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Steven Eastwood Click here to Print this Page
Unknown Bodies

1895. Along comes the moving image as an eruption for cognition, an anomaly for the brain, offering a gap in sensory-motor perceptual regulation, interrupting habitual thinking, making possible a fissure in thought. "Thought is a matron who has not always existed", said Artaud. Cinema is a matron too. There is nothing rational about its nature, about the way in which it conjures movement from a series of still images. But rationality is quickly forced upon the moving image, in the form of impossible continuities (Eisenstein's term) in space and time. Irregularity and durational actualities are suppressed, and lived experience is compressed into scenarios, into mise-en-scene. Once cameras became light and portable enough, the jib crane and dolly on track brought omnipotent movements and positioning to the image, and the invention of the edit made day become night, far become near, tomorrow become yesterday, perception become recollection, in an instant. Although indebted to the theatre, the cinema's arrangement was most unlike the rising and lowering of stage backdrops, and so film producers quickly looked for a system that would contain and erase aberrations. The solution was story - story as momentum to securely convey the viewer through the edit. The action (or movement)-image became a viewing habit, and the semiology of cinema a set of approximate signs. It is as though viewer and filmmaker formed a mutual agreement: we will regard cinema as having a language if you do. What a phantasmagorical and dangerous machine, this apparatus that makes a person suspend or alter the nature of their thinking. Whether dialectical montage, propagandist images of mass human behaviour, or star system vehicles in the form of three-act dramas, the default dominant cinematic vernacular is to produce a mental form of consumption for the audience.

Top: Still from Of Camera by Steven Eastwood 2003 ; Middle and Bottom: Stills from Like a House on Fire by Steven Eastwood 2006
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