In support of these speculations regarding the singular importance of animation to the contemporary world and of death, my Cryptic Complex, to it, and vice versa, let me offer these key comments of Taihei Imamura in 1948 and Slavoj Žižek in 1991. Imamura, a crucial figure in the history of the theory of animation, states:
…it is animation that has given birth to the greatest myth of the society of commodity fetishism: the dead can be re-animated… Although cartoon drawings attempted to animate the still image, the primitive desire for animism: to animate the image…, could only be satisfied with animated film (Imamura, 1948: 16-17, quoted in Driscoll, 2002: 283)7 .
Which means for me that it is not merely that animation has ‘given birth’ to, i.e. animated, the ‘greatest myth of the society of commodity fetishism’, that greatest myth is itself that of animation, or reanimation, the uncanny reanimation of the dead, even as the filmic image itself is, as Imamura implies and I concur, so animate, animated, animating and reanimating, including animating and reanimating a myth linked to the primitive and animism.
Imamura’s words anticipate this compelling comment of the leading contemporary philosopher Slavoj Žižek in his book Looking Awry:
If there is a phenomenon that fully deserves to be called the ‘fundamental fantasy of contemporary mass culture’, it is this fantasy of the return of the living dead: the fantasy of a person who does not want to stay dead but returns again and again to pose a threat to the living (Žižek, 1991a: 22).
Which means for me that Žižek’s ‘fundamental fantasy of contemporary mass culture’ – of all that makes up contemporary mass culture – including cinema, film, TV, the computer, etc. – the mass media ‘as such’ – is that of animation! – or rather, reanimation! – again the uncanny reanimation of the dead as living dead!8
Žižek’s ‘fundamental fantasy’ puts animation, or reanimation, indeed the animatic, for me at the very ‘core’ of contemporary mass culture. At the same time, it, like Imamura’s myth, marks for me but one mode of the ‘centrality’ of the uncanny, animation and the animatic to our culture, mass-immediated world and the subject in it, the pervasiveness of which I describe in my Introduction to The Illusion of Life 2. I shall qualify this characterisation in Section II.
But at this point, I can propose provisionally, in light of the theme of the 2010 Society for Animation Studies’ annual conference, held in Edinburgh, Scotland – at which this Part III was first presented – the following: animation converges on contemporary culture, world and subject, as they converge on it. And more pointedly: death the animator converges on them, as they converge on it.
And yet for me, and as Imamura’s reference to the primitive and animism marks, animation is more, not only the ‘core’ of contemporary media, culture, world and subject but of culture ‘as such’, media ‘as such’, even for me of world, even of universe, ‘as such’9 , as well as the subject ‘as such’ – animation as the animatic as their ‘ur’ process and performance10 , with ‘ur’ again in quotation marks – marked in my notion of the non-essence of animation as the animatic.
This means that for me the first, last and enduring attraction of not only film animation but arguably everything which is the case is animation, or reanimation, as what I call the animatic, as – to state it once more – the uncanny return/reanimation of the dead as living dead, as for me spectre, as Homeric psuché, that spectre that is ‘ur’ figure of film animation for me, as I elaborated in Part II of this paper11 .
Here we link with the ‘poststructuralist’ and ‘postmodernist’ theories I privilege, theories for me themselves not only about animation and the animatic but themselves animatic: Derridean deconstruction and Baudrillardian Seduction, both of which privilege the capital ‘O’ Other, the radical, irreducible, irreconcilable Other, as opposed to the lower case other, the other reduced to simple difference in a system of the same and the other, reduced to the ‘either/orism’ of simple oppositionality, that is the hallmark of Cultural Studies. (See Cholodenko, 2007a: 30-32, 37-51).
While I have proposed that for Derrida the model of deconstruction’s radical Other is the spectre (Cholodenko, 2004: 100 and see Cholodenko, 2009a), which he refers to as ‘perhaps the hidden figure of all figures’ (Derrida, 1994: 120, quoted in Cholodenko, 2004a: 100) – the model of Seduction’s radical Other for Baudrillard is one that, outbidding Žižek, antedates contemporary culture and the contemporary world. It takes us back, like Freud’s uncanny (in both its psychological and anthropological aspects), like Derrida’s spectre, like Imamura’s reference to the primitive and animism, to the ‘childhood’ of civilisation. It is described by Baudrillard in his book Symbolic Exchange and Death thus:
At the very core of the ‘rationality’ of our culture…is an exclusion that precedes every other, more radical than the exclusion of madmen, children or inferior races, an exclusion preceding all these and serving as their model: the exclusion of the dead and of death. (Baudrillard, 1993a: 126)
For Baudrillard, as for Derrida, the radical Other is what is never simply excluded but rather what is never not traced in, never not returning to, that which seeks to exclude it, that which seeks to exclude it in fact being conjured by the radical Other, even as it in turn seeks to conjure that radical Other away – never a successful act. Like Derrida’s spectre, Baudrillard’s dead and death are spectres, hauntological, figures at once enabling and disenabling the ontological, never not haunting, returning, to it, even as the ontological is never not returning to the hauntological. The spectre, the dead and death – figures for me of the animatic – the radical Other of animation and animation as radical Other.
The singular result is that, as I noted at the end of Part I of this paper, ironically, paradoxically, animation as the animatic privileges death – that ultimate form of singularity for Baudrillard (Baudrillard, 2003: 172) – over life – life that is for Derrida the différance (differing, deferring and detour) of death12 – death the model exclusion, model of all others, including all radical, capital O Others. It makes every encounter with movies, cinema – film animation – an encounter with death, death that is never not returning in the form of the uncanny, the spectre, the Cryptic Complex, the animatic, as Cole Sear knows all too well.
Hence film animation’s privileged relation to the tellingly bountiful lifedeath of the spectre and its legion of relatives in the ‘family’ of the living dead, the ‘undead’: the vampire13 , the zombie, the mummy, etc., figures that singularly dominate, even as they haunt, movies, cinema – film animation – in particular the horror and horror-sf genres14 , figures figuring, isomorphic with, movies, cinema, film ‘itself’, as form of animation, of reanimation, as form of lifedeath, as spectre, as psuché, as crypt, as animator of the Cryptic Complex, and vice versa – as animatic – ‘ur’ attraction, ‘ur’ in-betweener, in-betweener subsuming all forms, modes, of the in-between.
