[-empyre-] September topic - Denied Distances

Gabriel Menotti gabriel.menotti at gmail.com
Wed Sep 2 11:25:03 EST 2009

Dear empyreans:

It is a pleasure to introduce myself to the list once again. My name
is Gabriel Menotti, and I am a media researcher and curator with a
focus on cinematographic circuits, media technologies and its uses. At
the present time, I am pursuing a PhD at the Media and Communications
dept of Goldsmiths University of London.

I’ve been a lurker of empyre for quite a while, having participated of
a debate last year about media labs. I was invited to moderate
September’s discussion, and choose a topic derivate from my own
research on audiovisual structures: the exploration of cinema’s
“Denied Distances”. These are spaces that, albeit essential for the
medium dynamics, cannot be unveiled.

I have curated an exhibition in Brazil last month around this idea
and, to get the ball rolling, I am sending the catalog text goes
bellow. It comprises a more detailed explanation of the concept, with
some theoretical references. I hope it creates some food for thought.

Best regards!

* * *

*Denied Distances*

Vilém Flusser explains that every image is an abstraction, a surface
from which some dimensions have been suppressed. The cinematographic
dispositif produces a movie by removing those dimensions from our gaze
as well. In the dark room, we are in front of the screen and nothing
else. This is the mediating principle of cinema: the depth of
projection is denied so that the depth of field may exist.

In addition to the obvious immersion effect, this trick produces the
medium itself. As it becomes evident in its ancestor forms – the magic
lantern and shadowplay –, cinema is a collection of techniques to make
light lay on a surface. The seemingly empty space between the lamp and
the frame is where cinema really happens.

Just like the depth of projection, some other dimensions must be
there, but cannot be interrupted, in order to cinema exists as such.
In these breaches we may find all the invisible part of cinema
Jean-Louis Comolli tells us about – from computer architectures to the
whole system of film distribution.

Since they house the principles of the medium, those fundamental
distances do not seem to be available for creative operation. When
they are effectively occupied, cinema shows itself expanded – as
sculpture, installation or performance. The reason might be that any
action taken in these unmapped spaces is out of the controlled
standards, being inevitably critical. Therefore, the unveiling of
these basements can be said to disturb the foundations of the medium,
transforming it.

However, we can also believe that, when these distances are revealed,
the specificities of cinema are not threatened. On the contrary, they
become excited in a way that only seemed possible in the medium’s dawn
or historical crisis. We are seeing more cinema then ever before: the
substantial effects of projected light and digital codification, for
example. It is not another medium, but the essential counterpart of
everything we consider canonical, of which both Hollywood and the
Nouvelle Vague are equally secondary effects.

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