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Tarkovsky’s Terrain Vague: Nomadic Subjectivity and Interspecies Dialog inSolaris and Stalker

The notion of the terrain vague as an interstitial space where the possibilities of the virtual have freedom to manifest has been explored by those curious about the power of alterity to affect change, from architect Ignacio de Solà-Morales to cyber-punk guru William Gibson. The terrain vague is a no-person‘s land, or more poetically, a wasteland, the very decay of which holds promise for affective encounter that could change paradigms for thinking and therefore being and relating. In the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, the wasted or unevolved landscape becomes not only an abject space of virtuality, but a character with its own nomadic identity, shifting and changing as it interacts situationally with other, human nomadic subjects. A question then arises around how one might see this interaction, one that is both bizarre and unfamiliar, as generative, rather than merely terrifying or in need of rectification: is it possible to understand subjectivity in terms of uncertainty without harboring resentment or needing to retreat into a normative, solution-oriented fixity? The term ―nomadic subjectivity,‖ articulated by Rosi Braidotti in her 1994 book of the same title, describes a theoretical figuration for contemporary subjectivity that involves the Deleuzian notion of ―nomadism,‖ or ―a succession of translations, of displacements, of adaptations to changing conditions‖ (Braidotti, 1994:1). Conceptualizing praxis as well as an idea of the nomad, Braidotti evokes an aesthetic style engaged with the ―solitude of empty spaces‖ where ―the traffic jam of meanings waiting for admission at the city gates‖ (15) is evaded and thereby radicalized. She is primarily focused on literature and cinema specifically categorized as ―feminist,‖ but I would like to offer Tarkovsky‘s abundant and saturated aesthetic approaches to the wasted, liminal space of the nomadic as a vision that allows for shifts in identity, cognitions, and epistemes. By navigating the unknown with the logics of madness, faulty memory, and post-war trauma, Tarkovsky explores a radical shift in understanding that necessitates refiguring knowledge of society, the self, and their shared relations in terms of interspecies interactions that occur most readily among nomads drifting through or bumping around in the wasteland. While Braidotti‘s discussion of nomadic subjectivity is limited to what she considers ―the central question in feminist theory…: how to reassemble a vision of female subjectivity after the certainties of gender dualism have collapsed‖ (99), this paper explores the ways in which nomadic subjectivity is not necessarily limited by species-being, let alone gender/sexed identity. Further, it will connect the idea of nomadic subjectivity with the potentiality of interstitial space offers when it is dealt with on its own terms and not forced into normative productivity but where it is considered in terms of what Heidegger calls ―the open space of destining‖ (25). This paper attempts a nomadic movement through the territory of the wasteland via the aesthetic unfolding that occurs in Tarkovsky‘s cinematic vision, where interspecies nomads gaze in wonder from a space of liminality; because the concepts of nomadism and wasteland relate in terms of the generative potential of alienation and loss, marginalization and madness, the movement will be fluid and perhaps nauseating. This dense exchange of ideas, images, and characters with hopefully iterate how Tarkovsky‘s nomadic movement through the horrifying, the destroyed, and the wondrous by dismantling the known, insisting on the indefinite, and evoking and exchange with nonhuman life can unfold how freakishly, alarmingly familiar is the monstrous. Nomads in the Wasteland

familiar. runs. multiple. and motivation. belonging to the wasted landscape and our interaction with it. entering by the route they offer: their neural pathways and the trails of their memories. For the Stalker. What seems irrational. the space station in Solaris is reminiscent of the rounded and rotating interstellar transportation ship of Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey. and relativity in ―emphatic proximity‖ (Braidotti 5) are the terms of the encounter. The Solaris station is also high tech and round-walled and white and minimal. or flowing in abstraction and has it make repeated attempts to contact. an incorporation into the subjectivity of the ―other‖ where fragmentation. and floats in the forms of long grasses. uncertainty. despite repeated attempts to get rid of them. In both films. and understands itself only in relation to movement and change. This particular kind of encounter can render closed and stagnate systems of understanding. Because they begin to confound unified identifiers concerning species. and spores. desires. the Zone has a given physical form. still in ―the Tarkovskinian universe [and in the nomadic zone] we must understand that the mad maintain an advantage over the sane‖ (Halligan 54). and speak to the human characters. and classifiable to the shocking. a trope that begins to haunt Kelvin as his memories become embodied and unclearly differentiated from what he believes to be reality. disorienting and even insane. . namely a sector that has been transformed outside the laws of physics and which manifests as a landscape that shifts. either a decaying space station hovering over a planet conscious enough to wonder about itself in relation to its visitors. moving in the wind. caress. and destabilized. it becomes clear. These wasted spaces bear the marks of alien encounter and evoke the alien in the human. both the human subjects and the landscape subjects begin to experience a porosity of identity. or a shattered industrial landscape that is able to reconfigure itself from moment to moment activated as its human guests move through it. This is a space of pure potentiality where what can be is not limited to what is already available and understood. or frightening is actually filled with