Jesse 22. November 2011 um 9:22 Uhr

One way to become other is through learning about the other. Sid Hammett discovers William Gould’s text and the more he reads, the more he becomes Gould. Through Gould’s study of fish he slowly becomes a fish himself. Through the use of some unusual--often metafictional--methods, Gould’s Book of Fish gives its readers a feeling of becoming other by absorbing them in the experience of Hammet reading the text and becoming Gould.

The first forty pages of Gould’s Book of Fish are the story of Sid Hammet finding the Book of Fish written by William Gould, and becoming obsessed with learning more about it. Hammet is a framing narrator, but the novel never fully returns to his voice because he has become Gould; he isn’t simply telling Gould’s story, he is becoming it. Hammet’s story ends with him staring into the eyes of a seadragon thinking it is saying “I shall be you” (Flanagan, 37), and wondering if he will also become the fish. After staring for awhile there is a shift of perspective and the ‘I’ becomes the fish describing Gould as the man who will “finally tell my story” (Flanagan, 38). This is a subtle transformation that comes only after Hammet has spent time learning Gould’s story.

Page 41 begins the story of Gould, but in small print at the top of the page the book says, “the first 40 pages of Gould’s notebook are missing; his journal begins on page 41” (Flanagan, 41). The pages aren’t missing, however, they are the forty pages that make up Hammet’s story. Hammet no longer exists as we have known him, and by saying the pages are missing he is also showing that he is unaware of the transformation.
Unlike Hammet, Gould is fully aware of his final transformation, but not necessarily of the small transformations. Gould also stares into the eyes of fish, and he says, “something of them began to pass into me” (Flanagan, 257). When he looks into “that damn kelpy’s eyes” (Flanagan, 85), he is transported to the death of the machine breaker, and if we look back to that scene we see that the machine breaker had been “raving how the kelpy was coming to take him” (Flanagan, 81). After the raving Gould is told that the kelpy comes to drown those who are “too far from home” (Flanagan, 81), but Gould is never drowned. Instead, he becomes a fish living under the water.

After Gould becomes a fish he is caught by Hammet’s friend, Mr. Hung, catching fish for his aquarium, and Gould says, “I know it is only a matter of time before I am gazing out of that neon-lit tank that I once so intently stared into” (Flanagan, 402). We know that Gould never stared into the tank so this is a part of Hammet speaking. This dual personality shows that becoming is not a complete transformation of the self, but an absorption of the other through learning about their experiences to the point that you experience them yourself. Gould’s story has shown him learning about those around him, and the afterword gives him the aliases of those same people. He is said to be “Sid Hammet, Jorgen Jorgensen, Capois Death, Pobjoy, ‘the Commandant’ (Flanagan, 404). Through learning their stories Gould partly became them just as a read of a book, especially this one, becomes the characters in the book by taking in their experiences.

Works Cited
Flanagan, Richard. Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish. London: Atlantic Books, 2003. Print.

Anna 22. November 2011 um 10:44 Uhr

In Ici et Ailleurs Jean Luc Godard tries to find a new way of representing the Other. He does this by juxtaposing various images and sounds. The film is utterly fragmented. There is a voice over, but it does not give explanations. Meaning is created through association. In this way Godard asks questions about the meaning we give to the things we hear and see. Can the other really be represented or ‘known’? Can we ever be sure of the image? Can the Other ever be separated from the image?
John Dabrinksy says in his article Separation, Difference and Time in Godard’s Ici et Ailleurs “Godard is well aware of the problem of a separation in which the only contact with the Other is the image of the Other. (…) Images relate, and so betray. Cinema’s trickery consists in concealing betrayal in the facilitation of identification and in arousing sympathy.” (153) Dabrinsky says that Godard refuses that trickery. He tries to awaken the viewer to the “cinematic process of information transmission” (153), trough repetition, fragmentation and juxtaposition. However this also puts Godard himself in a problematic position. Whenever we look, or point the camera, at one truth we deny another. What happens behind the camera could change the meaning of what is in front of it completely. The directing, the steering of the image thus becomes problematic. What is left out could be more important than what is left in.
Yet Godard is a director. He also makes choices of what to show and what not. He tries to bring a message across. He needs the “cinematic process of information transmission” for that. He may try to make the viewer aware of the trickery of cinema, but he also uses certain trickery to make his own point. He is creating a different Other, but still an Other. Godard uses non-conventional ways of telling his story, but within the medium he is still forced to use the language of film. He is fighting against the meaning of the image by using images.
Godard seems to be caught in his own web. This might be because he tries to do two things at once. As Dabrinksy says: “And so Ici et ailleurs is as much about the act of filming—the fate of a certain kind of representation, under certain conditions, spatial and temporal—as it is about the political events documented. (152) Godard wants to give his opinion on the situation in Palestine and he wants to criticize the medium he is doing this through. He wants to make people aware of the steering qualities of cinema, while by the choices he himself makes (juxtaposing Hitler with Israeli leaders or the silent image of the burned Palestine), Godard steers the opinion of the viewer in his direction. The viewer might be aware of the trickery he still cannot help being influenced by the images he sees. Godard does not succeed in finding a new way of representing the Other. He does however succeed in making the viewer aware of the power of images, maybe even because Godard is not able to escape the image himself.


Dabrinsky, John. Difference and Time in Godard’s Ici et Ailleurs. SubStance Volume 37, Number 1, 2008, pp. 148-158

Godard, Jean Luc and Anne-Marie Mieville. Ici et Ailleurs; 1975

Natacha 22. November 2011 um 12:01 Uhr

The main director of the film Ici et ailleurs, Jean Louis Godard, initially wanted to make a film about the liberation movement of Palestine. Back in France, when he is viewing the rushes of the Palestinian militants he made, the massacre of the Black September took place where thousands of refugees were killed in Palestinian camps in Jordan by the troops of king Hussein. This tragic event throws Godard into a crisis of consciousness which enables him to continue his project. He decides to analyse the situation in his own country by using partly fiction and showing the silencing of French people by the media and publicity. The initial project to make a film showing the victory of the Palestinian militants does not get realised. The film we see reflects the crisis of Godard making a film with a political aim and shows the discontinuity between a film that is only a political pamphlet and a film about a political conflict that uses all the artistic means to become a valuable contribution for reflection.

