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Scripting in the Dataverse

Gilles Deleuze

There is a longer version of this text, with much more references to the film project “Love Between Layers” interwoven in it.

“You can love me, but you can never have me.” Or is it: “You can never have ‘it’ – love.” Isn’t this what Carmen says to Don José. But then, he kills her, mistaking her for his love. Drama doubled, in jumping out of itself. The end. Does not something similar count for the “real”. Whatever reality is at a certain point in our life – it can be the “real” of love; it can be the “real” of the dataverse (I will tell you in a moment what it means) – there are always two objects involved: the “object of satisfaction” and the “satisfaction as object”. “There is the object that is supposed to satisfy the drive (that which the drive aims), but there is also this very satisfaction that should itself be conceived in terms of an object. These two objects are both part of reality, and the Real is neither one nor the other, but takes place in the very gap that separates these two objects. It is correlative to their lack of coincidence. The Real is that which names the fact that these two objects never coincide. It is not a disturbing presence, nor the truth of reality, but simply the stumbling block of reality.”Available: http://battleofthegiants.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/what-is-a-discussion-of-sublimation-doing-in-lacan%E2%80%99s-seminar-vii/ [23 Aug 2013].

The “real”, in this article, is the dataverse. A major component of the dataverse is the Internet, including its digital infrastructure and its potential to “synchronize emotions.”Virilio P. (2007), interviewed by Stefaan Decostere. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAe_jMEFJ8M [23 Aug 2013]; Quote: “On oublie le présent au profit de l’instant”. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhPuM_oFKVU [30 Aug 2013]. The “drive”, here, is operational in the field of action where a script is being developed. Someone writes a script about falling in love (that event, all too human, which drives us nuts, but when it happens, it happens so quickly that we can never guide it). The writer of the script has the idea of making a film that extends the very short moment of falling in love to the duration of a feature film. It is a crazy idea. But from the moment he decided to transpose the falling in love into the context of the dataverse, he made it somehow believable. It is from this perspective that the following text puts forward some hypotheses, which could make us wonder, maybe better understand, how we experience the “real” in the digital, today.

Sometimes, YouTube makes me believe that the “greatest art” is the commonest thing on the Web, and that there is hardly an upload that does not attain these “heights.”I am not saying that the “best art” today can be found on YouTube, but that whenever one looks at YouTube from an “art” perspective, it becomes “great art”. I demonstrated this to two hundred art teachers during a lecture titled “Onderzoek met media, te gek!” (Artistic research with media? Too crazy!), during which I only showed YouTube videos. It was hilarious, but it made sense. (The lecture was given in Oostende, on the 12th of the 12th month of 2012). But do I really? Is this real? Or is it a “real” that first must be disbelieved, to become real, in a second “time”? From the moment the “real” meets the “data”, it is anywhere, as in “elsewhere”. The “real”, then, is partial to what Jorge Luis Borges called, “The Plot”. In his text a character dies, “but he does not know that he has died so that a scene can be played out again.”Borges J.L. (1998:307), Collected Fictions; translated by Andrew Hurley, London, Pinguin Books Ltd. (the previous sentence also contains some words and phrasing by Borges. Ibid:107). It is in this sense (in the script, mentioned above), that a teenage girl “falls in love”. But does she really? You, dear reader, may remark: “In a movie, one never really dies, just as one never “really” falls in love.” To which I might add – and this points to the hypothesis of this article – : “She can, in the dataverse.”Today, the dataverse, or cyberspace is called the “cloud”. I chose “dataverse” because the term sounds more extravagant, quixotic. I have been warned against the dangers of “falling” into “data romanticism”. But, in this case, I take the risk on purpose in order to be able to resist it, in playful ways, in the scripting of Love Between Layers. Actually, the film is about the “what if” dataromanticism takes place. Whenever the phenomenon of “big data” is taken out of context, an after world is being created, as an epi-phenomenon, affecting people and transforming their perception of events; confusing the digital virtual with the really possible. But beside the moral and the ethical aspects it brings along (in terms of responsibility), it also opens up a space for the “unexpected”, for “la bête imprévue” (mentioned later in the article). Just as, “Yes, we can,” in the dataverse. Not only is the “medium” the “message.” Today, the “message” is the “data” and all the “algorythmics” that go along with it; more precisely, it is produced in the action of what I call “dating data.”“Dating data” also triggers this text in the way it brings in quotations from everywhere and dares to experiment with making connections that act in complicity to drive up confusion. However, it is not my intention to just “confuse” the reader. Instead, in doing so, I want to bring in the notion of “delusion”, and test its potential positive function in understanding the current “crisis of knowledge” (the anxiety and the loss of belief in the very idea of knowledge, that knowledge offers us a future). What follows is a text “as if written” out of an action of “dating data,” an “epi-text,” as in epiphenomenon. A text about the development of a script, that, as a quasi-phenomenon relates to a real phenomenon, that is: the development of a script that anticipates a “finished” script (as a phenomenon) which will hopefully result in a fiction (a movie, as an epiphenomenon). In this text you may find other hypotheses, even counter-hypotheses, which, in retrospect, might very well be the correct ones. If there is something “new” here, it will only appear as if tricked out of a reading in repetition, along the variations on offer, and in-between a mirroring of symmetries. So, hopefully, you are in the mood for playing, and “Like” mind-gaming. If not, the style of this text, as this paragraph already indicates, may well be no more than an attractive nuisance.

