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Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media

Laura U. Marks
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In Touch, Laura U. Marks develops a critical approach more tactile than visual, an intensely physical and sensuous engagement with works of media art that enriches our understanding and experience of these works and of art itself. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9334-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    How can the experience of a sound, a color, a gesture, of the feelings of arousal, anxiety, nausea, or bereavement that they provoke, be communicated in words? They have to be translated. Like synesthesia, the translation of qualities from one sense modality to another, writing translates particular, embodied experiences into words.¹ Writing about artists’ media, I must translate something about their audiovisual, sensuous materiality into words. My writing will be successful if you, the reader, can reconstitute in your own body the experience I had. It will succeed in a different way if my translation connects with other things that...

  5. 1. Video Haptics and Erotics
    (pp. 1-20)

    I am watchingIt Wasn’t Love,Sadie Benning’s Pixelvision videotape from 1992. In it Benning tells the story of a short-lived love affair that began as a road trip to Hollywood but never got much further than the parking lot. Not much happens in this story. Its most arresting moment is when Benning slowly sucks her thumb, inches away from the unfocusable, lowresolution camera. Yet watching the tape feels like going on a journey into states of erotic being: the longing for intimacy with another; the painful and arousing awareness that she is so close to me yet distinct; being...

  6. I. The Haptic Subject

    • 2. Animal Appetites, Animal Identifications
      (pp. 23-40)

      In a series of short, thrilling clips on the late-night TV ad forTrials of Life,the BBC, Turner Broadcasting, and Time-Life wildlife video series, a lion mauls a gazelle and tears its guts out. Wolves fight each other for the first chance to sink their teeth into a still-struggling deer. “Uncensored, shocking photography,” promises the histrionic male announcer, concluding salaciously, “Order now, and find out why we call them animals!”

      This tautological howler is, on second thought, profoundly puzzling. The documentary series clearly styles itself as pornography. The lascivious voice-over that accompanies these creatures doing what they do naturally...

    • 3. “I Am Very Frightened by the Things I Film”
      (pp. 41-54)

      Many recent documentary films respond to the question of the filmmaker’s power over his or her subject by engaging in a partisan filmmaking practice that speaks alongside, rather than about, the film’s subject, to paraphrase Trinh T.Minh-ha. Yet often the rhetoric of responsibility still disguises an unequal power relation that remains between the people on each side of the camera. As Paul Arthur points out, the self-reflexive admission that one’s filmmaking effort is doomed to fail can be a way of seeming to relinquish power without ever having put it on the line. Similarly, Bill Nichols notes that the reflexive...

  7. II. Haptics and Erotics

    • 4. Here’s Gazing at You
      (pp. 57-72)

      November 30, 1992

      Dear Ken Jacobs:

      You might remember me from the Flaherty seminar this summer. Our conversation about theXCXHXEXRXRXIXEXSXexperience was unfortunately cut short, and I guess neither of us felt up to trying to continue it later. I was the one who sort of pushed you over the edge by talking about whether one could jerk off while watching the film. But I did not mean that as a criticism of the film, or rather your Nervous System performance of the film, which I found fascinating and enjoyed very much.

      The reason I am writing to you...

    • 5. Love the One You’re With: Straight Women, Gay Porn, and the Scene of Erotic Looking
      (pp. 73-90)

      A straight woman who likes to go to gay men’s nightclubs knows the peculiar pleasure of seeing men who are on full erotic display, yet being herself practically invisible. The gay club scene is a voyeuristic feast for a woman who wants to look at men, or tolearnto look at men, without the look back (except maybe to check out what she’s wearing). Like many women, I have experienced the special voyeurism of the fag hag at gay clubs, and also at queer film festivals. Sharing space and skin, we also share ways of looking. In the following...

    • 6. Loving a Disappearing Image
      (pp. 91-110)

      Many recent experimental films and videos, flouting the maximization of the visible that usually characterizes their media, are presenting a diminished visibility: their images are, quite simply, hard to see. In some cases this diminished visibility is a reflection on the deterioration that occurs when film and videotape age. Interestingly, a number of these same works also deal with the loss of coherence of the human body, as with AIDS and other diseases. The following essay continues my research into haptic, or tactile, visuality, here to ask what are the consequences for dying images and for images of death, when...

