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ThemesArt and CinematographyGraham
Gregor Stemmrich

Dan Graham began his conceptual work in the early 1960s. Today he is best known for the hybrid architectural designs and sculpture pavilions made of twoway mirrored glass that he has been making since 1978. On the one hand, these are conceived as models of thought that open up a critical perspective. [1] On the other hand, they are intended as concrete models of experience that implicate the spectator/visitor in a complex game of reflections, transparencies and multiple points of view. Requiring neither any particular historical knowledge nor even an interest in art, these works instead offer a corporeal understanding of culturally- and psychologically-based perceptual dispositions. In some of the sculpture pavilions, the integration of the historical conceptual model’s specifications and those of the experiential model is successful primarily on an emblematic level. Graham considers his 1981 work, «Cinema,» which today exists only as an architectural model, as an example in which these specifications effectively coincide.

Graham’s «Cinema» is integrated into a typical office building with a «glass curtain wall» made oftwo-way mirror glass. This has the property of becoming a mirror on the side with more light, while for the observer on the darker side it becomes transparent. In contrast to the transparent glass that once had been used in corporate architecture, these windows create the impression of being psychologically sealed off from the outside world. The «Cinema» is located on the ground floor of a corner building, in which on the side facing the street corner a slightly curved projection screen made of two-way mirrored glass is inserted. (We see only a flat plane instead of a cylinder segment in the model.) The projection screen is visible from the outside and protected from the street by normal glass. The rows of seating in the square interior are placed on a diagonal and form an incline. The first rows are located seven feet (approximately 2.10 m) beneath the projection wall. (In the model, this distance is not precisely reproduced, since this would have required building some kind of basement.)

The passerby on the street can see the film, without sound and reversed, and, depending on the lighting in the film itself (that is, depending on whether or not a film sequence is very bright) can look through the projection wall at the cinema audience. In contrast, the side walls of two-way mirror glass do not allow the passerby to see inside during a film screening, since the streets are normally more strongly lit than the interior of a cinema is by the film projection, so that the glass façade becomes a mirror from the outside. Before and after each film screening, however, the movie audience inside can be seen as it disperses or assembles anew.

For the film spectator inside the cinema, the situation is reversed. During the film screening, the spectator not only sees the normal film image on the projection screen, but can also obtain a weak impression of life on the street and the architectonic surroundings outside the cinema through the two-way mirror glass on the sides. Before and after the screening, the spectator sees himself and the other cinemagoers in the reflecting screen, and knows, at the same time, that these mirrors are transparent from the outside. The situation is thus structured so that two kinds of voyeurism, that of the film spectator and the «normal» sort—the observation of a «live»situation—are linked architecturally to one another. [2]

In an essay entitled «Theater, Cinema, Power,» [3] Graham relates his work «Cinema» to the history of Western theater and clarified the essential historical approaches and «points of crystallization.» The following phenomena are mentioned in this context by him: the emergence of the theater as an architecturally closed form in the Renaissance, in which the ideal city was represented on the stage; «life as theater» at the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV (a curator, Rüdiger Schöttler utilized this historical reference, in combination with Graham’s cinema model, for the concept of an independent exhibit); [4] the «cinemized» theater of the 1920s (Gropius-Piscator, Lissitzky-Meyerholdt, Kiesler and others) as well the plans for «Cineac,» a cinema designed in 1934 in Amsterdam by the Dutch Architect J. Duiker, from which Graham typologically derives his «Cinema;» and finally—as a historical reference to the present—the fact that a former Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan, became president of a superpower. The question of the interrated relationship between political power and the institutionalized use of media connects these various historical points of reference and focuses that link on a single historical context of reflection. Nonetheless, in order to understand how Graham’s «Cinema» itself produces such a context of reflection and situates itself in it, we need to come at it from a different angle: as an analysis of the functioning of the cinema in its usual form. It is not a particular film but the cinema in the context of its normal operation that creates foundational psychological dispositions with political and ideological effects and can serve the suspension or sublation [Aufhebung] of this normality as undertaken by Graham. Thus that which requires a historical explanation may be made transparent.