The grandiloquent term “dataverse” is indeed just another name for the “digital revolution” in which we find ourselves. Its coming into being has been announced may times and has already been given many names before, such as the “superhighway,” “cyberspace” (William Gibson), “virtual reality” (Jaron Lanier, and even Antonin Artaud, in his naming of a theatrical world in which “characters, objects, and images take on the phantasmagoric force of alchemy’s visionary internal dramas”Arthaud A./Virtual reality [Online] Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality [23 Aug 2013].). The difference between the term “dataverse” and the other neologisms lies in its instant “realness.” We appear indeed “to be moving from an era of expanding data resources to an era in which we have become the resource for a real time data collection and processing that vampirically feeds off our identities, our “Likes”, and our everyday habits.”Gitelman L. and Jackson V. (2013), Raw Data is an Oxymoron, Massachusetts, The MIT Press. Today, even something innocent like writing a film script happens in the dataverse. And some scriptwriters make a thematic concept out of this awareness. At least, that is what I have started doing during the development of a script, from the moment I realized that the deeper motive of the film was to be found in an “imaginary solution”: that is, in solving its riddle – the mystery of “falling in love” – unearthing another mystery: that of the “falling in love” with the digital.The equation: “falling in love” = “falling in love with the digital”, is a fiction, but it is a fabulous one in the way it points to the power of the digital to promise and make believe in a managerial form of “falling in love” in the (near) future. That is, to mistake the “virtual of the dataverse” for the “possible in the real”.

“Falling” into the digital implies dealing (making deals) with issues such as the “false,” the “distortion of time,” the “non-human,” the “comical.” Of course, it implies much more – horror, love, crime, magic, and miracles – but let’s keep it simple; willingly complicated but not complex.

During the script development of “Love Between Layers” (the title of the project)[*], I found great delight in reading books like Puzzle Films. Complex Storytelling in Contemporary CinemaBuckland W. (ed.) (2009), Puzzle Films. Complex storytelling in contemporary cinema, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., and Out of Time. Desire in Atemporal CinemaMcGowan T. (2011), Out of Time. Desire in atemporal cinema, London, University of Minnesota Press.. The authors tackled some of the fundamental shifts, taking place today in our “psychological gravity”Booker C. (2004:348), The Seven Basic Plots, New York, Continuum., by way of analysing story matter and cinematic treatments of very successful fictions films. With “Love Between Layers” I had a script in mind for a film that, while in itself an experiment, does not fall into the category of  “experimental cinema.” The references of these authors include films like: 21 Grams (Alejandro Gonzàlez Iñárritu, 2003), Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze,1999), Butterfly Effect (Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, 2004), Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001), Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999), The Game (David Fincher, 1997), Time Code (Mike Figgis, 2000), and many more: Following (Christopher Nolan, 2000), Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000), 11:14 (Greg Marcks, 2003), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(Michel Gondry, 2004), The Machinist (Brad Anderson, 2004), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005), Shi gan (Time, Kim-Ki-duk, 2006), I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007), and The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009). All these films thematize time, but “what stands out about the group, is their distance from science fiction as a genre.”McGowan T. (Ibid.:7). Similarly,“Love Between Layers” will not be a science fiction.

To get a deeper, or should I say, freer understanding of the “false,” the “distortion of time”, the “nonhuman”, the “comical”, I needed to study what “thinkers” have come up with about these issues and concepts, and what kinds of thinking processes they have undertaken, in materialistic ways (language, methods and tools). I found great inspiration in Gilles Deleuze, especially in his book Difference and Repetition (1968). Yet another series of films was added to the list of references, in which Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932) and Enthusiasm (Dziga Vertov, 1931) found their place at the top.

Let’s start with “Puzzle Films.” In that bookElsaesser T. (2009:16/17) ‘The Mind-Game Film’, in Buckland W. (ed.), Puzzle Films. Complex storytelling in contemporary cinema, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Thomas Elsaesser writes: “Mind-game films could be seen as indicative of a “crisis” in the spectator-film relation, in the sense that the traditional “suspension of disbelief” or the classical spectator positions of “voyeur”, “witness”, “observer” and their related cinematic regimes or techniques point-of-view shot are no longer deemed appropriate, compelling, or challenging enough. As for the characters there can be many motifs, such as: a protaganist participates in, or is witness to, events whose meanings or consequences escape him. There is suspension of cause and effect; a protagonist seems deluded or mistaken about the difference between reality and his/her imagination. There is no perceptible difference between the “real” and the manipulated; a protagonist has a companion who turns out to be imagined; a protagonist has to ask to himself: “Who am I and what is my reality?”. A character is persuaded that she is deluded. She insists on maintaining this delusion against all odds, and is usually proven right, by uncovering a conspiracy.”

