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Mapping the Moving Image

Mapping the Moving Image: Gesture, Thought and Cinema circa 1900

Pasi Väliaho
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  • Book Info
    Mapping the Moving Image
    Book Description:

    In Mapping the Moving Image, Pasi Väliaho offers a compelling study of how the medium of film came to shape our experience and thinking of the world and ourselves. By locating the moving image in new ways of seeing and saying as manifest in the arts, science and philosophy at the turn of the twentieth century, the book redefines the cinema as one of the most important anthropological processes of modernity. Moving beyond the typical understanding of cinema based on optical and linguistic models, Mapping the Moving Image takes the notion of rhythm as its cue in conceptualizing the medium's morphogenetic potentialities to generate affectivity, behaviour, and logics of sense. It provides a clear picture of how the forms of early film, while mobilizing bodily gestures and demanding intimate, affective engagement from the viewer, emerged in relation to bio-political investments in the body. The book also charts from a fresh perspective how the new gestural dynamics and visuality of the moving image fed into our thinking of time, memory and the unconscious.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1071-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 9-24)

    This book is about the emergence of the moving image, that is, an image that moves by itself. At some point, self-moving images acquired an intrinsic role in our media ecologies, circulating automatically in such ordinary settings as the mobile phone and the television as well as in more glorious places such as the art gallery or the movie theatre. It is obvious that a wide variety of technological animations of the world have become embedded and ubiquitous in our lives even to the point of confusing demarcations between their own dynamic quality and the dynamics of what they are...

  2. 1 Modulation: On Cinematic Gestures
    (pp. 25-52)

    It is the movement and more precisely the experience of the self-movement of our bodies that our sense of agency, our perception, and our consciousness rest on and derive from. As Maxine Sheets-Johnstone suggests, bodily movement is the primary factor in the ontogenesis of subjective and intersubjective worlds alike. “Original kinetic spontaneity that infuses our being and defines our aliveness,” she writes, is “the foundation of our sense of ourselves as agents within a surrounding world. But it is even more basically the epistemological foundation of our sense of who and what we are.”¹ With the emergence of the moving...

  3. 2 Experimental Life: The Biopolitical Context
    (pp. 53-78)

    The cinema emerged as an experiment of the corporeal capacities that obscured the boundaries of our bodies in its mechanics. Georges Méliès’s trick films bear witness to a fundamental blurring of the automatic movement of figures on the screen and the spectators’ experience of the self-movement and spontaneity of their bodies. Similarly, while complicating the separation between the cinema and its viewer, the moving image and perception, they modulate the thresholds of waking life and awareness. Recent psychological studies demonstrate that kinesthetic bodily dynamics and self-movement form the core of the psychogenesis of conscious life and subjective experience.¹ In this...

  4. 3 Umwelt: Automatism and Affectivity
    (pp. 79-108)

    The moving image is based on a specific type of technological embodiment. Images animated on the silver screen would remain unseen without a certain kind of corporeal investment that the technology of the cinema mobilizes, which involves various kinds of affective and psychological processes. One must note that the automatic movement of images is just as much organic as it is mechanical in nature, and it also quite effectively blurs the distinctions between these two terms in its operations.

    To situate cinema within the larger conceptual frameworks of modernity, it was in the nineteenth century that the categories of organic...

  5. 4 Paradox-Image: Mapping the Unconscious
    (pp. 109-132)

    Léonce Perret’s 1912 film Le mystère des roches de Kador presents one of the most beautiful scenes in the early history of cinema: the female protagonist, Suzanne (Suzanne Grandais), shrinks away from a white screen filled with light in front of her and eventually she faints (fig. 9).¹ The film’s story is about Suzanne who has fallen into an amnesic and catatonic state due to the traumatic shooting incident in which Suzanne’s cousin has attempted to shoot her fiancé at the seashore. A Professor Williams treats Suzanne with a “new cinematographic method in psychotherapy,” which consists of restaging and recording...

  6. 5 Differential Image: Abyss of Time
    (pp. 133-156)

    As for the questions concerning the moving image, time and thought that were addressed in the previous chapter, Joris Ivens’s film The Bridge (De Brug, 1928) presents a striking example of how the cinema patterns noetic movement, and embodies a mode of visual disclosure and differentiation. The film is an experimental “close study” of a railway lift bridge in Rotterdam. The bridge is a massive, mechanical steel structure from the industrial age located at crossroads of other mechanical machines, with trains crossing it and ships passing under it. The film, which from several perspectives studies the the visual and kinetic...

  7. 6 Virtual Image: Cinema and Intuition
    (pp. 157-182)

    In his 1903 essay “An Introduction to Metaphysics,” Henri Bergson noted that: “Time is what is happening, and more than that, it is what causes everything to happen.”¹ This quote by one of France’s most influential philosophers at the time crystallized his attempt to reconfigure our understanding of time and its ontological primacy. Instead of being a measure of movement or an abstract framework for events, Bergson understands time as mobility and emergence, as the most intimate texture the world is made of. However, time also becomes something intellectually elusive. While it is ontologically primary, Bergson also considers time to...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-188)

    In part 1B “Une histoire seule” of Histoire(s) du cinema (1989-1998), Jean-Luc Godard shows for a few seconds a still image from D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East in which Lillian Gish is lying exhausted and half-conscious on an ice floe in a river. In Godard’s hands, this affectively charged image becomes a fragment removed from the representational and emotional logic of Griffith’s film, and becomes associated with other visual and auditory elements drawn from cinema and surrounding cultural and artistic contexts. We hear the audio recording of Sigmund Freud’s interview on the BBC in 1938 interwoven with Godard’s voice-over inquiring:...