Posts Tagged ‘shock’
This two-channel installation piece examines the friction between texture and violence to bring us closer to the felt idea of flesh. The piece intends to question the relationship between affect and materiality, as well as the psychological economy of desire, destruction, and consumption by simultaneously making the viewer feel uncomfortable and viscerally involved.
A TV monitor presents us with a video of a hand performing different types of incisions using sharp and blunt metal instruments into a large array of materials. The monitor is covered with a loose “tent” of plastic sheeting, allowing the visitor a mysterious view of the video content through the blurring, glowing screen of the semi-transparent material. To get a closer look, the viewer has to unzip the tent’s opening and insert her head into an intimate space shared by the monitor.
The video is a loop of shot after shot of various texturally ambiguous materials or objects being clinically laid out on a chrome table while a hand, alternately gloved in vinyl or rubber gloves discovers the many methods by which each material can be cut up, destroyed, and divided and the specific instruments that do the job in the most satisfying or interesting way.
INCISION is preceded by a tactile prodding of the object followed by the MORCELLATION, FRAGMENTATION OF THE MATERIAL INTO ITS CONSTITUENT FORMS (filaments, bits, crumbs, slivers).The act of cutting can be smooth, swift : sensation of liberation, closure mixed with disquiet of violent end. The act of cutting can be difficult, messy, awkward: sensation of squeamish frustration. The viewer witnesses a Progression in the act of cutting: colorful liquid starts to OOZE out of the harmed materials (recalling old blood or water, displaying a viscous quality)
The second channel of the installation is rear projected onto a sheet of the same semi-transparent plastic wrapping that covered the monitor. The projection is a looping video of luridly colored organic textures (e.g. close-up of a beating heart, a time-lapse of growing mold). The video is processed into anaglyphic images to produce a stereoscopic effect, visible to the visitor with 3D glasses.
Noise II: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”.
Peter Bailey in Breaking the Sound barrier quotes Robert Musil on the ‘sonic shrapnel’ produced by the motor car: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”. Two synesthetic attributes stand out in this remarkable description. First, there are haptic qualities to the noise, translated in terms of texture: how the sound would feel (“wiry”) if you could probe / test it with your fingers, in effect uncovering an auditory topology by using the body as contact surface with the sound (“sharp edges running along it”). Then, Musil recognizes the noise’s kinetic attributes: the sound is in a continuous process of shattering, “flying and scattering”, throwing its components into the world (into the ear) like so many projectiles.
As Bailey notes, sound is vibration (“palpable”) – a series of minute but tangible displacements of matter. Unlike light with its strictly scopic / analytic affordances, the flow of sound modifies physical reality, rearranges the world. As such, the haptic domain – texture – already contains the possibility of sound; noise starts to exist when it can extend itself kinetically, across a spatial and temporal axis, when it becomes a conductor for change and entropy. Musil’s rapprochement between hearing and touch alerts us to the fact that sound unfolds in space concomitantly with its unfolding in time: it travels, working on the body as much as on consciousness.
Consequently, Noise (meaning sound in its raw form, an amalgamation and meshing of vibrations not synched into discrete units of order) seems to have an intimate relationship with affect that expresses itself in the body, namely (Bailey argues) laughter and terror / the instinct to flee-fight. Both of these proto-emotions (or simply motions) are brought together to powerful effect in the tradition Bailey calls “rough music”: “rough music was excessive, repetitive and sustained noise, combining high spirits with a sadistic edge”. Participating equally in a Bakhtinian culture of carnival and a history of institutionalized insanity (Bailey disarticulates the etymology of “bedlam” as the hubbub of the Bedlam inmates), rough music is produced for social purposes of ritual or regulation. Interestingly, Attali links music to the sacrifice of noise and its appendage of violence on the altar of (social, scientific) order. From there, one realizes that to listen to “rough music” is to witness noise coagulating into music or inversely, music decaying into noise – an exhilarating experience of liminality, teetering between forgetfulness (chaos) and culture.