The logic of conspiracy is definitely “at work” in “Love Between Layers”. Conspiracies can be seen as an after-effect of “dating data”. In fact, they are “fast fictions”. They lead to new kinds of knowledge, but also to pathologies – schizophrenia, amnesia, paranoia – which are then presented as “productive pathologies”. “As we share our lives in an ever more expanding dataverse, we start asking ourselves what it means to be “human”.

Mind-game films, Thomas Elsaesser continues, “may rehearse and ready the human sensorium for such a condition, training its spectators new cognitive skills and teach appropriate ways of responding to and interacting with automatic systems of surveillance and control.”Ibid.:19/35. “They would thus be the narratives of such “inscription systems.” “Mind-game films are experienced as pleasurable, but also perceived as relevant.” “They teach their audiences the new rules of the game, at the same time as they are yet learning them themselves.” “The spectator’s own meaning-making activity involves constant retroactive revision, new reality-checks, displacements, and reorganization not only of temporal sequence, but of mental space, and the presumption of a possible switch in cause and effect.” “Complex storytelling goes for the possible disjuncture between “narrative” and “database,” “narrative logic” and “game logic”.”

In his book Out of Time, Todd McGowan also considers “mind-game” films. He too gets involved into “montage thinking”Mullarkey J. (2009:207/208), Refractions of Reality. Philosophy of the Moving Image, London, Palgrave Mcmillan., that is: into the way films “think”; and also into the way “we” might think in the dataverse, that is: “thinking always – about something else.” McGowan reflects on the “intimate” relation between the cinema and psychoanalysis: “There is a gap in cinematic time”, he says, “in which an absence repeats itself, and this repetition corresponds to that of the death drive.” “In ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920), Freud discovered that “the pleasure principle seems actually to serve the death instincts.” Although the tendency of the pleasure principle continues to lead to the elimination of excess excitation, this elimination is no longer an end in itself; instead, it paves the way for the death drive to restore excitation and disrupt the psychic equilibrium that the pleasure principle works to create. “The priority of death drive to the pleasure principle entails a revision of the theory of dreams. The dream is not simply the fulfilment of a wish but the repetition of a trauma. Dreams create satisfaction by staging a repetition of the failure to realize this goal. The subject of the death drive finds its satisfaction in failure.”McGowan T. (Ibid.:Preface).

“Some films accentuate this repetition and thereby suggest a different form of temporality. Rather than looking forward to a future in which desire might be realized, the subject of the death drive views past, present and future on the same plane, and becomes atemporal. When cinema turns away from time, it turns to the death drive.” “Ironically, then, it is in the cinema – the most temporally oriented of the arts – that the atemporality of the death drive becomes most visible.”McGowan T. (Ibid.:Preface, 8/9). “Watching these films involves living through, experiencing a temporal confusion. In the films of David Lynch – Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001), and Inland Empire (2006) – the story involves time looping around and moving in circular fashion. But in the act of expressing this story, the discourse itself undergoes a profound transformation.” “What unites the key films in the atemporal mode is the attempt to introduce spectators to an alternative way of experiencing existence in time – more exactly, a way of experiencing existence outside of our conception of time. Time in these films doesn’t bring about a different future but instead an incessant repetition. In each case they distort time to reveal the circular logic of what psychoanalysis calls the drive – a cinema of the drive, in which narrative is oriented around a foundational moment of traumatic loss.”

In contrast to Todd McGowan, who in the same book claims that Deleuze’s understanding of singularity “misses the link with the necessity of trauma”McGowan T. (Ibid.:140/161)., in “Love Between Layers” I will definitely try to go along with Deleuze’s “singular” being, that, “in the possibility of moving forward in an utterly new direction breaks from all entrenched modes of being,” becoming “a copy without a model”; “a body without organs,” “shifting from being virtual in a future time to being possible in an alternate place.” The unconscious may be the condition of cinema, but then, only for those watching the film. Not so, for the characters in “Love Between Layers”, even when they “double” into observers and witnesses.In a critical comment on this text [mail correspondence, August 2013] Mieke Bernink suggested I delete the reference to Todd McGowan, as I don’t take on board his ideas about “loss” and “drive”. I decided not to. The maker, the writer of this text, did originally dedicate his scripting of “Love Between Layers” to his two children, from whom he is separated. McGowan would probably see in this fact a doubled confirmation of his thesis about “loss”, the “death drive”, and he would very probably interpret it as a demonstration of how “writing a script” can satisfy the writer (the person), as it is a means for the writer to find “satisfaction in repeating a failure.” This “analysis” may be relevant or not as such, but here it may reveal some reasons behind the “violence to text” (to the clarification of ideas; to the logic of the argumentation). Elsewhere, the title given to this article is, “the thinking behind the scripting of Love Between Layers”. This text, in itself, knows of no finality. The finality will be produced and be found elsewhere. The final or conclusive act is the film (and before that, to a certain extent, the script). This text, in itself, gives neither. Instead, it gives the experience of the thinking process behind the scripting.

