Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Instruction 1:Montage< La Jetee> Electracy

Continuing with the CATTt generator to arrive at a set of instructions for Electracy, these last set of instructional blog post will discuss material in David Company’s The Cinematic, an edited collection of essays, articles and narratives.  The Cinematic draws attention to the opposing yet dependent relationship of film and photography.  For this post, I would like to focus on one specific article that draws attention to montage, a concept that has been discussed and can be traced throughout both Julllien’s and Lacan’s works. The article, I will be placing much emphasis on in this post is entitled:  “Photography as Cinema: La Jetee and the Redemptive Powers of Image” by Uriel Orlow. Still shots, when used in film, disposes the closed form of film and opens the space to something more. Films like Chris Marker’s  La Jetee is a perfect examples of narrative space opening up to reveal the manipulation of cinematic space and time through still shots and montage.  As Orlow states, “The unique, near-exclusive use of beautifully still shot photographic images presented as a film defies what is commonly understood to be the cinematic norm—movement, the kine of kinematography. Yet, La Jetee cannot be considered only in terms of the photography either, as it paradoxically reaffirms the cinematic with the photo-novel technique (montage)”-177. Orlow confirms what I gestured to earlier, that it is through the structure of montage that viewers are able to envision a narrative sequence through still photos.  The montage allows for what would otherwise be fragmented images out of context to become fluid and congruent; however, the independence of each image is not forgotten. While the montage helps still photography enter into the discourse of the cinematic, its true structure and form—and individual image—is impossible to forget.

The photograph apart from film seeks to preserve time while film tries to represent it. “The photograph is thought to extract a moment form the flux of time. The cinematic image, whilst sharing with photography its chemical production as well as its claim to represent reality indexically, apparently does not stop and preserve a moment of time, but rather through  the addition of movement, is considered to represent the very unfolding of time, thus giving the illusion of the same duration as our experiences.”—179. It is here that the complexities of the montage arise. It is through the collapsing of space and time, the re-use of various images that creates the illusion of originality, and the method of assemblage—the cut-frame approach to introducing the image into the narrative sequence, that allows for montage to work with this film. Orlow states that the most powerful aspect of the montage, beside its organization and juxtaposition of image, is its incorporation of the gap. The gap or interval between (the meaning, or time of) one image and another is not just the founding principle of narrative cinema but it is also the means to produce a qualitative leap or change, that is to insert a kind of revolutionary energy in film.—182. 
Besides its significance to cinematic structure and narrative shift, the gap is also a metaphor for memory—the unconscious space—that may sometimes be realized though dreams.  Lacan talks about the unconscious as this unattainable space, a space that is encroaching upon us without prompting. Like the transitory gap between two photos, it is a space we try to make sense of and bring into relation with the previous image or memory but it does not always comply. For Jullien’s text the gap emerges not within the unconscious but the opposing philosophy between Eastern and Western philosophy. Perhaps, a smaller microcosmic representation is the gap that appears through the binary opposing symbol of the yin yang duality.  This space between or interval before the next stage (in this case from yin to yang) or the next paradigm (this movement from tendency to a causal history) is one that is explained and then cut down by the gap. Like Orlow states in the following quote,  the gap presents us with many things, answers, and that which cannot be explained.

“The dialectical interplay between image and gap is, of course, very much analogous to a certain conception of memory, which presents us with as many images (from the past) as gaps.”—183

Instruction 1: Watch Chris Maker’s La Jetee and give detail as to how the film resembles a montage. Can you identify individual frames of images? If so, how does this differ from contemporary film, non- still shot film.

Instruction 2: The Photographic Essay--Representaions of Montage Structure

I would like to draw attention to the photographic essay, a topic that I plan to make mention of again in a later subsequent post. The photographic essay, as Blake Stimson writes in his article “The Pivot of the World: Photography and Its Nation”, “is a form that holds onto the opening of time, the specialized duration given. It draws its meaning from the back-forth interrelation of discrete images that is eliminated when those images are sutured together into film. The photographic essay form also relies on—and draws its meaning and purpose from—a similar opening up of space into discrete and differentiated units”—98. Based upon this description, the photographic essay seems to be synonymous to montage, but before I get into the relationship of montage to the photographic essay, I think it would be beneficial to discuss the relationship of the photographic essay to that of film, which should shed light on the montage form.

The photographic essay imagines narrative possibilities whereas the film tells them.  Photos collected in essay form ‘were assumed to be able to develop together a series of interrelated propositions or gestures in the manner that an argument persona realizes itself in the world, in interactive performance and thereby ‘crystalize as a configuration through motion’. While, film may not ‘crystalize as a configuration of movement, film like the photographic essay shares in the sensation of movement, that is, the movement that both media forms incorporate in their various narratives evokes a mood in its audience and viewer.  Although both rely on movement for congruency, their utility of movement is vary different. Film places each subsequent image on top of that which comes before it, that each image in the series, each instant in the representation, is preserved rather than being displaced by its follower—94. With the photographic essay, another image literally displaces the one before it because with a photograph the viewer can only perceive one frame at a time. In order for the viewer to see what follows the photo in view, another must come into frame.  While, film may be better at arranging narrative sequence, serial photos hold a multi sided conversation. 

