question on Emak Bakia (Man ray, 1926)

From: Simonetta (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Feb 12 2009 - 16:46:30 PST

Hello everyone,
I am writing to the list because I have a question and I would like to ask
if anyone can help me understand something about Dada films. My question
refers to the film Emak Bakia (Man Ray, 1926) in particular. I was
discussing with some classmates (I am a grad students in Films Studies)
today in one of my seminars about the power of the look/eye in Ray's film.
The film literally "tries the patience of the viewer" at first sight. We
questioned (but we could not find an ultimate answer) where we as viewers
stand in relation to a movie like Emak Bakia. Are we active or passive
viewers? I have studied that Dadaists do not want the viewers to think about
what the viewers watch because they want the viewer to focus on the constant
change of the shots rather than on the content of the shots. If that is true
at a first viewing and the viewer is, then, a passive one, I think that
after various viewings of the film, the supposed passive viewer feels the
urge to become active. I found myself trying to remember what I was watching
and I found it very hard, so I watched and re-watched the film many times.
However, I think that the issue gets even more complicated right at the
opening sequence of the film, where we have a medium shot of the director as
he looks into the camera, while his eye looks at us being completely
reversed in the lens. Is he "looking at" us, as we are looking at him? In
other words, are we both active and passive viewers at the same time? I am
interested in this (and this was my point during the discussion) because I
have read that Dadaists are concerned about "the fixed object," however in
Emak Bakia nothing is fixed. All the objects rotate somehow or move (the
director's eye as well is upside down and suggests a sort of
already-happened rotating movement.) The only element to be fixed at all
times is us, viewers, as we watch the constant change of these rotating
images. So, if the filmmaker is looking at us while the eye is upside down,
thus, in an unconventional way, does it mean that what matters the most is
the viewer in his/her passive or active role?

I hope this makes some sense. I'll be very grateful for any thoughts you may
have on this matter. I have never taken a class on avant-garde fims so far
(this seminar is about modernity), but I watch a lot of avant-garde films,
so I may have misunderstood to some extent Man Ray's project.

Thank you so much in advance for your help.
All the best,

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