In Ici et ailleurs Godard is reflecting on his presentation of the ‘other’ (‘l’autre qu’on appelle par commodité mon semblable’ we hear by the voice-over) while making a film about the Palestinian revolutionary movement PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation). This movement wanted the liberation of Palestine through armed struggle and called for a right of return and self-determination for Palestinians. We see the fedayeen filmed behind their back in a field of bananas. Again in a voice over the filmmaker tells about his dilemma showing those images of the fedayeen because since the shooting a lot of them have died and can not oppose anymore to their presence in the film. This event works as the ‘epiphany’ produced by the face of the absolutely Other of which Levinas writes that it ‘breaks with the world that can be common to us’ (Levinas 194). The relation to the face of the other, states Levinas, ‘is produced in the opposition of conversation, in sociality’(197) and has a healing effect: ‘it has a positive structure: ethical’ (…) ‘I do not struggle with a faceless god, but I respond to his expression, to his revelation’. (197) We are ethically related to the other through the face of the other. In encountering the other we get confronted with our responsibility according to Levinas. Godard decides to focus on the situation in France, where people are confronted with unemployment and are flooded by the intrusiveness of images and sounds from television programmes to which they look in silence. As he says in the film: before knowing what to do ‘il faut avoir le temps, le temps de voir les choses’. The film presents stills from French television programmes and publicity and a family of which the man is unemployed, who is watching these images. At the same time we hear the voice-over as a comment on the images. (‘Il y en a toujours un qui prend le pouvoir’). With this film Godard does not only comment on the capitalistic system as a system of oppression and the role of the media as an accomplice of the system. He also reflects on his work as a filmmaker who also produces images. As the voice over says in the film: ‘a flow of images that hides silence and becomes mortal’. The voice over in this second part functions as a welcome counterpart to the images we get to see repeatedly in stills and the people looking at them.
Irmgard Emmelhainz notes about Ici et ailleurs that ‘the film registers major epistemological changes that took place in the 1970s prompted by anti-totalitarianism, the demise of nationalism, Third Worldism, Socialism and Communism as ideological vehicles for revolutionary politics, revealing the limits of aesthetic practice grounded on the ideologems of the left’. Godard has been looking for a solution to his ethical dilemma’s and may have been influenced by several philosophers and thinkers, like Lyotard and Spivak, in that period as Emmelhainz points out (653).
Spivak is accusing western intellectuals who make the “subaltern’, like women in Indian culture (by referring to the widow burning in India), speak without acknowledging ‘the context of colonial production’ and ‘the ideological construction of gender [that] keeps the male dominant’ and is more likely to project his own fantasies and desires (7). Political and artistic representations can be useful as means to approach complex problems in human societies but we must been aware of the discontinuity between the political representation and the re-presentation through art or philosophy. We should listen to the other, according to Spivak, even or especially when she (or he) does not speak. In the last part of the film the images of the fedayeen are shown again but they are now commented by two voices instead of one. The two voices are in opposition to each other and function as complement to the images of the fedayeen. The project of the film has become different. The film takes distance to the images that are shown to reflect on them. According to Serge Daney, Godard shows in this last part of the film that he has decided to engage himself as a filmmaker. This means that he has played his role between the shooting of the images and after when the film is edited with the dialogues, the music and (in this case) the voice-over. The artist plays his role between these two moments. He does not talk in the place of the other but makes a film that functions as a dialogue.


Ici et ailleurs [Here and Elsewhere], Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Pierre Gorin (Groupe Dziga Vertov), France 1976
Irmgard Emmelhainz: From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestine question, 2009: Third Text, 25:5, 649-656
Levinas, Emmanuel. 1969. “Ethics and the Face” In Totality and Infinity, translated by Alphonso Lingis, 194-247. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne UP.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty: Can the subaltern speak? Abreviated English version by the author, used for the German 2003 translation by Ursula Beitz and Doro Wiese that was published under: “Can the Subaltern Speak? “In Die Philosophin. Forum für feministische Theorie une Philosophie, 27: 42-59
Serge Daney, on Ici et Ailleurs,

Sharlene Alam 22. November 2011 um 12:46 Uhr

In the solace of the Lake Poets

Flanagan’s novel, “Gould’s Book of Fish,” remarks on the Lake Poets in an interesting way. They are mentioned quite a few times and every time they are, whether the Commandant or Capois Death mentions them, it alludes to some form of escaping. This short essay will focus on the reasons and the ways in which the articulation of the Lake Poets is always suggestive of a means of escaping and therapy from the intolerable horrors of the Penal Colony in Tasmania.

The first time Flanagan’s book mentions the Lake Poets in part VIII of the chapter called, “The Stargazer” it is in reference to the Commandants search party boarding an “express locomotive bound for Ambleside in the English Lake District… with the declared intention of never returning” (Flanagan 169). Tired and fed up of the horrors and atrocities of the Penal Colony, the members of the search party escaped the first chance they got; trying to escape their grotesque and undesired reality indefinitely and forever. Similarly, not being able to stomach the atrocities of the French Revolution, the British Industrial Revolution, and the colonizing British Empire, the Lake Poets moved away from the city and city life and sought to find refuge and solace deep in the Lake Districts of England through nature, where they wrote poems about the superiority and the unparalleled powers of the imagination, the senses, the sublime and above all the beauty of nature. Plagued and ill-fated by thoughts of being usurped by Brady, “malnutrition” (Flanagan 202) and consumption, even the Commandant himself wished that he was at Rydal Lake “composing Tintern Abbey” (Flanagan 203). Instead of fantasizing and imagining himself fighting and defending his colony as “a Roman emperor,” which he ought to being a tyrannical leader, he was crying while wishing he was a Lake Poet like Wordsworth, “given to long dreamings at the edge of Grasmere on the Sublime & Majestick” (Flanagan 202), synced with nature while composing poetry, far away from his immediate horrific reality, even if most of it was created by and for him.

Even Capois Death who, the narrator confesses, only read the Lake Poets once, was inspired by them. His design of the “theatrical drops screens…depicting different views & sublime scenes” forming “an outer walled circle lining the circular railway track” had “Romantic scenery” painted in them like, “Tintern Abbey or Windermere or… Salford” (Flanagan 180). These painted locations were all either a part off or close to the English Lake District where so many poets escaped to, from harsh conditions in the industrial cities, in order to create poetry. Similarly, the inhabitants of the Penal Colony could momentarily escape their inevitable, hopeless, horrific reality by going on the train ride, round and round, looking at beautiful, romantic and sublime sceneries over and over again. As if the circular monotony of the motion and the images could render them some peace of mind, even if it is for a few minutes or hours in a painted utopian location.

While the beginning of this essay investigates the ways in which the Lake Poets are integrated in Flanagan’s novel, the end will try and examine the reason(s) for mentioning them (other than as means of escape). Pastor Gottliebsen who, the narrator informs us, saw himself as “a veritable Lake Poet” (Flanagan 266) said it the best. He claimed that it is essential to “find beauty in the most adverse of worlds. Because even in the heart of the most depraved… is the hope of Divine Redemption through Nature, which is Art” (Flanagan 266). Not only do the Lake Poets themselves and their poems or illustrations of their poems serve as a form of escape, they also allow the mind to therapeutically dwell in, in Keatsian terms, things of beauty. This form of therapy helps the heart and mind of man or men like the Commandant and Capois Death, to endure the horrors of reality and hope for a form of “redemption” through beauty or through thoughts of beautiful things and utopian places. As in the case of the Commandant, by wishing that he were responsible for creating beauty in beautiful places, that is wishing to be a Lake Poet in the Lake District instead of who and where he was, he is trying to escape the horrors of his reality. Or like in the case of Capois Death, by designing beautiful things with the help of other beautiful things, that is, building the “sublime” back screens of the circular train ride, he can momentarily offer the inhabitants a nicer reality than that off the colony. Plato, in his “Symposium” wrote that, “only in the contemplation of beauty is the human life worth living” (Plato 211d) no matter what the condition of the life is. Any kind of reality, no matter how harsh and intolerable, can be subdued by imagining and contemplating on things of beauty, be it a poem or a painting. For the Commandant, his momentary escape is, him fantasizing that he is Wordsworth writing “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” while the notion of escape for Capois Death and the other inhabitants of the penal colony, is by fantasizing about utopian locations in the sublime back screens. Imagination and the contemplation of beauty offer them a form of consolation that is unparalleled in the grim and cruel reality in the colony of Sarah Island.

The Lake Poets offered a feeling of forgetfulness and solace for the abovementioned characters. Flanagan could have written about other poets in the novel but he particularly chooses these because out of all the English poets, it is the Lake Poets of the Romantic era, who valued the beauty of nature and the sublime above science and progress. By evoking them and their lives, not to forget the use of opium, which, like the Commandant, Coleridge for instance was also badly addicted to, the various members of the penal colony could, momentarily escape their harsh reality, forget where they were, or could imagine to be elsewhere, thinking of beauty in the forms of poems or locations.