potential if only a different approach to the conditions of being can emerge. gripping vines. Manifesting itself in their nightmares. In this space. released four years earlier and of which Tarkovsky was highly critical. and fears. can accommodate various forms of being.Tarkofsky‘s nomadic subjects in Solaris and Stalkerare situated in a future wasteland. The human encounters with these uncertain manifestations is frightening. the planet‘s interest in them ha s mainly resulted in an insupportable unhinging of their understanding of themselves. This first wasteland. So we see strange crea tures and long-dead wives or mothers appearing again and again. This is not through malice on the part of the planet though. They are driven to what they consider madness and it kills them. a rationale that is not normal. a creative activity that is relational and has no focused end. is a result of the disruption engaging with Solaris has provided for the men on the station. dogs. It seems only to seek a way to connect with the other life forms it sees. into generative experiences of becoming and relationality that move without cease and take us toward an understanding of ourselves as post-human. ugly. Decrepit and partially dismantled. these spaces create a kind of intensity that catalyzes a process of change and movement from the universal. This unhinged logic. and many large HAL-like components are covered with plastic sheeting. is able to move our understanding away from a notion of productivity that is governed by market-related concerns and into one that moves in many directions at once. loathsome. roiling planet over which the station floats. drawers are dangling from slots. but wires are torn from casings. In Solaris the planet takes physical form by materializing the space station occupants‘ dreams. They are actual manifestations of the flowing. Tarkovsky lingers on a landscape saturated with color. blurring the boundaries between the self and the monstrous and generating a space that engages the conditions of transformation. personality. informed by oppositional ideology.

an urban homosexual. Interspecies Engagement of Nomadic Subjects In her book Metamorphosis. It must rather be a space that is eventually occupied by anyone hoping to find escape from homogeneity. In Stalker. It is not purposely obtuse or something through which one may fast forward. allowing for the real possibility of a range of shift in awareness and with it a different type of engagement with what has for so long been considered the other. as Stalker repeatedly informs his seekers. They believe they must tread carefully because the Zone is monstrous. capable and insubstantial. the dog or the spores that play with Monkey in the closing sequence of the film. The key problematic of this proposal is in coming to grips with the fact that subjectivity must become something that is practically nothing. but we find they have much more to fear in their . She desires that we extend our understanding of this figuration from the merely frightful and acquire ―a flair for complicating the issues‖ (210) as developing porous boundaries between what is considered normal and what is named as monstrous can provide new ethical models for navigating the constant flux of the nomadic wasteland. and the material. the wasteland hovers as a space of potential like no other: destruction is likely but redemption is possible and the actualization of the unknown and terrifying virtual may change things in a way that is at the very least. a disenfranchised language learner. It allows for the possibility of moving beyond the boundaries that bind the subject to oppressive regimes of the mind. however. interesting. she discusses at length the notion of the monstrous. The vague in Tarkovsky is not ambiguous. if one is to define it at all. It is not mean or parsimonious or merely mad. it engages the human characters. oppression. Tarkovsky ventures an interesting foray into understanding this becoming the nomadic monster where he insists on an agency for non-human characters that is both irresistible and terrifying to his human characters. a figuration that grapples with representations of ―the ‗otherness within‘: the monster [that] dwells in your embodied self and …may burst out any minute into unexpected and definitely unwanted mutations‖ (201). it must be a construct that never settles into fixed categories whereby it can be articulated and grasped. and the faultiness of memory.g. Rosi Braidotti seeks ―new styles or figurations for the non unitary or nomadic subject‖ (2002: 172). and the spectacular banality of a normative subject whose painful venue is that of contemporaneous global capitalism. enveloping and permeable. The Zone eventually exceeds the boundaries between itself as landscape and experiences other manifestations which can leave the previously clearly marked borders of its territory (e. for an engagement with the horrifics of the absurd and the psychotic in the direction of opening up a variety of previously unknown ontological orientations. It must be at once stable and transient. In this search. So the nomadic monstrous subject. the Zone acts with a mad agency normally not attributed to an environment.. This allows. It is in fact purposeful and intentional. the socius. In these achingly beautiful wastelands. again. Entering The Zone is dangerous but without it there is no possibility for finding what is desired most: namely that which one fears most but also a kind of unearthing of the nature of dreams. in order to force God or god-thoughts onto the fractured space of the wasteland. cannot be limited to the descriptors as Braidotti employs later in her text: a woman of color. the complexities of desire. a situation that has possibly affected Stalker‘s DNA as exhibited in the strangeness of his daughter Monkey. only wonder and freefloating belief in the unknown can navigate the disintegration of all that once seemed rational.) It is not necessarily unfriendly as an interlocutor although it is dangerous.In Stalker. by reconfiguring the terrain comprising its material body and by caressing and infiltrating those it desires.

