The Aesthetics of Confinement

The title is misleading, or perhaps tautological. Essentially, aesthetics has always been dependent on a certain sense of confinement. Sensual experiences depend more on the space that surrounds us, not the ones we occupy. What we see in front of us, what our ears capture, what can be smelled from meters away, etc. Cinema, if we believe that it is art, is not exempted and has always been judged first and foremost, sensually. For a group of cinema industry elites to call their latest project as “unconfined” not only exposes their cluelessness on the practices and products of the craft that they are doing, but also their disregard for the developments and history of the platform that they are attempting to occupy. Weirdly enough, it’s kind of expected. Elites do what elites do: be elitist.

This so-called “unconfined cinema” is probably more familiar to a lot of people now who have internet access. It started out as a video live feed of a conversation between actors John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo. It has been documented all too well by different websites related to the artists’ talent agency. [See here, here, and here.] For the most part, it seems like it is a kind of promo or something. It is obvious that they are performing. There’s a sense of suspicion whenever something “viral” comes from people within the industry, even during this quarantine period. And a lot of these suspicions are probably right.

Earlier tonight, Star Cinema film director Antoinette Jadaone revealed via facebook post that what conspired between the actors Cruz and Alonzo is, indeed, a performance. The performance was assembled by very familiar industry people: Jadaone, publicist Philbert Dy, musician/producer Erwin Romulo, and director/cinematographer Dan Villegas.  But Rappler was wrong to think that the live feed was not a promo. It is the “pilot”, so to say, of this very project. A fucking promo followed by a promo by its creators.

Well, advertising work differently within the internet, or to use an older term, “cyberspace,” since we’re talking about spaces. Despite the liberal-speak of early cyberspace as manifested by the California Ideology and JP Barlow, neoliberalism has subsumed all of these and made it its own symptom. Early cyberspace commentator, Carmen Hermosillo, has already noted of this subsumption of the cyberspace and cyberculture’s posture of “independence” in the logic of imperialist globalization. Writing as humdog, Hermosillo noted the following in the oft-cited personal essay, Pandora’s Vox

i have seen many people spill their guts on-line, and i did so myself until, at last, i began to see that i had commodified myself. commodification means that you turn something into a product which has a money-value. […] i created my interior thoughts as a means of production for the corporation that owned the board i was posting to, and that commodity was being sold to other commodity/consumer entities as entertainment. that means that i sold my soul like a tennis shoe and i derived no profit from the sale of my soul. 

She added further:

proponents of so-called cyber-communities rarely emphasize the economic, business-mind nature of the community: many cyber-communities are businesses that rely upon the commodification of human interaction. they market their businesses by appeal to hysterical identification and fetishism no more or less than the corporations that brought us the two hundred dollar athletic shoe.

Jadaone’s post invites a kind of formation of a “community” among filmmakers and artists to join them on that endeavor on developing “our” (read: their) cinema towards a post-Covid19 situation. But this attempt to actualize this community can only be a kind of reterritorialization of the cinema they represent within a distribution platform which user-base has already developed further a kind of language and convention very far from where Jadaone and Company come from. They do not seem conditioned to leave the cinema that they know. The fact that they brought in the formula from their cinematic work into social media platforms only reflects their inability to really explore the medium and to insist their cinema into this not-so-new platform. This is to advertise their brand and nothing else. 

This attempt for an “unconfined cinema” is really just another confinement. This leaves the “unconfined cinema” as nothing more than a hysterical identification: to fetishize an online content into their “cinema.” This might be just the first attempt, but it is never really premature to assess. It’s a colonization of sorts: they announce their arrival, claim the lands for theirs, reconfigure the terrain regardless of its history, the practices of its “indigents”, and its life. While the cyberspace is indeed, a very vast space with a lot of opening for “fringes” or rather multiplicity, none of these acts of the so-called “unconfined cinema” aim to reach that point as they are acting up as though they are “exploring” for things to do the first time as if nothing has ever been done in the space they are trying to colonize.

What they are doing is what exactly they’ve been doing in their cinema only they are scaling it down. It is a continuation of their productions which are halted by the quarantine. A confinement of the seemingly novel sensual experience of social media into the backwardness of their Philippine Cinema.

They aim for popular appeal using movie stars. They knowingly use romance — that feudal and macho infested genre — as a populist trope to gain more relevance, as stated on Jadaone’s post: “Love stories have always had their place in Filipino cinema, and we wanted to bring the feelings that those movies inspire to a platform that has become more relevant and utilised in this time of quarantine.” What everything here reeks of the industrial model of Philippine cinema.  It’s never really a step forward, both for the platform and the cinema that they represent, but a relapse into the hell that is their Philippine Cinema for their fear of irrelevance. 

It’s quite witty (lol, I remember Jadaone’s brand which capitalizes on being “witty). But never call it experimental or new, because it isn’t. Will it “open eyes”? It doesn’t seem the aim. Nor they are not really trying on the first one. Nor the people involved never really tried ever since will they now? If anything, they sure seem to me a bored bunch. 

It is what is left off Philippine narrative filmmaking hanging on to their feudal and colonial lords who’s been dictating its aesthetic and political directions. It’s not surprising that they’d jump into the cheapest platform possible, it is after all, what feudal lords and the elites do to capitalize. It’s a fucking clickbait. But at least, clickbaits are more honest.


2 responses to “The Aesthetics of Confinement”

  1. You could just say that they are advocating for a change in the ways filmmakers make films while retaining the very practices that ruin Filipino films (e.g. hiring big names to promote a film, unending love stories, and cliche stories that relies on the popularity of the actors to attract viewers); a hypocrite move for Jadaone. The Instagram live that happened is nothing more than a gimmick.

    1. You can say that.

      However, I won’t really stretch it out to say that they are “advocating” it, or to say that it is a “hypocrite move”. It would miss the very structure that maintains the practices that they want to proliferate outside the confines of their old platform and would only leave the discussion on a very personal level. What I tried to do is try to make sense of what they did and what they said on the very grounds of their aspirations (to “explore” “new” possibilities) vs what is already out here in the space they try to *colonize*.

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