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. 360┬║ 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.

Contemporary Independent Filmmaking

Ever since my time as an undergraduate film student, I have struggled with the idea of independent filmmaking and the state of contemporary independent films. The current state of indie films came to mind again while working on my final paper, which focused on the work John Cassavetes. His status as the pioneer of American independent filmmaking still resonates with filmmakers today.

It seems as though indie filmmaking has become an aesthetic style more so than a way of creating a film. During my presentation, Sam mentioned the cinematography of indie films. The use of the hand held camera has become the ubiquitous amongst indie films these days. This was used for very specific reasons by previous influential indie filmmakers, but it should not characterize a film as independent. Although indies lack major studio funding, they often have the advantage of more creative freedom. This does not only apply to the overall content of the film, but for the crew as well. I often found on professional sets that the people who had a background in film had the most difficult time adjusting to a lack of creativity on set. However, there are instances in which, even as an intern, I was given some creativity freedom on an indie film. These creative allowances were rarely given to anyone except heads of department on studio films.

Although there is more creative freedom, there also seems to be a pre-packaged style that has developed even for indie films. I cannot completely disregard film school since I attended one, but it is obvious that film schools have a tendency to instill a pre-packaged concept of the “perfect” film in its students. This applies to both studio and indie films. Indies have developed their own format for the “perfect” film over the years. However, this format often emulates that of earlier filmmakers without taking into account the best aesthetic choices for each specific film. Just because you are an indie filmmaker, does not mean that you have to make a serious art house film with your friend’s digital camera.

I am interested to see how the future of independent filmmaking evolves in years to come. In recent years, there seems to be an emergence of interest in indie films again thanks to events such as the Sundance Film Festival. Indie films have taken on an aura of being “hip” and “artsy.” Hollywood certainly did not fail to notice this trend in the popularity of indies. Currently, indie filmmakers have more possibilities for having their films seen than ever before. The internet has provided a perfect platform to showcase their work. The plight of the indie filmmaker is as relevant today as it was in the previous decades, except for the ability to have a film seen more easily due to technological advancements. Jonas Mekas created The New American Cinema Group and subsequently the Filmmakers’ Cooperative, which still distributes films today, to help aid the underground filmmakers in the production and distribution of their films during the 1960s (the manifesto for The New American Cinema Group can be found here, and is definitely worth reading). Thanks to the advent of digital film equipment and the internet, filmmakers do not have to rely as heavily on the help of others to have their films seen and distributed, and they may not have to spend money on film stock or processing fees.

Obviously there have been a lot of generalizations made here, and my thoughts are merely my constantly evolving opinions on the subject. Many of these opinions do not apply to every indie film, of course. I think that overall my issue with indie films is that they have taken on an aesthetic style that is not always necessary or relevant for each film. They often try to emulate the stylistic choices of previous independent directors, thus somewhat disregarding the greatness the indie film’s ability to have more creative freedom than studio films.

- Stephanie Class

Digital-Genetic Feedback

After reading Hansen's work on the enframing of data I found this comment by the brilliant but ethically challenged biotech pirate, Craig Venter chillingly resonant:
"It's the first self-replicating cell on the planet that's parent is a computer," says Venter, referring to the fact that his team converted a cell's genome that existed as data on a computer into a living organism.
Of course, the soundbyte is a drastic oversimplification of what's really happened here, but at the same time, as a proof of concept, it's a significant step towards the broader introduction of artificial, technologically derived forms into organic life.

This specific experiment only used genetic information that had been read, stored, and then reproduced chemically, without intervention into the functional content of the code. In other words, this experiment does not mean that we are any closer to developing artificial genes or in any deliberate way adding to existing, naturally evolved genomes. What it does represent is the entrance of genetic content into the circuit of digital reproducibility, and as holds true from Hansen, processes of manipulation potentialized by digitization.

