Search results for "time "

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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The Shape of Memories

Author: joe

Monday, 28 December, 2009 - 16:08

A magician wrote about how the natural course of healing covers over the wound as spiders' webs ultimately smother the bric-a-brac on a table in the corner of a long-locked room; yet he wished to not allow the wound to heal over, but every day pick it open and keep his pain alive, rather than allow the web of forgetfulness to conceal the rawness of his experience.

The extremity of self-knowledge is the pursuit of the only absolute foundation he could reach: "nothing is true; everything is permitted." My self-knowledge is bound to a foundation made, amongst so many influences, of my father and the unknowable depths of my psyche which are made from his history in my life. I recall my father as much to understand myself as I do to keep his memory alive.

Rowing boats, van-rides with Candy and souvenir mix-tapes; evenings in beer gardens, Neil Young in the car; yards with kids, playing action man in the street. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick on Top of the Pops; kissing a girl on the school railings, AZED crosswords, tin of snails in the first university hamper. Sunday afternoons with 2p for the phone box; huge home-knitted jumpers with big striped colours; shopping for records on my birthday; black and white photographs of me and an old Wolseley.

Memories have shapes. Although they are recalled all at once, like frozen instants, they also unfold in time. They have a flavour and pattern whose tone and complexity seem to present themselves whole; yet they also play out their complexity, like stories retold. Each retelling allows some room for change - room to create new tastes and tones.

As I let each memory spin out I recognise a new note attach itself. It is an aftertaste of grief; there is a hint of bitterness - the reaction against tragedy; but also an intertwining of happiness and melancholy. Maybe grief imparts complexity the way a cask enriches the liquor aged within it. Perhaps the immediacy of the experience is lost; but perhaps as each year passes, there is an ever more rich emotional flavour to each recollection.

Perhaps the bitterness will round out; the joys and the sadnesses may mold themselves into familiarity; and perhaps rather than need to keep pain alive, it will be replaced by something other than the forgetfulness the magician feared. Another Christmas passes...

Categories: xmas, dad, grief, time, memory, complexity,
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