Re: how much of what we see is black?

From: db (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 20:14:31 PDT

On Oct 30, 2007, at 11:39 AM, Tom B Whiteside wrote:

> Frampton wrote about the black interval in cinema giving the viewer
> time to think about the frame just viewed - although it is short,
> it is an appreciable length of time for neurological activity.
> Video is a continuous light, it is always on - there is no time to
> think. I believe he went on to say that cinema created more
> memorable moments than video, because of the black interval.

My gut reaction to the above position is, "great, more
cinephilia" (as in necrophilia).

So many things contribute to this concept of "having time to think."
Duration of shots, Speed of camera movement... the list goes on.

What I know is that watching pieces like Gary Hill's 'Why Do Things
Get in a Muddle,' Bill Viola's 'The Passing,' Irit Batrsy's 'These
Are Not My Images'...

well, let's just say I certainly never felt like Malcolm MacDowell at
the end of 'A Clockwork Orange,' and I find all the mentioned videos
to be deeply contemplative works that create plenty of space for

I love film (well, not all films) and I love video (well, not all
videos), and I love even more the hybridization of the mediums
(almost all I've seen). These, of course, represent my biases.

I don't want to see film die off. But the implications of the
statement--cinema creates more memorable moments than video--to me at
least, smacks of attempting to elevate one form of media over
another. Such a statement or conclusion makes as much sense as saying
books are better than films because I am personally responsible for
turning the pages, and books are better because I can feel the
texture of the paper and the indent of the press when I read (which,
appropriately, reminds me of Gary Hill's "Inasmuch As It Is Always
Already Taking Place" installation). And why not say this? I can
TOUCH a book, feel its weight in my hands, smell whether the paper is
moldy or not. The only one TOUCHING the film is the projectionist
(which is why I don't think anyone has seen mothlight until they have
also held a print of the film in their hands and seen the leaves,
grasses, and other very physical objects squeezed between the
surfaces before the contact print was made. The simple answer to the
"why not say this" question is, of course, they are different mediums!

To further expand upon my biases, I offer a quote from Felix Guattari:

"For as long as I can remember, I was preoccupied with joining
together different layers of things which fascinated me: the
philosophy of science, logic, biology, early works in cybernetics,

"That's the first descriptive level. The other is the result of a
choice. A whole conception of culture, and not only bourgeois
culture, implies a castration with regard to the wild dreams of
childhood and adolescence. [*] One becomes willing to limit oneself
in order to develop a field of competence to the maximum. I
understand this very well, but it's not for me, to such an extent
that I managed to define myself as a specialist with a term that I
developed, "transversality," to consider the unconscious elements
that secretly animate sometimes very heterogeneous specialties."

        from 'Chaosophy,' Semiotexte Foreign Agent Series, 1995, pp 7/8

[*] and, I would add, the potentials of the moving image, especially
early silent cinema and AG/experimental forms of "cinematic"
expression. BTW, I use cinematic only because I've yet to discover a
word that is as encompassing as I would like to use to describe the
experientially homogeneous/physically heterogeneous forms of film/
video/cgi/and all the other optical illusions explicitly addressed by
Werner Nekes in 'Film Before Film' (to cite just one cinematic example).

On Oct 30, 2007, at 1:28 PM, Flick Harrison wrote:
> Persistence of Vision is the phenomena wherein your optic nerve (or
> whatever) takes time to "reset" i.e. cool down and stop
> transmitting the last image you saw.
> Frame rates which create the optical illusion of continuous
> movement are using this phenomena.

Thank you for providing a non-mystical example Flick.

On Oct 30, 2007, at 1:59 PM, Todd Eacrett wrote:
> The myth of persistence of vision was first debunked 30 years ago:

Then explain to me the multiple examples of persistence of vision (or
retinal burn, or flicker fusion, or... ?) demonstrated in Werner
Nekes' "Film Before Film."

BTW, perusing the link you provided suggests to me little more than
that the term "persistence of vision" is "inaccurate and inadequate."
As an example of verbal shorthand, the term can be quite appropriate
because, conceptually, the conjoined words makes sense (are even
poetic in their implications), regardless of the scientific accuracy
of the phrase. There are many examples of such shorthand expressions
that abet communication among non-specialists. As a scientific
explanation it probably is inaccurate and inadequate. But then I
don't watch or discuss films (or videos) in labs or morgues.

The real purpose of this article seems as much "political" as it is

"Not only must the mechanism of persistence of vision that purported
to explain the illusion of motion be replaced by an accurate
description of the illusion, but the concept of a passive viewer
implied by the myth must be replaced by the viewer implied by an
enlightened understanding of the illusion: a meaning-seeking creature
who engages the film as actively as he engages the real world about
him. To reject the mechanism of persistence of vision is to reject
the myth of persistence of vision and the passivity of the viewer it

To be forthright, I find their assertion that using the term
persistence of vision automatically assigns a passive role to the
viewer to be pretty effin dogmatic and I'm going to file the above
paragraph away with the writings of Christian Metz (in the dustbin,
where all "presupposing" theories belong).

On Oct 30, 2007, at 3:04 PM, Jonathan Walley wrote:
> Both essays demonstrate - pretty convincingly, I think - that
> persistence of vision cannot account for the appearance of
> continuous light in film.
> It's important not to conflate two illusions: the illusion of a
> consistent light source when it is in fact flickering (I understand
> this illusion to be called "critical flicker fusion"), and the
> illusion of movement on the screen, which I refer to as "apparent
> motion" when I teach it - I've heard people call it the "phi
> phenomenon," but this names a different kind of illusory motion
> perception than the one produced by tiny increments of change in
> "normal" cinema, which produces the illusion, for instance, of
> someone walking from one end of the frame to another.

This kind of explanation is a bit more comfortable for me than the
"film v video" competition, AND it avoids the canary in the mineshaft
quote of the Anderson's essay I chose to cite.

(who had a four shot espresso this afternoon)

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.