Graham himself pointed out that his «Cinema» is based on concepts developed in the (meta)psychological film theory of the 1970s. This however does not mean that his «Cinema» is simply identifiable with a particular previously formulated theoretical standpoint or concept. The use Graham makes of film theoretical concepts is not covered by the relevant theories. For this reason, the critique which has been made of these theories cannot be applied directly to Graham’s «Cinema.» Instead, bylooking at the heterogeneity of the theoretical points of reference we can better grasp the complexity of the «Cinema» project and its location within an ongoing film theoretical debate.

From «Body Press» to «Cinema»

The way in which Graham uses film theoretical concepts can best be understood from his early film performances (1969–1973), each of which was based on simple tasks. [5] «Body Press» (1970–1972) stands out among these works; I therefore will explore this work more closely. Two naked performers are placed in a mirrored cylinder with their backs to one another. Each of the performers holds a camera, the rear of which is pressed to their body, and slowly leads it around the cylinder of the body. In this way, the entire upper body is probed and scanned upwards and downwards in the form of a helix. The camera records this action in the mirroring in the cylinder and at the same time is itself part of this action. After each circling, the two cameras are switched between the performers. The camera and/or the film made thus produces a continuous link between the bodily sensation and movements of the two performers. The two films are projected in an endless loop on opposite walls in a white cubical gallery space. Graham’s film performance intends to inseparably link film, a medium apparently exclusively—and in a strictly monocular fashion—based in visual perception, to the intersubjective and intrasubjective experience of the bodies of the performers. In a topological sense the mirrored cylinder becomes an optical skin in the experience of the film viewer and is united with the skin of the performer. Due to the pressing of the cameras on the bodies and the mirrored cylinder, which stretches the appearance of the body horizontally, the body’s sensory-motor interior is turned inside out and made visible in a continuous process. While the film spectator usually sinks down in the movie seat and forgets his or her body, Graham’s «Body Press» confronts the spectator with a film performance that does precisely the opposite. The position of the spectator between the projection surfaces directs his or her attention immediately to his or her own bodily sensations, not defined as a «private space» but as an intersubjective bodily experience in apublic space. In the early films, Graham could expose the way film functions only through a certain negation and/or a intentionally contrary experience: in the cinema filming is not itself shown as action, nor is a bodily perspective introduced; what the film image in the cinema shows is not relativized and exponentially intensified by the view of a second camera and has nothing explicitly to do with architecture. In «Cinema,» Graham tried to come at the problem from the opposite direction. The idea of an optical skin in the topological form of a mirroring cylinder is transferred from the filming situation (in «Body Press«) to the situation of projection—that is, reconceived as a projection screen—and is thus submitted to an architectural redefinition.

While in his early films Graham attempted to exclude or reduce psychological complexities by assigning a task, in «Cinema» he attempts with similar means to create or intensify psychological complexities. In «Cinema,» intersubjectivity as a multiplicity of mutually referential points of view is not conveyed in the correlation between two performers/camera persons but in the creation of two audiences. In this way, a critical analysis of the context in which cinema functions is not only attempted from beyond that context, but in direct psychological correlation with that very functional context.

Baudry’s Apparatus Theory and Duiker’s Cineac as Points of Critical Reference

In creating this work Graham could rely on a film theory that conceived of the projection screen in the cinema in terms of a «mirror» in a metapsychological sense. [6] In a departure from the semiological film theory of the 1970s, film was no longer treated as a text in itself, but rather as part of a cinematic situation that influences the observer more deeply than any individual film ever could. In his essay «The Ideological Effects of the Cinematographic Apparatus,» Jean Louis Baudry initiated this turn in film theory to metapsychology. [7] He adopted the concept of the apparatus from both Freud and Althusser, arguing that in the cinematic situation an effective linkage takes place between the apparatus of the human psyche and the ideological state apparatus.

