So welcome to the machine
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
What did you dream? It’s alright, we told you what to dream.
– Pink Floyd
Like vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, the supernatural entity Bob in Twin Peaks (David Lynch, 1990-91) is a body without organs. He is a fascistic figure whose only pathway to existence is through the bodies of humans, and as he exists in someone he also consumes them, destroys their original humanity and will inevitably lead them to death. At which point he, only a spirit and without a body to be destroyed, will move on, within another person.
Antonin Artaud: ‘To Have Done With the Judgement of God’
What makes it serious
is that we know
that after the order
of this world
there is another.
one can say,
there are those who say
is an appetite,
the appetite for living;
and it was then
that I exploded everything
because my body
can never be touched
Bob’s appetite for living will, eventually (if Lynch’s verse was endless, rather than discontinued), make the system of the world explode. He cannot be touched, he cannot be stopped. Does he represent the new world order, one where bodies are not necessary? Just technical machines, maybe – make Bob a cyborg body and let him be. Excise my brain and put it into a box, and a screen can spell out my thoughts. Maybe.
‘The BwO is the egg…The egg is the BwO’ (D&G 2007:181-2). It is linked to childhood, it is a childhood block (not a memory), it is ‘continually in the process of constructing itself’ (182). Bob, the body without organs, came to Leland as a child, blocked Leland’s memories of that time. Bob as BwO put Leland’s body into a permanent state of becoming, just as Bob does have to continually and always put himself in someone new. So they both then live in a liminal state of existance, always transversing between the states of spirit and body, life and death.
David Banks spoke yesterday (29/4/2008.) about the Doctor Who machinic characters of Daleks and Cybermen being stripped of their emotions – ‘perfected’ to exist purely as productive machines, more efficient than human because neither they nor their tasks are hampered with feeling. So they don’t have sex because it’s a waste of time. Like Barbarella, where they hold hands because it’s quicker. In Doctor Who these are literal bodies without organs, bodies without any of the complications that distract from production for the capitalist machine. Without emotion their desire for existence may lead, as Artaud writes, to a new world order. Guattari writes of the machine, it ‘is shaped by a desire for abolition. Its emergence is doubled with breakdown, catastrophe – the menace of death’ (1995:37). The Daleks and Cybermen do desire abolition of everything that is not of their order, and with the opening of the vortex in the episode ‘Army of Ghosts’ they threaten total breakdown. In Twin Peaks Bob is a mind without a body, his mind always around in spiritual form, but he is without the permanent home of a body. It is Bob’s existence as this intangible spirit-virus that, comparatively, allows Cooper access to information about Bob’s activity only within his own head. Things travel between Leland’s unconscious and Agent Cooper’s unconscious (his dreams). These clues seep through into his conscious mind, as the ‘reversal of the conscious waking state occurs regularly during the transition from waking to sleeping, and what then emerge most vividly are the very things that were unconscious by day’ (Jung 1974:28.). What this allows us to see is that it is our thoughts and our unconscious that make us human, and without the emotional registers that the cybermen have taken away we would not possess these levels of humanity. The structure of our bodies, and thus the structure of the body of the world, would be entirely different.
If capital is the body without organs of the capitalist, then as a whole it operates with the illusive image of being all-powerful. But in smaller segments capital can be seen as a collection of ‘parts that it neither unifies nor totalises’ (D&G 1983:43). The defining structure of capitalism is separate but related to all of the smaller capitalist operations, the ones that try to exist outside of it but never do; ie. eBay, op-shops. They are outside monopolistic organisations (perhaps in theory) but still work on their terms, on the terms of producing capital. The capitalist machine, and all those anti-humanist machinic bodies on Dr Who, are founded on a regime of disequilibrium – cyborgs destroy, capitalists punish. They only exist in relation to the other, and an other which they can control. In D&G’s glossarial discussion of deterritorialization, they write ‘the territory itself is inseparable from vectors of deterritorialization working it from within’ (2007:560). So the underdogs of capitalism – the poor, the “less fortunate” – are always at the mercy of the cogs of the capitalist society. Their bodies (their territory) are constantly under threat of such vectors and they are deterritorialized from their own space because they live within the space of consumption, one in which they cannot participate. Leland, in Twin Peaks, is literally inseparable from the deterritorializing agent of Bob, as Bob literally overtakes Leland’s territory (his body, his actions, his thoughts) from within.
If Bob is a body without organs, and capital is so of the capitalist, then war is the body without organs of the repressive government, operating on a doctrine of perpetual war for perpetual peace.