Works Cited:

Flanagan, Richard. Gould’s Book of Fish. London: Atlantic Books, 2003. Print.

Plato. Symposium and Phaedrus. Ed. Candace Ward. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. New York: Dover, 1993. Print.

LeonieV 22. November 2011 um 13:06 Uhr

Impossible Representation

In his book ‘orientalism’ Edward Said illustrated the way in which colonial subjects where imposed with the identity of the strange and other by the western traveling scientists, who automatically took themselves for the normal or most evolved way of being; they where the subject, observing the oriental or colonial objects. Where Said’s conclusion is that there needs to be a decolonisation of thinking, a striving for an equal dialogue, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak goes even further than Said by pointing out the difficulties there are in the realization of this ambitious goal and giving us her possible solution of overcoming those.

Spivak uses the term subaltern. For Spivak everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is Subaltern. This means she does not only speak of colonized groups of people, but also by western minorities who have always been held outside the cultural power system, like for example women. The difference between the powerful subject and the subaltern is vividly explained as the difference to those who act and speak and those who act and struggle. Spivak explains the Subaltern are no longer able to speak, for they have become mere objects for the hegemonic power. They have become ghosts, who are unable to present themselves as a subject. Everything there is to say about them is said for them, the hegemonic power is imposing them their identity.

In her view on the position of the subaltern Spivak doesn’t agree with Deleuze when he states that ‘There is no more representation; there’s nothing but action (…) action of theory and action of practice which relate to each other as relays and form networks’ (1)
She believes representation is still possible and even a necessary ‘tool’ to improve the situation of the subaltern. To use representation successfully we need to understand the two different meanings of representation; ‘representation as in “speaking for”, as in politics and representation as in “re-presentation”, as in art or philosophy.’ (1) Or Vertreten and Darstellen.

When Spivak states that: ‘Radical practice should attend to this double session of representations rather than to reintroduce the individual subject through totalizing concepts of power and desire’ (5) She means that the subaltern should ideally be represented in a universal language that is not infected by the dominating beliefs of the hegemonic power. But how is this achieved? Is it is even possible?

Godard’s film ‘Ici et Alleurs’ shows us how difficult this dialogue of the politically privileged and the subaltern really is. Not only in it’s content but also in it’s form. The film shows footage or the Palestinian revolution intervening with images of a French family watching TV and images of Nazism and Stalinism. But instead of just showing this it is also selfreflexive. While the images show us how a western family is save behind their television and cannot possibly grasp the situation the Subaltern, in this case Palestine’s are in. It simultaneously philosophizes on this lack of solidarity for the far away victimized. I think that this movie comes close to Spivaks idea of a double session of representation. Because it is a movie, is a re-presentation (Darstellen) of the Palestine’s but because the movie is self-reflexive, and there is a voice explaining the situation of these Palestine’s it is also a speaking for them in a political sense, and therefore it is also a representation (Vertreten).

But still I don’t think Godard succeeds here in giving the Palestine’s a voice, making an equal dialogue between subaltern and the western power. The good intentions resonate through the entire movie. But still, even by showing this very precise notion of being imposed with an identity. It is Godard who imposes the Palestine’s with an identity of subaltern. For instance in the scene where the women is interviewed and being directed by the director, his scene itself is directed by Godard, we still only see what he wants us to see.

To really give the Subaltern back their voice, they need to be able to represent themselves. And even then, I think it is impossible for them to come up with a representation that acquires them to have an equal dialogue with us. Even if this representation is as well a Vertreten as a Darstellen I don’t think it will be universal. Their voice, however multileveled it could be, will still be in a ‘language’ we western people don’t speak, and do not want to learn how to speak, so eventually the Subaltern has learn to speak in our ‘language’, and with that become like us in order to have a equal dialogue. I believe this is the exact problem. We should not want to strive for a complete understanding or representation of each other, but treat each other equally despite our differences and our inability to fully understand these differences. Representation is impossible without losing a bit of your complete and infinite self.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty: “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Abbreviated English version by the author, used for the German 2003 translation by Ursula Beitz and Doro Wiese that was published under: “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Die Philosophin. Forum für feministische Theorie und Philosophie, 27: 42-59.

Godard, Jean Luc and Anne-Marie Mieville. Ici et Ailleurs; 1975

Athena Z 22. November 2011 um 13:35 Uhr


In his essay Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses Louis Althusser describes how a social formation survives relying on repressive State apparatuses (RSAs), such as the police or the army, and on Ideological State apparatuses (ISAs). ISAs are conceived as “a certain number of realities which present themselves to the immediate observer in the form of distinct and specialized institutions” (1489) that support the dominant values in a society, by ensuring “subjection to the ruling ideology” (1485). One of the most influential and effective ISAs is the mass media apparatus, which crams, “every ‘citizen’ with daily doses of nationalism, chauvinism, liberalism, moralism etc., by means of the press, the radio and television” (1494).

Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville in their film Ici et Ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere) contemplate on Althusser’s theory through the projection of a variety of forms of media which though are intended to inform, present a distorted image of reality. Godard himself having been to Palestine in 1970 is left (4-5 years later) with a footage (pictures and videos) which as he says ‘doesn’t know what to do with’ after the massacre of the Black September in Jordan. Still, Godard using the existing material along with new additions, succeeds (with Miéville’s help) to overcome his ‘crisis’ by creating a documentary film addressing human suffering. We hear in the film:

“Here, a French family watches television. Elsewhere, images of the Palestinian revolution. Here, today, the sound and images of today’s noise. Elsewhere, first yesterday, abroad, then tomorrow. Here, very simple images. (…) Elsewhere, very simple images. (…).Where did the ability to see or hear these very simple images come from? We have, like everyone, said something else about them. Something else than what they are saying.”

Yet, Godard uses a media form (more precisely the one he best knows) and is not only saying something but achieves much more than the representation of suffering in only one place (namely Palestine).Godard exposes the universality of human struggle for as he narrates:

“We took images and put the sound too loud. Vietnam…always the same sound, always too loud. Prague, May `68—France, Italy. Chinese cultural revolution. Strikes in Poland. Tortures in Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Chile, Palestine. The sound so loud that it almost drowned the voice it wanted to draw out of the image.”

However, as he observes in another moment in the film “It seems most likely that we do not know how to see or listen. Or, that the sound is too loud and covers reality. Learn to see here, in order to understand elsewhere. Learn to understand speech in order to see what other do. The others, the ‘elsewhere’ of our ‘here’.”

Godard wishes to bridge the spectator (here) with “the other…elsewhere” and achieve identification. He remarks that things “didn’t go well” and continues “very soon …the contradictions explode including you”, he explains that ‘this’ (images of everyday life and preparation for revolution) becomes ‘that’ (images of dead people after the massacre)…that here is displaced elsewhere. That we are all trapped in the same reality-game.

For Godard silence is not an option. He decides to turn the media apparatus against its creators thus awakening the crowds. Through an assemblage of pictures, videos and fragmented speech he creates a philosophical cinematic language that conveys the universality of human suffering bearing as a source a political circus. The media apparatus relies heavily on political and economical interests and projects (specific) material and information respectively. Ideology refers to the ideas and values that a subject (individual) assimilates by invisible means and “has a material existence” (1501) because it exists in an apparatus. The main purpose of ideology is to interpellate “concrete individuals as concrete subjects” (1504). Consequently, audiences are interpellated by the media apparatus and constituted into subjects via the messages it produces; subjects are invited to accept certain forms of ideology and participate accordingly.

