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Ramble City: Postmodernism and "Blade Runner" Author(s): Giuliana Bruno Source: October, Vol. 41 (Summer, 1987), pp.

61-74 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 23/09/2013 19:19
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Ramble City: Postmodernism and Blade Runner



meis- History.No anamnesiscould the time when my motherwas alive before frommyself- whereas,contemplating ever make me glimpsethistimestarting a in which she is a I can waken in me, child, photograph hugging against her, the rumpled softnessof her crepe de chine and the perfumeof her rice myself for the replicantsof powder."' That is historyfor Roland Barthes and history Blade Runner.The replicants are perfect"skinjobs," theylook like humans,they talk like them, they even have feelings and emotions (in science fictionthe ultimatesign of the human). What theylack is a history. For thattheyhave to be killed. Seeking a history, for it, they search for their origins,for that fighting timebeforethemselves.Rachel succeeds. She has a document-as we know,the foundation of history.Her document is a photograph,a photograph of her mother,huggingher, a child,against her, wakeningin her the rumpledsoftness it is constituted of, mostprobably,a hamburger.Historyis hysterical; only ifwe lookat it, excluded fromit. That is, my motherbefore me-history. History/ Mother/Mymother. "My mother?I'll tell you about my mother. ... ."2

at it-and

it is constituted "Historyis hysterical: onlyifwe considerit,only ifwe look

in order to look at it we must be excluded from it. .

. That is what

The debate on postmodernismhas by now produced a vast literature. threepositions:one elaborated withreferenceto Roughly,we mightdistinguish the human sciences and literature, byJean-FranCois Lyotardand Umberto Eco, in among others;one concerningthe visualarts,recently developed in particular the U.S.; and one related to the discourseof and on architecture.3 It is the latter
1. Roland Barthes,CameraLucida, trans. Richard Howard, New York, Hill and Wang, 1981, p. 65. Thus answers the replicantLeon when asked about his mother; he then kills his questioner. 2. The literature is by now extensive,ifnot particularly 3. See, forexample, Robert distinguished. Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, Learning fromLas Vegas,Cambridge, Massachusetts,

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the theoreticalgroundworkforthispaper, which,for the most part, constitutes in whichBlade Runnerwill be discussedas a metaphorof the postmoderncondition. I wish to analyze, in particular,the representation of narrativespace and in Blade Runner.For this I will use two terms,pasticheand schizotemporality The terms phrenia,in order to defineand explore the two areas of investigation. are borrowed and developed fromFredricJameson'sdiscussionof postmodernism. In his essay "Postmodernismand Consumer Society"4 and in the later, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,"5 expanded version,"Postmodernism, Jameson suggests that the postmodern condition is characterizedby a schizoand a spatial pastiche. The notion of schizophreniawhich phrenic temporality is that elaborated byJacques Lacan. According to Jameson's Jameson employs of Lacan, schizophrenia is basically a breakdown of the relationship reading linked to the failureof access to the Symbolic.With pastiche between signifiers, of keyboundaries and separations, a processof erosion of thereis an effacement distinctions. Pasticheis intendedas an aestheticof quotationspushed to the limit; it is an incorporationof forms,an imitationof dead stylesdeprived of any satiricalimpulse. Jameson's suggestionhas proved a viable workingreference and a guideline in analyzing the deploymentof space and time in the film. Pasticheand schizophreniawillthusact, in the economyof myargument, as what Umberto Eco calls umbrellaterms,operational linguistic covers of vastand even diverseareas of concern. My discussionof postmodernism and Blade Runnerwill involvea considerationof questionsof identity and history, of the role of simulacra and simulation,and of the relationshipbetween postmodernism, architecand ture, postindustrialism. Pastiche It is useful to note thatJameson has derived his view of postmodernism from the field of architecture: "It is in the realm of architecture. . that modifications in aesthetic productions are most dramaticallyvisible, and that theirtheoreticalproblemshave been mostcentrally raised and articulated;it was indeed fromarchitecturaldebates that my own conception of postmodernism began to emerge."6 It is in the architectural layoutof Blade Runnerthatpastiche is most dramaticallyvisible and where the connection of postmodernismto is evident. postindustrialism

MIT Press, 1977; CharlesJencks,The Language ofPostmodern New York, Rizzoli, 1977; Architecture, Paolo Portoghesi,Postmodern: nella societa 1'Architettura Milan, Electa, 1982. postindustriale, 4. FredricJameson, "Postmodernismand Consumer Society," in Hal Foster, ed., The Anti-AesPort Townsend, Bay Press, 1983, pp. 111-125. thetic, 5. FredricJameson,"Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,NewLeft Review, no. 146 (July-August 1984), pp. 53-92. 6. "Cultural 54. Jameson, Logic," p.

