[-empyre-] split screens

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Wed Aug 1 23:39:49 EST 2012

dear all

Simon rejects an aside I made that (in reference to Erkki Huhtamo's essay "Elements of Screenology:
Toward an Archaeology of the Screen", which the author asked us to read) was probably done more or
less tongue in cheek, hoping to get into a conversation with Erkki here, and it was in fact a reference
to Erkki's writing and his interesting examination of Asian traditions of shadow theatre ( and one
could include the Bunraku puppet theatre, which Brecht also studied as he sought to draw some techniques
from it for his own distanciation effects).

[31] However, in some traditions, like the the Wayang beber on Bali, part of the audience sits on the
sides, giving some spectators an opportunity to observe both the performers and the performance on
the screen. Theoretically the existence of this “double-point-of-view”, which can be encountered
elsewhere as well, is highly interesting. In Western traditions it was usually denied

I was trying to ask why Erkki thought the double point of view was usually denied in 
the largely illusionist theatre and cinema traditions in the West, or what we think we can
learn from the older screen technologies researched in the essay cited above. And yes
it was a question directed at what Simon calls the "staid complacency of generic
classical theatre" and, in extension, the illusion machines of cinema and television
and sports, not excluding the gaming cultures. Other delusions machines are in
daily operation too (advertising, beauty industry production, social media revolution,
"the problematisations of academic art", etc), but you are probably right in arguing there's nothing wrong
with them under given economic and cultural conditions. 

with regards
Johannes Birringer

Simon schreibt
I've enjoyed this month, but I would like to reject utterly the
implication in Johannes's question, that something "went wrong in
western traditions" ("What went wrong in western traditions?" 27/07/12),
and also the negativity that has characterised some of the posts
throughout this month. For example: ..."so perhaps screens are not
everywhere. There is hope." (Simon Biggs, 30/7/12)

For the first issue, that there is something wrong with western
traditions - which ones? - wanting to sustain the illusion rather than
pierce it or enjoy the complementary halves of a fore-screen and a
behind-the-scenes look at... wait a moment, isn't this the same west
which puts out behind-the-scenes featurettes as promotional material?
selling these to networks cheap to encourage audiences to fork out for
the next blockbuster at the cinema?

Behind-the-scenes has developed its own industry, multiplying genres and
compounding or laminating illusion and reality.

My experience of Brecht - also mentioned "Brecht would be pleased" in
Johannes's post - is a Verfremdung from the staid complacency of generic
classical theatre, things moving in an off-kilter way made even funnier,
farcier (and faster) for the return of the backstage repressed and its
plays of scale, toy-cars for example where a real car won't fit.

If the Platonic dialectic of real/copy persists it is (as I said
earlier) as an ultimately unsustainable resource fuelling the
problematisations of academic art.

More information about the empyre mailing list