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Introduction to Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004) by Angela Ndalianis

The Baroque and the Neo-Baroque

Angela Ndalianis

Postclassical, Modern Classicism, or Neo-Baroque? Will the Real Contemporary Cinema Please Stand Up?

Once upon a time there was a film called Jurassic Park (Spielberg 1992), and on its release, audiences went to cinemas by the millions to be entertained by the magic that had to offer. On the one hand, the film's story enthralled its viewers. Recalling that other monster, King Kong, in Jurassic Park, genetically engineered dinosaurs were brought to life by an entrepreneur who was determined to place them within a theme park habitat so that they could become a source of pleasure and entertainment for millions. On the other hand, the computer effects that so convincingly granted filmic life to these dinosaurs that inhabited the narrative space astounded audiences. Then, once upon another time soon after, the dinosaurs migrated to another entertainment format and roamed the narrative spaces of the Sony PlayStation game The Lost World: Jurassic Park. To engage with this fictional world, audiences inserted a PlayStation disk into their consoles and a different, yet strangely similar, narrative scenario emerged. Dinosaurs were still genetically engineered; however, now the game player became integral to the way the narrative unraveled. Trapped on an island inhabited by various dinosaur species, the player now "performed" by interacting with this digital entertainment format, in the process progressively adopting the roles of dinosaurs and humans alike in a struggle that culminated in the final survival of one dominant species.

And yes, once upon yet another time, there was a land called "Jurassic Park," but this was no film or computer space. This was a geographical locale with which the audience physically engaged, one of the many lands in Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida (figure I.1). Here the audience experienced an alternate version of the Jurassic Park story by traversing a land that was littered with animatronic dinosaurs. Literally entering the fictional space of Jurassic Park, the participant

Jurassic Park Ride , Universal Studios, Orlando
Click image for detailed view.

Figure I.1 The Jurassic Park Ride, Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida. By permission of Universal Studios.

now experienced the narrative space in architecturally invasive ways by taking a ride through a technologically produced Jurassic theme park. Traveling along a river in a boat, participants floated through a series of lagoons (including the "Ultrasaurus Lagoon") whose banks were inhabited by animatronic versions of hadrosauruses, dilophosauruses, triceratops, and velocitators. Soon after, however, the wonder of seeing such deceptively real spectacles of extinct beings was destroyed, and the participants of the fiction found their wonder turn to terror when they were stalked by raptors and a mammoth Tyrannosaurus, barely escaping with their lives by plunging to their escape down an eighty-five-foot waterfall.1 Although each of these "tales" can be experienced and interpreted independent of the others, much can be lost in doing so, for these narratives belong to multiple networks of parallel stories that are all intimately interwoven. Each "tale" remains a fragment of a complex and expanding whole.

In the last two decades, entertainment media have undergone dramatic transformations. The movement that describes these changes is one concerned with the traversal of boundaries. In the film Jurassic Park (and its sequels The Lost World: Jurassic Park II and Jurassic Park III), film technology combines with computer technology to construct the dinosaur effects that are integral to the films' success. Like the Jurassic Park films, the Terminator films and the Spiderman comic books find new media environments in the theme park attractions Terminator 2: 3D Battle across Time and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (both at Universal Studios). Computer games2 like Phantasmagoria I and II and Tomb Raider I, II, and III cross their game borders by incorporating film styles, genres, and actors into their digital spaces. And the narratives of the Alien films extend into and are transformed by a successful comic-book series. All these configurations have formal repercussions. Media merge with media, genres unite to produce new hybrid forms, narratives open up and extend into new spatial and serial configurations, and special effects construct illusions that seek to collapse the frame that separates spectator from spectacle. Entertainment forms have increasingly displayed a concern for engulfing and engaging the spectator actively in sensorial and formal games that are concerned with their own media-specific sensory and playful experiences. Indeed, the cinema's convergence with and extension into multiple media formats is increasingly reliant on an active audience engagement that not only offers multiple and sensorially engaging and invasive experiences but also radically unsettles traditional conceptions of the cinema's "passive spectator." Additionally, many of the aesthetic and formal transformations currently confronting the entertainment industry are played out against and informed by cultural and socioeconomic transformations-specifically, the contexts of globalization and postmodernism.

In "Modern Classicism," the first chapter of Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique (1999), Kristin Thompson asks the question "Just what, if anything, is new about the New Hollywood in terms of what audiences see in theaters?" (2). For Thompson, it would appear that the answer to this question is "very little." In this book, however; my response to this question is "a great deal." Disputing claims to a "postclassical" or "postmodern" cinema, Thompson argues that, essentially, post-1970s cinema has continued the storytelling practices of the classical Hollywood period. I agree that, fundamentally, Hollywood has retained many of the narrative conventions that dominated its cinema between the 1910s and the 1940s: the cause-and-effect patterns that drive narrative development; the emphasis on goal-oriented characters; the clear three-part structure that follows an Aristotelian pattern of a beginning, middle and end (wherein narrative conflict is finally resolved); and psychologically motivated characters with clearly defined traits.3 Indeed, I would suggest that; with respect to its narrative, a film like Jurassic Park is not only a classical narrative, but a "superclassical" narrative: the goals of the narrative and characters are spelled out explicitly and economically, and the cause-and-effect patterns pound along at a gripping pace until narrative disequilibrium (the threat of the dinosaurs and the planned theme park) is removed. In this respect I agree with Thompson when she suggests that Jurassic Park has as "well-honed [a] narrative as virtually any film in the history of Hollywood" (1999, 9). In Storytelling in the New Hollywood Thompson has contributed a fine body of research that seeks to locate the continuing relevance of the classical narrative tradition; the creature that now is (or, indeed, ever was) "Hollywood" cannot be limited to its narrative practices alone, however, especially when some of these narrative traits are also being transformed.4 The cinema, like culture, is a dynamic being that is not reducible to a state of perpetual stasis. In the words of Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, "media technologies constitute networks or hybrids that can be expressed best in physical, social, aesthetic, and economic terms" (1999, 9).5

While revealing contemporary cinema's connections with the classical era of storytelling, Jurassic Park also highlights a great many of the radical transformations that have occurred in the film industry in the last three decades. Thompson claims that, although the "basic economic system underlying Hollywood storytelling has changed . . . the differences are essentially superficial and nonsystemic" (1999, 4).6 The fact is, however, that the economic structure of the industry today is fundamentally different from that of the pre-1950s era. Our society, technologies, audiences, and cultural concerns have altered dramatically in the interim. Conglomeration of the film industry since the 1960s has reshaped the industry into one with multiple media interests. One outcome of this conglomeration has been new convergences between diverse entertainment media-comic books, computer games, theme park attractions, and television programs-that have also had formal ramifications.7 The advent of digital technology (and the economic advantages it offers) has altered the film industry's production practices, with the result that new aesthetics have emerged. The home market saturation of VCRs, cable, and DVD technology has produced not only what Jim Collins calls new forms of "techno-textuality" (1995, 6), but also alternate modes of audience reception and an intensity of media literacy never before witnessed in the history of the cinema.

Although she acknowledges the new synergies and emphases on spectacle and action that the contemporary film industry favors, Thompson states that industry features such as tie-in products, publicity, and marketing have been a part of the industry since the 1910s and that currently the industry is involved merely in "intensifications of Hollywood's traditional practices." It is all, says Thompson, a matter of "degree" (1999, 3).8 Yet this matter of degree is surely an important one: "Intensification" can reach a point at which it begins to transform into something else. In the instance of the contemporary entertainment industry, this "something else" has embraced classical storytelling and placed it within new contexts, contexts that incorporate a further economization of classical narrative form, digital technology, cross-media interactions, serial forms, and alternate modes of spectatorship and reception. "Hollywood filmmaking," states Thompson, "contrary to the voices announcing a `post-classical' cinema of rupture, fragmentation, and postmodern incoherence, remains firmly rooted in a tradition which has flourished for eighty years and shown every sign of continuing" (336). I agree. Not only does the classical still persist, but it is also integrated into alternate modes of media discourse. A new order emerges. This book is concerned with this new order, an order that I call the "neo-baroque." As I will stress later, the terms "baroque" and "classical" are not used in this book in any oppositional sense: The baroque embraces the classical, integrating its features into its own complex system.

In this book I argue that mainstream cinema and other entertainment media are imbued with a neo-baroque poetics. Points of comparison are identified between seventeenth-century baroque art and entertainment forms of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries to establish continuous and contiguous links between the two eras. In suggesting parallels between the two periods, I do not propose that our current era stands as the mirror double of the seventeenth century. Different historical and social conditions characterize and distinguish the two periods. There are, however, numerous parallels between the two that invite comparison in the treatment and function of formal features, including an emphasis on serial narratives and the spectacular: forms that addressed transformed mass cultures: Throughout this book, therefore, "baroque" will be considered not only as a phenomenon of the seventeenth century (an era traditionally associated with the baroque), but also, more broadly, as a transhistorical state that has had wider historical repercussions.

