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Unfurling the Sails of Time


Changes happen in time. That’s obvious. But how often do we willfully choose to disregard the part about time? We choose instead to accept these most common and contradictory statements: change is inevitable and those unprepared will soon find themselves unmoored in the future. Both statements appear to make sense, that is, until you pose this overlooked question: if change is inevitable, shouldn’t we also assume by the unpredictability of changes that it’s impossible to prepare for them? Granted that there are indeed things we could prepare for. For instance, at the first ominous signs of a storm in the offing, there are viable and sensible options at one’s disposal to brace for something of this nature. Still, we’ll not be any more prepared for the when or how or where the storm will strike. The weathermen would likely show you convincing charts of a prediction, the precipitations, the cyclones, and so on, but at the end of the day they will not bet their lives on the precise minutes or seconds of the actual event. Neither will they be able to know with any certainty the intensity of the strike. We have in this instance erred by the acceptance of the first statement, that which we know, for the assurance of the validity of that which will happen.

Changes are manifested over time. They are always already have been. In other words, they are always retroactively visible. This truism, Change Is Inevitable, has been shown to us as far back as when Heracles first walked into the river and stated, “One never walks into the same river twice.” While this is established knowledge, we often overlook to pursue this other more significant question, one that is indisputably the root of all changes: that is, the question of Chance.

To illustrate Chance, let us go way back to 1932, to a specific place, Hollywood Boulevard, and a specific woman, then unknown to the world, in the person of Muriel Pearson, a.k.a. K’tut Tantri, Surabaya Sue, Vannen, Mrs Manx. A Scottish American woman who, on a wet afternoon, probably at the lackluster stage of her life, happened to stand before the poster of a film, Bali, The Last Paradise, outside a small cinema on Hollywood Boulevard. This instance, out of the many instances of her life, was far and away from any association to an island named Bali. And yet this instance presented itself to her in the shape and form of Bali and the seizure of this instance would totally transform whatever she had been up till that moment. She would take a ‘fat cargo boat’ transatlantic to an island in the Pacific Rim. Upon her arrival there, she would be adopted by a Raja in Bali and became the confidante, and later the lover of the Raja’s son, Prince Anak Agung Ngurah. In 1936, she would build the first of a series of hotels in Kuta Beach and played a significant role as an hotelier in the pre-war tourism industry there. When the Japanese invaded, she was imprisoned and tortured, and later, after her release, she ran blockade-busting missions for the resistance movement, then became Soekarno’s scriptwriter and propagandist against the returning Dutch, earning her the sobriquet Surabaya Sue to the world at large, the Merdeka Mole to the Dutch Intelligence. In 1960, she would write a book, a memoir described as a romance, Revolt in Paradise, and became known internationally. In the ensuing years, she tried unsuccessfully to have her book made into a Hollywood film. An ironical fact that, because had the film been made, she would have returned to where she had started: a Hollywood film.

The pragmatists would perhaps speculate that K’tut Tantri’s life after that eventful encounter with the film, Bali, The Last Paradise, was due to her choice. To the superstitious, it was her fate. To the intentionalists, it was her character. Such speculations based either on the determinisms of the self or those that conjure up the divine for the ineffable are of course not uncommon. But there is more to it than all that put together. There’s something out of the ordinary taking place when she encountered the Hollywood film. Something powerful enough to uproot her from out of a known world, America, into an unknown new world, Bali. From a regular Scottish American, Muriel Pearson, she had turned into an extraordinaire, K’tut Tantri, the Joan of Arc of Indonesia. There’s then in this sense an intra-worldly transmigration, which suggests that there is not just a world, but worlds.

In an event of this nature, there is no going back. The paradigm has shifted. The new has arisen in the rupture. Nothing will remain the same ever again. In any case, this has nothing to do with choices and least of all intentions. Fate is simply a homonym for the failure of description of this nature. A person in the grip of an event brought about by Chance is like a person backed against the wall with no other options than to carry on with whatever that is presented to him or her. A path is opened up. He or she has no knowledge whatsoever of where this newly projected path will lead to. To stay back can only mean to deny the event. To take a step is the only way to fill in on the void opened up by the rupture, so that a name is to be inscribed and a purpose projected. Fidelity to the event, by stepping up courageously to what the event presents, albeit one’s always shrouded in unknowingness, is the only way to ensure that whatever that has happened will not fade away into oblivion.

