You are on page 1of 9




Nature create5 rimllarities. One need only thlnk of mimicry. T h e highea capacity f o r producing similaritice, howrver. ic man's. Hie gift of seeing recemhlancer I F nothing other than a rudiment of the powerful cornpulrion in former times t o become and hehave like something else. Perhaps there ic none of hie higher functions in which his mimetic faculty does not play a decisive role. -Walter Benjamin. first paragraph of "On the llimetic Faculty." ( 19.34)

all of o u r "higher functions." For this four-page essay of Benjamin's is by n o means an esoteric aside. A11 the fundamentals are herein composed; from his theories of language of persons and of things. to his startling ideas concerning histo?, art in the age of mechanical reproduction and, of course, that infinitely beguiling apiration, the profane illumination achieved by the dialectical image dislocating chains of concordance with the one hand, reconstellating in accord with a mimetic snap, on the other. His fascination with mimesis flows from the confluence of three considerations: alterity, primitivism. and the resurgence of mimesis with modernity. Without hesitation Benjamin


Phystovnomtc Aspects of
Uisual Worlds

affirms that the mimetic faculty is the rudiment of a former compulsion of person\ tn hecome and hehave like something else. The ahility to mime, and mime \veil, in other \vords, is the capacity t o Other. Second. this discovery of the importance o f the mimetic is itself testimony to an enduring theme of Renjamins, the surfacing of the primiti\.e \vithin modernity as a direct result of modernity, especially of its evenday-life rhythms of montage and shock alongside the revelation of the optical unconscious made possihle hy mimetic machinery like the camera and the movies. Ry detinition this notion o f a resurfacing o f the mimetic rests on the assumption that -once upon a time mankind \vas mimetically adept, and in this regard Renjamin refers specifically to mimicry in dance, cosmologies o f microcosm and macrocosm, and divination hy means of correspondences revealed hy the entrails of animals and constellations of stars. Much more could he said of the extensive role of mimesis in the ritual life of ancient and primitive societies. Third. Renjamins notion regarding the importance of the mimetic faculty in modernity is fully congruent \vith his orienting sensibility towards the (Euro--4merican) culture of modernity as a sudden rejustaposition of the very old \vith the \.cry ne\v. This is not an appeal to historical continuity. Instead it is modernity that pro\-ides the cause. context, means, and needs, for the resurgenc-not the continuity-f the mimetic faculty. Discerning the largely unackno\vledged influence o f children on Renjamins theories o f vision, Susan Ruck-Alorss makes this ahundantly clear \vith her suggestion that mass culture in our times hoth stimulates and is predicated upon mimetic modes of perception in \vhich spnntaneit!., animation of objects, and a language o f the hod\- combining thought with action, sensuousness xvith intellection. is paramount. She seizes on Renjamins ohservations o f the corporeal knmvledge of the optical uncomcious opened up hy the camera and the mwies in \vhich. on account of capacities such as enlargement and sloiv motion, tilm provides, she says, a ne\v schooling for our mimetic powers.

The Eye a s Organ of Tactility: The Optical Unconscious

E w r y day the urge pro\\\ stronger t o pet hold of an ohjcct at very close range hy wav o f its likeness. i t $ reproduction. - Iknjarnin. The Work of4rt in the ,Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

Toget hold ofsomething hy means ofits likeness. Here is what is crucial in the resurgence of the mimetic faculty, namely the two-layered notion of mimesis that is i n v o l v e d i m the one hand a copying or imitation and, on the other, a palpable, sensuous. connection hetxveen the w r y hndy of the perceiver and the perceived (\vhich ties in with the way Frazer develops what he takes to he the tux) great classes of sympathetic magic in The Golden Rouqh. the magic of contact. on the one hand, and that ofirnitatrm, on the other). Filementan physics and physiology might instruct that these t\vo features of copy and contact and are steps in the same process. that a ray of light. for example, moves from the rising sun into the human eye \\here it makes contact \vith the retinal rods and cones to form, via the circuits o f t h e central n e n o u s system, a (culturally attuned) c o p of the rising sun. On this line of reasoning contact and copy merge \vith each other to hecome virtuall!- identical, different moments of the one process of sensing; seeing something or hearing something is tn he in contact \vith that something. Nevertheless the chstinctrm hetween cnpy and cnntact is no less fundamental, and the nature of their interrelationship remains nhscure and fertile ground for \vild irnaginingonce one is jerked out of the complacencies of common sense-hahits. Kitness the bizarre theory of membranes hriefly noted by Frazer in his discussion of the epistemology of sympathetic magic. a t h e o n traced to Greek philosophy n o less than to the famous Realist, the novelist Honor6 de Ralzac, with his esplanation of photographs as the result of

