Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Monday, October 31, 2005
Yes, I haven't even looked at it for about a month. I've been very stressed writing the introductory chapter for my thesis, and so I cut out all potential distractions.
Surely a few minutes on a blog wouldn't make much difference?
You'd be surprised. I still like reading other people's blogs, and so when I've had a spare moment that's what I've done. But I'm a slow writer and I often like writing longer posts, so I just decided not to. I think I made the right decision - I have a lot more free time again now.
How do you feel about your chapter, now that you're working on the next one?
Well, Chapter One is finished for now, but I know that I'll probably need to rewrite it at the end of the PhD - after all, it is the introductory section. I might end up entirely removing the section on film-induced tourism as postmodern practice, but at the moment I just need to bury it for a few months. I'm so happy to be working on a new chapter now... yes, so happy!
Can you briefly tell me about this chapter?
Hmmm. Well I am historicising film-induced tourism in this chapter, focussing on the post World War Two era and the birth of the leisure industry. The Mike Todd film Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) is a useful text here for the chapter's organisation, mainly because it allows me to make productive connections between modernity (the birth of tourism and cinematic technologies) and postmodernity, through its dialogue with the Jules Verne novel that was serialised in the 1870s.
That sounds really interesting!
[She reddens]. Oh, thanks! Yes, the more that I research this topic the more interested I become. But I feel this intense need to just write the thing now. I feel so incredibly behind.
You know, everybody who is writing a PhD says that.
But in my case it is true!! Really, it is! I need to use this panic to force me into swift writing now.
Why have you had so much trouble during the initial writing of your PhD?
A number of reasons, but it comes down to the fact that your self is really your worst enemy.
Should I feel offended by this?
You know what I mean. I kept feeling like I wasn't quite good enough for the project, that I wouldn't be able to do the topic justice. Everything that I wrote looked like childish scratchings on sand at the beach, and just as easy to wipe out again. To continue the metaphor, time was the encroaching and inevitable water. So I started and restarted, and felt that I would never finish. It was an awful feeling.
But a necessary feeling to experience, nonetheless?
Absolutely. A lot of people have tried to give me advice about how to handle my PhD - I've been to student-designed sessions and all - and so I've been aware of the rights and wrongs for a long while. And yet, and yet... I couldn't help but make the same mistakes I was told not to make. For me, I needed to learn by doing everything wrong first, a real trial by (mis)fire. Lacan was right when he wrote that experience is not didactic.
It all sounds very dramatic.
And yet the lack of action made it feel like the opposite of drama. But, perhaps I may have felt a need to narrativise the whole process, adding trials as a way of making the denouement all the more exciting. How very English department of me. Or perhaps I need to think this now - of cause and subsequent effect - because it becomes a way of justifying my period of relative inactivity. I need to function with the end in mind.
Speaking of endings...
Yes, I'll finish the sentence for you: speaking of endings, there must be an end.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
It turned out that the Classics department used to own the floor, and they had just never bothered to take away all their things when they moved out. Some other postgrads had known about the items for months and years, so it wasn't like I was the first to discover them, just the first to actually bother telling someone else about them. I think that the Classics department have taken the items back now, where no doubt they will be locked up and forgotten about in another chest of drawers!
It is fitting that I find these crumbled ruins as I continue to make ruins of my own through my writing (this article by Cornelia Vismann draws the connection between language and ruins, she writes that philology can be etymologically described as a "love of ruins"). As my thesis continues to take shape, it leaves behind even more remains that will hopefully be recycled back into the project at a later point. Here's the beginning of a chapter that no longer exists, a kind of a requiem for an introduction. It is on the discursive connection between cinema and tourism, using Benjamin writing about, well, ruins. I wrote it around a month ago:
Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our
railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly.
Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the
tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-flung ruins and debris,
we calmly and adventurously go travelling.1
In the passage above, Benjamin’s words, from his 1936 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” indicate the longevity of a discursive tradition in continental critical theory connecting travel with cinema. Here, Benjamin radically turns about the usual paradigm of the modern world as a milieu liberated from the temporal and spatial constraints of the ancien regime. Although the urban industrial world has been associated with imprisonment and monotony since Blake and his “satanic mills”, Benjamin also sees the urban architectural markers of the modern real world that are so often associated with speed, action and novelty – the taverns and the streets - representing stasis, quagmire, non-movement. In this imagining, even railroad travel does not take one where one would want to visit: he focusses on the station(ary) and enclosure rather than on the train itself.2 It is only cinema, a passive activity held in a darkened, enclosed interior space, that Benjamin privileges as the paradoxical apparatus enabling “adventurous” exploration, a way of escape for people from all levels of society. This phantasmagoria of the modern world may be constructed from destruction and loss, but this debris is effaced, unrecognised. In an example of the ambivalence that characterises so many of Benjamin’s thoughts about his era, the idea of travelling through “far flung ruins and debris” simultaneously evokes two images: in the first instance, with some sense of exigency, there is the image of those who unwittingly tread on what they cannot see (hence the “calmness” in the midst of this destruction); secondarily, it conjures up an almost Romantic vision of the original grand tourists in Europe who visited and traversed the crumbling buildings of the classical world for pleasure. Thus, travel and cinema are intrinsically connected: modern tourism begins with the love of ruins, and as Benjamin notes, the cinema cannot help but create new ruins of its own.3
1. Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Translated by Harry Zorn. London: Pimlico, 1999. p.229.