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RambleCity: Postmodernism and Blade Runner




1982. Deckard ona rooftop. Blade Runner.

The filmdoes not take place in a spaceshipor space station,but in a city, Los Angeles, in the year 2019, a step away fromthe developmentof contempoand late capitalismis highlighted rarysociety.The linkbetweenpostmodernism in the film'srepresentation of postindustrial decay. The futuredoes not realize of as the development an idealized,aseptictechnological order,but is seen simply The cityof the presentstateof the cityand of the social order of late capitalism. but thepostmodern Blade Runneris not the ultramodern, city.It is notan orderly of and interiors. ultracomfortable, Rather, hypermechanized layout skyscrapers it createsan aestheticof decay,exposingthe dark side of technology, the process of disintegration. Next to the high-tech,its waste. It is into garbage that the characters constantly step, by garbage thatPrisawaitsJ.F. Sebastian.A desertedneighborhood in decay is where Deckard goes to findthe peace he needs in order to work. There he findsthe usual gang of metropolitan punks exploringthe ruins for In an marvels. abandoned, deteriorating building,J. F. Sebastian unexpected livessurroundedby nothingbut his mechanicaltoys.It is a buildingof once great The rain completes the ammajesty,now an emptyshell leftto disintegrate.

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Blade Runner. 1982. Deckardin pursuit ofa replicant.

bience. It fallspersistently, veilingthe landscape of the city,further obscuring the neobaroque lighting.It is a corrosiverain whichwears thingsaway. The postindustrial of the accelerationof the internal time decay is an effect of process proper to postindustrialism. The systemworksonly if waste is produced. The continuousexpulsion of waste is an indexical sign of the well-funcitsproduction,movement, and development tioningapparatus: waste represents at increasingspeed. Postindustrialism therefore it needs its waste.7A recycles; such an of The aesthetic postmodern positionexposes logic,producing recycling. artistic formexhibitsthe returnof the waste.Consumerism, waste,and recycling meet in fashion,the "wearable art" of late capitalism, a sign of postmodernism. Costumesin Blade Runner are designedaccordingto thislogic.The "look" of the Prisand Zhora and of some of the womenin the backgroundin thebar replicants and in the streetscenes reinforces thisaesthetic.Pris,the "basic pleasuremodel," is the model of the postindustrial the heightof exhibition and recycling. fashion,
7. On the history of waste,see Dominique Laporte, Histoire de la merde, Paris, ChristianBourof waste as a cyclicprocess of repressionand return. geois, 1978. Laporte traces the history

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and Blade Runner Postmodernism RambleCity:


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The postmodernaestheticof Blade Runneris thus the resultof recycling, fusionof levels, discontinuoussignifiers, explosion of boundaries,and erosion. The disconnectedtemporality of the replicantsand the pastichecityare all an condition: wearing out, waste. There is effectof a postmodern,postindustrial of thiscondition. even a characterin the film who is nothingbut a literalization J. is his skin wrinkled and decrepit. His F. Sebastian is twenty-five but old, years internalprocess and time are accelerated,and he is wearingout. "Accelerated notingthathe and decrepitude" is how the replicantPrisdescribeshis condition, in common. What Prisdoes not sayis thatthe city have something the replicants and suffers fromit as well. The psychopathology ofJ. F. Sebastian,the replicants, of the everydaypostindustrial condition.The the city is the psychopathology of disincreased speed of developmentand process produces the diminishing Time and tempo are reduced to tances,of the space in between,of distinction. and lifeis over climax,afterwhichthere is retirement. Things cease to function is a in ruins. even if it has not ended. The postindustrial city city In Blade Runner,the visionsof postindustrial decay are set in an inclusive, design. The cityis called Los Angeles,but it is an L.A. that hybridarchitectural