membranes lifting off the original and k i n g transported through the air to he captured hy the lens and photographic plate!' And \vho can say lve nmv understand any k t t e r i To ponder mimesis is t o hecorne sooner or later caught, like the police and the modern State with their fingerprinting devices, in sticky Lveh of cnpy micontact, image and hodily involvement of the perceitrr in the image, a compleritv \ve ton easilv elide as non-mysterious with o u r facile use o f terms such as identification, representation. expression. and s o forth-terms \vhich simultaneously depend upon and erase all that is powerful and ohscure in the network of associations conjured hy the notion of the mimetic. Karl Mary deftly deployed the conundrum of copy and contact \vith his use of the analogy of light rays and the retina in his discussion of commodity fetishism.' For him such fetishization resulted from the curious effect o f the market on human life and imagination, displacing contact hehveen people onto that kt\veen commodities, thereby intensifving to the point ofspectralit!- the commodity as an autnnomous entity \vith a \vi11 of its onm. "The relation of producers to the sum total of their o\vn lahor." \\rote llarx. "is presented to them as a social rrlation, existing not het\veen themselves, hut henveen the products of their lahnr." It is this state ofaffairs that makes the commoditv a mvsterious thing "simply hecause in it the social character of men's lahor appears to them as an ohjective character stamped upon the product of that lahor." \\'hat is here decisive is the displacement o f the "social character of men's lahor" into the commodity \\.here it is obliterated from alvareness hy appearing as an objective character o f the commodity itself. The swallo\ving u p o f contact \\e might sav, . hv . its cop!-, is \\.hat ensures the animation of the latter, its po\ver to straddle us. Mars's optical analogy \vent like thiz. \\'hen \\e see something, \\e see that something as its own self-suspended self o u t there. not the passage of its diaphanous membranes o r impulsions as light \vaves or hmvsoever you \\ant to conceptualize "contact" through the air and into the e!-e \\here the copy now burns physiognomically. ph!-sioelectrically. ontn the retina. and as physical impulse darts along neuroptical fihers to k further registered as copy. ,411 thi\ cnntact o f perceiver ~ i t perceived h is obliterated into the shimmering cop!- nf the thing perceiwd. aloof unto itself. So \vith the commodity. mused Jlarr. a spectral entity out there. lording it over mere mortals \vho. in fact. \ingIy and collectively in intricate divisions o f market orchestrated interpersonal lahor-contact and sensuous interaction with the ohject\vorld hring aforesaid commodity into being. e \ . need to note also that as the commodity pa\ses through and is held hy the euchange-\-alue arc of the market circuit \\here general equkalence rules the ronst, where all particularity and sensuosity is meat-grindered into abstract identity and the homogeneous substance of quantifiahle money-value. the commodity conceals in its innermost k i n g not only the mysteries o f the socially constructed i t is this suhtle nature of value and price, hut also all its particulate sensuosity-and interaction of sensuous perceptibilitv and imperceptihility that accounts fnr the fetish qualit\.. the animism and spiritual glwv ofcommodities. s o adroitly channeled hy advertising (not to mention the avant-garde) since the late nineteenth c e n t u n . . i s I interpret it (and I must stress the idiosyncratic nature of my reading). not the least arresting aspect of Renjamin's analysis of modern mimetic machines. particularly n.ith regards to the mimetic pmvers striven fnr in the advertising image. is his vie\\. that it is preciselv the property of such machinery t o pia\- \vith and even restnre this erased sense o f contact-sensuous particularity animating the fetish. This restorative play transforms \\hat he called "aura" (\vhich I here identify \vith the fetish of commodities) to create a quite different, secular. sense of the marvelous. This capacity of mimetic machines to pump out contactsensuosity encased within the spectrality o f a commoditized \vorld is nothing less than the disco\.ery of an optical unconscious. opening u p ne\v possihilities for exploring reality and providing means for changing culture and society along \vith those possibilities. No\\ t h e work of art hlends with scientific \vnrk so as to defetishize \ e t take advantage of marketed reality and therehy achieve "profane illumination," the single most important shock, the single most effective step, in opening up "the long-sought image sphere" to the bodily impact