Baudry’s argument becomes comprehensible against the backdrop of the phenomenological film theory of the 1950s. André Bazin described the film screen phenomenologically as a «window to the universe» and the reality impression in the cinema as a mystical epiphany. As Baudry explains, the plausibility of this film theory rests on the fact that the «conceptual apparatus of phenomenology» and the cinematic apparatus correspond to one another exactly. Both phenomenology and the cinema, the former theoretically, the latter practically, presume a subject as the passive observer and phenomenological center of an event in which the subject does not take part, for which however his or her perception alone is responsible. The cinematic apparatus lends the film spectator the position of a transcendental subject and at the same time blocks the insight that this position is something that is constructed. Baudry related the film-spectator’s self-misrecognition to Lacan’s theory of the so-called mirror phase: at an age when it experiences its own body as uncoordinated and fragmentary, the small child is provided with a visual impression of individual physical wholeness in the mirror image. The mirror image appears to him as an ideal ego. The identity available to the child, his ego-logical subjectivity, thus derives from a site external to itself. [8] Decisive for film theory was Lacan’s point that the foundation for all later imaginary narcissistic identification was laid in the mirror phase. The film screen was no longer to be understood phenomenologically as a «window» (or as in Jean Mitry’s formalist film theory as a «frame») but in its relationship to the observer metapsychologically as a «mirror.« [9] As Baudry explains: «Just as the mirror assembles the fragmented body in a sort of imaginary integration of the self, the transzendental self unites the discontinuous fragments of phenomena, of lived experience into unifying meaning. Through it each fragment assumes meaning by being integrated into an ‘organic’ unity.« [10] Lacan’s starting point was the premise that the subject was structured by the experience of lack, and thus constitutively characterized by the wish for transcendental unity, fullness and omnipotence. For Baudry, this cinema fulfils this wish in a unique way by producing a phantasmification of the subject. [11] The cinematicapparatus is intended to be internalized in order to maintain a fiction without which the state apparatus could not function ideologically: the fiction of an autonomous and transcendental subject, which as the self-conception of an individual that believes itself to be free and unique is accompanied by a denial of real social coercion. [12] For Baudry, the only way to break through this phantasmification was to make its production obvious. Thus, he explained, every demonstration of the technological conditions of its own production is potentially a radical act. The example according to which he oriented himself was Dziga Vertovs 1929 film «The Man with the Movie Camera,» which thematized the technical conditions of its own making; the film displays the technological apparatus as such, the camera, the process of montage, the projection apparatus and the conditions of film viewing in the cinema. At the same time, he depicts the ideal of a Soviet everyday world, in which the entire apparatus—the Soviet state as such—would be transparent for all and the mass of the population would control the means of production. [13]

Baudry’s analysis of «the cinematic apparatus» is illuminating for understanding Graham’s work: while the notion of the film screen can be linked to Graham’s cinema, this linkage does not consist in the strategy suggested by Baudry. The strategy instead rather refers historically back to a cinema architecture that Graham himself offers as a typological precedent for his «Cinema«: Johannes Duiker’s Handelsblad Cineac in Amsterdam, 1934. This is also a cinema building located on a street corner that offers the observer on the street a glimpse of the cinema’s functioning mechanism, but with a decisive difference. While Duiker makes the projection booth visible from the outside around the cinema entrance, Graham places the relationship of the cinema audience to the projection screen at the center of critical observation. Duiker’s Handelsblad Cineac clearly corresponds to Baudry’s ideal apparatus, undertaking its own demystification by displaying its technological means. A visual unveiling of the apparatus like that of Duiker’s Cineac or Vertov’s film only makes sense, can only go beyond a mere utopian metaphor, if there is a hope historically that the technological means of production will in fact be placed in the hands and atthe service of the public. That Graham does not share this hope is made clear by the fact that his «Cinema» is conceived as part of a corporate headquarters or office building, that is, an overarching anonymous power structure.

