Sunday, May 23, 2010

Excerpt from Blueprints Essay (Revised)

The challenge to proxemics, how people relate to spaces, is the possibility of the interchangeability of cities. The photographing of locations outside Jersey City creates a wider terrain that the photographer covers. As a result, the unidentified city becomes borderless. The idea of interchangeable cities was inspired by two sources: Dark City(1998) and Jean Baudrillard. In Alex Proyas's film, memory becomes a commodity by fulfilling Baudrillard's order of simulacra. Every midnight, memories are exchanged between individuals. Consequently, counterfeit, reproducibility, and simulation make the memory of the city irrelevant, as the city itself is ephemeral. The Strangers can "tune" (telepathically manipulate objects) the machine to change the structures of buildings by focusing their collective consciousness. For Baudrillard, the models and schematics that represent city planning zones no longer need the physical territories they represent. The city that the Strangers manipulate and the humans inhabit is a manifestation of an abstraction. In a later scene, the city is revealed to be an uprooted metropolis, a massive malleable construct floating in the cosmos. The cities in Metropolis (1927), Things to Come (1936), THX-1138 (1971), Logan's Run (1976), and Blade Runner (1982) are spaces densely populated with skyscrapers, subterranean, enclosed in domes, or an amalgamation of industrial, residential, and corporate spaces. However, Dark City's cityscape is provisionally solid. For Blueprints, I wanted to give the impression of the blending city boundaries by depicting images of buildings and their spaces in construction - a virtual interchangeability of cities.

by Raul Garcia

The City as a Milieu for the Virtual to Happen, Part Two: Any-Space-Whatever

According to Deleuze, in classical cinema space is continuous in such a way that it supports the characters' actions. Therefore, time is imprisoned in the continuity of the story and that is why classical cinema works as a closed representational circuit in a similar way to how the represented city is closed to creative experience. Only with the emergence of the modern cinema does the status of cinematic space change: "purely optical or sound situations become established in what we might call 'any-space-whatever,' whether disconnected or emptied" (Deleuze, p. 5). In other words, the space in modern film does not stand for the continuation of the predictable film narrative; rather it stands for temporal subjectivity and, at the same time, the objectivity of the ambiguous real. In my opinion, the creative and non-representational relations with the city are grounded in the same idea of attentiveness to the virtual and the unknown. The creative openness, without any effort to subtract only what is needed (for purposes of utility), helps us come closer to a non-representational complex image of the city.

These thoughts inspire me to work on my project "Any-Space-Whatever," which is supposed to be the second part of the installation "Cinematic Journey Through Time." "Any-Space-Whatever" is a cinematic urban exploration that aims to reconsider the representational image of the city as well as to examine the exceptional temporal dimension of the cinematic medium. During the production part of the project a number of HD video studies in abandoned places all around New York City were shot. They will be screened on the four walls of a black box installation space.

The project examines the temporal dimension of cinema and the city at a few different levels, as presented below. First, the places chosen for cinematic explorations are not-yet striated spaces because they do not belong to the trajectories of everyday life and do not, in the words of Guy Debord, exist for purposes of consumption. Therefore, the first temporal aspect of the project is based on an unpredictable personal encounter with places without knowing in advance what will be found. To put it briefly, the cinematographic studies were implemented in time.

Second, according to Deleuze and Guattari, smooth space (which represents temporal becoming) does not mean homogenous space, quite the contrary: it is an amorphous, non-formal space. In this connection, abandoned, wasted, post-industrial places I have visited so far do not have a stable identity; rather, they are in a transitional mode between their striated past, which is already over, and a future identity that is still unknown. The buildings are fragmented, full of holes and gaps; walls are not vertical anymore, windows are leaky. The places are dehumanized and only serve as homes for silent wind, forgotten memories and unrecognizable relics. Therefore, the second temporal aspect of the project is decided by the space's transitional position in time. All the places I have recorded are in constant change from the striated to the smooth, having the impressive traces of both periods. As Deleuze and Guattari write, "a smooth space emanated, sprang from a striated space, but not without a correlation between the two, a recapitulation of one in the other, a furtherance of one through the other." So, I would say, that records of the abandoned places are portraits of duration of their temporal smoothness.

