Marc Lafia on Tue, 5 Nov 2002 19:14:02 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] In Search of a Poetics of the Spatialization of the Moving Imagept 4 (final dispatch)

In Search of a Poetics of the Spatialization of the Moving Image  pt4
Marc Lafia

"In the new world the characteristic unit will be small, highly mobile,
independent and intelligent."
Robert Fripp (1974)

The moving image now is pervasive and saturates much, if not all of our
social space, if not our global sphere ­ so much so that at any given moment
we are either being seen, monitoring something, watching or transacting in
the conflux of the image. How to characterize this conflux but to call it
the spatialization of image, the spatialization of a multiplicity and
simultaneity of image.

Spatiaizaltion leads to the amplification and intensification of
characteristics of the image already realized through its trajectories in
narrative and experimental film as well as single channel and installational
video as explored in the last century. I say this as spatialization
continues and adds to the extant repertoire of a certain history of the
moving image (much of it traversed above) yet at the same time radically
changes the terms of construction, deployment and reception of timed based
images as we go forward.

Spatialization brings forth a new kind of visioning both horizontal and
vertical. Vertical in a radical new sense of duration, horizontal in terms
of the extant of image, possibly without end or beginning. It is a visioning
always-inhabiting time, a permanent part of space; giving forth a new
pattern and shape that is permeable, elastic, and unstable.

Meaning generated by these relations and structures rarely approaches
something unified or gathered. Much of it is contingent and significance is
in relations and structures rather than in the transparence of the contents
of elements. This field is less a mirror than a constellation of points of
exchange, a kind of switching mechanism of potential transformations. The
Œspace between¹ must be explored, or built within, in order to construe
relations between. Such imaging oscillates between closure and opening,
between fixed and extended duration.

Images in the realm of spatialization are less narrated than constructed.
Here it is not about, what does it mean? But, how does it work? How does it
work is what does it mean.  Its units are less narrative and perhaps more
precisely, a kind of indexing of folds into heterogeneous assemblages in
space.  What¹s being told has less presence than the material being
manipulated in the telling. As such this kind of image construction is not
so much a language of reproduction but production. It may be thought of as a
vast and continually pleating fold always in flux, always becoming, always
already transposed.
Rather than a distribution of various time events that resolve themselves in
a single trajectory, one strip of film, multiple screens, distributed
projections allow for the image of multiple events constituting different
durations of time. Of course time is distributed much differently in the
spatial distribution of image where varied durations of varying events give
forth simultaneous and multiple viewpoints as well as continually
differentiating states of imaging.

To think spatially in terms of the moving image is to think very differently
about time. Time has been the privileged rubric that we have read the moving
image. As described above, Chrissie Iles's essay and exhibit, ŒBetween the
Still and Moving Image' concerned the image not just installationally but
sculpturally, truly spatially, but almost always in the sense of announcing
a space, extending the frame of the image while at the same time delimiting
the space as a unity, that is reconstituting image and its extended frame as
a phenomenology of space and presence.

In the nineties much video art concerned itself with the distribution of
narrative across multiple screens, but not so much in terms of space proper.
A poetics of the spatialization of the moving image concerns itself then as
much with the distribution of image or images on and through multiple
screens/projections as well as the image in space, images constituting
space, volume, if not place, especially in terms of virtual or immersive
space. (This space having a kind of perceptual volume to which we return
further in this piece.)

Spatialization then is as much about an augmentation of space as it is about
the refiguring of space, an inhabitation of space, the being of image as
space and figuring of space. Images, as moving forms, as kind of ephemeral
solids, present and open entirely new possibilities of consideration and
authoring.  Such image constructions turn on considerations more
architectural than filmic, more about ambience or presence with very
different senses of duration. This I think is quite new and is a way to
consider distribution and spatialization as the construct of particulars
that present an atonality or series of individual gestures that just are.

Spatialization and the dispersal of images towards image-spaces proffers
event structures, away from structures of tension and resolve, or closeness
and limit, towards an expanded definition of open works, and towards
iterative fields and folds of images that are always becoming. In taking
this music analogy further, spatialization is more akin to polyphony than
harmony, where in polyphony; each voice retains its own character. In the
realm of spatialization independent images need not form a unity to be
resolved in the register or place within the total system, that is shaped by
an internal structuring of its elements, in turn a delimitation of the
perception of individual images. This is why I attempt earlier to move away
from montage, traverse visioning and ask for a way to start again, for a way
to think beyond what has preceded or think through what has preceded and to
consider image as a kind of volume, a space itself that iterates over time,
that metabolizes time rather than problemitizes it from an outside. If
images come to be in space, to live through a kind of being as do real time
and algorithmic images, the kind of closure we are accustomed to with
aesthetic objects is shifted to dealing with something that can never be
known in one viewing, can never be consumed, stood outside of, but can from
day to day exhibit different characteristics, different tones, different

Thinking spatially about time based images then turns our consideration to
constructing and presenting moving images more as volumes, time-inhabiting
and evolving forms then fixed or even looped time-based projection or
installation works.

Conditioned as we are to think of media in the ways that it has been
industrialized as varied kinds of products, films, television, commercials,
video billboards, video installations, streaming video, video games, in fact
all accepted forms of current imaging  ­ exploring a new tonal system of
image will take time.

How then to talk about something that is moving but fixed ­ always there
like architecture but always changing ­ not loops ­ but infinite scores ­
this then is a very different aesthetic object. What we might talk about is
patterns, forms, perhaps even temperament, I am not sure. But certainly the
older technologies of cinema and television as well as all visual
instrumentation, technical and social can be reconfigured to bring forth
something new? 

What follows then is a brief but I hope suggestive list of trajectories for
possible films, time-based moving image works conceptualized with a poetics
of spatialization in mind. I welcome all of you on the mailing list to add
towards this list, to write manifestos and make new works.

How far and wide can the distribution or spatialization of images be? Can
images in multiple locations constitute a single film?

If we follow the idea that each screen image might represent an object, a
solid, the distribution of image than turns on the organization of its
display technology. If so then might we have sprawl or scatter films. We saw
this in the recent Nam June Paik installation for example, what was shown at
his solo show at the Guggenheim and what is in the atrium now for the Moving
Pictures exhibit is a massive sprawl of images here, there, everywhere.

When the moving image is considered as object and image, for example the New
Prada Store in Soho, would not such a space and others like it afford every
opportunity to move image away from product, fashion, information or
ambience to occasioned commissions, for example a distributed spatialized
noir, or any number of inventive ideas.

This sense of object hood also makes for Ambient Architectural films, a way
to think of the space of films and their placement in space, as an
arrangement of color and forms. Here it is light in space, flicker in space,
color fields, ambience, distributed narrative.

The entire industry of security and surveillance, are these not films, why
be hidden away and closed off to be seen on small monitors by a select few
and not made monumental, projected large as elements of space. Rather than
hide all these monitors, medical, military, security, why not make them
transparent and part of the visible design of our everyday. The installation
of Diller and Scofidio at the Brassiere in the Seagrams building suggest
this, as contained as the images are. Additionally why not let passersby use
such screens as a public space to create works of their own where underlying
material can continually be transposed, deformed, reformed and varied. It
certainly would be interesting to see Times Square remixed with these most
everyday Œhidden¹ and proprietary images. We have begun to see similar
suggestions for the skins of building including several of the proposals
that were put forward for the new Eyebeam building in Chelsea.

Why see CNN in airports when entire airports can be aurally and visually
arranged and modulated for desired ambience - the same for hotels, office
buildings, department stores, malls, hospitals. Most all of our public
spaces would do well to more thoughtfully consider the overall or spatial
design of image and sound deployed in them. It is rather extraordinary that
this is not part of architectural practice and criticism.

Post structuralists put forward the idea of the intertextual, texts as a
collection of fragments, texts as bounded infinities and not closed, when
considered as such ambient and architectural films are a new kind of
unbounded spatialized topology of moving sound and image with immense
opportunity for site specific works, design and architectural efforts and
numerous kinds of interventions.

The examples above locate themselves within closed architectural
environments even if they are vast and sprawling. Can an environmental
installation with images distributed places far and wide, a literal sense of
space ­ constitute a new unbounded closedness as well? Certainly ready-made
films may be constituted by a list of images at given times and given
places. There are all kinds of conceptual spatial films to be made
certainly, but as well dispersed or spatial films.

Spatialization as described above speaks about the role of space, a
distribution in space of the moving image, but this is not to leave aside
the complexity of time that multiple screens in a confined space bring to a

All kinds of event times exist and unfold in multiple screen works. The
event horizons of such works can have varied, brief, complicated, multiple,
simultaneous, immense and overlapping durations. Of course most art works
derive their impact from concentration, compactness, if not immediacy or a
certain kind of ready legibility, even illegibility that is eventually read
as a pattern.