The scientific and industrial production machine is doubtless merely an avatar or, as they say, blowback from development of the tools of destruction, from this absolute accident that is war, from this conflict pursued in all societies over the centuries, this ‘great war of time’ that never ceases to flare up out of the blue, here and there, despite the evolution in customs, the means of production and ‘civilizations’. Its intensity never ceases to grow, either, with technological innovations, to the point where the latest energy, nuclear energy, at first appears as a weapon, at once an armament and absolute accident in history. (The Original Accident 2005:71)
The anxiety of Paul Virilio’s writing here is present in Richard Kelly’s films. Southland Tales (2006) contextualises war as the absolute accident, that produces conflicts in the USA as extraneous offshoots of those enforced in other nations. For example in attempting (or so the public is told) to prevent death and suffering, those in control actually infect the public with pain, hatred and suicide, so the point of such conflict can become remarkably obscured. For the kid who says “dawg” all the time, his efforts against his becoming-killing-machine for the Iraq war are so intense that he becomes-vigilante. It never ceases. Maybe the reason that “the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted” is because it is going to end with a bang, not a whimper. The world has finally realised that the original accident was the invention of the a-bomb, because the a-bomb is the apocalypse. The a-bomb is the way the world is going to end, or has ended: not its detonation but its invention.
The global acceleration assisted by the invention of all these machines is going to be slammed to a halt, brought to an absolute stop. It is said in Southland Tales, the apocalyptic crime rate of events is resulting in a global deceleration that will eventuate in the end of the world. Will this be, thinking of D&G, an “absolute” event? ‘A movement is absolute when it relates “a” body considered as multiple to a smooth space that it occupies in the manner of a vortex’ (2007:561). Instead of having an absolute ‘creation of a new earth’, Southland Tales represents the reverse, the destruction of an earth, without the known future of a new. This seems to be the most absolute movement, even more so than “absolute”, as it is one toward a potential absolute nothingness. Artaud has predicted that after the order of this world, there will be another. Perhaps there will be, perhaps there won’t, but we will have entirely no part in it, and that is what makes it serious. Like the virus of Bob who will infect and destroy Twin Peaks, and then expand his destruction, warfaring governments will infect their hopes of survival with chances for destruction. On a smaller scale, within smaller moments, the domination of capitalism will also add to the breakdown of the world, as proved by the weapons dealer who wants cash, no cheque, who is then beaten to a pulp for his lack of tolerance. If no one moves beyond such greediness (or if we don’t get enough cardio) then this will happen to us all, eventually.
Southland Tales is a text where so much is said but it is hard to discern what it all is meant to say. Perhaps nothing, in this era where everything has to have a wholesome meaning that is consistent throughout entirety, and anything that doesn’t is flippantly derided as too postmodern for its own good. It is interesting though when one of Krysta’s bimbos questions the implications of the reversal of time across space-time zones. What happens when one moves outside the boundaries of chronometric time (aside from the morning after pill becoming the morning before pill)? We could, potentially, create a double of ourselves, like Roland Taverner. So although this comment from this blog describes my and my housemate’s first reaction – the film ‘attempts to be everything, and ends up being nothing’ – further pondering on the film makes me think more of it. The blog’s author goes on to talk about the film being so full of potentially important things that never get expanded or sorted out, or get any time at all, so the film ends up being meaningless. I don’t think so, as a film can have meaning in a few significant parts or characters, rather than as a whole singular sphere. I went throughout the film noticing potentially important little bits, and these are still important even if they don’t contribute to some overarching ‘meaning’. So I prefer this review from J. Hoberman (last Jan in NYC I spoke to him for only a few minutes and he mentioned how great this film is): ‘Kelly’s movie may not be entirely coherent, but that’s because there’s so much it wants to say.’
Roland’s eye gets shot out towards the end of the film, lost during the apocalyptic battle, firing on all frontiers. In Donnie Darko (2001) Frank has also lost an eye, and it is he who is the bridge to another dimension – his glowing eye represents a portal to another time-space configuration, just like the light emanating from Roland’s hand(s). Joining his hands together melds together the two dimensions, meant to exist separately, so of course, chaos ensues.
What is it about the eye? In the Buffy episode ‘Dirty Girls’, Caleb (Nathan Fillion) gouges Xander’s (Nicholas Brendan) eye out because he is the one who sees things. But who’s to say he won’t see more with only one eye, as both Frank and Roland have wider access with an eye injury. The eye, perhaps, is removed from this regular (doomed) dimension and placed instead in the realm of another. A path through space and time, to one more fortunate. So it is not really the eyes in themselves that allow Frank to see things, or that give Roland the path into another space-time, they are just symbols of ‘seeing’ when the actual sight lies somewhere else. Perhaps, if there is too much focus on looking, on the grandeur of something (for example, the a-bomb) there is no time to think beyond.
When Roland gets shot in the eye, his body becomes deterritorialized, but reterritorialized when the two universes combine/clash. Both Roland and Frank are posthuman, victims of bodily modification not technological but spiritual and of consciousness. Roland’s body does not become posthuman in the sense that Cherry (Rose McGowan) does in Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez, 2007). Her female-body-machine-gun is a hybrid body of machine and organism, that has no sense of unity or nature, that is ‘committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence’ (Haraway 2000:292). “Cherry darling, it’s all you,” says Freddy Rodriguez – except for your right leg, that’s a machine gun. Roland becomes posthuman because his body no longer ends ‘at the skin’ (Haraway 2000:314) but extends into other spaces, and into other bodies (ie. his other body). Leland’s body, on the other hand, becomes deterritorialized when it is no longer his body, when his ‘personal’ space becomes infected by Bob. His body never becomes his own again, but his soul is returned to him.
