Marc Lafia on Sat, 27 Jul 2002 16:37:52 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> In search of a Poetics of The Spatialization of the Moving Image (part 2)

Thanks to those of you who've posted me.

In search of a Poetics of the Spatialization of the Moving Image
Marc Lafia (part 2)

Two other organizing principles that are spatial and temporal at the same
time would be Lorna Simpson¹s piece where there are 27 flat screen 13 inch
monitors on a wall, 6 columns by 4 rows, and in the last 3 rows 3 additional
monitors on the top row. A woman¹s 24 hour day is presented to us, in blocks
of 6 hours, each screen playing an edited or condensed version of 15 minutes
then moving on to the next six hours ­ until it progresses through the 24
hour day, from wake to sleep ­ this way we see the simultaneity of past
present and future as we see the young woman simultaneously presented along
a continuum of seemingly continuous or real time ­ in consistent actions or
contiguous action. This is someone¹s life over the course of 24 hours,
brushing teeth, putting on make-up, getting on the train, at the work place,
lunch, evening and so forth. Here we are not inside the event of time but
time stands outside the events and frames them.

Another work is by the artist, Kutlog Ataman organizing 4 screens, each set
in the middle of a room facing the other, in a sort of circle, each screen
showing us the personal story of a woman, during a period of the 4 seasons,
and much of the subject matter dealing with gardening. Time here is
circular; time is spatially distributed but not by diurnal rhythm as the
work above but sidereal time, calendrical time.

It is time that organizes the space here ­ time is distributed in space,
horizontally, laterally, time is again a presence, it is the being in time
we are seeing or in Ataman¹s work, time is a space, a particular duration.

In Eija-Lisa Ahtila¹s 3 screen film ­ she uses 3 screens to show us a
traditional narrative, with a voice over, about a woman in a country house
who feels she is hearing sounds and her car has driven off on its own. This
ghost story ­ is shown where a wide shot is on screen A, a closer shot on
Screen B and a cut away on Screen C ­ there is a uniform temporal dimension
going on in the film ­ this is distinct from the distribution of varied
times in the different spaces of the image in the Lorna Simpson work. Here
montage is lateral, with elision, compression and the traditional grammar of
filmic montage. The work could easily have been a single screen work.

Isaac Julian in a way weds three screens together in a high production post
cinema scope look, and like Ahtila shows us simultaneous actions from a
shared moment in time, at times going from close-up to wide shots, from 1 or
simultaneous shots of shared time ­ he is not pushing time forwards or back
­ perhaps in one moment in the close-up of the young man who is spanked by
his father, while there is a dance party at the house, we have a traditional
filmic flashback, more a psychological moment than a structured temporal
moment that complicates the time in the distribution of space. Like
Eija-Lisa Ahtila, Julien's work is more the distribution of shots over a
wider surface of image ­ his work comes closest to the composite of three
becoming one, from one image filling the very wide screen to individual
shots of a scene distributed over 3 screens. But like Attila¹s work this is
about the distribution of image in space not the distribution of time in
space In fact Delueze¹s distinction between the movement image and the time
image can be used here to understand this distinction ­ the distribution of
movement over space or the distribution of time or presentation of time
itself becoming.

A number of distributed dispersed cinema pieces such as Chantal Ackerman¹s
and Pascale Marthine Tayou¹s are not tightly organized by time, but are
various portraits placed simultaneously next to each other. Ackerman's has a
preface or beginning shot in LA displayed on one monitor in one room and
then a dispersal of images from varied locations in Mexico on a great many
monitors one can walk by and through in another room.

These works are simply loops assigned to various screens, running from 4 to
6 to 10 to 20 minutes, all in synch and then start again ­ these are static
fixed works. I say that to distinguish them from algorithmic work which I
will get into in the next dispatch.

Fiona Tan¹s work is also very interesting ­ presenting an indexing of people
from the former East Berlin ­ she narrates her struggle with ordering the
index ­ what is the sense of it, she asks ­ but her formal style, very
systematic, is in the Becher school, the objectivist school, where the
recorded subject expresses themselves to a neutral camera, to a mechanical
instrument ­ each subject accorded the same photographic treatment, the same
lighting, the same non context ­ camera is locked down, always head on,
where subjects present themselves to camera, dead pan, not inflected by
camera, by angle, or as little as possible ­ the aesthetic here is additive,
is the consistency of repetition, repetition and difference, which renders
the subject as one of many, one of the self same, yet different, in fact the
photographic is indexical. This is database cinema but a flat file database.