Over the past three decades, genetic information from various sources (most notably in the 1990–2003 Human Genome Project) has been actively processed and recorded in digital databases. Nearly all of this data is still meaningless to us as the process of correlating genetic data to any form or function within an organism is supremely challenging (hence the controversy when Venter tried to patent the human genome despite having no insight into the raw data to which he was laying claim).

This particular experiment, however, allows the potential for the automated development of genetic code along the lines of the automated production of pharmaceuticals (eg. combinatorial biosynthesis) which has been successfully applied for decades. Having developed a process of effectively "stitching together [a genome] from smaller stretches of DNA synthesised in the lab" from raw data, Venter's lab has essentially created a method for producing genetic versions of Frankenstein's monster, the difference being that billions of attempts could be efficiently made in order to arrive at one that actually thrives. While this technology remains as yet unapplied, one cannot help but wonder how this engagement of the digital and the genetic has already altered our status in the universe. As Siegfried Kracauer wrote in "Boredom", "Radio likewise vaporizes beings, even before they have intercepted a single spark."

Brian Johnson

Digital Art vs. Video Games

In class, we briefly talked about Hansen's problematic omission of the subject of video games in his book, New Philosophy For New Media. I believe the big question is: what is the difference between digital art and video game images? Hansen explains that in the digital image the body creates the image; the image cannot exist without the body. Our bodies serve as a filter of the data that the digital interface supplies and through our filtration, we create an image. Video games have allowed players to create different digital material as an effect of their bodily intervention since the early 1980's. The comparison is even more compelling now with the rise of new video game consoles and arcades that involve the human body to higher and more active degree such as the Nintendo Wii, the Rock Band games, and Dance Revolution.

So if both of these mediums engage the body, then what really sets them apart? For me, the answer is pretty straightforward. With video games, there is always an objective involved (as with all games). While the player is indeed creating and manipulating digital images by way of their bodily input, the manipulation of the image is only a byproduct of the objective of the player, and that is to complete the game, advance to the next level, save the princess, etc. The digital art that Hansen writes about is "objectiveless" for the viewer. Everyone can interact with these pieces in their own unique way and there is no prize for the viewer who completes the interaction in the best way. I think this simple difference separates the two mediums enough for Hansen that he feels it is not even necessary to mention. If there was a video game where the player merely just controlled a character through a digital space, but there was no other goal beyond that set forth for them, then I think the digital interface would cease to be a video game.

--Jonathan Masino

The City as a Milieu for the Virtual to Happen, Part One

Guy Debord, the leader of Situationist International, in “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” introduces the term psychogeography, which means the study of the particular effects of the environment on the emotions and behavior of city habitants. The prevailing mode of acting in the city, according to Debord, is usually controlled and manipulated by the consumerist ideology, which constantly proposes the legitimated actions within the city. Therefore, a representational layout of the contemporary city supports already known redundant practices within it. In this connection, Guy Debord states that the city should be explored without any preconceptions or prejudices. The Situationists criticize the ordinary mundane interactions with a constructed urban milieu and propose the practice of derive. This practice proposes to read the city interpretively, to turn the city around (d├ętournement) and reconstruct it. In this context, the city practitioners see the possibilities (or we can say virtualities) of the city in places of present fragmentation rather than in already known and constructed areas. In my opinion, the Situationists tried to demonstrate the contrast between how the city life practice is effected by representations and what it could be beyond spectacular, representational impact.

In this connection, I found remarkable similarities between how Deleuze describes the attentive, non-representational ways of becoming, for instance, art practice or traveling, and the open city explorations suggested by the Situationists (and to some extent by Charles Baudelaire earlier). As Bergson states, the virtual image is only possible by having the zone of indetermination in our relations with other objects. In this light, Situationist thoughts about their practices remind me of the distinction between actual and virtual images in Bergson and Deleuze. According to the Situationists, psychogeography suggests the possibilities of new findings allowed by the unpredictable influence of the environment on human feelings. So any situation or conduct of a city's inhabitants that seems to reflect the spirit of discovery was understood as a search for something creative and new. Consequently, the Situationists were trying to realize the new practices within the city (spontaneous, unknown in advance), instead of following the mundane routes and actions. Thus, I would say, that an openness to the unknown, the virtual, is essential for an attentive experience of the city. And that is why I found the Situationist approach to the practice of everyday life close to the Deleuzian one.