Physiognomic Aspects of
h d [


of the dialectical image. .4n instance of such an illumination in which contact is crucial is in his essay on Surrealism. Here Benjamin finds revolutionary potential in the way that laughter can open up the body, hoth individual and collective, to the image sphere. What he assumes as operant here is that images. as worked through the surreal, engage not so much Ivith mind a s \\ith the emhndied mind \\here political materialism and physical nature share the inner man. the psyche, the individual. Body and image have to interpenetrate s o that revolutionary tension hecomes hodily innervation. Surely this is sympathetic magic in a modernist, Marxist revolutionary key? Surely the theory of profane illumination is geared precisely to the flashing moment of mimetic connection, n o less emhodied than it is mindful, n o less individual than it is social!

The T h i r d Meaning
Benjamins theses o n mimesis are part of a larger argument about the history of representation and what he chose to call the aura of works of art and cult ohjects prior to the invention of mimetic machines such a s the camera. These machines. to state the matter simplistically, would create a new sensorium involving a new suhiect-object relation and therefore a new person. In abolishing the aura of cult ohiects and artworks, these machines \vould replace mystique by some sort of ohiect-implicated enterprise, like surgery, for instance, penetrating the body of reality no less than that of the viebver. ,411 this is summed s the machine opening up the optical unconscious, yet hefore one up in his notion of the camera a concludes that this is ebullient Enlightenment faith in a secular Lvorld of technological reason, that the clear-sighted eye of the camera will replace the optical illusions of idenlog!-, \ve can see on further examination that Benjaminc concept of the optical unconscious is anything hut a straightforward displacement of -magic in favor of science-and this in my opinion is precisely because of the nvo-layered character of mimesis a s both ( I ) copying, and (2) the visceral quality of the percept uniting viewer with the viewed, the two-layered character so aptly captured in Benjamins phrase,p/yiognomic ospcts qfrisual worlds. Noting that the depiction of minute details of structure as in cellular tissue is more native to the camera than the auratic landscape of the soulful portrait of the painter, he goes o n to ohserve in a passage that deser\-escareful attention that
at the same time photography reveals in this material the phyiognomic aspects ofvisual worlds Xvhich d\vell in the smallest things. meaningful yet covert enough t o find a hiding place in \vaking dreams, hut which. enlarged and capable of formulation. make the difference hehveen technology and magic visible as a thoroughly historical variable.

But where do we really end up? With technology or magic-r with something else altogether where science and art coalesce to create a defetishizing/reenchanting modernist magical technology ofemhodied knowing? For it is a fact that Benjamin stresses again and again that this physiognomy stirring in waking dreams hrought to the light of day hy the new mimetic techniques bespeaks a ne\vly revealed truth about ohiects as much as it does ahout persons into whom it floods as tactile knowing. It hit the spectator like a hullet. it happened to him, thus acquiring a tactile quality,* Benjamin pointed out with respect t o the effect of Dada artworks tvhich he thus considered as promoting a demand for film, the distracting element of \vhich is also primarily tactile. The unremitting emphasis of the analysis here is not only on shocklike rhythms. hut o n the unstoppable merging of the object of perception n i t h the body o f t h e perceiver and not just with the minds eye. I can no longer think what thoughtc have k e n replaced by moving images. complains one of 1 want to think. Benjamins sources.6By holding still the frame where previously the eye \vas disposed to skid, by focusing down into, by enlargement, by slowing down the motion of reality, scientific knowledge is obtained through mimetic reproduction in many ways. We see and

comprehend hidden details of familiar ohiects. \ e hecome a\vare of patterns and necessities Lvhich had hitherto invisihly ruled our lives. But \\hat is the nature of the tactile seeing and comprehension here involved?


