On Karma: Cinematic Technicity-Consciousness and Its Operation

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Karma is one of the most contested and misunderstood notions in Buddhist philosophy. Vernacularly, it refers to the phenomenon that an act, a speech, or a thought, once being actualized––and subsequently, extinguished––will produce a delayed or deferred consequence. Yet, the Buddhist notion of karma is closer to Baruch Spinoza’s understanding of affectus: an impulse that vocates––and is vocated by––the formational process of the consciousness. For Buddhist philosophers, all forms are dependently originated, from one moment to another, out of a layout of causes and conditions. In this light, imaging, which is a process of constituting a milieu that includes the body itself and the “external” forms, appears to be an actual process of becoming. Yet, such a process of actualization is an instantiation of a layout of interdependent conditions (potentialities), and this process of actualization-virtualization drives––and is driven by––karma.

The concept of karma, I argue, is therefore crucial in our understanding of the technicity of the cinema, why we are so attached to the subject-object divide in our embodied experience, and in what way such a divide can be dismantled.

My talk is based on my forthcoming book Illuminating Reality: Cinematic Technicity-Consciousness through the Lens of Buddhism (Minnesota, 2021). In this monograph, I use Buddhist philosophy to locate the connection between what Gilbert Simondon (1924–89) calls technicity (the principles upon which technics operate), and what Gilles Deleuze (1925–95) calls the image-consciousness. Seen from Simondon’s perspective, the cinema is an anthropotechnical milieu. Seen from Deleuze’s point of view, the cinematographic image is a consciousness. Although we can say that Simondon and Deleuze offer a parallax view on how the cinema operates, how they are put into operation remains unanswered in their respective works. This is where Buddhism can intervene and illuminate.
Period15 Apr 2021
Held atUniversity of Westminster, United Kingdom