Like any good conceptual work, the description of Panda (KFP) by Chris Alexander can be taken at its website-word:

Two and a half years in the making, this book-length poem assembles thousands of fan responses, brief summaries and descriptions of the title character from DreamWorks Animation’s 2008 movie “Kung Fu Panda,” an exhaustive catalog of product tie-ins and derivative works in the Kung Fu Panda franchise, and technical specs for the AMD Opteron, the microprocessor that powered the animation firm’s computers during the movie’s production.

Multilingual text with appropriated images.

(The sequel, available here ($8.00 for book, download for free), is “The Denovelization of Kung Fu Panda,” in which the DreamWorks/HarperCollins novelization of Kung Fu Panda is textually inverted and a glut of images from KFP1 inserted.)

In the 4th Council of Constantinople (869), it was announced that hereinafter the Image should be venerated equally with the Word, and that the Images of saints and the Blessed Mother were also the proper subject of veneration. This was the birth of allegory. And the aesthetic and ethical antecedent to KFP, which is a chronicle of veneration, a pilgrim’s progress from the account of the Birth to the accounts of the faithful (laity and clerk) to an accounting of relics (properly subdivided by type), culminating in an account of the mysteries of der Heilige Geist (in the machine). Too, the Word as such is represented: “The entire script for Kung Fu Panda online.” (49) Moreover, like the Gospels, the descriptions of KFP serve as Venn diagrams, overlapping, but with differing details—up to the believer, really, to determine what is salient and what is not. Are the father’s noodles a key to the kingdom (le nom du père), or another false prohibition (le non du père)? The believer believes yes and no, represented by various degrees of facebook devotion/identification:

Amanda Tedeschi Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda. Panda., oh yea!
November 19 at 11:05 am • Report

Tunahan Sefa Aydin I love you panda and I am panda &#58 &#41 &#58 &#41 &#58 &#41
October 22 at 10:21 am • Report

Lauren McNabb cest le j’m apple panda…aurjordui mecredi hehe
June 17 at 5:36 pm • Report

Lidwina Amanda Wong O love Kungfu, I love Panda, I love it all, so cute, so touching story!!!
June 5 at 9:34 am• Report
Jonathan Bourque likes this (40-42)

Among the catalogue arias are the three varieties of relics: bodily, those items which were once part of KFP, such as the Kung Fu Panda Po’s Dream Early Concept 2 Limited Edition Giclee Print (104); contact, those items which have come into contact with KFP, such as Kung Fu Panda and “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra (100); and transubstantive, those items which share in the body of KFP by virtue of being infused with the Spirit of KFP, such as McDonald’s Happy Meal Kung Fu Panda Figures Set of Four by Kung Fu Panda (102). Note the presence of the signatory in the last—”by Kung Fu Panda”—invoking that apparatus by which the Law casts the Source into being. (This authority is also how I become an author, for I am nothing without my apparatus.) Too, KFP demonstrates the medieval notion of the scala naturae or great chain of being, where culture (“A panda who promotes obesity and eating too much”) is revealed to be the better part of nature (“A panda who is pretty damn cute”), nature culture’s support (“The fact that it’s about a Panda Bear, should have told you this is not a Serious Kung Fu movie” (21)), the divine plan being one of harmony and self-preservation via brand promotion and product-placement:

McDonald’s Kung Fu Panda Feast of Fury. McD’s will also continue to not only try to get kids more active via its Happy Meal promotions, but also make them mini-activists. As part of its Kung Fu Panda promotion, it will partner with Conservation International. (178)