Third, the cinematic techniques I have chosen to use for capturing the temporal existence of these places formulate another temporal component of this project. 360ยบ panning long takes and static shots edited together with the sounds partially recorded on location move the short cinematic studies closer to the real time of the recorded places rather than the manipulative construction of personal and conventional views on the part of the cinematographer. Spontaneous editing was used only for the purpose of assembling the details together into the larger whole but not with the intention of stimulating a third meaning between the shots (ala Eisenstein). In my opinion, details from each location could be easily edited in various ways without paying attention to narrative at all. These places, following Deleuze, could be called "dehumanized landscapes of emptied spaces having absorbed characters and actions, retaining only a geographical description, an abstract inventory of them" (Deleuze p. 9).

Finally, in the end of the cinematographic study, the time-image is freeze-framed and combined with an artificial clock sound in order to inspire the viewer to rethink the relation between the real durational time of these spaces and constructed or abstract time. Summarizing the project, I would hope it could help us to reconsider the temporal, non-representational dimension of cinematic practice as well as re-think the representational image of the city.


Tarkovsky Example of Plot Movement Becoming Time

If you've read some of my other posts you know that I've been doing some research on the potential for the movement-images described by Deleuze in Cinema 1 to become time-images within respective shots and montages. I believe one example in film that accomplishes this blend is the pool sequence which occurs towards the end of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. In one shot we get sustained voiceover (which actually begins in a previous shot) while the camera slowly moves from a close-up of the main character to a tracking shot peering straight down over a shallow pool. The voice over eventually fazes out and we hear a symphonic blend of eastern meditative music fade in as the shot eventually ends with the camera making its way back to an inanimate hand half-submerged in the pool. Through this shot we are partially made privy to the true nature of “The Zone”, which is what the characters in the film (and the audience) are eager to uncover.

Here's a clip of the sequence (shot starts at :57):

By combining this narrative reveal with the superbly executed long take and flow of visuals, music, sounds, and dialogue, Tarkovsky achieves that ebb and flow of action-oriented plot, pure contemplation and reflection, but also formless movement through the motif of the water. In examples like this it is more of a challenge to connect action and perception with time and sensation because the two extremes naturally remove one from the other. By condensing these opposing forces into small sequences/shots a filmmaker can really induce powerful affects in the viewer.

--Jonathan Masino

Long Take Experiment Two (Movement Becoming Time)
Password is deleuze

Here is the full video of what I showed in class regarding my project attempting to depict examples of movement-images becoming time-images and vise versa. This particular experiment is a collection of 9 frames arranged next to each other in a grid. Six of the frames I chose are examples of classical movement-images that are related not only to mobility, but also to modern transportation. I wanted to use the earliest known infatuations with movement such as distinct POV shots that embodied movement of character. In these types of shots the sense of movement is easily achieved through the changing scenery as it relates to the mobile unit; however, it can also be accomplished by showing a mobile object approaching the stationary viewer as is the case in the classical example of a distant train gradually approaching a station. These would be considered forms of perception-image, which is a subset of the movement-image.

Two of the other frames I utilized are images of household chores: a laundry machine and a sink of dirty dishes being washed. While these aren’t conventional action-images they do create a feeling of movement in the sense that the viewer/character is moving towards the completion of something (i.e. the finished load of laundry and the clean sink respectively). The final frame I used is the one most closely resembling a time-image. It begins with a close-up of leaves on a tree blowing in the wind and gradually zooms out to reveal a larger environment. Later on in the shot we see a character walk through the space where we get a sense of body as it relates to environment (a-la Antonioni), which again is a form of perception-image.

With this collection of movement-image frames I tried to morph them into one whole time-image. The key for me was to transpose the affection of the images into a cumulative experience. With the movement-images we are more concerned with perception, specifically optical perception, while with the time-image we are more concerned with sensation; a more tactile and visceral response from the viewer that evokes a feeling of time and duration.

