Sylva Poláková, Martin Mazanec: Catalogue of the Events of the Czech Moving Image II. (Other Visions 2000 – 2010)

The initial stage of mapping the events of Czech audiovisual art in the form of the Catalogue of the Events of the Moving Image deliberately excludes activities of institutions and archives, authorial and monographic exhibitions as well as exhibitions of international artists held in the Czech Republic in the period of 2000 – 2010. The first two catalogue volumes focus on the profiles of events directly related to Czech audiovisual art. This conceptual approach is labelled as the curated moving image. The aim of the series of the catalogue volumes is to research and describe the individual dramaturgic concepts for the retrospective understanding of the background of the creation and presentation of the Czech moving image in the past decade. The catalogue volumes are conceived as a series; rather than a comprehensive list of exhibitions and dramaturgic cycles, the series represents a sample of chronologically ordered profiles of the individual events.

The aim of the editorials of each volume is to introduce the editorial viewpoint concerning the selected field of audiovisual practice. While the first volume focused on the phenomenon of the event, the second volume focuses on the concept of the moving image, with respect to the latter part of the project title (Catalogue of the Events of the Czech Moving Image).

From the technological point of view, the moving image can be defined by means of distinguishing two basic types; the mechanical and the electronic one. The development of the two types can be followed parallelly on the basis of scientific experiments and inventions particularly from the 19th century; the pre-cinematographic period; i.e. the stage of the formation of “film” long before it became a complex socio-cultural practice oriented on the “cinema experience”. According to new media theorist Lev Manovich, the above mentioned period saw the convergence of two historical trajectories; computing and media ones; both related to the moving image. According to Manovich, one of the first “encounters” of the image and the computing technology can be seen in the invention of a programmable loom desisgned to create complex images (J.M. Jacquard, turn of the 18th and the 19th century). However, in the 1830s, the image media trajectory (e.g. the daguerreotype, Louis J. M. Daguerre) and the computing trajectory (e.g. the first programmable computer Analytical Engine, Charles Babbage) have split for some time in an effort to find a suitable way for the coding and preservation of data.

While the photographic record settled on material-chemical conservation, the computing line underwent further electronic development until reaching the current form of the binary code. In the 1990s, the two trajectories converge again due to the process of digitization.

Film, as a mechanical moving image functioning on the principle of sequence recording on a celluloid strip, is associated with the socially conventionalized experience of the presentation of the moving image; which is simulated by the electronic media. The electronic media have been gradually formed by the relation of the technology of film and the historically defined projection space as a complex apparatus of the cinema practice. On the contrary, video (the electronic moving image) is a simultaneous, non-photographic, recording technology; due to its wide-spread use since the 1960s, it has enabled a whole range of easy-to-use post-production methods, introduced first by the analogue and later digital electronization of the moving image. Both analogue video and digital video are typical for their specific imagery and aesthetic as well as the above mentioned transformation of the presentation and distribution of the moving image.

Television, video and later computer along with other information-communication media represent practices subsuming the previous media (film as well as radio, newspapers etc.). Besides the transformations of the presentation of the moving image in the context of art, what is also interesting to follow on the contemporary art scene is to what degree the film and cinema experience continue to represent an influential cultural phenomenon, which is currently becoming a frame of interpretation for the new technologies as well (Rodowick, 2007).

Each new “conquest” of “new territories” by film (primarily due to the technological development in the field of visual representation) has stirred debates about the character of film, its fate and its possible death (e.g. Sontag, 1996; Cherchi Usai, 2001). However, the anxious nostalgic commentaries have concerned but one of the film practices, namely the practice of film-cinema. On the other hand, there are also extended definitions of film, by means of which some of the film theorists and historians try to cope with the tendencies of film theory to define film as a specific medium on the basis of a material or aesthetic quality. The term “expanded cinema” was introduced in the 1960s as the use of film in the art environment of galleries and site specific projects was expanded by the possibilities of the video (Youngblood, 1970). The term “Expanded Cinema” is related to the historical moment in the history of experimental film preceded by structural and material film. Theorists and historians of film and visual art point out the fact that the development of cinematography and the moving image in general was rather heterogeneous and widespread from the very beginning, including the pre-cinematographic period as well as the experiments with the image format in the Renaissance and Baroque periods; which can be seen as part of the genesis of the moving image and subsequently of what we call the film experience (e.g. Iles, 2007; Walley, 2011).