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looks verymuch like New York, Hong Kong, or Tokyo. We are not presented one: a synthesis of mentalarchitectures, witha real geography,but an imaginary real cities,postcards,advertising, of topoi.Quoting fromdifferent movies, the It is a polyvalent, intertext makes a point about the cityof postindustrialism. and condensathe product of geographicaldisplacements changeable structure, and tions. Blade Runner's space of narration bears, superimposed, different previous orders of time and space. It incorporatesthem,exhibitingtheirtransand deterioration. formations It is a place of vastimmigration, fromcountriesof and While crowd the overpopulation poverty. immigrants city,the indigenous suburbs or "off-world" as the case maybe. moves to the to the petitebourgeoisie Abandoned buildings and neighborhoods in decay adjoin highly populated, businessdistricts. The crowded old areas, themselvesset next to new, high-tech film is populated by eclectic crowds of faceless people, Oriental merchants, punks, Hari Krishnas. Even the language is pastiche: "city speech" is a "mishmash ofJapanese,Spanish,German, what have you." The cityis a large market; an intrigue of underground networkspervades all relations. The explosive Orient dominates, the Orient of yesterdayincorporatingthe Orient of today. Overlooking the city is the "Japanese simulacrum," the huge advertisement whichalternatesa seductive Japanese face and a Coca Cola sign.In the postinduslook into trialcitythe explosion of urbanization,meltingthe futuristic high-tech an intercultural recreates the third world inside One the first. travels scenario, almostwithoutmoving,forthe Orient occupies the next block. The Los Angeles of Blade Runneris China(in)town. The pertinenceand uniqueness of architecture to specificplaces, cultures, and times has been lost in postmodernism.The metropolisof Blade Runner but fromtemporalones as well. quotes not only fromdifferent spatialstructures The syntactic rules are broken down in postmodernism and replaced by a parataxis,a regulatedaestheticof lists.The connectionsare not made at random,but ruled by a different logic. It is the logic of pastiche,whichallows and promotes and diachronicorder. "The resultant quotationsof a synchronic hybridbalances and reconcilesopposed meanings. . . . This inclusivearchitecture absorbs concodes in an attemptto create (what Robert Venturi calls) 'the difficult flicting whole'. ... It can include ugliness,decay, banality,austerity.. . . In general termsit can be describedas radical eclecticism or adhocism. Various parts,styles or sub-systems are used to create a new synthesis."8 In Blade Runnerrecollections and quotationsfromthe past are subcodes of a new synthesis.9 Roman and Greek columns provide a retro mise-en-scene for the city. Signs of classical Oriental

8. Jencks,p. 90. 9. Among otherelements,the cityof Blade Runnerincludesa set called "New York street,"built in 1929 and used in a numberof HumphreyBogartand JamesCagney movies;and the Ennis-Brown house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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and Blade Runner Postmodernism RambleCity:


recur. Chinese dragonsare revisitedin neon lighting. A strongEgypmythology tian elementpervades the decor. The Tyrell corporationoverlookswhat resemble the Egyptian pyramidsin a full sunset. The interiorof the officeis not of but rathera pop Egyptianextravaganza,to whichthe choreography high-tech, movementand makeup of Zhora adds exoticism. Elevators might have video screens, but they are made of stone. The walls of Deckard's apartmentare of an ancient Mayan palace. Pastiche,as an aestheticof quotation, reminiscent a recollectionof the past,of memory, and of dead styles;it attempts incorporates history. The resultof thisarchitectural pasticheis an excess of scenography.Every rather than an aesrelation in the narrativespace produces an exhibitionism The iconogtheticsof the visual. The excess of violence is such an exhibitionism. raphyof death as well is scenographic.The "scene" of death becomes a sort of The fight and death of Pris visibility. "obscenity,"the site of total, transparent are rendered as a performance.Zhora dies breakingthrougha window in slow of movement and editing,the neobaroque motion.The decor, the choreography It has been said thatscenography is emphasize visual virtuosity. cinematography the domain of postmodernarchitecture.Paolo Portoghesiclaims that "Postmocan be generallyread as the re-emerging of the archetypes dern in architecture of the architectual and thusas the premisefor and the reintegrations conventions of communication, an architecture of the visual, the creation of an architecture for a culture of the visual."'o Schizophrenia Pastiche and the exhibitionismof the visual celebrate the dominance of and the effacement of the referent in the era of postindustrialism. representation The postindustrial is the of the society "society spectacle," livingin the "ecstasy of communication."Addressingthisaspect of postmodernism, Jean Baudrillard of a in twist the between the real and its speaks relationship reproduction.The is pushed to the limit.As a result,"the real is not what process of reproducibility can be reproduced,but thatwhichis alwaysalreadyreproduced . . . the hyperreal . . . whichis entirely in simulation."" The narrativespace of Blade Runner and simulation."" There, the machinery of imitations, and serialreproductions, the fictionof the real. ity,in other words, "replicants,"affirms The narrative "invention" of the replicantsis almost a literalizationof Baudrillard's theoryof postmodernism as the age of simulacraand simulation.
10. Portoghesi,p. 11. trans.Paul Foss, Paul Patton,and PhilipBeitchman,New York, 11. Jean Baudrillard,Simulations, Semiotext(e), 1983, p. 146. 12. Ibid., p. 25.