Meaning that, so long as animation persists, death insists.
And crucially, vice versa.
So long as death persists, animation insists.
And so long as both persist, the illusion of life persists.
And so long as death the animatic animator persists, the illusion of lifedeath and the lifedeath of illusion persist.
II. The Death of Death
Take me away from all this death (Mina to Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992).
But here the plot thickens…and simultaneously thins. For here we encounter a crucial distinction between animation and what I call hyperanimation, which is isomorphic with hyperreality, the hyperreality that is our contemporary culture and world of the mass, thought for me after Baudrillard, a culture and world no longer Imamura’s second order reality of commodity fetishism, a culture and world indeed no longer a culture and world at all. For second order reality has been left behind for a third/fourth order ‘culture’ and ‘world’, a hyperculture and hyperworld, the pure and empty form of culture and world, as it is of reality and all its constitutive elements, including the individual, the social, the Subject15 , identity, meaning, truth, etc.,16 in the process turning Imamura’s commodity fetishism into hypercommodity hyperfetishism, his myth into hypermyth and Žižek’s fantasy into hyperfantasy.
Indeed, for Baudrillard everything tends to pass into its hyperform, its virtual, pure and empty form, where everything is everywhere but in itself and everything is in itself but itself.
While the animatic figure of lifedeath is for me never not operating in animation, its hyperanimatic form is that of hyperlifedeath, the pure and empty form of life, of death, of lifedeath. A life without life, a death without death, a lifedeath without lifedeath, a life and the living more and less dead than dead and a death and the dead more and less alive than alive. Here we pass from death as absence to the absence of death. Here death has met its death, and ‘lives on’ beyond it, as does life, too, as ‘life’.
So, when I stated in my opening quotation that ‘…animation – indeed the animatic – has increasingly come forward as the most compelling, indeed singular process, of not only contemporary film but the contemporary world’, that is meant to figure the coming forward in their hyperform of the uncanny, the spectre, the Cryptic Complex, the hauntological, lifedeath, animation and the animatic17 .
It is hyperanimation and the hyperanimatic that are exemplary describer and as well exemplary performer of the ‘centrality’ of animation to contemporary hyperculture, hyperworld and hypersubject. And what constitutes that ‘centrality’ is the void, empty centre of hyperanimation at the void, empty centre of contemporary hyperculture, hyperworld and hypersubject18 – the dead point, blind spot, black hole at the ‘core’ of each.
Necessitating this recasting of my provisional proposal in Section I: hyperanimation hyperconverges on contemporary hyperculture, hyperworld and hypersubject, as they hyperconverge on it. And more pointedly: hyperdeath the hyperanimator hyperconverges on contemporary hyperculture, hyperworld and hypersubject, as they hyperconverge on it19 .
Of the features defining hyperreality, hyperanimation, hyperlifedeath, hyperfilm animation20 , I wrote at length in my article ‘“OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”: The Virtual Reality of Jurassic Park and Jean Baudrillard’, elucidating them in terms of ‘The dinosaur that will die no more, that will not die because it already has’ (Cholodenko, 1997: 69), that exists at once therefore beyond life and beyond death. I ask the reader to consult it.
I have another such figure in mind for here. But let me contextualise it with this thought regarding lifedeath and film animation.
In Part I of this paper, I proposed that Freud’s most striking example of the uncanny – haunting – the ‘relation to death and dead bodies, to the return of the dead, and to spirits and ghosts’ (Freud, quoted in Derrida, 1994: 195, note 38), makes cinema – the crypt, the haunted house, of cinema, of film animation – privileged example of Freud’s ‘unheimlich’ (haunted) house. House of the living dead, a house, never a home, for the animatic is its ‘foundation’.
For me no character in movies is more resident in that house, more exemplifies lifedeath, the Cryptic Complex of film animation itself as the animatic, than the vampire, preeminently Dracula – either first or second most depicted character in all of film history, contesting for ‘the top spot’, as it were, tellingly so for me, with none other than Sherlock Holmes, a contest marking for me a war between them for rule in and over film animation, one played out in the Dracula films with, if you’ll allow, the ‘stakeholder’ Dr van Helsing as for me Holmes’ proxy21 .
A war between the forces of evil and of good in movies and cinema, in their narratives, in the very relations of movies and cinema from the earliest days22 , a war for me set up between evil and the one who would detect, determine, separate, master and end it, put it to death and/or reconcile it with the good, thereby for me render it inanimate23 .
A war for me evil has never not been winning, including in the very perpetuation of the dualism, the agonistics, of good and evil, what Baudrillard calls ‘the reign of eternal antagonism’ (Baudrillard, 1993c: 139) between them, their at once inseparability and yet impossibility of reconciliation, that inseparability and irreconcilability for him the very principle of Evil itself.
Even as Spielberg’s Jurassic Park returns us to Winsor McCay’s Gertie (1914) to reanimate it and McCay’s eponymous dinosaur in hyperreal, hyperanimation form, so for me Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula – inscribed/encrypted in Part I of this paper in terms of the re-emergence for film scholar Tom Gunning of the cinema of attractions in the ‘Spielberg-Lucas-Coppola cinema of effects’ (Gunning 1986: 70, my emphasis) in the 1970s and 1980s, a re-emergence marking for me the reanimation of the animation of attractions as hyperanimation of hyperattractions – is exemplary, returning us to the Dracula films of the ’20s and ’30s to likewise reanimate them and, as with Jurassic Park, to mutate, morph, them into a profoundly different order – that of hyperreality, of hyperlifedeath. A hyperlifedeath that proliferates in tandem with the hyperproliferation of hyperbad movies, of paracinema, of the hyperhorror and hyperhorror-sf genres and their hypervampires, hyperzombies et al., including as they virally commingle, contaminate, collude with and hyperproliferate each other24 .
At the same time, I would be remiss were I not to declare that Coppola’s film is singular for me, singular in the privileged relation it establishes between movies, cinema, and animation25 , marking movies and cinema as forms of animation from their inception, as never not animation, and doing so in and through the privileged relation it establishes between film animation and Dracula, ‘wedding’ the filmic animatic to the animatic Dracula and proposing the rule of both over film animation from its advent.
Proposing film animation as – to recall Parts I and II of this paper – Maxim Gorky’s ‘Kingdom of Shadows’ (Gorky’s term for his for Gunning and me canonical characterization of his experience of the Lumière brothers’ films on 4 July 1896), as uncanny, as Cryptic Complex, as psuché, as spectral simulacral eidolon – as vampire, as Dracula – for all are composed of the same lifedead matter, all are of the same order of Seduction, Illusion, Evil, fatality, cruelty, the feminine – the animatic.
Indeed, for me, that animation at movies and cinema’s advent finds perhaps no finer example/allegory/trope/ performance in hyperreal cinema than in and as Coppola’s film, the evil genius of which is to seek to restage, to reanimate, that animation at cinema’s advent, to bring it back from the dead, itself as haunted house, as crypt, as Cryptic Complex, impossible to do by definition except as simulacrum, here hypersimulacrum.
Coppola’s film ‘weds’ cinema, that is, film animation, to the animatic – to lifedeath, the Cryptic Complex – as film animation’s singular attraction, as it ‘weds’ civilisation to them as civilisation’s singular attraction, ‘wedding’ film animation to civilisation thereby, such ‘weddings’ given classic, convergent form in and by the seductive Draculas and Dracula films of old and hyperreal, hyperconvergent form in and by Coppola’s fascinating, metastatic, viral avatar.
But even as the vampire, Dracula preeminently, exemplifies lifedeath, the Cryptic Complex of film animation itself, for me today no figure more exemplifies their hyperreal forms than the zombie, or rather, hyperzombie, inaugurated in George A. Romero’s ‘seminal’ 1968 hyperzombie movie Night of the Living Dead26 .
Even as we have of late been seeing a proliferation of hypervampire films, so too have we been seeing a proliferation of hyperzombie films; and I believe they are to be viewed not only in combination, complicit with each other, but in competition with each other. Put simply, I believe there is a war for sovereignty today in the realm of evil, and therefore for me in and over ‘the Kingdom of Shadows’ of film animation, between these two paramount forms of filmic lifedeath, one the hyperzombie is for me winning over the retro hypervampire. It is a war in which each issues a challenge to the other, pushing the other and itself to its limits.
A war whose nature and trajectory are crucially ‘illuminated’ for me by Baudrillard’s retheorising of Freud’s death drive27 – a drive for which all uncanny returns are stand-ins, that is, it is death that returns, indeed is never not returning, a drive subsumed within my Cryptic Complex28 – as a drive whose aim is not death – death as that finality, that inanimate state, the return to which Freud makes the aim, the telos, of life, life for Freud but the detour of death – but rather the death of death, the death of death as finality, as inanimateness, as mortality, the death of death in immortality (see Baudrillard, 2000a and Baudrillard, 2001a). And whose contemporary figure for Baudrillard is not the protozoa – on which Freud models his death drive, Sergei Eisenstein his essence of film as form of animation as plasmaticness (Eisenstein, 1988: 21)29 and Baudrillard his retheorising of Freud’s death drive as ‘radical counter-finality’ (Baudrillard, 1993a: 152), as seduction, reversion and death sentence to all finality, all inanimateness, all mortality, including to Freud’s notion of death – as what I call death the animatic animator30 .Rather, that contemporary figure for Baudrillard isthe protozoa’s avatar, which is for him the clone, key figure for Baudrillard of hyperreality, of metamorphosis in its viral, cancerous, metastatic expression, an order for me no longer hauntological nor ontological but oncological, order of ‘“pure”, cancerous positivity’ (Cholodenko, 2005: 6, and see Cholodenko, 1997: 74), order of what I call the hyperdeath of death hyperdrive31 . As is stated in the documentary Catching Cancer: ‘Cancer starts from a single mutant cell… Cancer is a cell that refuses to die… It becomes immortal and creates an army of mutant clones [my emphasis]’32 .
Here I note a second feature that makes Coppola’s film singular for me. It effects the chiasmatic ‘crossing’, the convergence, or rather hyperconvergence, of both Dracula and film animation as the animatic with another singular ruling figure for animation, that is, the first single-celled animal organism, the protozoa (from the Greek proto, first + zoon, animal), such ‘crossing’, hyperconvergence, privileging not only the animal for animation but this animal of all animals for animation33 .
Indeed, the film doubles Baudrillard in converging upon and retheorising the theorisings by Freud and Eisenstein of the protozoa, turning the protozoa from Freud’s figure of mortality into figure of immortality, a figure at once akin to Eisenstein’s plasmatic protozoa of film animation but, contrary to both Freud and Eisenstein – whose theories essentialise the inanimate (Freud) and the animate (Eisenstein) – constituting not an essence but a non-essence, a nothing rather than a something, the plasmatic as animatic34 .
While Baudrillard’s ‘death drive’ as radical counter-finality accords for me with lifedeath, with psuché, with the animatic, which deconstruct, seduce, both Freud’s death drive and Eisenstein’s plasmaticness35 , Coppola’s Dracula and film give lifedeath, psuché, the animatic, including the animatic plasmaticness of the protozoa, their hyperform in the hyperlifedeath, hyperpsuché, hyperanimatic, hyperplasmatic, hyperrealised viral, metastatic forms the primal protean Dracula shape-shifts, morphs, into and hyperproliferates in – bat, wolf, mist, rat, even a plague of rats, etc.36 .
Put ‘simply’, Baudrillard not only rewrites Freud’s ‘the aim of all life is death’ as ‘the aim of all life is the death of death in immortality’, he theorises that that rewritten drive – as the death of death drive, the drive to immortality – morphs in hyperreality into the hyperdeath of death hyperdrive, the hyperdrive to hyperimmortality, the hyperdrive to and of the clone37 .