I am especially concerned with evaluating the transformed poetics that have dominated entertainment media of the last three decades. It is suggested here that, as a result of technological, industrial, and economic transformations, contemporary entertainment media reflect a dominant neo-baroque logic. The neo-baroque shares a baroque delight in spectacle and sensory experiences. Neo-baroque entertainments, however—which are the product of conglomerate entertainment industries, multimedia interests, and spectacle that is often reliant upon computer technology—present contemporary audiences with new baroque forms of expression that are aligned with late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century concerns. The neo-baroque combines the visual, the auditory, and the textual in ways that parallel the dynamism of seventeenth-century baroque form, but that dynamism is expressed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in technologically and culturally different ways. Importantly, underlying the emergence of the neo-baroque are transformed economic and social factors.

This book belongs to an expanding set of works that position the cinema and new media in relation to earlier forms of representation and visuality. Because I adopt a baroque model, my ideas are especially indebted to the research of Barbara Maria Stafford, Jay Bolter, and Richard Grusin, who, from alternate perspectives, discuss the inherent "historicity" of media. As Stafford states in Artful Science: Enlightenment Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual Education, "we need to go backward in order to move forward" (1994, 3). By our going backward, various parallels between epochs may emerge, thus allowing us to develop a clearer understanding of the significance of cultural objects and their function during our own times. Stafford establishes these links specifically between the eighteenth and late twentieth centuries. For Stafford, the audiovisuality of the baroque was transformed and given an "instructive" purpose in the eighteenth century to usher in a new era of reason that came to be associated with the Enlightenment. With specific attention given to the dominance of digital media in our own era, Stafford posits that our culture is undergoing similar pivotal transformations. Our optical technologies-home computers, the Internet, cable, and other information technologies-provide a means of using the image in ways that may transport users to a new period of technological reenlightenment (1994, xxiii).

In Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin are more expansive in their historical focus. They argue that all media, no matter how "new," rely on a media past. New media always retain a connection with past forms. Like painting, architecture, and sculpture, which have a longer history of traditions to draw upon, contemporary media such as the cinema, computer games, and the Internet "remediate" or refashion prior media forms, adapting them to their media-specific, formal, and-cultural needs. In short, according to Bolter and Grusin, "No medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media" (1999, 15). This interdisciplinary, cross-media, and cross-temporal approach remains integral to the ideas that follow.

Although this book focuses on diverse media such as computer games, theme park attractions, and comic books, as well as mainstream cinema, following the works of John Belton (see, in particular, his 1992), Scott Bukatman (1993, 1995, 1998), Jim Collins (1989, 1995), Vivian Sobchack (I987, 1990), Janet Wasko (1994), and Justin Wyatt (1994), this book considers the cinema's continuing relevance in a world that has become infiltrated by new media technologies and new economic structures. In its combination of narrative, image, and sound, the cinema remains paradigmatic and, as is evident in the works of the above-mentioned historians and theorists, much of the best analysis of new media emerges from cinema studies. Likewise, the writings of Sobchack (1987), Bukatman (1993, 1995, 1998) and Brooks Landon (1992) have been especially influential in the priority they give to science fiction and fantasy cinema as fundamental vehicles that offer insight into the impact of new media technologies in the context of postmodernism. The new historical poetics that this book explores are particularly evident in these genres. As Bukatman (1998) has noted, since the release of Star Wars in 1977, not only has science fiction become paradigmatic of the cross-media and marketing possibilities of conglomeration, but the films narrativize the implications and effects of new technologies as well as implementing new technologies in the construction of the films' special effects. Science fiction and fantasy films, computer games, comic books, and theme park attractions become emblematic of changing conditions-cultural, historical, economic, and aesthetic-as played out across our entertainment media. In my efforts to delineate the transformations that the entertainment industry has undergone in light of economic and technological shifts, I have reconsidered the research of the academics mentioned above from alternate angles, considering and elaborating on their arguments from the perspective of the neo-baroque. Before we travel the path of the neo-baroque, however, a brief overview and clarification of the usages of the term "baroque" is in order.

... Of Things Baroque

"The baroque" is a term traditionally associated with the seventeenth century, though it was not a label used by individuals of the period itself to describe the art, economics, or culture of the period. Although when the term "baroque" was originally applied to define the art and music of the seventeenth century is not known, its application in this way-and denigratory associations-gathered force during the eighteenth century. During this time, "baroque" implied an art or music of extravagance, impetuousness, and virtuosity, all of which were concerned with stirring the affections and senses of the individual. The baroque was believed to lack the reason and discipline that came to be associated with neoclassicism and the era of the Enlightenment. The etymological origins of the word "baroque" are debatable. One suggestion is that it comes from the Italian "barocco," which signifies "bizarre," "extravagant"; another is that the term derives from the Spanish "barrueco" or Portuguese "barrocco," meaning an "irregular" or "oddly shaped pearl."9 Whatever the term's origins, it is clear that, for the eighteenth and, in particular, the nineteenth century, the baroque was increasingly understood as possessing traits that were unusual, vulgar, exuberant, and beyond the norm. Indeed, even into the nineteenth century, critics and historians perceived the baroque as a degeneration or decline of the classical and harmonious ideal epitomized by the Renaissance era.

As stated, the life span of the historical baroque is generally associated with the seventeenth century, a temporal confine that is more often a matter of convenience (a convenience to which I admittedly succumb in this book), as it is generally agreed that a baroque style in art and music was already evident in the late sixteenth century10 and progressed well into the eighteenth century, especially in the art, architecture, and music of northern Europe and Latin America.11 Until the twentieth century, seventeenth-century baroque art was largely ignored by art historians. The baroque was generally considered a chaotic and exuberant form that lacked the order and reason of neoclassicism, the transcendent wonder of romanticism, or the social awareness of realism. Not until the late nineteenth century did the Swiss art critic and historian Heinrich Wolfflin reconsider the significance of the formal qualities and function of baroque art. Not only were his Renaissance and Baroque (1965; originally published in 1888 and revised in 1907) and Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Later Art (1932; originally published in 1915) important in their earnest consideration of the key formal characteristics of seventeenth-century art, but they established the existence of a binary relationship between the classical (as epitomized by Renaissance art) and the baroque12 that has persisted into the twenty-first century.13

Although I draw on the studies of Wolfflin, Walter Benjamin, Remy Sasseilin, and Jose Maravall on the seventeenth-century baroque, one of the most influential works on my own deliberations is Henri Focillon's The Life of Forms in Art, originally published in 1934. Focillon's arguments diverge from those of the above-mentioned authors. Despite his strictly formalist concerns and lack of engagement with cultural issues beyond an abstract framework, Focillon understood form in art as an entity that was not necessarily limited to the constraints of time or specific historical periods. Quoting a political tract from Balzac; Focillon stated that "everything is form and life itself is form" (1992, 33). For Focillon, formal patterns in art are in perpetual states of movement, being specific to time but also spanning across it (32): "Form may, it is true, become formula and canon; in other words, it may be abruptly frozen into a normative type. But form is primarily a mobile life in a changing world. Its metamorphoses endlessly begin anew, and it is by the principle of style that they are above all coordinated and stabilized" (44).

Although the historical baroque has traditionally been contained within the rough temporal confines of the seventeenth century, to paraphrase Focillon, I suggest that baroque form still continued to have a life, one that recurred throughout history but existed beyond the limits of a canon. Therefore, whereas the seventeenth century was a period' during which baroque form became a "formula and canon," it does not necessarily follow that the baroque was frozen within the temporal parameters of the seventeenth century. Although the latter part of the eighteenth century witnessed the dominance of a new form of classicism in the neoclassical style, baroque form continued to have a life, albeit one beyond the limits of a canon. For example, later-twentieth-century historians and theorists of the baroque have noted the impact of the baroque on nineteenth- and twentieth-century art movements. Sassone, for example, has explored the presence of a baroque attitude to form in the artistic movements of surrealism, impressionism, and neo-gongorism (Overesch 1981, 70, citing Sassone 1972). Buci-Glucksman (1986, 1994) equated what she labeled a baroque folie du voir with the early-twentieth-century modernist shift toward abstraction. Similarly, Martin Jay (1994) liberated the baroque from its historical confines, stating, like Buci-Glucksman, that the inherent "madness of vision" associated with the baroque was present in the nineteenth-century romantic movement and early-twentieth-century surrealist art. In associating it with these instances of early modernist art, the word "baroque" is being adopted by historians and theorists who recognize the modernist and abstract qualities inherent in the baroque; the baroque becomes a tool critical to understanding the nature of these early modernist artistic movements.

