The Disintegrating Chronotope of Philip K. Dick (Redux)

I am reposting this transcription of a lecture I gave to MA Fine Art students at Chelsea College of Art and Design in Winter 2008. It will give some context to a forthcoming series of blog posts related to the BC Time-Slip project and to a program of lectures I will be giving for Fine Art and Psychology students at the University of Worcester in the forthcoming academic year. The first of these – ‘Beware the Boa Constructor! Freud, Modern Art and the Riddle of Interpretation’ – is in the pipeline.


 

The Disintegrating Chronotope of Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982)

Part One

Introduction

‘Artists are replicants who have found the secret of their obsolescence’ – Brian Massumi ‘The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari’ (1987)

The term replicant here is a reference to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), the name he gave to the androids in his film version of Philip K Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968). The plot of Dick’s novel revolves around a number of highly ‘evolved’ robots who are seeking to have the date of their in-built obsolescence postponed indefinitely. It is the blade runner’s job to hunt down and prematurely terminate the rebellious androids. Although Blade Runner lacks much of the narrative content and philosophical themes of Dick’s original novel, the film brought Dick the mainstream attention he had sought throughout his 25 years of science fiction writing. Sadly, in characteristically tragi-cosmic fashion, he did not live long enough to enjoy his new found fame.

The broader context for this lecture are the themes of historical and temporal consciousness we have been exploring in relation to the shift from modern to postmodern thought, aesthetics and cultural theory, and in particular the ‘materialist’ conception of history addressed by Benjamin in the ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ and throughout Illuminations.

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