Some Closing Thoughts re: "Art After Deleuze" and the Whitney Biennial

When Beom presented his project in our final class Wednesday night, there was some confusion as to whether the "work" itself was his sculpture, or the photos of his sculptures, or his lecture referencing the photos of his sculptures. His response was that it was not important to delineate between those processes or titles, since the "work" itself was composed of all three steps.

This nebulous mutation of art – a kind of constant coming-into-being within multiple different media – seems to me to be the most important recent development in contemporary art practice. It is both indebted to and contrary to Deleuzian theory in that his writing focused on singular works of art (i.e., in a single medium format) resulting from the artist's dynamic encounter with the ever-changing percepts and affects of the world. Yet the concept of creation-as-mutation is integral to work such as Beom's and the examples of 'relational art' and participatory, affective-response works profiled by Bourriard and Hansen. The implication is that Deleuze's 'becomings and trajectories' have moved from the stage of fabrication to the stages of conception, presentation, and reception – with fabrication now relegated to a supporting role to facilitate those stages. Artists are no longer passionate material craftspeople but thoughtful stewards or choreographers shuttling an idea through its various forms and ever-expanding applications. This change can be seen in all arts, from painting to music to sculpture to film/video, and it is being grappled with in widely varying ways.

Take the works on view this year at the Whitney Biennial. If this is any indication of the state of contemporary art (and maybe it is, maybe it isn't), confusion and apathy seem to reign. There is a paucity of moving or passionately conceived work in the exhibition, and after seeing it I felt as cynical about the power and potential of art as the majority of artists represented in the show seem to be. Though I don't follow the discussion closely, I know the various Biennials are highly political, buzzy, pop-culture events within the art world, and there are intense debates concerning their rigor and credibility. Leaving that debate aside, I'll focus on the Whitney exhibition in the context of our class material.

It seems as if many artists working today are unmoored by the shifting nature of art's "body." More often than not, their response is to simply literalize that concept – usually with disappointing results.

Some works attempt this through invoking a physiological affective response in the viewer (a la Jeffrey Shaw in Hansen's New Philosophy for New Media). For example, R.H. Quaytman's optical pattern silkscreens unsettle the eyes and therefore the body for no apparent reason except to foreground the 'nature of perception' (that old standby!) and skillfully invoke the building window that inspired them. Even the artist's statement cancels out the possibility of any determined aim. (“I seek to maintain and simultaneously disrupt painting’s absolute presence.”1 ) Uh, okay. So it's about non-space or non-presence? In relation to what – interior design?

The other common approach to literalizing art's shifting mediations is to obscure the work's affiliation to any particular medium. Because everything is art nowadays, nothing is – it is all derived from other areas of visual reproduction, and curators seem reluctant to draw hard lines between genres for fear of seeming conservative or limited in their thinking. Several works at the Whitney capitalize on that confusion and "inclusiveness." Pae White's smoke tapestry, Charles Ray's willowy flowers, and Aurel Schmidt's detritus-as-beauty drawings are primarily works of graphic design, illustration and political cartooning, respectively, that seem to have talked their way into the art exhibition circuit. The documentary photographs of Stephanie Sinclair and Nina Berman are powerful examples of photojournalism at its best, but they have nothing to do with the plane of immanence into which an artist, according to Deleuze, must enter in order to construct something new from the world.

