Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Two Kinds of Darkness: Jean-Luc Nancy and the Community of Cinema

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Two Kinds of Darkness: Jean-Luc Nancy and the Community of Cinema

Article excerpt

Résumé: En dépit de l'importance qu'elle a dans l'expérience du cinéma, l'étude de l'espace social que constitue la salle de projection a longtemps été, en études cinématographiques, subordonnée à la lecture des "textes" filmiques. Alors que depuis une dizaine d'années, les chercheurs ont essayé de mettre en lumière la compréhension de cet espace, pour la plupart, les recherches ont ignoré le discours potentiellement intéressant, émergeant au même moment en philosophie, ayant trait au problème de la communauté. Cet article utilisera la conception qu'a Jean-Luc Nancy de la « communauté inopérante » pour initier un dialogue entre les théories du spectateur cinématographique et les recherches philosophiques sur la conception de la communauté. Cette convergence servira à revisiter la compréhension habituelle de la fonction idéologique de l'expérience du cinéma en salle commerciale et aussi à jeter une lumière nouvelle sur les modes alternatifs d'exploitation qui remettent en question cette expérience. Cette dernière discussion mettra l'accent sur MobMov, un groupe international de projectionnistes amateurs qui utilisent la technologie mobile et l'Internet pour organiser des projections dans certains coins oubliés des villes.

Despite being an integral component of the cinema experience, the social space of the theater has historically been subordinated within the discipline of film studies to the reading of film texts. Recognizing this bias, a certain contingent of scholarship in the last few decades has attempted to cast light onto the darkness via a now familiar lens. Exemplary of these efforts are Lakshmi Srinivas's depiction of dancing, conversing and other modes of interacting with the onscreen action found in Indian theaters as a means of reconstructing the film proper, John Champagne's description of the viewing habits (or lack thereof) of male homosexual subjects in gay porno arcades in terms of a game through which the constraints of heteronormative ideology give way to alternative models, and Bruce Austin's portrayal of cult film authences as nothing short of bit players for whom the image is a catalyst for performance rather than a site of immersion.1 It is hardly a revelation that, in their focus on oppositional rather than ideological readings, active users instead of passive consumers, and, more broadly, subjectivity and reception over close analysis of cultural artifacts, these works are, to a greater or lesser extent, the beneficiaries of the work of British Cultural Studies. What is less immediately apparent, however, is the ways in which these projects, on account of this influence, reproduce a larger impasse regarding the individual's relation to his or her social formation, a problem that inevitably slides into the field's long entanglement- or "wrestle" as Stuart Hall would describe it - with the more ominous question of how to formulate power relations with regard to the consumption of mass culture.2

The birth of the empowered "user" of mass culture can, to a large extent, be traced back to Stuart Hall's seminal work "Encoding/Decoding," which presents the authence's "negotiation" of mass media messages in terms of a spectrum of transparency and noise, the interplay of which produces one of three modes of reading: dominant-hegemonic, negotiated, or oppositional. Governing each stage of this process is a "complex structure of dominance" comprised of multi-layered frameworks of discursivity through which otherwise unintelligible messages are made legible. Despite Hall's explicit warnings that this interaction was heavily delimited by these discursive conditions and, therefore, inevitably reproduced power relations to some degree, many of his interpreters focused almost exclusively on the latter two modes of reception and in the process overlooked the more primary interpénétration of power relations that took place in the very act of "reading" itself.3 Commenting on this phenomenon a decade after Hall's essay, David Morley describes the strained lineage between the original text and the "romantic" approaches that it spawned in the following terms:

[Hall's] model has subsequently been quite transformed, to the point where it is often maintained that the majority of authence members routinely modify or deflect any dominant ideology reflected in media content and the concept of a preferred reading, or of a structured polysemy, drops entirely from view. …

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