Rough music has many splendid contemporary descendants (Noise, the more distorted forms of techno), thanks to the industrial revolution and the musical avant-garde that sought to rehabilitate or take control over the kind of sonic environment produced by the accelerated motion/collisions of more bodies and machines. The “future sound” that John Cage celebrates highlights the same attributes that Robert Musil discovered in sounds of technology: texture and kinetic force. Cage discusses these as “overtone structure” and “percussion music”, respectively.
“The special function of electrical instruments will be to provide complete control of the overtone structure of tones and to make these tones available in any frequency, amplitude and duration”: overtones are what gives each instrument its particular timbre i.e. the sonic texture that differentiates a violin from a piano; certainly electronic and digital music take advantage of the fact that they can give voice to an infinity of imaginary instruments, in effect to an uncategorizable cacophony of overtones. Allied to the emphasis on “percussion” (“a contemporary transition from keyboard-influenced music to the all-sound music of the future”), Cage’s future sound heralds key components of contemporary rough music in this evocation of tonal din and “repetitive noise” (repetition being primarily structured by beats/percussion). Compared to its 18th century manifestation, Noise engages the confused ear in the gears of a machine in order to better manufacture its violent/euphoric interface with the body.
from Craig Baldwin’s Sonic Outlaws:
“Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.
…The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination. “
IN a show put on by noise performer Kawaiietly Please – in which we participated, not listened, or perhaps listened to the point of participation. She started by taking her microphone for a walk around the venue’s small room, picking up vibrations that fed into a distorting filter in her computer, amplifying white noise. It was painfully loud, but only when the beats kicked in four to the floor did our organs start to thump synchronously against their skeletal cavities. Kawaiietly Please creates an event that uses sound as a dilating instrument, opening up the minds/bodies of the audience via their ears: in front of the stage, a giant white stuffed gorilla lies in an inflatable kiddy pool, its belly stitched with black cables. Kawaiietly Please tiptoes towards it, the cacophony around us lending an intense stillness to the scene. Then the sound begins to bark at us like a rabid dog and she pulls out the cable from the stuffed corpse – she struggles, the clothy flesh resists – and some of us impromptu jump on it and start tugging too. The sound – damaging feedback, harsh static, thereminish vibrations – throbs across our muscles as we pull, pull and finally – yes! – we tear. The monkey explodes in a shower of stuffing and glitter, an entire horde of smaller creatures spills out. We go nuts. Now we have something to lay our hands on. The noise that throws us about like rag dolls gives us back what is our own – our impulse to be kinetic. A double acceleration: the movement in time that is sound galvanizes a symmetry-response momentum in extensio – everything snaps (in place) with the thrashing of our bodies.
We dive to the floor, grabbing stuffed animals, pulling them apart solitarily but more often engaging ferociously in tug-a-war: I grab an arm, you grab a head. Soon enough we are fighting each other. Not knowing how it came to this, I am on the floor being dragged around by someone who is battling me for the limb of a teddy bear. The kicking and screaming I do is much more than liberating: this synesthetic simultaneity of hyper-loud sound, cuddly texture (the plush, soft, squeezable bodies of the animals) and violent muscular resistance (the propelling motion of the tugging) is driving me insane with fun. Kawaiietly Please weaves in and out amongst us, jerking her head back, rubbing herself against the floor with scattered petticoats, feeling up the PAs – ghostly in the red light, flitting in and out of the decibelic tidal wave like a hummingbird. We roll her in the rubbery folds of the kiddy pool (the excitement of tactile/sonic texture peaks), mock- suffocating her. She is buried beneath the blue plastic while we throw bits of stuffing and animal parts as though they were flowers.
The noise abruptly ceases: we clap, we shriek, we instantly miss it. She emerges, bows. For about an hour afterwards a number of us are still twitchy – we vault rather than climb onto chairs, we hop rather than walk, laugh rather than bother with coherent sentences. A warmth suffuses us, stretching our mouths in toothy smiles. We want more of this extreme friendliness.
Allan Kaprow: “Happenings” in the New York Scene
Andy Warhol's "Exploding Plastic Inevitable"
“In both cases the interactive method comes from outside the community, and because the organizing principles are not within the audience’s sphere of influence, one might next ask whether interactivity of either of these sorts actually goes beyond what Jean Baudrillard calls “reversibility” – processes like sending letters to the editor to the newspaper – and rearranges communication in a fundamental way”. What if participants designed their own game and own rules as part of the game?
“…when bang! there you are facing yourself in a mirror jammed at you. Listen. A cough from the alley. You giggle because you’re afraid, suffer claustrophobia, talk to someone nonchalantly, but all the time you’re there, getting into the act…Electric fans start, gently wafting breezes of New-Car smell past your nose as leaves bury piles of a whining, burping, foul, pinky mess”.
“…they appear to go nowhere and do not make any particular literary point”. Because instead they create experience.
“First, there is the context…that is, its “habitat“, gives to it not only a space, a set of relationships to the various things around it, and a range of values, but an overall atmosphere as well, which penetrates it and whoever experiences it.”
Soke Dinkla: “participation is located along a fragile border between emancipatory act and manipulation”. where do I stand on this?
Sartre in Nausea on the construction of human situations
gallery: taste :: happening: dirty
“…a flimsily jotted down score of root directions”
“chance then, rather than spontaneity, is a key term, for it implies risk and fear (thus reestablishing the fine nervousness so pleasant when something is about to occur)”
(People having to waddle through a room filled with garbage)
“But it could be like slipping on a banana peel or going to heaven“
“The physical materials used to create the environment of Happenings are the most perishable kind”
“they reveal a spirit that is at once passive in its acceptance of what may be and affirmative in its disregard of security.”
“A STATE OF MIND”
Jan Karski suddenly gets out of his chair and leaves the frame, crying. Abraham Bomba purses his mouth and compulsively licks his lips, breathes heavily as he cuts a customer’s hair (he is a barber). Before these incidents, before they break down, they tell us in great detail (prodded by Lanzmann) what they saw, what happened to them. Bomba gives us a dry, precise descripting of his “job” as a barber in the gas chamber in a loud, mechanical, declamatory style. This “job” of accounting to the filmmaker is a shield he holds up against the possibility of remembering. Karski’s voice rolling, regular diction, interrupted by nervous deglutitions, has hooked itself in our ear and we wait for him to come back, a feeling of expectancy – he must go to the end of his witnessing, he must, 30 years after and too late to prevent the disaster, complete his mission to testify about the truth of the Warsaw ghetto – weighted with anxiety, almost panic.
To listen to Karski’s accounting of his meeting with the resistance leaders and his excursions into the ghetto is not only to feel in oneself the imprint of terrible things, it is to know the inexorable quality of the past, to experience a sensation of nausea as the evidence is processed: this cannot be erased, this cannot be undone. The camera fixes and inscribes a second time that which is already, permanently indelible. Because of or in spite of the subjects’ inability to express the unameable, to only give us ellipses, fragments of a total, undescribable event – “there was no humanity” – their voice and their face seem to provide us with the most concrete of indexical relationships to the chronology (chrono- logos:etymologically, the speaking/wording of time) their testimony unwinds. Lanzmann is aware of this and insists that his subjects tell us a linear story, almost as if their words, as spectral camera, were meant to travel back in time to record a present anterior, the present that-lies-in-the past. The percussive quality, the aliveness, the presence of their speech makes it seem possible: “he tried to spend a few more seconds with them” – this minimal statement, made of lacunae, a veil for a reality he is not telling us, cannot tell us is also a screen, a window that points to a real all the more present (to us) for being indescribable. In this sense, this documentary more than others accomplishes the duty of proof, summons the audience’s belief.
We are faced with ineluctable presence, but it is of necessity the presence of a void. Void not only in the sense that the witnesses can, in the end, bring nothing back from the past – of the dead, only their shades can be evoked – but that this totality of events, the shoah, is the temporal place where reality, the world of sense we build around us, breaks down. To go back, to allow the witnesses to bring us back, is to become implicated, to share in the negation, the absence left by 6 million. What Shoah demonstrates is that this burden is much more than a duty to take on (one choses to accomplish one’s duty) but the burden of our past, which by definition is already with us, part of ourselves.
haunted by the past - relentlessly pursued
Waltz with Bashir poses the question of the historical value of memory, beyond the “hard” evidence of historical accuracy and facts. Animated documentary opens up the possibility of representing a temporal dimension previously assigned to the strictly poetic: the interior past, the effect of the individual’s reflex to patch up the lacunae in the facts by inserting phantom scenes in her remembrance of what occurred. The move to give epistemological value to this unreliable past is an ethical one. In psychoanalytic terms, this other, virtual time bears the trace/ the index of actually happened – Ari Folman’s investigation into his post-traumatic amnesia is a search for the truth. Not so much the hard fact of the massacres, but the truth of the massacres that emerges from his act of bearing witness (and all the ambiguous moral ground implied in the act of bearing witness to the horrific – the bystander’s inescapable burden of complicity). This project is not unlike Lanzmann’s decision to give us a historical mapping strictly through the individual experiences of those implicated – only the recapitualation of an event that has been felt, lived, interiorized, indexed to someone’s specific historicity (in the Heideggerian sense) is capable of communicating the truth of the past, beyond mere fidelity to literal fact.
derealization - Ari means to "realize", to recognize
In this context, I found the final moments of the film particularly effective. Throughout, the filmmaker has been stripping away the layers of his and his fellow witnesses/accomplices’ memory in order to uncover a moment of truth, the moment in which the massacre and war revealed themselves to him, when the juxtaposition of traumatized temporal fragments crystallize into an incontrovertible evidence, the essential core of reality that cannot be gotten around. Folman in effect comes into contact with Lacan’s “Real” (Renov, The Subject of the Documentary) – a moment, a place, an occurence that escapes signification but that horrifically exists.
A crowd of wailing women pours through the streets, coming towards the camera. At his guard post with his comrades, weapon in hand – his presence in the camp testifying to the obfuscated reason: he is there to allow the Lebanese army to perpetrate the massacre – the young Ari sees these women coming towards him. The camera zooms into him; he is breathing hard, he is sweating, he is paralyzed, as the women’s crying (that hard sensory evidence of the unameable thing that was done) engulf him. There is no escape for Ari. The truth finally owns him more than he owns the truth, tripping up his initial goal to “have” the truth, to take it within him so he could heal. But there is no healing possible, the fissure in the world (the world that can be processed and assigned meaning) that was opened remains.
And, by extension, neither is there any escape for the spectator. The final shots of the actual footage documenting the massacres (the indexed faces of those wailing women) transfer Ari’s personal memory to a space of collective consensus – and ergo collective responsibility, burden. How different than if we had been shown this archival footage in the beginning, if Ari’s sensorially vivid (animated, visualized) journey had not already divested us, denuded us of our habitual siginifying framework, substituted his vision for ours.
Alvarez's film is rare, but bombing footage is not...
Santiago Alvarez’s 79 Springtimes of Ho Chi Min opens with a flower slowly blooming, followed by a shot taken from a plane overflying Vietnam. Just as slowly as the flower opened, two bombs drop to earth, becoming invisible until – we knew this would happen, but were subconsciously hoping it wouldn’t – the earth erupts into flames. The camera zooms into a photograph of Ho Chi Min as a young man until we see only his eyes. Then, through a series of photographs (Barthes: the poignancy of the photograph is that it is evidence of the certainty of death – a death that already occurred or a death to be), we see those eyes grow older, until we finally zoom out again – Ho Chi Min is an old man, his face and figure freeze into a negative. Here Alvarez brilliantly evokes the passage and passing of a life – a life that (according to the filmmaker) unfolded with beautiful purpose, the process of aging signifying the fulfillment, the blooming of the young man’s promise, rather than a descent or decay. Alvarez simultaneously ties the meaning of this life irrevocably to a place, Vietnam, an event, the Vietnam war and a mission, the struggle against the destruction of Vietnam, a struggle for life (- again, the flower, the earth). Ho Chi Min is embalmed in the negative flash, pharaonically preserved in celluloid to continue to inspire this purpose, ascending to some super-human plane where he is transfigured into ideality – resurrected as a symbol via the film.
