The Post-Cinematic Gesture: Redhack

Zapruder World 6 (2020)
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Over the last thirty years, once staunchly film history scholars such as Thomas Elsaesser, Jane Gaines, Siegfried Zielinski, André Gaudreault and Benoît Turquety (to name just a few) have abandoned history for historiography and film studies for media archaeology. Considering the heightened attention given to kulturtechnik (Siegert), the database as a dominant symbolic metaphor,1 and the decentered networked tenants of the postmodern global present, cinema is taking on the characteristics of new media, existing in increasingly intertextual space. Thus, the term “post-cinema” has been co-opted as a viable intermediary that accounts for new media conditions, as cinema is no longer emblematic of our cultural climate. It was once presaged in 1992 that “[t]he end of the cinema truly sounds the death knell of the ultimate metaphysical adventure of Dasein. In the twilight of post-cinema, of which we are seeing the beginning, human quasi-existence, now stripped of any metaphysical hypostasis and deprived of any theological model, will have to seek its proper generic consistency elsewhere.” Accordingly, we are no longer “moviegoing animals” who seek images of ourselves among a collective in the dark but, rather, users interfacing within a network of moving images. By locating post-cinema within the semblance of social media, we are allocated a newfound series of theoretical interventions, the most marked of which is that of media archeology vis-à-vis dialectical materialism. This is a lens through which Brian Winston has recently deftly decried Virtual Reality’s “empathy machine” utopic illusionism, bolstered by Chris Milk and a slew of neurohumanities researchers, steadily maintaining that the fundamental myth of “technologies of seeing” is in disguising “their artifice, their cultural formation and their ideological import.” However, this approach, which illuminates the bifurcation between Max Horkheimer/Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, neglects what Benjamin identified as occurring to the work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility—a shift from a technology’s “cult value,” associated with the unique work, to its “exhibition value,” associated with the social act of viewing as part of a mass. Speaking to this divarication, Benjamin Barber, in Strong Democracy, foresaw new media’s two-fold potential—as they are organized and networked, new media and communications technologies possess the possibility to both energize citizen information and political participation but, simultaneously, to supplement the deterioration of public debate. As evinced by Mark Adrejevic’s concept of Infoglut, this two-pronged possibility has only been exacerbated by the interlocking relationship between the advent of a “glut” of information, post-truth politics, the demise of symbolic efficiency, and a renewed focus on the role of affect and emotion as “alternative modalities for thinking about the role of communication in a post-referential era.” Manuel Castells qualifies Barber’s pessimism, noting that the Internet can “be an appropriate platform for informed, interactive politics, stimulating political participation.. […] beyond the closed doors of political institutions,” but that the Internet, like any technology, “is shaped by its uses and users.” Thus, if there exists a positive correlation between exposure to post-cinema media artifacts and political participation, then I seek to explore the revelatory political possibilities of “exhibition value” by way of a particular “post-cinema” case study: the Marxist-Leninist Turkish hacktivist group Redhack’s YouTube-circulated documentary RED! (2013), a project that demanded—by way of the moving-image—to galvanize cyberprotest and democratize a “hacktivist commons.

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