Search results for "man-with-a-movie-camera "

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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The eye of the mannequin

Author: joe

Tuesday, 02 August, 2011 - 22:41

Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera is, according to the first title frame's final parenthesised subtitle, an "excerpt from a camera operator's diary". It is a re-presentation of the records of the man with his camera, an excavation of an naively created archive - authentic and unspun. The film unfolds reflexively in its very name and subtitle, its title sequence, and its opening scenes which present a cinema theatre filling with spectators, gathering to watch the moving images on the screen.

An orchestra is frozen in time, the camera cutting between individual musicians poised and waiting, in tension with their instruments. Vertov stretches the sequence in time, pausing on the horns and the fingers resting on the valves, the double-bass straightening its player through the bow, the timpani, violin and trombone holding their humans taut as they anticipate the still conductor's movement at the prompt of the rolling of the film. The elongated duration in which the inert players remain motionless, braced for the introductory notes, outlasts the sense of natural time elapsing: life is fixed fast and rigid.

The projector's shutter is shown slowly to open and to begin beaming light, whereupon the conductor brings his orchestra to life: the once motionless musicians now burst and flail over their charges. Although when released the film was accompanied by live music in theatres, and subsequent audiences have enjoyed the film with a variety of audio interpretations as its soundtrack, the film artefact itself is silent, and has an extraordinary effect when viewed without sound. In silence, the orchestra works wildly, and the projector swallows its reel of film noiselessly, before finally the cinematic vision appears: a single numeral '1' is erected into view and we begin moving through a window of a house. The eerie silence augments the distances we travel: we are watching a film-maker watching a film-show. The camera watches the audience watching what the camera has seen.

Some minutes into the film within the film, we see the eyes of a mannequin, peering from a store-window, gazing out on the world. Eyes, windows, camera. The lifeless figures in the windows and the dressed busts, the posed dummies at the sewing-machine or astride a bicycle - even a stuffed dog articulated so as to seem expectant and watchful: all look out at the world, whose alienated form reflects on the inanimate almond shaped bumps painted to look like the organs of sight in a facsimile human face. The camera sees for them: their own images, their view of the streets, the paraphernalia of commerce which surrounds them, the sleeping bodies of the otherwise absent human race.

It is a puppet show in a world of matter with a transcendent intervening cinematic machinery providing an occasionalist vision and sense. An outside force runs through the world, causing actions and events, permitting sense to be made, prompting beings into life: mediating. The world's continued existence is brought about by machinery with a roving eye.

Categories: dziga-vertov, man-with-a-movie-camera, film, time, eye, window, mediation, cinema, puppet, mannequin, occasionalism,
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Heap of sawdust

Author: joe

Tuesday, 09 November, 2010 - 16:46

- on freedom and craft.

Understand this clearly: You can teach a man to draw a straight line, and to cut one; to strike a curved line, and to carve it; and to copy and carve any number of given lines or forms, with admirable speed and perfect precision; and you find his work perfect of its kind: but if you ask him to think about any of those forms, to consider if he cannot find any better in his own head, he stops; his execution becomes hesitating; he thinks, and ten to one he thinks wrong; ten to one he makes a mistake in the first touch he gives to his work as a thinking being. But you have made a man of him for all that. He was only a machine before, an animated tool.
 
And observe, you are put to stern choice in this matter. You must either make a tool of the creature, or a man of him. You cannot make both. Men were not intended to work with the accuracy of tools, to be precise and perfect in all their actions. If you will have that precision out of them, and make their fingers measure degrees like cog-wheels, and their aims strike curves like compasses, you must unhumanize them. All the energy of their spirits must be given to make cogs and compasses of themselves. All their attention and strength must go to the accomplishment of the mean act. The eye of the soul must be bent upon the finger-point, and the soul's force must fill all the invisible nerves that guide it, ten hours a day, that it may not err from its steely precision, and so soul and sight be worn away, and the whole human being be lost at last - a heap of sawdust, so far as its intellectual work in this world is concerned; saved only by its Heart, which cannot go into the form of cogs and compasses, but expands, after the ten hours are over, into fireside humanity. On the other hand, if you will make a man of the working creature, you cannot make a tool. Let him but begin to imagine, to think, to try to do anything worth doing; and the engine-turned precision is lost at once. Out come all his roughness, all his dulness, all his incapability; shame upon shame, failure upon failure, pause after pause: but out comes the whole majesty of him also; and we know the height of it only, when we see the clouds settling upon him. And, whether the clouds be bright or dark, there will be transfiguration behind and within them.
 
And now, reader, look round this English room of yours, about which you have been proud so often, because the work of it was so good and strong, and the ornaments of it so finished. Examine again all those accurate mouldings, and perfect polishings, and unerring adjustments of the seasoned wood and tempered steel. Many a time you have exulted over them, and thought how great England was, because her slightest work was done so thoroughly. Alas! if read rightly, these perfectnesses are signs of a slavery in our England a thousand times more bitter and more degrading than that of the scourged African, or helot Greek. Men may be beaten, chained, tormented, yoked like cattle, slaughtered like summer flies, and yet remain in one sense, and the best sense, free. But to smother their souls within them, to blight and hew into rotting pollards the suckling branches of their human intelligence, to make the flesh and skin which, after the worm's work on it, is to see God, into leathern thongs to yoke machinery with, - this it is to be slave-masters indeed; and there might be more freedom in England, though her feudal lords' lightest words were worth men's lives, and though the blood of the vexed husbandman dropped in the farrows of her fields, than there is while the animation of her multitudes is sent like fuel to feed the factory smoke, and the strength of them is given daily to be wasted into the fineness of a web, or racked into the exactness of a line.
 
The Nature of Gothic Architecture by John Ruskin

Here is the interplay between autonomy and automaticity, or as Ruskin goes on to describe it, monotony and change. It cuts both ways - here, freedom of thought versus the unthinking automaton; there, the paralysis of reflection versus the repeated muscular action of practice. It is the experience of mastery that comes with self-determination in work as against the slavery inherent in institutionalised programming; but equally it is the iron cage of systematic thought as against the solipsism of anarchic play.

I'm not sure, as Ruskin implies, you really can have one without the other. I am a man and a machine; I enslave and am enslaved, as I quick-step or slow-dance between thought and action, between absorption in craft and pausing for reflection. I need the space for free-thinking and the discipline of rigour; I require systems as well as playgrounds; I need to feel human and frail as well as to feel rational and effective.

There is some connection with these desires and my joining the protest against cuts tomorrow.

Categories: John Ruskin, man, machine, thought, craft, freedom, mastery,
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