Post-Cinematic Artifacts at Media Fields Conference

RuinsPoster

Next week, on April 7, 2017, I’ll be giving a talk titled “Post-Cinematic Artifacts: Digital Glitch and the Ruins of Perception” at the 2017 Media Fields conference, “RUINS,” at UC Santa Barbara.

Building on recent work I’ve been doing, I’ll be arguing “that new forms of sensibility and collectivity may become thinkable in the spaces opened up by post-cinematic media – that new ways of being and relating to the world may arise from the ruins of perception.”

The full conference program is posted on the conference website.

Post-Cinema: 24fps@44100Hz

The New Krass

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Finished my latest piece, “Post-Cinema: 24fps@44100Hz”
(Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″)
The painting will have an animated, augmented reality overlay when scanned with a smartphone or similar device. It will be featured on the cover of
Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film,
edited by Shane Denson and Julia Leyda (forthcoming soon!)

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Images that Metabolize Time (Post-Cinematic Perspectives)

Pioneering video artist Nam June Paik has been quoted as saying that video “imitates not nature but time.” Somewhat more elaborately, in his reflections on “input-time” and “output-time,” he writes: “Video art imitates nature, not in its appearance or mass, but in its intimate ‘time-structure’ … which is the process of AGING (a certain kind of irreversibility).” And elsewhere again, Paik explains his view thus: “So called ‘feedback’, video artist’s favorite word, is nothing but the scientific term for ‘aging’ … that is : enrichment in time-component or a compounded time. Like any other art, video-art also imitates the nature… but in her time-component. Ex. : in NTSC color, color is determined by time-component : that is : phase-delayline in 3.58 mega-hertz.”

Paik’s views on video’s novel relation to temporality inspired philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato to take up the question of time’s modulation in the machines of post-Fordist capitalism in his book Videofilosofia: La percezione del tempo nel post-fordisme (the first chapter of which has appeared in English in Theory, Culture & Society). And Lazzarato’s reflections (along with those of Steven Shaviro and Mark B. N. Hansen, among others) have been central to my own attempts to come to terms with the significance and experiential parameters of our shift to a properly “post-cinematic” media regime.

This past weekend (November 22-23, 2013), I had the opportunity to present my work on the topic at the excellent “Post-Cinematic Perspectives” conference organized by Lisa Åkervall and Chris Tedjasukmana from the Freie Universität Berlin. Steven Shaviro’s talk on Spring Breakers was a particular highlight for me, but I also enjoyed being exposed to thoughts on a number of topics and artworks quite outside my areas of expertise — especially a number of talks on very recent video-art pieces with which I was not previously familiar but am now inspired to seek out.

Through some serendipitous cosmic event — some alignment of the stars giving rise to an unhoped-for coincidence of spatiotemporal coordinates, intellectual and practical concerns, and the respective times of work and leisure — I also found myself confronted with Nam June Paik’s wonderful Triangle: Video-Buddha and Video-Thinker (1976/1991), currently on display in the exhibit “Body Pressure: Sculpture since the 1960s” at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart (25 May 2013 – 12 January 2014). Placing a sculpture of Buddha and a small reproduction of Rodin’s Le Penseur under the constant, real-time surveillance of two video cameras connected to four monitors — two of which face each other in a closed-circuit loop of video production and machinic reception — Paik’s Triangle provided the perfect opportunity not only to think more about the “metabolic images” that (following Paik, Lazzarato, Shaviro, and Hansen) I had been theorizing at the conference, but to put these thoughts into practice in an experimental configuration.

