Two Elections -- One Spectacle CODE?
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Last Century (XX) and New Millennium

Film Analysis of the Social



Both, Clinton and Zhirinovsky are men of my generation, the baby-boomers. Time worked for us. It'll work against us.

[ image - Oedipus X ]


Moscow never liked democracy.[1] (No wonder that her rulers are still behind the Kremlin's walls).[2] The communist founding fathers restored tribal symbols of power -- leader, chief, father (Stalin). There was nothing new about their imitation of the imperial Russia. The double meaning of Tsar's figure made into a super-sign. We all knew that the twelve apostles of the Politburo are the ones who run the country. In America were too many to remember (Congress along is over 500 faces, the closest equivalent of the Central Committee, faceless and unknown). American president is only a head of the single branch of power, CEO. Everything about any Soviet leader was unknown (rumored at the best), everything about an American president has to be reported. In pre-1991 Russia the leader was the image itself. (My secretary spent seven years in prison for using a newspaper with Stalin's portrait for a wrapping paper).

Sign: Photo of a leader (not necessary face?)
Signifier: Name (face?)
Signified: Leader

The fact that an American president is elected by a popular direct vote of the country makes him not a ruler (and ruling of the country a difficult trick). Manager? He is supposed to represent not just a power but the power of the people (not to act on his own). He has to be "one of us" (Steve Forbes is not). Does he signifies the position of power (presidency, White House)?

Sign: Image (persona)
Signifier: Presidential Candidate? (Individual?)
Signified concept: The category "President"

Sign itself is dynamic message (process), a combination of many signs, a summary of signs (syntagm). Signifier brings extra signs into the sign.

Since the elections are using video (media) all three established kinds of signs are at play. From a sign to a concept -- the way to read meaning of politics.

Presidency signs:

1. Iconic: "looks presidential" -- image of a president (leader). Resemblance of the signified "who"? An impression (look like) as a sign? Bill Clinton as "president Clinton" -- an individual Mr. Clinton is a material for the icon of "president Clinton" (resistance of the material (private person and public persona in a constant contradiction; we have to know an individual behind the icon (knowing = trust), one of us).

Sound and image: dominant.

2. Symbolic: speech and writing "president." The way they "write" movies. 1992 -- "New" as a theme. 1996 -- "Bridge to the Future."

3. Indexical: sings which are inherently connected to the signified. FDR, Kennedy. Shadows of ancestors.

Politician must be reactive, "flexible" (open minded). Actor has no face, i.e. he must be a man without principles. Opportunist.

Political commercials dressed as information. Information age is a shy admission of dominance of ideology. Democracy can't admit its ideology warfare the way Stalinism denied the existence of political prisoners. By definition (their definition) there were no classes (familiar preposition?) for the very existence of political organized opposition.

Dramatization -- a fictional representation of an actual event -- each commercial has D. build in.

The more a signifier is constrained by the signified, more "motivated" (constraint) the sign is. Iconic is the highest, symbolic is not motivated (learning is required).

Politics are symbols:

Under the communism everything was political. Politics of education, family. Everything had wrong and right side. Symbols are no less real than the objects they symbolize. Symbol is more real than reality itself within the reality of mind. Politics are nothing but a life of symbols.

Why do we use term "image"?

Symbol is too big? To obvious? Takes time to introduce?

Paradigms are classifications of signs.

"Selling the president" -- not ideas but the image must be sold to us.

A paradigm is a set of associated signs which are all members of some defining category, but in which each sign is significantly different.

Four kinds:
1. Synchronic = based on syntagms existing in THE SAME TIME
2. Diachronic = DIFFERENT TIMES
3. Syntopic = SAME SPACE

Marxism treats an individual as a sum of his social functions. As such any presidential candidate has to appear as a man, husband, manager, politician, etc. The president as a sign is a paradigm (set) of such signs. As a political entity we see Clinton synchronic within the limits of the present. Diachronic: his political image in the past (draft, governorship).