The aforementioned animus behind the animation is revealed to be the many-in-one of the Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron Processor, “the Preferred Processor Provider for DreamWorks Animation.” (206) There are pages of text in Chinese, unreadable to this reader, some of which seemed to be screen credits. There was a dispute among medieval theologians about whether the Holy Word should be accessible to the laity—some thought yes, as the keys to salvation should be hung low. Some thought no, as the divine was, by its nature, not meant to be understood by the common man. KFP trucks with the latter notion, one which popped up later in Mallarmé, for the hermetic text is, like a frozen shipwreck, something that can only be cracked on its own turf. Contrarily and simultaneously, KFP also panders to the former theory, providing pages of images to be venerated as such, as well as the image of the image, an accounting of the offshot videos, games, school supplies, animate and inert plush figures and plastic figurines, and a walk through of the PSP, which cages its coaching in the second-person, present and absent: “Stumble. When you land, immediately start to fight off the bad guys…After you fight them off, you’ll have your first boss encounter, A Worthy Foe.” (141) It is the language of the crusade to the crusader, that damp whisper in the ear that indicates a fight for the right. As such, KFP is the very model of an epic poem, a lengthy work “concerning events of a heroic or important nature to the culture of the time.” (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.)

Put still another way, if we can draw parallels between the gesture of the contemporary erasing (Rauschenberg : de Kooning; Bervin : Shakespeare) or defacing (Duchamp: da Vinci; Place : de Beauvoir) his predecessor, Alexander may be seen as inverting Damien Hirst. Hirst’s famous diamond skull work is mistakenly identified as a 2007 piece consisting of a diamond-encrusted platinum skull, titled “For the Love of God.” But this is not Hirst’s art work, for the work of art here lies in its working, its production and multiplication, the bread and loves trick that Hirst has subsequently performed and continues to perpetuate. The skull itself is virtually unmarketable, and so Hirst has, in the sly manner of many pilgrims, bought and sold the skull himself to himself (as part of an anonymous consortium), for what it’s worth (the sale is likely false). Some thought this was the real art, a media art performance of the sale and subsequent Sotheby’s exhibition/auction of Hirst’s work, prices suitably jacked up. But this seems too small, too postmodern-ironic, missing the real deal. For the real art lies in the art of the real, the distribution of the sensible, so to speak, in the Diamond Skull cufflinks ($9995); keyrings (₤7.70); brooches (₤5.80); miniatures ($24.95); prints (₤10,500); signed prints (₤8,400) posters (₤31), signed posters (₤205-310); t-shirts ($125 ebay—buy instantly); books (“For The Love of God: The Making of the Diamond Skull” by Damian Hirst, $200 hardcover); viewings (€10 adult at the Palazzo Vecchio in 2010)—the relics of the corpus sanctus that continue to be circulated and gazed upon, whose production is not reproduction, but production itself. After all, there were no originary Diamond Skull Christmas ornaments, but why not? The material is thus proved immaterial in equal measure, and all parts of the sacred image (consecration being a matter of some cost, though, as they say, price is no object—not materially) being equally sanctified.

Are these callow comparisons? It rather depends on whether one believes in content or containers. Structural containers, that is, for this is the very scaffold of belief, set in bas-relief. Is it funny? No more so than any fundamentalism. The postmodernist believed that there was no master narrative as imagined by modernism (emancipation oder idealism), just petit histoires from which other grand narratives could be spun (global capitalism), the conceptualist believes that narrativity is as poetry is, that is to say, as such. Here’s the stuff, do what you will. It will change, as will you, for it is your will that will make it whatever it happens to be—to you. Put another way, as Nietzsche noted, science is no more beholden to truth than God. Perhaps less so, as science can turn on a dime, and believes only in itself, whereas God is stubbornly resistant to change and believes in us, as demonstrated by the fact that we hear God. Or we don’t hear God, which is no proof of God’s non-existence, given the order of things and the nature of divinity. In other words, in conceptualism, the interpellation is reversed: it is not the hailing that calls me into being (pace Althusser), but I who cause the hailing that calls the police officer into being as law enforcement as sich. That is to say, truth is for those who can’t handle uncertainty. For the rest of us, there is the catalogue and the story of Kung Fu Panda—”a important message about believing in oneself the power that comes from within.” (amazon.com) Put another way:

Panda was great.

I feel for this panda. (47)