The Organ with No Body: Towards Virtual Worlds – Part 1

Part 1: Textural Experience

In his book A Clockwork Orange,Anthony Burgess, through the character of Alex, may be seen to reveal a relationship in the brain between violence and beauty. During Alex’s ‘treatment’ for antisocial behaviour, the doctors associate a terrible sickness with violent images, although, in so doing, they accidentally associate the same sickness with his love of music. Though this is done by their playing music over the images he is forced to view (and therefore assumes a distinctness between the way music may be loved and violence may be loved), a more interesting interpretation might be that Burgess is suggesting both beauty and violence are themselves linked within the brain and consciousness; that Alex loses his ability to make contact with music because he becomes sick at the impulse towards violence. A couple of things are worth noting about the text:

  1. That there are at least three media which are essential to the book – text, image and sound. Text, by way of the story itself and its moral trajectory/intent; image, in the various elaborate descriptions and the brutally evocative nature of the nadsat language; and sound by way of the melodious rhythm of Alex’s speech. Within Alex, there is a poet of violence that mirrors his own love of sound and music. The images and the sounds are at odds with, and of a different nature to, the progress of the moral text; they are connotative of something else, a grammar of their own outside the linear moral direction of the text.
    “I knew such lovely pictures. There were vecks and ptitsas, both young and starry, lying on the ground and screaming for mercy, and I was smecking all over my rot and grinding my boot in their litsos. And there were devotchkas ripped and creeching against walls, and I plunging like a shlaga into them. And indeed, when the music, which was one movement only, reached to the top of its big highest tower, then, lying on my bed with glazzies tight shut and rookers behind my Gulliver, I broke and spattered and cried ‘ahhhh!’ with the bliss of it. And so, the lovely music glided to its glowing close.“ (Burgess, A Clockwork Orange,pt.1, ch.3)

    It is due to the discrepency between text and image that the end of the book – where Alex decides to ‘settle down’ – reads somewhat unlikely.

  2. That though it is external objects – music, violent images – that are used as the targets of association and triggers of sickness, this is symbolic of the internal networks that arbitrarily link emotions and violence to objects of beauty. As F. Alexander later observes in the book:
    “Music and the sexual act, literature and art, all must be a source now, not of pleasure, but of pain.” (Burgess, A Clockwork Orange,pt.3, ch.4)

    It is the device of text that would separate music, image and the aural faculty from the enigmatic blending of the networks and structures of consciousness itself. The love of music and the love of violence both supervene on the same internal organization of mysterious associations and thus Alex loses contact with art, literature, sex etc..

Sounds and images therefore are experiential – textural, not textual. In their grammar, they say more than they were intended to say and as such, the art of producing images and sound takes on a revelatory role; an experiential role more, say, than a directive or linear role. The image may be subordinated to a textual purpose like it is in A Clockwork Orange, supporting as it does some point of view, but this is not the native function of the image itself. For example, David Lynch tells the following story:

“When I was little, my brother and I were outdoors late one night, and we saw a naked woman come walking down the street toward us in a dazed state, crying. I have never forgotten that moment.” (David Lynch, City of the Absurd)

He tells this story so as to reinforce the idea that some things are just wrong and yet you cannot help but see this story echoed in Twin Peaks,where Ronette is discovered walking aimlessly, bruised and insensible in her night dress, along a train track.

Whatever the impression of wrongness the woman of Lynch’s childhood imparted to him, Ronette, by contrast, carries with her a strong erotic potency given to her not just by the bruises and the ropes, but too by the greyness of the wind and sky, the dereliction of the surroundings and the detached, stereotyped nature of the working men that discover her. The music too gives the impression of a dream; she walks as if in a dream, melancholy and libidinous, a horrible secret.

The image therefore can reveal more than it sets out to reveal. Through its interrelation of colour, sound, dress, context etc., it produces an elaborate textural experience in the mind of the viewer that annihilates the consistency of any precise point of view. The language of images is revelatory in that it exposes the unconscious and symbolizes aspects of the real that have not been expressly symbolized. Lynch, whose brilliance is in that he speaks the language of images, reflects this language in the following quotation:

“There is goodness in blue skies and flowers, but another force – a wild pain and decay – also accompanies everything.” (Lynch, Lynch, Lynch on Lynchpg.8)

This is the amoral language of images: that the good brings with it a kind of pain, and pain with it, a kind of good; that the talent of writing in images is to distil an experience of this rot in the good and the good in pain, and that the juxtaposition of shades, situations and sounds may produce a complex experience with no exact purpose beyond its own treacherous complexity.

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