I see no other way to "write" (construct) president-as-message besides "30-second-bits" since he is a sign (shot). In many way any extended dialogue with a president contradicts the idea of supreme power (leader has to be not fully know, "the thing-in-itself").

Video nature of current election. Only 7% counts for verbal message. The is 1) body language, and 2) para-lingual.


* Synchronic/synoptic (one place, one time: one shot)
* Diachronic/synoptic (same place sequence over time)
* Synchronic/diatopic (different places at same time)
* Diachronic/diatopic (shots related only by theme)

Presidential paradigms could not be viewed without putting them into sentences. "President" isn't a single sign but a statement.

"Your man" -- friend?
Even a boy-friend?

[ image + hyperlinks ]


"President" is a narrative, a story, a plot.

We know Clinton's problems: no continuity (situationalist, populist). They are of syntagmatic nature.

A syntagm is an orderly combination of interacting signs which forms a meaningful whole (sometimes called a 'chain').

What is the order?

In 1996 we vote "generationally," baby-boomers in Russia and America, we re-elect Clinton and Yeltsin, as "our men." The president today represent (representative democracy) our weakness, value, style of living. He is our story which we make into history.

Character must manifest the story.

Story -- Plot: The sequence of events in a play, differs from the "story," which encompasses earlier events (multi-plot stories). NARRATIVE -- The recounting of two or more events (or a situation and an event) that are logically connected, occur over time, and are linked by a consistent subject into a whole.

[ image-hyperlinks ]


Denotation (what a sign stands for): before entering the game any person has to become a sign ("Bob Dole"). Character issue? Personal has to be objectivized.

Connotation (its cultural associations)

In conventional semiotic terms, connotation uses the first sign (signifier and signified) as its signifier and attaches to it an additional signified. Connotations 'derive not from the sign itself, but from the way the society uses and values both the signifier and the signified' (Fiske & Hartley 1978: 41).

Connotation involves emotional overtones, subjective interpretation, socio-cultural values and ideological assumptions. Trust, power, confidence, intelligence, etc. All abstract categories? Power of Emotions and Impressions.

[ image ]


The visual language works metaphorically (Metaphor expresses the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar).


Metonymy involves the invocation of an idea or object through the use of an associated detail.

How to visualize the national depth? (and why should we want to do it?)

[ image ]


Texts also draw on codes deriving from the culture in which the text is produced. Rejecting Metz's framework as underplaying cultural factors, Umberto Eco offered ten fundamental codes as instrumental in shaping images: codes of perception, codes of transmission, codes of recognition, tonal codes, iconic codes, iconographic codes, codes of taste and sensibility, rhetorical codes, stylistic codes and codes of the unconscious (Lapsley & Westlake 1988: 44; Eco 1982: 35-8). In his book S/Z (1974), Roland Barthes itemized five codes utilized in reading:
hermeneutic (narrative turning-points); proairetic (basic narrative actions); cultural (prior social knowledge); semic (medium-related codes) and symbolic (themes). (Daniel Chandler HP)

American preferred reading. American code: "Like Us."

Digital identification. Numbers instead of forms. Bars in place of faces and finger tips.

[ links to film and theatre semio pages ]


"The mirror in the case of the actor is the audience." Piscator[3]

Texts are always contextual. Obviously, a media text exists in relation to others. In fact, texts owe more to other texts than to their own makers. A politician can't function without opponents.

Links -- "linkaging." A political method incorporated from the semiotics. The Montage Principle: we place any unrelated fragment to ditract from an issue, we want to avoid. It's a matter of shots and cuts. As long as we can produce the sense of continuety in the spectator's mind. Since my mind is the space of projection for the screen event, I have no time to evaluate, to step back and think, I am the main MATERIAL of performance.

"....the audience is fifty percent of the performance." -- Shirley Booth.