Deleuze and Guattari tell us that ‘Every BwO is made up of plateaus’ (2007:175), that it is constituted by alternating realms of intensity. Further, that a plateau is a continuous region of ‘intensity constituted in such a way that they do not allow themselves to be interrupted by any external termination.’ A region of space that exists on its own terms, such as the Black Lodge/Red Room in Twin Peaks, which exists outside of universal space (and time?). And within this space, spirit-Bob resides, in communication with the other, with Cooper’s mind, with Laura’s becoming-dead body.
In The Gift of Death, Derrida writes, ‘By means of the passage to death the soul attains freedom’ (1995:40). When Leland is eventually dying, Bob’s virus flees his body, and Leland recovers knowledge of the evils he has committed, his body as a vector of death. Inside the Black Lodge in the final episode of the series, Agent Cooper meets Leland’s shadow self. As Deputy Hawk has said earlier, ‘The Black Lodge is the shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says every spirit must pass through there on their way to perfection. There, you will meet your shadow-self.’ It is a plateau outside of the world, in between the states of life and death. Agent Cooper finds Leland’s shadow-self in the Black Lodge, because Leland’s soul, his real self, had attained the freedom that Derrida speaks of. In Donnie Darko, Donnie travels a literal passage to death, a passage through time, and it is then that his soul must become free. Death is presented in these two texts as external to the body – although the dead body is seen/spoken of, the soul is not ignored. Thinking of this via Battersby, who writes, ‘the boundary of my body should rather be thought of as an event-horizon, in which one form (myself) meets its potentiality for transforming itself into another form or forms (the non-self)’ (Hallam et. al. 2001:69), death is presented as something outside of the body, as a transit to something/somewhere else. In Southland Tales, Richard Kelly does not quite give closure on Roland’s path, although we can be fairly certain that he is going to his death (at least from this present world). The fourth dimension opened up by his handshake (at which time the hangar door is also opened – like Donnie Darko‘s cellar door) allows Roland to choose his death. With both of Roland’s bodies together, he has access to what is absolutely his, all of him, and what belongs to him is his death (Derrida 1995:44).
This is Roland’s personal death, but what of the death of the world? Roland’s eyes end Southland Tales with a revelatatory image of a tidal wave, pointing to the apocalyse (here – last ten seconds). A sketched eye in Donnie Darko, revealed moments before Donnie travels back in time to his death, forbodes death in its pupil. Presumably this was sketched by Donnie along with his pictures of Frank’s ‘bunny suit’, and is an image of Frank’s eye. An eye from the Donnie Darko: Directors Cut reveals, in close up, waves of water, or cloud, or dust, which, although unclear, are distressingly ominous. Presumably this eye too belongs to Frank, as he is able to open the portal to the way the world will end. Roland’s and Frank’s eyes, despite being connected to space-time portals, have only gotten that way by injury, Roland shot, Frank stabbed and then shot. And what the image of the skull in Donnie Darko epitomises is that even though these portals may tell us something, it will always be distorted by death and destruction. Whether this pathway to destruction is a micro BwO as in Twin Peaks, or a macro BwO as in Southland Tales, the texts both explore (and deplore) that the world as it should be is coming to an end.
Artaud, Antonin, 1948. ‘To Have Done With The Judgement of God’, available online: http://ndirty.cute.fi/~karttu/tekstit/artaud.htm.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, 1983 . Anti- Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis; University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, 2007 . A Thousand Plateus, trans. Brian Massumi, London: New York; Continuum.
Derrida, Jacques, 1995. The Gift of Death, Chicago: London; University of Chicago Press.
Guattari, Félix, 1995 . Chaosmosis, trans. Paul Bains & Julian Pefanis, Indianapolis; Indiana University Press.
Hallam, Elizabeth et. al., 2001. ‘The Body in Death’, in Contested Bodies, ed. Ruth Holliday and John Hassard, London: New York; Routledge: 63-77.
Haraway, Donna, 2000 . ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, in The Cybercultures Reader, eds. David Bell and Barbara Kennedy, London; Routledge. 291-324.
Jung, Carl, 1974. Aion: Researches nto the Phenomenology of the Self, London; Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Virlio, Paul, 2007 . The Original Accident, trans. Julia Rose, Cambridge: Malden; Polity Press
Barbarella, 1968. Roger Vadim; Marianne Productions: Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica (Rome).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1997-2003. Joss Whedon (creator); 20th Century Fox Television.
Doctor Who, 1963-present. Sydney Newman (creator); British Broadcasting Corporation.
Donnie Darko, 2001. Richard Kelly; Pandora Inc: Flower Films: Darko Productions.
Planet Terror, 2007. Robert Rodriguez; Weinstein Company: R.I.P. Rodriguez International Pictures: Dimension Films: Troublemaker Studios.
Southland Tales, 2005. Richard Kelly; MHF Zweite Academy Film: Cherry Road Films: Darko Entertainment: Inferno Distribution: Eden Roc Productions: Persistent Entertainment: Universal Pictures.
Twin Peaks, 1990-91. David Lynch and Mark Frost (creators); Lynch/Frost Productions: Propaganda Films.