One thing we can say for sure about the release print of a film is that it is a long single “line” of film stock and that during its projection, even though it may be structured according to retrograde vectorial concepts and even be experienced as temporally negative, it is, in fact a straight line in our actual overall isotropic time field. And the frames on the strip, as well as the image frame on the screen, is regular and repeating. So, a homogeneously structured film would be as valid an amplification of the nature of film as would be a vectorial oriented work. In fact, from his angle it would seem that film experiences that had any variation would disrupt this sense of linear homogeneity and would in effect be anti-filmic. However, by considering one of cinema’s most basic syntagms, “the fade,” we discover a most natural way of reintroducing structural directionality without negating either the continuous nature of the strip (the fade emphasizes the linear quality of the strip)or the flat, modular nature of the individual film frames (because the flat screen, being the most direct projection/image of the frame’s morphology, constantly refers our attention across its even surface in all directions to is edge, rather than looking through a “frame” into a picture, we find ourselves looking at an image of the film frame). My work of the past five years has been based on the importance of the fade; it provided a believable model for the vectorial construction of these works. My interest in creating temporal analogues of Tibetan mandalas, evoking their circularity and inverse symmetric balance, led me to making what are basically two-vector symmetric works in which the first part’s forward-directed structure is countered by the second part’s retrograde direction. A complex form of this vectorial approach, which issues a sense of isotropic homogeneity rather than a sense of developmental directness, can be obtained by overlapping or regularly intersecting two opposing vectors (that is, superimpose a forward progression “over” a backwards progression); the whole work is, so to speak, a conceptual “lap dissolve” and will have the curious quality of constant but directionless motion. In 1968 I abandoned the mandala-like structures and am now working with a single vector form, rather than dualistically balanced vectors; I have come to believe that while they provide discrete experiences, he latter are too closed and death-evoking in their overstressing of “beginning” and “ending” and, in this sense, are models of closed systems.
Once the screen frame is regarded as a projection of a total film frame, we must begin to think about appropriate scale relationships, such as distance of camera from subject to distance of screen and projected subject and viewer and, consequently, the size of the image to the size of its frame, and the size of the screen-as-image to the size of the wall on which it is projected. These features are normally regarded as arbitrary; the flat film frame does not have the deep space most “shots” containing diagonals evoke, yet directors do not hesitate in using diagonal shapes in their compositions, rarely do these diagonals refer to the rectangular shape of the frame. If the film frame is a valid subject of footage, then footage should be considered a valid subject within the screen frame. A continuous scratch across frame lines down the length of film refers not only to the footage as a flowing strip, but is also a valid internal division in its congruent relation to the verticality of the right and left edges of the frame image. An intensified splice not only refers to the horizontality of the top and bottom edge of the frame, but it also interrupts the flow of our experiencing a film in such a way that we are reminded that we are watching the flowing of footage through a projector. When a film “loses its loop”, it allows us to see a blurred strip of jerking frames; this is quite natural and quite compelling subject material. When this nonframed condition is intentionally induced, a procedure I am currently exploring, it could be thought of as “anti-framing.” I am developing another approach to simultaneously reveal both the frame and strip nature of film (each of which are normally hidden due to the intermittent shutter system) by removing the gripper arm and shutter mechanism from the projector.
Light and color are obviously primary aspects of cinema. However, even in fine cinema works color has not very convincingly realized its temporal potentialities. Some works use color as a “functional/symbolic tool, in an Eistensteinian sense, or for psychological reference and physical effect, or for definition and clarification of images in the picture. In many lesser works, color is decorative and ornamental or is used nonphilosophically merely for its stimulatory values; this latter use of color to produce essentially nonfilmic “psychedelic effects” is conceptually uninteresting and is better suited to video works where color more intense than cinema’s reflected screen color can be obtained. This area has elicited very little systematic concern from filmmakers and film critics. In many cases a great deal of attention is paid to getting “proper color balance” for no good cinematic purpose, this technical “attentiveness” is not what I mean by “systematic concern.” The vast problems of cinematic light and color structuring call for a separate discussion.
Perhaps the most engaging problem of cinema is the relationship sound may have to visual image. Although Warhol and Snow have used synchronous sound in convincing ways, an uncritical acceptance of this traditional mode of correlation usually leads to work in which both sound and image are mutually weakened: this is true in both the “lip synch” of anthropomorphic works and in the simplistic paralleling of sound and image effects in non-narrative works. Eistenstein’s idea of “vertical montage” is a classical point from which one can consider nonsynchronous uses of sound. It may be that through a controlled continuous collision of sound and image an emergent psychophysiological heterodyne effect could be generated. Both light and sound occur in waves, and in optical sound composite prints are both functions of interrupted light, that is, both are primarily vibratory experiences whose “continuous” qualities are illusional. The major difference, aside from obvious differences in physical qualities between the two systems, is that the soundtrack operates in terms of continuous passage over the projector sound head while the image intermittently jerks in discrete steps through the film gate – there are no frame lines in the soundtrack. From this angle it is apparent that drawing direct relationships between systems that have significant structural differences is an illusional oversight. There is also no intrinsically filmic relational logic supportive of the use of “mood music,” whether it be the electronic music background for so-called “abstract movies” or Bergman’s use of Bach fragments to act as psychological backups to certain key visual passages in his film Through a Glass Darkly. The variations on sound systems that are basically supportive of visual images are innumerable and vary widely in their levels of conceptual relationship to visual images. Whether or not the audio and visual systems should be discrete and powerful enough in themselves so that they achieve mutual autonomy is a serious question. What possibilities are there for developing both sound and image from the same structural principle and simply presenting them side-by-side as two equal yet autonomous articulations of one conception? Of course, sound need not be considered as a primary aspect of cinema; the wealth of films that succeed on visual levels alone is enough to justify silence. Aside from a few eccentricities, the first projectors had no sound option; the sound variable could be regarded as an arbitrary addition to an already complete visual system. (If we regard works that have no soundtracks as “silent films,” then why don’t we regard listening to music without visual accompaniment as “blind music”?) Only a few types of sound can be regarded without doubt as cinematic: the case in which the sound of a synch sound camera might be recorded and projected in synch with the visual “recording”, the case in which the drone sound of a projector projecting a visual “projection” might be head, and the case in which one hears the sound of sprockets acting as a commentary on the length each frame of visual image has in time.
In the end, cinematic process as the “subject matter” of a new cinema, as in a work like Ken Jacobs’ brilliant Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, which is literally a film of a film, or in more filmically concrete or conceptually filmic works, has already proven its viability. When a focus on highly general and prematurely fixed narrative or narrative-like forms is blurred in shifting perception to more distinctly contemporary focal lengths, then that “blur” measures wide angle lengths from “reality,” telephoto lengths to micomorphological understandings of “cinema” and, lengths of temporal modulation in what is ultimately an omnidirectional grammar. Certainly an analysis of the focussing process itself is necessary; but “focusing” does not necessarily mean “reductiveness.” It may be that by “limiting” oneself to a passionate definition of an elemental, primary cinema, one may find it necessary to construct systems involving either no projector at all or more than one projector and more than one flat screen, and more than one volumetric space between them. A focused film frame is not a “limit.”
Paul Sharits, Words Per Page