But Graham’s conception of the film screen as a mirror can also not simply be equated with Baudry’s notion. Graham instead refers to Metz, who explained: «Thus film is like the mirror. But it differs from the primordial mirror in one essential point: although, as in the latter, everything may come to be projected, there is one thing and one thing only that is never reflected in it: the spectator's own body. In a certain emplacement, the mirror suddenly becomes clear glass.« [14] From this critique Baudry concluded that film theory needs to look to a state prior to the mirror stage, making even more archaic forms of subjectivity responsible for the psychological operation of the cinematic apparatus. [15] He referred to the maternal breast as a primordial «dream screen,» and linked various concepts to this notion in order to construct a general film theory: Freud’s analysis of the oral phase, the theory of dream work, and—in a reductionist form—Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage. While in the mirror stage the «I» appears as an Other, with which the child can narcissistically identify, the «dream work» is linked to a stage in which all consciousness of bodily borders is missing, the child’s body and the maternal breast form an undifferentiated unity. This is why Baudry speaks of an «envelopment of the subject by the screen,» «a mode which is anterior to the mirror stage, to the formation of the self, and therefore founded on a permeability, a fusion of the interior with the exterior.« [16]

Since Graham understands the cylindrically curved projection screen topologically as an «optical skin» like that in «Body Press,» parallels can be drawn to Baudry’s analysis. The cinema visitors cannot clearly recognize themselves in the projection mirror, but instead before and after the film screening they literally experience their own «envelopment […] by the screen.» The spectator experiences him or herself as flowing in space and permeable for other bodies. At the same time, this «permeability of the inside and its fusion with the outside» can be experienced by the exterior observer. This is due to the fact that theprojected image penetrates to the exterior, and simultaneously the external spectator can see through the screen into the audience. By picking up and carrying out the concepts of a metapsychological film theory in a literal fashion—the film screen acts as a mirror and a permeable «dream screen»—Graham creates a completely new situation that had not been envisioned by Baudry: the private experience of the film spectator is transformed into a psychosocial experience. The position of the film spectator as a phenomenological center is not questioned by presenting him or her with the technological apparatus as a quasi-external observer, but by confronting the spectator with a situation that can only be grasped in a one-sided fashion. What Baudry took as a reason for going back theoretically to a state prior to the mirror stage, a state in which the film spectator cannot see his own body in the film screen as mirror, is for Graham precisely one of the reasons why he uses the mirror as a projection screen. At the end of the film, he wants to return to the spectator the consciousness of his or her own body and his or her belonging to a social group in the very location where immediately beforehand he or she had been able to identify with the filmic illusion and the film actors, that is, on the projection screen.

The Expanded Conception of the «Cinematic Situation«

In the end, apparatus theory had no answer to the question of how the psychological mechanisms it describes could be made understandable as such for the film spectator. Its starting point was the similarity of the situation of film viewing with that of the prisoner in Plato’s allegory of the cave. Thus at the same time it presumes an ideal, transcendental, external point of observation from which the entire mechanism is transparent in its psychological effects. Graham’s «Cinema» is precisely opposed to this notion. While he does provide the external observer a glimpse into the «cave,» this is achieved by the projection of the film on the mirror. This does not accomplish a demystification of the cinematic apparatus, but the opposite: a heightened, albeit differently situated mystification, since two realities meet in a disturbing way. But this is precisely what enables a critical take on the psychological effects of the apparatus.

