[-empyre-] spatial borders, optics vs acoustics, new contingencies and affects

Gabriel Menotti gabriel.menotti at gmail.com
Sat Sep 19 21:46:30 EST 2009

Dear empyreans:

I think John goes slightly offtopic in good directions, recovering old
question and foreshadowing next ones. Let’s see..

>my trouble with this definition, perhaps, is mainly that it leaves out the
>audio – the surround sound of the cinema space. In so many ways the
>city, and the border, is an audio-visual enclosure [John Hutnyk]

But isn’t that something that essentially characterizes cinema – that,
in a way, it always /leaves out the audio/? From the imperative that
reins in the theatre to the red light in the door of any recording
studio, everything means silence. Before the recording starts, the
assistant director yells to remind us that there shouldn’t be any
sound – any unplanned, unauthorized sound. Before the film starts, the
screen asks us to turn off our mobiles.

Cinema’s experience (in opposition to the television’s, for instance)
seems by and large visually driven – an experience of the space
abstracted as image. In fact, the sonorization of movies mostly
contributed to the standardization of this visual experience, as well
as of the social mechanism of cinema.

Except in music videos and cartoons, the soundtrack seems always to
exist in function of the image – recovering or creating certain
dramatic qualities that the image alone can’t. As surround as it may
be, the recorded sound is always superficial: it localizes us not in
the theatre, but within the image. Isn’t it always a supplement?

>I am deeply dissatisfied with the term soundscape and all this talk of
>distance. The way metaphors of vision and geography dominate the
>audio-visual. [John Hutnyk]

But there is still geometry to acoustics and sound design. Besides the
pure mathematics of it, sound is (perhaps more than images) physical:
waves that rebound on walls, fade on distances and are absorbed by
bodies. Maybe the problem is that our architecture (and urbanistics)
became too visual: the autocad planning and the façade design took
over the discipline. Maybe the problem is the way sound relates to
space: it occupies it in a way that cannot be easily abstracted
(therefore the inutility of the concept of soundscape?).

>The escape of film, not of us – escaping from fixed, viewer
>controlled (the view decodes and digests) contingency,
>escape from the cinema hall… […] Contingency mutates as
>film escapes from the cinema (DVD, stop, pause, rwd,
[John Hutnyk]

yet, these new contingencies create new parameters, which are fixed in
a certain level – either in the standardization of normal operations
(why fast-forward but not upside-down, if both mean the same to the
machine?), either in the use of new techniques to maintain global
market strategies (DVD region-codes, for example). So, has film really

>[can we say that film does not still fix – the close up, the
>edit/juxtaposition – just as much as the stock market fixes
>brand value via rumour [John Hutnyk]

I think the point is that cinema (media) does not perform an absolute
fixation, as it never did. Everything it fixes is relative to the
process of mediation in some level. There must exist something to make
the public cling to this process (affect? suspension of disbelief?).
If movie is commoditized just as other merchandize, why is going to a
première different from downloading a pirate copy before the movie’s


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