With respect to the cinema, the baroque is often conjured up to signify or legitimate the presence of an auteurist flair in the films of specific directors. In most cases, the term "baroque" is used rather loosely to describe a formal quality that flows , "freely" and "excessively" through the films of particular directors, the implication being that to be baroque implies losing control (whereas on the contrary, as will be explained later, seventeenth-century baroque often revealed an obsessive concern with control and rationality). To be baroque is (supposedly) to give voice to artistic freedom and flight from the norm. Classical Hollywood, contemporary Hollywood, and art cinema directors alike have been evaluated from the perspective of the baroque. The films of directors Federico Fellini,14 Tim Burton,15 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Tod Browning, James Whale, Michael Curtiz, 16 Raul Ruiz,17 and Peter Greenaway18 have been discussed as reflecting baroque sensibilities. When the word "baroque" is used to describe particular films, again the term carries with it connotations of something's being beyond the norm or of a quality that is in excess of the norm. Thus the Soviet film Raspoutine, 1'Agonie (Klimov 1975) is analyzed as baroque given its emphasis on themes of aberration, the mystical, and the fantastic (Derobert 1985). The Italian film Maddalena (Genina 1953) is defined as baroque because of its melodramatic style and its focus on the excess spectacle of the Catholic church.19 Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Miller 1995) may be understood as baroque because of its "mythic proportions," its grandeur, and its sense of the hyperbolic.20 In interviews, Baz Luhrmann repeatedly refers to the baroque logic-the theatricality, lushness, and spectacle of the mise-en-scene and editing-that inspired his trilogy Strictly Ballroom ( 1997), Romeo + Juliet ( 1999), and Moulin Rouge! (2001 ). And Sally Potter's Orlando (1992) has been described as a postmodern, neo-baroque film that draws upon baroque devices, including intertextuality, parody, and a carnivalesque attitude that transforms Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography (on which the film was based) into a "staged" world of stylistic excess and performativity.21

To return to Focillon's argument regarding the simultaneously fluid and stable properties of art form, in all the instances cited above, baroque traits flow fleetingly through various art movements and films but retain their freedom of motion: the baroque, in this case, is not "frozen" or "canonized" as a style. With the exception of the seventeenth century, it was not until the twentieth century that baroque form underwent a series of metamorphoses that resulted in the stabilization of the baroque as a style. Throughout the twentieth century, baroque form altered its identity as a style in diverse areas of the arts, continuing restlessly to move on to new metamorphic states and cultural contexts.22

The "Baroque Baroque" and the Hollywood Style: The 1920s and 1930s

Whereas art-historical and historical research on the seventeenth-century baroque came into its own only in the latter part of the twentieth century, the impact of the baroque on early-twentieth-century culture made itself felt in even more immediate ways within the public sphere. While the Western world was experiencing a modernist revolution in art through postimpressionism, cubism, surrealism, constructivism, and German expressionism, the baroque also experienced a stylistic resurgence.

In Baroque Baroque: The Culture of Excess, Stephen Calloway traces the direct impact of seventeenth-century baroque design, art, and architecture on twentieth-century culture. Labeling the self-conscious fascination with the baroque in the twentieth century the "baroque baroque" (1994, 15), Calloway traces its influences in the worlds of theater, cinema, architecture, interior design, and haute couture fashion. The 1920s and 1930s in particular can be characterized as stabilizing a new baroque style. In London, an elite and influential group of upper-class connoisseurs in the 1920s formed the Magnasco society (named after a rather obscure seventeenth-century painter Alessandro Magnasco, who was known for his "fantastic" style) with the intention of exhibiting baroque art (48). Soon, what came to be known as a "neo-baroque" style was all the rage. As Calloway states, "magazines of the day decreed that the neo-baroque was in," especially in interior design (50). As early as 1906, Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens's Folly Farm residence (West Berkshire, 1906-1912) introduced decorative schemes that included trompe l'oeil illusions influenced by the seventeenth-century baroque. In the 1920s Lord Gerald Wellesley's bedroom in his London townhouse displayed the "Magnasco society taste," and a neo-baroque form was evident in his bizarre and spectacular bed, the paintings that hung on the walls, and other baroque-inspired schemes in the room's decoration (48). Likewise, Cecil Beaton's neo-baroque house, Ashcombe-which included baroque furniture, door cases, putti sculptures, trompe l'oeil effects and mirrors, as well as light sconces on the walls that were cast in plaster in the form of human arms (a feature that was to reappear in Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete of 1946)-set many trends (86-90).23

A taste for things neo-baroque was also filtering into the exuberant and "dandified fashions" of eccentric characters like Cecil Beaton and Sacheverell Sitwell (whose book on the seventeenth-century Spanish baroque also contributed to an understanding of earlier baroque culture) (Calloway 1994, 32). These more eccentric tastes were soon to enter a more mainstream market when fashion designers like Coco Chanel, Helena Rubenstein, and Elsa Schiaparelli chose to market the "new concept of Chic" by producing stage salon shows and fashions that were marked by a baroque extravagance (79-81).24 This renewed interest in the baroque was also evident in the theater and ballet of the period. For example, the entrepreneur Seregei Diaghilev greatly influenced the look of the Ballets Russes, reigniting a concern for the spectacle of the baroque through the inclusion of exotic costumes of baroque design, baroque settings, and spectacular firework displays traditionally associated with seventeenth-century theater.25

In the United States, the young film industry began a love affair with baroque flair and monumentality. The sets, costumes, themes and designs of grand Hollywood epics like Intolerance (Griffith 1926), Queen Kelly (von Stroheim 1928), The Scarlet Empress (von Sternberg 1934), and Don Juan (Crosland 1926) (whose interiors were modeled on those of the Davanzanti palace in Florence) reiterated the spectacular grandeur of baroque style (Calloway 1994, 52-59). According to Calloway, the "visual richness of film culture" and the evident success of the star system by the 1920s shifted the cinema's evocation of fantasy and glamour off the screen and onto the private lives of its stars and the public sphere they inhabited (56). Film culture nurtured an environment that allowed baroque form to infiltrate the space of the city (specifically Hollywood and Beverly Hills). A baroque opulence the likes of which had never been seen since the seventeenth century soon exploded, and what came to be known as the "Hollywood style" emerged. Following the likes of stars like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, whose palatial abode, Pickfair, was constructed on the outskirts of Hollywood, a spate of movie moguls and film stars commissioned grand mansions that often explicitly imitated the seventeenth-century palazzi of European aristocrats and monarchs. The designs of Hollywood picture palaces followed suit. An aristocratic style was reborn to herald a new aristocracy, one engendered by the Hollywood film industry. The most famous fantasy mansion of the period was, of course, William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon (figure I.2). Adorned with booty plundered from throughout Europe, this mansion (which approached the size of a city) also included a cinema in the style of Louis XIV (57).

The monarchs in this new Hollywood aristocracy were the movie stars and media moguls, and they asserted their power and starlike qualities through a baroque visual splendor. The cultural space of Los Angeles was imbued with a new identity, one that would resurge with a revised fervor at the end of the century, when the neo-baroque was to become canonized within a radically different cultural context.26

The Latin American and Spanish Neo-Baroque

Omar Calabrese (1992), Peter Wollen (1993), Mario Perniola (1995), and Christina Degli-Esposti (1996a, 1996b, 1996c) have evaluated (from different perspectives) the affinities that exist between the baroque-or, rather, the neo-baroque-and the postmodern. It is as a formal quality of the postmodern that the neo-baroque has gained a stability that emerges from a wider cultural context. Initially, the strongest connection between the postmodern and the baroque emerged in the context of Latin American literature, art,27 and criticism, in particular, in the writings of the Cuban author Severo Sarduy, who consciously embraced the baroque as a revolutionary form, one capable of countering the dominance of capitalism and socialism (Sarduy 1975; Beverley 1988, 29). From the 1950s, in Latin America, the baroque was revisited as the neo-baroque, becoming a significant political form in the process. Particularly in literature, the seventeenth-century baroque's obsessive concerns with illusionism and the questionable nature of reality was adapted to a new cultural context, becoming a formal strategy that could be used to contest the "truth" of dominant ideologies and issues of identity, gender, and "reality" itself.

Generally, literary historians have associated the Latin American neo-baroque with the rise of the metafictional new-historicist novel that flourished during the boom period (1960s-1970s) and particularly in the postboom period of the 1980s. Although which authors are to be considered part of the boom period and which are part of the postboom is much debated, the tendency to equate both (and in particular the latter)

William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon estate
Click image for detailed view.

Figure I.2 William Randolph Hearst's California estate, San Simeon. By permission of The Kodak Collection.

with the neo-baroque is a point rarely debated. Novels such as Fernando del Paso's Noticias del Imperio (1987), Roa Bastos's Yo, el Supremo (1975), and Carlos Fuentes's Terra Nostra ( 1976) are viewed as simultaneously emerging from a postmodern context and as reflecting neo-baroque formal concerns (Thomas 1995, 170). Emphasizing the radical and experimental possibilities inherent in baroque form (as also outlined in the writings of Buci-Glucksman and Jay), Latin American writers such as Luis Borges, Severo Sarduy, Fernando del Paso, Jose Lezama Lima, Alejo Carpentier, and Carlos Fuente developed a deconstructive style that owed a great deal to philosophical writings of theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Fredric Jameson. Embracing the postmodern, these novelists also consciously melded theoretical concerns with stylistic strategies adapted from the seventeenth-century baroque tradition: the instability and untrustworthiness of "reality" as a "truth"; the concern with simulacra; motifs like the labyrinth as emblem of multiple voices or layers of meaning; and an inherent self reflexivity and sense for the virtuosic performance. The movement that emerged as a result came to be known as the neo-baroque.28 Additionally, many of the writings of these authors also invested in a Bakhtinian concern with the carnivalesque, intertextuality, dialogic discourse, and "heteroglossic, multiple narrative voices"; as Peter Thomas states, in all, a "neobaroque verbal exuberance . . . [and] . . . delirious" style ensued ( 1995, 171 ).