Throughout the entire ordeal, while K’tut Tantri was in this new world, she had never once thought of abandoning it. She persisted in her fidelity to the event, at considerable risk to her life during the Japanese occupation.

“Instead, she renounced the life of a white person for the second time and took up the hard life of the Indonesian guerillas. She can and does go where she pleases among the Indonesian people, by foot, by car, or by train, in perfect safety, the only white person able to do so. Everywhere she is greeted with smiles and cheers, upraised hands and shouts of Merdeka, low bows and respectful tipping of hats. If night catches her in some remote spot she makes herself comfortable in the native compounds with limited facilities at hand. She’s known, and trusted by the peasant folk, nobles, and officials from one end of Java to the other.” Vern Haugland, “Introduction to K’tut Tantri.

Instead of turning away at the first peril, K’tut Tantri persisted in this world. She reinterpreted the odds at every point she encountered and re-transformed herself to meet these odds. Since her arrival in Bali, she had turned herself into a recognized figure, first through her association with Prince Ngurah of Bangli, later as an hotelier. She was known along with a coterie of artists such as Walter Spies, Le Mayeur, Miguel Covarrubias and Colin McPhee as the fervent promoters of the island to the West. They were most probably responsible for Bali to be discovered as the Lost Eden. It was due to their presences, illustrious guests such as Margaret Mead, Charlie Chaplin and Cole Porter soon came to visit. Unlike her contemporaries, however, who in their separate ways evacuated promptly from the island at the news of the impending Japanese invasion, K’tut Tantri stayed on and got involved in the national resistance movement. Her courageous act manifested more likely out of her faith to the world she had been transplanted in rather than through any other considerations. We see again that at every point of the truth procedure of an event a re-affirming act takes place at a crucial point and in consequence the elevation in the post-evental movement. K’tut Tantri at this juncture turned from a familiar figure in Bali into a widely-known personage throughout the country and beyond.

Chance has thus in an event been subjugated into the banality of daily procedures. While changes are the procedures of banality, slowly visible retroactively by recount, Chance is contingent. There are no discerning patterns by which to decipher its being. There is no way to predict its appearance. A throw of the dice, says the great poet Mallarme, will never abolish Chance. This statement from Mallarme may very well explain why until today we can’t figure out the turns of events since K’tut Tantri’s rise to fame and her eventual dissolution, from her many failures to have her book made into a Hollywood film and her general dismissal from the annals both of Indonesian and world history to record her contributions to Indonesian independence. By all accounts, to this date, she is considered, if anything, a footnote in the island where she had discovered her Utopia and to the rest of Indonesia, a myth.

To understand Chance and the many changes that take place as a result of an event, it’s best perhaps for one not to speculate on the meaning or meanings strung together from the many strands of changes that take place in a life. There is as such no precautionary tale to be constructed from a path taken. What there are, thus plausible to speculate, are the manifestations in consequence of an event. The constructions of every act at every point in the fidelity to an event make themselves visible at first locally and then observable globally. Meanings are construed always retroactively, and usually disproportionately annexed to those who enact the acts of an event. Mallarme has already warned us when he says, Nothing Will Have Happened, but the Place. As such, the many consequences of an event are but the lot allocated by Chance for a person to see it through faithfully to the end. The courage to take one more step in the projection opened up by an event makes these manifestations possible in place. These manifestations, the realized acts constructed from changes, are what make it possible to describe a life. Not from its totality, because to do so, one would inevitably impose one’s autobiographical construct on another’s historiographical life, but through the dissemblances at each point of a life so a new opening is possible to be reconstructed. And thus a life is not fixed invariably in time, but is always congruent with time.