For Baudrillard, the human species and individual drive to achieve a ‘clone-ideal today’ (Baudrillard, 1993d: 122) in a project to put to death death, sex38 , differentiation, individuation, individuality, alterity, the Other, etc., and to return to, to reanimate, the immortality, asexuality, indifferentiation and deathlessness of the protozoa ‘encoded in the earliest life of our cells’ (Baudrillard, 2000a: 6) and still, as it were, cryptically incorporated there. But this bio-genetic nostalgia can only now be effected in terms of the human’s experimental, hyperanimated bio-genetic destiny (see Baudrillard, 2000a and Baudrillard, 2001a and 2001b), that of integral, virtual reality – the clone for Baudrillard ‘the Human Xerox’ (Baudrillard, 2001a: 37), ‘the Degree Xerox of the Species’ (Baudrillard, 2002: 196).
Such hyperdeath of death of the clone would be not the heroic or fatally uncanny immortality of the human but a cold, banally uncanny automatic, automated hyperimmortality, for Baudrillard Hegel’s ‘life, moving of itself, of that which is dead’ in its now hyperform. The species and individual condemned to eternal asexual celibate reproduction and reiteration of the identical – the ‘hell of the same’ – this would be the endlessness of the end: the transfinite. The hysteresis, the ‘mere’ ‘living on’, surviving, of death’s desistance39 .
And, to respond to the title of the 2010 Society for Animation Studies conference – ‘Animation Evolution’ – and theme of convergence, given that this hysteresis is for Baudrillard ‘degree Zero of evolution’ (Baudrillard, 2001b: 47), rather an involution, it would constitute not ‘Animation Evolution’ but ‘Hyperanimation Hyperevolution’, an evolution more devolution than devolution and upon which animation and evolution, everything in fact, not converges but hyperconverges – a convergence at once more divergence than divergence and at the same time a divergence more convergence than convergence.
Here Žižek’s ‘fundamental fantasy of contemporary mass culture’ – the return of the living dead ‘to pose a threat to the living’ – morphs into what Baudrillard calls ‘the final solution…our deepest fantasy and the fantasy of our science’ (Baudrillard, 2001a: 26), that of immortality, envisioned as the return, ‘…the revenge of the immortal, undifferentiated beings over mortal, sexed beings’ (Ibid.: 29 and see Baudrillard, 2000a: 8), a metastasis of the species and self-metastasis of the subject, both species and subject purged of the Other and condemned to a cancerous proliferation and contagion of pure, serial repetition, what Baudrillard terms ‘absolute death’ (Baudrillard, 2000a: 6), ‘true death’ (Baudrillard 2001a: 28), ‘the most horrific of possible fates’ (Baudrillard, 2000a: 6).
For me, this would be the return, the revenge, of what I call the bio-genetic uncanny, part of a bio-genetic Cryptic Complex40 ,its reanimation, reanimated in not its immortal form but its other form, its hyperimmortal form – the hyperbio-genetic hyperuncanny, part of a hyperCryptic Complex. This would be the return, the revenge, of the hyperimmortal form of lifedeath over the mortal form of lifedeath, hyperimmortality the pure and empty form of both immortality and mortality, the absence of both.
In other words, what returns to us is not simply the uncanny protozoa, the death of death in immortality, but the protozoa’s avatar, the hyperuncanny clone, the death of death in hyperimmortality.
And it is upon such hyperimmortality that everything hyperconverges, including Coppola’s Dracula and film.
For this ‘final solution’, this ‘final fantasy’, this hyperfantasy – that of the hyperlifedeath of the hyperuncanny clone as Baudrillard thinks it – its privileged figure in, for and as hyperfilm animation is for me none other than the hyperzombie41 .
Far better than the hypervampire – for which for me Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula is exemplary (both as film and as character) – profoundly better than the vampire, the classic Dracula preeminently, for which for me Coppola’s film is nostalgic, or better, hypernostalgic, as part of its nostalgia for its origins, for at once its origins in film animation’s origins – in lifedeath – and film animation’s origins in Dracula’s lifedeath42 .
I say ‘profoundly better than the vampire’ because the vampire is privileged figure for me of Baudrillard’s superior first order of Seduction, Illusion, evil, fatality, cruelty, aristocracy, singularity, maximal radical Otherness, metamorphosis and the nonessence of plasmaticness – the other immortal form of the bio-genetic uncanny, of lifedeath, for me – while the hyperzombie is a figure of Baudrillard’s diminished third and fourth orders, as films the likes of Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Zombies of Mass Destruction, Zombie Strippers, Zombieland and the TV series Dead Set and Woke Up Dead attest. [To which riot we could readily add such films as 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, [REC], [REC 2], Dead Snow, World War Z and the TV series The Walking Dead.] The hyperzombie: cold, fascinating, relentless, indifferent, brain-dead, programmed, solely functional (and with but one cannibalistic function: to eat human flesh, until there is no human left to eat), anything but seductive, anything but singular, rather viral hyperproliferator of ‘an army of mutant clones’, precisely extreme, maximal figure of metamorphosis in its viral, cancerous, metastatic expression43 . The hyperzombie – the zombie in its maximal form – and its army – the mass and its infectious, toxic epidemic – are winning out for me over the hypervampire – the vampire in its minimal form.
At the same time, no matter how minimally a vampire the hypervampire is, no matter how much it may be not only contaminated but challenged by the hyperzombie, no matter even how much it may morph and be morphed into the hyperzombie, this singular figure never completely loses for me those qualities that (de)compose it, no matter how hard the anything but twilight Twilight pursues the banal strategy (drawn from and pushing further Coppola’s film) of seeking to de-fang the already (thanks to Coppola’s film) largely defanged hypervampire, seeking to make it human, even more human than the human, which in any case it already is (as well as already is at the same time less human than the human), a de-fanging and hyperhumanising something Sookie (Psuché?!) Stackhouse of True Blood seems far more ambivalent about and far less inclined to undertake, befitting a person so singularly named.
At the same time, like the drink ‘True Blood’, which is anything but true and anything but blood, being but a disappointing simulation of the real thing, the human in True Blood is disappointing as a simulation of the human but fascinating when exhibiting the features that make it akin to the hypervampire, etc.
