Unformed Sound in Multimedia Composition: The Šarapovas Project Silver Dust

The idea of the presentation is based on the Deleuzian concept of the deterritorialisation of refrain, using unformed sound and an investigation into how this type of sound works in the multimedia project Silver Dust. The experimental video project, created by Lithuanian artist Andrius Šarapovas, is interdisciplinary, comprising music, dance, and poetry (Nivinskas, Juodkaite, Navakas, and others). The uniqueness of this project is that Šarapovas has been interested in Deleuze’s philosophy for a few years and framed the composition by following some ideas of Deleuze. In the video project Silver Dust, different art lines run separately, parallel, or in different directions, are full of cracks, and at the same time create unity through the invisible links. The project is compounded from twelve short pieces.

How does Deleuze and Guattari’s mention of “broken tones” and “raw sounds” in What is Philosophy? stimulate the appearance of the art’s machine, vibration, and clinches between the different art lines in the composition Silver Dust? How much raw sound and how much sound modification during the sound editing deterritorialises the refrain of composition, mentioned in Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus (1987)? How does this machine erase the boundary between natural and artificial unformed sound in music and produce clinches with dance and poetry? Is it the work of a dark precursor, described in Deleuze’s early work Difference and Repetition?

We don’t pretend to identify where the pick of interconnection and resonance becomes obvious and which unformed sound is of crucial importance. Everyone perceives the appearance of resonance slightly differently. Unformed sounds are welcomed into the composition; later sounds are recreated by design, engineering, and montage. As Šarapovas stated in an interview, “When everything is said and all harmony, rhythmic things step aside, there is nothing in front of you; the new briefing and intensity for creation approaches”; the pretext for that is raw sound (in a wrong way, an old double bass sound, a phone call, and the sound of an opening door are played). These sounds from one side are the cracks of a line, a bridge to counterpoints and a condition for experimenting with the intensity of frequencies while searching for deterritorialisation. They are also clinches, in Deleuze and Guattari’s words first of all—flesh, which leads to blocs of sensation, percepts, and affects and waiting for resonance. “Flesh is only the developer which disappears in what it develops: the compound of sensation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 183). Unexpected and unformed sounds inspire the performance’s team, and first of all Šarapovas reacts to the moment “the one which ‘is lacking in its place’ as it lacks its own identity” (Deleuze 1994, 120). That provokes new turns in the art machine. Raw sounds quiet down and, to the contrary, some musical sounds are re-created into a loud noise, experimenting with different pitch and rhythm in the process of sound editing. Consequently, sounds are held, as Deleuze and Guattari state, in their “extinction,” “production and development” by the multimedia art machine. Moreover, Šarapovas tries to compound raw sound/noise in music and poetry and the raw view/noise in image to allow their interconnection during montage, opening conditions for vibrations and couplings between heterogeneous elements, as well as division. “All that, however, would be possible only because the invisible precursor conceals itself and its functioning, and at the same time conceals the in-itself or true nature of difference” (Deleuze 1994, 119).

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.

Digital Folds, or Cinema’s Automated Brain

The digital etching of the film image brings forth what this image already contains in a virtual state. It submits the linear, discrete flow of space and time to a modulating wave that reconstitutes this flow as a new entity. The digital thus gives new birth to the cinema by extracting, intensifying, and thus liberating certain qualities that were repressed or concealed under the requirements of a classical epistemology.

My presentation will look at two digital experimental videos by multimedia artist Gregg Biermann, Magic Mirror Maze (2013) and Iterations (2014), respectively based on the films The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947) and Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954). I will consider these digital videos as instances of an algorithmic appropriation of cinema that is modelled on Leibniz/Deleuze’s concept of the fold and its fundamental double tendency towards continuation and differentiation. The foldings and unfoldings of film images in these works modulate an aesthetic structure that still is, and yet is no longer, cinematic. Through a combinatorial assemblage of images that breaks away from both classical and nonclassical forms of film editing, Magic Mirror Maze and Iterations part from the time-based figural expression that is cinema by carrying to a literal extreme the pursuit of the time-image: to make peaks of present and sheets of past coexist in a single image.

Applying rigorous algorithmic modulations that seem to resonate immanently with the aesthetic and conceptual principles of their respective films, these videos carry out a double, indivisible process—on the one hand splitting the self-contained film shots, on the other hand forcing into these split images a temporality of impossible simultaneity. This new temporality of simultaneous wholeness suggests a possibility that is also characteristic of Leibniz’s monad: the expression of the whole within the singular.

Algorithmic modulations are programmed in advance and applied to the film from the outside, and yet, once this programme has been entered, human intervention is at an end, and the automated code is left to do its work on and with the images in ways that are entirely autonomous and indeterminate. The digital code paradoxically releases a multiplicity of images in a state of continuous variation and immanent modulation. Transitions from moment to moment are almost imperceptible, yet they ceaselessly arise from the trajectory formed by the images themselves.