To be fair, this confusion does not necessarily originate in the artists, as art institutions dictate to some degree the playing field. Case in point, the Whitney's description of this year's Biennial is totally noncommittal ("…simply titled 2010 [it] embodies a cross section of contemporary art production rather than a specific theme" 2 ….to which I'm tempted to ask, "Then what are we paying you for?"). It's true there isn't much of a theme among the new works, except perhaps "creepy suburbia" (e.g., Josephine Meckseper's "Mall of America," James Casebere's "Landscape with Houses", Duane Hanson's lifelike sculpture of a middle-aged housewife).

Rather than simplistically literalizing or trivializing the process by which art is shifting form, blurring genre boundaries, and engaging viewers in disorienting ways, some artists are attempting to engage with this ambiguity in genuinely risky ways. Duane Hanson's sculptures are rigorous in their conception and execution; their careful fabrication process seems to require the artist's personal engagement with the affects and percepts of human figuration, while forcing him (and us) to grapple with figurative sculpture's transition from idealized portraiture to arbiter of decaying social relations.

Among the video works, Sharon Hayes' "Parole" applies skillful filmmaking techniques to portray moments defined by body language and movement (e.g., interviews, interrogations, and dance) and creates an immersive environment for the viewer in which screens and sounds layer upon one another, building in relation to the timing of the viewer's entrance into the space. Like the immersive projection environments of Aernout Mik, this work is passionately political yet nebulous in its aesthetic footing and genre classification. There is a sense we are on a journey with the artist through the works' multiple permutations – as if the images' independent juxtapositions and interactions (the "something that goes beyond testimony to the photographer's art" described by Walter Benjamin3) determines the outcome. The work does not exist solely inside the frame of the images, but in the conflagration of all the screens interacting at once, through and without the viewer – who may be a witness or a participant to the videos' content.

Whether successful or not, today's questioning, unsettled art works show that we are grappling with a new kind of practice whose trajectory must cross not only different media forms but different states of being, in order to become whole. With regards to my own web-based and film/video projects, which feed into and grow out of one another in various shifting ways, I am discovering that the creative process is a kind of constant reconfiguration (Bergson's 'kaleidoscopic' assemblage of images in relation to "the privileged image" of the body4). With no fixed entry or end points, this process unfolds within the germinating pool of ideas or images that I find myself constantly revisiting in one form or another.

Thanks, Sam and everyone, for a great class. Happy summer...



1Whitney Biennial website []; accessed May 20-21, 2010.
2 Ibid.
3 Benjamin, Walter. "Little History of Photography," The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media, ed. Michael W. Jennings et al., trans. Edmund Jephcott et al. (Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 276.
4 Bergson, Henri. “Of the Selection of Images for Conscious Presentation,” in Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1911), pp. 12-13.

Crisis of the Historical-Image

One of the things that struck me in Andrei Tarkovsky's book Sculpting In Time, was his theories on films embedded in specific time periods. He spends a small section of the essay talking about the challenges his crew faced when filming Andrei Rublyov, which takes place in the fifteenth century. He makes the bold claim that by focusing too much on "how everything was" the filmmaker actually does the cinema a disservice [1]. In virtually every big production period piece we see today, the primary emphasis is put on historical accuracy: Do the costumes match the period? Are the actor's speaking in correct accents? Do the props and the scenery evoke the proper time? These obsessions with period and detail only detract from the emotion, the rhythm, and the character of the film. Asking these questions will only kill time, which Tarkovsky tries so hard to sustain. The image becomes completely historical, but for Tarkovsky, history is not time; it is only a consequence of it [2].

Tarkovsky would probably argue that when making a period piece, the filmmaker should be emphasizing the likeness between the film and the viewer instead of the difference. This would be the only way to enable the audience to endure time through the cinema. By magnifying the minute details of the period, the cinema becomes more of a museum hall than a proper theater. The material is instantly frozen in time and made into a relic, inaccessible by the audience. The viewer is distanced from anything the filmmaker might be trying to convey.

