The flâneur of Baudelaire is a mobile consumer of an infinite succession of illusory goods. These are already like images. The passer-by traversing theboulevard is the space of the phantasmagoria of the commodity: the world of the image.
The Parisian boulevard perfects the fast phantasmagoria of Nevsky Prospekt as described by Gogol in 1835: a smooth space, suitable for speedy consumerism, like the image of a train window, or that of the cinematographic screen, the movement-image. It is, at the same time, the rapid accumulation of changing images, as Simmel later observes, and the interweaving of visual media and social, cultural, political, literary and architectural discourse, etc.
A process that takes place in the metropolis. The city as a commodity, the city as an image. It is the genesis of the becoming-shop-window of social life, of the aestheticization of social space, of a social window dressing.
The historian Michelet in 1846, observing Parisians, had already anticipated this fundamental aspect of modernity: not only consumption, but the need to produce the need for consumption, the need to catch the attention of the consumers. The Parisians seemed crazy in his eyes. They roamed the streets as if obsessed, looking for goods, egged on by the impressions of the boulevards, attracted by images, seduced by the phantasmagoria of the goods displayed in the windows of those passages, as captured so acutely by Benjamin.
The large glass surfaces, which would emerge in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Henri Labrouste (1858-68),
in the School of Chicago in the late nineteenth century, and in particular in the modern movement (Gropius,
Mies, Le Corbusier), start here, in shops and in the need to show products -- or to allow more light in office
buildings. For example, Mies transforms external space into a show, a view or, even more, a panoramic view.
Goods are transformed into images, to attract the consumer's gaze, to turn reality into a spectacle. Just watch,
but don't touch (or change) it. That’s why the most important art, modernist and postmodernist, always tries to
connect and create, and to intervene between eye and touch, between the visible and the sensible -- like
Duchamp, the Russian constructivists or Robert Morris. With the I-Box (1962) by Morris, if you want to see,
you have to touch. Godard has been doing this for 60 years, interrupting the peaceful coexistence, the
anchorage (Barthes) between audio and visual, interrogating and minding the gap of this between.
Everything must become an image in the society of the spectacle. In the transition from Fordism to post-Fordism we see the culmination of this destiny, as analyzed prophetically and lucidly by Debord in 1967. The relationship between interior and exterior -- the landscape turned into the space of the apartment and, with Mies, the space of home made to face the landscape by Mies -- turns into the spectacle of capital that exploits surplus labor and surplus value during so-called free time. This is what we may taste in Playtime (1967) or, later, in AfterHours (1985).
It is precisely for this reason that film criticism has to do with the social criticism. More and more, the economy is full of image, telling, communication. As everything must become image, so, too, does film criticism. Film criticism becomes more and more an image, sucked into the vortex of images. Pleasing graphics, advertising language, tweets, posts, sensationalist juxtapositions of image and word, image and image. There is no longer the criticism of images, but just an image of criticism. Criticism must disassemble and deconstruct the political economy of the audio-visual, especially today, when we are all increasingly immersed in a permanent and intrusive audio-visual environment. But criticism becomes part of the economy of experience. Everything must become experience to have value. Experience means image. Even the imminent catastrophe of climate change becomes fiction, image, part of the media landscape. It is a show, it is not real, it is, as Grusin would say, a premediation effect.
Even the art exhibitions of Klimt, Modigliani, Magritte, exhibitions that are very successful, must become images, virtual images, augmented reality, etc. The images (paintings) are not “image” enough, they are not enough “experience”. Experience is display, it has a frame, is aestheticized by the “grid” of Istangram -- no longer that of Mondrian or Agnes Martin, as in the brilliant analysis of Krauss, but other. The real is not real enough, it's offline: to be “really” real, it must become simulation, image. Too much film criticism is very far from any degree of awareness. It is not a critique of the image, a critique of the political economy of images. And, as a result, such film criticism is an integral part of our medialogical amusement park. It is amusing us to death.
We have moved from the train window imagined as a moving image, an extension of visual and narrative horizons and source of dreams and images, to the train window that becomes an advertising screen and blocks vision and narration, with an LCD screen integrated into the window system of the vehicle. We live within bubbles of excitement, within whose canvas the subject is increasingly condemned to consume and to produce while consuming.
We prefer a critique of this “experience” rather than a critique as “experience”.
Our politics (more than policy or agency) has to do, first of all, not with values or contents whose dignity seeks to be promoted, but with our form (the medium is the message). And it is our choice not to join this “experience”, perhaps by practicing a little obsolescence.
Thanks to Paul Douglas Grant, William Straw, and Andrea Franco