But insofar as Baudrillard at one point seems to speculate that the clone is possibly ‘but a variant of the other, nothing but its detour’ (Baudrillard, 2000a: 27) – a gesture in line with his two irreconcilable hypotheses, undecidable between them, of The Perfect Crime of virtualisation and the Radical Illusion of Seduction – the Perfect Crime avatar of, strange return to, that Radical Illusion (see Baudrillard, 1996a: 5, Baudrillard, 1996b: 74, as well as Baudrillard, 2000b: 53, 55) – that means for me that, given that I align the vampire with the protozoa and the hyperzombie with the clone44 , it is possible that the hyperzombie is not only the avatar of the vampire but its detour, strangely returning us to the vampire. While this is undecidable, it means at the least that ‘there is much to learn’ from the vampire still, even from the hypervampire.
Including that, when, in reply to Coppola’s Dracula’s plea ‘See me, see me now’, Mina begs him ‘Take me away from all this death’, what she asks for is the immortality he offers; but what she receives is the hyperimmortality of the hyperanimatic film and apparatus, in the process turning Cole Sears’ ‘I see dead people’, his sixth sense, on its head.
For death is now everywhere except in death and everything is in it but it, including the ‘living’, in not only hyperreal film but our hyperreal, hyperzombie world.
III. Our clone world
As is said in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1979), ‘When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth’, making the earth hell. Here, the ‘human’ no longer has but is its own shadow, its own psuché, spectre, its own clone, its own zombie, its own cancer, its own coffin, its own crypt, its own grave, its own hell, its own haunted house, its own ‘Kingdom of Shadows’, its own film animation.
To which morphing of orders and the radical uncertainty of hyperreality characterising Baudrillard’s ‘uncertainty revolution’ Romero himself in his own way perhaps attests when he states:
In my zombie movies, the dead brought back to life represent a kind of revolution, a radical change in the world that many of my human characters can’t understand, preferring to label the living dead as the Enemy when in reality they are us. I use blood in all its horrendous magnificence to make the public understand that my movies are more of a sociopolitical chronicle of the times than dumb adventures with a generous dollop of horror (quoted in Eco 2007: 422).
And in these times there does not appear to be a ‘right one to let in’ to save us from that ‘dead man walking’ that is the hyperzombie, spelling the end of the human in the posthuman, the hyperhuman, as hyperzombie.
Why ‘They’re here already’! Words of Dr Miles Bennell, who cries out this warning, in the path of oncoming cars, to drivers exhibiting a zombie-like indifference to him, in Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), a film displacing the source and nature of the transformation of humans into zombies to aliens cloning themselves as such emotionless simulation humans, which are reanimated in and by the aliens’ pods.
But here a caution, a note of ‘optimism’, perhaps.
As Baudrillard says, ‘this game is not yet over’ (Baudrillard, 2000a: 29).
It is a game that is for him, and for me, symbolically, ‘literally’ and virtually ‘a matter of life and death’ (Ibid.: 30), a matter of not the familiar, commonplace fight for life against death but rather a ‘fight for death’ (Ibid.: 5, my emphasis) against the death of death in cold, clonal hyperimmortality45 .
A matter already anticipated in these perceptive words of Bela Lugosi as Dracula in Tod Browning’s 1931 version: ‘To die, to be really dead. That must be glorious. There are far worse things awaiting man than death’.
A matter ‘still’ of, in a word, animation.
About the Author
Alan Cholodenko is an Honorary Associate of The University of Sydney. This essay was presented as a keynote address at Animation Histories and Futures, the Inaugural 2010 University of Technology Sydney: Sydney International Animation Festival Symposium of the Sydney International Animation Festival, University of Technology Sydney, 24 September 2010. It was published online in Selected Writings From the UTS: Sydney International Animation Festival 2010 Symposium, edited by Chris Bowman and published by the Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2011.
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1 – The title of this paper is to be read ‘Death the Animator, the Death of the Animator, or: The Felicity of Felix’.
2 – (The) Death (of) the Animator, or: The Felicity of Felix’, Part I: ‘Kingdom of Shadows’ was published in 2009 in Animated Dialogues, 2007, situated on the website of Animation Studies, journal of the Society for Animation Studies. ‘(The) Death (of) the Animator, or: The Felicity of Felix’, Part II: ‘A Difficulty in the Path of Animation Studies’ was published in Animation Studies, vol. 2, 2007. To read what I mean by ‘The Felicity of Felix’, see the end of Part II.
3 – First posing that privileged relation in my Introduction to The Illusion of Life, I have reiterated and explored it in nearly a dozen texts by now.
4 – The theoretical systematising and elaborating of the Cryptic Complex, as well as the theorising of it (and other of Derrida’s ideas) for not only cinema but animation, for film as a form of animation, for Film Studies and animation studies, and more, and vice versa, is what I have carried forward in my publications on Derrida and animation over the last 20 years (even if Louise Burchill makes no mention of my work in her essay on Derrida and film in the recent Film, Theory and Philosophy, edited by Felicity Colman). And I continue to do so.
5 – I have not only recast Tom Gunning’s canonical ‘cinema of attractions’ as animation of attractions in Parts 1 and 2 of this essay but have more recently specifically focused on movies (the better term for that first phase of film from its advent to around 1905-1910 than ‘cinema’, as in ‘cinema of attractions’) as animation of attractions in my ‘The “ABCs” of B, or: To Be and Not to Be B’, thereby all the more supporting my proposal that all film as film animation is the animation of attractions, offering the attractions of animation.
6 – In other words, the first, last and enduring attraction of film animation, its singular attraction – the very attraction of the attraction, the attraction ‘as such’ – is the animatic, the animatic lifedeath of the Cryptic Complex; and its animation is never not disseminating, seducing, Gunning’s ‘cinema [recast as well by me as animation] of narrative integration’, necessitating quotation marks around ‘integration’. The animatic is to animation as, for Derrida, différance, dissemination, is to presence. For more on the animatic, see my Introduction to The Illusion of Life, pp. 28-29, and my Introduction to The Illusion of Life 2: More Essays on Animation, pp. 43-44 and 67-71.
