Special Feature: From Inter-mediality to Intra-mediality: The Image as Becoming
With the unprecedented proliferation of image production and image consumption in the contemporary times, the academic importance of studying images, their production and reception, their networks and translatability have become significant for understanding the folds of reality today. By ‘image’, we mean a sense of visuality, which can manifest through visual, sonic, aural, textual modes and/or in various combinations of these mediation processes. This study needs to be interdisciplinary at its core as it would involve direct conceptual investments from anthropology and archaeology of media, visual culture, visual anthropology, cinema studies, new media studies, screen studies, popular culture studies, film-philosophy, psychology, philosophy and various others. In terms of global trends, the specific importance of the context of medium-specificity and cross-media culture in the formation and propagation of image are being dealt within the emerging discipline of Intemediality. It is also time to interrogate the generic idea of the medium as well. An image created in a film decades ago in a specific socio-cultural space can give rise to a series of related yet different images or image-ideas in films made in other times and/or in other cultural contexts. Experimental cinematic works based on film archival research to a great extent (e.g., The Image Book, 2018 by Jean-Luc Godard) have shown that gradual mutation of an image-idea (with specific sensory value) happens through various films, at times without the conscious knowledge of even the filmmaker. This brings us to the question of image relations within the medium, intra-mediality and an associated idea that image is never complete, it is always in the process of becoming. The question is of more significance if we consider the global flows and translations of tangible and intangible cultural artifacts.
This issue of Caesurae’s Special Feature, has two perceptive essays . The first one is "An Analysis of ‘Lifeline’: Psychological Theories, Mise en scène, and Montage" by Sanskriti Chattopadhyay. Chattopadhyay in this essay has taken up a short film 'Lifeline' (2002) by one of the most elusive filmmakers of our time, the great Spanish director Victor Erice, for illustrating the multi-dimensional modes of formation of cinematic image. Works of Victor Erice may not be too much familiar in the cine-literate society in India. The essay can work as a sincere introduction to the world of Victor Erice, where the simplicity and the beauty of the awareness of being alive is layered with the consciousness of death, and the nostalgia for the lost time. The essay shows how the latent archetypal and symbolic qualities of the images used in the film are extended by the subtle and nuanced methods of formal constructions in the film, namely mise-en-scène (methods of putting things, objects and human presences in front of camera together) and montage (methods of creating significance through juxtaposition of images). The quality of images for Victor Erice are never totally grounded to the temporal and spatial coordinates of objectivity, rather those show a buoyant quality of suspension, a languid trajectory of projection from the sense of present to the feeling of lost time. The successive shots in the film are arranged in the mode of concentric circles, or spirals radiating out of the centre, in this case a bleeding navel of a new born child. Readers are requested to see the film, which might be available online, for grasping the critical essay included in this issue.
The second essay is "Cinematic Image as a tool for Historical Imagination in Harun Farocki's Workers Leaving the Factory" by R. Navaneetha Krishnan. Here R. Navaneetha Krishnan has explored the possibility of the comprehension of cinematic image with its latent traces in the depth of the history of cinema and the associated ideological positions attached to it, with reference to Workers Leaving the Factory (1995), made by famous German filmmaker Harun Farocki. The full import of this discursive work by Farocki can be understood, if we recall the period 1995-96 as the centenary of the birth of cinema, when Farocki took it upon himself to delve into the 'year zero' of cinema with a renewed look at the famous one-shot actuality film by Lumiere Brothers Workers Leaving the Factory (1895). The apparently innocent piece of film by Lumiere Brothers at the dawn of the history of cinema, when examined and recontextualized by Farocki after one hundred years, reveals itself not just as a piece of film resulted from a chanced upon, curious act of looking through the camera at the factory gate as the workers come out after a shift, but establishes itself as an important artefact about the capitalist system of production and power relations around the same. Inspired by the theory of images by the philosopher Vilem Flusser, Farocki indicates to the possibility of the future resonances of the archaic cinematic image realized by Lumiere Brothers, as if the image has been acting through all these decades as a site of existential struggle for the factory workers in the world, and the image itself is in the process of ever maturation. Farocki's whole effort was to unpack the cine-philosophical and cine-dialogical possibilities of a cinematic image, instantiated and deliberated through the image-discourse around the image of those obscure workers leaving their factory in the late hours of the day more than century and a quarter ago.
----- Deb Kamal Ganguly,
Former Faculty of Film & Television Institute of India,
Guest Editor, Special Feature