Consciousness (viz. Nationalism) Exists Only as An Ideal Point Within an Apparatus – “The (Political) Machine … In Complete Control of The Government of This State”

Posted: April 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

Leni Riefensthal
Triumph of The Will (1935)

Orson Welles
Citizen Kane (1941)

Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in The Age
of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936):

Even more revealing is the comparison of these circumstances, which differ so much from those of the theater, with the situation in painting. Here the question is: How does the cameraman compare with the painter? To answer this we take recourse to an analogy with a surgical operation. The surgeon represents the polar opposite of the magician. The magician heals a sick person by the laying on of hands; the surgeon cuts into the patient’s body. The magician maintains the natural distance between the patient and himself; though he reduces it very slightly by the laying on of hands, he greatly increases it by virtue of his authority. The surgeon does exactly the reverse; he greatly diminishes the distance between himself and the patient by penetrating into the patient’s body, and increases it but little by the caution with which his hand moves among the organs. In short, in contrast to the magician – who is still hidden in the medical practitioner – the surgeon at the decisive moment abstains from facing the patient man to man; rather, it is through the operation that he penetrates into him.


During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence. The manner in which which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well. . . . This is the first consequence of the fact that the [film] actor’s performance is presented by means of a camera. Also the film actor lacks the opportunity of the stage actor to adjust to the audience during the performance to the audience during his performance to the audience in person. This permits the the audience to take the position of a critic, without experiencing any personal contact with the actor. The audience’s identification with the actor is really an identification with the camera. Consequently the audience takes the position of the camera; its approach is that of testing. . . . The shooting of a film, especially of a sound film, affords a spectacle unimaginable anywhere ar any time before this. It presents a process in which it is impossible to assign to a spectator a viewpoint which would exclude from the actual scene such extraneous accessories as camera equipment, lighting machinery, staff assistants, etc. – unless his eye were on a line parallel with the lens.


Dziga Vertov
The Man with the Movie Camera, (1929)
35mm film, black and white, silent, 65 minutes (approx.)

Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1900):

The idea which is thus put before us is one of psychic locality. We shall wholly ignore the fact that the psychic apparatus concerned is known to us also as an anatomical preparation, and we shall carefully avoid the temptation to determine the psychic locality in any anatomical sense. We shall remain on psychological ground, and we shall do no more than accept the invitation to think of the instrument which serves the psychic activities much as we think of a compound microscope, a photographic camera, or other apparatus. The psychic locality [the entirely virtual location where the mind itself actually resides, note: bk], then, corresponds to a place within such an apparatus in which one of the preliminary phases of the image comes into existence. As is well known, there are in the microscope and the telescope such ideal localities or planes, in which no tangible portion of the apparatus is located. I think it superfluous to apologise for the imperfections of this and all similar figures. These comparisons are designed only to assist us in our attempt to make intelligible the complication of the psychic performance by dissecting it and referring the individual performances to the individual components of the apparatus. . . . Accordingly, we conceive the psychic apparatus as a compound instrument, the component parts of which we shall call instances, or, for the sake of clearness, systems.

  1. Kevin Nielson says:

    I found this post very interesting. What it reminded me of is a short film I saw a couple weeks ago. The film is called “A Night at the Garden”. It shows the story of a Nazi rally masquerading as a pro-America rally that occurred at Madison Square Garden using only archived footage of the rally. To me points to the idea of the dangers of Nationalism and shows how our involvement in WWII could have been different had Pear Harbor not occurred, due to the fact that these nationalist ideas where not only prevalent but also accepted. I highly recommend the film its under 10 minutes and the website has a great Q&A with the filmmaker.

    • Yeah. I saw that film too, I believe it was attached to an article intending to show the connection of Fred Trump to white nationalism. What I took away is that distinctions that we, until very recently, thought patently clear, weren’t always so obvious as we had imagined – at least not for many of us. The domagogic campaign scene from Citizen Kane, for instance, would not have had any reasonance with audience if it didn’t resemble events such as the rally you mention. Still, how could Americans, of all people, be duped into adopting fascist symbols, slogans, uniforms, and political platforms? Shouldn’t they be conscious of the obvious problems with all that? Not necessarily, if Benjamin is correct in saying, along with Freud, that consciousness exists only inside of an idelogical appartaus. The point is not to get entirely outside the apparatus, as that is simply impossible. Rather, the critical struggle is to become, through a kind of ‘immanent critique’, to become aware of the apparatus at all (a difficult proposition here in the ‘land of the free’), and to use all available means to direct the appartaus so as to create a revolutionary image of reality. In the age of mechanical reproduction, the war for control of reality will be waged on a screen. It’s out of thoughts such as this that Andy Warhol produced his famous declaration: The Revolution will be televised. This kind of thinking was the bread and butter of college education back when I was your age. As far as I can tell, not many students are exposed to this line of ideological inquiry anymore, though I hope I am wrong. Have you seen this sort of material presented in any other Honors classes?

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