It will be hard then for “Love Between Layers” to be considered a serious example of atemporal cinema, not in the least because of its mix of genres, including the comical. “As in a comedy it has a marvelous way of starting on one track and continuing on the other, as if this were completely natural.”Zupančič A. (2008:137/169/135), The Odd One In. On Comedy, Massachusetts, The MIT Press. For philosopher Alenka Zupančič, “repetition [the drive’s repetition, in the McGowan quote] exists because there is no linear genesis of the subject (or, to put it the other way around: there is a subject – the latter being precisely the effect of a dysfunction in the purely linear causality).” “Love Between Layers” may connect to a Lacanian conception of “difference and repetition.” As Zupančič puts it: “A ‘happy’ love encounter is a non relation as redoubled. As in comedy, not only do we not get what we asked for, on top of that (and not instead) we get something we haven’t even asked for.”

The notion of repetition is questioned repeatedly in this article. In 2007, just before his death, Jean Baudrillard wrote: ”History that repeats itself turns to farce. But a farce that repeats itself ends up making a history.”Baudrillard J. (2010), The Agony of Power, New York, Semiotext(e). This statement may be “unsettling,” but it also sounds “humorous.” Baudrillard’s phrasing creates a comical effect. It becomes ambiguous, or, to be more precise: more “pataphysical” in spirit. As he puts it: “As hypercritical or ultra-critical thought – much more critical than critical thought – there’s nothing better than Pataphysics.”Baudrillard J. (2001), ‘Fragments: Conversations with François L’Yvonnet’, in Hugill A., Pataphysics, Massachusetts, the MIT Press. His vision of the digital culture makes hyper-critics of us all, “as we shift through the vast amounts of merdre that flood the Internet.”Hugill A. (2012:24), Pataphysics, Massachusetts, the MIT Press.

With the farce that repeats itself and becomes history, we have indeed entered the logic of the drive. Because of the digital we succeed in sustaining the farce, adding to it, even becoming willing – in order to avoid history to take place – to be farcical ourselves. We live in a situation very different from the one called the “Cold War,” where “apocalypse” was turned into tactics in order to counter it and where “farce” was animated repeatedly and quite lively on cinema screens in Bond films.

Specialists on storytelling are usually “humanist” in ways too commonsensical, too simplified, and at the same time, far too “serious.” And scientists too often forget to separate what they “discover” from their shadow.Stengers I. (2011:117), Thinking with Whitehead. A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press. Neuroscientists, for example, tell us that memory is essentially a re-activation of patterns of neurons flashing, a “memorizing” of how they once flashed before.Levitin D. J. (2007:144), This is Your Brain on Music, London, Plume/Penguin Group. However, their finding should not lead “us” to an outlook on life as (only) repetition, as “repetition of the same.” New patterns can be invented, and can be imaginary as well. Patterns not only impose a structure (of past experiences). They also invite adventure (of new plots), and game-playing (Wittgenstein). As philosopher Isabelle Stengers says, “Scientists can become a creator only from the moment they decide that the process of explanation in which they trusted is insufficient, and make up their mind to construct what the solution demands, in terms of path.”Stengers I. [Ibid.:121]. Writing a script, understood as “creation development“Decostere S., The Affected Practitioner (in-progress)., demands being affected by one’s own being as creator. Becoming this kind of “living ideal” does exist in the process of development, but only there (luckily so).

Demanding new storytelling and new plots to be “effective” (maybe not in terms of marketing, but definitely so in terms of artistic value), has to go far beyond any technical claim. This has been demonstrated in the period just before and after the 1900’s, when artists were really and radically experimenting in finding appropriate responses to the “revolution” they experienced then as “modernity.” They even invented a new “science” – Pataphysics – “a science of imaginary solutions.” Pataphysics has continued to affect many creators from many disciplines, from Baudrillard and Lacan to Groucho Marx.

The best “useless guide” to Pataphysics so far has been written by Andrew Hugill. His book “gives great comfort to those conflicted souls (everybody) who still believe in anything.”Hugill A. (Ibid.:Cover) Here follows a short list and selection of “definitions.” At some point during the development process of “Love Between Layers,” I took them aboard as “useless” guidelines” and “hilarious” instructions.

– Pataphysics is the ultimate defense.Hugill A. (Ibid.:5/6/11/9/10/14/19).

– For pataphysics there’s no singularity. We’re all Palotins in a gaseous world from which the great pataphysical fart is released. (Baudrillard)

– In pataphysics, mutually exclusive opposites can and do coexist. The pataphysicist embodies the idea of opposites as equivalent.