Of course, the fact that (following the advent of the smartphone) virtually everyone today walks around with a high-definition digital video camera in their pocket has no small bearing on the significance and historicity of Paik’s work. Thus, my wife and I decided to expand Triangle‘s loop of time-metabolizing images by adding a further layer of video processing: each of us filmed different points of the sculpture’s own input/output and integrated our own video devices into the loop. The results, seen here, were synced and combined with split-screen and transparency settings (along with reverse-motion in the top video and the introduction of compression artifacts in the bottom one). In this way, we tried to expand and reflect (materially, not cognitively) on the impact of computational imaging technologies for a work like Triangle — on their radical expansion of variables (“and/ors”) which Paik described thus:

Paik-Triangle-Buddha-Thinker

In the talk I gave over the weekend, “Nonhuman Perspectives and Discorrelated Images in Post-Cinema” (abstract here), I argued (drawing on Lazzarato’s very Paikian arguments about video):

Computational rendering processes generate unanticipated and unanticipatable images, in effect rendering post-cinematic cameras themselves strangely vibrant, uncanny. There is a dilation of affect involved, which introduces a temporal gap of hesitation or delay between perception (or recording) and action (or playback), and it amounts to a modeling or enactment of the indetermination of bodily affect through which time is generated, and by which (in Bergson’s system) life is defined. A negative view sees only the severing of the images’ indexical relations to world, hence turning all digital image production and screening into animation. But in the end, the ubiquity of “animation” that is introduced through digital rendering processes should perhaps be taken literally, as the artificial creation of (something like) life, itself equivalent with the gap of affectivity, or the production of duration through the delay of causal-mechanical stimulus-response circuits; the interruption of photographic indexicality through digital processing is thus the introduction of duration = affect = life. Discorrelated images, in this respect, are autonomous, quasi-living images in Bergson’s sense, having transcended and gained a degree of autonomy from the mechanicity that previously kept them subservient to human perception. Apparently “crazy,” because discorrelated from the molar perspectives of phenomenal subjects and objects, cameras now mediate post-perceptual flows and confront us everywhere with their own affective indeterminacy.

Another way to put this is to say that post-cinematic cameras and images are metabolic processes or agencies, and their insertion into the environment alters the interactive pathways that define our own material, biological, and ecological forms of being, largely bypassing our cognitive processing to impinge upon us at the level of our own metabolic processing of duration. Metabolism is a process that is neither in my subjective control nor even confined to my body (as object) but which articulates organism and environment together from the perspective of a pre-individuated agency. Metabolism is affect without feeling or emotion – affect as the transformative power of “passion” that, as Brian Massumi reminds us, Spinoza identifies as that unknown power of embodiment that is neither wholly active nor wholly passive. Metabolic processes are the zero degree of transformative agency, at once intimately familiar and terrifyingly alien, conjoining inside/outside, me/not-me, life/death, old/novel, as the basic power of transitionality – marking not only biological processes but also global changes that encompass life and its environment. By insinuating themselves into the molecular flows of affect, prior to the possibility of perception and action, metabolic images have a direct impact on “the way we tick” — i.e. on the material production and modulation of time and temporal experience.

In many ways, the original assemblage of Paik’s Triangle already demonstrated what I call the metabolic work of microtemporal image processing. Today, however, it provides further opportunities for experimentation with the spatial and temporal parameters of our existence in conjunction with the many cameras and screens that connect us with our contemporary environment. Expanding the variables of the work’s “and/or” configurations, our cameras can hook into Paik’s assemblage, enter into its feedback loops, but also transport those loops into larger contexts of metabolic processing and transport. Images circulate within and beyond, effectively confounding distinctions between object and process, thing and environment. By engaging with the work and aiming our cameras at it in this way, we too are hooked into the system, and our own embodied perception is displaced as it is integrated into the molar and molecular configurations that situate and underpin conscious experience. In this way, Paik’s work continues today to probe the technical modulations of time and affective life in the era of convergence, computation, and our properly post-cinematic environment.

Post-Cinematic Perspectives

Programm_PerspectivesPostCinemaProgramm_PerspectivesPostCinema-2

On November 22-23, 2013, I will be participating in the conference “Post-Cinematic Perspectives,” which is being organized by Lisa Åkervall and Chris Tedjasukmana at the Freie Universität Berlin. There’s a great line-up, as you’ll see on the conference program above. I look forward to seeing Steven Shaviro again (and hearing his talk on Spring Breakers), and to meeting all the other speakers. My talk, on the morning of the 23rd, is entitled “Nonhuman Perspectives and Discorrelated Images in Post-Cinema.” The conference is open to the public, and attendance is free.