A paradigm shift in this sense can only be understood when one takes into account the role of Chance in an event, by whose sheer force, in fidelity to the newly minted name of the event, an intra-wordly transmigration is possible to take place. Only those with courage, unfazed by the odds presented by the unknown, seized as they are by something totally out of their ken, will the first steps toward a new horizon be paved. We call this rare breed, mavericks, innovators, or game changers. Believe me, they will be just as puzzled and unaware and frustrated as any one of us as the event presents itself. But those whom we will retroactively recognize as such are the ones who take those courageous steps forced upon them.

They are the ones who unfurl the sails of time. We can admire their breakthroughs, but can’t hope to emulate their endeavors. We’re, however, awed and ultimately inspired by their courage.

Anthropology of The Name | Sylvain Lazarus

One of my central categories is that of singularity. One can see immediately the difficulties there are in thinking the singular. Thinking the singular can be understood as de-singularization, as an accession to the general, or, at least, to a case of the general. But it is also possible to think without letting the object of thought establish the thought. It is possible to think against the thesis according to which thought exists only to the extent that its object is established. Saying this does not mean claiming that thought is always without an object, it means locating the question of the object as a particular case of the scientistic approach, and as a specificity of the scientistic mode of intellectuality, and not treating it as an invariant of thought, or of all rational thought.
In scientism, the object is linked to the general, to the establishment of general laws, which are the laws of the real. The order of the real and its laws prescribe the order of thought, and the hypothesis of irreducible singularities appears as antinomic to the universality of the scientistic concepts of the real. In the scientist vision, there is no singularity, there are only cases and types.

The thought of singularity is not a displacement with regards to the scientist thought, but a rupture within the problematic of intellectuality.

From here I include politics within the space of my investigation, because it is an exemplification of the thought of singularity, and because it is characteristic of the tension between the definitional, objectal or scientistic approach, and the process of subjectivation.
Politics is of the order of the subjective. This thesis is opposed to the objectal (objectales) doctrines which connect the analysis of politics to that of institutions such as the party, or structures such as the State, and which thus make of politics a social invariant convenient to an analysis of power. For me, politics is a thought. This is what establishes its sequential character, and which allows for this hypothesis, without reducing politics to the State, to the economy, to history, or without the fact that politics might be of the domain of repetition, or the structure. The opposition between object and thought in what concerns politics implicates the debate which opposes singularity to universalistic objectivism. If politics is a thought, it is of the order of the singular and it is an exemplification of singularity. There is no politics in general, there are only singular political sequences. Politics is not a permanent instance of societies, it is rare and sequential: it is given in historical modes. The mode, which is a relation of a politics to its thought, characterizes the lacunary existence of politics and allows an apprehension of politics via its thought. But the sequential and the non-objectal go together. The analysis of politics is thus exemplary of the tension between an objectal approach and an approach in terms of subjectivity, in that the importance of subjectivity, in terms of the identification of politics as thought, is opposed to the objectality, which leads to a marginalisation of the thought of politics. If the existence of politics is considered as an invariant, then politics does not arise out of what we here call the political, it does not arise out of thought … We should understand that the mode is a thought in that it expresses a singularity of the thought of politics, in that it unfolds a singular political thought. Politics in its singularity, that is, in its sequential dimension, does not coincide with the structural permanence of objects such as the State and classes. Politics as thought is not objectal.
A historical mode of politics is thus a singularity as it is given as a relation between politics and its thought. How to identify it? A mode begins and ends. It marks the sequence of existence of politics. The labor of identification of the mode proceeds through the delimitation of the sequence and through the determination of its duration. The question of determining the duration is itself a complex question which calls for an intervention of the category of the places of politics. In effect, each historical mode of politics displays its particular places, and therefore the disappearance of the place signifies the end of the sequence of the mode.

Music for the Dysmelodiac

Dysmelodia is a term used to describe the lack of relative pitch: it is a symptom of tone deafness. Those who suffer from dysmelodia can be genetically influenced or caused by damage in the brain. I am convinced that I am neither of these cases. I come from a family that is preternaturally musical. My fourth and youngest uncle was the neighborhood flutist. On clear moonlit nights, he would go up to the rooftop in the three-story house in Tebing Tinggi and sat on the ledge and played his flute. His beautiful and sensitively rendered Chinese compositions were the welcome lullabies in the neighborhood. My father played the Erhu, the Chinese two-stringed instrument, well enough to be invited to play in a traditional Chinese quartet. From Erhu, he then learned and mastered the clarinet. Its slim and finely tuned shape snugly wrapped in the silky impression inside the case fascinated me tremendously. The clarinet bespoke for me the fluidity of music so eloquently inscribed in form.