Later, more footage of violence in Vietnam is cut with a woman singing in lyrical anguish, ecstatically, until, as she draws out a high note, she disappears, replaced by the explosion of another bomb. The dialectic between vibrant life and sudden anihilation is didactically picked up again, but this is didacticism of a purely emotional, even physiological order. This sequence increases (at least my) heart rate, makes me breathe more heavily, until the world, life, my heart beat is stopped by the arrival of the bomb hitting the singer’s high note.
To cite Jane Gaines’ article Political Mimesis: the spectator “bodies back” to the images on the screen, reacting to the projected world as if she were witnessing reality, something happening right now that calls for an immediate reaction – wherefore the adrenalin. Alvarez’ method is more Eisenstein than Workers’ League newsreel, however – we are not encouraged towards mimesis of the action on screen (no waves of bodies, no protesters arouse this response) but provoked to imbibe the political message being laid out in front of us, namely, that the destruction of life (as it shines forth in the face and voice of the singer, in the liquid harmonics of the synthesizer soundtrack, in the ravaged faces of napalm victims, in the eyes of the old Ho Chi Min) calls absolutely for counter-attack, a commitment of the whole body, a kinetic force of feeling directed against the destroyers. Ho Chi Min is at the center of the footage: he appears as the eye in the storm, the rallying point for everything that stands against the anonymous machinery of death.
more remains of Ho Chi Minh...
After his funeral, the world falls apart – first in the faces of his supporters, unmade by tears (again, a physical manifestation) and then on the arena of the war itself: the filmmaker mangles footage of gun machine fighting at close quarters so that the soldiers’ violence finds some physically authentic correlate in the violence done to the celluloid, causing epileptic flashes to periodically slice the action unfolding on screen. The lasting impression is one of sensually exprienced chaos, as if the sign – what is represented – had savagely leaped out of its ontological cage to manhandle the spectator, directly triggering the spectator’s self-defense reflexes. As a result, the war footage, the attack on Vietnam starts to feel intimately personal – the bombs dropping on Vietnam seem to be aimed at me.
Like Man with the Movie Camera, I found 79 Springtimes of Ho Chi Min galvanizing, in its etymological sense of muscular stimulation by electric shock. As in Vertov’s film, we are lifted into a universe constructed by the Kino-eye – one where the juxtaposition of actuality coalesces into a higher meaning, a fullness of experience / life. This beautiful vision is then put under attack by the war footage – footage that, although posessing the aesthetic qualities that characterize the entire film, releases all its potential for shock value when considered side by side with the faces and bodies of children, masses, protesters and the compact figure of the deified Ho Chi Min. That the power of cinematic representation can be used so effectively to short-circuit the spectator’s critical capacities to plug in directly to her emotional core and stimulate a physical response (the catalyst for action) is, according to Gaines, the dream of the politically engaged documentarian. But the question of the political content being conveyed cannot be gotten around. The cinematic apparatus remains amoral.
rough and ready: a recent iteration
The ennervating, mobilizing effect of shot after shot of masses on the march – sometimes we are given an idea of the scale involved through overhead shots, sometimes we are plunged into the tide of participants with a hand-held camera, pushed up against the urgency and turmoil of political action made manifest. The filmmakers hammer us with the evidence not only of the presence but of the force of the labor movement during the Depression – the unemployed form a kinetic force, a projectile aimed at the social-structural status quo, something more ineluctable than a mere group of individuals. Consequently – faces seen only in passing, as the camera sweeps over the crowd, faces merging with others to create an anonymous and therefore more powerful entity. The newsreel offers an image of themselves to those members of the political movement that is larger than life, that documents the viscerally-felt impact of collective will on the actual/the real. I get the sense of history being forged as the newsreel unfolds, created as a result of the collision of human matter.