participates in this logic: "All of Los Angeles . . . is of the order of hyperreal

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Replicantsare the perfectsimulacra-a convergenceof geneticsand linguistics, the genetic miniaturization enacting the dimension of simulation.Baudrillard describes the simulacrumas "an operational double, a metastable,programmatic, perfect descriptivemachine which provides all the signs of the real and all itsvicissitudes."'3It would be difficult to finda betterdefinition short-circuits of the nature and functions of the replicantsand theircapacityof simulationin the narrative motivationof Blade Runner. In L.A., year 2019, simulationis completelydominantas the effectof the existenceand operationsof the replicant/simulacrum."The unreal is no longer that of dream or of fantasyor a The replicantperforms such hallucinatory resemblance."It" looksand acts likea he or a she. Perfectsimulationis thusitsgoal, and Rachel managesto reach it. To simulate,in fact,is a more complex act than to imitateor to feign.To simulate of what one implies actually producing in oneself some of the characteristics wantsto simulate.It is a matterof internalizing the signsor the symptoms to the point where there is no differencebetween "false" and "true," "real" and "imaginary." With Rachel the systemhas reached perfection.She is the most perfectreplicantbecause she does not know whethershe is one or not. To say her sexuality,her memory,is to say that she that she simulatesher symptoms, them. realizes, experiences The fascinationwith the simulacrumhas, of course, generated narratives before Blade Runner.We findin Der Sandmann,for example, one of the most influentialfictionaldescriptionsof simulacra. It is this tale, in fact, which inon the uncanny.Der Sandmannconcerns the android spired Freud's reflections a who is such fora real girl,the Olympia, perfect"skinjob" thatshe is mistaken of her inventor. The of the falls in love tale, Nathaniel, daughter protagonist with her, but reality triumphs:the android is unmasked and destroyed. In Hoffmann'stime,replicationis stilla questionof imitation, forthe real stillbears a meaning.The replicants ofBlade Runnerare, on the contrary, as the name itself indicates,serialterms.No originalis thusinvokedas pointof comparison,and no distinction between real and copy remains. It is, indeed, in simulation thatthe power of the replicants resides.Since the simulacrumis the negationof both originaland copy,it is ultimately the celebration of the false as power and the power of the false.'5 The replicantsturnthis power against their makers to assert the autonomyof the simulacrum. But these replicants,"simulacra" of humans, in some ways superior to them, have a problem: a fragmentedtemporality."Schizophrenic vertigo of
13. Ibid., p. 4. 14. Ibid., p. 142. See also Guy Debord, The Society Detroit, Black and Red Press, of theSpectacle, 1983. For thisaspect of the theoreticaldiscussionof the simulacrum, 15. see Gilles Deleuze, "Plato and the Simulacrum," trans. Rosalind Krauss, October, no. 27 (Winter 1983), pp. 45-56.

beyond or a within, it is that of hallucinatoryresemblanceof the real withitself."'4

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and Blade Runner Ramble City:Postmodernism


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amidst toys. J. F. Sebastian'smechanical