Automatic P i l o t
Hahit offers a profound example of tactile knmving and is \-en much on Benjamin's mind hecause only at the depth of hahit is radical change effected. where unconscious strata of culture are huilt into social routines a s hndily disposition. The revolutionan task-using the term \vith all the urgency of the time Benjamin a a s writing. and nmv, once again, as I write in the late tjventieth centun-the revolutionary task could thus he considered as one in \vhich "hahit" has t o catch up \vith itself. The automatic pilot functioning \vhile asleep has to he woken to its o\vn automaticity. and thus go traveling in a ne\\ \vay \vith a new physiognomy-hursting its "prison-\vorld asunder hy the dynamite of a tenth of a second." Benjamin asks us to consider architecture as an example of habituated physiognomic knowing. Ho\v d o \ye get to knmv the rooms and halhvays of a building? \\'hat sort of kno\ving is this? Is it primarily visual? \\'hat sort of vision? Surely not an abstract hlueprint of the sort the architect dre\v? Ilayhe more like a mohile Cuhist constellation of angles and planes running together in time \\.here touch and three-dimensioned space make the eyehall an extension of the moving, sensate hody? \\'hich is to say there is an indefinable tactility of vision operating here too, and despite the fact that the eye is important to its channeling, this tactility may \\ell he a good deal mnre important to our kno\ving spatial configuration in hnth its physical and social aspects than is vision in some non-tactile meaning of the term. Of course \\hat happens here is that the very concept of "kno\ving" something hecomes displaced by a "relating to." .4nd \\.hat is trouhlesome and exciting is that not only are \ve stimulated into rethinking \\hat "vision" means as this very term decomposes hefnre our eyes, hut \ve are also forced to ask ourselves \vhy vision is so privileged, ideologically, and other sensory modalities are, in Euro-i\merican cultures at least, so linguistically impoverished yet actually so crucial to human being and social life. I am thinking here not only of tactility and tactile knowing, and \\hat I take to he the great underground of knmvledges locked therein, as conveyed in the mysterious jargon of Lvords like "proprioception." hut also. in an age of \\-odd historically unprecedented State and paramilitan torture, of the \-irtual \vordlessness of pain to-a point recently made clear and important for us hy Elaine Scam.Benjamin \\ants to stress a harely conscious mode of apperception and a type of "physiological knmvledge" huilt from hahit. The claim is grand. "For the tasks which face the human apparatus of perception at the turning point of histon cannot he solved." he writes, *hy optical means, that is. by contemplation, alone. They are mastered gradually hy hahit, under the guidance of tactile appropriation."' So far, of course. history has not taken the t u r n Benjamin thought that mimetic machines might encourage it to take. The irony that this failure is due in good part to the very power of mimetic machinen to control the future by unleashing imageric power on a scale previously only dreamed of, would not have heen lost on him had he lived longer. Rut, as he !vas ready to note, \ve live constantly in the shado\v of histon's incompleteness. in the aftertaste of the sound bite's rolling echo.

I Taossig

"I F a l l and I f l y At One Ulith The Bodies F a l l i n g "

"It almost makes you seasick," comments the Lt.-Colonel in the IJ.5 .4ir Force as, with quiet pride two days into the Persian Gulf \var in 1991, he queasily displays for U.S. television news a prolonged video shot taken by one of his precision b o m b seeking its target, gliding in

a soft \vavy motion through the Iraqi sky. "Cinema isn't 1 see. it's 1 fly." Thus Paul \.irilio in hi\ U 5 r u d Cinemu paraphrases '\'e\\ York video artist S a m lune Paik, assuming this free-falling image ofsensuous filmic participation into his argument ahnut the role of the camera and the type of visualization it opens u p for massive destruction as in \var." In the same \vork Virilio cites a Russian pioneer (If cinema. Dziga \'erto\-:


Aspects o f Uisual Ularlds

1 am the camera's eye. 1 am the machine \vhich sho\vs you the \vorld as 1 alone see it. Starting from toda\. I am forever free of human immobility. I am in perpetual movement. l approach and dra\v a\vay from things-I cra\vl under them-I climh on them-I am on the head ofagalloping h o r s c l hurst at full s p e d into a crmvd-I run hefore running soldiers-I throtv myself do\vn on my hack-l rise up with aerol ! - at one nith the hodies falling o r rising through the air."' planes-I fall and I f