My children, all three of them, invariably display their ability to play a musical instrument: all three of them play the piano, the second son also plays the classical guitar exquisitely and the youngest, still finding her way, enjoys playing the violin. I wouldn’t vouch for the possibility of a musical genius in the family, but from what I’ve gathered so far, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to say that there is a musical lineage in this family.

I love all kinds of music, from the sappiest melodies to the classical, but just for the record I must admit that I am musically handicapped. I should perhaps consider myself lucky to be equipped with a taste for music. I can easily spot a great piece of composition or a melody, and yet those who go to karaoke lounges with me will tell you I’m a hopeless case when it comes to the pitch. I can definitely carry a tune, but boy how I ram through the pitches like a reckless driver in an orderly-proceeding traffic. I understand that this is paradoxical: how can a person who claims to be able to spot a good musical composition miss the pitches all the time?

I once learned to play the guitar when I was in my adolescence. I found squeezing my fingers against the strings to get the perfect Ds and Gs too excruciatingly painful, and also rather entrapping for a creative mind. You are allowed to laugh out loud on this, as I would right now. I had the misleading concept at that age that one could just strum the guitar and figure out a way to make a harmonious or dissonant musical piece. Had I been tutored by a musician of that mindset, I suspect I would have successfully gone on to master the instrument. I couldn’t connect then the thought that one has to learn the alphabets before one can compose sentences with the necessity of getting those chords right.

As consequence of this lack of education in music, as with my adolescent disregard for the mathematics and the sciences, I find myself continuously piqued with curiosity by music. I read avidly anything to do with music: development of musical compositions from monophonic to polyphonic, from the classical to the atonal to the intermittent silences of John Cage’s chance music. The only thing that comes out of this persistent pursuit is that I can safely say today I can carry an erudite conversation with a composer. I could even venture into a discourse about the inevitable reduction of compositions to the music of the spheres: as modern composers plod further away from atonal music, they will likely end up trying to reach the music of the universe. Thus, it is impossible to apply a singular theory whatsoever on a composer’s work: the umbilical cord has been irretrievably severed from any known musical structure. From Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective, I therefore learned to appreciate not the musical lineage but its disparate singularities.

I would however err to the point of self-delusion if I were to admit that I could capture the essence of music. I can only present a hypothetical surmise that my connection to music is through language. The closest that language can get to music are through its assimilation of meter and aspiration to inscribe the fleeting immanence onto a composed line. Both poetry and music seem to move in the same direction. A poet attempts to use her language to soar toward the ineffable. When the ineffable has been rendered into a poem, it reverts back to the tribe of language: thus the ineffable again eludes capture. In almost the same movement, a composer utilizes a musical notation to capture what cannot be described into a musical entity.

The difference, however, is in the medium. Language is naturally incomparable to music because music is more spherical than language. A single Do or Re instantly evokes the ineffable in solid sounds, whereas language requires a whole syntax or even syntaxes in order to do the job. Therefore, those who attempt to get at music through language will invariably be faced with despair. Language lacks the spontaneity of sound; language is decipherable whereas music is instantaneous and ungraspable. Painters, through the medium of its colors, are more equipped to do this job than a poet. We must concede superiority to painters and musicians when it comes to spontaneity of their medium.

Having made this distinction clear to myself, I am now tickled pink with the grand idea of playing the double bass. The elegance of its shape, like an opulently elegant lady, enfolded in my bosom, I will grind away with Yo-yo Ma on the CD player in the background. There’s the advantage of a late bloomer: you pick up where others have given up.

This article was published by Now Jakarta, March 2009.

