[-empyre-] First Theme and Guests - the Thickness of the Screen

Pall Thayer palli at pallit.lhi.is
Thu Sep 3 19:56:52 EST 2009

Actually, I agree also that media are not necessarily material. I was attempting to avoid 
addressing this altogether for now because I wanted to clear up other things regarding 
physical media specifically. As Jose Carlos mentions, in the case of cinema, the theater itself 
is a medium. But it's not just the physical properties of the theater. It's the "aura" of the 
theater as well. The same thing can be said of the gallery. There is a distinct immaterial 
character that has a huge impact on our mediated experience and we can really sense this 
when we see art in non-gallery settings. It's a very different experience.

> I think this is a highly reductivist and materialist understanding of
> mediality. If we always employed such an approach much of our media theory
> would never have been written (perhaps not a bad thing).
> A medium is far more than simply its physical substrate. It involves soft
> and social aspects too. Soft media, such as language, cinema and software.
> Social media, such as ritual and the performative. The medium of film, which
> Pall proposed, is a good example. Much of what we experience today as film
> doesn¹t involve film. It is shot on 4k HD and digitally projected within a
> cinema context. Our experience of the artefact is little different to what
> it has always been and we continue to call it by its traditional name ­
> film, flick, cinema, etc. However, its materiality has profoundly changed.
> This is not to say these changes are without consequence. Even liminal
> changes in technology and media can affect our reception of the work.
> However, to persist in an exclusively materialist approach to mediality will
> likely lead to a narrow view of what a medium is, overlooking how media
> evolves and even entire areas of mediation that are of a non-physical
> character. The medium of film is far more than its material parts. It is as
> much a function of its social characteristics as its mechanical (and
> increasingly electronic and digital) elements.
> As Pall observes, media are assembled as apparatus, the projector being one
> element. However, the components of an apparatus are not always material.
> Apparatus and technologies are composed of numerous elements, many of which
> are not immediately visible or exist in the social as well as, or rather
> than, material. Also, it should be noted that whilst an element may be a
> critical part of a medium in one state in another it may be nothing to do
> with media at all (eg: a screen that becomes a wall).
> Just as Pall disagrees with a definition of media that confuses media with
> technology I disagree with a definition that determines media as necessarily
> material.
> A screen may have no thickness at all ­ or be as thick as our imagination
> permits.
> Best
> Simon
> From: Pall Thayer <palli at pallit.lhi.is>
> Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Date: Thu, 3 Sep 2009 01:18:43 +0000
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] First Theme and Guests - the Thickness of the Screen
> Literature is not a medium. The medium of literature is
> print. Film is a medium but only if you're talking about the film that
> you wind up on spools. The wider class of "film" or "cinema" is a
> collection of various media.
> Simon Biggs
> Research Professor
> edinburgh college of art
> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
> www.eca.ac.uk
> www.eca.ac.uk/circle/
> simon at littlepig.org.uk
> www.littlepig.org.uk
> AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk
> Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

Pall Thayer

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