Or. tn take a recent commentary o n a Holl!-\vood film. Vincent Canhy's .Veu York Time5 revie\\. of David Lynch's Uildut Heart "is all a matter of disorienting scale, of emphases that are out of kilter. The same object can as easily he the surface o f the moon, seen in a long shot, or a shriveled. pockmarked haskethall photographed in close-up." .4 shot of a traffic light held too long is n o longer a traffic light. hen a match is struck hehind the credits, + t h ' e screen erupts \vith the roar o f a blast furnace. The flames are of a heat and an intensity t o melt a Cadillac Seville." And in an in\pired act he dra\vs the parallel o f a trip in a fun houce ghost train: "Nightmares are made real. \\'ithout moving one seems t o plummet through pitch darkness." Frnm pioneers o f Soviet a\.ant-garde t o the capitalist ghost train so it goes, tactility all the \yay: -Tatlin. 1913: "The eye should ht. put under the control o f touch." -Holly\vood, 1989: Burning Cadillacs erupting frnm screens. R-ikdaf Heart. -1hchamp: "I \\ant t o ahdish the supremacy of the retinal principle in art." -.4 Ikutenant Col<onel (of the I1.S. .Air Force at \var having his tummy churned as his mechanical rye smartly dances death through the skv. linking s o many tons o f explosive with a programmed target on the ground. And. of course, we must add that consummate theoretician and sometime (\\hen he \vas allo\ved) maker o f films, Sergei Eisenstein, contempmar!. of i'ertov and Tatlin (and surely a profound influence on Renjamin 1. who time and again in \vord and image espressed those principles at the heart of Benjamin's fascination \vith the mimetic faculty-namel\- alterity. prirniti\-ism. and the resurgence of mimesis \vith mechanical reproduction. Especially s a result of those principles pertinent \\-as the \yay Eisenstein came to understand \\;thin and a the interdependence of montage with physiognomic aspects of visual \vorlds. Taking his cue from the Kahuki theater of pre-modern japan, Eisenstein complicated the theory of montage in filmmaking n i t h his notion of the "\-isual overtone," first estahlished with his making of 7he Oldund the .Yew in 1928. "The estraordinary ph!.siological quality in the f d ond the Trw." he explained, is due t o such an overtone, a "filmic fourth affect of 7Jie O dimension" amounting to a "physiological sensation." He concluded,
For the niusizal overronr ( a thrnh) it i\ not strictly titting to say: "I hear." N o r for the iwal overtone: "I see." For hoth. a new uniform formula muqt enter our \ocahulary: "I feel.""

.4nd it \vas precisely the \-enera+ aged techniques of Kahuki theater that provided specific ideas n o less than stimuluc for the modernist theory and film practice of montage itself. Eisenstein understood Kahuki acting, for instance, as "organic t o film," and in this regard emphasized its *cut acting" \vith sudden jumps from one depiction to another. There \\as

also unprecedented slmving dmvn of movement "beyond any point \ve have ever seen." and "cfisintegrated" acting as \vith the depiction of a dying \yoman, the role k i n g performed in pieces detached from one another, acting \vith the right arm only, acting \vith the leg only. acting \vith the head and neck only (compare \vith hreak-dancing hy .African-.\mericans in the streets and suh\vays o f Ne\v York City). Each memher of the death agony played a solo performance, "a hreaking up nfshots," as Eisenstein gleefully put it, \\orking at a faster and faster rhythm.': Thus \vas the !-de o f naturalism lifted for this earl!. theoretician of mimetic machiner!



M, Tansrig

"The Genuine Aduertisement H u r t l e s Things At Us Ulith t h e Tempo of a Good f i l m "

I have concentrated on film in my exploration of the rehirth of the mimetic faculty. But what ahout that other great explosion of the visual image since the late nineteenth century, namely advertising! Does it not also provide the e\.eryday schonling for the mimetic faculty? Even mnre so? In his essay, "Transparencies on Film," Adorno makes the muted criticism that Benjamin's theory o f film did not elahorate on ho\v deepl!. some o f the categories he postulated "are imhricated ivith the commodity character \vhich his theor\. opposes."" Yet is it not the case that it is precisely in the commodity, more specifically in the fetish of the commodity, that Benjamin sees the surreal and revolutionap- possibilities provided hy the culture of capitalism for its mvn undoing, its own transcendence? Far from opposing the commodity, Benjamin seeks to emhrace it so as to take advantage o f its phantasrnogoric potential. Take as an example his 1928 montage-piece, "This Space For Rent," concerning \\hat he declared to he "todav, the most real. the mercantile gaze into the heart of things, is the advertisement."
It ahnlishes the space \\.here contemplation moved and all hut hit\ us het\veen the eyes with things as a car. grmving to gigantic proportions, careens at us out ofa film screen.

