Working-class cinema in the age of digital capitalism

Mollona, Massimiliano. 2020. Working-class cinema in the age of digital capitalism. In: Leo Panitch and Greg Albo, eds. Beyond Digital Capitalism: New Ways of Living. London: Merlin Press, pp. 153-174. ISBN 9781583678831 [Book Section]

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Why does the story of cinema begin with the end of work? Is it because, as has been suggested, it is impossible to represent work from the perspective of labour but only from the point of view of capital, because the revolutionary horizon of the working class coincides with the end of work? After all, the early revolutionary art avant-garde had an ambiguous relationship with capitalism: it provided both a critique of commodification whilst also reproducing the commodity form. Even the cinema of Eisenstein, which so subverted the bourgeois sense of space, time, and personhood, at the same time standardized and commodified working-class reality with techniques of framing and editing that molded images on the commodity form.

Such dialectics between art and the commodity form continue to be played out in today’s digital capitalism, as exemplified by so-called ‘debt-artists’, like the hackers collective Robin Hood, who appropriate the techniques and modes of sociality of financial capitalism to generate spaces of reciprocity and cooperation with the aim of disrupting their commodity logic, but who in fact end up reproducing it. The tension between critique and commodification is no less in play as the digital medium erases the specificity of cinema, the relation between its material bases and its poetics, opening up as it does to other relations – intertextual, lateral, and cross-media – that recall the synchronic aesthetics of the avant-garde. As well as disrupting the materiality of the film medium, digital film disrupts the temporality of classical cinema, suspended in-between movement and stillness and experienced in the expanded duration of the time-image.

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16 October 2020Published

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08 Oct 2020 09:40

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04 May 2021 08:53


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