It is in the inherent capacity of moving images to bind time and affect together that we can identify the unique ability of cinema to liberate and intensify affective potentialities. But the digital can go further in some respects. As opposed to the arborised paradigms of editing identified with classical and disjunctive styles in cinema, the serialised, algorithmic style of digital composition preserves the chaoid states of the brain and precludes the formation of familiar paths of recognition. When following a logic of experimentation, the digital appropriation of cinema performs with exactitude the task that Deleuze assigns to art: to give rise to a composed, sensory chaos, a materiality that is synonymous with sensation.

Making the Digital Spiritual: A Research Experiment in Art Education

The point of departure of our research is that the digital screen, just like Deleuze’s concept of cinema, can be perceived as an automaton. This means that it automatically creates a particular kind of attention, “producing a shock to thought, communicating vibrations to the cortex, touching the nervous and cerebral system directly” (Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2. The Time-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989, 156).

In the everydayness of life, it could be argued that the digital screen produces not only scripts and algorithms but also culturally coded events that are not necessarily unproblematic. A particular kind of loss of identity can characterise the screen experience. An example of this is that the individual, by means of the screen, imitates patterns like that of the selfie, producing and consuming this or that particular “I.” Simultaneously, however, the individual does not know anymore who or what this “I” is or could be, nor how this “I” has to relate to the world, which also increasingly receives its meaning from within tethered digital time and space.

At the same time, the digital screen offers new possibilities to study the world and oneself. The intention of this research is to look for the conditions that make this possible. This poses the question of how the screen can function as a spiritual automaton. According to Deleuze, the power of cinema does not simply lie in the logic of a medium that supposedly yields its potentiality automatically. Rather, because of and from within cinema, the spectator instead of imitating life can and has to reset it in a way. Deleuze’s research into cinema can be interpreted as a quest to find the conditions that allow the automaton to become spiritual, a question we revisit in connection with the digital screen. Looking artistically at the screen can be interpreted as a pedagogy in relation to this object; that is, research concerning conditions and particular kinds of limitations that produce new ways of thinking that cannot be compared with mere communication and information. In that sense, the question arises of how experiences with the digital screen can disclose particular forms of thinking and open up new ways of being in the world that otherwise might fall into oblivion.

In this presentation/paper therefore we want to present a particular research project we have set up, in which we want to experiment with the potentiality of the digital screen. In the project we explore how it is possible to think about an online course in which the internet is understood not as an efficient tool to enhance one’s individual development but as a technology that has a particular materiality, and in its materiality is operative in itself. We want to do experiments in which the virtuality of the internet becomes real/material.

Instead of just catching attention, we do experiments in which we try to generate attention, which implies a slowing down of digital time. This is part of a way of thinking of art education as a collective practice that allows inhabiting the matter at hand.

When Cinema Stills

Cinema and photography are forms of figurative expression based on time. Cinema’s root is the register of movement and duration; the capture of an instant and its continuity in time is the founding principle of photography. When the constituent elements of cinema and photography are placed in contact, the capacity of a film image is revealed as a form that shows us time in its foundation.

We want to display, through Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy, how the collision between moving and still image inside the cinematic form suggests non-chronological dimensions of time, which assist us to go deep into the experience of its perception.

There are several ways through which bring us closer to the photographic and cinematic experience of time: the snapshot of a moment that is part of a development, the register of a duration throughout the performance of a movement, the inscription of memory and recollection inside the discourse, the time of reading and the time of the act of realisation. All of the above, through mechanical capture, the allusion to it or its subjective perception, are forms of aesthetic delight.

Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema and his conceptual tools are useful to understand how this capacity of images is developed. The key terms of this analysis are “image-time,” “pure optical situations,” and, especially, “crystal-image.”

Still and moving images show us time in its foundation and place ourselves inside the denyal that cinema is always developed in the present and that chronological time is a spatial deployment.

We will try to make an epistemological and phenomenological approach that comes from the collision of still and moving images. Our approach runs through the study of the inclusion of the constituent element of cinema—the still image—in its discourse. Thus, we consider this fact as a source of knowledge in the study of the image. The stillness of an image produces tenses, which are not printed in the discourse. When these tenses are embraced, they help the spectator to create a more active and less guided perception of the events. For this purpose, we will refer to three films, which show this dialectic in different ways: Les plages d’Agnès (directed by Agnès Varda, 2008), Tren de sombras (directed by José Luis Guerín, 1997) and Alice in den Städten (directed by Wim Wenders, 1974). In these examples, cinema is reflected on itself through the relation between the illusion of movement and the act of showing its basic genetic element, the photography or photogram. This is done by the deconstruction of the form, which leads to distancing and therefore to the rejection of representation forms based on transparency. Cinema looks at itself and reveals its mechanism through which its own realities are created. In this way cinematographic art develops new spaces and new perceptions to unfold reality as a new matter.

To accomplish successfully our premises, we decided to develop the main part of our research through a visual essay. This clash between moving images, still images, and our discourse leads us to go deeper into our artistic research as a filmmaker. Thus, after this research we have made two short film essays, which crash still images, moving images, and sound into one another (https://vimeo.com/128908099).