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Particulate Cinema
Visualising Data & Posthuman Physics
Published in Artlink, Vol.37 No.1, 2017

(excerpt only currently online)

1. Making Movies

Movies used to be made. They were things: overwhelmingly sensational yet entirely immaterial in their manifestation of audiovisual eventfulness. In a sense, cinema produced things in a parallel universe running in tandem with modern art’s desperate drive to ‘immaterialise’ its artworks and ‘de-objectify’ its creative economy. Yet movies did this uncontrollably and inevitably. Are not movies large-scale, immersive, collaborative, multi-tasked, industrial commissions? And is that not what eventually became the imprimatur of internationalist biennales bent on spectacular production?

But movies have stopped being made for at least a decade. Now, they are visualised. The shift can of course be rationalised by the industrial embrace of digital production and the convergence of various screen technologies, formats and markets. The change from ‘making’ to ‘visualising’ is ontologically sensible. If movies were never things or objects, why were they said to be ‘made’? The answer lies in the conservative notion that artists create while technicians make (an embarrassing admission to Judaeo-Christian precepts of godly creation versus mortal manufacture). And just as the 20th century championed artists who created through distilled alchemical power and conceptual provenance, cinema fought for artistic legitimacy through auteurs, visionaries, genii and, well, ‘artists’. It’s a messy state of appellation, and one that still signposts 21st century art dialecticism of both populist and political bents.

Considered at a deeper level, much can be discerned in the evidential formations and subtextual mechanics incurred by visualising movies rather than making them. Unlike authored texts, heroic sculptures, expressive paintings and directed installations, movies are semantically confused, symbolically chaotic, and semiologically self-circuiting. Lacking as they are in singular voices and encapsulating didactic panels, they require a responsive reading of their textuality to audit their schizophrenic babble. And while that was always a difficult task with 20th century movie-objects, the problem is exponentially confounding with 21st century movie-visualizations.


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