Sonic fictions: Afrofuturistic readings of Piotr Szulkin's The War of the Worlds: Next Century (1981) and Łukasz Barczyk's Unmoved Mover (2008)

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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by:  [] Date:  02 May 2017, At: 23:23 Studies in Eastern European Cinema ISSN: 2040-350X (Print) 2040-3518 (Online) Journal homepage: Sonic fictions: Afrofuturistic readings of PiotrSzulkin's The War of the Worlds: Next Century(1981) and Łukasz Barczyk's Unmoved Mover(2008) Żaneta Jamrozik To cite this article:  Żaneta Jamrozik (2017): Sonic fictions: Afrofuturistic readings of Piotr Szulkin'sThe War of the Worlds: Next Century (1981) and Łukasz Barczyk's Unmoved Mover (2008),Studies in Eastern European Cinema, DOI: 10.1080/2040350X.2017.1316814 To link to this article: Published online: 02 May 2017.Submit your article to this journal View related articles View Crossmark data  Sonic  󿬁 ctions: Afrofuturistic readings of Piotr Szulkin ’ s  TheWar of the Worlds: Next Century   (1981) and  º ukasz Barczyk  ’ s Unmoved Mover   (2008) _ Zaneta Jamrozik  School of Humanities and the Social Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom ABSTRACT Enlightenment and colonialism introduced chronopolitical othering of the colonised as the people remaining in the past, the past of thecolonisers. This thinking remade temporal categories of the past andthe future into spatial ones, presenting some lands as located in thepast in comparison to other, superior ones that represent the futureof the humanity. This de 󿬁 nition of the future and the past is taken upby Afrofuturism and its conception of the future and the past asbeing both spatial and temporal. Afrodiasporic culture emphasisesthe futurism of slavery seen as alien abduction. For Afrofuturists,spaceships already landed and what is perceived as the future isactually the hidden past. From this comes the idea of multi-layeredrather than progressive time and of the future as being alwaysalready present. British Afrofuturism moves away from sci- 󿬁 metaphors of slavery towards focus on on-going colonisation of capitalism. Afrofuturist conception of multi-layered time and internalcolonisation of capitalism is used here to analyse the legacy of Poland ’ s transformation from socialism to capitalism in two Polish 󿬁 lms: Piotr Szulkin ’ s  The War of the Worlds: Next Century   ( Wojna  swiat   ow: Nast  ˛ epne stulecie , 1981) and  º ukasz Barczyk  ’ s  Unmoved Mover   ( Nieruchomy poruszyciel  , 2008). KEYWORDS Afrofuturism; science  󿬁 ction;post-colonialism; KodwoEshun; Piotr Szulkin;  º ukaszBarczyk  Introduction Afrofuturism, Lisa Yaszek writes, is not a subgenre of science  󿬁 ction but a larger aestheticmode (Yaszek  2005, 2). This mode relies on destabilised spatiotemporal realities wherethe relation between the past and the future does not form a straight line but is based onoverlapping. Afrofuturist treatment of time opposes the colonial ideology built onEnlightenment thinking and the perception of the colonised as belated towards the colo-nisers. John Rieder calls this thinking   ‘ the anthropologist ’ s fantasy  ’  and explains that ‘ although we know that these people exist here and now, we also consider them to exist inthe past  –  in fact, to be our own past ’  (Rieder 2008, 32). This anthropologist ’ s fantasy isnot only characteristic for the understanding of the postcolonial countries but alsoappears in the discourse on postsocialist territories of Eastern Europe (Marciniak 2009). Dariusz Sk   orczewski describes it as  ‘ latent orientalism in the approach of  CONTACT  _ Zaneta Jamrozik © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group STUDIES IN EASTERN EUROPEAN CINEMA, 2017  Western humanities towards history and cultures of nations and ethnic groups betweenGermany and Russia ’  (Sk   orczewski 2009, 95). Afrofuturism subverts the condemning of the colonised to the past, arguing for the understanding of time as multilayered andspatial rather than linear and abstract. This conception of time corresponds to HenriLefebvre ’ s formulation of space  –  as a site that embraces the mental and cultural, andwhich is considered to be simultaneously imaginary and real (Lefebvre 1991).Both Lefebvre in  Rhythmanalysis  (2004) and Kodwo Eshun in  More Brilliant Than theSun  (1998) project an understanding of space as vibratory and evolving, rather thanperspectival or  󿬁 xed. Afrofuturism as sonic futurism In  More Brilliant Than the Sun  Eshun stresses the importance of sound in Afrofuturismby calling it  ‘ sonic futurism ’  that creates  ‘ sonic  󿬁 ctions ’  and  ‘ audio abductions ’  (Eshun1998, 00[-001]). Sound as described by Eshun and Steve Goodman in  Sonic Warfare  isunderstood as an affect that reaches the whole body, not only the sense of hearing. Refer-ring to the theory of affect developed by Massumi (2002), Goodman writes about Black music as a  ‘ a sonic weapon in a postcolonial war with Eurocentric culture over the vibra-tional body and its power to affect ’  (Goodman 2009, 2). According to both Eshun andGoodman the experience of sound can change our understanding