Broken Glass

This text is an older version of a text published in my PhD “Arctificial Territory”, 2015.

Metaphor: Schizophrenia

Invisible Adversaries, (Unsichtbare Gegner). Directed by VALIE EXPORT. 1976. DVD. 112 min. Excerpt from video (2’ 13”):

images-1 Illustration 5: Film still 1, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo VALIE EXPORT

“Schizophrenia is a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour” (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).

In VALIE EXPORT’s Invisible Adversaries, Anna cannot rely on her observations and feelings that are questioned and ignored by various men in her life. Trying to escape these controlling mechanisms from outside – societal norms and men imposing on her – as well as compulsive controlling rituals from within, she ceases to be a self, herself, and cannot comprehend herself as a complex and rich conscious being. She freezes in herself.  She feels and becomes colder and colder. She experiences and breathes arctic cold, arctificiality. “The Hyksos are coming” (Invisible Adversaries, Scene 1), says Anna and looks out of the window, waiting for the appearance of somebody from an other world, an ancient world that lies in her future.  This encompasses the sum of all her experiences and the past of every woman alive or dead. What she actually experiences is a figment of her imagination, inner voices, dissociating her from herself, appearing as one Anna (Susanne Widl) and many versions of Anna. There is the version of Peter’s (Peter Weibel) projection, her own version and accounts of all projections from past and present. Her gaze directed out of the window invites aliens from an ancient past: the Hyksos, who can be seen as the other to herself, the stranger to herself. There is a world of feedback loops in this film: Anna sleeping with herself (an image of herself, a life-size photograph). The images are looped backwards and forwards, to all sides in all directions, into artificial separation of inner and outer existence. The audience can get caught in this loop, if they want to. The audience is caught in this loop, if they want to or not.

images-2 Illustration 6: Film still 2, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo VALIE EXPORT

What is reality and what is imagination? What is virtual and what is actual, imagined reality and actual imagination? This film queries the perception and experience of actual events. Perception and gaze shift and leave a defragmented world, a world in which Anna loses control of her real self (even this is a science fiction narrative) by strangely enough gaining control of an imaginary self that shifts in and out of the dichotomy between real and unreal, normal and not normal, inner and outer world. All of these are inventions that have lost their power and have proven to be narratives that oscillate between concepts of normality, the illusion of precise definitions, the gaze of the other (within ourselves – Kristeva, Nietzsche, Levinas), mirroring (Lacan), projection (psychoanalysis and film), normality and new normalities (schizophrenia).

images-3 Illustration 7: Film still 3, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo VALIE EXPORT

Anna sees her image reflected in the fridge, a spatially quasi-extended, although pasted mirror image. While looking into the mirror, her mirror image acts as if it has a life of its own. Anna notices this but is not puzzled. It is as if she were used to thinking and living, seeing and acting as different personae all the time at the same time. This scene makes me think of OCAL as an extended mirror image of humans, projected into a genderless future without mortality and finity. I am convinced that this idea of no gender is informed by the male gaze, just like in EXPORT’s film, where Anna has become frozen in the imprisonment of the subtle violence and obvious control mechanisms of a male defining her identity as a female. When Anna sits in front of her bed, in a room that seems to be warm enough, but so cold that she has to wrap up in a huge jumper, being arrested in a catatonic pose, she seems to have become part of an artificial space that leads into Arctificial Territory. (Excerpt from my thesis “Arctificial Territory”, 2012). Gudrun Bielz

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