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Fruit and flowers

Author: joe

Wednesday, 03 August, 2011 - 23:37

Perry Bard is the artist behind Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remake, a participatory reproduction of Vertov's 1929 original. We are invited to upload video clips of our own which match or interpret, shot for shot, the sequence of the original. The remake allows us to therefore see one, two, three - and more, an infinite number of films called Man with a Movie Camera, the first, the original, placed next to the second, the shot-by-shot crowd-sourced substitute, creates a third film composed of the two engaged in a concurrent dialogue, side by side. The act of montage is no longer only a diachronic suture, stitching two fragments into a meaningful utterance, but also a synchronic relation of each fragment to its reinterpreted counterpart. But a further fragment is always implied: the one you wonder might be waiting on your phone or hard drive, the one you might go out and make now. This putative fragment is just the first of an endless number of presumptive shots you now know are hovering at the edges of possibility, stretching the polygenetic, tesselated sequences out through both dimensions of now and next. If meaning is created through articulation, that is, the joining of pieces, tokens, words, or images moving and still - the basic fact of montage - then the possible expressions of meaning generated by the intertextual adjacency of source, reproduction, reinterpretation and imaginary addition are endless. The myriad thinkable paths all occur somewhere, dispersed in the matrix. The most familiar occurrences are merely those that float in the shallows.

In On the Internet, nobody knows you're a constructivist: Perry Bard's The Man With the Movie Camera: The Global Remake, Seth Feldman examines the interplay between Vertov's original and the participatory remake, and notes that the first significant aspect is the generative promise which Vertov makes for his film, which promise Bard's project fulfills. Seth writes that his thesis is that "Vertov's writing and The Man With the Movie Camera in particular are less historical texts than they are generative forces or perhaps, more accurately, generative grammars for the pure language of cinema that Vertov envisioned." What is the generative grammar that Vertov envisioned? Vertov writes of it in his notebooks, published in 1984.

When The Man with a Movie Camera was made, we looked upon the project this way: in our Michurin garden we raise different kinds of fruit, different kinds of film; why don't we make a film on film-language, the first film without words, which does not require translation into other languages, an international film? And why, on the other hand, don't we try, using that language, to speak of the behaviour of the "living person", the actions, in various situations, of a man with a movie camera? We felt that in so doing we would kill two birds with one stone: we would raise the film-alphabet to the level of an international film-language and also show a person, an ordinary person, not just in snatches, but keep him on the screen throughout the entire film [...]
An experiment's an experiment. There are all kinds of flowers. And each new breed of flower, each newly produced fruit is the result of a series of complex experiments.
We felt that we had an obligation not just to make films for wide consumption but, from time to time, films that beget films as well. Films of this sort do not pass without leaving a trace, for one's self, or for others. They are as essential as a pledge of future victories. [...]
If, in The Man with a Movie Camera it's not the goal but the means that stand out, that is obviously because one of the film's objectives was to acquaint people with those means and not to hide them, as was usually considered mandatory in other films. If one of the film's goals was to acquaint people with the grammar of cinematic means, then to hide that grammar would have been strange.
Dziga Vertov, 1984, Kino-eye: the writings of Dziga Vertov, UCP: Berkeley, pp153-155

The film does not hold up a mirror to the world, but it generates the world. It begets, leaves traces, and pledges future victories. Cinema reveals its grammar to us in order that we may learn it. Fruit and flowers. "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth" (Genesis, 1:11)

Categories: dziga-vertov, perry-bard, man-with-a-movie-camera, generative, film, grammar, montage, meaning, fruit, flowers,
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Author: joe

Wednesday, 03 November, 2010 - 22:15

- on dwelling in the being of a thing.

Looking for the moment the gap closes: being in the flow of the moment; sincerity; dialogue; thinging. Theoria, praxis and poiesis are the three Aristotelian "activities" of man: theoria - the contemplative, analytical mode; praxis - the mode of action; and poiesis - the conjury, the making, or (after Heidegger) the 'bringing-forth'. But how do these modes play together? Are we entrapped in one or the other, only ever switching between them as we might change gears? Or are they like polyphonic tones, playing together, merging with each other, alternately moving back and forth in dominance and recession, but always humming along at the same time?

I quote Richard Sennet at length here because when I read his account of craft (butchered here), I am thinking of these modes, and noticing the opening and closing of the gaps between thought and action, mind and world, being and withdrawal.

We could find no better guide than Erin O'Connor about how the hand and eye together learn how to concentrate. A philosophical glassblower, she has explored the development of long-term attention through her own struggles to fashion a particular kind of wineglass. She reports . . . that she has long enjoyed the Barolo wines of Italy and therefore sought to fashion a goblet big and rounded enough to support the fragrant "nose" of the wine. To accommodate this, she had to expand her powers of concentration from the short- to the long-term . . .
In learning to make a Barolo goblet O'Connor . . . had to "untape" habits she'd learnt in blowing simpler pieces in order to explore why she was failing . . . develop a better awareness of her body in relation to the viscous liquid, as though there were continuity between flesh and glass . . . Now she was better positioned to make use of the triad of the "intelligent hand" - co-ordination of hand, eye, and brain . . . But she still had to learn how to lengthen her concentration.
This stretch-out occurred in two phases. First, she lost awareness of her body making contact with the hot glass and became all-absorbed in the physical material as the end in itself . . . The philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes what she experienced as "being as a thing". This philosopher Michael Polanyi calls it "focal awareness" and refers to the act of hammering a nail: "When we bring down the hammer we do not feel that its handle has struck our palm but that its head has struck the nail . . . . I have a subsidiary awareness of the feeling in the palm of my hand which is merged into my focal awareness of my driving in the nail." If I may put this yet another way, we are now absorbed in something, no longer self-aware, even of our bodily self. We have become the thing on which we are working.
This absorbed concentration now had to be stretched out. The challenge O'Connor met was the result of further failure . . . The problem, she came to understand, lay in dwelling in that moment of "being in a thing." To work better, she discovered, she needed to anticipate what the material should next become in its next, as-yet nonexistent, stage of evolution. Her instructor called this simply "staying on track"; she, rather more philosophically minded, understood that she was engaged in a process of "corporeal anticipation," always one step ahead of the material . . .
The rhythm that kept O'Connor specifically alert lay in her eye disciplining her hand, the eye constantly scanning and judging, adjusting the hand, the eye establishing the tempo. The complexity here is that she was no longer conscious of her hands, she no longer thought about what they were doing: her consciousness focussed on what she saw; ingrained hand motions became part of the act of seeing ahead . . .
The Craftsman by Richard Sennet

The materials of life require a master to give them form, while dwelling in the being of a thing is anarchic and free-wheeling. Hmmm. Ahhh. Hello, and welcome to the tropes of mastery and freedom . . .

Categories: theoria, praxis, poiesis, Aristotle, Heidegger, Richard Sennett, craft, The Craftsman, flow, absorbtion, concentration, focal awareness, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michael Polanyi,
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