2. Given the subsequent events of World War II and the uses given to mass train transportation in Europe, these words seem tragically prescient.
3. Jacques Derrida writes on Benjamin’s ambivalence in a famous passage: “One could write, maybe with or following Benjamin, maybe against Benjamin, a short treatise on the love of ruins. What else is there to love, anyway? One cannot love a monument, a work of architecture, an institution as such except in an experience itself precarious in its fragility: it has not always been there, it will not always be there, it is finite. And for this very reason one loves it as mortal, through its birth and its death, through one’s own birth and death, through the ghost or the silhouette of its ruin, one’s own ruin—which it already is, therefore, or already prefigures. How can one love otherwise than in this finitude? Where else would the right to love, even the love of law, come from?” See Derrida, J. “Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority.” Cardozo Law Review, Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice. 11:5-6 (1990): pp.920-1045.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye,
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."
In anticipation of reading Anne Friedberg's forthcoming monograph The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft, I've been considering the connections/differences between older and newer visual virtual frames (which, as I've said before, was one of the central impetuses for starting this blog in the first place, because it aids me in historicising the concept of film-induced tourism). My most recent thoughts relate the computer screen, the Picturesque and tourism into a particular line of flight. This has come about largely due to talks with friends and my new job. Lately, I've been doing some casual office work for a digital imaging company, and in-between tasks - more vacantly than pensively! - I often find myself sitting in front of my PC staring at its standard desktop wallpaper "Bliss" (for Microsoft Windows XP), which shows serene green hills, a deep blue sky and fluffy white clouds. The hill in the foreground is dappled with cloud shadow and what you can't see in the detail of the image (above) are the tiny daffodils dotted in the foreground and some distant purple mountains in the background. This type of imagery (and the colour scheming of green and blue) is very typical for Microsoft, of course, tying in with that 1990s new media aesthetic of freedom, en plein air, travel and open-mindedness - where would you like to go to today?- that Tom Frank has written so clearly about before.
With my thesis topic in mind, the other day a friend was talking to me about the tourism potential of the "Bliss" landscape - he had heard that this image was now a sought-after tourism destination. I tried to research this tip, but unfortunately I couldn't find very much information about it at all, I couldn't even establish whether the photo is real, hyper-real, or a composite of the two... The most I could find on a real-life Bliss location was Microsoft's New Zealand webpage offering their own rather cute "Kiwi-style" variants of Bliss available to download, using an image of a hill from North Otago dotted with sheep (in the winter shot, the sheep are wearing scarves).
So, no real "film tourism" link, but it's made me think about the prominence of the Picturesque in tourism more generally. Bliss is literally taken right out of Wordsworth (so the visual answer to Where would you like to go to today? is I wandered lonely as a cloud...). Wordsworth's site of inspiration was, of course, the Lake District in Northern England that remains a Pictureseque tourism destination (and a literary tourism one), photographed time and time again in very similar ways. I was delighted to find that one person on a personal homepage accompanied by numerous blissful photographs of the region even makes a reference t0 my blogsake, the Claude Glass:
"The north top is still rough and trackless but it is well worth the extra effort to visit this superb vantage point. I have accumulated a fair bit of evidence of historic access to this hill. Apparently it was one of the seven 'stations' around Derwentwater which were visited by Victorian tourists. It was the custom to turn one's back on the scene and view it through a convex mirror, a Claude Glass, to better appreciate its artistic qualities."
Friday, July 15, 2005
And today I noticed another film + tourism connection (a TV one, this time). On my way to the meeting on a creepingly-slow tram from South Yarra to St Kilda, I noticed a number of large billboards promoting the Very GC tourism campaign for for the Gold Coast. Of course, this newly abbrieviated name for the Gold Coast (with its Valley Girl connotations of "very") is a rather particular reference to the popular US teen show The OC - indeed, there is no disguising the key demographic that this campaign is marketing towards. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, in the "key industries" page, we find that the "Creative Industry" is listed as one of the region's key industries. To quote from the webpage:
In actual fact, it is not just a tourism campaign so much as it is a lifestyle campaign - the "people" of The GC are apparently "alive", "savvy", "open" and "motivated." The web page also tells us that younger Australians migrate to the Gold Coast a lot. The cartoon illustrations (reminiscent of Tiki artist Shag)celebrate cafe culture, palm trees and the beach. Interestingly, cartoon pictures compete with real photographs for prominence on the site - maybe because photographs cannot approximate the fantasy-scape of the television-film connections that are being forged? Finally, this injunction to the reader:
Australia's Gold Coast inspires creative industries.
It must be in the water.
Or the city’s sense of innovation. Or the sense of possibility, of vision and accomplishment.
Whatever the reason, Australia’s Gold Coast draws creative people – and now operates a thriving industry with film, music performance, recording and production.
Academy Award winning film professionals John Cox and Peter Frampton are based within the Gold Coast. Gold Coast City has 75% of the value of Queensland’s film and television drama production with its wide choice of locations, broadband communications, cost savings and production and post-production facilities.
Gold Coast universities and colleges foster creative talent with music, multimedia and theatrical training courses. Events also draw on creative talent with the Gold Coast Film Festival, In the Bin Short Film Festival while Gold Coast hosts the Australian international movie convention.
Real life, Very GC.
Visit Australia’s Gold Coast and meet the locals. You may even become one.