In Andrei Rublyov, while the art direction is appropriate for the times, it isn't beaten over the viewer's head. The audience is able to experience the characters more closely and the long takes become more contemplative and visceral as opposed to simply visual. I'm actually trying to achieve the same thing in my graduate film, which takes place in an unspecified time and place circa war torn Europe in the early twentieth century. I was undaunted by the difficulty in shooting a period piece on a low student budget, because of the notion that I could establish a better sense of time without emphasizing the era, but how I believe that time was experienced by the characters. Just because a film is made in a classical period does not mean it must be made classically; one can make full use of the more modern time-image, which Deleuze speaks of. As he also states, the time-image creates a sense of present/pastness. The films that focus on capturing historically accurate details are only considering the past, and are not merging it with the present viewing, which is necessary for the time-image. This historical-image is fully crystallized in that it has already achieved everything it can; there is no more virtual and there is no more connection to the body. The historical-image has become all it can before it is even viewed by an audience. The affect for the viewer would only be one of an academic appreciation at best, but not new though process would be generated. With the time-image, the image is still alive and can continue to become.

(1) Tarkovsky, Andrei Sculpting in Time, p.78
(2) Tarkovsky, Andrei Sculpting in Time, p.57

--Jonathan Masino

The Whitney Pla(q/g)ue

The Whitney Biennial 2010 validated a problem I encountered with the same museum six years ago: the fetishism of theory. I do not know if it is from the curators or the artists, but there is a tendency to finalize the experience of the artwork with overreaching statements. While I did like some of the work displayed, I will not go into details about them. What bothered me was that after looking at the artwork, I read sentences that I found perplexing. I felt like I was reading something movie commercials on TV would do. One superimposed text for commercial for Taken (2008) read, "Move over Bourne, here comes the next action hero." The former film is about human trafficking; The Bourne Identity is a film about espionage. Of course, the movie industry was forcing the action angle, and it seems that the Whitney was the authority of ideas, as Hollywood is the authority of wish fulfillment.

The "art world" theorizes like a secret that visitors stumble upon, yet this secret is revealed because it conceals a problematic within the art world: the art definition. Words like "Surrealist can draw romantic flights of the style, "weird" or "avant-garde." Instead of allowing viewers to exhibit the artwork, the curators allowed statements to represent the artwork. As a result, there is a severe disconnect between what you read and what you see. For instance, part of the description for "Michael and Charles," by Lorraine O'Grady, claims that the pairing of the pop singer and poet is "raising issues of class, race and the highly ambivalent nature of beauty that the new abstraction ignores." So Michael is black/Negro/African American, and Charles is French. Am I supposed to validate the ongoing struggle to demote white superiority? Are Jackson's standardized pop songs superior to Baudelaire's poems? Are they compatible? Hindering this line of thought I'm supposed to follow is a white ambulance/hearse in the middle of the room, spewing a female voice. Am I supposed to appreciate the photographs by being distracted? As for the "highly ambivalent nature of beauty," I guess those ads for Gap, Mabelline, and Calvin Klein make ambiguous statements. Why do women wear make-up, and why do men unbutton their buttoned shirts?

The plague of catchwords disseminate the infect visitors with the 'oh" response, so that they can proceed to the next artwork and nod along. Thus, the plaque narrows discourse by imposing an ideological wall, where one the other side "they" know what's going on with art these days.

by Raul Garcia

Post Production Process: Manhattan Rhizome

I have never really thought about mood and tone in the editing process and decided that this would be something I would like to start with as a reference point or guide. I started listening to jazz music and became enchanted with the sounds of Miles Davis especially his album titled KIND OF BLUE. I decided to research how the album was created and I discovered that the entire album was an unrehearsed studio session. KIND OF BUE, in my opinion was its own rhizome. I immediately imported the song BLUE AND GREEN and used its rhythm and sound as a map for my editing process.