In his film, Godard meditates on history, its creation, the sociopolitical and economical profits from wars and their subsequent ideologies projected by the media. He succeeds to give “a material existence” (Althusser, 1501) to the human struggle for survival. He resists “too many pompous sentences’ and transmits his message through a series of repetitions and bare image language. The paradox of using an ideological apparatus to reveal the pain of humanity worldwide through the exact same apparatus (meaning the media; namely the film) is overcome by the sad realization that: it’s their game; you play it with their rules. Godard is hailing distance and invites his audience to follow. He wants to shift subjects into individuals and make them see that “Elsewhere” is “Here”.

As I recently wrote commenting on the current upheaval in Greece: “Things look different from a distance” and later “Distance is the medium of safe talk and a safer judgment”. Tom Robbins realizes that “space is merely a device to prevent everything from being in the same spot” (157), or is it like that? Godard hides the answer in the title of his film. He knows that images and media (film) impregnate distance. The here and there. The safety of a western couch and the crude soil of revolution. The now and then.

Going back to Althusser, Godard exposes a specific reality, fuses time and space and desires to combat the “subjection to the ruling ideology” (Althusser, 1485) by shuttering the space-time continuum and uniting it in his film. The key to the question of space, distance and time is given from the beginning till the end of the film and lies in only one simple word: “ET”.
“ET”(meaning ‘and’ in English) serves as a conjunction of the abyss of human suffering and struggle “Here and elsewhere”
(Ici et Ailleurs)
Here and elsew(here)

Work Cited

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation).”
Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Eds. Vincent Leitch et al. 1st Ed. N.Y. Norton & Company, 2001. (1483-1509)

Robbins, Tom. Still Life with Woodpecker. New York : Bantam Books, 1980


Ici et ailleurs. Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Anne-Marie Miéville . Jean-Luc Godard. Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. 1976

Frank 22. November 2011 um 14:00 Uhr

In ‚From Third Worldism to Empire – Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestine Question‘, Irmgard Emmelhainz discusses how by the mid seventies a series of epistemological shifts – the rise of anti-totalitarianism and ‚humanitarianism‘ in particular – had troubled the universality of struggle that had dominated the decade before, and how this break had made a rethinking of aesthetico-political strategies necessary. In this short essay, I want to continue her argument, by comparing and relating Godard’s documentary strategies in Ici et ailleurs to the archival reading practice Spivak develops in ‚Can the subaltern speak?‘. For this purpose, I will invoke the concept of illegibility, defined as the result of an potentially infinite process of interpreting in contexts that are manifold and many-layered, as a tool to think about the possibilities of a ‚progressive discursive position from here and about the elsewhere‘ (Emmelhainz, 653), as Emmelhainz summarizes the question that Godard deals with in Ici et ailleurs.

Formally, Ici et ailleurs, through its refusal of the dialectical image and its persistent use of the shot-reverse shot, is distinct from most documentary cinema, which rests heavily on the dialectical image and its didactic possibilities and often assumes a continuity of history, even if at a certain conjuncture, it may look broken. Godard, instead, stresses the irreversible otherness or heterogeneity of the present situation vis-à-vis the past. That is, however, not to say that the past is gone and done with, or that there is no other future imaginable; only that we should not hope, vainly, for the restoration of some previous state of affairs. The question Godard explores is rather how we can continue a revolutionary project at a time in which history itself is growing more and more discontinuous. At the time of the film’s composition, Emmelhainz reminds us, Empire was constructing itself fast, leaving the sense of an historical project pressurized.

In Ici et ailleurs Godard chooses to reassemble the ruptured spatio-temporal elements of the film’s first shooting and of its actual composition, and thereby tries to articulate them anew, but now with a growing awareness of the complexities of representing and mediating the conflict it had set out to investigate. In this process, it does not offer simply a laudatory account of the Palestinians‘ struggle – note that the film’s initial title spoke unhesitantly of victory for the Palestinians – but gives it a more indeterminate outcome instead, an outcome that is, however, at the same time not devoid of political agency. What makes the film of interest, then, is not its didacticism, or its revolutionary message. If there is one, it is not straightforward. Rather it is the way Godard proceeds, the strategies he uses to make the spatio-temporal continuities and discontinuties of his struggle a site for inquiry into what it means to recover what has been shattered, but with a sense of failure and defeat, and without recourse to a messianic narrative that have resonance anymore. One notable strategy, on which I will focus now, is the conspicuous use Godard makes of examples that are, in a way, illegible.

One of such scenes is the one in which a Palestinian woman is ostantatiously directed, told by the director to act and perform as if she were a oppressed and revolutionary subject, while from the context it is clear that she is not. Is she an example? And if so, only an example of a false debased rhetoric? My sense is that we should not jump to conclusions too fast here, arguing that this woman is merely an instrument in propaganda and for that reason dismiss the struggle of which she is, at the same time, a part. We should, rather, feel inclined to record her own story – which, in fact, falls out of the frame, and of which she is not able to speak. The scene therefore recalls Spivak’s claim in ‚Can the subaltern speak?‘ that the woman she writes about are not the ‚true’subaltern, and her resolute refusal to pretend to speak for them (Spivak, 12). Even in her examples, Spivak’s radically refrains from representing. Rather, she looks for traces of the subaltern in history, giving an account of them, thereby attempting to recover them from oppression.

This textual paradigm, in which the (il)legibility of history is a central concern, I would argue, is also at the heart of the kind of radical documentary or film essay that is Ici et ailleurs. Documentary is, and here I concur with Emmelhainz, the privileged site to “carry out the ethico-political imperative to bear witness and to speak truth to power, because of its capability to convey ‚reality effects‘ that signify immediacy and urgency” (Emmelhainz, 653), but I would add that, not only an effort in or attempt at representation in Spivak’s two senses (artistic-philosophical and political), documentary has the ability to perform, rhetorically, what it says it is doing: recovering what is covered over in hasty attempts at the universalization of struggle and constructing political subjectivities, as the example I discussed above suggests.

Precisely this quality aligns Godard’s project with Spivak’s sense in which the subaltern can be restituted to its history, a project in which illegibility – or indeterminacy – is not something that should be erased, but instead emanates the ethical appeal to retrace and transform the illegible as something that can be at least understood, if not represented. The indeterminacy that Ici et ailleurs to dwells on so often, seems equally to be a part of Spivak’s argument. If we are reminiscent of her formulation that the subaltern is the ’sheer heterogeneity of the decolonized space‘, what follows is that there is not only no adequate way to represent it, but that it the subaltern is difference per se, in a Derridean vein. So even if we may be able to interprete it, as Spivak’s readings make clear, it is not without attention to gaps and fissures, and without holding the risk risk of failure and illegbility in mind. Is it a coincidence, then, that another notable strategy in Ici et ailleurs is the use of silence, its stalling of the profileration of ideological noise?

Cited works:

Emmelhainz, Irmgard, ‚From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the
Palestine Question.‘ Third Text 23 (5), 2009, p. 649-656.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Abbreviated English version by the author, used for the German 2003 translation by Ursula Beitz and Doro Wiese that was published under: “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Die Philosophin. Forum für feministische Theorie und Philosophie, 27, 2003, p. 42-59.

