- Technology in Search of an Artist:Questions of Auteurism/Authorship and the Contemporary Cinematic Experience
Being a director is a lonely job. You are in the midst of a crowd, but you are on your own. Everybody else looks to you.—David Lean
The work of art is valuable only in so far as it is vibrated by the reflexes of the future.—André Breton
Questions of authorship keep recurring since "The Death of the Author" was first claimed by poststructuralist philosophy. Since the term hypertext was invented by Ted Nelson in 1965, theorists like George Landow and Michael Joyce have transferred the core thesis of poststructuralist thinking to the literary application of hypertext. Hyperfiction, seen as a "garden of forking paths," seems to semantically represent the looseness of the signifier-signified relation as the multiple narrative lines subvert any control by the reader and undermine the author's power to fix all contexts and therefore all meanings of the text sequences. Although Landow sees this hypertextual dimension as a fulfillment of the poststructuralist claim (that meaning is only constituted by the reader and not determined by the author), one cannot but wonder whether the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century legal and aesthetic discourses that have constructed the ideal of authorship still persist today, in other words, whether the "question of the author as a privileged moment of individualization" (Foucault) can tame collaboration's democratic potential. It has been suggested that the notion of hypertext, by altering hierarchical and linear structures of reading/writing and by diffusing individual authorial control, has political ramifications. In this sense Deleuze's comments on his working relationship with Guattari are illuminating: "We are only two, but what was important for us was less our working together than this strange fact of working between the two of us. We stopped being 'author.' And these 'between the twos' referred back to other people, who were different on one side from on the other. . . . In these conditions, as soon as there is this type of multiplicity, there is politics, micro-politics" (Deleuze and Parnet 17).
If we leave the literary sphere and consider other fields such as music, cinema, and the visual arts it becomes apparent how new forms of cooperation and communication are deeply changing the notion of the author in ways that supersede artistic or disciplinary boundaries. Today, in many cases, it is difficult to clearly identify an author. Rather, we see emerging a system of multiple, hybridized, collective authorship. New technology demands new knowledge and skills from the traditional authors—the Artist, the Architect, the Scientist, the "Master" Filmmaker—and encourages them to work in an interdisciplinary multimedia context. By considering, among others, the latest trends emerging on the fringe of mainstream Hollywood (Hollywood 2.0) and the most experimental cinematic expressions (Internet cinema, the Future Cinema exhibition), this paper investigates whether a new model of coauthorship that (inter)actively involves the audience is surfacing or whether, conversely, we are witnessing an "illusion of authorship." It is my contention that the aura of authorship, under new performative semblances, appears to be reaffirmed right at a time when it is most challenged.
The Impasse of Auteur/Author Theory
The aim of this section is to succinctly reassess auteur/author theory by tracing what I call the "various incarnations" of the auteur from the early formulations in the Cahiers du Cinéma, its (hastily) proclaimed "death" in the late sixties, to the commercialization of authorship typical [End Page 86] of postmodernity. The impasse that characterizes auteur theory today is not entirely due to the impact of the so-called digital revolution on the medium of cinema; rather, such a revolution has magnified preexisting inner tensions between the medium's "unauthored" qualities and its persistent faith in the distinctive creative drive of the "aster" filmmaker. The terms auteurism/authorship are purposely juxtaposed through the section—and the essay—because of their coterminous character.
Cinema resists being thought of in terms of traditional notions of authorship. Scholars have frequently emphasized the collaborative nature of the medium, its commercial underpinnings, and its reliance on analogic modes of representation as evidence of its "unauthored" qualities. Nevertheless, the author...