So let¹s take a step back, one we have the grammar of how things are
organized in space ­ as opposed to time ­ which we can say traditional one
screen cinema concerns itself with ­ that is, the ordering of time. As image
is organized in space ­ each time element becomes an object in space. It has
a certain mass in the sense that Robert Smithson talks about Donald Judd.
Kinda of, but not quite. In fact an entire aesthetic lies in the notion of
video as mass complicating time and fixity, we¹ll get to this soon.  The
next thing then is, what¹s the organizing grammar of the various objects in
space? In Fiona Tan¹s work, it is simply the index, the inventory of people
recorded and presented the same way, people from East Berlin ­ from varied
professions, prostitutes to mothers, cooks to scientists, hairdressers, one
group after another ­ she never tells us anything about these people, she
just shows us these people and talks about the difficulty she is having
presenting and organizing them. The point here is that the camera, her
camera eye purports to be used objectively ­ and interestingly such
Œobjectivity¹ reveals an obstinate subjectivity ­ where as the piece by
Marthine on Africa is an expressive camera and as such the class of objects
presented on various screens have to be read from their representations and
not from how they are represented or from both aspects.

In Marthine¹s work, the arrangement of monitors at first gives off an
impression of disparate streams of video as the camera recording is
expressive as well the materials diverse, as well as the varied size and
stackings of monitors in space ­ as they have a disorderly semblance ­ as
such, parsing the relationships is more difficult ­ but then again in some
sense ­ more open, more improvisational ­ in keeping with the way the work
was recorded in the first instance. Here is time as a set of particulars.
But the particulars are an organizing schema that involves geography, place
is the organizing motif in the materials presented. Just as in Fiona Tan¹s
work, place stands outside the work and frames it.

What we find in this new spatial cinema or spatial imaging is the
evisceration of the impact of the cut, the cut is not incisive, particular ­
the cut, the elemental instantiation or building block of montage seems to
be of general interest to many of these works (too general of a statement,
yes, but it is somewhat appropriate). Sequencing is the addition of shots,
of informational material. (Sherin Neshat, of course, is keen on montage but
much of the other works not.) Much of this work is about individual loops
running and operating in and to their own time. And many of them not even
loops but sequences. Montage¹s keen elaboration of the cut is diffused and
what we have is varied durations of time, each distinct, more a sequence
with out privileging or harnessing the impact of the cut - we have
movements, durations, becomings of time and movements on screens. In many
instances the movement of shots, their alterations as they occur on
individual screens may or need not be seen as montage or as privileged or
concentrated, as opposed to image following image in sequences, in which one
may see collisions, coincidence or just chance operations held together by
an organizational frame work of an exterior time or place ­ moving images as
they appear in screens or screen to screen is another kind of logic or an
additional schema within which traditional decoupage is subsumed. But this
logic or system is often imposed from an outside. And so the works relegate
them selves to another criteria perhaps. That is they work on other terms.

This is further complicated such works as Joan Jonas, where props or
sculptural elements are involved, in which video figures as an element in an
environment or theatrical setting.

The logic of camera, of style of camera, of shots is not as much a concern
or an element investigated to a heightened degree in these works (contrast
this with Doug Aitkens work Œelectric earth¹ with the exception of Isaac
Julien) nor projection as it defines space (see Chrissie Iles essay referred
to in part 1) but rather the distribution of images in space and the
relationship or not between the spaces ­ can might read these images as
dispersed in contiguous space, while at the same time distinct, metabolizing
their own time, in a sense as single channels, or do they come into dialogue
with each other ­ or is it both ­ here in is a much more specific and very
interesting area that has been written about at length and in very precise
terms (see Peter Weibel¹s excellent essay, ŒNarrated Theory: Multiple
Projection and Multiple Narration (Past and Future)¹ in ŒNew Screen Media,
Cinema/Art/Narrative¹ published by BFI¹. I will get into this later on.

Movement in the cinema or imaging from one screen to two or more screens
radically changes the way we can talk about cinema, narrative, imaging,
representation - because two or more images in space constantly put in
tension, in dialogue (or not) the other (because in some sense there are not
others, but multiples, multiplicities, assemblages, machines ­ more below)
This two or more at the same time takes away from the privileging of one to
the simultaneity (or not) of the two, in turn where the authority undisputed
in one track of image now becomes problemitized and must be read spatially
as much as temporally which is quite new (of course Abel Gance¹s early film,
ŒNapoleon¹ and all the 60¹s films where here first ­ see Weibel¹s essay, and
much other writings on experimental cinema including. ŒExpanded Cinema¹)
Multiple screens, spatially distributed (and how wide is this distribution,
where does it end and begin) pushes time based media into something much
more than arranging time as we know it. It is time using the strategies of
space were we saw a number of art pieces that were indexical, hierarchical
systems with or without out various kinds of ordering other than, all these
things are in this space ­ which was most characteristic of Documenta 11 -.
Indeed, for some time artists have delighted in giving us volumes of
information, volumes of things (Jason Rhoades) ­ databases splayed out ­ and
we the audience are given the task of ordering this voluminous ness in
space. In this sense time-based media have become time-based objects in
space, flickerings of light, dispersed here and there.