Crazy Cameras, Discorrelated Images, and the Post-Perceptual Mediation of Post-Cinematic Affect

[UPDATE March 7, 2013: Full text of the talk now posted here.]

Following our recent roundtable discussion in La Furia Umana (alternative link here), Therese Grisham, Julia Leyda, Steven Shaviro, and I have submitted a panel proposal on the topic of post-cinematic affect for next year’s conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. If the proposal is accepted, I hope to develop in a more systematic way some of the thoughts I put forward in the roundtable discussion, particularly with regard to the role of the “irrational” camera. Here is the proposal I submitted for my contribution to the panel:

Crazy Cameras, Discorrelated Images, and the Post-Perceptual Mediation of Post-Cinematic Affect

Shane Denson

Post-millennial films are full of strangely irrational cameras – physical and virtual imaging apparatuses that seem not to know their place with respect to diegetic and nondiegetic realities, and that therefore fail to situate viewers in a coherently designated spectating-position. While analyses ranging from David Bordwell’s diagnosis of “intensified continuity” to Matthias Stork’s recent condemnation of “chaos cinema” have tended to emphasize matters of editing and formal construction as the site of a break with classical film style, it is equally important to focus on the camera as a site of material, phenomenological relation between viewers and contemporary images. Thus, I aim to update Vivian Sobchack’s film-theoretical application of Don Ihde’s groundbreaking phenomenology of mediating apparatuses to reflect the recent shift to what Steven Shaviro has identified as a regime of “post-cinematic affect.” By setting a phenomenological focus on contemporary cameras in relation both to Shaviro’s work and to Mark B. N. Hansen’s recent work on “21st century media,” I will show that many of the images in today’s films are effectively “discorrelated” from the embodied interests, perspectives, and phenomenological capacities of human agents – pointing to the rise of a fundamentally post-perceptual media regime, in which “contents” serve algorithmic functions in a broader financialization of human activities and relations.

Drawing on films such as District 9, Melancholia, WALL-E, or Transformers, the presentation sets out from a phenomenological analysis of contemporary cameras’ “irrationality.” For example, virtual cameras paradoxically conjure “realism” effects not by disappearing to produce the illusion of perceptual immediacy, but by emulating the physical presence of nondiegetic cameras in the scenes of their simulated “filming.” At the same time, real (non-virtual) cameras are today inspired by ubiquitous, aesthetically disinterested cameras that – in smartphones, surveillance cams, satellite imagery, automated vision systems, etc. – increasingly populate and transform our lifeworlds; accordingly, they fail to stand apart from their objects and to distinguish clearly between diegetic/nondiegetic, fictional/factual, or real/virtual realms. Contemporary cameras, in short, are deeply enmeshed in an expanded, indiscriminately articulated plenum of images that exceed capture in the form of photographic or perceptual “objects.” These cameras, and the films that utilize them, as I shall argue in a second step, mediate a nonhuman ontology of computational image production, processing, and circulation – leading to a thoroughgoing discorrelation of contemporary images from human perceptibility. In conclusion, I will relate my findings to recent theorizations of media’s broader shift toward an expanded (no longer visual or even perceptual) field of material affect.

Bibliography:

Bordwell, David. “Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary American Film.” Film Quarterly 55.3 (2002): 16-28.

Hansen, Mark B. N. Feed-Forward: The Future of 21st Century Media. Unpublished manuscript, forthcoming 2013/2014.

Ihde, Don. Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1990.

Shaviro, Steven. Post-Cinematic Affect. Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2010.

Sobchack, Vivian. The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992.

(PS: The crazy mobile camera collection pictured above, the “cameravan,” belongs to one Harrod Blank, whose website is here. The image itself was taken from a website (here) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.)