All 2 entries tagged Concentratory Dispositif

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March 12, 2005

Noise against visual imagination, and the refrain (or how Leibniz would like cinema)

Against noise

Faced with white noise, a void, extreme intensity or excessive speed of modulation, a refrain offers some relief. It is an expression, but one that operates in a tightly closed loop. In the case of a typical human refrain, a song, the singer sings the refrain back to themself. Its content is the human organic form, deterritorialized into the simple, familiar and predictable form of the song. It may continue at great length with little effect on either the singer or the song, until exhaustion sends them to sleep. It is in this way a closing-down, a retreat into simplicity and predictability, away from the world (into the baroque house, for which the harmony and melody of the song build the impenetrable facade): an expression yes, but only just. Almost zero.

The refrain is a desperate defence, a second-level immune response to the failure of the visual imagination. A defence against the penetrating incursion of the sonorous plane, passing through the blockade of the visual imagination. To understand this, first consider how that sonorous plane penetrates and defeats visual defences, how it passes through the image (Bacon's screaming pope).

The defensive imagination

The image, which can be re-presented instantly and switched at will, provides an effective and impenetrable barrier to the exterior, as with the portrait, the image of the ascending head, or the church steeple in Kafka. Deleuze and Guattari argue that these images act not as simple memories, reactivating the past, but rather as means for handling the encounter with uncertainty or the future, finding strength in a certain relation to at least ine object that may be assimilated (the end of the desire):

…it acts as a childhood block, and not as a childhood memory, strengthening desire instead of cramping it, displacing it in time, deterritorializing it, proliferating its connections, linking it to other intensities.

The image acts as a block in both senses: a block as an element or screen that can be placed upon a new territory and onto which connections can be territorialized or projected, carrying away desire into a concentratory dispositif; a block to the chaotic and disruptive effects of that proliferation of connections, a delay, a spacing-out. Its power as such lies in four aspects:

  1. the speed with which the image can be conjured, with all of its points present almost imediately – how all that is needed is a few suggestive points, lines and colours;
  2. how it is constantly rescanned and reconfirmed in perception;
  3. how an image can appear solid and enclosing, blocking out and constituting an exterior;
  4. how the image creates an expansive but delimited territory of co-ordinates, in which expression or a procedure of desire (deterritorialization and reterritorialization) may play (the baroque house).
The scream cuts across and penetrates the image

In Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari say of the image (portrait or figuration):

But that's not important. What's important is the light music, or, more precisely, the pure and intense sound emanating from the steeple and the castle tower: "a bell began to ring merilly up there, a bell that for at least a second made his heart palpitate for its tone was menacing, too, as if it threatened him with the fulfillment of his vague desire. This great bell soon died away, however, and its place was taken by a feeble, monotonous little twinkle." Kafka D&G p.4

Whereas the image acts to concentrate, focus and strengthen the desire within a delimited space, sound is said to interfere with order, connecting with 'vague' or minor expressions that are not oriented towards the reconstitution of the territory of the image. Unlike vision, sound leaks through spatial structures, resonates throughout the body, and concentrates into the ears. Its passage through the meat and chambers of the bodily organs overrides their functions: the stomach now is equivalent to a double bass in terms of resonation – suddenly the voice, the location of human sound, is displaced by a more animal sonic body (think whales):

It's curios how the intrusion of sound often occurs in Kafka…Music always seems caught up in an indivisible becoming-child or becoming-animal, a sonorous block that opposes the visual memory. Kafka D&G p.4–5

The cinema is the place for experiencing this effect. (It is the baroque house of The Fold.) The cinema is constructed as a radical interplay of the sonorous and visual planes. Visual imagination is territorialized upon the screen or perceptual block, both cutting out the exterior, offering a concentration of light and colour, whilst spatializing and slowing down (into the narrative of the film, which is spatial not temporal). But at the same time, sound penetrates the body in deep surround-sound rumbles and piercing dolby screams.

Refrain

Of course any sensible movie director knows not to leave the audience immersed for too long at the point of this schizophrenic collision of visual and audio fields. As the scream fades away into the night, a more familiar pattern of notes rises from low down in the auditorium, as if from the galloping hooves that carry us safely from the scene of brutality. Sing the refrain back to the world, which doesn't expect it, doesn't ask for it. But the refrain sure makes us feel more easy sleeping at night. Sing yourself to sleep.


