Thus Spake Zarathustra

By Regina Muff

When Zarathustra was thirty years old she left her home and went into the mountains. For ten years she enjoyed her spirit and solitude making film and video. But at last she went before the sun at daybreak and spake:

“Great star, I am weary of my wisdom. Like the bee that hath gathered too much honey, I need hands outstretched to take it, eyes to behold my creations.”

Zarathustra went down the mountain alone and when she entered the forest there appeared an old workman with camera scouting for dancing light. Thus spake the workman to Zarathustra:

“No stranger to me is this wanderer. She passed this way many years ago carrying her ashes. Now altered is this Zarathustra, no loathing lurketh about her mouth. Wilt thou now carry thy fire into the valleys?”

“And what doeth the workman in the forest,” asked Zarathustra?

“I make magic with light and create tactile experiences for the eyes. Creator am I, creator of freedom who says to every ‘Thou shalt’ a cinematic Nay.”

Coils of film did roll about him and spring from his pockets and hair. From his satchel he withdrew a small bird carved of wood which suddenly sang:

“I embody the ritual meanings of the practices of which I have been a part. What meanings I have gained and lost on my way this saint hath captured for posterity on film.”

“Do not go down to men,” the saint said, “but stay in the forest. With singing and weeping do I project my films for the bears and trees.”

When Zarathustra heard these words she bowed to the saint and said: “What have I to offer thee with my films and videos?” And she went on her way.

But once she had gone a ways through the forest she said to her heart: “Could it be possible? This saint has not heard that the work of art reproduced has become a work of art designed for reproduction!”

Then Zarathustra arrived at the outskirts of a town. She found there many people assembled in a field to see a film projected on the side of a barn. And thus spake she to the people:

“I teach you the Seductress. Film is something to be surpassed. What have you done to surpass film? A dangerous crossing is this medium, a trembling and halting.

“I love her whose soul is deep even in the wounding, her who may succumb to a small matter.

“I love her whose soul is so overfull that she forgetteth herself when she holds a camera in her trembling hands.”

After Zarathustra said these words she looked at the people and was silent. “Must one batter their pride that they may learn to see with their bodies? They dislike to hear of contempt for them. I will therefore speak of the contemptible, the last filmmaker.”

And thus spake Zarathustra:

“It is time for film to create a new future. It is time for film to turn toward the past. Film hath been endowed with a Messianic power to which the past has a claim. ‘We have discovered visual happiness,’ say the last filmmakers. ‘What do we care for the past?’ The filmmakers make only optical images, lines of perspective.

“But I say to you: A storm called progress propels them forward, and the debris of cultural barbarism grows skyward.

“Behold the Seductress. Tell me who I am, I who believeth neither in truth nor falsehood, reason nor subterfuge.

“Pure appearance with nothing to signify, I challenge to a duel of vulnerabilities absent depth and meaning.

“I avert my gaze from its course toward knowledge.

“I bring you an erotic image, a haptic visuality, a confusion of subject and object fundamentally disordered, an image eluding all visual possession.”

Then an active viewer amongst the crowd shouted, “I refuse to be seduced by these illusions, O Zarathustra! They are products of alienated labor. Give us facts by which we might know what to do in the name of justice!”

The people became restless, until another cried out, “Give us this last filmmaker, O lonely one! Make of each of us such a filmmaker. Then we will make you a present of this Seductress.” The people laughed.

Zarathustra turned sad and said to her heart: “They understand me not. Too long have I lived in the mountains, too long have I created for the brooks and cliffs.”

Then Zarathustra looked closely and saw the chains on the people. Chained by their necks and thighs, their heads and genitals faced forward, toward the side of the barn. Thus prevented from turning to see the source of light and from moving about the field that was now a cave and a womb, their eyes fixed forward. They squabbled amongst themselves about sex.

Suddenly a young woman appeared from a little door at the corner of the barn and walked to the center of the wall. A spotlight shone on her. She was only half-clad and dressed in much finery on her head and hips, and she performed for the people an alluring dance. But they shouted obsenities and threw stones.

Then spake Zarathustra unto the people:

“Once hadst thou passions and calledst them evil. But soon willst thou have only virtues; they will grow out of thy passions.

“Once hadst thou wild dogs in thy cellar: but they will change at last into birds and charming songstresses.”

