Cruel anime II: Sense vs Representation
January 22, 2009
In my previous entry on cruel anime, I talked about one particular aspect of Artaud‘s Theatre of Cruelty. I’d like to follow that up by delving into more significant aspect of Theatre of Cruelty, which can more or less be summarised by the following:
“[…]Artaud believed that text, such as dialogues used in hollywood flicks, had been a tyrant over meaning, and advocated, instead, for a theatre made up of a unique language that lay halfway between thought and gesture. Artaud’s theatre is made of screamings, cuttings and squirmings.”
Please note that Artaud wasn’t proposing for more eyeballs to be slit in movies. Sadism wasn’t his intention. What’s revolutionary here was the way Artaud appealed to our primal senses through bodily expression instead of resorting to Hollywood’s over-usage of dialogues to convey meanings. We see the blade reach an eye and squirm involuntarily, and immediately perceive and feel. There is no moment to derive meaning, or ponder on its ‘symbolisms’. Only experiencing and living that pure sense of squirming. To further illustrate this point,
Here you see two different Holocaust gallerys. Each with different approaches to memorialising Jewish suffering. On the left we have a hallway, where 200,000 stones are studded on the wall to represent 200,000 Jews deported to concentration camps. The space itself however is well-lit and has a clear visual continuity, while its human scale provides more warmth and intimacy; in other words, there is nothing here that compells us to sense anything dreadful about Holocaust. We are compelled to feel sad after being told that each stone represents one of 200,000 lives lost in Holocaust.
The architecture on the right in contrast, is all about constructing sense of horror. You are at first confronted by intimidatingly massive container, clad in cold, metallic zinc…you walk in only to find that light is dim, empty voids cutting through your zigzagging path, only to meet a narrow dead end made up of gigantic wall of concrete. This museum didn’t hold any exhibitions for two years for people to spacially experience that claustrophobic and traumatic sense. That is essentially the difference between representation and sense. Is there a right way? Who knows.
I personally have nothing against representation in itself. But too often people (both artists and viewers) desire satisfaction through spelled-out-meanings, which they think they can possess and contain in an articulated form. In the process we forget what’s really important; making sense of the unintelligible. When the above artificial intelligence in Ghost in the Shell claims that he has “developed a ghost”, how is that I perceive not a sign of life from him? In that monotonous, emotionally dry voice, spoken with a face that is disturbingly devoid of expression, and having not once demonstrating his capacity to feel just like humans, am I suppose to swallow such a represention contrary to my perceptions? That’s when anime becomes preachy and pretentious; trying to represent something that we are not making sense of. A classic example of “show, don’t tell”.
To bastardise borrow Deleuze, sense is a non-existent entity. It is non-existent in that it has to be produced and constructed by us. What we sense is actual, involuntary and immediate; we can’t help what we sense. And from this sense of sadness, love and other human feelings exhibited by an artificial intelligence, only then can we come to our own interpretations as to whether he really developed a “ghost” or not. Representations can aid in construction of sense, but never should it spell-out meanings to take home. Let’s no longer mediate between the actual and representation. Let’s now be immediate. Immediate with forces that are original, involuntary forces that can not be helped, unintelligble forces that exceeds the enslavement of texts and symbolisms.