Rather than scattering papers or objects on the floor ­ we now have so many
monitors and video materials as time based objects in space ­ objects that
are durations of time in their purest sense, time objects that occupy space
and as loops may never end ­ this proliferation of the object ness of time
creates a new mise-en-scene, one no longer needing to resolve or organize
itself in the one space of one film strip or projection but rather as the
organization of elements in space.

Whereas cross cutting once added a certain tension to cinema, the
alternating between shots of things apart getting closer, the alternation of
shots of disparate scenes at some point colliding or coming together in the
same space ­ this rhythm often used in suspense, mystery, action sequences
is altered in the spatial display of images where the tension of occupying
one space, one screen evaporates ­ this one screen over taken and occupied
by two actions coming together - this tension of scenes happening
subsequent to each other now happens in parallel (just as we zap channels) ­
that is what was once off-screen space is now on one or more screens ­ as
such the collision of space ­ let¹s say in a western gun fight or action
scene where cross cutting leads to the eventuality of all action collapsing
into one space ­ a space where the resolution of who controls that space is
answered in a paroxysm of violence ­ this new spatial imaging is not montage
or cinema but is something else.

In the space of digital imaging this new sense of duration in space takes us
away from montage.  Duration and space ­ times and spaces. Duration as a
particularity of a unit as opposed to the over all envelope or structure in
which time base images can be looked at.

When cinema (I use cinema and not time-based media here, as much of the work
at Documenta 11 was informed by cinema) becomes practiced in multiple
screens, multiple windows, a new level of discourse moves us from time as
considered in montage to the notion of duration and event.

Perhaps all this work can be seen as the metabolism of time. Time being
particular to its own event. Not the time of montage, not cinema time but
something else. Not the sequencing of shots but the being time of image.

Where there is no limit to the amount of screens, all things can be shown,
and perhaps all duration. For those of you who didn¹t see this work, imagine
all camera shots of ŒDancer in the Dark¹ being displayed on their own
monitors.  During the filming of certain sequences we have been told that
Von Triers shot with over a hundred and sixty different cameras. Or imagine,
ŒRun Lola Run¹, as three films playing side by side, or Citizen Kane, each
interview candidates sequence playing on separate monitors. Or a film of
pure behaviors such as, ŒJulian Donkey-Boy¹ by Harmony Korine distributed on
multiple screens. 

To see beyond montage, temporal or spatial, we can in a sense return to
cinema¹s beginning, as imaging returns or emerges again as a machine of
recording, as an instrument of visioning, but now with numerous strategies
of ordering and projection or display - as an instrument of recording, which
is now electronic, computational, ubiquitous, constant and everywhere, and
as an instrument of display, constant and everywhere, it proliferates and
mutates any kind of single syntactical regime, exceeding montage.

Such new and emerging orderings and readings are inexhaustible and full of
reserves. Perhaps it¹s a move from montage to optics, from syntax to
pervasive imaging, from a particular order, to the potentialities of
orderings, re-orderings, un-orderings, traversings, interpenetrations,
molecular units, becomings - event-centered rather than structural. Perhaps
it is Deleuze, whose notion of the stammering, a foreign language, the
middle, deterritorilization, heterogeneous assemblages, who best puts
forward the beginnings (or middle) of a conceptual language for the
afterbirth of the instrument of moving images and its history as cinema -
the now pervasive synthetic pan visioning of tele-optics in which we live.

It might be said that the regime of recording and playback constituent of
the cinema, of film (shooting frames per second, the chemical processing of
film and the language of montage), has for a long time already been
dispersed and exceeded by the pervasive instruments of imaging, from inside
the body, from distant places, instant and ubiquitous (Virilio, the
panoptical and tele-technologies, over exposure, the Œpurely mediatic
trans-appearance of the real space of living beings¹) where the image of the
world has become the imaging of the world ­ as such the whole concept and
project of montage or cinema as the place from which to speak of these new
forms, new regimes of image is wholly inadequate and a looking at the moment
in a backwards fashion.