The general term moving image, as opposed to the ontological specificity of the photographic image, was introduced in the late 1990s by American art philosopher Noël Carroll. Carroll even suggested speaking about the history of the moving image with film representing but one of its periods. Film theorist Malte Hagener defines film in the era of digital technologies as fluid, emphasizing the significance of the place where the given film presentation is held in the spirit of film relocation; i.e. the transfer of the film experience from the cinema to other environments. Although appreciating Carrol’s term, David N. Rodowick prefers the more “sensitive” term of the virtual life of film, which includes its previous experience as well as its transformation, understanding it as an abstract system of representation also employed by television, video and computer-generated images.

An important step towards the acceptance of extended definitions of film consisted in abandoning the ontological derivation of film from photographic reality (Cavell, 1979). The relocation of individual elements and the combination of media automatisms have proved that the medium is not more or less than a sum of potential forms (material, instrumental and formal ones) which have been more or less developed. The unique quality of each of the combinations contradicts the definition of any medium on the basis of a compact and coherent substance.

Thus the selection of the events included in the catalogue has not been based on understanding film and the moving image in general as an invariable dispositive but has rather focused on the individual curatorial approaches, which have presented the moving image in various environments as a way of formulating a certain idea while using the aesthetic or receptive film experience and, in a wider context, as a tool of various practices and processes. Thus the profiles of the events of the Czech moving image of the past decade included in the Catalogue include cases of the film’s “return” to the spheres of the early stages of cinematography (e.g. the exhibited model highlighting the very technological apparatus or the moving image as part of a multimedia entertainment production). At the same time, the profiles also include simulations of the cinema hall in the gallery space or the “breaking” of the feature length film format in the cinema environment into a heterogeneous series consisting of short films, performances, lectured commentaries, as well as the convergence of the moving image with other time-spatial media.

The project was initiated by the Festival of Animated Film (PAF Olomouc) and realized in cooperation with the research platform mediabaze.cz (FAMU Prague) mapping and processing sources on Czech audiovisual art. The project was realized in cooperation with students of the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies (Palacky University Olomouc).

Sources:

  • Noël Carroll, Theorizing the Moving Image. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed: Reflections on The Ontology of Film. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1979.
  • Malte Hagener, Kde je (dnes) film? Film ve věku imanence médií, Iluminace, Vol. 23, 2011, No. 1 (81), p. 79 – 88. Translated by Jan Hanzlík (from the English original Malte Hagener, Where Is Cinema (Today)? The Cinema in the Age of Media Immanence, Cinéma & Cie 10, 2008, No. 11, p. 15-22.).
  • Chrissie Iles, Inside Out: Expanded Cinema and Its Relationship to the Gallery in the 1970s. Available online http://www.rewind.ac.uk/expanded/Narrative/Tate_Doc_Session_2_-CI.htmll (cit. 8. 12. 2011)
  • Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 200. Available online: http://www.manovich.net/LNM/index.html (cit. 1. 12. 2011).
  • D. N. Rodowick, The Virtual Life of Film. London: Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Susan Sontag, The Decay of Cinema, New York Times, 25. 2. 1996, Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/25/magazine/the-decay-of-cinema.html?src=pm (cit. 8. 12. 2011).
  • Paolo Cherchi Usai, The Death of Cinema: History, Cultural Memory and the Digital Dark Age. London: British Film Institute, 2001.
  • Jonathan Walley, Identity Crisis: Experimental Film and Artistic Expansion, October, 2011, No. 137, p. 23 – 50.
  • Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1970. Available online: http://www.vasulka.org/Kitchen/PDF_ExpandedCinema/book.pdf (cit. 1. 12. 2011).

Text: Sylva Poláková, Martin Mazanec
Editorial
Latest update: 15. 2. 2013

Catalogue of the Events of the Czech Moving Image II. (Other Visions 2000 - 2010)