In "The Baroque and the Neobaroque," Severo Sarduy suggests that, whereas the Latin American baroque (of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) was simply a colonial extension of the European (and, in particular, the Spanish) baroque, the neobaroque embraces a more critical stance by returning to the European (as opposed to colonial) origins (Thomas 1995, 181; Sarduy 1975, 109-115).29 The aim was to reclaim history by appropriating a period often considered to be the "original" baroque thereby rewriting the codes and "truths" imposed on Latin America by its colonizers. By reclaiming the past through the baroque form, these contemporary Latin American writers could also reclaim their history. 'The new version of history that resulted from this reclamation spoke of the elusive nature of truth, of historical "fact," of "reality," of identity and sexuality. According to the neo-baroque, truth and reality was always beyond the individual's grasp.

In Spain, the baroque transformed along similar formal lines, becoming associated in the second half of the twentieth century with the literature of the period and with postmodernism. Freeing themselves from the oppressive censorship of the Franquist regime, in the 1960s and 1970s Spanish writers began to experiment with modernist and antirealist literary styles.30 Critics labeled the emerging Spanish style, which was influenced by the Latin American boom authors who had deliberately embraced the styles and concerns of Golden Age writers such as Miguel de Cervantes and Calderon de la Barca, "baroque" or, more often, "neo-baroque" (Zatlin 1994, 30; Overesch 1981, 19). Following the lead of many Latin American authors, Spanish writers such as Jose Vidal Cadellan, Maria Moix, Jose Maria Castellet, Manuel Ferrand, and Juan Goytisolo adopted stylistic features integral to seventeenth-century Spanish baroque literature.31 Francisco Ayala's El Rapto (1965), for example, retells one of the stories recounted in Cervantes's Don Quixote. Reflecting on the layered nature of the baroque, Ayala travels back in time to the seventeenth century to comment on Spain of the present, particularly on the "disorientation pervading contemporary Spanish society" under the post-Franco regime (Orringer 1994, 47). As with the Latin American neobaroque, particular features of a baroque poetics emerged:32 minimal or lack of concern with plot development and a preference for a multiple and fragmented structure that recalls the form of a labyrinth; open rather than closed form; a complexity and layering evident, for example, in the merging of genres and literary forms such as poetry and the novel; a world in which dream and reality are indistinguishable; a view of the illusory nature of the world-a world as theater; a virtuosity revealed through stylistic flourish and allusion; and a sell-reflexivity that requires active audience engagement (Overesch 1981, 26-60).33 For these Latin American and Spanish writers, the neo-baroque became a potent weapon that could counteract the mainstream: They embraced the neo-baroque for its inherent avant-garde properties.34 The contemporary neo-baroque, on the other hand, finds its voice within a mainstream market and, like the seventeenth-century baroque, directs its seduction to a mass audience.

The Spatial Aspect of the Cultural System

In recent decades, the neo-baroque has inserted its identity into diverse areas of the arts, continuing restlessly to move on to new metamorphic states and contexts, nurtured by a culture that is attracted to the visual and sensorial seductiveness integral to baroque form. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, we have experienced the reemergence and evolution of the baroque into a more technologically informed method of expression. A baroque mentality has again become crystallized on a grand scale within the context of contemporary culture. The spectacular illusionism and affective charge evident in Pietro da Cortona's ceiling painting of The Glorification of Urban VIII (Palazzo Barberini, Rome, 1633-1639), the virtuosic spatial illusions painted by Andrea Pozzo in the Church of S. Ignazio (Rome, 1691-1694) (figure I.3),

Andrea Pozzo's painting The Glory of S. Ignazio
Click image for detailed view.

Figure I.3 Andrea Pozzo, The Glory of S. Ignazio (detail) Chruch of S. Ignazio, Rome, 1691-1694. © Photo Vasari, Rome.

the seriality and intertextual playfulness of Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605 and 1615), and the exuberant and fantastic reconstruction of Versailles under Louis XIV have metamorphosed and adjusted to a new historical and cultural context. Specifically, I follow the lead of Omar Calabrese (1992), Peter Wollen (1993), and Mario Perniola (1995), all of whom understand (from different perspectives) the neo-baroque and the postmodern as kindred spirits. Although I recognize the multiple and conflicting theoretical responses to the postmodern condition, however,35 postmodern debates do not constitute the primary concern of this book. A specifically neo-baroque poetics embedded within the postmodern is my primary point of reference. Although some postmodern tropes and theories underpin the analysis to follow, I am not concerned with reiterating the immense body of literature and analysis that has already been articulated so admirably by numerous writers, including pioneers like Fredric Jameson, Jean Lyotard, Robert Venturi,36 Jean Baudrillard, Perry Anderson, and Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. It is within the context of the postmodern that the neo-baroque has regained a stability that not only is found in diverse examples of entertainment media cultures but has exploded beyond the elite or marginalized confines of eccentric European aristocrats, Hollywood film stars, and closed literary circles and into our social spaces.

That which distinguishes earlier phases of the twentieth-century baroque from its current guise is the reflexive desire to revisit the visuality associated with the era of the historical baroque. The "baroque baroque" deliberately reintroduced variations of seventeenth-century fashion, theatrical, and architectural designs, grand-scale spectacle, and baroque historical narratives in the context of the cinema, theater, and ballet. The Latin American and Spanish neo-baroque emerged from a conscious effort on the part of writers to manipulate seventeenth-century baroque techniques for contemporary, avant-garde purposes. The late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century expression of the neo-baroque emerges from radically different conditions. As was the case with the seventeenth-century baroque, the current expression of the neo-baroque has literally emerged as a result of systemic and cultural transformations, which are the result of the rise of conglomeration, multimedia interests, and new digital technology. Cultural transformation has given birth to neo-baroque form. The neo-baroque articulates the spatial, the visual, and the sensorial in ways that parallel the dynamism of seventeenth-century baroque form, but that dynamism is expressed in guises that are technologically different from those of the seventeenth-century form. In the last three decades in particular, our culture has been seduced by visual forms that are, reliant on baroque perceptual systems: systems that sensorially engage the spectator in ways that suggest a more complete and complex parallel between our own era and the seventeenth-century baroque. In this respect, my concern is with broader issues and general tendencies that give rise to dominant cultural sensibilities.

As history has shown us, human nature being what it is, we cannot resist the drive to locate and label such dominant sensibilities: baroque, Renaissance, medieval, modernist, postmodernist. Underlying all such categories is a desire to reduce and make comprehensible the complex and dynamic patterns and forces that constitute culture. In his study of German baroque tragedy, Benjamin raises a significant query with regard to issues of categorization, in particular, the typing of "historical types and epochs" such as the Gothic, the Renaissance, and the baroque (1998, 41). The problem for the historian lies in homogenizing the cultural phenomena (and, indeed, the culture) specific to different historical epochs:

As ideas, however, such names perform a service they are not able to perform as concepts: they do not make the similar identical, but they effect a synthesis between extremes. Although it should be stated that conceptual analysis, too, does not invariably encounter totally heterogeneous phenomena, and it can occasionally reveal the outlines of a synthesis. (41)

Systematization of cultural phenomena need not preclude variety. Likewise, categorization of dominant and recurring patterns need not reflect the revelation of a static cultural zeitgeist. The value of historical labeling and searching for a synthesis of dominant forces-ranging from the thematic, to the stylistic, to the social-is that it enables critical reflection. As Benjamin notes, the "world of philosophical thought" may unravel only through the articulation and description of "the world of ideas" (43). Like Benjamin, I do not seek to defend the methodological foundation that underlies the arguments in this book; I do, however, draw attention to my reservations with "zeitgeisting" and reducing the complex and dynamic processes in operation in cultural formations to simplistic and reductive conceptual observations, and I hope that what follows does not travel that path.

In recent years, a number of historians, philosophers, and critical theorists, including Omar Calabrese, Gilles Deleuze, Mario Perniola, Francesco Guardini, Peter Wollen, and Jose Maravall, have explored the formal, social, and historical constituents of the baroque and neo-baroque. Deleuze understood the baroque in its broadest terms "as radiating through histories, cultures and worlds of knowledge" including areas as diverse as art, science, costume design, mathematics, and philosophy (Conley 1993, xi). Likewise, in his historical and cultural study of the seventeenth-century Spanish baroque, Antonio Maravall observed that it is possible to "establish certain relations between external, purely formal elements of the baroque in seventeenth-century Europe and elements present in very different historical epochs in unrelated cultural areas. . . . [Therefore] it is also possible [to] speak of a baroque at any given time, in any field of human endeavour" (1983, 4-5).

