Blesok no. 69, November-December, 2009
The Word versus the Picture
Vesna Mojsova-Čepiševska, Duško Krstevski
The terms like virtuality, virtual reality or virtual realism are related to the time marked by the end of the XX century, and the are directly related to the new computer technology. However, the problem of virtuality did not become only a technological, but also a deeply philosophical and culturological issue, especially on the turn of the XX to XXI century. The author of the well-known proverb: The medium is a message, as well as the syntagm global village, Marshall McLuhan distinguishes between “warm” and “cold” media. ”Warm” are those which offer the senses more information on reality (for example, photography is warmer than the drawing), and “Cold” are those which serve small amount of information, such as the telephone. Based on this general division, Michael Heim distinguishes two types of virtuality: “Strong”, so called technological, and “weak”, symbolical virtuality. If these distinctions are moved backwards, to where the western culture started, with Plato and Aristotle, with some courage one can say, as Oraić-Tolić stresses, that Plato is the father of the “warm” and Aristotle of the “cold” virtual realism (2005: 210). By proclaiming Aristotle the first virtual realist, there is not only a hypostasis of a historical term in a universal category in the theory of literature and art, but it is enabled that the phenomenon of mimetism is enlightened once again, and thus the position of the literature itself within culture. Literary realism is always “cold”, i.e. it is facilitated by language, and it is never “warm”, i.e. directly corporal, stresses Oraić-Tolić, concluding that history of literature as a cold virtual medium is filled with a yearning for the hot real worlds… so it can barely wait for modern technology to start fulfilling its fiction (2005: 212).
The western culture has become a pan-aesthetic culture at the time of globalization. It has more and more turned into an endless field of game and simulation. The post-modern at the time of globalization has realized the basic modernist and avant-garde project, which is a total esthetisation of the world, as well as erasing the differences between fiction and reality. Art no longer imitates reality; on the contrary, reality imitates art, its autochthonous determinant – fictitiousness. We live, fortunately or unfortunately, in the world of an “upside-down/opposite” mimesis (2005: 214). The zone of real from the well known Lacan's triad Real – Symbolic – Imaginary has become narrower and narrower, so it was only a matter of time when Imaginary would not only wish but also become Real. We are becoming more and more aware that we live in a culture of embodied images, that we are in a period when the concept of ontology is seriously changing, and in this way man himself, culture, and the overall human history.
These conclusions do not imply that the literature has stopped being a cold medium that yearns for hot effects, but that the effects of this cold medium have become so warm, even hot, that they are already so heated as never before. Fiction, illusion and fantastic have become equally real or more precisely more real than reality itself, and the reality that we all believe to be real becomes more and more illusory and fictional. The weakness or coldness, i.e. the strength of hotness of the virtual realism depends on the degree of existence and authenticity of the real world with respect to the simulacrum worlds. The bigger the presence of the real worlds and motifs, the more the authors believe in the authenticity of the objective reality and in the possibility of its depiction, the virtual realism therefore becomes weaker, i.e. colder. And vice versa! The bigger the presence of the simulacrums and the stay in the hyper-reality, the more the virtual realism is strong and warm. If the motifs and effects of the simulations and simulacrums dominate, the real world is missing, or simply, it is not believed in,; then we speak of a heated or boiling virtual realism.
Two key techniques of the warm virtual realism are the imaginary as real and real as imaginary.
Are these techniques manifested in the Macedonian cultural heritage as well? Without any doubts – YES!
