Posts Tagged ‘cinema’
Doane argues that early film showcases “time becoming visible as the movement of bodies through space”
Mary Anne Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive
Mark Shiel, Cinema and the City in History and Theory in Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, edited by Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice.
Mary Anne Doane and Mark Shiel make arguments for opposing conceptions of cinema as escape valve for modernity’s alienation from “lived time” and as a postmodern transformation of simulacra into “lived space”.
According to Doane, “the technique of metropolitan life” implies the development of a consciousness regularly leached of meaningful experience by the systematic “shock” of paradoxically both the excessive presence of the present in the form of a barrage of urban stimuli and the alienation of subjectivity from its own present by the logic of capitalist labor. Doane’s essentially psychological (Freudian?) argument is that this constant condition of collective trauma is the origin of a schism in our conception of time – between a time characterized by “the most punctual integration of all activities and natural relations into a stable and impersonal schedule” (the time created by railroad logistics, punch-cards and wrist-watches) and the time that takes shape in the experience of cinema, which offers “the technological promise…of immortality, the denial of the radical finitude of the human body, access to other temporalities” and, contra the traumatized time of daily modern life, can be archived, re-captured, indexed, “rematerialized”. Cinema in this case become a collective prosthetic imitation of memory, a mechanized algorithm for the production of the lived time that has been lost in the business of a modernist logic that “spends” time instead of holding onto it.
This new or other cinematic time is constructed around a double absence: the phenomenological gap resulting from the fact that cinema is a juxtaposition of still frames, and therefore fails to reproduce (according to Bergson) true time/movement, and the diegetic gap constituted by editing, which dislocates the linear flow of time. This phantom, uncanny time, resurrected/ “relived”, “haunted” by its own fabricated past, becomes a site for experiments in fresh meaning-making, for the presentation and representation of the kind of life that “results from immanence and embodiment”. Out of perversity or driven by a utopian desire for the impossible, Doane argues that photography/cinema, or at least their proponents, seek to transform the contingent, the arbitrary (the non-contextualized moment, “that which is beyond or resistant to meaning”) into that which is most authentically (because instantaneously) meaningful. From a classicist point of view, this reconfiguration of time into a present of memory (and nostalgic memory of the present) is equivalent to attempting to achieve a sort of alchemy – in spatial terms, to conflate surface and depth.
This argument that cinema exists in a time of its own is curiously echoed (or produced in a postmodernist reverse/mirror effect) in Mark Shiel’s argument for the understanding of cinema as its own “spatial system”, a space that is present/constitutes a present rather than merely a “textual system”, a system of representation. Using the city as a metaphor for cinema as well as the site of (Hollywood) cinema’s very concrete expansionist/imperialist practices, Shiel points out that film has long ceased to be a factor amongst many in the progression of globalization, but constitutes its basic engine – that in a sense globalization is about the colonization of ‘real’ urban space by the space of cinema, by the imaginary of the cinematic presence / present.