Maravall, who is concerned with the seventeenth century, is interested in the baroque as a cultural phenomenon that emerges from a specific historical situation. Maravall also, however, privileges a sense of the baroque that encompasses the breadth of cultural diversity across chronological confines. His approach is a productive one. While exploring distinct centuries that have sets of cultural phenomena particular to their specific historical situations, it is nevertheless possible to identify and describe a certain morphology of the baroque that is more fluid and is not confined to one specific point in history.

The formal manifestations of the baroque across cultural and chronological confines also concern Omar Calabrese in his Neo-Baroque: A Sign of the Times (1992). Dissatisfied with postmodernism as a consistent, unified framework of analysis that explains aesthetic sensibilities, Calabrese suggests that the neo-baroque offers a productive formal model with which to characterize the transformations of cultural objects of our epoch (1992, 14). Recognizing, like Maravall before him, that the baroque is not merely a specific period in the history of cultures situated within the seventeenth century, (though with greater focus than Maravall on the twentieth century), Calabrese explores the baroque as a general attitude and formal quality that crosses the boundaries of historical periodization. For Calabrese, therefore, "many important cultural phenomena of our time are distinguished by a specific internal `form' that recalls the baroque" in the shape of rhythmic, dynamic structures that have no respect for rigid, closed, or static boundaries (5). The protean forms that he locates in blockbuster films, televisual serial structures, and the hybrid alien or monstrous hero are, in turn, placed (briefly) within a broader cultural sphere in which chaos theory, catastrophe theory, and other such "new sciences" reflect similar fluid transformations that contest prior scientific "norms" (171-172).

According to Calabrese, neo-baroque forms "display a loss of entirety, totality, and system in favour of instability, polydimensionality, and change" (1992, xii). Following Yuri Lotman's organization of knowledge according to "the spatial aspect of the cultural system," Calabrese suggests that space must have a border:

When used of systems (even of cultural ones), the term "border" should be understood in the abstract sense: as a group of points belonging simultaneously to both the inner and outer space of a configuration. Inside the configuration the border forms part of the system, but limits it. Outside the configuration the border forms part of the exterior, whether or not this too constitutes a system. . . . We might say that the border articulates and renders gradual relations between the interior and the exterior, between aperture and closure. (47-48)

Although the formal and aesthetic attributes of the (neo-)baroque remain the focus of this book, historical and cultural transformations also underpin the analysis that discipline follows. As Remy Saisselin has observed, "the arrival of a new style may herald changes within a society" (1992, 4). Specific sets of stylistic trends and aesthetic, norms are complexly interwoven with the institutional structures that give rise to them (Jenkins 1995, 103). In Universe of the Mind Yuri Lotman has argued that cultures operate within the spatial boundaries of the semiosphere, the semiotic space in which cultures define their borders (1990, 123):

Since symbols are important mechanisms of cultural memory, they can transfer texts, plot outlines and other semiotic formations from one level of a culture's memory to another. The stable sets of symbols that recur diachronically throughout culture 'serve very largely as unifying mechanisms: by activating culture's memory of itself they prevent Culture from disintegrating into isolated chronological layers. The national and area boundaries of cultures are largely determined by a long-standing basic set of dominant symbols in cultural life. (104)

Symbols, in other words, relate to and are the products of their cultural context (104). Recurring language systems, or what Lotman characterizes as smaller units of semiosis, respond to a larger semiotic space that is culture. For Lotman, the spatial models created by culture are evident in an "iconic continuum" whose "foundations are visually visible iconic texts" (204). The larger semiotic space informs smaller semiotic units that are, for example, embodied in cultural artifacts like paintings and the cinema. Although Calabrese's analysis of the "semiotic space that is culture" is minimal, he explores these semiotic spaces according to two coexisting systems, the classical and the baroque. Importantly, flouting the traditional oppositional relationship between the classical and baroque (a point to which I will return), Calabrese suggests that the two forms always coexist and that the one form dominates the other at different historical points in time.

Lotman's abstract ruminations on the spatial formations inherent in culture fascinate me for a number of reasons. First, I am attracted to the deceptively simplistic notion that the dominant aspects of a culture can be expressed in spatial terms. How does such space articulate itself? How does it find a voice across various cultural domains? How are the spatial formations of one culture to be distinguished from those of another, and is a distinct break or transition point visible from one cultural dominant to another? Considering such questions, I was drawn to the issue of why I have always been fascinated by these two different points in history: the seventeenth and late twentieth/early twenty-first centuries. Primarily, it was the articulation of the semiotic units within periods of cultural transformation that lured me: the dominant social and cultural drives that resulted in an equally dominant production of a baroque formal system. Both epochs underwent radical cultural, perceptual, and technological shifts that manifested themselves in similar aesthetic forms. Although both were the products of specific sociohistorical and temporal conditions, both gave voice to wideseale baroque sensibilities. Although the specific historical conditions surrounding each differ radically, a similar overall formal effect resulted from both. Social crisis and change "created a climate from which the baroque emerged and nourished itself" (Maravall 1983, 53). Informing the semiospheric boundaries of both eras is a spatial attitude dictated by economic and technological transitions. The more I researched and studied examples fi-om both periods, the more I was convinced that this transitional state is reflected semiotically in open, dynamic visual and textual forms.

Drawing on the influential study by Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970), in The Postmodern Turn ( 1997), Steven Best and Douglas Kellner reconsider Kuhn's evaluation of "paradigm shifts": According to Best and Kellner
a "paradigm" is a "constellation" of values, beliefs, and methodological assumptions, whether tacit or explicit, inscribed in a larger worldview. Kuhn observed that through- out the history of science there have been poradigm sh~, conceptual revolutions that threw the dominant approach into crisis and eventual dissolution, a discontinuous change provoked by altogether new assumptions, theories and research programs. In science, Kuhn argued a given paradigm survives uritil another one, seemingly having a greater explanatory power, supersedes it. (1997, xi)

The seventeenth century is an era frequently associated with transition. Indeed, Kuhn's work focuses on such a transition from the perspective of the scientific revolution. Maravall has considered the baroque era more broadly as a period of wide-scale social and economic transition. Paradigm shifts were evident in religion, economics, the sciences, the social, the class system, philosophy, and the arts. Extending Kuhn's argument; Best and Kellner assert that during any period, the cultural dominants of any discipline can be challenged and overturned so that "a new approach . . . emerges through posing a decisive challenge to the status quo; if successful, this new approach becomes dominant, the next paradigm, itself ready to be deposed by another powerful challenger as the constellation of ideas continues to change and mutate" (1997, 30). They argue that we are currently experiencing a "postmodern turn" in which the "postmodern paradigm" has infiltrated "virtually every contemporary theoretical discipline [industry, technology, economics, politics, science, and the arts] and artistic field," which, in turn, has influenced culture and society on a wide scale (1997, xi). The development of new imaging and information technologies, the dominance of globalization and transnational corporatism, and new theoretical paradigms in the sciences (such as quantum mechanics and chaos theory) not only have transformed our entertainment media but are also "challenging our definitions of subjectivity and objectivity" (Best and Kellner 1997, 30).

As Best and Kellner eloquently observe, however, "Historical epochs do not rise and fall in neat patterns or at precise chronological moments" (31). Identifying sudden and complete breaks with history is an impossible feat, just as it is impossible to detach the present from its historical past. Consider the term "transformation" : It suggests the coexistence of the-thing-that-has-been-transformed and that-which-it-has-been transformed-into. As Best and Kellner note, "Often what is described as `postmodern' is an intensification of the modern, a development of modern phenomena such as commodification and massification to such a degree that they appear to generate a postmodern break" (31). Maravall argues a similar point with respect to the seventeenth century. He understands the baroque not as a break with history (particularly, the Renaissance and mannerist periods that preceded it), but as a condition that is intimately connected to history. The Renaissance, he asserts, is a prelude to the baroque shift to modernity. The conditions that were transformed and the innovations that were introduced during the baroque were "inherited from the preceding situation" (1986, 3-4).

We have reached a point at which the old and the new coexist, when older paradigms that dominated throughout the modern era are being unsettled and contested. This is a time of cultural shift; chaos and uncertainty appear to reign-and from the ashes, a new order emerges. For writers like Baudrillard, our times mark the "end of history." Francesco Guardini follows a similar train of thought. Guardini understands the seventeenth-century baroque as leading to modernity, "while the Neobaroque moves away from it," being more aligned with the concerns of the postmodern (1996, n.p.). The baroque and neo-baroque, he suggests, operate as "interfaces" that are informed by innovative changes. Guardini understands our culture as being, like the seventeenth-century era that ushered in the scientific revolution, in the "eye of an epochal storm, in the middle of a gigantic transformation" of cultural and socioeconomic proportions.