Todor 22. November 2011 um 14:04 Uhr

Emerging from Shadow Space – Godard, Spivak and the Subaltern’s Voice

In Can the Subaltern Speak, Gayatri Spivak questions the role of the intellectual in “the persistent constitutions of the Other as the Self’s shadow” (2197). Specifically, she stresses the influence of “positionality in investigating subjects” and the trouble of enabling/empowering or giving voice to other(s) (2198). She aptly points out that even if such efforts are benevolent, the authority of ‚giving voice‘ can in fact underline power relations – i.e confirm the other as a projected shadow – already in place. Nonetheless, she stresses the necessity and possibility in finding the precarious balance that allows well intentioned counter narratives to undermine the power relations creating the categorizations that attempt to encapsulate otherness in silent, shadow spaces (2199). As such, she argues that intervention by the Western intellectual is necessary to underline the heterogeneity of otherness and spark a shift in the Western paradigm. Specifically, colonization created this troubled paradigm and as such, it is the responsibility of the West to disrupt its functioning. She adds that the subaltern’s existence outside of power and lack of access to the institutions fuelling power must be recognized as the potential for change resides in appreciating existence in these marginal spaces (2201). Yet, Spivak carefully points out the variable of capitalism must be included as it economically secures vocal powers in the West. Spivak mentions that although it may be an essentialist argument to conceptualize that capitalism effects all ‚others‘ in the same way, she adds that it is necessary to use claims of capitalist influence for general purposes – understanding how it maintains hierarchical relations (2202). Taking my own positionality into account and late industrial capitalism’s prescribed ‚objects‘ and rates of consumption, I am carefully claiming that Godard’s film Ici et Ailleurs follows the pleads of Spivak’s theory by finding the precarious balance that exposes the passive indoctrination of apathy by opening a space for the other to speak.
Godard employs juxtaposition, parallel and repeated contradiction to find the precarious balance that opens a forum in which the subaltern can speak. He strategically employs statements about revolutionary events elsewhere – “one who speaks – done far from the people” and/or “one giving orders in never seen” to illustrate the many layers silencing enunciation. For example, the one who speaks can be taken as the western journalist – editing footage and comments – or the revolutionary leader acting as mediator between the West and elsewhere. Such layering in depicting revolutionary struggle also exposes capitalism’s ‚theatrical economics‘ in constructing the other. Specifically, consumer research shows that violence is an easy way of grabbing the attention of audiences – regardless of their intellectual capacities – and provides a perverse source of entertainment. Journalistic ‚experience‘ follows this agenda and as such, demarcates the ‚popular‘ images and ‚actors‘ making the final cut. Godard shows that a simple click of the remote from football to revolution illustrates the theatrics that permit only partial, homogenous enunciations by the ‚other‘. Godard satirically stresses this point through sparse subtitling. Specifically, Godard summarizes and chooses what the subaltern says – literally permitting which aspects of voice will counter the master narrative. However, sparse subtitling also subtly underlines Spivak’s arguments of heterogeneity. Specifically, the viewer is repeatedly reminded that (s)he cannot (re)construct or contain dominant conceptualizations defining the voices of other(s).
Following the pleas so aptly portrayed in Spivak’s text, Godard presents a trustworthy and unconventional approach that exposes capitalism’s influence on voice channelization and containment. Specifically, Godard (re)prioritizes not only what images are seen/brought forth, but how they are seen and how they are packaged to serve our seemingly unwavering bond to the capitalist agenda. For example, Godard juxtaposes images of revolution with football and images of death with the ‚tranquillity‘ of the French domestic to expose the subduing capitalist influence in media portrayal. Specifically, the consumption of football and death becomes equitable, so entrenched in day to day life that eating dinner while watching bloody bombings becomes normal and natural noise. Such packaging decides what kinds of voices are heard and who’s voices are heard, prioritizing and commodifying them accordingly. Profiteering from such enunciations exposes that they are geared to show that elsewhere contains groups of savage people. Godard counters this logic by exposing its contradictions. Specifically, presenting ‚others‘ planning militant revolution (while sitting in the banana plantations that fill our Albert Heijns) and limiting the translation to words signifying death underlines and critiques the troublesome vogue of consuming violence. Further, this scene exposes the process that leads to confirmation of Western scripts and their corresponding narratives attempting to contain the other.
Such critical presentation follows Spivak’s arguments by showing the contradictions of containment while appreciating the cultural heterogeneity. Godard proceeds by employing further contradictions to the erroneous expectations fuelling attempts to contain the other. Specifically, juxtaposing the lack of understood speech – only hearing bits of militant propaganda – with scenes of domesticity points to the reitification and consumer research channelizing and profiteering from the homogenous messages. Yet, Godard’s juxtapositions encourage critical thought regarding the functioning of dominant media structures. Through this approach, Godard is not exactly telling you how to think, but rather, encouraging questioning of media structures creating the noise that desensitizes and distances through informational packaging methods. As such, Godard follows the pleads of Spivak’s theory by forcing the viewer to acknowledge his/her own apathetic desensitization and distance. Furthermore, he silences the viewers voice and the ‚forum‘ of complacent affinity to media structures. As such, he opens a space for another(s) voice to emerge.
Yet, is exposing the contradictions enough? Does limited release/limited circulation within intellectual circles open a space big enough space for the other to speak? It may be a step in the right direction, yet, many more need to be taken before actual awareness of such issues can steep into mainstream mechanisms and initiate the adjustments in dominant modes of thought.

Works Cited

Ici Et Ailleurs Here and Elsewhere. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. S.n., 1976. Laser disc.

Spivak, Gayatri C. „Can the Subaltern Speak?“ Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2001. 2197-2208.

Luke 22. November 2011 um 14:16 Uhr

The fact that the narrativity of history privileges certain groups over others (Wiese, 2009) is evident in Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish (2001). The novel makes history malleable in order to create a novel that privileges Tasmania and the people of it. It privileges neither aborigine nor ‘numminer’, but both as Tasmanians, a new race therefore with new meanings to all involved. Western influence has made it’s way into aboriginal culture and landscape, as can be seen in ‘the white conciliator Guster’ Robinson’s ‘sable brethren’ especially the dandily dressed Tracker Marks, the felling of the colony’s forests and also Twopenny Sal’s numerous sexual encounters with white men, it has diluted the native culture (Flanagan, 2001). However, in the cyclical spirit of the novel, aboriginal culture and the wild nature of the Tasmanian wilderness, has crept it’s way into the lives of the settlers and convicts. Despite the variety of character’s races, the focus is on Tasmania and it’s affect upon them, the bodily scars, the madness, the death and the stories. They are incarcerated within this harsh climate, beyond their chains and a community is established, beyond simple buildings. The novel privileges an area that has a marginal historical and cultural world presence outside of the penal colony past and it’s recurrence in folk songs.
Gould’s Book of Fish has a playful nature with fact and fiction. The use of fabrication is a means of highlighting an unreliable aspect to the depiction of history, in both fact and fiction. History is told through the model of literature (Wiese, 2009), and literature, by it’s very nature is a flexible medium, it can be both honest and expositional, but also biased and deceptive, and for word count or narratorial concerns does not necessarily reveal everything. History is neither fact nor fiction but interpretation, like literature but, where literature can explore smaller, marginalised characters, history is predominantly focused on larger scale phenomena. The novel, through the use of Sid Hammet attempting to authenticate Gould’s book and his refusal to believe expert opinion, plays on both the laziness and the inability (whether through education or access to records) for the layman to personally validate the history being told. This insecurity over the model of history, and the playful use of fact and fiction, is used by Flanagan to highlight a value in seeking out the stories of the marginal, the small and the deviant, whether through the ability to discern fact from fiction, or in discovering valuable insight into the process that they are subject to, instead of just the study of how those processes came about, to gain a wider perspective.
The novel can be quite interestingly read from a New Historicist perspective, especially when reading Barry’s summation: ‘New Historicism is resolutely anti-establishment… and celebrating all forms of difference and ‘deviance’’ and noticing how Flanagan places ‘the literary text within the ‘frame’ of a non-literary text’ (2002). As Grady (1994) argues to draw attention to ‘the marginalisation and dehumanising of suppressed Others’ the novel represents the smaller, marginal characters, brings them out, imagines them, filling them in in order to bind history and fiction together, showing the unrepresented as part of the history that would not be without them. It privileges the small stories and therefore the lives of the unrepresented people who made the region. In this process Flanagan undercuts the common insult regarding the nature of Australian ancestry and bestows upon it a certain importance, in a sort of postmodern New Historicism. Through fiction Flanagan is able to unashamedly address Tasmanian and Van Diemonian past, to texture it with the stories of the people normally lost in a monolithic model of history. Whether the novel is truth or lie is not the point, establishing an interest in the marginal historical and cultural presence of Tasmania and it’s inhabitants is.