1982.Deckard with a replicant Blade Runner. fights

these serial signs . . . immanentin theirrepetition--who could say what the a new formof temrealityis that these signssimulate?"16 The replicantaffirms of that This is the of postmodernporality, schizophrenicvertigo. temporality ism's new age of the machine. The industrialmachine was one of production, A major shift occurs: the alienthe postindustrial machine,one of reproduction. of thesubject,itsdispersalin ation of the subjectis replaced bythe fragmentation of the subject is more deeply put into question. The "integrity" representation. Baudrillarddescribesthe postindustrial age thus: "We are now in a new formof no more projectiveparanoia, but thisstateof schizophrenia.No more hysteria, can no longer proterrorproper to the schizophrenic.. . . The schizophrenic duce the limitsof its own being. . . . He is only a pure screen."'7 A replicant. of the schizophrenic Blade Runnerpresentsa manifestation condition--in

16. Baudrillard,p. 152. 17. Jean Baudrillard, "The Ecstasyof Communication,"trans.JohnJohnston,in The Anti-Aesthetic, p. 132.

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the sense that Lacan gives this term. For Lacan, temporality, past, present, order: thatis to say,the experienceof temporfuture, memoryare of a linguistic are an effect of language. It is the verystructure of alityand its representation as we do and to representit as a language that allows us to know temporality lineardevelopmentfrompast to presentand future.The experienceof historical is therefore continuity dependent upon language acquisition,upon access to the realm of speech. It is dependentupon the acceptance of the Name-of-the-Father, conceived as a linguistic function. paternal authority results froma failureto enter the Symon the other hand, Schizophrenia, a breakdownof language, whichcontributes to a bolic order; it is thusessentially conditionis characterized breakdownof the temporalorder. The schizophrenic by the inabilityto experience the persistenceof the "I" over time. There is neitherpast nor futureat the two poles of that whichthus becomes a perpetual present.Jameson writes,"The schizophrenicdoes not have our experience of but is condemned to live a perpetualpresentwithwhichthe temporalcontinuity various momentsof his or her past have littleconnectionand for whichthereis no conceivable future on the horizon."'" Replicants are condemned to a life composed only of a presenttense; theyhave neitherpast nor memory.There is for them no conceivable future.They are denied a personal identity, since they cannot name their "I" as an existenceover time. Yet thislife,lived only in the present, is for the replicantsan extremelyintense experience, since it is not perceived as part of a larger set of experiences. Replicantsrepresentthemselves and claim to have seen more things but brighter as a candle thatburnsfaster with theireyes in that limitedtimethan anybodyelse would even be able to imagine. This kind of relationshipto the present is typical of schizophrenia.Jameson breaks down, the experience of the notes, in fact,that "as temporal continuity becomes vivid and 'material.' The world present powerfully, overwhelmingly comes before the schizophrenicwithheightenedintensity."'9 The schizophrenictemporality of the replicantsis a resistanceto enter the social order, to functionaccording to its modes.20 As outsidersto the order of language, replicantshave to be eliminated.Theirs is a dangerous malfunction, of the order of language and law. calling for a normalization,an affirmation Their killingconstitutes a state murder. It is called "retirement," a word which connotes exclusion fromthe productiveand active social order. If the replicantsare to survive,the signifiers of theirexistencehave to be in Some of order. semblance a dimension has to be put togetherto put symbolic release them fromthe trap of the present.Their assurance of a futurerelies on of acquiring a past. In theirattemptat establishing the possibility a temporally
18. Jameson,"Consumer Society," p. 119. 19. Ibid., p. 120. 20. Jamesonstatesthat "schizophreniaemerges fromthe failureof the infantto accede fully into the realm of speech and language" (ibid.,p. 118).

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Postmodernism and Blade Runner RambleCity:


the replicantssearch for their origins. They want to know persistentidentity, and the link to their theiridentity who "conceived" them,and theyinvestigate is that of an Oedipal journey. To survivefor a time,the makers. The itinerary whichthe the sexual identity android has to accept the factof sexual difference, into entry language requires. Of all the replicants, onlyone, Rachel, succeeds in makingthejourney. She becomes a woman, and loves a man: Deckard, the assumes a sexual identity, blade runner. Rachel accepts the paternal figure and follows the path to a her sex by first "normal," adult, female,sexuality:she identifies acknowledging a man. But the leader of the replicants, the power of the other,the father, Roy Batty,refusesthe symboliccastrationwhich is necessaryto enter the symbolic order; he refuses, that is, to be smaller, less powerful than the father. Roy commitsthe Oedipal crime. He killshis father;and the Oedipal topos of blindness recurs,reversed.Roy thusseals his (lack of) destiny, resoludenyinghimself tion and salvation. In thistensionbetweenpre-Oedipal and Oedipal, Imaginaryand Symbolic, the figureof the motherbecomes a breakingpoint in the text. Replicantscan be unmasked by a psychologicaltest which reveals their emotional responses as Blade Runnerbeginswithsuch a testas it is being dissimilar to those of humans.21 administeredto Leon, a replicantwho is tryingto hide his identity.Leon succeeds up to a certainpoint,but there arises a question whichhe cannot handle. Asked to name all the good thingsthat come to his mind thinkingabout his mother,Leon explodes, "My mother,I'll tell you about my mother," and kills the inquirer.The motheris necessaryto the claimingof a history, to the affirmation of an identity over time. Unmasked by the same test, Rachel goes to her inquirer,Deckard, to convince him,or herselfrather,thatshe is not a replicant. Her argumentis a photograph,a photographof a motherand daughter."Look, thisis me, withmy mother." That photographrepresents the trace of an origin and thusa personal identity, the proofof havingexistedand therefore of having the rightto exist. A theoretical link is established in Blade Runner between photography, It is a connectionthatwe also findin Barthes'swritings on mother,and history. In Camera reflections on are centered on the Lucida, photography. photography figureof the motheras she relates to the question of history. Photographyand the motherare the missinglinkbetween past, present,and future.The termsof the configuration are knottedtogetherin dialecphotography/mother/history tics of totality and division,presence and absence, continuity and discontinuity.
A further 21. observationon schizophreniais made in regard to the test.In the novel fromwhich Blade Runnerwas adapted (Philip K. Dick, Do Androids DreamofEclectic New York, Ballantine Sheep?, thathumansmightbe "retired" by mistake. Books, 1982), a moralquestionarises fromthe possibility It is proved, in fact,thata certain "type" of humans respond to the test the same as do replicants. This typeis the schizophrenic.Thus replicantsand schizophrenics are "scientifically" proved to be the same.

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or again "The name of Photography'snoeme will thereforebe 'that-has-been,' what I see has the Intractable. In Latin, this would doubtless be said: interfuit: been there, and yet immediatelyseparated; it has been absolutely,irrefutably As a documentof "that-has-been," photogpresent,and yetalreadydeferred."22 raphy constitutesa document of history,of its deferred existence. A history is establishedonly in an act of exclusion,in a look that conceived as hysterical and object. History is that time when my mother was alive separates subject of itsimpossibility. The all-nourbefore me. It is the trace of the dream of unity, The which has been as that is mother there, given up. Imaginaryexists yet ishing as a loss. to be transformed into Photographsare documentsof existencein a history memories, monumentsof the past. Such is the very challenge of history,as documents Michel Foucault has pointed out. "History is that which transforms into monuments.'23 The document is for Foucault a centralquestion of history; of a temporality, forBlade Runnerit is the essentialelementforthe establishment as "one way in whicha of perceivingpast and future.Foucault defineshistory societyrecognizes and develops a mass of documentationwithwhich it is inextricablylinked.'"24 Photographscan be such documentationfor the replicants. of that past moment Not only does Rachel exhibit her document-photograph withher mother,but she is fascinated generally.In a second visit by photographs to Deckard, she produces her memories in response to his photographs.She attemptsto look like the woman in his old photograph,and plays the piano to recapture a memory,an atmosphere. Leon's preciouslykept picturesserve no apparent purpose other than the documentationof the replicant'sexistencein when he findsthe photos. "I don't Deckard understandsthismotivation history. know why replicantswould collect photos. Maybe they were like Rachel, they needed memories." in Blade Runneris essentially The desire of photography a phenomenologiI can never deny that 'the thinghas been there.' cal seduction: "In photography There is a superimposition here of realityand of the past."25 Photographyis and the referent are collapsed perceived as the medium in which the signifier onto each other. Photographsassertthe referent, in thattheyassertits itsreality, existenceat that(past) momentwhen the person,the thing,was therein front of the camera. If a replicantis in a photograph,he or she is thus real. The functionof photographyin film'stemporal constructionis further is the result grasped in Barthes'sobservationthat "the photograph'simmobility of perverseconfusionbetween two concepts:the Real and the Live. By attesting
22. Barthes,p. 77. Michel Foucault, The Archeology 23. trans.A. M. Sheridan Smith,New York, PanofKnowledge, theon, 1982, p. 7. Ibid. 24. 25. Barthes,p. 76.