I too understand the baroque and neo-baroque as emerging during periods of radical cultural transformation. My divergence from Guardini, however, lies in the conclusions he draws. In his deliberation on the effects of the neo-baroque (in particular, the neo-baroque's postmodern reliance on computer culture), he turns to "new Cassandras" such as Alvin Toffler who foresee centuries of doom, with democracy itself in danger (1996; n.p.). I wish to avoid such simplistic cause-and-effect patterns that lapse into predictive ruminations on the destruction of society as we know it. Through the vehicle of science fiction, I am more concerned with synthesizing features of the neobaroque to evaluate the nature and form of the parallels across both eras, while also considering traits that distinguish the baroque from the neo-baroque. The establishment of oppositions and hierarchies (the modern/the postmodern, the classical/the (neo-)baroque, coherent culture/incoherent culture) will be avoided. Indeed, I do not understand (neo-)baroque as a degenerative state that opposes its harmonious, classical double and reflects cultural decay through formal means. Instead, I will argue that underlying the seeming chaos of the neo-baroque is a complex order that relies on its own specific system of perception.

The Neo-Baroque and Contemporary Entertainment Media

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . " So it began. The Star Wars franchise has been one of the greatest success stories in the history of entertainment cinema, and in many respects, the franchise has become paradigmatic of the directions that contemporary entertainment media have taken. George Lucas's strategy was heavily reliant on his expansion of the original film into multiple story variations that also extended media boundaries. The beginning of Star Wars (1977) (figure I.4) alludes to a serial tradition from an earlier period in the history of the cinema: the B-serial. The film commences with textual narration viewed against the backdrop of an infinite, dark universe, and the story is immediately situated as an imaginary continuation of a previous series. The text relates events that took place prior to the film's commencement, events that tell of the rebel forces' first victory against the evil Galactic Empire and the acquisition of secret plans for the Empire's "death star" station, which is capable of destroying an entire planet. This textual introduction recounts the events of earlier narratives that did not (up until 1999) yet exist.37 The seriality and polycentrism that was to emerge from Star Wars is typical of a neo-baroque attitude toward space. Henri Focillon has stated that baroque forms

pass into an undulating continuity where both beginning and end are carefully hidden.... [The baroque reveals] "the system of the series"-a system composed of discontinuous elements sharply outlined, strongly rhythmical and . . . [that] eventually becomes "the system of the labyrinth," which, by means of mobile synthesis, stretches itself out in a realm of glittering movement and color. ( 1992, 67)

Star Wars poster
Click image for detailed view.

Figure I.4 Promotional poster for the phenomally successful Lucas franchise Star Wars (1977). By permission of The Kobal Collection.

Claiming itself as a story continuation rather than a new beginning, Star Wars recalls Focillon's "hidden beginning" of baroque form-a beginning that lies somewhere in a mythical past (which was, in 1999, finally revealed to the audience in The Phantom Menace). It is appropriate to begin an analysis of what constitutes the formal properties of the (neo-)baroque by outlining its traditional opposition: the classical. History has made rivals of these two entities. Yet from the perspective of the baroque, the two operate in unison. The baroque relies on the classical and embraces its "rules," but in doing so it multiplies, complicates, and plays with classical form, manipulating it with a virtuoso flair. In the baroque's deliberate establishment of a dialectic that embraces the classical in its system, the classical is finally subjected to a baroque logic.

The baroque's difference from classical systems lies in its refusal to respect the limits of the frame that contains the illusion. Instead it "tend(s) to invade space in every direction, to perforate it, to become as one with all its possibilities" (Focillon 1992, 1992, 58) The lack of respect for the limits of the frame is manifest in the intense visual directness in (neo-)baroque attitudes toward spectacle, a topic that will be the focus of thee second part of the book. In the case of narrative space, if we consider classical narrative forms as being contained by the limits of the frame (as manifested in continuity, linearity, and "beginnings and endings"), then the perforation of the frame-the hidden beginnings and endings-are typical of the (neo-)baroque. Like (neo)baroque spectacle, which draws the gaze of the spectator "deep into the enigmatic depths and the infinite" (Perniola 1995, 93), (neo-)baroque narratives draw the audience into potentially infinite, or at least multiple, directions that rhythmically recall what Focillon labels the "system of the series" or the "system of the labyrinth."

The central characteristic of the baroque that informs this study is this lack of respect for the limits of the frame. Closed forms are replaced by open structures that favor a dynamic and expanding polycentrism. Stories refuse to be contained within a single structure, expanding their narrative universes into further sequels and serials. Distinct media cross over into other media, merging with, influencing; or being influenced by other media forms. The grand illusions of entertainment spectacles such as theme park attractions and special-effects films seek to blur the spaces of fiction and reality. Film companies seek to expand their markets by collapsing the traditional boundaries and engaging in multimedia conglomerate operations. And so it continues. Entangled in this neo-baroque order is the audience. True to the (neo-)baroque, the passive remains suspect, and active audience engagement dominates (Penuola 1995, 100). (Neo-)baroque form relies on the active engagement of audience members, who invited to participate in a self-reflexive game involving the work's artifice. It is the audience that makes possible an integral feature of the baroque aesthetic: the principle of virtuosity. The delight in exhibitionism revealed in displays of technical and artistic virtuosity reflects a desire of the makers to be recognized for taking an entertainment form to new limits.

Chapter 1 of this book explores issues of narrative and spatial formations, in particular, the serial structures and serial-like motions that characterize contemporary media and culture. The seriality integral to contemporary entertainment examples succumbs to an open neo-baroque form that complicates the closure of classical systems. A polycentric system is favored, one that provides a capacity to expand narrative scenarios infinitely. Integral to this emerging neo-baroque logic is an economic rationale. In the seventeenth century, the emergence of capitalism and mass production was an integral cultural backdrop to the development of baroque form. 'The expansion of the masses into urban environments was accompanied by the mass production of media that had been steadily on the rise since the Renaissance. The burgeoning print industry recognized the economic possibilities of consumerism on a mass scale, and as the dissemination of plays, novels, biblical texts, and printed books, as well as other media such as the theater, opera, and mass-produced paintings, proliferated, a nascent popular culture emerged, one that was accompanied by a new fascination with the serial and the copy.

During our own times, entertainment industries have responded to the era of conglomeration. The film industry that emerged in the post-1950s recognized the competitive nature of a new, conglomerate economic infrastructure that increasingly favored global interests on a mass scale. Entertainment industries-film studios, computer game companies, comic-book companies, television studios, and theme park industries-expanded their interests by investing in multiple companies, thus combating growing competition within the entertainment industry more effectively and minimizing financial loss or maximizing financial gain by dispersing their products across multiple media. Horizontal integration increasingly became one of the successful strategies of the revitalized film industry, and formal polycentrism was supported by a conglomerate structure that functioned according to similar polycentric logic: Investments were dispersed across multiple industry interests that also intersected where financially appropriate.

The dialectic between economics and production further perpetuated a transformation in audience reception: a rampant media literacy resulted in the production of works that relied heavily on an intertextual logic. A serial logic of a different form ensued. As will be explored in chapter 2, "meaning" became reliant upon an audience that was capable of traversing multiple "texts" to give coherence to a specific work riddled with intertextual references and allusions. Simultaneously adhering to an older cultural system and adjusting to a new mass culture, the seventeenth-century aristocracy, the learned, and the lower classes became more active in the ways they participated in the deciphering of works of art. During our own times, the rise of audiovisual technologies such as VCRs, DVDs, cable, and the Internet has amplified the ability of audiences to familiarize themselves with multiple examples of entertainment culture. The polycentrism of seriality persists, but in this instance it is the intertextual allusions themselves that weave the audience seductively into a series of neo-baroque, labyrinthine passageways that demand that audience members, through interpretation, make order out of chaos. As in the monadic structure proposed by the baroque philosopher Gottfried Leibniz and the baroque "folds" described by Gilles Deleuze, each unit (whether in the form of a serial, a specific allusion, or a distinct media format) relies on other monads: One serial folds into another, and into yet another still; one allusion leads to an alternate path outside the "text," then finds its way back to affect interpretation; or one medium connects fluidly to another, relying on the complex interconnectedness of the system as a whole. The series of monads make up a unity, and the series of folds construct a convoluted labyrinth that the audience is temptingly invited to explore. Yet the baroque and neo-baroque differ in a significant way. Digital technology, especially as used within the world of computer games, has created more literal labyrinths for players to traverse. Highlighting a crisis in traditional forms of symptomatic interpretation, the multilinear nature of game spaces suggests that our modes of interpretation need to reflect an equally neo-baroque multiplicity.

The labyrinthine paths effected by digital technology have broader ramifications. Whereas the seventeenth century was the culmination of a radically new understanding of space in light of newly discovered lands and altered perceptions of the nature of outer space and Earth's place in relation to it, our own era explores the mysterious realms of the computer. Cyberspace, like the newly discovered material spaces of the seventeenth century, has expanded not only our conception and definition of space, but also our understanding of community and identity. Chapter 3 focuses more directly on issues of space, particularly in relation to the baroque mapping of newly discovered spaces and the neo-baroque mapping of expanding digital environments.