rather it is a moment of potential where signification has been shifted and the ambiguous re-rendering of the ―face‖ of man. Donna Haraway discusses monstrous companions in her book. and wild/domestic‖ and how they ―flatten into mundane differences – the kinds that have consequences and demand respect and response—rather than rising to sublime and final ends‖ (Haraway 15). we might see the grizzled. are constantly undermined in their efforts to gain ideological footing as previous definitions and intentions do not carry the same. This kind of intimacy is unexpected in normative representations of landscape. again.own psychic instability. and the abandoned as wondrous: we might see how the monster can merge with the man and generate a new life. This results in frustration for the characters because they seek fulfillment of desire. She is speaking not only about her dog. The first time this happens. still they are part of the Zone‘s consciousness filtered through or commingled with the dream-vision of Stalker. and memory occurs in a manner that is filled with uncultivated wonder. the wasted. animal. we have … oral intercourse. . The objects. mostly remembered directly and not as mere spectacular representations. Stalker leave the others upon entering the Zone and goes to a private place where he can immerse himself in the ―body‖ of the other. This is intimacy with something non-normative and non-human. … keep[s] company. appear under the glass of still water. the subject with whom she deals extensively in the book. The self-identified subjects named Professor and Writer.[1]Considering the interspecies engagement in terms of situatedness makes for a symbiotic paradigm whereby there are no boundaries of otherness. Following this notion. nature/culture. but about viral. it has it‘s own desiring machine and it is trying through relationality to connect with the other complex subjects in its field of attention. When Species Meet: they are ―messmates at table…political companions…[someone with whom one] ‗consort[s]. organic/technical. an understanding that is ultimately modified by the influence of the interaction of one with the other. to sense situations and then change or manipulate them through their actions. The landscape in Tarkofsky is not a mere frame for human interaction. rolling in tall grass and allowing insects to rove his skin. their semiotic nomadism. presented as if part of a scroll. but unfortunately their desire is too limited by ideologies that inform the sepia-toned apocalyptic village of their daily lives. The scroll of objects and their poetic potential are read from bottom to top. It manifests in human. ―the vision of a dead society injected into Stalker‘s dreams by the Zone‖ of which Benjamin Halligan speaks (59 -60). namely humans. situated and thereby relational. Zone. ―[w]e have forbidden conversation. in relation to the unpredictability of the landscape character with which they find themselves engaging. Her inquiry involves an involution of interspecies dependency that is. for a sustained moment the Zone and Stalker share the combined and refigured view of not only objects but also their signifying potential. In cybernetics. we are bound in telling story on story with nothing but the facts‖ (16). They have no idea how to meet the monster on his own turf and thereby recognize the monster in themselves. In the dream sequence.‘ with sexual and generative connotations always ready to erupt‖ (17). bacterial. vegetal. known meanings. situated relates to the ability of a device to engage in a dynamically changing environment. whatever those may be. but a slow consideration of this evokes the most immersive experiences of physical touch. They are displaced from use by the fact of their being cast away. The commingling is not oppressive. if we consider Stalker‘s physical interludes with the Zone. She is raising questions about a material semiotic around terms like ―animal/human. and reptilian encounters.