– The ‘multiverse’ contains all possible universes, including its own.

– There is a mathematical demonstrable relationship between physical and psychical events.

– The simultaneous opposition of seriousness and humor is contained within a single individual.

– Humor consists of seeing an incongruity between fact and an imitation of the fact.

– Pataphysics contains all shades, ranging from the absurd (Ionesco) to the farcical (the Marx Brothers), from the intellectual (Duchamp) to the all-too-serious (Jorn), from the inadvertent (Brisset) to the knowing (Borges), from the apparently pointless (the Oulipo) to the apparently pointed (Cravan), and so on.

“The doctrine of equivalence is a key in pataphysics, and the very nature of the Internet makes this a reality.”Hugill A. (Ibid.:26/52//41). The calling for “a new mythology capable of responding to the new social conditions” connects Pataphysics to the “dataverse.” “Hyperreality is not so much a substitute for a lost reality, as a runaway production in a monstrous spiral of positive feedback.”

The characters in “Love Between Layers” are “shape changers, as most tricksters are.”Hugill A. (Ibid.:55/56/65/74/68). The film makes use of “combinatory” logic and procedures. “The emphasis is on potential rather than actual fiction.” It “rejects chronological time, and dismantles standards of perception.” It leaves it up to the machine to inspire love.

One of my “heroes” is Marcel Duchamp. In the 1910’s he was obsessed with the idea of inventing something “new.” He “wished to put painting once again “at the service of the mind”, and to cultivate in art the ability of the chess player (which he was) “to conduct several games simultaneously without looking.”Henderson L.D. (2013:240/), The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidian Geometry in Modern Art, Massachusetts, The MIT Press. Out of a unique action, performed by himself (and described in his text “The Idea of the Fabrication,” written in 1914), with threads falling onto the ground (Three Standard Stoppages, 1913-1914), he invented for himself a new measure standard of the meter, as well as a whole “gliding system of dimensions and realities.” Beside the “unit of measure,” he “reinvented  the laws of gravity, the passage of time, the means of energy and power, the behaviour of light, the rendering of perspective,”Hugill A. (Ibid.:162/50). in short: “the infinite game where one plays simply in order to continue to play.” Later in his life he “incorporated sex and eroticism in his explanations of the fourth dimension.”Henderson L.D (Ibid.:251/161/164). “The parallel between Duchamp’s “playful physics” and Alfred Jarry’s Pataphysics is unmistakable: an irreverent artist for whom nothing is sacred delves into avant-garde mathematics and science in secret to discredit long-standing beliefs still held by the majority of the public.” Duchamp called his humour, “meta-irony.” His 1959 drawing relief entitled With My Tongue in Cheek sets the tone. “Duchamp’s imaginary solutions are solutions without a problem.”

What could be the “imaginary,” practical measuring tool in the developing and viewing process of “Love Between Layers”?  An algorithm? A scheme arranged according to a selection of differentials? A scheme as if developed for search engines; as applied by the “Google” corporations?

Definitely, it has to be a scheme for possible new intrigues between the “characters” and the “viewers,” all players in the field of the dataverse. The “imaginary solution” could be given by an algorithm for the firing of neurons when “falling in love.” An algorithm of an “explosion,” a “cloud of fire.” An algorithm that holds the key to and is the trigger for “falling in love.” Once “there,” then what happens? The question, “what if,” erases the question, “what is.” The measuring tool of “Love Between Layers” – being itself a time-based medium – will be a new unit of time, and it has a name: “dating data.”

“Being also shows itself in technology by the very fact that it withdraws from it, insofar that it withdraws. But this can only be comprehended pataphysically, and not metaphysically. The essence of technology is not technology. It is the culmination of metaphysics in technology that makes possible the overcoming of metaphysics, that is pataphysics. Hence the importance of the theory of science and the experimentations with machines as integral parts of pataphysics: planetary technology is not simply the loss of Being, but the possibility of its salvation.”Hugill A. (Ibid.:99/105). This is Gilles Deleuze “talking.” We are back to where we started (more or less), and to his thinking about “difference and repetition.” It also brings me back to a little book I wrote and edited in 2006, titled This Is As If It. Weak Media, and to the philosophy of “Als ob” (which I discovered later in  Hugill’s book on Pataphysics) by Hans Vaihinger, with which he declared that “we construct our own system of thought and value, and then live “as if” reality conformed to it.” Hereby he shifted “the idea of “truth” into the most imaginary of all solutions.

With Difference and Repetition, Deleuze made me understand the meaning of the first in relation to the latter. For me, at some point in time, this “understanding” had become essential for the scripting of “Love Between Layers.” Deleuze writes: “According to Marx, repetition is comic when it falls short – that is, when instead of leading to metamorphosis and the production of something new, it forms a kind of involution, the opposite of an authentic creation. Comic travesty replaces tragic metamorphosis. However, it appears that for Marx this comic or grotesque repetition necessarily comes after the tragic, evolutive and creative repetition.”