As the piece develops and we introduce more frames I think the collection of familiar images creates a “new” image when viewed together as one. By doing this we do indeed take the movement-images of everyday perception (which we can relate to the narrative of our daily lives) and mold it into a future image (or the potential and the virtual) that allows the audience to construct some sort of meaning from them (which can be a more poetic interpretation of our routine existence).

Despite some success there were several problems with this experiment. To begin, the captured sounds required an investment of more time in the mastering of the sound to artificially smooth out the soundscape. The main problem was that some of the sounds stood out more than others and even though their audio levels were lowered accordingly, they still managed to pierce through the collective orchestra of clicking and clanging by nature of their unique timbre and high familiarity (the subway sounds were difficult to assimilate). The experiment also required more diverse environments/sounds. I think I overly used cars and trains in the different frames. I should’ve thought about using footage of boats, planes, and bicycles to provide more variation in the images.

In addition, this juxtaposition of movement-images would’ve been more successful had they been in context of a greater whole or narrative. If all the frames depicted a group a characters en route to rendezvous somewhere, I think this collection of images would’ve successfully taken the audience from an image of a sensory-motor schema to an image of pure optical and sonic sensation that lends itself to reflection and contemplation, which would’ve take the audience from an action-image to a time-image.

--Jonathan Masino

Long Take Experiment One (Character Becoming Viewer)
Password is deleuze

This is an example of one of the long take experiments I conducted for my project suggesting the interchangeability between action-image and time-image in a filmic setting. In this example I attempted to achieve this feat by seamlessly altering the audience's perspective from a vicarious viewer (through the eyes of the onscreen character) to an independent viewer. Deleuze mentions in Cinema 2 that in the time-image "the character within the film becomes a viewer".(1) This long take attempted to emphasize the vacillating perceptions/contemplations between both the viewer and the character (acting as both viewer and non-viewer). The main idea was to morph this continuous shot from a time-image (e.g. disjointed images, a contemplative character/viewer, etc.) to an action-image (e.g. the character reacting to a noise, eye line matches, etc.).

I think this particular experiment accomplishes the movement from POV perception to character perception within the space affectively. We get that sensation when the camera moves from the close-up of the book to a close-up of the character’s face looking off in the distance, which is then followed by a slow motion pan to scenery that is out of focus. I was trying to move from a action-image that directly reflects the perception of the character to a time-image where we see the character perceiving the space and also contemplating. The movement back to a quasi-POV by way of the pan was designed to visually display the change of perception as a result of the contemplative character. When our minds are meandering (or in a smooth state) we are less perceptive to detail; hence, the images become out of focus (both literally and figuratively in this case).

I think we also get a good sense of action-image becoming time-image when the character’s reading session is suddenly interrupted by the off screen noise of a car skidding. This aural disturbance triggers an action in the character that demands a different viewing experience from the viewer. Furthermore, the noise is sandwiched between two moments of reflection as the character views text and images evoking nature, while at the same time experiencing nature firsthand through time, duration, and perception.

--Jonathan Masino

(1) Deleuze, Gilles Cinema 2 p.3

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Achilles' Choice

I guess when one is obsessed with a theme, with something that one sees as a burning problem, one's thoughts keep going in that direction. So, I've been thinking some more about questions that came up to me while reading Hansen (and that were only triggered by the text). The crucial among them was: Why actually people stop at the point of just having an idea, of an observation – why do we so often remain on the very first, the most periphery level of detecting a problem, a node, and that way too often remain considering unessential things or elements of the node? And I said, ok, sometimes we're lazy, sometimes not interested enough, and sometimes we're too much concerned with getting a status as soon as possible, so to invest ourselves harder and deeper in what we are thinking and creating. But on the other hand, what is actually behind that (besides some very conscious choices such as opportunism)? Because, laziness, for example, is usually just a manifestation, a periphery layer that is protecting something inside that is blocked, not permitted to get outside. It is never the actual cause of something "not happening".