The Brecht's Epic Theatre and the Meyerhold's step outside of the Realism should be seen as preporation for camera (media, the magic mirror). Both emphisized the political (propaganda) aspect of performance. After the introduction of tv-camera (an illusion of instant translation) the Naturalism is restored as a style. The theatricality is fully absorbed by the multi-camera-editing. The technique became invisible. We percieve a screen event as "real" -- we think that we witness the non-staged reality. The dominance of Realism (film culture) is possible only because of the complexity of technologies hidden behind the screen.

Verisimilitude refers to the extent to which the drama appears to copy the offstage reality.


Actor = a performer who developed in himself "the art of inner and outer mimicry and incarnation." (Richard Boleslavsky).

Apparatus -- The system of mechanism (physical and psychological) which inform the work being undertaken (Foucault's Panopticon).

Connotation -- sign's cultural associations, the expressive/evaluative meaning.

Deconstruction -- Calling attention to the figurative and constructive gestures of text. Deconstruction breaks apart binaries to recognize the contradictory logics that maintain binary oppositions. By breaking apart binaries (Man/Woman, Black/White) one can disrupt the priority that inevitably surrounds one side of the binary.

Denaturalization -- The scrutinizing of social and artistic productions in order to discern the cultural and ideological codes operative within them.

Denotation -- The proper or literal meaning of a word (sign) (Roland Barthes). Denotation -- objective, conceptual meaning.

Desire -- The symbolic circulation of unconscious wishes through signs bound to our earliest forms of infantile satisfaction.

Diegesis -- The world of what is told and reported directly to the audience and subject. The sequence of events constructed by the translator of the text.

Difference -- According to Derrida, "the systematic play of differences, of traces of differences of the spacing by which elements relate to one another. This spacing is the production, simultaneously active and passive, of intervals without which the full terms could not signify. could not function. Differance combines the English verbs, "to differ" and "to defer."

Discourse -- The set of elements that reveal the apparatus, ideology, and the materiality of image production. Points to parts of text which are critical, evaluative and questioning. As opposed to story, which focuses on flow, continuity and naming.

Ego -- the spectator's acting space.

Ellipsis -- typically used as a film term. Ellipsis refers to time passing in the story while no time elapses in the discourse.

Equivocation -- Used in conjunction with Hermeneutic Code as a mode of mingling the narrative. Equivocation problematizes the relation between the truth and the deliberate envasion of the truth. It thus focuses attention on the confusion, thus serving to redouble the confoundment of the story.

Fantasmatic -- A term used by Freud and Lacan to suggest a hallucination. To use Freud's example, a child has a fantasmatic relationship to milk, for the child yearns for the sexual and biological fulfillment of suckling from the mother's breast. When crying for milk, the child is crying for more than just hunger.

Hermeneutic Code -- The code of mechanisms along which a story can be problematized and solved. A text employs hermeneutic code when it poses questions, studies its discourse, or contains opaque decisions which need to be solved logically.

Fetishism -- The investment in a commodity of worth beyond its use-value.

Identification -- abilities to replace my ego with the life of character. Overcoming the Mirror Phase -- The period in a child's life when they are gaining their identity. The child looks into the mirror for the first time and sees herself as whole, much like the complete people she sees around her. This wholeness forms the foundation for an [1]ego and an identity.

Ideology -- method of organizing history (social environment). According to Barthes, Ideology is a secondary system of connotations which is built over a system of denotations.

Interpellation -- According to Althusser, [1]ideology works through interpellation. Interpellation is the social practices and structures which hail individuals so as to endow them with social identity constituting them as subjects who unthinkingly accept their role within the system of production relations.

Logocentrism -- The tradition which assigns the origins of truth to the logos -- whether the spoken self-present word, or the voice of rationality, or God -- as reflective of an internally coherent and originally truth.

The "Other" -- According to Terry Eagleton, the "other" is that which like language is always interior to us and will always escape us, that which brought us into being, as subjects in the first place but which always outruns our grasp... We desire that what others -- our parents, for instance -- unconsciously desire for us; and desire can only happen because we are caught up in linguistic, sexual and social relations -- the whole field of the "Other" which generate it.