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Postmodernism and Blade Runner RambleCity:


inducesbeliefthatit thatthe object has been real, the photographsurreptitiously of civil status, of what we might call, in all senses of the term, the body's formality.'"26 Replicants rely on photographyfor its perverse confusion,as it belief and hope of being alive. induces the surreptitious side of the body's formality and the civil statusof other the Investigating Once Deckard finds the replicants, blade runnersalso make use of photography. in Leon's apartment,he proceeds by questioning the photographs/documents is involved in a questioningof the them. Historyas a process of investigation document. "History now organizes the document, divides it up, distributes it, between what is orders it, arranges it in levels, establishesseries, distinguishes relevant and what is not, discovers elements, defines unities, describes relaof the historical Foucault's description processexactlydescribesthe way tions.'"27 in which Deckard interrogatesthe documents/photographs producing history. Deckard puts a photographin a video machine to analyze it. The photographis decomposed and restructuredvisuallythrough the creation of new relations, the directionof the gaze, zooming in and out, selectingand rearranging shifting elements,creatingclose-upsof what is relevant.The dissectedand reorganized of photographyresult in a narrative.At work is the same process of signifiers and detection that we findin Blow-up:the serializationof the still investigation the image, photograph, produces a new meaning, a story,a filmictext. The of the sequentialization, revelationof the secretis an effect and thusnarrativization,of the stillimage. This is how and whythe murderis discoveredin Blow-up and the replicantZhora is discoveredin Blade Runner.Searchingthe document/ and narrativeprocess of history. photograph,Deckard unveils the investigative level of of at the the Blade Runnerwantsto Blow-up stops signifier photography; believe in itsreferent: Zhora has-been-there; therefore she is (to be captured)real and alive. Not faroffis Barthes'scomment,"I wentto the photographer'sshow as to a police investigation."'28
is alive. .

. Photography, moreover, began historically as an art of the Person:

Blade Runner posits questions of identity,identification, and historyin The text's insistenceon photography, on the eye, is suggestive postmodernism. of the problematics of the "I" over time.Photography, "the impossible scienceof the unique being," is the suppressedtrace of history, the lost dream of continuity.Photographyis memory.The statusof memoryhas changed. In a postmodern age, memoriesare no longer Proustian madeleines, but photographs.The or televisualimages. We, past has become a collection of photographic,filmic,
26. 27. 28. Ibid., p. 79. Foucault, p. 6. Barthes,p. 85.

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like the replicants, are put in the positionof reclaiminga history by means of its reproduction. Photographyis thus assigned the grand task of reassertingthe The historical referent,of reappropriatingthe Real and historicalcontinuity. referentis displaced by a photographic referent.In a world of fragmented findsits image, itsphotographicsimulacrum, the researchof history temporality while historyitselfremains out of reach. Schizophrenia and the logic of the simulacrumhave had an effecton historicaltime. The meaning of historyis in which history, foreverunatchanged, and changed too is the representation tainable, merelyexists.29 The loss of history enacts a desire for historicity, an (impossible)returnto in art and it. Postmodernism, architecture, proclaimssuch a return particularly of a new formof as one of its goals. It is, however,the instanciation to history It is an eclectic one, a historicalpastiche. Pastiche is ultimately a historicity. in whichimpliesthe transformation and reinterpretation redemptionof history, its order, tension between loss and desire. It retraces history,deconstructing and diachrony.Again, as withthe photographicreconstiuniqueness,specificity, tution,withthe logic of pastiche,a simulacrumof historyis established. A tensionis expressed in Blade Runnerbetweenthe radical loss of dureeand the attemptof reappropriation.This very tension, which seeks in the photothe fictionof historyand which rewriteshistoryby means of graphic signifier underliesas well the psychoanalytic architectural itinerary. pastiched recycling, An itinerary between and schizophrenia,a fragmented suspended temporality, for and the acceptance of the Name-of-the-Father, standing temporalcontinuity access to the order of signifiers.

29. The debate on questions of memoryand history in postmodernism is well representedin the of New GermanCritique, no. 33 (Fall 1984). special issue on "Modernityand Post-Modernity"

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