A corresponding strategy was partially developed by Roland Barthes in his 1975 essay, «On Leaving the Movie Theater.« [17] His starting point was the observation that on leaving the cinema a complex and fascinating collision of two realities takes place, allowing the film spectator to achieve or regain critical consciousness. His considerations were aimed at maintaining or engaging the fascinating element of this collision during the film as well. In this way, Barthes argues, the film spectator could obtain a consciousness of his or her relationship to filmic representation and perception, either by achieving a critical distance by means of Brechtian techniques and breaking—and simultaneously heightening—the film’s fascination by attending to or remembering the «extracinematic surroundings.» Not the display of the technical apparatus, he argues, but basically only the complication of the relationships to a situation could offer a critical distance for the spectator—a distance not based on disillusion, but also a differently situated fascination. What in Barthes’ term however appears as the conscious game of an intellectual, was integrated by Graham into his conception of «Cinema.» This particular cinema space makes it possible—also during film viewing—to direct attention to the «extra-cinematic surroundings,» since, due to the transparence of the side walls, the city landscape remains visible during the film. The situation of film spectatorship is complicated at the same time by the awareness of other viewers, since in Graham’s «Cinema» the «totalizing security of looking at looking» (Stephen Heath) [18] is broken up. Like Barthes, who strategically declared the act of «leaving the movie theater» to be its own analytic authority, Christian Metz sought to make «going into the movie theatre» the methodological starting point of an analysis of the cinema. In other words, picking up where Baudry left off, the understanding of the «cinematic situation» was expanded by integrating the psychological states before and after film viewing into the analysis. [19] Metz thus replaced the notion of the apparatus, which evidenced an a-historical and mechanical conception, with the concept of the «cinematic institution,» making reference to the inseparability of private and social experience and presuming a historical understanding of the cinema. Metz writes: «The cinematic institution is not just the cinema industry, it is also the mental machinery which spectators'accustomed to the cinema' have internalised historically and which has adapted them to the consumption of films. (The institution is outside us and inside us, indistinctly collective and intimate, sociological and psychanalytic […] one goes to the cinema because one wants to and not because one has to force oneself, in the hope that the film will please and not that it will displease […] the institution as a whole has filmic pleasure alone as its aim.« [20] «Film perception» does not begin with the actual projection of a film, but has culturally become part of an unconscious system of perception and representation that makes itself noticeable in certain consumer expectations. He points to the fact that the cinema emerged at the same time as modern consumer culture as a whole, that is, contemporaneously with modern advertising and the shift of economic organization from the sites of production to the sites of consumption. Graham’s «Cinema» corresponds to this in that the projection screen on the street is placed at the same height as the sequence of shop windows and advertising billboards, and thus inserts itself in a seemingly smooth way into a homogenous arrangement 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 not as discourse. And yet it is a discourse, if we refer it back to the film-maker's intentions, the influence he wields over the general public, etc.; but the basic characteristic of this kind of discourse, and the very principle of its effectiveness as discourse, is precisely that it obliterates all traces of the enunciation, and masquerades as story. The tense of story is of course the 'past definite'; similarly, the narrative plenitude and transparency of this kind of film is based on a refusal to admit that anything is lacking, or that anything has to be sought for.« [21] Benveniste derived the distinction between «story» and «discourse» from that of the «said» and «speaking«: speaking as such, the way in which a «speaker» refers to himself in a specific situation and in which he makes his position to the said clear, is normally hidden in film, so that the «said» appears as an historical event, as something that is as «it is.« The withholding of a subject that positions and expresses itself is for Metz not the fault of an individual film, but is rather closely tied to the arrangement of the cinema itself. To alter this would mean to move towards a new concept of theater, a theater however unlike that, which is known. In the theater, Metzexplains, there is a direct correspondence between the exhibitionism of the actor on the stage and the voyeurism of the spectators. In the cinema, however, this is all temporally displaced; the event thus appears as «story»—not as «discourse»—and refers to a voyeurism which, rather than knowing an expressive subject that understands itself as part of a situation, requires an empty, absent subject, a mere ability to see or hallucinate. [22]