This discourse of anger and action stands against the Griersonian call to sympathy _ the actants, the agents of the movement would not be served by self-pity. The call to sympathy as a documentary trope marks the boundary between subjects and audience, wherein the subject is an Other to be reached out to. The gathering sense of the Workers’ Film and Photo League newsreals is a “we”. The document is proprietary – carried by the viewers like a tool or a weapon or an identity card. It is not “a work”, there is no artist or pedagogue asserting his voice or vision behind the documentary artifact.
Playing with the idea of a haunted portrait _ the ghost appears like the absconded presence of the camera, staring out from the double mirror of the photograph. The idea of the dead coyly sitting in on the poised, posed family pictures of the living – unheimlich at it’s most potent, what is buried won’t stay buried but leaves secondary evidence, leaves tangible traces of doubt.
The inappropriate sneaks up behind your back, the camera becomes the eye in the back of your head: new weapon against the uncanny or projector of hidden horrors?
The fake spirits accusing the photographer of fraud – first betrayal of the photographed image’s promise to reproduce reality. William Mumler in the 1860s already destroying the metaphysically automatic/newly automated line between reality and metaphor, conjecture, phantasie. The sought for and unwelcome guests usher these bourgeois families into modernity.
Don’t these apparitions look TRAPPED? Their imprint gelled, their first effort at substantiation caught in the middle. Nothing left to do but appear, put on an appearance without the evidential accoutrement of an indexical relationship…ontologically exiled, phenomenologically virulent. First clue that the photographic apparatus is a creative as well as a reproductive machine: “documentary is the creative treatment of actuality”, according to Grierson and these spirits are products of an indexicality machine, they document the ghostliness of the apparatus, they rise out of the machine, immanent smoke that manufactures a referant for the new photographic sign…
concept for a short live action animation piece_
“ALMOST EVERYTHING CAN AND SHALL BE CUT”
an examination of the friction between texture and violence to bring us closer to the felt idea of flesh
presentation of different types of incisions using sharp and blunt metal instruments into a large array of materials:
raw meat, fish (carving knife, tweezers, paper cutter) ice / ice cube (inefficiently sawing off the edge with a blunt butter knife)
jello or flan (into little cubes using a razor blade) foam core (guitar pick – study in morcellation)
velvet, thick cloth (nail-cutting scissors) light (shadow of a knife or a needle)
wooden floor, wooden surface (repetitive gouging) computer motherboard, electronic circuit (large scissors, carving knife, snipping off transistors)
play dough (axe with blade held in hand, clumsily approaching tiny bits)
INCISION followed by MORCELLATION, FRAGMENTATION OF MATERIAL INTO ITS CONSTITUENT FORMS (filaments, bits, crumbs, slivers)
the act of cutting can be smooth, swift : sensation of liberation, closure mixed with disquiet of violent end
the act of cutting can be difficult, messy, awkward: sensation of squeamish frustration
Progression: liquid starts to OOZE out of harmed materials (old blood, water, viscous stuff – MULTICOLORED, DYED)
INTERACTIVE TEXTURES: KNOB to raise the volume on the sound effects
KNOB to slow down the act of cutting
KNOB to skip frames, so that the cutting becomes schematic vs. visceral
KNOB to introduce lyrical music
KNOB to introduce ominous music
BUTTON to produce WHISPERED WORDS OF ASSOCIATION (push and random word/phrase emerges): i think you enjoy it, fungus, why are you doing it, it will all decay quite soon, soft, squishy, wet, very dry, too dry, i wonder what this is, it looks better when its in tiny little bits, i didn’t think i could do that, this doesn’t seem so impossible, someone told me not to but i’ll do it anyway, nothing seems too bright, nothing appears less important, a good thing its irreversible or it might come back to haunt me, i could eat that, i could drink that, i don’t want to, forage, push.
the knobs frame the screen, unlabeled except for the button (“VOICES OF INSTRUCTION”). tiny switch next to button – makes a word repeat every 5 seconds.
nothing can stop the violence: metal keeps cutting, stuff keeps oozing, more and more stuff oozes out, everything is increasingly MORECELLATED and finally, LIQUEFIED.
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.