The (neo-)baroque's fascination with expanding spatial parameters is further highlighted in its love of spectacle. Chapter 4 evaluates the contexts of the seventeenth and late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries' shared fascination with spectacle, illusionism, and the principle of virtuosity. Focusing on two genres-seventeenth-century quadratura painting and the post-1970s science fiction film-I will make a comparison between technical and scientific advances of seventeenth-century spectacle and technological advances of late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century spectacle to evaluate and distinguish between the baroque and neo-baroque nature of these forms. I will argue that a dual impulse, resulting from an alliance between artist and scientist, operated in both eras, leading to a (neo-)baroque aesthetics. First, scientific and technological advances in optics in both eras pushed the boundaries of the understanding of human perception to new limits. Second, artists in both eras consciously produced art that exploited scientific and technological developments by perceptually collapsing the boundaries that separated illusion from reality. It will be suggested that (neo-)baroque spectacle strategically makes ambiguous the boundaries that distinguish reality from illusion. With unabashed virtuosity, the (neo-)baroque complicates classical spatial relations through the illusion of the collapse of the frame; rather than relying on static, stable viewpoints that are controlled and enclosed by the limits of the frame, (neo)baroque perceptions of space dynamically engage the audience. in what Deleuze (1993) has characterized as "architectures of vision." Neo-baroque vision, especially as explored in the quadratura and science fiction genres, is the product of new optical models of perception that suggest worlds of infinity that lose the sense of a center. Whereas critical and historical writings have focused on baroque spectacle and vision, it is argued here that the word "spectacle" needs to be reevaluated to encompass other senses, especially in the context of current entertainment experiences.

Inherent in (neo-)baroque spatial illusions is a desire to evoke states of transcendence that amplify the viewer's experience of the illusion. The underlying concern with evoking an aesthetic of astonishment reveals the baroque heritage present in the beginning of the cinema. As Tom Gunning ( 1990) has explained in his analysis of the pre-1907 film period (a cinema he characterizes, via Eisenstein, as a "cinema of attractions"), astonishment is achieved in spectacle through the ambivalent relationships generated in the spectacle's construction of a spatial perception that emphasizes rational and scientific principles, while also eliciting a seemingly contrary response that evokes states of amazement in the audience that have little to do with rationality. Remediations of technologically produced optical illusions that evoked similar responses in audiences of the seventeenth century are early examples from cinema. In its continuing the production of magical wonders like the magic lanterns, telescopes, cameras obscuras, and multireflective mirrors on display in wunderkammers such as that of the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, the cinema has never lost the baroque delight in conjuring illusions. Its inherently baroque nature has, however, revealed itself especially during periods of technological advancement: during the pre-1907 period that ushered in the invention of the cinematic apparatus; briefly during the 1920s, when experiments with wide-screen technology were conducted but the format failed to become standardized; during the 1950s, which ushered in a more successful version of neobaroque audiovisuality by showcasing new wide-screen and surround-sound technology through the epic and musical genres; and finally, during our own times, which have provided a more conducive climate for the stabilization of the neo-baroque. Deleuze has stated that "the essence of the Baroque entails neither falling into nor emerging from illusion but rather realizing something in illusion itself, or of tying it to a spiritual presence" (1993, 124). 'The baroque logic of contemporary media is revealed with a greater intensity when they are compared to those of these earlier periods that recall features of a baroque tradition. Like its seventeenth-century counterpart, science fiction cinema relies on visual spectacles that themselves embody the possibilities of "new science." The neo-baroque nature of science fiction cinema partly resides in a magical wonder that is transformed into a "spiritual presence"-a presence effected by scientifically and technologically created illusions.

Omar Calabrese took a brave first step in claiming that contemporary popular culture, as opposed to modernist traditions, has reignited baroque identity. Calabrese's approach is, essentially, a formalist one. There is much to be gained by pursuing formalist concerns, and in this book, I savor folding my own words into various examples-baroque and neo-baroque-through close analysis. Calabrese, however, neglects to consider the possibilities inherent in understanding the present through the past. Adopting the tropes of the baroque, but none of the works themselves, he does not consider the specifics of remediation or the audience's experience of the baroque. As a result, other dimensions of the (neo-)baroque that exist beyond the strictly formalist are bypassed. What are the parallels and differences between the baroque and neo-baroque? What is to be gained by considering the neo-baroque's formal properties, particularly its historical and cultural dimensions? This book proposes that there is a great deal to be learned about the (neo-)baroque as a spatial formation. Like the precious baroque mirror, culture and its cultural products nurture and reflect back on one another in a series of endless folds, producing reflections that fracture into multiple, infinitesimal pieces, which finally also comprise a single entity.


l . The actual sequence of this fairytale scenario was Jurassic Park (the film), Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, 1993; Jurassic Park: The Ride, Universal Studios, Los Angeles, 1996, and Orlando, 1999; The Lost World: Jurassic Park (PlayStation console game), Dreamworks Interactive 1997. There have, of course, been other media offshoots, including the film sequels The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, 1997 and 2000, and Japanese version of the ride at Universal Studios, Osaka.

2. Throughout this book I use the term "computer games" to refer to games for personal computers, network games, arcade games, and console games.

3. For an in-depth overview of the conventions of the classical Hollywood paradigm, see Thompson 1999 and Bordwell and Thompson 2001.

4. References to film "exceptions" that begin to break up classical forms of narration are not considered examples of how classical narration is being transformed; rather, they are dismissed because of their failure to adopt classical conventions correctly. In the case of Armageddon (Bay 1998), for example, Thompson draws on Todd McCarthy's critical review of the film as evidence of the film's failure to utilize classical forms of narration correctly: The focus on action and special effects result in a lack of depth with regard to character development and their motivation of "causal action" (14). The critic Thompson cites and Thompson herself may see the film as a "failed" or "incorrect" attempt at classical form, but audiences recorded their belief in the film's "correctness" through their contribution to box office returns. Likewise, Speed "suffers," according to Thompson, because it "uses up too much narrative energy in the bus episode without leaving any dangling cause at the end" (26). The end of the film (in the train) is viewed as an isolated episode that lacks concrete connection (in a classical sense) with the cause-and-effect patterns of the rest of the film. In other words, the film ignores the pattern of classical storytelling that Thompson identifies and instead succumbs to spectacle and action that ride on minimal story causation.

5. In High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood (1994), a highly significant contribution to the analysis of the dominant industrial and formal practices of contemporary Hollywood cinema, Justin Wyatt stresses the fundamental relationship that exists in Hollywood between "economics and aesthetics."

6. The classical era of Hollywood movie storytelling was dominated by the "Big Five" studios (Warner Brothers, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer [MGM], Paramount, Radio-Keith- Orpheum [RKO], and Twentieth Century Fox [C2Oth]) and the "Little Three" (Columbia, Universal, and United Artists). The industry was vertically integrated, with the Big Five controlling all areas of film production, exhibition, and distribution (and with the Little Three controlling production and distribution). Because of financial difficulties that were partially the result of 1948 antitrust proceedings against Paramount Studios that saw the dissolution of the oligopoly of the major studios, film studios began to merge with larger conglomerates whose concern with the film industry was but a minor part of their economic structure (see Wyatt 1994, chap. 3). Thompson acknowledges the structural transformations of the industry following the Paramount case, including the shift in 1968 away from the old production code of censorship, which was a system based on self-regulation, toward a rating system; the increased conglomeration of the industry from the 1960s; the emergence of a new generation of "auteur"-driven film school directors (Spielberg, Lucas, de Palma, Scorsese et al.); and the development of the "high-concept" film. Thompson refuses to conclude, however, that these and other structural changes have resulted in systemic transformations across the entertainment industry. For further information about these industrial, economic, and historical changes, see Schatz 1981; Ray 1985; Corrigan 1991; Hillier 1992; Wyatt 1994; and Wasko 1994.

7. The economic rationale for this strategy was the "reduction of risk which could be obtained through control of affiliated and connected markets" (Wyatt 1994, 81).

8. Although she acknowledges Justin Wyatt's important research on the economic and aesthetic changes that the contemporary Hollywood film industry has undergone, Thompson ultimately dismisses his location of the effects of the high-concept look and 'increased synergy across media, which she states have not changed the approach to filmmaking but rather have led to "intensifications of Hollywood's traditional practices" (1999, 3).