Ritus dan Waktu

Ritus adalah sebuah pengitaran di dalam reruntuhan berlingkarnya Borges. Ia seperti sang penyihir di dalam reruntuhan berlingkar itu yang bermimpi membangkitkan seorang pemuda ideal dari mimpinya. Setelah mewujudkan seorang pemuda perkasa dari mimpi itu, sang penyihir mengirimnya ke sebuah reruntuhan berlingkar di belahan selatan. Pada kentongan tengah malam, sang penyihir terjaga dari mimpi dan sadar bahwa walaupun ia bisa melahirkan seseorang dari mimpi, ia sebenarnya tidak luput dari impian orang lain.

Sejak zaman Homer, ritus pengorbanan sakral, dari penyembahan seorang putri tercinta hingga hewan-hewan, diberlakukan untuk meredakan amarah atau sebagai persembahan untuk sebuah doa. Agammenon menyembahkan putrinya kepada Poseidon agar flotila perangnya melintas samudera dengan aman untuk menggempur Troya. Ritus pengabenan di Bali ataupun Rambu Solo di Toraja menyembahkan berekor-ekor babi dan kerbau untuk memuluskan penyeberangan ruh. Arca, kuil, altar dan piramida dibangun untuk memeringati mereka yang telah berpulang ataupun menambatkan yang tak tergapai ke dalam sebuah kehidupan keseharian manusia.

Ritus dengan demikian adalah sebuah repetisi dalam sebuah reruntuhan berlingkar. Ia adalah sebuah simulacrum dalam sebuah roda waktu. Adakah ia sebuah upaya manusia untuk mempertahankan sebuah ingatan dari gerusan waktu? Ataukah ia sebuah representasi dibangun untuk menopang kegalauan manusia? Apa pun tujuannya, tampaknya sejak dulu, manusia menolak melihat waktu sebagai sebuah imensitas cair yang tidak merunut secara linear. Manusia, menurut Michel Serres, masih terobsesi dengan kontinuitas dan diskontinuitas waktu dalam satu peninjauan paralel. Padahal waktu bergerak tidak seperti yang kita bayangkan menurut penanda waktu. Ia bisa ditilik dari sebuah pra-posisi (pre-posisi), di antara-antara (inter-face), dari samping (valence), melalui sebuah kuala (confluence) atau fluks (fluxes). Metode perlipatan (folding) seperti ini memungkinkan kita untuk menyandingkan yang lampau bersama dengan yang kini dan memproyeksikan masa depan dari masa lalu dari sebuah superposisi.

Bila waktu bisa begitu luwes, kenapa manusia masih juga merasa perlu sebuah ritus? Ritus bertahan mungkin karena manusia pada umumnya takut melepaskan diri dari tonggak-tonggak waktu. Waktu, seperti bumi pijakan, menuntut sebuah inskripsi, sebuah guratan jejak secara konkret. Di sinilah menurut Michel Serres kesulitan manusia mempertemukan ilmu pengetahuan dengan humanitas. Setiap pintu yang dibuka oleh ilmu pengetahuan belum tentu akan dilalui oleh ilmu kemanusiaan. Dua sudut pandang kehidupan ini sepertinya terhadang oleh sebuah pintu dengan dua perangkat kunci yang berbeda. Ini terjadi karena manusia senantiasa ingin memartisikan waktu dan ruang sedangkan sebuah orientasi pikiran tidak terkurung oleh ruang, terbatasi oleh waktu. Seandainya ilmu pengetahuan tidak memberikan sebuah terobosan secara matematis, maka mitos ataupun puisi bisa dipergunakan untuk menerobos sebuah kebuntuan. Sebuah aparatus kehidupan dengan demikian tidak mesti terpatri pada sebuah displin tertentu yang menyempitkan eksplorasi. Kebuntuan tidak mesti diurai secara tuntas dari kebuhulannya. Yang dikejar dalam setiap penelusuran adalah sebuah jalan keluar yang bercabang terus, seperti mencari bilangan intervallic, Ni, dalam sebuah pencabangan fraktal. Celah-celah akan terkuak dan pergerakan menjadi sebuah kemestian, bukan kemungkinan.

Pendekatan ini mensubyeksikan tubuh dari ‘titik ke titik’ sebuah paparan topologi: tubuh tanpa kepala ini dengan demikian adalah sebuah subyek, sebuah penanda. Pergerakan, atau menurut Badiou, pengambilan langkah demi langkah ini, menjadi lebih penting daripada sebuah metode penyatu yang universal.Untuk konstruk yang membutuhkan pergerakan terus-menerus seperti ini, kita perlu sebuah aparatus mimetics, dalam pengertian Lacan, bukan sebagai replikator, tetapi sebagai sebuah regulator paradigma bergeser. Regulator mimetics ini memungkinkan sebuah penyesuaian terus menerus sehingga kita tidak pernah terhenti pada sebuah kebuntuan.

Sebuah clinamen (celah) terkuak dari setiap kebuhulan. Jalan keluar dari reruntuhan berlingkar tidak mesti ditilik dari depan, mengejar terus sesuatu yang inovatif, tetapi ia bisa diolah dari apa yang terbenam, tertinggal di belakang. Apa yang terkubur, tak terpakaikan tidak lantas berarti ia telah usang atau kadarluasa. Bisa saja ia telah hadir mendahului masanya.

Di dunia seperti ini, moralitas tidak lagi subjektif tapi terobjektifikasikan pada topologi. Yang individu dan pribadi menjadi tidak penting, tetapi sebuah kebersamaan terkonsolidasi dalam sebuah dunia obyektif yang menjadi beban tanggung jawab kita bersama: ia menjadi sebuah kemestian, bukan lagi sebuah kemungkinan. Namun, lingkaran reruntuhan berhenti saat sang penyihir sadar bahwa dirinya adalah impian orang lain jua. Kesadaran ini membebaskannya dari mimpi berulang dalam reruntuhan itu. Kesadaran ini merupakan sebuah langkah awal sebuah orientasi baru. Kesadaran ini sekaligus melepaskan sang penyihir dari kutukan ritus dan waktu. Karena sebuah ceruk telah terbuka. Sebuah eksplorasi baru melambaikan tangannya.

Diterbitkan di Jurnal Bhinneka, 2011.

Aku Suka, Dia Tidak: Sebuah Titik Berangkat Apresiasi Film

Empat sutradara duduk di satu sudut kafe tak jauh dari sebuah bioskop. Mereka baru selesai menonton film Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan. Di saat mereka mulai menjelaskan kenapa mereka suka/tidak suka film itu, kita menguping percakapan mereka.

Sutradara 1: Beda sekali besutan Aronofsky ini. Jauh berbeda dengan karya-karya sebelumnya. Realis dan kelam. Di film-film sebelumnya selalu ada secercah harapan, sebuah tujuan akhir yang seakan digapai oleh karakter-karakternya, seperti di The Fountain dan Requiem for A Dream.

Sutradara 2: Dari karya-karyanya justru The Wrestler yang berbeda. Mungkin satu-satunya film Aronofsky yang tanpa tedeng-aling. Tanpa ada yang muluk-muluk tentang harapan dsb. Black Swan, saya kira masih masuk dalam kelompok film sebelumnya seperti Pi, Requiem for A Dream dan The Fountain. Tapi aku suka sekali film ini. Aronofsky, menurut aku, berhasil menangkap mood sebuah dunia yang tercerabut itu.

Sutradara 3: Sama sekali tak suka film ini. Di genre drama suspense seperti ini, saya kira Aronofsky tidak berhasil membuat sebuah terobosan yang dahsyat. Apa hebatnya kalau dibanding dengan Psycho atau besutan Roman Polanski… film apa itu…Rosemary’s Baby. Atau lebih spesifik soal split-personality, dibanding dengan film Sybil. Kalau mau bicara ending yang bikin histeris, The Crying Game baru dahysat. Film ini endingnya ya biasalah. Hollywood. Yang jahat menang. Tapi yang baik tidak juga kalah karena mengalah.

Sutradara 4: Saya kira, kita bisa menyukai sebuah film tanpa harus menjustifikasinya secara keseluruhan. Terlebih kalau kita berbicara tentang film genre. Pasti ada sesuatu yang bisa kita petik dari sebuah film. Baik yang menyenangkan ataupun yang membuat kita kesal. Jadi tergantung apa yang ingin kita ambil dari film itu.