Barry, P., 2002. Beginning Theory. 2nd edition. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Flanagan, R., 2001. Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish. Sydney: Picador.

Grady, H., 1994. The Modernist Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wiese, D., 2009. “Crimes of historiography, powers of the false and forces of fabulation in Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan.” In Deleuzian Events – Writing|History, edited by Hanjo Berressem and Leyla Haferkamp. New York: Lit Verlag.

Anne H 22. November 2011 um 14:49 Uhr

The Stratocracy of the Image

One could say that Godard’s Ici et Ailleurs is an arty documentary about the Israelian-Palestinian conflict, but I‘d say it is much more a documentary about the universal human incapability of communication. That is, communication as in having dialogue, in the true sense of the word, the melting of horizons as Gadamer would put it; a conversation in which both parties formulate their perspective and measure these views with each other, being aware of the necessary subjectivity of each view. In this „game“ one tries to open up to other possibilities and convey their own ideas to the other without forcing it upon this person and ideally come closer to each other, without leaving ones standingpoint. Putting it simply and shortly: a sincere attempt to understand each other (Braembussche, 70, 71). A quality that appears to be a very rare feature in humanity as the documentary suggests. By creating parralels and analogies in history and problematizing fiction and non-fiction Godard deconstructs the notion of truth, problematizes subjectivity and objectivity by which he poses the main problem; Ici et Ailleurs keeps on returning to the power of the image and the power it has over people. So what does the „image“ convey?
The image first off course means a picture. Once it is created; wether it is drawn or shot, it will remain the same, it is only subject to time and transcience. So a picture can only fade through time and decay. Images may perish through time and can be destroyed, but through duplication and imitation some can possibly survive through all of human history. So even though the image may not be impermeable by time, it can overpower it by becoming inscripted in the collective memory of our culture, which allows for the image to come to a cessation, to become like an island in time. But this is obviously still very abstract so we should look at what the image means in Ici et Ailleurs.
When a picture is shown in Ici et Ailleurs it is associated directly with death and silence; pictures of mainly pictures of dead people. Death and silence here become a symbol for the cessation of communication and reciprocal understanding which can result in clashes such as the Israelian-Palestinian conflict. Godard makes the images in his documentary communicate by contrast and reflection, by images I mean everything from the ideas of the people interviewed, including his own ideas, the Israelian-Palestinian conflict to other conflicts through history and fiction and reality. No image in this documentary stands alone, there is always another, often even contradictory side. Godard seems to state that every image is subjective, always a vacuum when observed on its own. One image does not necessarily need to exclude another, as a matter of fact it cannot because of its subjectivity.
Once an image is looked upon as truth:, a truth which neglects to acknowledge the truth of other images, it is turned into a fiction. Images can only become truth to a certain extent when put in relation to others. People do not obtain power through creating images, images have power over people. One can propagandize an image or use this image to reach ones goal, sure, but the image is usually there before the propaganda, buried deep in the unconsciousness. One person cannot not make the other into a pariah, the other is that long before the Bible was written down. So how to obtain an image of ones own as the documentary asks us? It is precisely the becoming aware of ones own image and putting it in relation with others; to „learn speech“ as the documentary concludes. Speech as in dialogue, being able to distance oneself from this image he/she created and make communicate with other images. Remaining in the domain of ones own image or a cultural image means inflicting violence upon others and makes images „enslave“ each other. Godard tries to make aware of the here and elsewhere.

Godard, J.L. Ici et ailleurs. Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. 1976
Braembussche, A.A. Denken Over Kunst. Bussum: Couthinho, 2007

Guus 22. November 2011 um 15:09 Uhr

Speaking for…

When Jean-Luc Godard set out to film his documentary Until Victory on the Palestine liberation organization (PLO) he intended it to be a politcal, pro-Palestina film. The documentary would depict the struggles of the Palestinian people in their conflict with the Israeli occupation forces and would trail their ‘revolution’ that would last ‘until victory’. So while he set out to make a film on the revolutionairy actions of the oppressed palestine people, upon return, Godard found himself unable to finish and instead used those images as basis for a different film, Ici et Ailleurs, that raised questions about representing revolution: about the way film can represent a revolution and to whom it should adresses itself. In contrasting Godard’s depiction of the Palestine people with Spivak’s assessement of the ‘subaltern’, I will show in this short essay, that both invoke ventriloquism as an unescapable problem for political representation – albeit a problem that has to be faced head on when trying to give voice to the ‘other’.

In one of the film’s iconic images, Godard shows a close-up of a palestine woman accompanied by a voice over that informs the audience that ‘we always see the directed, but never the director’. Thus, Godard turns our attention to the constructedness of the image – eventhough it seems that this woman is authentically presenting herself to us, there is always a director who makes the decisions about how to frame her, how she should look, where in the film her image will be put. Often decisions with an audience repsonse in mind. By defamiliarizing that audience with the autheniticity of the image, Godard sets up a critique on the way we usually tend to speak about and represent the ‘elswhere’: we think we speak the truth about them, but in reality this is a constructed truth. And so the question becomes: do we have the tools that allow us to represent the ‘elswhere’ truthfully?

Irmgard Emmelhainz lets us know that this question of ‘the possibilites of progressive discursive positions from and about the elswhere’ is also of concern to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Emmelhainz: 653). In her text ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ Spivak cites the case of the subaltern, in this case the Indian ‘self-immolating widow’ (Spivak: 7). These women were not allowed to speak, eventhough both the british legislators as the Indian opposition, claimed to speak the truth for these women. The way out of this impasse of the ‘self-immolating widow’ is, according to Spivak, the realization that eventhough she cannot speak, and thus cannot truthfully be heard; the subaltern can however be re-interpretated, and thereby be sheltered from the ‘epistmal violence’ that is being done by those who claim to know the truth about them.

In this sense the Palestinian people Godard set out to film, can be seen as the filmic counterparts of the ‘self-immolating widow’ found in Spivak’s text. For in Palestina Godard stumbled upon a same problem: how to represent an ‘elsewehere’ without doing ‘epistemal violence’ to them by speaking the truth for them? For Godard the question became if the western idea’s about revolution could be applied on the Palistina case. So as both Spivak’s text ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ as Jean-Luc Godard’s film Ici et Ailleurs concerns itself with ‘the problem of representation’, they heighten the reader’s or viewer’s awareness that any form of representation is constructed and in some way a form of ventriloquism; and that it is only in realizing this problem of ventriloquism, and by turning away from the ‘truth’ about the subaltern or the somewhere, that we can make those who cannot speak be heard.

Works Cited:

Ici et Ailleurs [Here and Elsewhere]. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Pierre Gorin (Groupe Dziga Vertov). France, 1976.

Irmgard Emmelhainz. 2009 From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestine Question. Third Text 23 (5): 649-656.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty: “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Abbreviated English version by the author, used for the German 2003 translation by Ursula Beitz and Doro Wiese that was published under: “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Die Philosophin. Forum für feministische Theorie und Philosophie, 27: 42-59.

Joep 22. November 2011 um 17:22 Uhr

Loud noises and the abundance of images

In the first political film – Jusqu‘à la victoire (1970) – Jean-Luc Godard adresses issues of genocide in Palestine during the Palestinian Revolution. After going to Middle-East to shoot the images at the request of the PLO, Godard – after retuning to France – realizes that it’s not possible for him to edit the images and make a film out of them. It turned out that many of the people that appeared on these images had already died. Godard couldn‘t finish the film and decided to leave the film for what it is (Rector).
It wasn‘t until 1973 that he and Anne-Marie Mieville (his new partner) decided to give it another try, yet in a completely different form as he first intended. What he wanted to show with Ici et Ailleurs (1974) was a not just a manipulation of images to adress social injustice in Palestine; it was also a comment on filmmaking itself and the techniques used by filmmakers to get a certain message across to the audience. He created a self-reflexive cinematic essay by using the original images of the Palestinian Revolution (Elsewhere) from the first film, but incorporating these with images of the Here and now ( Emmelhainz 651).
Ici et Ailleurs is concerned with the creation of history and in what way the images are recorded into the fabric of our everyday existence. Yet by calling it a “cinematic essay” one expects to find a structured and informative answer to a prior constructed thesis. Yet what you get with this 1974 film is a seemingly uncohesive collection of all kinds of images. The images that are presented to us are not shown simultaneously, but they follow each other in a chain whereby it’s hard to distinguish between the importance of the images: it seems like the second image always overshadows the first. Yet this is done on purpose: by showing a chain of images, Godard analyses this very concept of the chain of images. In words of Serge Daney (Rector):

“It’s an analysis of the „chains of images“ in which we are all caught. One of its conclusions is what Godard denounces as “playing the sound too loud” (including the the Internationale), i.e. covering one sound with another, thus becoming incapable of simply seeing what’s in the images.” (Rector)

So where the screen can only present to us one image at a time, the soundtrack can be as full as the makers want it to be. In Ici et Ailleurs the soundtrack that plays over the images is filled with layers. When talking about his earliers films, like Jusqu‘à la victoire, Godard states “that ‚his‘ voice has covered up the voices of the men and women they had filmed, pondering on the fact that he had denied these voices and reduces them to nothing.” He used the images to support an ideology, but by turning up the volume too loud the images were drowned in the ideology (Emmelhainz 652).
One can argue that the content can get disconnected from the image by the abundance of images that replace each other, and by the distortion and translation that inevitably happens in a documentary. In Ici et Ailleurs the filmmakers are conscious of this fact and demonstrate this insight through content as well as form. The voice-over translates and speaks for the Palestinians. Also the selection of what to show and what not to show is done by filmmakers who have a certain discourse they can not help but implement. Sometimes the distortion is done intentionally, for example by showing a woman who in the filming of Jusqu‘à la victoire was pretending to be a pregnant Palestinian woman, but in fact was playing a part and was directed by the filmmakers. But even when there is no deliberate distortion going on it is impossible not to translate and distort.
Godard’s way of dealing with this is by putting images of a French family watching TV in their living room (here) opposite to images of war (elsewhere). Random images replace each other, as said, and within a few seconds we can go from entertaining images of a happy family to the cold reality of dead bodies.
In an age where it is fashionable for broadcasting networks to implicitly belong to a certain political ideology – like right-wing Fox News or left-wing MSNBC in the US – people are even more suspicious of what images are shown. It is difficult to make sense out of what is presented, which are mostly media-events. The abundance of images, the obvious ideologically influenced ways of presenting images by opposing factions, and the importance of entertainment value, add to a lot of noise in the end. To make sense of all this noise it appears that people start suspecting that something must be missing; as if there are some images that are kept from them. This sometimes results in people attributing a lot of importance to this supposed missing information. This can lead to commotion and, for example, conspiracy theories.
This short analysis of modern media images connects to Ici et Ailleurs in the abundance of images, the speaking for the other and the inevitabillity of distorting images by us seeing layer over layer accompanied by loud voices ‚helping‘ us interpret what we see.

Works cited

Emmelhainz, Irmgard. “From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the
Palestine Question.” Third Text. 23.5 (2009): 649-656.

Rector, Andy. “Daney on ICI ET AILLEURS: A Newly Unearthed Text and Some Known
Ones.” Kino Slang. Blogspot. 17 januari 2009. 22-11-11.


Ici et Ailleurs, Jean-Luc Godard. Gaumont, 1976.

Fleur Jonker 23. November 2011 um 22:29 Uhr

The Subaltern in Ici Et Ailleurs

The definition of the subaltern according to Spivak, at least how I understood it from the text, is “a person without lines of social mobility” (1), furthermore she indicates that within this definition the subaltern lacks a voice and is in a state of in-betweenness. Although her question is if the subaltern can ever be represented I would like to take this definition and apply it to Ici Et Ailleurs. I would like to argue that, although the film might “create a cartographic cognitive map of Palestine seen from the point of view of ‘France’” as suggested by Irmgard Emmelhainz (651), a similarity can be identified in the two worlds in the film, the French and the Palestinian. It could be argued that by juxtaposing the two worlds Godard lays bare the similarities between them: both the Palestinians and the French lower class can be interpreted as subaltern that gain a voice through the organization of the film.

Both the French and the Palestinians can be defined as subaltern by following Spivak’s definition of the subaltern, which is also repeated in Emmelhainz’s article. According to Spivak the subaltern, as quoted above, is deprived of the means of social mobility. One can understand this in multiple ways. Socio-economical mobility being one, in which case the French family in the film could be classified as a subaltern. As a lower class family, the father struggling to find work, they lack the funds to consume; they can only be spectators. Thus, their agency is rendered almost completely zero.
The Palestinians lack a different kind of social-mobility; they have been driven into refugee camps in Jordan, they are without a country and thus the only type of mobility they have is to mobilize a revolution. Furthermore, both the French family and the Palestine revolutionaries are portrayed as lacking a voice. The French simply by their role as mere spectators; the revolutionaries, not only because most of them are dead, but also because of the highly directed nature of their appearance in the footage (see for example the statement by the pregnant woman).

How then does the organization of the film gain this voice for both parties? The answer lies in what ties the words ‘here’ and ‘elsewhere’ together in the title, the word ‘and’. The answer to this question is suggested by Hemmelhainz who states that “the function of AND is to create an addition of things that would allow us to perceive the state of affairs and the out-of-field of the image. […] Allowing for their simultaneous readings in which pas and present coexist” (651). Although Emmelhainz’s article focuses on the interpretation of the two worlds as one looking at the other, the construction of the ‘other’, I would like to argue that Emmelhainz’s own interpretation of the word AND also allows for a reading of the two worlds, as he said himself, coexisting. The problem of the subaltern coexist in each country itself simultaneously. The quick alteration of images “glued” together by the word AND creates two separate images, showing us, the viewer, the problems at hand in both parts of the world. At one hand, the lower class subaltern in France, on the other hand, the revolutionary subaltern. I interpreted the film not only as a critique on the disfigured images presented by the media but also as a comment that within the world multiple ‘states of affairs’ exist at the same time. Just like the sections in the newspaper: home news and foreign news; here … elsewhere.