  8. III. Olfactory Haptics

    • 7. The Logic of Smell
      (pp. 113-126)

      In 2000, DigiScents, a software company based in Oakland, California, was beta-testing its iSmell platform to deliver odors in interactive media. DigiScents promised computer-game developers that games could be equipped with environmental scents, entity-based scent cues (e.g., the smell of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider), event-based scents (e.g., the odor of burning flesh when Duke Nukem blasts a predator), prize scents (the smell of bananas for Super Mario), and even the “smell of fear.” These smells would be delivered by a software-activated spraying device called iSmell that custom mixes from 128 basic smell oils and gently wafts the resulting odor...

    • 8. Institute Benjamenta: An Olfactory View
      (pp. 127-140)

      In liquid slow motion, a bullet moves through a dense pine forest, curving impossibly through the syrupy air, until it finally lodges in a pinecone. In a flea’s-eye-view, a gigantic length of thread snakes through the tiny needle hole in a nightshirt, producing a sort of disciplinary garment whose neat column of thimbles will prevent the sleeper from lying on his back. A group of seven men, attending at the door of their ailing mistress, sways as one in a luminous swath of light, which dances and swirls about them.

      These are three images fromInstitute Benjamenta, or, This Dream...

    • 9. J’s Smell Movie: A Shot List
      (pp. 141-144)

      Band-Aids™. Only that brand. AndBactineantibiotic spray.Begin with a brief, crisp medium shot, like a product shot, against a gray-green background. On the soundtrack, air stirring, a light breeze. Move the camera in on hands (the clean, heavy hands of a sixty-year-old man) gently and competently tearing open the Band-Aid (note: find the old kind with a red string that rips down the side of the package). On the sound track, the barely audible tearing of the package. Close-up of “fleshtone” bandage. Then fill the screen with a color: a cool, grayish turquoise, like a ’60s bathroom. Sound...

  9. IV. Haptics and Electronics

    • 10. Video’s Body, Analog and Digital
      (pp. 147-160)

      Video seems to have come of age as an art form¹ only at the time when technically it has been upstaged by the standards of the faster, more “interactive,” and more virtual digital media. In this, video follows the timehonored pattern in which forms of aesthetic expression are valued most highly when they become obsolete or threatened. Video is dead; long live video!

      It is easy to say that analog video had a body, insofar as it depended on the physical support of the cathode ray tube and electronic broadcasting. By contrast, given that it is common for critics to...

    • 11. How Electrons Remember
      (pp. 161-176)

      This essay will argue that digital images are existentially connected to the processes that they image, contrary to common understanding. Thanks to the ability of subatomic particles to communicate along traceable pathways, we can fairly say that electrons remember. The two fundamental questions on which this argument is built will prompt exciting forays into quantum physics and electronic engineering. First, what is the material basis of electronic imaging? Second, is this material basis significantly different for analog and digital electronic imaging? I invite the reader to assume a subatomic empathy as we look at the life of the electrons in...

    • 12. Immanence Online
      (pp. 177-192)

      In this essay I will describe how we can understand online space not as virtual, transcendent, and discrete, but as material, immanent, and interconnected. I’ve chosen a number of low-tech and parodic artists’ web sites that assert their own materiality and the economic and social relationships in which they are embedded. I’ll suggest five levels, from the quantum to the social, at which online works can be an index of material existence. These works offer alternatives to the discourse of transcendentalism that animates corporate-futurist understandings of digital media. They insist that electronic media occupy not a “virtual” space but a...

    • 13. Ten Years of Dreams about Art
      (pp. 193-216)

      To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Toronto experimental screening venue Pleasure Dome, the author has examined a decade of experimental media through the lens of that organization’s programming history, other venues for experimental media, and her own dreams over the same period. She finds that she has internalized the experimental film and video scene to the degree that that her unconscious accurately charts developments in the scene over the past decade. Dreams recorded over the years 1990–99 (and one from 2002) uncannily reflect shifts in independent media cultures: the shift from a linguistic to a phenomenological bent; the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 217-240)
  11. Filmography and Videography (with Distributor Information)
    (pp. 241-246)
  12. Publication Information
    (pp. 247-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-259)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-260)