Within the first technique, the fictional worlds are presented in a hyper-realistic way. This is the so-called simulacrum mimetism or more precisely a true representation of the virtual worlds that have undertaken the positions of the real ones. The interdisciplinary project Redenik (Скопје: Или-или, no year of issuing given in order to make it timeless and therefore more virtual) was especially useful in the intention to truly indicate the virtuality. Authors are Verica Milosavljević, who wrote the verses, and Elena Dišlievska, who made the drawings, photographs, or more exactly, the overall design of this book. So, a project – diptych of words and images. The very title Redenik [Bandolier] opens the ars poetics of the two authors. The bandolier can indicate a part of women's clothes from the past, but also part of the equipment of the fighters from the past. The bandolier is an object of order, symmetry of the kind that is noticed in the book itself – the ordered words of Verica Milosavljević are matched with an appropriate/identical image, drawing of Elena Dišlievska. The collection of poems opens with a text that is also taken as short guidelines which defines its creation and a recipe which offers the real way it should be read and re-read. The poems are shaped according to a mathematical order. The collection is envisaged to have a while of 105 poems. The last 105th poem contains 100 verses which end in “-ira”, and the other poems are written according to the scheme:
2 poems with 14 verses and 14 poems with 2 verses;
3 poems with 13 verses and 13 poems with 3 verses;
4 poems with 12 verses and 12 poems with 4 verses;
5 poems with 11 verses and 11 poems with 5 verses;
6 poems with 10 verses and 10 poems with 6 verses;
7 poems with 9 verses and 9 poems with 7 verses, and
8 poems with 8 verses.
The stress in Milosavljević's poetry is on its visualness, as well as on its lexical fund which is emphasized by Dišlievska's design, but also on the mathematical completeness as a post-modern recipe for good reading. The poetry is no longer, let us say archaically, “dead/black letters on white paper”. It is especially proven in this interdisciplinary project. Milosavljević forces us to read the poems from all sides, motivates us to look at the poem from the side, count its verses, move the book sideways to read it, turn it upside down to reach the centre of words/meaning… Besides the symmetry that Harmony produces, it has also involved Chaos at a creative level. The poems change their form, they transform their shape and in this play we recognize something of Apollinaire's calligrams.
At a lexical level the reader is seduced by the rhythm of words. The parallelism is the most dominant stylistic figure in this collection. Almost each word is created again and again or used via prefixes, infixes and suffixes to its maximum. If one of the techniques of postmodernism are the permutations and the “excess” (in a post-modern affirmative, and never in a pejorative meaning), then they are incredibly dominant in this Milosavljević's collection. It is also noticed in the area of Design, and Dišlievska lets this book scream with colours!
However, this is not only favouring the language and lexica is in the front for the sake of semantic fulfilment of the poem, as it can be seen in many verses-maxims, such as: Someone rests in his restlessness, / another is restless in his rest; or: Is man hurt by the earthly life, / or he is hurt by the illusion of heaven.
The 105th poem is a portal to the other poems, toward each cycle separately. It can be said that its language is most complexly made. Therefore, the verbs that end in the suffix “-ira” have been sought. The order of this, at the same time starting and final 105th poem that opens each cycle is in the poetic dispute between Reason and Love (the most virtual terms). They debate throughout the poem as two people on the messenger and each one of them fights for its victory. Via the ending verbs in suffix “-ira” there is an active principle in this fight between the rational and sensual. On the other hand, it can be noticed that Milosavljević conducts a detailed search through the Macedonian lexical wealth (as a search on the Internet). She seeks/goes though each word and she does it very successfully. Each found word opens the quest for another word, and the latter traces the road to the third one and in this way the search creates a chain that starts to reach endlessness (as a cyberspace).
However, despite the fact that the poetess herself is aware that it is difficult enough that the poem at the same time sounds, but also marks, she manages in it. In the transformation of the imaginary to real, the sound into the mark, she is helped by the visual ideas of Elena Dišlievska which we take as exceptionally good and original.
In the second technique, the real as imaginary, the simulacrization takes place in two directions. The social and natural spaces are first of all manipulated with various procedures of mystification of the objective facts, with paradoxical and grotesque twists, with caricature exaggerations, by deleting the differences between the real and fictional events, simply by deconstructing the symbolic worlds and its values. It is a simulacrum defamiliarisation, and the recognizable reality moves/flies into a different surreal space before the eyes of the reader. It is actually, an estrangement of the real reality in the kingdom of the simulations and simulacrums (2005: 223).
The poetry collection Stažirajki za svetec [Interning for a Saint] by Igor Isakovski (Скопје: Независни писатели на македонија, 2008) seriously makes us think about expanding the symbolization and metaphorisation in the name of the need to fund out most subtly what love is. According to Erich From, love is an active force of man, a force that destroys the walls that separate him from his close ones, a force that joins him with the others, a force that at the same time helps him overcome his feeling of loneliness and separateness, and allows him to be his own. Love is an activity, and not a passive affect. Its active character can be expressed by the claim that love is first of all giving and not taking (E. Фром: 29). Isakovski tries to look at love as a mature answer to the existence problem. He suggests it in the very title – Interning for a Saint and then he stresses it in the selection of 36 love poems created in the period of six years (1995-2001). There is a game not only in the symbolic of the numbers three and six, but also in the freedom that the poet Igor Isakovski grants to the painter Mirosval Masin. The images, i.e. the art letters of Masin, starting from the cover to the last page of the collection intensifies the synesthesia of the poetic writing. By deconstructing the symbolic world and its values, Masin also adds: the representation of the colour which is part of its scent (Pieces), the representation of the bright voice / velvet and warmth / in the noisy shell / of this forgotten city (from the poem Endless Movement), but also on the colours that sing about tit (The Thin Crystal Thing). Via the simulacrum defamiliarisation, the recognizable reality before the eyes of the reader enters another, surreal world where his drawings are experienced, read, taken as images of objects related to femininity, and as drawings that imply parts of woman's body, but also as newly-stylized letters of the Macedonian alphabet. All images placed here are also read as illuminations, but also as drawing made by a child-like naiveté which is transformed in a grotesque to have the final impression of a distilled refinement. Such as the letters and words related to femininity: A – as Anna (4, 87), B – as boska [breast] (7), Dž – as a dživdžanka [bird] (12), Š – as šiška [fringe] or šmizla [chatterbox] (12, 18, 27, 38), D – as devojka [girl] (29, 38, 41, 42), V – as verba [faith], vistina [truth] (32), Ј – as jatka [kernel] (33, 34, 59), О – as osnova [basis] or okata devojka [girl with big eyes] (40, 69), Ž – as žena [woman] (64), F – as fustan [dress] (67), D, in italics – as a devojče [little girl] or desna raka [right hand] (53) and P, in italics – as ptica [bird] (77).
Such are the drawings that imply a portrait of a woman (4, 38, 40, 77), a picture of a woman's bust (27), erotic pose (12), femininity (7) and female inside (14, 87), breasts (7, 14, 27, 29, 38, 41, 49, 50, 81, 82), behind (14, 18, 27, 29, 50, 82), belly button (40, 49, 64), mouth (40), eye (40, 49). Such are the drawings that stress some female features and shapes such as the picture of a swan (18, 53), pear (29), bird (59), torn leaf or heart (59), J that italic, as jatka [kernel] (59).
In the beginning of this text we mentioned that the zone of the real from the well known Lacan's trinity Real – Symbolic – Imaginary has become more and more narrow. If this is the case, then we also start to realize that we no longer live in the time when Imaginary not only wishes but also becomes Real. More and more! And in this way we also become aware that we really live in a culture of embodies images. Thus, the drawings of Masin are experienced as a bodily occurrence of the poem-soul of Isakovski. Or the words of Isakovski are additionally explained by the drawings of Masin. The drawings of Masin become a synonym of the words of Isakovski. Masin recreates the drawings, cuts them with Isakovski's words and in this way creates verses- clothes as expression of the soul and spirit of the naked body. And finally, the real (love) becomes imaginary!
What can literature do at the time of virtual culture, wonders Dubravka Oraić-Tolić, when in the beginning there will be no more the WORD but the PICTURE? More and more we understand that art does not have the power that the avant-garde believed it had. If this is the case, then does it have any influence on reality, regardless whether it is real or virtual? Should not we start thinking about social engagement, but also about the autonomy of art, now as a post-engagement and post-autonomy? As the real horses are kept in the horse powers of cars, the social engagement and autonomy of art, stress Oraić-Tolić, are kept in an unusual way in the media shapes of art (2005: 261). The two poetry collections indicate a post-engagement of their own, but also a bold post-autonomy, in an original media shape of poetry.
Исаковски, Игор. Стажирајќи за светец. – Скопје: Независни писатели на македонија, 2008.
Милосављевиќ, Верица / Дишлиевска, Елена. Реденик. – Скопје: Или-или.
