Durations of Knowing: Towards Attentive Anthropological Filmmaking

To elaborate a critique on the affiliation between anthropological filmmaking and the colonial projects of the West, we attempt to shift the attention from the conditions of representation to the questioning of the role representation plays in the techniques of power and domination. Our contribution will try to provide some examples that allow representation to be moved to a secondary position of importance and that highlight nonrepresentational features of film practice that still allow for a critical perspective.

Anthropological film and image production can be characterised (1) as a practice of perceiving and recording visible forms of doing and (2) as being in a direct relationship to knowledge on both sides of a recording device. One might say that such films are knowledge records. One of the general characteristics of film is duration; thus, anthropological films might be said to present durational knowledge. Our contribution will discuss the relationship between film practice and practices of understanding and comprehension as determined by two qualities: duration and attention.

Contrary to identifying the practices of understanding as constructing an immediate concept of a real temporal event, we will attempt to outline some characteristics of durational knowledge. We will rely on the concept of duration as a qualitative multiplicity elaborated by Bergson and Deleuze. According to them, multiplicity is heterogeneous and continuous, inexpressible in a unified manner. What is most important about knowledge as multiplicity is that it does not resemble the result of its implementation, and what is most important about film as a multiplicity is that it does not resemble what was filmed. For Deleuze, conditioned practices are empirical and individuated while the condition of this individuation will be different from the former, and thus impersonal and pre-individual. This allows us to say that knowledge and film practices are not representations of reality, rather they are a differential element of the reality without identity, they are virtualities.

While singling out virtualities, anthropological film also follows corporeal events. It attends a situation, a thing, or a subject. Attention is an event of following and of creation of relation, meaning that one pays attention to the others’ attention. Relations of attention are intensive, so they can hardly be accumulated and measured, but they can be described by their degree of power. We will present these two notions based on our own film work and compare them with the speculative use of images by French sociologist of science Roger Caillois.

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