7 – But see my ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or The Framing of Animation’, where I in fact locate animation after Derrida in the graph as writing, my ‘The Illusion of the Beginning’, where I locate animation after Derrida in the graph as drawing, and my ‘Still Photography?’, where I extended that consideration of the ‘still image’ to locate animation in the ‘still’ of the photograph.
8 – I do not limit the uncanny, the Cryptic Complex, lifedeath to film animation but see them as operating in, between and among all media, all media being for me modes of animation, animation as the animatic. For my figuring the media as akin to virulent Velociraptors, see my ‘“OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”: The Virtual Reality of Jurassic Park and Jean Baudrillard’. See too my Introduction to The Illusion of Life 2, especially pp. 20-23 and 67-71, as well as the essays therein by David Ellison, ‘Animating Architectures: Panic Styles for Troubled Cities’, and Patrick Crogan, ‘Logistical Space: Flight Simulation and Virtual Reality’.
9 – On the nutty animation universe, see Part II of this paper, as well as my essay ‘The Nutty Universe of Animation, the “Discipline” of All “Disciplines”, and That’s Not All, Folks!’.
10 – A point I made in ‘The Crypt, the Haunted House, of Cinema’, p. 100.
11 – In addition to taking up the Homeric psuché there, my articles on it include ‘Still Photography?’ and ‘Animation (Theory) as the Poematic: A Reply to the Cognitivists’.
12 – As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak remarks of Derrida’s essay ‘La Différance’ in her Translator’s Preface to his Of Grammatology, for Derrida ‘the complicity [in Freud’s death drive] between the organism and the inertia of the inorganic state makes life a differance [sic] of death’ (Spivak, 1984, 1986, p.xliv), marking thereby that figure of lifedeath. Lifedeath coimplicates life and the animate and death and the inanimate, with all the deconstructive consequences that follow from that, including for Freud’s ostensible effort to keep them separate, including that, in preserving the organism to find its own proper death, this death drive becomes as if indistinguishable from a life drive, the inanimate as if indistinguishable from the animate. Which deconstructs any essence of animation as pure animism, pure positivism, pure being, pure becoming, pure metamorphosis, etc. Indeed, the automatic nature of the death drive confers on it the quality of mechanism, making the animistic as if indistinguishable from the mechanistic.
As Spivak also observes, that complicity that makes life for Freud but the detour of death recalls Nietzsche’s famous assertion in The Gay Science: ‘Let us beware of saying that death is opposed to life. The living is merely a type of what is dead, and a very rare type’ (Ibid., p.xxix). I put it thus: for Nietzsche life is the special case, the reduced conditional form, of death. Or, as Annemarie Jonson couches it in her lovely ‘Porky’s Stutter: The Vocal Trope and Lifedeath in Animation’ re Norman McLaren’s definition of animation, ‘Paraphrastically, then, and read through Derrida, McLaren’s assertion, which makes of “difference” the “soul” or life of animation, might be recast thus: “death is the life of animation”’ (Jonson, 2007 p.446).
13 – Derrida in fact acknowledges the vampire as a key way in which the cinema ‘stages fantomality’ (Derrida, April 2001 p.77).
14 – On these privileged figures and genres for film animation, see my ‘The ‘ABCs’ of B, or: To Be and Not To Be B’, section I, as well as Peter Hutchings’ ‘The Work-Shop of Filthy Animation’ and Lisa Trahair’s ‘For the Noise of a Fly’ in The Illusion of Life.
15 – On the Subject, see my marking of the five transsubjective determinants constituting it, as well as its volatilisation, in note 25 of ‘“The Borders of Our Lives”: Frederick Wiseman, Jean Baudrillard, and the Question of the Documentary’. Those determinants, referenced but unnamed in that note, are: language, the psychoanalytic constitution of the subject, ideology, power and knowledge.
16 – By ‘second order reality’ and a ‘third/fourth order’, I reference Baudrillard’s four orders of simulacra, orders for him in not the history but the destiny of the world. Here let me sketch them for the reader unfamiliar with his work. His first order is that of Seduction. For Baudrillard, the world in its classical era was an enchanted world of rituals and ceremonials where gods and humans played the game of Seduction – game of challenge (agonistics) and reversibility, of duel, defiance, outbidding, of leading astray. It was a world of metamorphosis and myth, of illusion and the immaterial, of rule and the dual, of magic, dance and theatre.
Then a cycle occurred, bringing with it its second order: Reality, the world of production and reproduction. With its advent a process of degradation began, where schemes dissembled the originary world, seeking to install the nonsensical idea that the world was true, real, meaningful, that it held a secret that could be known by the processes of production and reproduction that these schemes could mobilise. This was a world of metaphor, of Christianity, of materialism, of law and the polar, of the dialectic and of contradiction.
This world is still with us, but it is increasingly disappearing, for a second cycle occurred for Baudrillard during or just after World War II and the world entered its third phase: Hyperreality. This is a world of models, a cold disenchanted world of obscenity, obesity and terrorism, where our cold media hypersaturate our minds with information and death lies in the short-circuit that has imploded the polarities that have ostensibly sustained meaning and that has volatilised the great referentials of the culture. This is a world of metastasis, of the cybernetic and the molecular, the code of DNA and digitality, of television and the computer and their imageless screens of absorption where, fascinated, we see nothing. This is what Baudrillard calls ‘the desert of the real’. (See Baudrillard, 1983 p.2.)
While this world is very much with us, Baudrillard announced in 1990 (in ‘Après l’Orgie’, La Transparence du mal: Essai sur les phénomènes extrêmes) that we have experienced another cycle and entered into the fourth order – a world of the viral, the fractal, the clone. (See Baudrillard, 1993b p.5.) Nevertheless, I write of the third and fourth orders as ‘third/fourth order’ since for me they are both of the order of hyperreality and for our purposes do not require distinguishing.
17 – Notably, too, the ontological, become hyperontological, the pure and empty form of being, as well as metamorphosis, become hypermetamorphosis, the pure and empty form of metamorphosis, which is for me the morph, i.e. the pure and empty form of becoming.