Works Cited

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Columbia University

Emmelhainz, Irmgard. “From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestine
Question.” Third Text 23:5 (2009): 649-656

marije 24. November 2011 um 21:45 Uhr

According to Spivak, there are two distinctive ways in which subjects can be represented: through Vertretung and through Darstellung. Too often are these two senses thought to be continuous – ‚representation as “speaking for,” as in politics, and representation as “re-presentation,” as in art and philosophy.‘ Spivak argues, however, that the two forms are ‚irreducibly discontinuous‘. Whereas the former cannot give any account of the other (the subaltern, to be specific), the latter can. In this essay I address Jean-Luc Godard’s Ici et Ailleurs, a film that bears witness to a growing consciousness of this discontinuity between vertreten and darstellen. I argue that the film (as a work of art) in the end releases the other from the threat of oppressive representation, and performs Spivak’s practice of re-presenting.

According to Emmelhainz, the production of the film arose from the ambition ‚to emphasise the process of inquiry and study of […] the Palestinian Revolution‘ (Emmelhainz 2009: 650). At this time the film was still called Jusqu‘`a la victoire (1970), a title suggesting some kind of faith in the victory of the Palestinian revolutionary movement. Here the film (boldly stated) still seems to follow the self-interested logic that often underlies ethnography, as famously explicated by Johannes Fabian: ‚The need to go there (to exotic places, be they far away or around the corner) [that] is really our desire to be here (to find or defend our position in the world)‘ (Fabian 1990: 756). Emmelhainz describes a similar pattern inherent in what she calls ‚political tourism‘, to which Godard’s initial project might be said to belong: ’speaking for and about revolutionary struggles in the Third world […] prompted by ideological kinship.‘ (Emmelhainz 2009: 650) Both logics perform Spivak’s first sense of representation, as ’speaking for‘ the other.

As Godard and co-director Jean-Pierre Gorin were working on the film, the Black September massacre took place and some of their actors were killed. The film material was put aside. Between 1973 and 1974 Godard and new co-director Anne-Marie Miéville recollected the material and decided to complete the film (and add new material to it). They were motivated by new ambitions. As the final title of the film suggests, Ici et Ailleurs, the film makers now attempted to encompass the ‚here‘ and the ‚elsewhere‘. Significantly they did not attempt to encompass the ‚there‘; the final film does not move from ‚here‘ to ‚there‘, what Fabian would define as ‚the process of othering‘ (Fabian 1990: 756). It instead – for example through ‚inducing an interstice in the chain of images‘ (Emmelhains 2009: 651) – juxtaposes the two spatialities ‚here‘ and ‚elsewhere‘ (the ‚here‘ because we always need a place to depart from).

What is the ‚elsewhere‘? I think it refers to a place where the other is re-presented and where the discontinuity between ‚here‘ and ‚there‘ is overstepped. Not resulting in in betweenness – which Emmelhainz relates to ‚et‘ in the title (Emmelhainz 2009: 651). Rather referring to a place where awareness emerges of how easily subject-constitution slips into our approaches towards others, and how easily the ‚here‘ and ‚there‘ are divided (whereas the ‚elsewHERE‘ already carries the ‚here‘ in it). The film indeed confronts us self-reflexively with its performance of subject-formation (see for example the shot of the pregnant Palestinian woman) and with ‚a complex of interweaving spatio-temporalities‘ (Emmelhainz 2009: 655). In doing so it explicitly teaches us to learn from the ‚here‘ how to understand the significance of the ‚elsewhere‘: ‚Learn to see here, in order to understand elsewhere. […] The others, the “elsewhere” of our “here”,‘ the voice-over tells us. Learn from here how discourses and images can ’speak for‘, substitute and underline the difference between here and there, whereas the elsewhere is a place where here and there co-exist and Spivak’s practice of re-presentation can be performed.

Cited Works

Emmelhainz, Irmgard. “From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestine Question.” Third Text. 23.5 (2009): pp. 649-656.

Fabian, Johannes.‘Presence and Representation: The Other and Anthropological Writing Author(s)’, in: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 16 (No. 4), 1990: pp. 753-772.

Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes it Object. New York 1983

Godard, Jean-Luc and Anne-Marie Miéville. Ici et ailleurs. Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. 1976

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. ‚Can the Subaltern Speak?‘. Abbreviated English version by the author, used for the German 2003 translation by Ursula Beitz and Doro Wiese that was published under: ‚Can the Subaltern Speak?‘, in: Die Philosophin. Forum für feministische Theorie und Philosophie, vol. 27: pp. 42-59.

Fiep 05. Dezember 2011 um 22:56 Uhr

A hyphen only has value if it doesn’t confuse what it unites (1)

All political art is bad art and can only be commenting on society in a negative way. By expressing its incapability of depicting a whole, or an individual or conveying any form of meaning whatsoever. On the other hand, art can never be autonomous, not even when it tries so consciously, because the maker and its material are always inextricable linked to the society from which it springs.

The one directing always stays invisible but still exerts the ultimate power over the images eventually showed, Godard tells us in a voice over in his 1973 movie Ici et ailleurs. There is always a director in the background, deciding what we will see, what is worth to be seen. A pretty woman, in flowered blouse and with red headscarf, who repeats what is being said by a voice outside of the image. But an extra layer is added by the female French voice over, this second disembodied voice tells us what the woman thinks: That she is illiterate and happy to be of use for a political cause by repeating the slogans of the director in front of the camera. But quickly she gets bored and tired and thinks of the chores that have to be done in and around the house. I do not understand the language of the woman, there is now way the viewer can control whether the French voice-over is telling the true, which is understandable for me only by way of English subtitles. The voice over does not even tell us what the text the women repeats means, she only tells her own musings on what the woman could have been thinking while repeating the words and looking shyly away.

Godard makes use of very striking editing techniques. Ici et ailleurs is a combination of images and sounds that could not be defined as a single genre, but propaganda, perhaps. Every image is in service of effect. The explicit self-reflexivity of the voice over does not leave much space for an alternative interpretation. The sequence of seemingly unrelated images are given meaning and relation by the viewer simply because of their combination and order.

So what do we see? News paper clippings with red circled headers. People in make shift military outfit and with red and white scarves behind artillery, during military training, discussing in the shadow of trees. A child between rubble reciting a carefully learned text with dramatic gestures. A human body burned to charcoal. Images of concentration camps, emaciated bodies behind barb wire, human bodies mindlessly thrown in pits full of more naked, pale, emaciated human bodies. Crowds in fascist mass meetings during the ’30. Moving collages of pictures, cut in half or diagonal. A street view, with a mass of people walking on the street in a western city. A family of mother father and two little daughters, who do everyday chores and activities (watching television).

The combination of shocking images, serious grave voice over, reenactments of ideas and the cliché of western-family life does not make for an effective movie. Because however sincere the attempt to bring the struggle and suffering of others in the limelight, the result is deeply cynical. Part of the effectiveness of mass media, the numbing effect of television is exactly this incessant repetition (2) of atrocities. The fact that they are no longer felt with the deep shock that the suffering of our fellow humans should effectuate, might be considered their actual goal. And even the self-reflexivity of the film maker, the use of all possible editing techniques and Verfremdungseffekt is not enough to overcome this painful result, exactly the result the director tried so hard to escape.

(1) Daney, Serge. “Preface to Here and Elsewhere.”

(2) Adorno, Theodor. The Culture Industry. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. p 160.