Empat sutradara. Masing-masing telah memberikan alasan masing-masing tentang sebuah film yang mereka baru tonton. Apakah komentar Sutradara 4 menjadi sebuah acuan bagi kita untuk mengapresiasi sebuah film? Kalau demikian, Sutradara 4 tidak beda dengan Sutrada 1 dan 2. Karena baik Sutradara 1 dan 2, masing-masing mengambil sesuatu dari besutan Aronofski untuk menjadi pijakan kesukaan mereka, yakni teknik pengarahan atau aspek-aspek tertentu dari karyanya. Sutradara 3 agak berbeda, ia membandingkan Black Swan dengan film-film lain untuk mendapat sebuah tolok ukur tafsiran. Sutradara 3 boleh kita sebut sebagai seorang penafsir yang lebih objektif. Karena ia menarik diri dari pengaruh karya Aronofski dan dari sebuah posisi berjarak menilai karyanya. Bila kita menolak metode Sutradara 1, 2 dan 4 sebagai sebuah pendekatan relatifis, bisakah kita pergunakan metode Sutradara 3 sebagai sebuah strategi untuk mengapresiasi sebuah film? Saya kira, pasti banyak yang beranggapan bahwa tentu saja bisa, terutama kalau kita berbicara tentang sebuah film bergenre. Namun tulisan kecil ini akan mencoba menjelaskan kenapa metode ini mustahil bisa dipergunakan dalam sebuah apresiasi yang sejati untuk sebuah karya film. Bila kita tidak bisa mengapresiasi sebuah film dari keping-kepingnya (karena cara demikian seperti yang disebut oleh Alain Badiou sebagai sebuah penilaian diacritic, terjerat dalam kerangka karya itu sendiri) dan juga tidak bisa mengkonstitusikan sebuah tafsiran lewat studi banding di kategorinya ataupun dengan memilah-milah setiap aspek film, kemanakah kita harus membidik untuk mendapatkan sebuah supraposisi?

Film disebut Alain Badiou sebagai sebuah seni yang tidak murni. Film baginya terkonstitusi lewat subtraksi dari berbagai seni lainnya: musik, bahasa dan imaji. Oleh karena itu, gerakan dalam sebuah film berfungsi untuk membersihkan impuritas dalam dirinya, yakni lewat penyuntingan, pengambilan gambar berulang dan pemaduan suara. Pembersihan ini, atau subtraksi ini, membuka ruang bagi sebuah Ide untuk melintasinya. Keberhasilan sebuah film bagi Badiou adalah ketika pembersihan itu berhasil menguak sebuah Ide yang begitu memikat sehingga sebagai penonton kita hanyut dalam sebuah alam nostalgia. Oleh karena itu, Badiou menyebut film sebagai sebuah medium yang selalu sudah berlalu. Nostalgia itu tidak berada dalam tubuh film, tidak juga dalam setiap frame, tapi dari sebuah subtraksi gerakan palsu, yang mengantar kita ke sebuah tempat jauh dari tempat menonton.

Impuritas yang ditafsir oleh Badiou dipertegas oleh Jacques Ranciere sebagai sebuah kebuntuan antara yang terlihat dan yang terkatakan. Baik yang terlihat maupun yang terkatakan bagi Ranciere masing-masing punya keterbatasan. Sebuah imaji yang kuat bisa begitu mendominasi sehingga ia membungkam semua kata yang mencoba mengungkapnya. Sebaliknya narasi terkait satu dengan lain membelenggunya dalam sebuah logika spatio-temporal yang tidak memungkinnya bebas bersentuhan dengan kesejatian yang terlihat.

Setiap kali seorang aktor mengucapkan sesuatu, kata-katanya tidak serta merta menyatu dengan apa yang ada di ruang terlihat, tetapi selalu mengejar pemaparan yang terlihat. Walau demikian, Ranciere menyatakan bahwa film paling dekat dengan sebuah novel. Kenapa ia mengatakan ini? Dari sudut yang agak berbeda, namun intinya hampir sama seperti Badiou dan teori subtraksinya, Ranciere memositkan bahwa makna dalam sebuah film terkuak justru lewat sebuah operasi imanen dalam kebuntuan-kebuntuan ini. Bila sebuah novel lewat bahasa bisa mengungkapkan apa yang tak terlihat menjadi terlihat, maka film menguak sebuah makna lewat sebuah titik kebuntuan dalam ketakterkatakan dari yang terlihat dan yang terkatakan. Intinya, dengan membidik sebuah kamera pada sebuah objek dan lewat sebuah operasi imanen beranjak dari situasi itu memaksakan sebuah makna terkuak dari kebisuan. Atau lewat sebuah dialog yang terucap menghadirkan alteritas dari yang terlihat.