9. On this etymological issue, see Fleming 1946 (122); Palisca 1968 (2); Wolfflim 1932; Overesch. 1981 (37); Calabrese 1992 (chap. 1); Calloway 1994 (7). According to Palisca (1968, 2), French philosopher Noel-Antoine Pluche (1770, 129) used the term "baroque" in 1746 to distinguish between two violinists (Jean Pierre Guigonon and Jean Baptiste Anet) working in Paris at the time. Guigonon was concerned with the display of his abilities, whereas Anet was considered to keep display under control, because not to do so "is to wrest laboriously from the bottom of the sea baroque pearls, when diamonds are found on the surface of the earth" (Pluche 1770, 129, in Palisca 1968, 2). Zatlin also states that the French used the term "baroque" as "a pejorative way of distinguishing Spanish artistic style from their own Neo-classicism" (1994, 25). Also see Fleming for an overview of the pejorative associations of the baroque (1946, 122).

10. Palisca (1968) and Bukofzer (1947) are typical of music historians in dating the baroque music period between the mid-sixteenth century and the eighteenth century.

1 l. On the dates, see Burkholder and Johnson 1998 (237), which notes that the Latin American baroque extended into the eighteenth century, as did baroque music.

12. The dualisms outlined by Wolfflin were especially developed in his Principles of Art History. The five oppositions that distinguish classical from the baroque, according to Wolfflin, are linear versus pictorial, plane versus depth, closed form versus open form, form that is weighed down versus form that takes flight, and unity versus multiplicity.

13. As the twentieth century progressed, studies on the historical baroque extended into the arts including literature, theater, architecture, garden design, music, and the new sciences. Key early-twentieth-century historians and theoretical protagonists of the baroque included the Englishman Satcherverell Sitwell and the Spaniard Eugenio d'Ors.

14. Dominant baroque themes such as understanding the world as a dream, life as theater, and the "play within a play" motif also invite comparisons to the baroque. Cro, for example, understands Fellini's concern with these motifs as revealing a baroque sensibility (1995, 162). Turning its back on neorealism's concerns with social conditions and material reality, . Fellini's neo-baroque vision is conveyed in his play on the blurring of illusion and reality in films such as La dolce vita (1960), Satyricon (1969), 8 1/2 (1963), and Roma (1972). Calloway (1994, 172-173) also points to the operatic theatricality of Fellini's La dolce vita (1960) and Casanova (1976) and the "visually obsessive" films Satyricon, Roma, and Amarcord (1973).

15. On the baroque mise-en-scene of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands, see Desneux 2000 and Calloway 1994 (229).

16. On Powell and Pressberger, see Calloway 1994 (139) and Berard and Canniere 1982. Berard and Canniere use the term "baroque" quite sweepingly and loosely. The baroque is subsumed into every aspect of Curtiz's films: in his lack of concern with norms; in his focus on transgressive themes and characters; in his use of extravagant styles, lighting, and mise-en-scene, and in his preference for virtuoso actors such as Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, and Boris Karloff. Berard and Canniere also refer to the films of Tod Browning and James Whale as "gothic baroque" (83).

17. See, in particular, Christine Buci-Glucksman and Fabrice Revault D'Allonnes' book on Ruiz (1987); Strauss also states that Ruiz's Dark at Noon/La terreur de midi (1992) is "l'histoire de fantomes et de miracles baroques imagine par Ruiz"' (1992, 12); Martin briefly mentions the "high baroque style" for which Ruiz is known for films he directed in the 1980s, in particular, City of Pirates (1983) and Three Crowns of a Sailor (1982) (1993, 47).

18. On Greenaway's more conscious use of a baroque style and setting in films like Prospero's Books (1991), see Calloway 1994 (229), Bornhofen 1995 (274-288), and Degli-Esposti 1996a. Both Bornhofen and Degli-Esposti refer to Greenaway's adoption of a neo-baroque form.

19. Roelens states that "le film, dans son theme comme dans son esthethique, reflete et illustre cette religion du spectacle et ce spectacle de la religion" (1979, 176).

20. Gibson provides an interesting, though limited, analysis of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome based on Germain Bazin's articulation of the seventeenth-century baroque. Reflecting a "corporate aesthetic" akin to the postmodern era, baroque court and Church culture is understood as engendering a transcendental art that speaks of power and creativity. For Gibson, "the baroque configurations, the plastic exuberance, and the stylistic effervescence of Beyond Thunderdome" are expressions of "the telling of a new myth of origin" (1992; 171).

21. See Degli-Esposti 1996b. Of all the above-mentioned writers on the baroque nature of particular films or directors, Degli-Esposti is the most consistent and detailed in her efforts to locate traits of the baroque and the neo-baroque.

22. On the impact of baroque logic (especially the work of Caravaggio) on contemporary '. artists, see Bal 1999. In addition to providing overviews of 1990s exhibitions on the contemporary baroque, Bal covers a number of artists in her analysis, including Ana Mendieta, Andrea Serrano, Dotty Attle, Ken Aptekar, David Reed, Ann Veronica Janssens, Amalia Mesa-Bains, George Deem, Jackie Brookner, Edwin Ianssen, Jeannette Christensen, Lili Dujourie, Stijn Peeters, Mona Hatoum, and Carrie Mae Weems.

23. In France, the neo-baroque was also in vogue. 1n particular, the shops of Parisian decorators like Jean-Michel Frank became the meeting point of individuals who were victims of Parisian chic. The Louis XIVth style was especially in vogue. As Calloway points out, contemporaneous to the austere modernism of the period was a neo-baroque style that undermined the concerns of modernist values (Calloway 1994, 61-62).

24. The baroque fashion of the period was also reflected in films like Busby Berkeley's Fashion of 1934, which included the central character couturier Monsieur Baroque (Calloway 1994, 81).

25. The stage productions of John Gielgud's Hamlet (1934) and C. B. Cochran's Helen! (1932) also followed the neo-baroque trend. See Calloway 1994 (101).

26. It was the world of fashion that retained its admiration of the baroque in the intervening years. Between the 1920s and the 1990s, Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Lacroix, Lagerfield, Westwood, and Versace persisted in experimenting with baroque styles. See Calloway 1994 (145, 192). Also see the catalogue for the Gianni Versace exhibition (Martin 1997) held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art between December 11 , 1997, and March 22, 1998, which included a number of the designer's baroque-inspired designs.

27. On the neo-baroque and contemporary Latin American art, see Wollen 1993.

28. For detailed overviews of the historical and aesthetic concerns that gave rise to the Latin American neo-baroque, see Cabanillas 1992; Bornhofen 1995; Wollen 1993.

29. Thomas (1995) refers to Sarduy's essay republished in Latin America and Its Literature (1978). The original was published in 1973 as "Barroco y neobarroco" in Americo Latina en su literatura and was republished as chapter 5, "Supplement," of Sarduy's Barroco (1975).

30. On the neo-baroque movement in Spanish literature, see Overesch 1981.

31. Overesch makes the important point that, although "neo-baroque" and "baroque" have become common terms for defining techniques employed in the Spanish novel, there is little consensus as to the precise features that characterize this "barroquism." In addition, there is much debate as to which authors typify a baroque sensibility (1981, 35).

32. Overesch argues that where the Latin American neo-baroque was closely concerned with reclaiming history in an effort to understand the present, the emergence of the neo-baroque in 1960s and 1970s Spanish literature, especially the emphasis on the illusory nature of identity and existence, related to cultural transformation and, in particular, to the increased impact of technology and foreign interests on Latin American culture, which are reflections of the new age of globalization. The new wave of Latin American authors, she states, reflect the way "arhstic creation is the working out in formal terms of what culture cannot solve concretely" (1981, 80).

33. Although it is not the concern of this book to explore the Spanish manifestation of the neo-baroque, it is worth noting that little has been made of the relationship between post1970s Spanish cinema and the neo-baroque literary tradition. Given the recurrent and shared themes and techniques that concern both neo-baroque writers and filmmakers like Pedro Almodovar, it is evident that the literary Spanish neo-baroque form has infiltrated the cinema of the period.

34. Peter Wollen, for example, has explored the avant-garde potential of Latin American, and especially Mexican, art of the 1950s. This art embraced a neo-baroque approach that strengthened in the 1960s and became "irresistible with the advent of post-modernism" in the post-1960s, and its formal strategies contained a more radical potential for subversion, for Wollen, especially when compared to the postmodern variation articulated in mainstream culture (1993, 13). Similar approaches that view the (neo-)baroque as a form that belongs in the margins may be found in Buci-Glucksman 1994, Jay 1994, and Degli-Esposti 1996a and 1996b.

35. For a detailed overview of the historical development and transformation of postmodern theoretical positions from the 1960s to the 199Us, see Best and Kellner 1997 and Anderson 1998. These works provide succinct summations of the divergent, and often conflicting, views present in postmodern theory. ''

36. Perry observes that one of Venturi's initial steps toward resisting and, in fact, attacking modernist architecture was to embrace traditionally less "purist" forms, including mannerism, the baroque, and rococo (1998, 20).

37. Although it was actually the fourth segment in the story sequence, Star Wars was the first of the films produced. The Phantom Menace (1999), the first segment of the narrative sequence, initiated the release of the much-awaited prequel trilogy. Attack of the Clones (the second segment) was released in 2002, and the third segment in the sequence is scheduled for release in 2004.

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