Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathGraham

icon: previous page

for consumption. Graham himself pointed out that in the 1970s it was common to have film advertising on video monitors around the entrance of a movie theater. The pleasure of the cinema was thus literally moved outside. In his «Cinema» he seems to have transferred this advertising strategy directly to the cinema screen. But at the same time, this also assumes that it is not only the film spectator who experiences the collision between two realities upon leaving the movie theater, but also the passerby on the street, whose voyeuristic gaze penetrates the projection screen as advertising and sees himself confronted with the hypnotic look of the cinema audience as it stares at a particular commodity, the film.

Story/Discourse: Metz’s Theory of the «Imaginary Signifier«

At issue here, however, is not any random commodity; Metz tried to make this clear with the concept of the imaginary signifier, a concept that is central to his analysis. For him, the special relationship of the cinema audience to film is a result of the fact that film «exists» exclusively in the imaginative activity of the spectator.


While images and texts normally contain signifiers that precede the viewer or reader’s imaginative activity, film is made up of imaginary signifiers, that is, signifiers that belong directly to the unconscious psychic life of the spectator and thus allow no distinction between representation and perception. The concept of the «imaginary signifier» brought Lacan’s subject theory to the center of film theoretical analysis in a different way. The «cinematic apparatus» was conceived neither as a technological apparatus nor a homologous analogue to early childhood subjectivity, but rather as a «symbolic apparatus.» While for Metz the Symbolic does not appear on its own terms in the cinema, but instead is subject to a «reinscription» in the area of the Imaginary, other perspectives are linked to a critical practice at the level of the signifier. He does not demand a disclosure of technological means, but rather a corresponding unveiling on the level of the symbolic. In his 1975 essay «Story/Discourse—Notes on Two Kinds of Voyeurism,» Metz attempted to clarify the general conditions—as well as the unconquerable difficulties—of such a disclosure: «In Emile Benveniste's terms, the traditional film is presented as story, and

icon: next page