The dichotomy «story/discourse» or «said» and «saying» throws light on the arrangement of Graham’s «Cinema.» It presents itself as a «theatrical» context of situations, in which each observer—internal and external—is in every moment thrown back to him- or herself and his or her position as a subject that presents itself for others, expresses itself in the gaze, and the behavior which is based on a psychic disposition. In this way, the filmic concept of a «story,» told by nobody and thus understood as «history,» is transgressed by means of the concept of a discourse, which directly refers to the reception conditions of such a «story» or «history.» Deleuze’s «Theory of the Cinema«: The Crystal and the Time-Image Various objections were raised with regards to Metz’s film theory: it was argued that he only took up Lacan’s theory of the subject in a one-sided manner, [23] that his general qualification of film as «(hi)story» [histoire] was only true of a certain kind of film, and finally that a linguistically-oriented semiology cannot be adequate for the filmic medium. This last accusation proved to be the most farreaching, since, when understood correctly, it encompasses the other two objections as well: it was made by Gilles Deleuze and was further buttressed in his two-volume theory of the cinema. While Deleuze continues to maintain that film theory is to be developed as a theory of the subjects, he asserts that film is not a language. If film theory does not want to be inadequate to its own object—the temporality of the cinematic image—then, he argues, subjectivity has to be conceived as a temporal structure. [24] While he does recognize that the dichotomy between the Real and the Imaginary (a dichotomy in which Baudry, for example, was still trapped) is overcome at the level of the «signifier,» he also sees this level as being occupied by the «a-significatory power» of the «time-image.« [25]

Deleuze’s theory of the cinema is not in the same way a critical reworking of Metz’s theory as the latter is a critical reworking of Baudry’s apparatus theory, since his starting point is entirely different. He is not interested in making concepts from metapsychology and/or ideological criticism fruitful for film theory, since in this way the cinema is only analyzed «from the outside.» In contrast, Deleuze’s theoretical access is rooted in film history and philosophy. The starting point of his analysis is the observation that after 1945 a modern cinema emerged that illustrated a radically changed concept of temporality. The film image was no longer defined as a «movement-image» but rather as a «timeimage. » However before going into this in more detail, it might be useful to point out what this distinction offers in relation to Graham’s «Cinema,» for, since Deluxe analyzes film and conceptions of temporality, at first glance, it might seem as if there were no connection at all. There is, however, indeed a connection: Deleuze shows on the one hand that the earlier film theory with its metapsychological orientation referred exclusively to films of the «movementimage » type, and on the other hand analyzes the «time-image» in search of a general structure not bound to the sequential form of film as a medium, but also evoked in Graham’s «Cinema.» [26]

