On Image and Time: A Gear of Different Temporalities

In my first post I want to tell you about a literary and cinematographic reference which influenced me during the development of my work, The Fourth Wall.

During the initial phase of The Fourth Wall, the research process, I noticed the multiple studies on time and space covered from different points of view, among which I highlight Jorge Luis Borges's. At different points in his literary work, Borges tackles the study of convergent times and the rupture of temporal linearity; he approaches these ideas in The Babel's Library (1941) and in The Aleph (1945).

Borges's star is found in multiple films, as is the case of Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014). On the end of the film, in the sequence of the hypercube in which Cooper is trapped, and is allowed to physically communicate over time using gravity, the library that Borges imagined is represented.

The scene shows Cooper trying to talk to his daughter from behind the shelves of her home library, an infinite library multiplied by each one of the moments of history:

This idea of fusion of time and space, also appears in the short story, The Aleph (1944), in which Borges describes a point in space where all the other points of space-time coexist, a point in the space that contains the entire universe:

“El diámetro del Aleph sería de dos o tres centímetros, pero el espacio cósmico estaba ahí, sin disminución de tamaño. Cada cosa (la luna del espejo, digamos) era infinitas cosas, porque yo claramente la veía desde todos los puntos del universo.”

“The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe”

In this sense, we can say that the relationship between image and time is a gear of different
temporalities. The image, every image, is, in essence, a multiplicity of times and, in turn, a "form" that is frequently updated, which renews processes of the past, which "crystallizes time" but also allows the emergence of aspects of the past that are not relegated to their time of production.

In The Fourth Wall, I address the familiar photographic archive from the present as an intruder that submerges in other times. The work process has proved to be a way of getting involved and feeling part of the family history through the archive and the photography, thereby rediscovering the potential of the imaginary that allows the photographic medium.

In this text I adapted some fragments of the following articles:
-Centelles Pastor, J. (2016), Interestellar (La biblioteca infinita). Available here.
-Pineda Cachero, A. (2000), Literatura, Comunicación y Caos: Una lectura de Jorge Luis Borges (1ºParte). Available here.
-Pineda Cachero, A. (2001), Literatura, Comunicación y Caos: Una lectura de Jorge Luis Borges (2ª parte) Política, Historia y Utopía. Available here.
-Rojas Cocoma, C. (2012), Entre cristales y auras: el tiempo, la imagen y la historia, Revista Historia Crítica Nro. 48. Available here.

Published on Der Greif: Guest-Blogger, December 2016.

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About the Interstice

In the decade from 1950 to 1960, the irruption of Italian Neorealism entails a significant turning point in the way space and time are treated in cinema, affecting the plot.

Gilles Deleuze has explained how, until that moment, the cinema is governed under the idea of the image-movement, analyzed on his study of cinema Cinéma I: L'image-mouvement (1983).This happens in such a way that the image in cinematographic movement obeys to the need to capture and reproduce actions that are organized in sequences of causes and effects: each image acts on others and reacts to others in a whole that integrates them: the script.

In that sense, Deleuze criticizes the image-movement considering it as a primitive cinema, developed basically within the stimulus and response scheme that governs its characters and the sequences of actions of their scripts. According to Deleuze, this type of film only stimulates the nervous system of its spectators at one sensory-motor level: its cerebellum, in which it produces laughter, sweat and tears. On the other hand, he argues that only by avoiding the scripts of films can the spectator fully contemplate their images, thus turning an experience conducted by a narrative function into a fully visual experience.

The difference between these two possible functions of the cinematographic image is also a difference of perception, especially of the spectator's experience in relation to time. This is the case concerning the "dead time" in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni or Vittorio De Sica, in which there are images that do not lead to actions or are not explicitly relevant to the development of the script, analyzed in Cinéma II: L'image-temps (1985). This kind of drift from the script is kept for the treatment of time (the time that a scene lasts), as well as the space shown in the scene.

The Italian Neorealism incorporates elements that are usually "disposable" for the classic Hollywood directors. They occur when the protagonists leave the space but their camera does not follow them, nor the action is cut, the camera keeps shooting in the same space after the protagonist left empty, to stay with others who stayed or are about to enter. This way, the takes are maintained and diverted to include others; these "intermediate moments" seem to be essential, the time and space seem richer than the plot or the story.

In these terms, Kogonada defines the essence of Neorealism in this video-essay:

These "intermediate moments" that refer to the temporality of the image on the screen, we could also call "temporary interstices", based on the passage of time during the scene. However, what happens to what is shown on the screen?

In that sense, Michelangelo Antonioni's cinema uses unconventional and excessive framings, where his characters appear on one side or half hidden. Antonioni had studied USA abstract painting. His films looked like canvases of modern life in which people partially appear and his vision of empty spaces is related to a peripheral look. In his cinema, Antonioni explores and deepens the concept of emptiness as well as its visibility. According to John Berger, the Italian director's interest "is always next to the event shown", in the words of Roland Barthes, "The artist stops and takes long looks, looks at things radically, until their exhaustion".