18 – So, contrary to the pundits’ ‘Animation Rules’, we would say rather ‘Hyperanimation Hyperrules’. Which calls for a refiguring of the term ‘animation culture’ – a term mistakenly used by Thomas Lamarre in his review article ‘Animation Studies’ to figure what ‘Taken as a whole, The Illusion of Life II seems to announce…[:] a fundamental shift from a “cinema formation” to an “animation formation”’, to an ‘animation culture’ (Lamarre, 2008 p.1). For me, that particular characterisation overlooks what I announce in my Introduction in that anthology: the hyperreal. Even as we no longer live in the era of movies and cinema but of hypermovies and hypercinema, the pure and empty form of each, the terms ‘film culture’, ‘film world’, ‘animation culture’, and ‘animation world’ likewise fail to suit, each likewise ceding to their hyperform, the pure and empty form of film and animation for the pure and empty form of culture and world.
19 – On hyperconvergence, see Baudrillard, The Evil Demon of Images, pp. 33-34. As he puts it: ‘Simultaneous with this attempt at absolute coincidence with the real [read here culture, world, subject], cinema [read here film animation] also approaches an absolute coincidence with itself’ (p. 33). For an elaboration of this dual process, see my ‘“The Borders of Our Lives”: Frederick Wiseman, Jean Baudrillard, and the Question of the Documentary’.
20 – The last three terms not yet so named by me in that article.
21 – The 1897 publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the same year as the contemporary setting of Coppola’s film), just five years after the premiere of Emile Reynaud’s animatographic Théâtre Optique in Paris, two years after the premiere of the Lumière Bros’ Cinématographe in Paris and one year after its premiere in London (that premiere marked in Coppola’s film insofar as the Cinématographe is still on exhibition in 1897 London, its spelling now Anglicised as ‘Cinematograph’), marks for me a kindred relation between the vampire, Dracula preeminently, and film animation. As for Sherlock Holmes, his first appearance in print was in 1887, ten years before Stoker’s Dracula. On Reynaud’s Théâtre Optique, see my ‘The Animation of Cinema’.
22 – On that war between movies and cinema, see my ‘The “ABCs” of B, or: To Be and Not To Be B’.
23 – In terms of that war, it is relevant that the first international conference of DOMITOR (International Association to Promote the Study of Early Cinema), held in June 1990, was called Une Invention du diable?: Cinéma des premiers temps et religion [‘An Invention of the Devil?: Early Cinema and Religion’]. See R Cosandey et al.
24 – On the hypervampire, hyperzombie and hyperbad movies, see my ‘The “ABCs” of B, or: To Be and Not To Be B’.
25 – On the relations of movies, cinema and film animation, see my ‘The “ABCs” of B, or: To Be and Not To Be B’.
It does so for me in two singular sequences: the meeting of Dracula and Mina on the streets of London and their visit to the Cinematograph. For an elaboration of these sequences in particular and an analysis of key operations of the Cryptic Complex at the level of form and structure in Coppola’s film, see my ‘One Through the Heart: Francis Ford Coppola’s Copulation of Dracula and Film Animation’, forthcoming.
26 – I call it ‘hyperzombie’ because it represents the hyperform of the zombie of the early days of cinema, the Haitian zombie brought forth by voodoo.
27 – To recall, Freud theorises the death drive as the never not happening drive of the human organism to return to the inanimateness from which the human species and each human individual has come, a drive whose at once ‘organic elasticity’ (Freud, 1984 p.309) and ‘expression of the inertia inherent in organic life’ (Ibid.), of inanimateness, for Freud even the first animal organism, the protozoa, the protista, cannot escape, making the immanent essence of all animal life – from protozoa to and including the human – that life’s telos (i.e. ultimate end). Freud puts it succinctly: ‘the aim of all life is death’ (Ibid., p.311).
28 – Here I need to re-mark that privileged link I drew in my Introduction to The Illusion of Life, pp. 28-29, between animation, the uncanny and Freud’s death drive.
29 – Eisenstein’s plasmaticness – that ‘omnipotence of plasma, which contains in “liquid” form all possibilities of future species and forms’ (Eisenstein, 1988 p.64) and ‘from which everything can arise’ (Ibid., p.46) is exemplified for him by the amoeba, a member of the phylum protozoa (or protista). The protozoa for Eisenstein is that primal protean protoplasmic, protoplasmatic form which, ‘not yet possessing a “stable” form, but capable of assuming any form and which, skipping along the rungs of the evolutionary ladder, attaches itself to any and all forms of animal existence’ (Ibid., p.21), while remaining ungiveable as such. For Eisenstein, protean (proto)plasmaticness is the essence of film as form of animation as form of animism.
30 – I take up the theorising of death the animatic animator, including of film animation, in not only this essay but my ‘The Spectre in the Screen’. Baudrillard’s retheorising of Freud’s death drive as one to the death of death takes up a place for me in Baudrillard’s fatal theory, theory fatal to itself. For him, the fatal must be fatal to itself, or it is not fatal. In other word, death must be deadly to itself, or it is not deadly!
31 – See my ‘“OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”: The Virtual Reality of Jurassic Park and Jean Baudrillard’ for my first take on Freud’s death drive in terms of the protozoa and the clone.
32 – That documentary, made by Sonya Pemberton, aired on ABC TV in Sydney on 22 October 2009.
33 – To which singular ‘crossings’ I must add that of all three with Gorky’s theorising of film at its advent. For that, see my ‘One Through the Heart’, forthcoming.
34 – For his part, Derrida deconstructs such essentialising in terms of/as Freud’s for him ‘athetical text’ with precisely lifedeath in ‘To Speculate – on “Freud”’, in The Post Card. See too Judith Roof, ‘From Protista to DNA (and Back Again): Freud’s Psychoanalysis of the Single-Celled Organism’, in Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal.
35 – Moreover, Baudrillard’s retheorising of Freud’s death drive as radical counter-finality accords with Baudrillard’s notion of Evil, which, he declares, ‘is…a deliaison [sic], Freud’s principle of Thanatos’ (Baudrillard, 1993e p.177). Thanatos, ie. death, is for Baudrillard ‘itself the principle of irreconcilability’ (Baudrillard, 1987 p. 45), ‘a vital principle of unbinding’ (Baudrillard, 1990 p.112, my translation) – what death as animate, animated and animating, indeed reanimating – as animatic animator – is likewise for me. Whereas the principle of Good for Baudrillard, of inanimation for me, is that of binding, reconciliation, resolution, finality, determinacy, closure, essence, presence, unity, wholeness, etc.
