The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive


"The Gaga Films," by Jennifer

I went to the cinema on the tram down the hill. I often went this way for
other reasons but wasn't sure where I was. I was in company of a couple of
experimental filmmakers. They told me about the place. It was in a clap-
board house remodeled as an underground film venue. It was $15 to get in.
I only had $8 Canadian. I left and came back; I found $14 US. I hoped I
could make up the difference. They were talking about "The Gaga" - the two
films about "The Gaga" - and had I seen them? The films were the most
politically astute of the century. "The Gaga" was also "La Gaga" and I
hadn't seen them. I was missing so much. "The Gaga" wasn't playing that


"The Gaga" is the violent absurdity that drives late capitalism. "The
Gaga" has always existed, but was quiescent under traditional capitalism -
it could never appear under hierarchy, but only interstitially in the
Network. As the Network grew, through late-capitalism and postmodernity
into terror, The Gaga appeared - first as a peripheral symptom, then
increasingly as an engine driving the whole. The Gaga is a projection,
perhaps derived from Cruickshank's 19th-century Locomotive - "They've gone
loco" - images of the confluence of steam and imperial capital. The Gaga,
like the Japanese Kappa, is a figure at once vulnerable and dangerous. It
is vulnerable because it resides in the Network, a post-Situationist
entity susceptible to major and minor illness or decay - through the
strategic application of hacking and other disruptive techniques. The Gaga
is utterly inhuman, nonhuman, inhumane; all of The Gaga films are in
black-and-white, as if to indicate, from the mode of representation
itself, the structural and nodal nature of The Gaga. The Gaga is most
often described in these films by means of chalkboard lectures, diagrams
in pencil, voice-overs, and talks. Computers and digital effects are
rarely used; they are the centrifugal residue of The Gaga, incapable of
anything more. It seems paradoxical that The Gaga both underlies the skein
and is within it; the skein is its flesh and blood, and a computer repre-
sentation would be nothing more than a desiccated and useless sample of
its tissue. For it is clear that The Gaga is continually in process, that
it participates in the quantum states known as superimpositions, that it
is always extended beyond itself, non-boolean, gestural, genderless. A
feminist professor appears in one of the films, delineating The Gaga,
demonstrating its difference and distinction from a feminist fluidity that
absorbs and gives, breaks down the transitive. She, like all other actors
in these works, is defined as such - "a feminist professor" - in subtitles
that also list "a working-class hero" - "a factory worker" - "a consumer"
- even though an attempt is made, beyond analysis, to develop a romance -
"a lover" - "another lover" - against the constant and broken, jump-cut
description that constitutes the style of the films. The Gaga alone, like
the Virgin of the Virgin Mary, like the sealed womb, is never described,
always clothed in the Network. It is clear that The Gaga is part of the
distribution of the films, that the audience, as in violent pornography,
is implicated, just as The Gaga is implacable. The implacability is
portrayed in terms of gray zones; the black-and-white occupies, for the
most part, an uneasy middle ground, most of the time. There are never any
"true" whites, "true" brightness, in the films; instead, starting from an
upper middle gray, the films descend into murky darkness, as if they were
reproduced several times over, from an earlier, and now lost, model. The
result of all of this is a clear indication that we, ourselves, have lost
the power of brilliance, of brightness, of that clear light permitting
analysis; instead, our theoretical explanations begin in that gray area
where language proliferates, cut off from the clarity of projection and
representation. These explanations likewise descend into darkness, where
they are part and parcel of the substance of the world, where they are
within and without, suffused with The Gaga, from which, like the real
weight of the curtain of iron, there is no escape. It is no wonder that
both films are titled "The Gaga" as well; the resulting confusion in talk
and analysis (some speak of "Gaga A," "Gaga B," "First and Second Gaga,"
etc.) only serves to reconfirm their internal direction. If there is any
brilliance in the world, it is clear, it is to be found in the films
themselves; nowhere else in culture is analysis so devastating, accurate,
and beyond recall. The films are undated; the names of the participants
involved are never given; even their origin remains, not a mystery, but
simply unknown. Go see "The Gaga"; everything else falls, into place.


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