The people became further disordered when the dancer’s skirt was rent and revealed her speculum. The stones struck her until she lay prostrate by the wall. Then Zarathustra went and kneeled by her where her body fell. At length consciousness returned to the dancer and she looked up at Zarathustra.

Then didst Zarathustra say to the disfigured one:

“People call the sovereignty of seduction feminine by convention, the same convention that claims sexuality to be masculine. Verily I say, the feminine denies all things their truth and foils all systems of power and meaning.

“People oppose the sovereignty of seduction to the masculine. But verily I say, the strength of the feminine belongs to a universe distinct from interpretation, the unconscious, and the masculine/feminine dichotomy. Play, duel, and reversible appearance belong to the feminine, which is always evil before the law of desire.”

The dying dancer replied with suspicion, “I am not much more than a video artist which hath been taught to dance by blows and for scanty fare.”

“Not at all,” answered Zarathustra. “Thou hast made danger thy calling; therein there is nothing contemptible.”

When Zarathustra had said this the dying one moved to hand a DVD to Zarathustra in gratitude. Then the people dispersed, it became night, and a cold wind blew. After several hours the dancer spoke again for the last time: “Flee, sister, into thy solitude. Away from the marketplace and from fame taketh place all that is great. Resemble again the tree which thou lovest, the broad-branched one–silently and attentively it o’erhangeth the sea. Around the devisers of new values revolveth the world, but around the actors revolve the people. Flee, sister, into thy solitude.”

Zarathustra sat alone in the field beside the corpse, holding the DVD. The she said to her heart:

“Cinema was once the height of artifice. In it the sight of reality was an orchid in the land of technology.

“Cinema once burst the prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second. In it merged art and science.

“But today we recreate the world in our bodies, and it is the memory of the senses that shatters the world. One no longer recognizes the body’s mimetic traces in the signs of technology. Yea, film is something to be surpassed.

“Cinema will soon embody seduction’s ruses and strategies, but in the play of time-images that mime the bodies’ experiences. It will allude to the inaccessible secrets that withdraw behind all discourse. It will embody the knowledge of sense memories formed from childhood.

“Nor will cinema forsake the irony that prevents emotional demonstrations from short-circuiting untried possibilities, but preserve the disillusion which leaves the field of aesthetics open.

When Zarathustra had said this to herself, she put the corpse upon her shoulders and set on her way. But before she had gone a hundred paces there stole a man up to her in the dark and whispered in her ear: “Leave this town, O Zarathustra. There are too many here who hate thee. Repression of women’s speech will never again be lifted here unless it be by converting her to a discourse that inscribes her pleasure as the hollow and negative of its own phallic assertions.”

But Zarathustra answered:

“Lo! It is through cinema that woman will reopen paths into the logos that connote her as castrated. Given that ‘reasonable’ films are powerless to translate all that pulses and clamors in her cryptic passages, and that she has been misinterpreted, forgotten, frozen in show-cases, rolled up in metaphors, buried beneath carefully stylized figures, made the object of investigation, woman will henceforth insist on the blanks in cinematic discourse which recall the places of her exclusion and which ensure the cohesion, the articulation, the expansion of established forms.”

Then Zarathustra continued on her way into the forest to bury the body.

Scammed Sources

Baudrillard, Jean
Seduction (St. Martin’s, 1990)
p. 7 sovereignty, p. 116 irony

Benjamin, Walter
Illuminations (Schocken Books, 2007)
“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
p. 233 orchid, p. 236 prison-world
“Theses on the Philosophy of History”
p. 254 Messianic, p. 256 barbarism, p. 258 debris

Irigaray, Luce
Speculum of the Other Woman (Cornell, 1985)
p. 140 hollow, blanks, 142 “reasonable,” 144 show-cases

Marks, Laura,
The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Duke, 2000)
ch. 2 transnational object, ch. 3 haptic visuality, p. 214 mimetic traces

Nietzsche, Friedrich
Thus Spake Zarathustra (Modern Library’s The Philosophy of Nietzsche, n.d.)
“Zarathustra’s Prologue,” various passages
Sect. V passions, dogs, Sect. XII market-place



Regina Muff writes, “I am white and documented as a legitimate human being, bipedal and socialized as member of the privileged species, do radical politics, love the unoccupied environment, demand my pleasure, deconstruct logocentrism, wear cameras, am turned on by defiance, defend solitude, subvert authority, oppose eurocentrism, await redemption, invite sacrilege, prefer outcasts, and have no regrets.”


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