Oraić-Tolić, Dubravka. „Vitrualni realizam – hrvatski post-postmodernizam” vo Muška moderna i ženska postmoderna. – Zagreb: 2005, 207-265.
Фром, Ерик. Уметноста на љубовта. – Скопје: Зумпрес, 1995.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska
1. The syntagm virtual reality was promoted by Jaron Lanier, a president of the Visual Program Languages company (VPL) from California. Competitive terms are: virtual surrounding and virtual worlds, and close terms are: virtual realism (Heim: 1998) and cyberspace (Gibson: 1984). What Jean Bodiar described in his philosophy as simulation and simulacrum became a real experience and fast approaching future which transforms into present before our very eyes (see Dubravka Oraić-Tolić. „Vitrualni realizam – hrvatski post-postmodernizam” in Muška moderna i ženska postmoderna. – Zagreb: 2005, 207-265).
2. If man exposes more and more his bio-body to the direct encounters with the bodies of the machines, cyborgs, if this man can dive into and truly reside in the unreal reality of the cyberspace which is both real and primary, then we seriously encounter the issue of the constructiveness not only of the cultural, but more and more of the biological identity. In this context, not only the symbolical world but also the real one becomes constructive (2005: 209).
3. The basis of this positioning is seen by Oraić-Tolić in the seventh book of Plato's State where he elaborated his ontology via the developed metaphor coming from the retold story of Socrates about the cave. Plato act paradoxically. He takes the metaphor of the cave and via this poetic image he discovered all the symbols and images as a falsely reflected reality of the real world of ideas. If we replace some details of Plato's cave we can see ourselves glued to the TV screens. The cold or poor virtuality, according to Oraić-Tolić is described by Aristotle in his Poetics, when he speaks about the differences between the poetic and historical description. While the historian describes the events as they happened, the poet does not want to convey the real events, but to point out what is possible according to the probability or necessity (2005: 210-212).
4. The virtual realism pertains to the representation of the reality under conditions when the zone of the Real and Symbolic withdraws before the Imaginary, and this Imaginary becomes a new, even more real reality than the once real and symbolic world. Such types are TV soaps and the reality shows in the electronic media, then different artistic installations in the frames of the art, as well as the conceptual art. In this respect, an incredible number of reality shows rule the Macedonian televisions, not only the viewers but also the overall TV programme, such as: Operation Triumph, Idol in the first half of 2009, and Big Brother, I Have a Talent in the second half of 2009, all on A1 TV, but also Survivor and Farm, both on Sitel with a stress that the latter one, which is now taken from some Serbian TV is soon expected to be aired on A1 TV as a Macedonian production, with a working title I Am In the Village. Soon, there will be a Macedonian soup made. And the virtual realism is a mimesis of the world of simulations and simulacrums (2005: 217), terms that were introduced by Jean Baudrillard. This is confirmed by all of the above programs.
5. The cold virtual realism prevails in the early, easy humorous post-modern of the 1970es and 1980es, and the warm one in the late, heavy, simulacrum post-modern, or the post-modern of the 1990es and the first years of this century. Seen within the art of the XX century, the virtual realism is the most important event in the western art after the avant-garde. (…) … it starts at the moment when there is a doubt in the real world and original, when the copy becomes also valuable or more valuable than the authentic reality and the original (2005: 219).
6. In a period of the development of the contemporary Macedonian poetry, this type of puns was present in Gane Todorovski's poetry. Let us remind ourselves of his Poems about Woman and Weekday Awakening of the City, where this language virtuoso practically created new words through rhythm and puns.
7. Фром, Ерик. Уметноста на љубовта. – Скопје: Зумпрес, 1995, 29.
8. Most of the people understand the problem of love first of all as a problem of being loved, and even then as a problem of loving, i.e. the possibility to love. Therefore, for many people the question is about being loved, being worth of someone's love.
9. Illumination (iluminatio) is a term that has several close/synonym, and even metaphorical meanings. It means: celebration lights; painting of a drawing, copper etching or images/traces on stone; sudden inspiration, light that shines upon/illuminates the soul; inspiration.