The pervasiveness of tele-optics, telematics, computation, and the digital
have so amplified and saturated what it is to be imaged, imaging, recording
and playback, that montage as a very notion, as a logics of ordering, might
seem as writing in verse ­ a particular stylistic, a repertoire of tropes
now exceeded by so many traversings and overlays ­ montage might better be
seen as strata, a remnant, like the Latin of the middle ages that has long
been superceded by an argot, a patois so common, we can¹t find a name for
it. It is so everywhere we can¹t even see it as we move between and amongst
it and even speak it, as it speaks us ­ this plateau, these plateaus, these
fields ­ these becomings ­  Deleuze¹s Œlines and circuits, leaps rather than
constructing axiomatics¹. Deleuze seems to me to offer us a way to see
possible languages of image in space-time. Deleuze writes about Œstates of
things¹ and Œutterances¹. ŒThere are states of things, states of bodies
(bodies interpenetrate, mix together, transmit affects to one another), but
also Œutterances¹, regimes of utterances: signs are organized in a new way,
new formulations appear, a new style for new gestures (the emblems which
individualize the knight, the formulas of oaths, the system of
Œdeclarations¹, even of love, etc.). ŒUtterances no less than states of
things are components and cog-wheels in assemblages.¹ ³Event which stretches
out or contract, a becoming in the infinitive¹.

There are so many visual regimes now interspersed in varied durations,
military as Jordan Crandal has so well visualized, surveillance (Julia
Scherr), home video, projections and recordings everywhere ­ (so many
artists, technical applications here to mention, medical, military,
tele-com, etc.)

Two things we can say with certainty of the cinema ­ One, its outstanding
characteristic has been one screen, one fixed playback system. Hence

The delivery vehicle of the cinema, of moving pictures, became
characteristically different when first shown on television with commercials
and then through video tape and DVD ­ with the VCR a screening takes on a
very different characteristic, in some sense it already constitutes sampling
­ one can stop at any moment, watch over the course of days, replay scenes,
play different audio over the film as backdrop and so forth ­ (so many
artists have re-enacted, spliced themselves into films, played them back
with different scores, etc.) Many DVD¹s show directors cuts, expanded
versions, storyboards, interviews and so forth. All of these things changed
the experience of viewing film, changed montage, situating films under
another regime that led to sampling, remixing, appropriation, looping,
resequencing, restaging (Christian Marclay¹s recent musical piece,
ŒSampling¹, Pierre Huyghe, Douglas Gordon, Marc Lafia, ŒAntonioni¹ piece and
many many more works can be cited here.)

Two, cinema allowed us to recognize ourselves. As Godard states and is
quoted in, ŒThe Cinema Alone¹ the essay, ŒIntroduction to the Mysteries of
Cinema¹, 1985-2000 (Michael Temple and James Williams), ŒThere¹s a desire
for images, to the extent that they¹re the only things that satisfied the
notion of identity which must have become fundamental towards the end of the
nineteenth century. [Š] There is, I think, a need for identity, a need to be
recognized. [Š] We are grateful to the world for recognizing us and for
allowing us to recognize ourselves, and I think that, precisely, until the
camps, cinema constituted the identities of nations and peoples (who were
more or less organized into nations), and then afterwards the feeling faded
away. [Š] For a long time, cinema represented the possibility of belonging
to a nation, yet remaining oneself in that nation. All that has

Identification now becomes identifying, the machine of vision, an invasive
instrument. As Virilio has written, ŒThe much-vaunted globalization requires
that we all observe each other and compare ourselves with one another on a
continual basis.¹ Just see the films, ŒVideodrome¹, ŒVirtue¹ and ŒThe
Matrix¹ to sense that we live on beyond film, beyond montage and in
recording and it¹s not confined to one screen. The most beautiful reflection
and enactment is the exquisite scene in David Lynch¹s ŒMuholland Drive¹
As Mcluhan has well stated every new media, restates, replays the one it
supercedes (cinema, the theatre ­ television, the cinema, the web,
computation and telematics - everything) and so we read the new media
through the one that preceded it. And in some sense the same might be said
of video being read as sculpture, as being conceived as sculpture or being a
response to television and the televisual or even cinema.

Below I briefly, too briefly put forward some of the characteristics of this
new imaging, some possibilities to read and author in the space. Many of the
following are not or need not be particular to multiple screens or
distributed images.

A couple of things ­ there is a distinction between the bounded ness of
multiple windows in a single frame and multiple projections or monitors or
displays separate in space, each framed singularly. Multiple windows and
multiple screens may share characteristics but they are already something
different and are perceived and operate differently because of this
distinction. The distinctions and the affects therein become more and more
apparent in enumerating the following.

Part three forthcoming ­ algorithmic imaging and grammars or tropes of
distributed time-based media.

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