Deleuze understands a «movement-image» to be an image subject to a general sensory-motor schema; the «movement-image» can therefore also be understood as an «action image.» The spectator’s question is not what the current image shows, but rather what the next image will show. The image experience is molded by the rhythm of irritation and reaction, affect and action. The movement can thus be elevated to the level of a metaphysical «world movement» without ever questioning the way the images are linked to one another. After the war, however, a cinema emerged (in Italian neorealism, the nouvelle vague, the new American cinema, etc.) in which the sensory-motor scheme is broken. Situations arise that no longer allow a reaction; increasingly, random empty or detached spaces appear with no continuation in action and reaction. Purely optical and acoustic situations emerge in which the figures gain in far-sightedness what they lose in action; in so doing they remain undecided, stroll or behave in a way that seems to indicate thatthey are indifferent to what happens to them. The situation only has inherent value. For Deleuze, the decisive question is therefore how the optic and acoustic images are linked to one another when a continuation of action is not realized. Images of reminiscence and dreams or flashbacks (psychic memory) do not provide the answer, since they still belong to a sensory-motor situation and are linked as virtual images to a current image (the present). What Deleuze terms the «time–image» only emerges when the current image can simultaneously be considered a virtual image and «steps in relation to its own virtual image as such.» What at first is a pure description is doubled, repeats itself, begins again, branches out and contradicts itself, constituting a «two sided, multi-sided image» in which the current and the virtual cannot be distinguished from one another and find themselves in continuous exchange (the Resnais and Robbe- Grillet film «Last Year in Marienbad» is an excellent ‹didactic› example of this.). With this «the distinction between subjective and objective […] also tends to lose its importance, to the extent that the optical situation or visual description replaces the motor action. We run, in fact, into a principle of intederminability, of undiscernibility: we no longer know what is imaginary or real, physical or mental, in the situation, not because they are confused, but because we do not have to know and there is no longer even a place from which to ask.» [27] This non-difference results in a reversal in the concept of temporality: time is no longer the measure of movement, but movement is a perspective of time. With this, a structure emerges that Deleuze terms «crystal»: «What we see in the crystal is no longer the empirical progression of time as succession of presents […] The direct time-image or the transcendental form of time is what we see in the crystal.» [28] At the same time, a new form of sign emerges, which Deleuze terms the «Hyalo sign» (from the Greek Hyalos (crystal, glass)) and which makes the crystal intelligible in three «coalescences» and coexistences: as the exchange between current and virtual, pure and opaque, and seed and milieu. At issue are relationships in which images collect their own content and (as purely optical and acoustic situations) bring it to the point of crystallization. This is not the place to go intoDeleuze’s «application» of this notion or its «derivation» from different films. Let me only point out that crystal can be thematized and illustrated in various ways: as a complete crystal (Ophüls), as a crystal with cracks from which something escapes (Renoir), as a crystal in the process of formation (Fellini) and as a disintegrating crystal (Visconti). Deleuze speaks in this sense of the crystal image—not the time-image. Although the time-image is seen in the crystal, as a transcendental notion the time-image can only be understood on the philosophical level, developed by Deleuze in a series of comments on Bergson based on his theses: «since the past is constituted not after the present that it was, but at the same time, time has to split itself in two at each moment as present and past,» and «the only subjectivity is time, nonchronological time grasped in its foundation, and it is we who are internal to time, not the other way around.» [29] Deleuze’s comments aim at «the overtaking of psychological memory towards a world-memory,» whereby the signs that point to this can be termed «facies.»

If one attempts to see Graham’s «Cinema» in relationship to this theory of the cinema, then one finds oneself directed on the one hand towards the affinity between Deleuze’s concept of crystal and the structure of the «Cinema.» Deleuze himself implies that the notion of crystal has an architectonic structure when he remarks: «Exchange or indiscernibility thus follow each other in three ways in the crystalline circuit: the actual and the virtual (or the two mirrors face to face); the limpid and the opaque; the seed and the environment[…] The crystal is a stage, or rather a track [piste], before being an amphitheatre.» [30] The «principle of uncertainty» that directs this exchange is expressed in Graham's «Cinema» in his architectonic arrangement and the relationship of two audiences to one another. This exchange—as the two-sidedness and mutual referentiality of the same image—takes place under the condition of a strict incommensurability, foreign to the classical cinema.

The True and the False: Deleuze and Benjamin

A further possibility of linking Deleuze’s theory of the cinema to Graham’s «Cinema» is offered by the concept of «world memory,» which Deleuze links with the question of truth. «We are no longer in anindiscernible distinction between the real and the imaginary, which would characterize the crystal image, but in indiscernible alternatives between sheets of past, or ‹inexplicable› differences between points of present, which now concern the direct time-image […]the past is not necessarily true.» [31] Deleuze dedicates a whole chapter of his theory of the cinema to this «power of the false.» However, In order to understand how this equation of world memory and historical truth is posed in relationship to Graham’s «Cinema,» we cannot simply apply Deleuze’s concepts to it, for they remain trapped in the film medium. The starting point for Graham’s «Cinema» concept is instead Benjamin’s concept of history, which Benjamin would like to apply to the cinema. Deleuze’s notions only become relevant in this context.

