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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Absurdity & Artificiality

Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End, a self-proclaimed “film adrift in the cosmos,” proves how truly superficial society is. Absurdity becomes an omnipresent manifestation. Corrine and Roland are a heartless couple, unaware of their bourgeois sociopathy. During the traffic jam turned car wreck, one woman is more worried for her Hermès handbag, rather than the fact that her car is up in flames. This prolonged and extensive car wreck eventually leads to ending the film with cannibalism. These absurd events are portrayed by Godard as a natural progression. Is Godard saying that this natural progression of culture has already commenced, and that it is only a matter of time before society meets the same fate as Corrine and Roland?

Culture and society as a whole produce and foster this behavior. Humanity itself pits people against one another.

When absurdity becomes such a normal occurrence, it no longer appears as being out of place. Perhaps Godard’s objective was to create an unlikeable film, “a film found on a dump,” yet, the social critique is so strong that it maintains the viewer’s level of intrigue.

What happens when the absurd takes control? What does this say about a culture?

China embodies the absurd. Quintessentially, nothing which occurs in the country makes any coherent sense. Building codes exist, yet they are not enforced. Urban villages are behind walls, not allowing their decrepit state to be seen. When walking through the screening area in metro stations, the screeners do not care if one even puts their bag through the metal detector. They touch one’s bag with a metal detecting wand as one walks through, if at all. As if this detects anything at all, and as if the only metal in one’s bag is dangerous. The population is easily fooled by appearances.

“The mere cynical reiteration of the real is enough to demonstrate its divinity…anyone who continues to doubt in the face of monotony is a fool. The culture industry sweeps aside objections to itself along with those to the world it neutrally duplicates. One only has the choice of conforming or being consigned into the backwoods,” as stated by The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. Not only do these absurd happenings take place, but they successfully produce a culture of artificiality. The monotony of artificial control is what is meant to keep society in check. The aspect of artificial control appears to keep a country safe if its artificiality is never revealed to the unknowing public.

The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception continues on to point out that “its very vagueness, the quasiscientific reluctance to be pinned down to anything which cannot be verified, functions as an instrument of control…With consummate skill it maneuvers between the crags of demonstrable misinformation and obvious truth by faithfully duplicated appearances, the density of which blocks insight. Thus the omnipresent and impenetrable world of appearances is set up as the ideal.”

China is artificial with its means of control, yet there is no such thing as a superficial personality. Nobody cares for any other but themselves. People push, spit and yell with no regard other than their own. As Week End demonstrates, a culture acts this way because of its mere existence. Could this be the reason why this cycle of rudeness persists in Chinese culture? The lack of a proper precedent means that there is nothing to interfere with this pattern.

Sara Tenanes

Filed under: absurdity, artificiality, China, week end

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu