suggestions? : sensory overload

From: David Tetzlaff (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Dec 05 2009 - 09:00:05 PST

Roger Wrote:

> Not sure if the grandness of the Grand Canyon though is necessarily
> an example of
> "sensory overload" though

I've never been to the Grand Canyon, but I think I've experienced
sensory overload in physical settings both natural and man-made. And
now that I think about it these experiences are not _necessarily_
sublime as the requisite element of terror is not necessarily present.
Either way, in these cases no 'editing' is involved. There is just so
much potentially interesting information available simultaneously or
something that is just too big to fully take in.

Roger's note about IMAX is right on point I think. I've only seen IMAX
in the Omnimax variation which projects onto a spherical section
surface that begins to wrap around the sides and top of the seating.
This really stretches the visual field so you can't take it all in at
once, and the hi resolution of the format creates enough detail that
there are a multitude of things you might want to see in the image.

> The question, though, is still whether or not you could just make
> an image of that that transmits that overload to a viewer. Would a
> representation of those spaces (in a film, in a painting, &c.) have
> the power of the real experience or would it just become "about"
> sensory overload?

I was actually thinking about Jerry Mander and his argument that we
substitute pale representations of nature for the real thing to the
detriment of our human spirit while writing my previous post. Maybe a
massive enough image, ala IMAX can transmit a sense of overload, but
it can't have the power of the real thing. Too bad Herzog didn't shoot
La Souffriere in IMAX, but watching a guy walking around a volcano
that supposed to explode isn't the same thing as walking around a
volcano that's supposed to explode.

> thinking about ways of producing sensory overload that aren't just
> loud noises & fast cuts

Roger also mentions expanded cinema, which does something similar to
IMAX. It expands the visual field and adds more simultaneous detail.
But expanded cinema would seem to move us past the question of
representation or transmission and get to subject of creating an
'original' sensory overload as a thing-in-itself. And what Roger's
notes remind me again is the importance of projection and the viewing
experience. We have this habit of discussing filmic texts of all types
as fixed things: a film is what it is due to the ways the images are
composed, created and arranged in sequence. In the wider culture, this
is now taken to the reductio ad absurdam as people will say they have
'seen a film' whether they encountered it on a really big screen in a
prestige theater or on their iPod. Posts to this list repeatedly
invoke the difference between film and video playback as a bright
dividing line. Which at least acknowledges that projection does matter
-- though the film/video polemics are ludicrously simplistic as the
fact is that the experiential quality of different options within each
category is as great or greater than any generic difference between
the two overall.

Size does matter. I'm old enough to remember Cinerama, which was a
sort of attempt to add some form of more direct sensory experience to
narrative film. My memory of the raft running the rapids in How The
West Was Won suggests that this kind of worked, a little. I also
remember that there was a conventional theater in downtown
Minneapolis, The Skyway, where the screen was so big I couldn't sit
anywhere in the lower 2/3 of the house without getting a bit of motion

I'm thinking that if there are two paths to 'sensory overload' - one
being a density or surplus of editing, and the other a simultaneous
density of surplus of image - that for the most part experimental
artists have not explored the latter due to both production expense
and the inability of the experimental exhibition apparatus to handle
it. That is, experimental filmmakers know they can expect their work
to be shown in 16mm in venues and on screens within a certain range of
sizes and work within those parameters whether they're conscious of
them or not.

On Roger's tours, he shows some things in Super 8, some in 16mm, some
in video because that's how he made them. The two projector 'TB/TX
Dance' tends to have a more visceral effect than "Strip Mall Trilogy"
because the former is in 16mm and usually has a bigger brighter image,
and the later's S8 usually appears smaller and more dim by comparison.
As a thought experiment (and of course I'm assuming you've all seen
Roger's work ;-), lets imagine TB/TX Dance copied down to Super8 with
its sound played through the built-in speakers in the S8 projectors,
compared to the existing 16mm projected on dual Pageants with the
removable speakers placed at the front of the hall, compared to a blow-
up of dual 35mm prints side by side on that giant screen at the (now
long gone) Skyway with the sound pumped through a good Dolby 5.1
system with Klipsch LaScallas on the front left and right. Could we
even call these the same film? I think the S8 version would be
amusing, and the 35mm version, well, something like sublime.

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