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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathBaldessari

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was once a confrontation between paintbrush and camera. Now, however, digital technology has become a kind of common denominator not only for painting and cinema, but also for drawing, photography and video as well; together they form an unbroken continuum of image making. This, of course, corresponds to an ideological complex—through which an optical unconscious might be glimpsed.

3. Film as a Medium

Sergej Eisenstein believed that the cinema embodied the most acute aspects of American capitalism. He, of course, was thinking in terms of representation, but the political economy of cinema is sharper still. According to Jonathon Crary, Edison’s primary genius was to use this medium to forge an economic link between hardware and software; what cinema ultimately offered was a new system of quantification and distribution based on the reciprocity of photography and money as homologous forms of social power:«They are equally totalizing systems for binding and unifying all subjects within a single global network of valuation and desire. As Marx said of money,


photography is also a great leveler, a democratizer, a «mere symbol,» a fiction «sanctioned by the so-called universal concept of mankind. Both are magical forms that establish a new set of abstract relations between individuals and things and impose those relations as real.» [4]

As Eisenstein argued, this is most true in the United States. Of all the industrialized nations, it has the greatest gap between rich and poor, but most Americans believe that they are, more or less, without class—that they are, in short, middle class. Photography’s leveling effect remains naturalistic within the confines of the medium; when Baldessari retroactively applies it to painting, it seems manipulative. Traditionalists might see it as ‹cruel,› ‹unfair› or ‹cynical.› Here, humor takes on a more compensatory Freudian role as the vehicle for otherwise unacceptable revelations. Perversely, Baldessari’s films exclude montage just where it would normally be expected. Instead, they reflect the principle Eisenstein called typage, which, in conventional film appears as typecasting or shooting on location. More broadly, it is a principle of minimum

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