Lusting t o esploit the optical unconscious t o the full, advertising here expands, unhinges, and fixes reality \vhich, enlarged and racy, hitting us hetlveen the eyes. implodes to engulf the shimmer of the perceiving self. Corporeal understanding: you don't s o much see as he hit. "The genuine advertisement hurtles things at us \vith the tempo o f a good film." Montage. Bits of image suffice. such as the shiny leather surface of the saddle pommel and lariat of \4arlhoro Alan filling the hillhard suspended ahove the traffic and prnstitutes hustling on the \Vest Side Hightvay-in a strange rhythm, as Benjamin puts it, of "insistent, jerky, nearness." the monteur's rhythm bartering desired desires internal to the phantom-ohject world of the commodity itself. .And as \vith the fantasy-modeling of much shamanic ritual, as for instance \vith the Cuna shaman's figurines and the Emheri p y o boat. there is a cathartic. even curative, function in this copy-and-contact visual tactility of the advertisement such that umatter-of-factness"is finally dispatched. and in the face of the huge images across the walls of houses. \\.here toothpaste and cosmetics lie handy for giants, sentimentality is restored to health and liherated in American style, just as people \\horn nothinx moves o r touches any longer are taught t o cry again hy films. Frightening in the mimetic pmver of its own critical language, what could he a more convincing statement of the notion that films-and heyond films. advertisements-reschool the mimetic faculty than this ohsenation that "people uhmn nothing m o w or touches any longer are r y h r to c'y q u r n hy films? .And ho\v mohile, ho\v complicated. the interconnected dimensions of cop\ and contact turn out to he a i t h this dispatching of matter-of-factnesss! The c~py that is as much a construction as a copy. and the sentient contact that is another mode



Ph ysioqnomic
Aspects of h u a l Worlds

of seeing. the gaze grasping where the touch falters. Tot just a question of changing the size and fragmenting the copy. hut at the same time contact \vith it through an ether of jerky, insisting. nearness that, gathering force. hits us hetxveen (not in) the eyes. The question of heing moved. again. The question of being touched. again. Rehirth of mimesis. Short-circuit. Copy fusing with contact. Fire in asphalt. For the person in the street, says Benjamin. it is money that arouses sentience. It is money that liherates these healthy American sentiments and brings the person into perceived contact with things. Hence, the gnomic parting shot to "This Space For Rent": W'hat. in the end, makes advertisements so superior tn criticism: Sot \\hat the moving red nenn says-hut the f i e n pool reflecting it in the asphalt.