Long durations like Warhol¹s ŒSleep¹, ŒEmpire State Building¹ are films of
duration without event ness. Web cams brought to one screen from all over
the world constitute real time films. You can see such a work at
artandculture with a 24 time zone screen of live images.

The boundedness of multiple windows in a single frame distinct from multiple
projections or monitors or displays separate in space, each framed
singularly present various orderings of image as dispersal in space changes
relationship of proximity, as near and far complicate things, just as the
space between or spaces between alter the very idea of order or structure

With the distribution and dispersal of moving images in space new orderings
of time become possible, new ordering of relations become possible not seen
before. The spatialization of moving images in fact is a new medium and
considered as such presents an unlimited horizon of possible films.

For sure the idea of display monitors writ large into an environment where
such images are reactive and intelligent takes the moving image into a realm
of consideration and aesthetic possibility with much to be explored.

Spatialization also refers to the authoring side of future films presenting
environments where images in real time can come from a very wide selection
of sources. The steadily growing archive and live channels accessible
worldwide through the Internet present opportunity for networked and
interactive cinema.

The spatialization and distribution of authors and materials along with
algorithmic procedures for iterative events of imaging changes our sense of
just what a piece is, when a work ends and begins, and new software tools
radically change both authoring and what we think of as finished works.

MAX MSP Jitter allows for the composition of films down to the granular
level of the pixel and for the continued interplay of archive images and
effects with live imaging. Once networked, such imaging and imaging events
loosen the structures of composed and fixed imaging, making imaging more
conversational and improvisational.

Computational or Algorithmic Films organize themselves along certain
instructions that give shape and constraint to such works. ŒBy using any
number of different random generators which are controlling each other
(which - according to serial thinking - form a scale between a completely
deterministic and a completely chaotic behavior) new variants of the same
model are generated. Variants may differ dramatically from each other,
though they are always perceptible as "inheritances" of the given structural

Such works can be perceived as meta-compositions, which enable the unfolding
of a film rather than a fixed work. Both Algorithmic and Generative films
described below greatly complicate the notion of duration distending the
compactness and compression of time we are accustomed to in many works of
art including the all-at-once-ness of a visual work of art and most time
based works which resolve or present themselves in a fixed period of time.

Generative Films - 'Generative art is a term generally used to refer to any
practice where the artist creates a process, such as a set of natural
language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural
invention, which is then set into motion with some degree of autonomy,
contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art. After the initial
parameters have been set the process of production is unsupervised, and, as
such, self-organizing and time-based.¹

Cinema or time based works here become instruction sets.

VJ¹s produce 'live' or real-time films or image events at the intersection
of machines, playback materials, and live interaction creating performative
assemblages, a kind of local networked cinema. Interactive films, such as
ambientmachines ( put forward a structure, or language
for possible films where every film is unique to every viewer participant
now an author.

>From the prosthetic of the web, radar, control rooms and war rooms this
multiple visioning and over laying of real time, archive and virtual images
of possibilities extend image in a never-ending iteration and configuration.

We may also consider mechanical or machine visioning films, films without
authors. Infra perception or extra perception is offered by any number of
regimes of visualization at different scales and different intensities.

Immersive films or works of perceptual volume can be thought of as spatial
films as they offer the exploration of a simulated space allowing one to
move in all directions.

Reactive Spaces|Objects|Screens are also spatial in the sense of creating a
circuit of engagement with the viewer as participant.

Of course many more examples can be added to the list above and in which can
be form any number of categories of films such as Inventory Films, Indexical
Films, Films of Recontextualization, Films of Data Visualization, Lowercase
Films, Body Films, Military Films, Film purely attuned to certain Filters
and Processes, Presence Films, Ambient Films, Surveillance Films, Sprawl
Films, Re-enactment Films, Iterative Films, Reactive Films, Life Form Films,
the list can go on and on.

³All the films I was spliced into today¹ On any given day we are actors in
any number of films, at the ATM machine, crossing a bridge, shopping, in
traffic, in the subway or train, in some one¹s home video, entering any
number of offices, even in one¹s home¹.

We exist and transact in vast and spatialized films widely dispersed and
varied. In the circulation of the image banks and transmissions of the world
are any number of possible trajectories and plateaus for future films.

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