AUTOPSY PART 2
The body. The fragment. The flow.
Giuseppe Colonese - Evergreen Film
In cinema everything is past, transfer, flux; all that is settled on its support is perishable, transitory. The same film has in itself the stigma of annihilation, destruction and rebirth (its reproducibility): its fragile plastic body – the first delicate visual essence of cinema – if exposed to use degrrades, gets scratched, gets dirty; it burns, breaks, dusts. During that time (projection) it reconstructs and gradually loses the intimate substance of his material, the minute shreds of his own existence and, sequence after sequence, projection after projection, reaches his total annihilation, until the complete destruction of the movie. Cinema is a ruin, an organic breakup of matter, consummation in act, a visible deterioration of the image body which gives itself to the world. In the total darkness of the room, before the screen, at the bright set of the movie, we witness the spectacle of death at work. But its frail constitution, its light pain, doesn’t symbolize illness. It is the manifestation of the non-static condition of all images, of their presence as things, of their existence in the world, of their being inside body. The movie, as an image, is a pure and authentic act of day-dream, a visible gesture of a shot of the world. The expression of the filmic body is the revelation of watching the act of something which transforms itself: it is Work of Art.
The decay (Decasia: State of Decay – Bill Morrison, 2002)
The corrosion of the emulsion (Dog Star Man – Stan Brakhage, 1961-64)
The progressive alteration of the original colors (All My Life – Bruce Baillie, 1966)
the presence of dust particles, scratches, wear and fingerprints, become the minimal elements of a typical and exclusive language of the cinema, the alphabet that reveals the way in which day-dreaming takes shape in the film; they are the natural writing of cinema, the autonomous and proper image of the movie.
With regard to the supposed death of the cinema, I therefore believe that it will never die, since it is already dead, corpse, impalpable specter, not as an instrument of writing of visual thought, but in its corporeal constitution of object, matter, practice. The image that the cinema embodies in the substance of the film is shadow, negative, absence, posthumous residue of the thing seen, filmed, projected. Cinema is the hidden ghost of the memory of time. Its particular precariousness makes it, compared to all systems of visual representation, the one closest to the intimate essence of life: the fragility of the body and the progressive approach to the end.
Le film est déjà commencé (Maurice Lemaître – 1951)
The cinema is unique, and is the only medium (together with photography on roll) able to capture in the moment, during the shooting, the coincidence of the visual sensation of watching, with the vertiginous utopia of this visionary idea, limiting it in the image impressed in the immanence of his material, in the shaky flesh of the movie. Seeing a movie at the cinema is like watching a body-art performance.
The act of seeing with one’s own eyes (Stan Brakhage – 1971)
“Imagine an eye not limited by artificial perspective laws, an eye not compromised by compositional logic, an eye that does not respond to the name of anything, but must know every object encountered in life through a perceptive adventure. How many colors are there in a lawn for a child who ignores the ‘green’ ?, how many rainbows can create the light before the not preselected eye?, how sensitive to infrared radiation can that eye be?: imagine a living world of incomprehensible and luminous objects of an endless variety of movements and innumerable shades of colors. Imagine a world before the ‘beginning was the word’ “.
Using the full range of expressive possibilities that the cinema can offer has always been the exclusive task of the filmmakers, especially the American neo-avant-gardes of the ’60s and’ 70s. Often, this task coincides with what the entertainment industry, the unstoppable factory of consumer cinema, deems to be useless, unacceptable, obsolete.
In Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son by Ken Jacobs (1969), for example, the semantic center of the movie is focused on the same film, which supports, but at the same time reveals, narrates through its own structure, its own image, its own function.
Tom, Tom, the Piper_s Son (Ken Jacobs – 1969)
Jacobs, in this movie, analyzes the possible ways of dealing with space and time, analyzes the very same experience of cinematographic vision. As in Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, in certain art movies, the subject is often the movie itself or the proper way of the cinema to manifest itself as an instrument, as a structure; of own acting as an image, as a specific language (I think of Wavelength by Michael Snow, 1967; o The Flicker by Tony Conrad, 1965-’66)
Wavelength (Michael Snow – 1967)
The Flicker (Tony Conrad – 1965-66)
The cinema composes its refined visual writing starting from its own materials (the film, the emulsions, the camera, the projector, etc.); everything in it becomes an image: from the infinite variety of luminous gradations to the poetry of fiery iridescent reflections, from fingerprints, to deep scratches left by sliding mechanics; from burns, to signs, to corrosion, to dust deposits; from the transparent shadowiness of certain thin layers of objects superimposed to the film, to the inevitable perishable nature of these materials.
In certain art movies, the film, and the cinema itself, seen as an exclusive practice, become the very content of the film, since they are the vision, the image, the material, the language, the metaphor and the artist’s dream.