of space and time by creating the feeling of abduction from the present. This  ‘ audio abduction ’  changes the per-ception of the present and gives us the feeling of entering a science- 󿬁 ctional world wherethe spaceships have already landed, alien abduction as slavery has happened and capital-ism hides it by using the idea of history as progress towards a better future. According toAfrofuturists sound can make people conscious of the science- 󿬁 ctional world of capital-ism and at the same time  ‘ to feel at home in alienation ’  (Eshun 2003, 296).The sound in the two chosen Polish  󿬁 lms: Piotr Szulkin ’ s  The War of the Worlds: Next Century   ( Wojna  swiat   ow: Nast  ˛ epne stulecie , 1981) and  º ukasz Barczyk  ’ s  Unmoved Mover  ( Nieruchomy poruszyciel  , 2008) does not refer to speci 󿬁 c events from the past, rather ithaunts  󿬁 lmic worlds with memories or dreams that cannot be fully verbalised. KatarzynaMarciniak refers to postsocialist Poland ’ s nationality as  ‘ spectral ’ , arguing that  ‘ socialism,although of  󿬁 cially dead, continues to haunt the nation ’  (Marciniak  2009, 173). Haunting sounds of unknown sources and the emphasis put on bodily sounds in both  󿬁 lms let usexperience these worlds as living spaces co-created by living and breathing bodies insidethem. Protagonists of both  󿬁 lms are haunted by sounds coming from unknown sourcesand try to hide from them inside their homes only to  󿬁 nd out that, as Michel Chionargues, one cannot close one ’ s ears as easily as one ’ s eyes (Chion 1994, 83).Iron Idem (Roman Wilhelmi) in Szulkin ’ s  󿬁 lm tries to separate himself and his wife(Krystyna Janda) from the overwhelming noise and cluttered streets of futuristic, dystopicPoland by staying in his immaculate, purist, white apartment  󿬁 lled with relaxing classicalmusic. In Barczyk  ’ s  󿬁 lm the main heroine, Teresa (Marieta  _ Zukowska) cannot  󿬁 nd respitefrom disturbing sounds as even inside the cocoon of her  󿬂 at she is shown being woken inthe middle of the night by a phone call from her abusive husband, who subsequently materialises next to her as a half-human, half-ghostly presence. The man ’ s voice appearsas an echo with a signi 󿬁 cant reverb that adds a strange spatial depth to a tiny-looking bed-room as well as an eerie quality to the whole situation.  ‘ As soon as you have echo, listening  2  _ Z. JAMROZIK   has to completely change ’ , writes Eshun.  ‘ Instead of the beat being this one event in time,it becomes this series of retreating echoes, like a tail of sound ’  (Eshun 1998, 04[064]). Theechoing voice of Teresa ’ s husband on the phone makes us wonder whether the scenedepicts a singular event (as we only see it happening once) or a series of events (as wehear it multiplied by the echo and spatialised by the reverb) in which case the woman isharassed and haunted by her husband ’ s voice repeatedly. The sound in the scene goesagainst the image in its singularity and becomes detached from the visuals showing thesituation as a single event. Finally, the ghostly sound and appearance of Teresa ’ s husbandin the scene suggest that she might not be harassed by her husband physically but still ishaunted by equally real memories of him. ‘ Sound has become detached from sources, effects are arriving before objects ’ , writesEshun, describing the soundscape of modernity (Eshun 1997). For Afrofuturists, music issupposed to convey the sensation of modern living as living in a state of permanentchange where events happen too fast to get proper representation and place in historicalarchives.  ‘ How can I be sure/In a world that ’ s constantly changing? ’  can be heard onTricky  ’ s  ‘ Aftermath ’  track from his  ‘ Maxinquaye ’  album. Tricky  ’ s music praised by Eshunfor relying on haunting atmosphere that allow the listener to  ‘ hear an ambience ’  and  ‘ feelgetting abducted by it ’  (Eshun 1998, A [180]) is  󿬁 lled with sounds like laughing and grunt-ing that replace the traditional lyrics.  ‘ Maxinquaye ’  is haunted by repetitions of un 󿬁 nishedphrases, barely audible sentences, sounds of lighting a cigarette, distant laughs or cries thataltogether convey the atmosphere of a world too chaotic to be grasped even for a momentas something else than these sonic fragments.Afrofuturist exploration of a world as a haunted soundscape in which the linearity of the timespace and the idea of history as progress are questioned by the future coming back to haunt people as their past dreams is characteristic also for  The War of the Worlds and  Unmoved Mover  . Film image has dif  󿬁 culty presenting something that did not happenlike socialist and capitalist dreams that remained unful 󿬁 lled or became distorted. Sound,according to Afrofuturism, can let us experience reality as a mix of something that hap-pened and something that might have happened but remained only an imagination of thefuture.  ‘ Sound ’ , argues Eshun,  ‘ doesn ’ t need any discourse of representation, it doesn ’ tneed the idea of discourse or the signi 󿬁 er: you can use sound as an immediate materialintensity that grabs you ’  (Eshun 1998, 00[-009]). This understanding of the future as thesensation distinguishes Afrofuturism from Hollywood hi-tech science- 󿬁 ction  󿬁 lms withtheir focus on image, special effects and CGI. ‘ The future is not an idea, but a sensation ’ , Sadie Plant and Nick Land argue in theiressay on cyberculture and Afrofuturism (Land and Plant 1994). They understand thefuture as a sensation that can move freely within the present similarly to a sound travelling through space. This de 󿬁 nition of the future subverts the classic de 󿬁 nition of Darko Suvin,who de 󿬁 nes sci  󿬁  as a  ‘ literary genre or verbal construct … whose main device is an imagi-native framework alternative to the author ’ s empirical environment ’  (Suvin 1988, 37).Understood in this way sci  󿬁  amazes mostly cognitively, leaving the senses untouched.Opposing this view, the Afrofuturist perspective considers futuristic worlds not separatefrom our own present but overlapping and distorting it. Afrofuturists compare theirunderstanding of the future as infecting the present to the way in which music and soundinfect space creating its atmosphere. They refer to Jacques Attali who states that  ‘ music isprophecy  ’  as it  ‘ makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible ’ STUDIES IN EASTERN EUROPEAN CINEMA 3  (1985, 11). The networked worlds, the overlapping of physical space and the imaginationsof thereof, can be tracked through distortions in the narration caused by uncanny soundsand audial infections that Attali calls  ‘ the transcendation of the everyday  ’  (1985, 11). Asimilar understanding of the past circulating as a dream of the future in the present I  󿬁 ndin both Polish  󿬁 lms tackling the legacy of Polish transformation from communism tocapitalism.I place Szulkin ’ s  The War of the Worlds  and Barczyk  ’ s  Unmoved Mover   within the con-text of Afrofuturist science  󿬁 ction understood as sonic  󿬁 ction that infects the presentrather than offers alternative social realities. The science- 󿬁 ctional use of sound engaged tofocus on Poland ’ s uncanny everydayness is what both  󿬁 lms have in common. By linking Barczyk  ’ s  󿬁 lm, disliked by Polish  󿬁 lm criticism and described as a thriller, with Szulkin ’ swork, praised and easily   󿬁 tting into a stereotypical sci- 󿬁  schema of alien abduction, I urgefor more audial and less ocularcentric understanding of science  󿬁 ction in general. Com-paring   The War of the Worlds  produced during the last decade of communism and Unmoved Mover   premiered at the end of the second decade of capitalism in Poland, Ishow how they engage sound to create an atmosphere of the uncanny, a science- 󿬁 ctionalworld where the present, the past and the future intermingle as/through sounds. The sci-ence- 󿬁 ctional worlds in both  󿬁 lms do not depict Poland ’ s imaginary future or the past butshow the present as being already altered and science  󿬁 ctionalised by Poland ’ s dreams of the future, yearnings for  ‘ the West ’  and capitalist splendour. Both Szulkin and Barczyk use sound to create a vision of the future as leaked into the public space and everyday lifeeither through noisy TV propaganda in the former or more discreet sounds altering thespatio-temporality of the everyday spaces in the latter. Retro futurism in Piotr Szulkin ’ s  The War of the Worlds Piotr Szulkin ’ s  The War of the Worlds  is dedicated to H.G. Wells and offers a loose adap-tation of his alien invasion story of the same title (1898) transported into what resembles1980s Warsaw but is furnished with some scarce futuristic features like multiple and noisy TV screens in cafeterias bringing connotations of communist  bary mleczne  (milk bars). By linking spaces from different or even opposite orders, like capitalist and communist, Szul-kin creates a space that is chaotic to the point of becoming schizophrenic. In  Postmodern-ism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism , Frederic Jameson outlined the condition of the twentieth century as schizophrenic. Giving examples of John Cage ’ s music and Andy Warhol ’ s art, Jameson explains the modern schizophrenia as  ‘ the breakdown of the signi-fying chain ’  and  ‘ a series of pure and related presents in time ’  (Jameson 1991, 27). Szul-kin ’ s space merges elements from the communist era of the 1980s when the  󿬁 lm wasproduced with Poland ’ s futuristic dreams about becoming   ‘ the West ’ . However, peopleinhabiting this space seem to be living in a constant present and do not make any histori-cal or political connotations. Guy Debord describes in his  Comments on The Society of theSpectacle  the mass of the population content to be duped by the spectacle (Debord 1990).Similarly Szulkin presents futuristic Poles as a perfect mass to be controlled by TV thattells them what to think about the reality, by the police who disciplines them and by thesignposts that manage their experience of space. At one point, Idem exits the of  󿬁 ce using what seems to be the only available exit but nevertheless the path is marked with multiple ‘ in ’  sings on the left and  ‘ out ’  on the right. The multiplication of signs written in English 4  _ Z. JAMROZIK 
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