November 07, 2004

Excellent David Burrows exhibition at the Mead – New Life

Writing about web page http://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/?page=mead.html

It is rare for an artist to produce a work that is both stunning visually, having effect beyond the visual, and philosophically fascinating. In his exhibition New Life, currently installed in the Mead Gallery at the University of Warwick (ends 4th December 2004), Dave Burrows has done just that.

The artwork is stunning:

Firstly, what does this exhibition feel like? Stepping inside the large white room, taking up half of the Mead's extensive gallery space, you are quickly drawn past a manifesto-like statement of propositions and into a three dimensional, immersive work that explodes space and compresses time. Across the room debris is strewn, both in concentrations around remnants of building, and between the concentrations. You are in what appears to be a children's bedroom, filled with brightly coloured almost familiar items: flip-flops, toys etc. Between the concentrations, and extending out to the edges of the exhibition, fragments and dense layers of grey crunchy dust (as if from things or persons vapourised) are everywhere. You have to walk through the work itself to see it. You have to enter its moment. Illustrations of the aftermath hang on the walls, including opposing images of a girl and a boy. They act to extend the work out beyond the walls of the gallery. It is spatially a vast and unbounded work.

And philosophically powerful:

We are familiar with, conditioned to, artworks that are spatially constrained. Containment is a powerful mechanism in painting, as in Francis Bacon, who as Deleuze says, confines his subjects spatially (the pope in his chair). But this work seems, at first, to be uconcerned with spatial limits. There are concentrations within it, repetitions and rhythms. There is an entire cartography of intensity. But it seems more unbounded than any painting. We sense that the repetitions could extend out infinitely: the same moment but different again and again.

Narrative usually acts within a work to extend it temporally. A common rule of art is: spatially limited, temporally extended. Landscape is often used to fade out the containment to infinity. But the problem has always been that definition decreases as the distance increases. David Burrows has an interest in mirrors, and the way in which they can, if used correctly, break out of containment without a loss of detail. Perhaps the paintings at the boundary of this work are really mirrors? It certainly feels more extensive than any painting. This combines with repetition to extend the work to infinity. If there is no spatial containment, can there be narrative?

On wandering around the room I was for some time searching for narrative, in fact searching for variables that I could manipulate to play back some kind of narrative implicit in the representation of this explosive event, analysing the phenomenon as if it were the result of some kind of nuclear physics. Variables and functives like those in a scientific experiment: reversible. This is saying something about the limitations of science, and how art deals with the pure event, the event of total loss. There is, fundamentally no "external framing or exoreference" which, as Deleuze and Guattari claim (What Is Philosophy? p.119) is necessary for science. Instead there is the presence of the irreversible Chronos as opposed to the reversible Aion (Deleuze, Logic Of Sense, p.77). Anyhow, David seems to have played upon this desire for narrative sense. Slogans that could lead to some story are graffitied in random locations. The bodies of the children are suggestive of some kind of sick story. But I never got the story. Never grasped the variables. Never worked out how to replay the event. It is, as I think David said in his recent talk at the Mead, an irreversible event (thermodynamics). As described by Deleuze…

Chronos is the present which alone exists. It makes of the past and future its two oriented dimensions, so that one goes always from the past to the future… Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 77

…just the aftermath. Hardly identifiable to discourse. No mythology. The familiarity of the artefacts, and the familialism of the children, is just there to tease us. There are no symbolic figures to transcend this event, its got no papa-mommy (Becket via Deleuze), other than the presence of the event itself: immanent.

But there is more. Two concentratory dispositifs hang from the ceiling of the event. Yet again they reverse the normal artistic relationship between time and space. In this case space is confined, while time is opened out. They pass simulateously into its future and reach back into its past. Mobiles suspending familiar objects, either sucked up in the explosion or collapsing as debris. This is the second dimension of the event, of the moment. An indeterminacy. A dice throw…

Aion is the past-future, which in an infinite subdivision of the abstract moment endlessly decomposes itself in both directions at once and forever sidesteps the present. Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 77

…the 'time of the artist' as David Burrows called it. The determinacy of the exhibition, with even the movement of the audience within it making little difference, is punctuated by the hand of the artist holding the moment in these two trajectories. And they draw you in to examine the objects in their suspended animation. You begin to notice the constructedness of the objects, the craft in them, the time of their assemblage. And then are opened out onto a second, intersecting line of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, a second line of time/space containments and explosions folded onto the first. A double event.


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