Lewat paparan di atas, kita bisa lantas menyimpulkan bahwa sebuah film terkonstitusi bukan lewat sebuah struktur narasi ataupun kolase visual, tapi lewat sebuah operasi yang beranjak dari sebuah kebuntuan antara bahasa dan imaji. Atau istilah Badiou, lewat sebuah gerakan palsu, sebuah subtraksi. Di lokus kebuntuan inilah sebuah posibilitas tercipta. Walaupun setiap karya film dalam bentuk jadinya bisa dikategorikan atau berelasi dengan karya-karya lain dalam sebuah keluarga arche, ia tidak bisa ‘dipisahkan’ dari dirinya sendiri. Ia hanya ‘terpisahkan’ dari dirinya lewat subtraksi penonton yang bisa menguakkan operasi-operasi imanen di dalamnya. Oleh karena itu, sebuah film lebih tepat disebut sebagai sebuah perbedaan beresonasi daripada sebuah keutuhan per unit.

Keterkaitannya dengan film-film lain hanya sebatas referensi, sama sekali tak berhubungan dengan konstruk dirinya. Dirinya seperti sebuah pernyataan verbal dalam formasi diskursif Michel Foucault. ‘Ia sendirinya bukan sebuah unit, tapi sebuah fungsi yang melintasi domain berbagai struktur dan unitas-unitas yang mungkin, dan yang menguakkan mereka, dengan muatan konkret, dalam waktu dan ruang.’

Badiou menyebut bahwa ada tiga metode menilai sebuah film. Satu, menilai film secara suka dan tidak suka, seperti menafsir cuaca. Ini dianggapnya sebuah penilaian tidak jelas (indistinct judgement). Dua, lewat metode penilaian diacritic (penilaian kritis memilah setiap aspek film dari narasi, penokohan hingga musik) Tiga, penilaian aksiomatis. Yang pertama baginya sebuah penilaian relatifis, karena tidak melekatkan sang pencipta pada lencananya (emblem). Sedangkan penilaian diacritic tidak membawa sebuah nilai berarti karena berkisar dalam jeratan sirkular film (teknik, tema narasi, penokohan dll), bukan kesejatiannya. Pilihan ketiga, sebagai penawarannya, adalah sebuah komiten yang tidak peduli pada penilaian tapi lebih pada efek-efek dari dampak pikiran sebuah film. Baginya formalitas film itu sendiri hanya direferensi bila ia mengupas modus Ide yang melintas dalam film sampai ke sentuhannya dan asalinya dalam impuritas. “Konsekwensinya”, aku Badiou, “adalah kemungkinan untuk memikirkan puisi-pikiran yang melintas sebuah Ide – bukan sebagai sebuah pencacahan namun sebuah pemahaman melalui kehilangan.” Dengan demikian sebuah film, menurutnya, bisa diselamatkan dari ‘kelupaan dalam kepuasan”.

Percakapan keempat sutradara di atas adalah sebuah titik berangkat menuju sebuah apresiasi film. Dari rongga kesenjangan percakapan mereka, setiap subtraksi menampilkan sebuah lokus dan setiap seruan sebuah topologi. Ketidakserupaan (dissemblance) dan kesenjangan (discrepancy) selalu terbesit dalam sebuah pergelutan seni. Mereka disebut oleh Lacan sebagai ‘penanda-penanda ganjil’ dalam tubuh jouissance. Keberadaan jejak-jejak ini memungkinkan sebuah perhitungan satu per satu bisa dilakukan kembali di persimpangan kebuntuan yang tak terhingga.

Tulisan ini dimuat di majalah film Moviegoers edisi April 2011