I decided to group the images in sets of three with the moving HD footage first, the digital still second and the 16 mm footage third. I felt like the photographs in the middle of the HD and 16mm footage anchored the material. All the moving pictures were shot with the camera being handheld and are, at times, insecure. Choosing the groupings of three, in the beginning was a little frustrating. I found the selection maddening when I was focused on the result and didn’t let the material speak for itself. This is going to sound strange but whenever I felt blocked or stuck I made the decision to remind myself that the image was alive and to allow it to tell me who or what it wanted to be grouped with. This made me feel a little crazy at times but it was very fun and the following quote from Bergson inspired me, “Here I am in the presence of images, in the vaguest sense of the word, images perceived when my senses are open to them, unperceived when they are closed.” [1] I opened up my senses to the images and tried to hear what they were articulating.

An example of this is the last and third groping of the HD, digital photo, and 16mm section. I started with the moving HD image of the intersection in Little Italy, which ends on the restaurant UMBERTO’S CLAM HOUSE. I really like the pacing and movement of the CLAM HOUSE image but could not come up with a photograph that somehow connected with it. I sat and looked at my computer and tried many combinations of the material. Nothing looked or felt right, I was stuck! I took food breaks, went back to final cut, I shopped online, went back to final cut, I checked my e-mails but nothing seemed to work. I decided to look at the image and try to hear what it was saying to me and all of a sudden I heard the word blue. Then it came to me, the Yankee boy in the blue hat. I put the two images together and they worked perfectly. Originally I had decided that the Yankee boy photograph was to posed but when I put it next to the moving “blue” HD footage it took on a new meaning and I began to see the mapping of this boy’s brash bravado and my Manhattan Rhizome.

After this experience listening to the footage became much easier. Next I decided that my groups of three were finished and I would start building the climax of the piece. This kind of flew and I had very little trouble putting the material together. I decided on a 2,3,3,1,1, combination. Basically this translates into 2 digital photographs, next (3) 16 mm static shots, (2) more photos and ( 1) 16 mm shot ending with a long take in HD Footage. I was satisfied with the rhythm and movement of the piece and felt good about the work.

In conclusion, taking this class and creating MANHATTAN RHIZOME has been a very enlightening and interesting process. Never before have I created a piece without a huge tracing of work looming and impregnating the process. Also this was the first time that I consciously chose to practice my art infused with film theory and thought. I can honestly say that this piece is truly alive and still is a work in progress. My rhizome of Manhattan still has many more entry and exists points to be discovered.


[1] Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, pg 24

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Woman Under the Influence

When writing on Deleuze and Cassavetes, I wanted to examine how Cassavetes was able to take Deleuze’s modern elements of cinema and create a highly affective film. Cassavetes has the ability to draw emotional responses from his viewers, and I used Deleuze’s writings to better understand the way in which he is able to accomplish this in his films. The following is a scene that I consider to be a solid representation of Cassavetes’ directing style. In this scene, Mabel is confronted by her husband, Nick, about her deteriorating mental state. Nick’s mother and Dr. Zepp are called to the house to help regulate the situation and enforce her institutionalization. I have a love-hate relationship with this scene each time I view it. I find it unsettling and difficult to endure because of the intensity of the acting and the subject matter. However, I don’t want to look away from the action either. This scene also exemplifies the way in which Cassavetes would force the audience to fully experience an entire situation with the actors on screen. He lingers in the scene and refused to make any unnecessary edits. According to Cassavetes, experiencing the entirety of the scene was imperative the structure of the film. “You can’t edit the film any more than you can direct the film. You’re not able to make the film play any better than it plays…Take the scene of Mabel’s breakdown, for example. We had to prolong it. The sequence was full because unless you actually see them do that, unless you actually see the continuity of that, the actual idea that he would do this and carry it through could have been weakened.” Also, it is easy to detect Cassavetes’ stance on the use of cinematography. The DP was told to follow the action he felt was important in that moment, instead of having distinct set-ups for each shot. Overall, this scene exemplifies many elements of Deleuze’s concepts of modern cinema, along with the emergence of thought and the mental-image in film.

Here are the links to the majority of Mabel's breakdown scene (my apologies for having to navigate away from the page, but uploading was not possible due to the size of the two clips):

- Stephanie Class

Notes on a Filmosopher

From Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator (2000), comes Robin Hood. The trailer for that popular film type informs audiences that watching an epic story will be like watching the other. Thus, they will have some expectations about Robin Hood because they presumably have watched the former film. Trailers are not necessarily shown in movie theaters: they proliferate online and on TV. Thus, Daniel Frampton’s idea a film is “an organic intelligence…a ‘film being’ thinking about the characters and subjects in the film” suggests that audiences encounter films without any notion of what it is or where it came from (7). I agree with Frampton that film induces some kind of a waking dream state, where we forget about directors, Hollywood, and camera angles to experience the film as a new world. However, we are not innocent to filminds or film worlds, especially if we are anticipating moments in some film worlds, as if we have travelogues prepared/habituated thanks to the domination of narrative.

Frampton states that film offers philosophy, rather than validating philosophical concepts. I see no problem in philosophers using film for philosophical discourse. Films can reveal the intricacies of debates like cloning and the sanctity of identity, or the instability of judicial meaning in particular legal situations. Besides, some narratives express philosophical issues by their very construction: story and character. If academic writing takes the position of philosophy offering its services to film, then it is the filmind that does this in its form of thinking.

Frampton also implies a general definition for or identification of cinema. An aspect of the filmind is “the creation of the basic film-world of recognisable people and objects” (6). Thus, as long as representations of reality are perceived, then the filmind is a legitimate being. Otherwise, nonrepresentational images have no existence. Since this concept is intended for the moviegoer, then he or she will accept narrative films as cinema. Abstract films do not any “film-thinking,” for there is no designing and figuring of the film-world. If films are to be treated as autonomous beings, then experimental/abstract films should garner the equality that standardized films have, in their recognition as filminds.

By Raul Garcia

Work Cited
Frampton, Daniel. Filmosophy. London: Wallflower Press, 2006.

Excerpt From My Essay on Computation and Process: Thoughts on HCI

There were a few questions after my presentation on the details concerting serial and parallel processing in computation. Here is a pretty good link to a op-ed article by the chief scientist at NVIDIA: Life After Moore's Law By Bill Dally

Affective Relations with Computation: the problem of HCI
There is currently a problem of transparency in the affective process of creation involving computed media. The process of computed media is generally obscured by perfect emulation of other forms of media. Lev Manovich’s critique of HCI (Human Computer Interaction) is merely a limited form of this issue.[i] The issue of HCI is not as Manovich states that it is bound to a cinematic mode but that HCI is a layer of mediation that obscures the procedural essence of computation. This layer of mediation draws on many different forms of media and epistemological organizations work to mask the procedural relation between artists and computation. In order for computed media and concepts to express and implicate truly new affects and concepts it will be necessary for those engaged to have a intimate and honest relation to the processes in which they explore.

An artist or thinker who wants to approach computed media on its own plane of immanence is to engage with the procedures that computation makes possible. This is not to say that the ability for an HCI to adequately emulate processes of previous media is bad. It is the mutability of computation that is its tremendously useful power. Yet for computed media to implicate something new, practitioners must engage with it on a much more intimate level.
This of course occurs in most experimental media in which the line between artist and engineer is largely extinct. There is however often a barrier to communicability of the experience of these practitioners and those who would be affected by their creations. It is fortunate that to experience a sculpture, painting, or even film can connect a viewer to the process by which the artist and medium are engaged. One can see and feel the artists brush strokes, chisel marks and imagine the directors splice at each cut. Computed media does not provide us with this kind of connection as long as it is used to emulate other media. For example, if digital-cinema is to critically approach computation it should impart to a high level of procedural transparency in which the viewer can be actively aware of the computed sequence that produces the images before their eyes.

[i] Manovich, Lev, "The Language of New Media," MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts: 2001. pp. 88-93.

Here is a link to the full essay for those interested.