Graham begins with the assumption that film has the power to change the structure of historical memory. He points to the parallels which the film theorist Thierry Kuntzel drew between Freud’s «mystic writing pad» model of memory and the technical arrangement of film: Films have the character of «memory traces» or «dreams» that are «implanted.». [32] His «Cinema» is thus arranged to enable an encounter with this danger, in which a contrary effect, that is, a different «remembering,» is produced. This corresponds to Benjamin’s «concept of history«: «To articulate that which has passed historically is not to recognize ›how it then really was.‹ It is to empower a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger.» [33] The prerequisite for this is a consciousness of the «nowtime » [Jetztzeit] which makes time «stand still» so that the «true image of the past» can come alive in a unique way—it «rushes silently past» and allows in this movement the recognition of that which has relevance for the present: «The materialist cannot do without the concept of a present that is not a transition, but in which time stands still and has come to a halt… Where thinking suddenly arrives in a constellation saturated with tensions, to which it gives a shock, which crystallizes it into a monad.» [34]

Deleuze in contrast presumes the modern cinema as a «special linkage between unconnected images» and asks for a thinking that arises from this linkage. This thinking is described as «power which has not always existed» it derives from an outside more distantthan any external world, and, as power which does not yet exist, confronts an inside, an unthinkable or unthought, deeper than any internal world.» [35] That is, in the linkage of the unconnected images in modern cinema, thought is burdened with a «world memory.« Both Benjamin as well as Deleuze thus seek the unthought and the inconceivable of history in an ecstatic thinking, and both seek and see it in the crystal, an achronological temporal structure that conceals within it a shock. «This is the unsummonable in Welles, the undecidable in Resnais, the inexplicable in the Straubs, the impossible in Marguerite Duras, the irrational in Syberberg,» Deleuze explains, and in general with the «absolute contact […] between non-totalizable, asymmetrical outside and inside.« [36] Such a contact is produced by the projection screen in Graham’s «Cinema» as an «irrational cut» (Deleuze) that correlates heterogeneous acoustic and optical situations and time experiences with one another without the resulting tension continuing in action. Referring to the indissolubility of this tension, Deleuze explains: «It makes us grasp, it is supposed to make us grasp, something intolerable and unbearable. Not a brutality as nervous aggression, an exaggerated violence that can always be extracted from the sensory-motor relations in the action-image. […] It is a matter of something too powerful, or too unjust, but sometimes also too beautiful, and which henceforth outstrips our sensory-motor capacities […] It can be a limit-situation, […] but also the most banal, a plain factory, or a wasteland.«7 One might say that Graham’s «Cinema» deals with both at the same time.

In «Lectures,» Graham pointed out that, in his architecture designs, he does what he did in «Time Delay Room» (1974–1976) with the media of mirrors and glass. In both cases, a consciousness of the now is produced in which incommensurable peaks of the present are linked, so that a psychological effect of depth is evoked in which, unexpectedly, the past is reactivated. This effect cannot be understood only by studying the genesis and typology of the forms of construction to which Graham refers: instead, this «external history» in the created situation is placed back in an «inner history,» where it is analyzed as a kind of sublimity. The structures of modern cinema, as Deleuze analyzed them, appear in Graham’s «Cinema» inarchitectonical form, inseparably linked to concepts from the film theory of metapsychology and ideology critique; both experience a mutual intensification which stands in the service of a historical experience, as Benjamin describes it. In the 1980s, film theory from the 1970s was often confronted with the objection that the «cinema viewing subject» is a mere theoretical fiction: it was argued that what was instead needed is a return of film theory to an empirical basis and to actual spectators. One can only hope that this statement of intent with regards to the empirical is not contained by the insight that Graham's «Cinema» can be built and should be built.

© Media Art Net 2004