Blade runner

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Ramble City: Postmodernism and "Blade Runner" Giuliana Bruno October, Vol. 41. (Summer, 1987), pp. 61-74.
Stable URL: October is currently published by The MIT Press.

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Ramble City: Postmodernism and Blade Runner


"History is hysterical: it is constituted only if we consider it, only if we look at it-and in order to look at it we must be excluded from it. . . . That is what the time when my mother was alive before me is-History. No anamnesis could ever make me glimpse this time starting from myself- whereas, contemplating a photograph in which she is hugging me, a child, against her, I can waken inmyself the rumpled softness of her crepe d e chine and the perfume of her rice powder."' T h a t is history for Roland Barthes and history for the replicants of Blade Runner. T h e replicants a r e perfect "skin jobs," they look like humans, they talk like them, they even have feelings and emotions (in science fiction the ultimate sign of the human). What they lack is a history. For that they have tobe killed. Seeking a history, fighting for it, they search for their origins, for that time before themselves. Rachel succeeds. She has a document-as we know, the foundation of history. Her document is a photograph, a photograph of her mother, hugging her, a child, against her, wakening in her the rumpled softness of, most probably, a hamburger. History is hysterical; it is constituted only if welook at it, excluded from it. T h a t is, my mother before me-history. History/ Mother/My mother. "My mother? I'll tell you about my mother. . . . "2

T h e debate on postmodernism has by now produced a vast literature. Roughly, we might distinguish three positions: one elaborated with reference to the human sciences and literature, by Jean-Fran~oisLyotard and Umberto Eco, among others; oneconcerning the visual arts, recently developed in particular in the U.S.; and one related to the discourse of and on a r c h i t e c t ~ r eIt~is the latter .

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, trans. Richard Howard, New York, Hill and Wang, 1981, p.

2. Thus answers the replicant Leon when asked about his mother; he then kills his questioner. 3. T h e literature is by now extensive, if notparticularly distinguished. See, for example, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, Cambridge, Massachusetts,


which, for the most part, constitutes the theoretical groundwork for this paper, in which Blade Runner will be discussed as a metaphor of the postmodern condition. I wish to analyze, in particular, the representation of narrative...