“This temporal order,” Deleuze says, “does not, however, seem to be absolutely justified. Comic repetition works by means of some defect, in the mode of the past properly called so. The hero necessarily confronts this repetition so long as “the act is too big for him”: Polonius’ murder by mistake is comic, as is Oedipus’s inquiry. The moment of metamorphosis, tragic repetition, follows. It is true that these two moments are not independent, existing as they do only for the third moment beyond the comic and the tragic: the production of something new entails a dramatic repetition which excludes even the hero. However, once the first two elements acquire an abstract independence or become genres, then the comic succeeds the tragic as though the failure of metamorphosis, raised to the absolute, presupposed an earlier metamorphosis already completed.”

As Deleuze writes: “The essential point is the persistence of the triadic structure.”Deleuze G. (1994:91/92), Difference and Repetition, translated by Paul Patton, New York, Columbia University Press.

“In the first time, a unique and tremendous event throws time out of joint. It is a time at which the imagined act is supposed “too big for me”. This defines a priori the past of the before. It matters little whether or not the event itself occurs. Oedipus has already carried out the act; Hamlet has not yet done so. They are in the past and live themselves as such so long as they experience the image of the act as too big for them.”

“The second time, which relates to the caesura itself, is thus the present of metamorphosis, a becoming-equal to the act and a doubling of the Self, and the projection of an ideal self in the image of the act (this is marked by Hamlet’s sea voyage and by the outcome of Oedipus’s enquiry: the hero becomes “capable” of the act).”

“As for the third time in which the future appears, this signifies that the event and the act possess a secret coherence which excludes that of the self; […] it smash it to pieces, as though the bearer of the new world were carried away and dispersed by the shock of the multiplicity to which it gives birth. […] The synthesis of time here constitutes a future which affirms at once both the unconditioned character of the product, in relation to the conditions of its production, and the independence of the work of art in relation to its author or actor.”Deleuze G. (Ibid.:89/90/94). “What is produced, […] is a third repetition, this time by excess.” What is repeated consists of simulacra, “not merely defects which affect copies, but rather models themselves, terrifying models of the “pseudos” in which unfolds the power of the false.”Deleuze G. (Ibid.:126/128).

The false designates the cynical end of the world, as well as the joyful possibility of creating the world anew. We owe “the powers of the false” to Friedrich Nietzsche. In Difference and Repetition Gilles Deleuze reckons with them in his search for “new means of philosophical expression.” “There is no truth that doesn’t “falsify” because the powers of the false designate the powers to create.”Flaxman G. (2012:Introduction), Gilles Deleuze and the Fabulation of Philosophy, Minneapolis, University of Minneapolis Press.

“The vitality of the false dwells in its endless plasticity, indeed the power to assume countless different guises; if the false can be said to exist, it ‘ex-ists’ in-between. The false ‘appears’ in the series of masks that prolongs the variable sur-faces into a delirium. In Deleuze’s words, ‘fabulation – the fabulating function – does not consist in imagining or projecting an ego. Rather, it attains these visions, it raises itself to these becomings and powers.”Flaxman G.(Ibid.:Introduction).

What Alice, the main character in “Love Between Layers,” “experiences” is not a jumping-out-of-the loop of the body. It is a jumping out of the loop of a twisted Self that reinvents itself with the “non human.” The human does not become non human. Instead, the non human characterizes the scheme behind the jumping-out-of-the-loop. The scheme itself is an “invisible labyrinth” (of “forking paths,” as Borges would say), which leads the human to “several futures (not all).”Borges J.L. (Ibid.:125). It is the image of a scheme in time, rather than in place. It is in the work of the virtual, the “virtually impossible-to-disentangle,” that the human “creates” several “futures”, several “times”, which themselves proliferate and fork. The scheme itself can be presented in abstract ways, as philosophers do, in diagrams (“derived” from cosmographics as in Deleuze; from cybernetics as in Lacan; from mathematics and set theory as in Badiou, etc.), but the scheme can also be brought “on stage”, as can happen in the comical genre. Bernard Shaw has said that all intellectual labour is inherently humorous. This may be unintentionally the case for the philosophers mentioned before. But in the case of “Love Between Layers”, it will definitely be intentional. “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”Shaw B. [Online] Available: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5217.George_Bernard_Shaw [23 Aug 2013]. In “Love Between Layers”, Alice distances herself from herself, in discovering and exploring the non human in her human “digital” Self. She nevertheless becomes always herself, in the sense of “whatever that is”.

Love Between Layers” takes place in a dataverse, where the act of perceiving is dynamically coupled with instant feedback. There is no closure. Layers keep unfolding. Sound and images are constantly reconnected. Plot and stories are reactivated from shifting perspectives. It’s all about evaluating non-stop what is present at a certain moment in time, bringing it in, checking it out.