And what is not happening in most of contemporary art is the content. One of its greatest embodiments is the phenomenon of a "project in process" or a "work in progress" that is never brought to an end. Moreover, never intended to be finished. And for the big majority of them, this has nothing to do with Deleuzian becoming. Good art deals with the world's illness, its symptoms and sometimes even heals it. Bad art is just another symptom of the illness. Such is this type of "work-in-progress" art. It reflects the illusion of the movement in our control society. By constantly changing the names of the positions or multiplying their numbers, it creates the illusion of the actual change in positions or of their qualities. Our contemporary world is abundant with constant insisting upon "activity" – people's working hard, people's moving fast, people's working fast, and moving, moving, moving. No digesting. It leaves us doomed to the catharsis through the Hollywood film, which is carefully controlled. You are not allowed to take a pause and contemplate – possibly to think of an observation, impression or emotion thoroughly, throughout your being and from that come up with a genuine movement. Because that way you will create a thing with a content – with a meaning, a story, an emotion – a "human" element, that has changed yourself and then may affect the others, therefore is able of provoking a change. But the system has never desired a change. So it keeps (and this "it" is made up of us – it becomes you and I as soon as we agree to become lazy) spreading the word that we are moving – what it is actually is doing is pushing to the extreme until it reaches its opposite – a numb and mute immobility that is not even aware of itself. All that while "it" keeps patting us on the back for our pseudo-movements… as long as there is no content, no essence – in a word, no threat. And try protesting for real. Sooner or later you'll realize you've been bleeding, but internally.

But to bleed with a purpose and full awareness is a choice. It is Achilles' choice understood as a rejection of a comfortable and commodified life not for the sake of the name, but of the ideal mediated through a piece of art only to be re-embedded in an interlocutor that will further reshape it, play with it and carry it into some other space, time and dimension. It is for the sake of being alive and involved in this world. Because, you're going to bleed out anyway.


Additional Thoughts on Marina Abramovic

Much has been written over the semester about Marina Abramovic’s exhibition at the MOMA, and all of the entries have provided us with fascinating perspectives on the experience. I visited the MOMA again recently, and was intrigued by how a shift in the crowd’s energy had a major influence on the exhibit overall. It seemed as though a reverential energy enveloped the space, unlike my initial visit. The first time I visited the exhibit, the room had a strange buzz of energy that did not quite seem to fit the performance properly. This was apparently due to some celebrities that had recently participated in the performance, and many of the people seemed to be there to try and catch a glimpse of someone famous instead of experiencing art. However, my recent visit left me with a vastly different view of the performance.

Before entering the exhibit, I had visited some of Duchamp’s pieces. There was a quote of his that appeared in our discussion of Nicholas Bourriaud’s writings that kept coming to mind. Duchamp states that, “Art is a game between all people of all periods.” This was running through my mind as I watched Abramovic’s performance, and seemed to have an influence on my overall experience. I found the relational aspects of the exhibit to be more powerful than my previous encounter. When I returned home, I read parts of Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics again and felt that this passage was a perfect description of my time spent at Abramovic’s exhibit:

The form of an artwork issues from a negotiation with the intelligible, which is bequeathed to us. Through it, the artist embarks upon a dialogue. The artistic practice thus resides in the invention of relations between consciousness. Each particular artwork is a proposal to live in a shared world, and the work of every artist is a bundle of relations with the world, giving rise to other relations and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. (1)

I felt as though this helped to explain why my initial experience was not as interesting as my second visit to the exhibit. I realized that I did not fully allow a dialogue to take place with the art itself. I was too caught up in other things to have a full encounter with the art, and forgot to uphold my part of the relational art experience, thus was not able to fully engage with the work.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I appreciated the coverage of the exhibit on the MOMA’s website. It definitely serves as an extension of the exhibit itself. I found that I have watched the live stream of the performance from time to time, and am always immersed in footage. I appreciate how we are able to access the website in order to reunite with the relational experiences that we first encountered at the exhibit. It also made me wonder at which point the interactive aspects of the website were incorporated into the exhibit overall (was this first considered by Abramovic during the initial conception of the exhibit, or was it primarily designed by the MOMA?).

- Stephanie Class

(1) Bourriaud, Nicholas. Relational Aesthetics. Pg. 22.