The Surgeon's Hand: t p i s t e m i c T r a n s g r e s s i o n

Here \ve d o \\ell to recall Benjamin likening t h e process of opening t h e optical unconscious to the surgeon's hand entering the hod! and cautiously feeling its \Yay around the organs. For there is. as Georges Bataille would insist, great violence and humor here as a tumultuous materialism is ushered into modernity's epistemological fold. The tahoo is transgressed, the hod! is entered, the organs palpated. Yet we are told, as a result of Rataille's intellectual lahors on tahoo and transgression, that it is the function of the tahoo tn hold hack violence, and that \vithout this restraint provided by the unreason of the tahoo, the reason of science jvould he impossihle." Thus insofar as the ne\v form of vision, of tactile knowing, is like t h e surgeon's hand cutting into and entering the hod! of reality to palpate the palpitating masses enclosed therein, incofar as it comes to share in those turbulent internal rhythms of surging intermittencies and peristaltic unwindingsrhythms inimical to harmonious dialectical flip-flops o r allegories of knowing as graceful journeys along an untransgressed hod! of reality, moving from t h e nether regions below to the head ahoy-then this tactile knowing of embodied knowledge is also the dangerous knowledge compounded of horror and desire dammed u p hy the tahoo. Thus if science depends on tahoos to still the ubiquitous violence of reality-this is t h e function of the xvhiteness of the white coats. the laboratory, the scientifically prepared and processed sociological questionnaire, and so forth-if science requires a sacred violence to hold back another violence. then the new science opened u p hy the optical unconscious is a science to end science hecause it itself is hased first and foremost on transgression-as the metaphor of the mimetically machined eye as the surgeon's hand so \vel1 illuminates. Confined within the purity of its theater of operation, science can proceed calmly despite the violence of its procedure. Rut . . . in the theater cfprcfane and everyfay operations, \vhich is where. thanks to the uhiquity of mimetic machinery, the optical unconscious noiv roves and scavenges. n o such whiteness cloaks with calm the medley of desire and horror that the penetrating hand, levering the gap hetween tahoo and transgression, espies-and feels. And "every day the urge grmvs stronger to get hold of an ohject at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction .* This is why the scientific quotient of the eyeful opened up hy the revelations of the optical unconscious is also an artistic and hallucinatory eye, a roller-mastering of the s e n w dissol\ing hnth science and art into a new mode of truth-seeking and reality-testing-as \\-hen Benjamin, in noting the achievement of film to extend our scientific comprehension of reality also notes in the same breath that film "hurst our prison world asunder hy the dynamite of a tenth of a second, so that noa; in the midst of its far-flung ruins and dehris, we calmly and adventurouslv go traveling."" And it is here, in this transgressed yet strangely calm new space of debris, that a new violence of perception is horn of mimetically capacious machinery.


I . S w a n Ruck-Slorss. 7'he Drolectm c/.%-ern,q R " h r Rrnpmin o d rhe Press, 19x9). 26'.


(Camhridpe. 5fass.: SIIT



Y r j o Hirn. Orrync of..\rf (l.ondon.1900; Se\v York: Renjamin Rloom. Reissued 19-1). 29.3.

Karl Slam, (.'apiroI ..\ ( h t y u e ~~ffolrrrcol F; \'d. I (,Sexyl-ork: International Publishers. 1967). 72.
Srrrer o d Ofhrr U"nrtnq.

Kenjamin. " 4 Short History o f Photography," in One-Wo! E. lephcott and E;. Shorter (London: S e n I d t Rooks). 2 4 . W .

trans. and ed.


Kenjamin. "The Work d i r t in the .Age nf Slechanical Reproduction." in Illumrnurimc. ed. Hannah .\rrndt. tram. Harry Zohn. (New York: Schocken). 2 . W . (;eorges I h h a m e l . S i r n e dr lo vir-/uture. (Paris. 19.30). cited in Renjamin. 'The F'ork of 4rt in the . \ R e

of \lezhanical Reproduction," 238.

-'_ Elaine Scam\.


W ! rn Furn

7'hr Ifoktng a d lJnmdrn,q Cfrhr R-orld(

Sew Ynrk: (kford (Iniwrsity Pres.

S. Renjamin. 'The U'ork of 4rt in the 4grofSkzhanical Reproduction." 240. 9. Paul \'irilio. R-or o d Cmrmo Thr Iqrstiis of Frrirytim, trans. Patrick Camiller (London: \'erso, 1989). 11. IO. \'irilio. 20.
1 I. Sergei Eicenrtein. *The Filmic Fourth Oirnension," in Film Form Ftu!s k d a ( K e w York: Warcourt. Brace. lovanovitch. 1949).71.

Film Thro??'.ed. and trans. jay


12. Eicrnstein. T h e Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram," in Film Form E c u ! c

14. C;eorge\ Rataille, Erotttm. Death. 2nd Smtualirv f San Francicco: City Liphtc. I9ML .?'-3%

Film T h r o p . 42.

13. T. \I.,4dornci. *Tran\parenciec nn Film," .Yew. (;rrmon Cnrryue 2+25 (Fall-U'intrr. 1981 ): 199-205. 202.

IS. Renjamin, T h e \\.ark of .Art in the

4ge of\lerhanizal Reprcductinn."

1 % .