In “Love Between Layers” there is no separation between falling in love and “falling in love with digital cinema”: they fuse into one. Both modes of falling in love “fall” into the digital and start a process of “crystallization”. “Crystallization” is a concept developed in 1822 by the French writer Stendhal, which describes “the mental metamorphosis in which unattractive characteristics of a new love are transformed into perceptual diamonds of shimmering beauty.”Stendhal/Crystallization; [Online] Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystallization_%28love%29 [23 Aug 2013]. Continuing the metaphor, in “Love Between Layers” the “falling in love” with the digital “crystallizes” the false, the distortion of time, the non human and the comical. In the many quotes that were weaving this text, we “heard” voices telling us that each of these categories can be transformed, differentiated, and ultimately make a difference. But what if the categories are also characteristic for the dataverse? The wish of all things, Spinoza says, is to continue to be what they are. This is good news for the dataverse. But is it for “us”? “I guess our stories will tell, and maybe even more so, our fantasies, which indeed, “reinvent everyday reality.”Borges J.L. (Ibid.:514). “The stone wishes to be the stone, the tiger the tiger”, just as the dataverse wants to be the dataverse, and, in Love Between Layers, the Pharma Inc. The Pharma Inc. (ever more omnipresent) – while teenAlice wants to be Alice.

“The subject of “experimentality as event” touches a crucial figure of contemporary epistemology, especially when we take epistemology in its processual, time-based sense as defined by cybernetics. This comes from its self-definition and the insights into “circular causal and feedback mechanisms in biological and social systems.” In analytical philosophy (as represented by Alfred North Whitehead), the “event” represents an ontological being that is not a static object but a process. Such a process is close to the essence of media technologies itself (because only when in operation is a medium in its medium state).” “Experiment as event” can be reformulated as “experiencing the event.”Ernst W. (2013:184/185), Digital Memory and the Archive, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

But what then is the “event” of and in “Love Between Layers”? I guess it will come into being out of a conflict between the narrative and the technological. “Narrative is the medium of history. The technological reproduction of the past works without any human presence, because evidence and authenticity provided by the technological apparatus, no longer acquiring a human witness and thus eliminate the irony (the insight into the relativity) of the subjective perspective.”Ernst W. (Ibid.:54). Do we not find exactly here a tragic dimension?

“The media-archeological desire to be freed by machines from one’s own subjectivity (and desire for storytelling) is Foucauldian.” “Media-archaeology is interested in procedures and events that are not “historical” (i.e., narratable) but rather consist of “autochthonic transformations” (Foucault) within the realm of machines and their symbols.” Consequently, “Love Between Layers” will have to adopt a “media-archaeological gaze, immanent to the machines.” “Human beings, having created the  machines, have created a discontinuity with their own cultural regime.”Ernst W. (Ibid.:69/70).

In “Love Between Layers” “old” media are translated into “new” media, and then transmitted back  – to be transformed,  manipulated, and shifted into other registers of meaning (psychological, paranormal, sociological, media-critical), and of genre (tragic, comic, melodramatic). This is how the “falling in love” in “Love Between Layers” will be experienced as “event” by the spectators, as a “falling in love with the digital”. Teenager Alice is far too “enhanced” to be just human. To be everything, including being non human: that is her whole Real. Only there she may discover what it means to digitally experience “falling in love” in the dataverse.Ross D. (2011), Screening the Past (Technics and Time 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise); [Online] Available: http://www.screeningthepast.com/2011/08/technics-and-time-3-cinematic-ti… [23 Aug 2013]. In the relation between the “human’ en the “real” there is a third entity at work, namely the “non human”. Bernard Stiegler gives it another name: “the technical”. “The technical”, in Stiegler’s definition, “can be described as the organisation of the inorganic. Technics amounts to a “third” memory, in addition to the two biological memories that are the genetic code and the memory of the nervous system.” “It is not the case that the human invented the technical, but on the contrary, that they are co-originary, that the human and the technical are two tendencies that compose together within a single process. That process can be described as the organisation of the inorganic.”

“Loopy structures”, “self-applied operations”, “of circularity, of paradoxical acts, of implied infinities”, “perceiving on the screen self-watching television”, to sense one’s “self-image located in locked-in loops”Ernst W. (Ibid.:60/95/99)., to take the risk of falling into the digital. This is the dimension of time that the protagonists of “Love Between Layers” experience and enjoy: the experience of that “paradoxical level-crossing feedback loop”. It may be fun. It may be fatal. It may be comical. It may be real as well. Some guiding principles (and indeed, they “sound” like Tumblr’s) :

Influencing – Contagion – Mimicking – Repetition – Loops

Sensual micro body gestures – Absolutely narcissistic – Flesh addicted

Human bodies as screens – Tattoos – Fashion – Postures

Touching – Eyes – Hands – Fingers – Tongues

Intervals opened up – Experiential spaces in-between images and frames

Cheating time – Technical delusion

Near singularity – Merging of intelligence between computer and humans

Play and experimentation – Falling in love, with fantasy.