In the famous ending of The Eclipse, Monica Vitti's character leaves the film and never appears again. Instead, we see places, street corners where we had seen her with Alain Delon. Emptiness seizes everything. The world seems empty. As if all were dead or at home. We see this woman and we think that Vitti is back. But no, it is another restless passerby:

In The Fourth Wall, I explore this "space interstice" attending to the blind spots of photography, those which usually escape the eye. This device that allows me to photograph by placing the camera "within" the images, is not a simple frame within another frame: it is a subterfuge to alter the hierarchy of the established order within the image with regard to what is supposed to establish the meaning. It is a displacement of the attention of the gaze that goes from the explicit to the implicit, from what could be obvious to what is ambiguous, to discover spaces that do not lead to actions or not are explicitly relevant to the understanding or development of the argument proposed by the image.

As a consequence, images from the family archive are "born" like fractals, images that were inside the original image. Through this process, I go through the two-dimensional image at the same time as this is transformed into a deep space, in a three-dimensional scenario.

For all this, this project allows us to reflect to what extent it is possible to expand the way in which we relate to the family album and, by extension, to any image we feel linked to.

In this text I adapted some fragments of the following articles:
-Durán Castro, M. (2003), Imagen, movimiento y tiempo. Available here.
-Ardila Murcia, O. (2013), Deleuze y la imagen cinematográfica. Available here.
-Cousins, M. (2001) The Story of Film: An Odyssey. Film Documentary. Review.
-Verardi, M. (2001), La ciénaga (Martel, 2001): el tiempo suspendido. Available here.

Published on Der Greif: Guest-Blogger, December 2016.

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Photography as a Collective Event

"Violence is not seen, there are no corpses". This quote, said in Tel Aviv, was attributed by Ariella Azoulay to a historian, visiting her photography exhibition Constituent Violence 1947-1950.

Ariella Azoulay (Tel Aviv, 1962) teaches visual theory and is the author of several books, among which The Civil Contract of Photography (2008). In this essay, Azoulay has coined the idea of a citizenship of the photography, concept that is structured under the expository format in Constituent Violence 1947-1950 (2011) and Act of State 1967-2007 (2009).

For Azoulay, the photography's interest is in the archive. Azoulay compiles image files from various sources, these files - unfinished, open and susceptible to be enlarged – cover forty years of Israeli occupation.

Through the reaction "Violence is not seen, there are no corpses", mentioned at the beginning, Azoulay points out several commonly held ideas on three themes: violence, photography and Palestine catastrophe. For Azoulay, these three assumptions are connected by the fear of those who show interest in the Palestinian catastrophe; a fear that, in the way it is presented in her exhibitions, is not shocking enough to make the viewer understand the depth of the Palestine catastrophe.

In the occupied territories, Palestinians can not express themselves publicly, and their private sphere is continuously sabotaged (searches, detentions, recordings). Azoulay does not search for images of attacks, but those of concordance. The file documents that those disputes were verbal, in assemblies, markets. Modes of proximity, on daily basis, that were not so contaminated by the violence, even if they were asymmetrical and conflicting. Therefore, it can not be made into a great success, or matter for news. The images of her archive, always accompanied by a legend, far from showing a great event, are intended to record a face to face experience between the photographer and the photographed. This face to face instance is especially significant because, according to Azoulay, for those who lack a State, photography plays a key role as a refuge, the only redoubt where they can still exercise their citizenship.

Azoulay notices a gap between the consideration of 'this was there' and the 'this is X', traditional photography argument, in such a way that the political relationship that photography provokes shows that "what was 'there' was not necessarily there in that way" (Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography, 94). This is what Azoulay calls the civil contract of photography and which consists of assuming the responsibility for reopening the political content that the fixing of the referent intends to eliminate. The viewer of the photography, sensitive to the gap, has the responsibility to reconstruct the event of photography and to re-signify what happens in it through the use of imagination (Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography, 14).

In this sense, Azoulay's reevaluation raises an understanding of photography in terms of collective meeting. A meeting in which not only the photographer and the portrayed participate, but, in fact, an infinite number of people: those who were present at the time of the shooting, even if they do not appear in the image, as well as those that will later be part of this photographic event, expanded by viewing the image, or when they get to know about it through the story of third parties, taking into account, of course, that not all who participate in a photographic event do so in the same way, nor would access the photographic result produced, nor have the same right to use it, or to spread it (1).

In The Fourth Wall, I approach these mechanisms that enhance the subjectivity that all photography entails. Finding myself with the photographs of my own family file has been a continuation of photographic events that occurred in the past. This experience has become a stratagem to approach my past and revisit my own story, after which I feel more involved and active.

(1) Dahó, M. (2015), Fotografías en Cuanto Espacio Público, Revista de Estudis Globales y Arte Contemporáneo, Vol 3, Núm 1. Available here.

In this text I adapted some fragments of the following articles:
-Azoulay, A. (2009). Alegaciones de emergencia: tres argumentos sobre la ontología de la fotografía, en Vicente, P. (ed.), Instantáneas de la fotografía. Arola Editors, 87-97, Tarragona.
-Azoulay, A. (2009), Act of State 1967-2007. A Photographic History of the Israeli Occupation, Antifotoperiodisme Press Dossier (collective exhibition, Barcelona, June-October 2010). Available here.
-Dahó, M. (2015), Fotografías en Cuanto Espacio Público, Revista de Estudis Globales y Arte Contemporáneo, Vol 3, Núm 1. Available here.
-Heano, A. F. (2013), La masacre de las bananeras y la ontología política de la fotografía e Juan Carlos Henao: Gabriel García Márquez y Ariella Azoulay. Available here.
-Valdés , A. (2015), ¿Quién teme a Judith Butler? Available here.

Published on Der Greif: Guest-Blogger, December 2016.