36 – Dracula’s link with the protozoa reminds us that the most common form of the protozoa is the aptly named amoeba proteus, after the sea god Proteus, whose myth for Eisenstein is ‘based…upon the omnipotence of plasma’ (Eisenstein, 1988 p.64), traced for me as well in Dracula’s words to Mina, ‘I have crossed oceans of time to find you’. That protean primal form situates for me the proto in the protean, and vice versa.
37 – Here one is reminded of Baudrillard’s epigraph to La Transparence du mal: ‘Since the world drives to a delirious state of things, we must drive to a delirious point of view’ (Baudrillard, 1990 p.9).
38 – Like life and death for Nietzsche and Derrida, Eros (sex) and Thanatos (death) are inextricably commingled, including for Freud, though he ostensibly wishes to separate them. Indeed, for me, after Nietzsche, even as life is the special case, the reduced conditional form, of death, so too is sex (here the French term for orgasm, la petite mort, ‘the little death’, serves me well) the special case, the reduced conditional form, of death.
39 – A ‘living on’ exhibiting and performing the hypervitality, hyperactivity, of the extreme phenomena of hyperreality, where everything loses its ‘specificity’ in hyperspecificity, hyperidentity. See my ‘“OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”.
40 – In parallel, as it were, with my proposal of a cosmological uncanny, part of a cosmological Cryptic Complex, in ‘The Nutty Universe of Animation…’.
41 – The hyperzombie (as I call it) as the privileged figure of the living dead today is underscored by Jamie Russell in his Book of the Dead, p. 192. Given the replicating and hyperproliferating nature of the clone, the only other figure for me in competition with the hyperzombie for this ‘top spot’ is an analogous, complicit one, the cyborg, another figure of metastatic hyperreality. See my ‘Speculations on the Animatic Automaton’, in The Illusion of Life 2. In fact, in The Terminator, as the flesh on the face of the T101 is abraded and takes on a greenish/greyish cast, it increasingly resembles a zombie, enhanced by the limp, the stutter step, it acquires, typical of the zombie. In its hyperform, the zombie exemplifies the slower than slow – the hyperinertia – of hyperreality, even as the hypervampire figures its faster than fast – its hyperactive hyperacceleration; but its acceleration is increasingly infused with hyperinertia, even as the hyperinertia of the hyperzombie is accelerating. In pushing hyperreality further, for neither is the slow, and the nostalgia informing it, a counter. Moreover, in hyperreality ‘suspended animation’ morphs into the suspending of that suspension, turns into the suspension of animation ‘itself’.
42 – And for Dracula’s putative historical origins, too, in Vlad the Impaler.
43 – In hyperproliferating, the hyperzombie of course exhibits its viral, cancerous, metatstatic nature. In fact, in George A. Romero’s ‘seminal’ hyperzombie flick Night of the Living Dead (1968), it is suggested that radiation brought back from the planet Venus spawns some sort of protista (virus, bacteria, it is never specified) that in turn reanimates the dead, thus directly linking the protista, the viral and the hyperzombie, the protista, the viral, the animator of the hyperzombie.
44 – With this qualification: while the protozoa as retheorised by Baudrillard turns thereby from mortal to immortal and while Dracula possesses and demonstrates plasmatic metamorphic abilities, bearing a privileged relation to the protozoa, he is not simply immortal (no more so than any single protozoa, for that matter, for in both cases we deal with a creature and figure of potential immortality). Rather, he (and the protozoa) is an in-betweener between immortality and mortality, both immortal and mortal, neither simply immortal nor simply mortal, at the same time. His is the immortality in and of mortality and mortality in and of immortality at the same time, a privileged form of lifedeath, of psuché, providing a model for Wile E. Coyote and other film animation characters’ simultaneous ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’, their return to ‘life’, for they too live in that in between animatic lifedeath space/place between immortality and mortality (though, unlike such cartoon characters, once Dracula is properly dispatched, he remains dead, at least within that particular movie). A space/place that Baudrillard’s retheorising of Freud opens up for the ‘human’, albeit retrospectively.
As for hyperfilm animation characters, including of course ‘live’ ‘action characters’ in ‘action movies’, become hyperlive hyperaction hypercharacters in hyperaction hypermovies, they live in hyperimmortality, making them live on, despite endless death blows, like a hyperWile E., where their ‘death’ matters no more than their ‘life’ to the viewer. Such is a key feature of such hyperreal hypermovies, the pure and empty form of not only life, action, movies (at once more and less movie/movement than movie/movement) – indeed, live ‘action movies’ – but also narrative and character – indeed, the pure and empty form of all the features composing them, including their (relation to the) spectator, or better, hyperspectator, one who not only sees but feels nothing at all, for there is nothing here to be seen or felt but an adrenaline rush.
45 – ‘Coincidentally’, ‘The Death of Death’ is the title of a pseudo-documentary film within Diary of the Dead (2007), one of the latest in Romero’s hyperzombie series. Earlier, The Death of Death was a story by him that appeared in the first six issues of DC Comic’s Toe Tags from late 2004 to mid 2005. Like his other films, Romero’s Diary of the Dead arguably makes the hyperzombie a form of infection, epidemic, plague, itself, one animating living dead clones, spread through the bite (even as the bite of the vampire can animate new vampires). At the same time, the zombie and hyperzombie’s cannibalistic nature as flesh-eater not only distinguishes it from the vampire but reminds us of necrotising fasciitis (‘flesh-eating disease’ or ‘flesh-eating bacteria’). In such a light, we might see its ostensible end – the elimination of all humans, the human species, and therefore of itself – as the morphing of culture into what one cultures in a Petri dish! In passing, Romero’s Diary also arguably figures filmmaking itself, the making of documentaries in particular, and the media in general, as hyperzombie-making activities and hyperzombies, respectively, cannibalising both their producers and their viewers.