Behind the Scenes: Production, Animation, and Postmodern Value

Julian Murphett


I wish to explore certain irreconcilable positions which various representative intellectual figures (Baudrillard and Zizek, among others) have assumed on ‘labour’ as an image to be either repressed from or paraded throughout postmodern culture -- positions which mediate obscure and difficult questions concerning the production of value itself in our society. In order to begin thinking these questions in their real complexity, I want to conduct a rapid tour through some recent attempts, in film and fiction, to map the emergence of value in a society driven by a ‘spectacular’ array of commodities from which all traces of production have been erased, and yet still necessarily tied, at however many removes, to the ‘anonymous workers sweating in Third World factories’ without whom, presumably, the entire system would collapse. The texts I want to survey are David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996), Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (Japan, 1998), Mark J. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Olivir Assayas’ demonlover (France, 2002), and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition (2003). My task will be to analyse these attempts at the level of symbolic activity, clumsy and provisional as they may be, to reconnect the products of our ‘simulacrum’ with the realm of ‘material, industrial production’. If any such symbolic attempt has indeed been successful, then it should direct some urgently needed light back on the seemingly imponderable question of value in our world today.

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