Stimson states that the key difference between serial photography and film is what motivates the seriality in each. Serial photography “attempts to use serial photography to capture motion and narrative sequence, not produce it. The aim was not to reproduce life, [or fantasize about life as film does], but to reproduce life as experienced in time but instead to see what cannot be seen by the naked eye. The camera was brought to give visual testimony to what the eye on its own could not see by disarticulating the sequence of events, by breaking the narrative apart into discrete moments, into discrete photographs.  This “freezing of movement” and breaking down of narrative is what links the photographic essay so well with montage.

 As stated in a previous post in my Lacan section of the blog, the montage relies on framed images to compose complete narrative. In a way, it functions like serial photography to fill in the gaps—to catch what the eye could not. With this ability and as montage demonstrates, the photographic essay is not limited to one specific narrative or narrative types. In other words, frames can be reorganized to “re-narrate or re-choreograph” time and space—95. This in its very nature opens narrative possibilities, and ancient Chinese metaphysics would agree with me when I say there is a certain shi-about serial photography. Shi is envisioned through the snap shot, which like calligraphy relies on a gesture, a sudden movement to capture its image. Montage, libido, the unconscious, and serial photography all produce what the eye or conscious can’t perceive. Film, to the contrary, “produces only what the eye can see”—pg.98. Thus the serial photos have a greater chance at helping us realize the things that escape of line of vision, namely ourselves.

Instruction 2: Allow your camera to take a series of photos—serial photography. Set it up and leave the shutter on to produce a photographic essay. After you have taken and uploaded your photos or printed them, see how many narratives you can arrange out of the images.

Instruction 3: Why I go to the Movies Alone, To See The Transformation of Myself

This post is a response to Richard Prince’s “Why I go to the Movies Alone”. Unlike, the majority of the articles within The Cinematic, this takes less of an academic approach and seems to rely on the format of narration—in a way, it reads like a film. It tells of a man, who is never named, who repeatedly finds himself seated within a both observing the spectacle of life around him. The narrator tells us that “he likes to sit and watch the scene and all the movement and hustle. He especially likes it because of the silence that goes along with his location”—143. While it is made evident to readers that the spectator does this on a ritualistic bases, he does not know why he does it. “For this position, he assumes for no specific purpose”—143.

What I find of interest in this article was not only how its form complements its content, that is, playing with narrative form to suggest to readers that the protagonist is going to the movies alone is not a literal act but a metaphoric one.  The way the spectator sits and watches events unfold before him like a film reel. The protagonist positioning relative to his environment, the watching and absorbing of his environment, reminds me of our very on mystories and Lacan’s concept of the gaze.  I think the following quote, from Prince’s text, validates what Lacan suggests takes place in the process of transference through the gaze and what we and my collages have tried to identify within our mystories. The protagonist reflects on his transformation, which he links to this passive relationship with the space that he occupies.
“It’s like my looking in that particular place has become customary because the looking there is no longer accompanied by what I have always liked to think of as me. Sometimes I feel when
I’m sitting there that my own desires have nothing to do with what comes personally from me  
because what I’ll eventually put out, will in a sense, have already been out—143

The protagonist recognizes that nothing is original in the sense of individuality and influences upon his community. The protagonist hints at the fact that the space has changed, transformed, and with is so has he. He realizes that when these material object shift in form and content, he does as well. His identity and being, as Lacan would say, is being constituted by the shops he watches, the magazines he gets a glimpse at, and the movie theater that is across from him.  In addition, the protagonist believes that his desires do not come from him, but from what he observes, takes in, and sees around him. Lacan calls this transformation transference and it occurs because the object (the protagonist’s surrounding community) subject (the protagonist) relationship has been flipped. In other words, the protagonist who is trying to make sense of his surrounding can no longer do so because of its transformation and because its change he can’t make sense of himself.  This dynamic relationship is much like hearing someone say “in my day, we never listened to this kind of music”. This little example shows how our communities define and appropriate us to be a part of the collective, and as it changes, the community expects its people to follow the trends as well. If they don’t, they are left pondering as to how things became the way they did. With this these words, and Prince’s “Why I Go to the Movies Alone” in mind, I want to offer the next instruction.

Instruction 3: Go to a bookstore that you have visited on several occasions or any localized place that you can people watch and more importantly watch how various communities come together and disperse. How has this place changed, how have the people changed, and how does this make you feel. In addition, do the sequence of events play-out like a film. In other words, does this leave any trace or feeling of going to the moves alone?