to render ourselves implicit in the monstrous. Braidotti. fluid. appears to follow the dog. First appearing as a howl as Stalker enters the Zone. what might not be tenable unless we relinquish control and allows known structures to be disrupted. and understanding that describe contemporary subjectivity toward a subtle. pale skin and small hands clearly articulated as no other image has been. 167-91. as a point of discussion for what is partly at stake in a deeply historical embodiment of species commingling. situated. Moving away from normalizing structures of language. and monstrous constant redefinition of relational interaction is key for engaging embodied. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. In this way. I would like to spend a moment with the dog in Stalker. Cambridge. Lying together in this manner. Gilles. Rosi. Bibliography Braidotti. that is at once a surface and a part of its own body." A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. rolling lovingly in the grass as it caresses his body and holds his head like a lover. "Year Zero: Faciality. The drenched color of the scene that follows with Stalker and his family. 1987. Deleuze. Uncertain if they actually hear this long and lonesome cry. 2002. Print. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Print. a call of connection. space. and push us through carefully constructed intersections that evade fixed definition in favor of finding what is not known. the dog accompanies Stalker out of the Zone. Print. The films activate the spectator in the way they create discomfort in the sublime. curling up beside him on the narrow strip of ground. Tarkovsky‘s films work toward a radical redefinition of embodiment. and Félix Guattari. But Stalker runs to greet the caller. Monkey presented raja-like on her father‘s shoulders. the dog approaches as Stalker falls to sleep. Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming. UK: Published by Polity in Association with Blackwell. New York: Columbia UP. Further on in the sequence. a traversing of boundaried spaces and in fact further emphasizing that the Zone is not mere spatiality. The full infiltration of the Zone into the space of the other is further demonstrated by the return of the intense color as Monkey sits reading in the kitchen. her yellow scarf and golden freckles. Writer and Professor look around in wonder: Are we being hailed? Should we be frightened? This is the typical response of humans to alien contact as represented in most films. Finally the spores flow around the room in an invisible eddy as Monkey asserts her own kind of gentle monster agency to move the water glasses across the table. Later. which unfolds a story that is built around madness as much as plot propels the wasted landscape and the monstrous character toward a porous nomadism. making possible the joint dreaming discussed earlier. dynamic epistemes. but a situated embodiment that in fact can move and willfully adjust to the context and relationship in which it finds itself. I have already mention the way that the planet manifests in the form of Hari and how the Zone becomes more directly playful as dandelion spores floating around Monkey. and knowing that allows for an open and dynamic consideration of the nomadic subject. a greeting to the pack. Tarkovsky‘s intense aesthetic cinematic practice.and mineral form and interacts in ways physically possible for these forms. . the dog is a way for the Zone to vocalize itself to the humans. Rosi. 1994. the Zone is able to have an kind of encompassing contact with the physical form of Stalker. vision. both from the ground and from the side where the dog is lying.

Paris: Galilée. Pittsburgh TribuneReview. Stalker. Horst. Evolution. 1996. Ed. Kurt. 1995. ―The Question Concerning Technology. Jónsson and Thorkell Óttarsson. Interactive Emergence. Gunnlaugur A. Andrei Tarkovsky. 118-123. Print. Hendriks-Jansen. "Compromising Spaces. 1993. Gilles. Luc. MA: MIT Press.: MIT. "Terrain Vague. Print. Halligan. Les trois ècologies. "‗Sculpting the Time Image‘: An Exploration of Tarkovsky's Film Theory From a Deleuzian Perspective."Http://www. Benjamin. Filmography Solaris. Guattari. Félix. 2004. DVD. Gunnlaugur A. Martin. 24 Mar. New York: Harper Perennial: 1977. 27 May 2010. 1979. New York: Columbia UP. MA: MIT. 79-99. Print. Ed. Shaw.pittsburghlive. 40-64. and Human Thought. DVD." Through the Mirror: Reflections on the Films of Andrei Tarkovsky. McSweeney. 2006. Print. New York: Bantam. Web. Dir. Terence. Cambridge. Web. Andrei Tarkovsky. Jónsson and Thorkell Óttarsson. Haraway. Virtual Light. Evolution. Horst. Catching Ourselves in the Act: Situated Activity. Donna J. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Lévesque.amarrages." Anyplace. Ed. Print. Dir. and Human Thought. Print. Heidegger. 28 May 2010. 1989. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.Cambridge. . Gibson. 1996. Solà-Morales. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars. 1990. Davidson. 2002. Print.Deleuze. Interactive Emergence. 2006. Catching Ourselves in the Act: Situated ―The ‗terrain vague‘ as material – some obversations. Mass.‖ The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. When Species Meet." Through the Mirror: Reflections on the Films of Andrei Tarkovsky. Cynthia C. Ignacio. Print. 2008. Print. Ed.‖ http://www. "On Tarkovsky's Aesthetic Strategies. [1] See Hendriks-Jansen. The Logic of Sense. 1972.html. William.