Performance -- "Not I, not not-I": A condition of double negativity that characterizes the state of actor's self in relation to the role the actor plays. The performance event is the embodiment or enactment of the text--usually a collaborative endeavor involving one or more performers, text, audience, context.

Persona -- from the Latin for "mask." The psychological image of the character that is created, especially in relationship to other levels of reality. Personality instead of individuality.

Post-Modernism -- Post-modernism can be defined as the rejection of the modernist -project of critique by simply tinkering with structures. Post modernism negates totalization , teleology, and the faith in a utopian solution.

Post-Structuralism -- A movement towards a mode of enquiry which critiques the fundamental structures which form the foundation of art and analysis. A radical skepticism about the possibility of constructing a meta-language which might position, stabilize or explain all of the other discourses, since the signs of the meta-language are themselves subject to slippage an indeterminacy.

Semiology -- shows what constitutes signs, what laws govern them.

Semiotics -- the science of signs.

Sign -- In Semiology, the basic unit of signification composed of the signifier (which carries the meaning) and the signified (which is the concept or thing signified).

Subject -- Refers to a concept related to -- but not equivalent with -- the individual, and suggests a whole range of determinations (social, political, linguistic, ideological, psychological) that intersect to define it. Refusing the notion of self as a stable entity, the subject implies a process of construction by signifying practices that are both unconscious and culturally specific.

Suture -- The process whereby the subject is stitched into the chain of discourse which both defines and is defined by the work of the unconscious.

Symbol -- 1. In the Peirce/Wollen system, a sign that demands neither resemblance to its object nor any existential bond with it, but operates by pure convention. [See INDEX, ICON.] 2. More generally, something that represent something else by resemblance, association, or convention.

Unpleasure -- A text resisting the habitual pleasures of coherence, suspense and identification.


1. Yuri Lotman on Russian aristocracy social behavior. We're members of high society now (equality in electronic no-space space), or pretend to be. Politics-before were a work (like anything else), we even had a special professional class for governing. Showing and viewing as work (Jonathan Beller _Cinema_)

2. We, the Russians, had two great school of theatre. One, theatre as theatre (on stage), another (which gave the born to Russian theatre) was Russian aristocracy with highly theatralized social forms (this class survived in Russia longer than ion the rest of Europe). {1-2. Soviet life was post-modern in its origins.} The old Russian political tradition: act for the West (to show and show off).

3. American government today isn't "of the people, by the people, for the people." There are no "people" anymore. The New Americans are not necessarily American citizens. The whole world is viewing American spectacle and this act of watching is making American politics. We have no "world government" but we do have "global village."

4. A signifier (the material form of the sign) is "president" and the signified (the concept its represents) is "president" too! Is there such a thing as "president"? Or it's our invention? I = president (signifier), and I =/= president (signified). Both statements are true.

5. Ten fundamental codes instrumental in shaping images (Umberto Eco):

codes of transmission -- TV

codes of recognition -- how Russians recognize her leaders?

tonal codes (nationalism?)

iconic codes: mafia faces, including the neck, can't fake it -- power, strength, force.

The iconographic codes: Stalin's, Mao jacket, but orange! (all codes are interconnected). Restored tricolor and two-headed eagle.

codes of taste and sensibility: several different social groups must be satisfied in one candidate

The rhetoric codes; the name of the country ("Russia" or "America")

stylistic codes;

codes of the unconscious; most powerful.

Five codes utilized in reading (Ronald Barthes):

hermeneutic (narrative turning-points)
proairetic (basic narrative actions)
cultural (prior social knowledge)
semic (medium-related codes)
symbolic (themes)

6. PM social texts are super-hypertexts, collective messages even if expressed by one (president). (see Martin Ryder). *Performance* is a text which doesn't exit without spectatorship. There were kings without kingdoms but a president couldn't be elected without a nation. He is a national "text," an image (representation) of nation.



I do not know if many of my texts will ever be finished. This is one of them.

...'06 > Mamet in ... and Pinter (Old World)
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