Time catches us all. The concept of “time criticality” becomes a central way to think the machine time of contemporary culture. “The time of human actions being disrupted by the time specifically internal to the workings of their technical media.”Ernst W. (Ibid.:143).

In a first “time”, the characters in “Love Between Layers” are straightforward, quasi neutral. In a second “time” the characters are “metamorphosed”. They have become more “real” in their status of being hallucinated avatars of themselves. What then will be the third “time” of “Love Between Layers”? – the “time” in the dataverse. It will have to be technological. It will have to be the play of the machine. It will have to be enjoyment – Lacanian jouissance – “at work”. A machinic enjoyment that takes on board all the sounds and images that were animated before, processing them all – all at once – as data. And it will have to find an expression of its own, as “sublime” and “terrible”, as were once before: Andrei Tarkovsky’s ocean (Solaris, 1972), Stanley Kubrick’s HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968), Philip Dick’s Vast Active Living Intelligence System (Valis, 1981), and today’s Edward Snowden’s PRISM (NSA, a production in-progress, as a “feature” – in news broadcasts – and ongoing, as a “realization”, in real time).

“Merdre!” This is Alfred Jarry “shouting”. How philosophers “speak” has been demonstrated repeatedly in this article.In a critical remark on this article Geert Lovink [mail correspondence] pointed to some philosophers absent in the text: Paul Virilio (of course), Massimo Cassiari (Zeit ohne Kronos), Mircea Eliade (his cyclical view on time), and Bernard Stiegler (Technics and Time, 3) We also “heard” a scriptwriter “at work”. But what could be the “voice” of the dataverse? If it has one, it must have a sound of swerving connectivity. The crunching sound of a digital clinamen. Alfred Jarry calls clinamen, “la bête imprévue”, of which, out of the circle of rational inclusivity, creation is made as the opening of difference and play.Hugill A. (Ibid.:17).

Just before the start of the third “time” there will be an intermezzo in “Love Between Layers”. In that in-between “time”, there will be no conflict between the narrative and the technological time. It will be the time of music: a love song. In that musical time, Alice “really” falls in love, in a duration equal to that of the song itself, for as long as it is being played and replayed. Love songs open up the space for the falling in love. They materialize and realize all the guiding principles given above: influencing, contagion, mimicking, repetition, and so forth…. And they are, in their specific indestructible way, comical. In the musical time “Love Between Layers” sets itself free from itself, allows itself to be invaded by music, lets itself be played out completely, along with a laughter which “laughs the rigid pseudo-Master writer out of the house.”Barker S. (1989), Canon-fodder: Nietzsche, Jarry, Derrida (The Play of Discourse and the Discourse of Play); [Online] Available: https://journals.ku.edu/jdtc/article/view/1728/1692 [31 Aug 2013]

A “Like” button is missing here. But there is the suggestion to read this text at least once more. Alfred Jarry apparently took more than 700 pages of notes of the lectures by Henri Bergson he attended, “only to cultivate his inability to approach any subject other than in a spirit of irony.”Hugill A. (Ibid.:200).

May the dataverse inspire you as well in trying to make a “difference”. But this is where this writing stops, to continue elsewhere: on the working table that is, where the story is given the time and the necessary attention to become a film. Measure is what matters.

The importance of Measure, and of taking measures, also counts for the dataverse. The dataverse is not the universe. It definitely should not be allowed to become one. As Geert Lovink probably would say: it is a “cloud”, spread all over by only a handful of extremely powerful corporations.Lovink G. (ibid.: mail correspondence): “The omnipresence of technology coincides with an enormous concentration of the infrastructure.” Or, as described and contextualized in an article in The Guardian : “The cloud, that benign mystical repository of all knowledge and data; all that “cloud” and “like” and “friend” and “google” and “twitter”. A safe Teletubby land where nothing bad could happen. I wanted to make it clear to the kids who bought into that, that actually this is real, it is all mappable like an empire. Google and Facebook and the rest routinely take our data and sell it on to advertisers. Their business is clearly content, data. We have to start asking why they are not being made responsible for it.” [Online] Available: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/08/beeban-kidron-inreallife-interview-teenagers [31 Aug 2013]. We risk, indeed, having our views on the “real” blocked and being manipulated. This “violence to the real” makes even our falling in love equivalent to a falling into data. It may be that this evilness can be stopped by the fire of love, but then again, only in the dataverse.

Ghent, 8 September, 2013.

 

[*] The initial scripting of Love Between Layers was supported by VAF/FilmLab (Flanders Audiovisual Fund), in the category ‘short experimental film’. Since then the scripting has developed towards a longer fiction format. All the LBL material included in this article is copyrighted (deposited in Sabam, Belgium).