Eyes Without a Face [ Les Yeux sans Visage ] (1965)
Untitled (Black Pussy Hat in Women’s March) has a head as its focal point, that of an anonymous woman at the New York women’s march on January 21, 2017. This work offers a hopeful note, placing the viewer within the crowd of protesters. Upon close inspection, the meticulous detail fades into mere suggestions of forms at the light-filled vanishing point, portending an unknown future.
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In the early 1900’s, Henri Bergson (1859-1941) developed the concepts of “movement-image” and “time-image” (in Matière et memoire ), both of which anticipated the development of film theory. Bergson declares the image to be superior to the concept because the image is able to evoke thought content in a more fluent and less abstract fashion. In lectures held at the College de France between 1902-03, Bergson briefly refers to the possibility of “comparing the mechanism of conceptual thought with that of the cinematograph” (now in L’Evolution créatrice, 1991, p. 725, note 1). Bergson’s main philosophical theme is that temporality should be thought of as independent from concepts of spatiality. Bergson contrasts duration, as it is experienced by the human consciousness, with scientific definitions of time, the latter of which, in his view, tends to “spatialize” time. Ironically, Bergson would later reject any possibility of using film as an exemplification of his ideas, in an essay entitled “The Cinematographic Illusion” (also in L’Evolution créatrice ). Subsequent developments of Bergson’s ideas on duration by Epstein, Sartre, or Deleuze go, strictly speaking, against the grain of his original thought on cinema.
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Furthermore, Carroll warns against attempting to identify an art form with a single artistic medium. There is no reason to think that there is some single material condition that constitutes the possibilities within an entire art form. Instead, within art forms, there are different media, different forms of repetition or automatisms, which have significance in structuring characteristic instances of the form. This means that, for example, film itself, considered as a technological innovation, may not always provide the most productive level of unity for medium analysis. Rather, we can ask: What are the various media at work in popular movies, in documentaries, in cartoons, and in particular film arts? How do those automatisms allow for the discovery of the artistic possibilities within particular forms of film art? Approaching medium analysis in this way allows one to locate the concept of artistic medium as a critical tool for understanding modern art experiences in which art is taken to have its distinct forms of experience that have their own norms and standards without necessarily committing to any essentialist assumptions.