A Philosopher’s Time Travel Between Science and Fiction

Cinema is a major example of what Deleuze calls a “shock to thought” (Deleuze 1989, 156). Instead of being predetermined by an “image of thought” with its various implicit moral and representational presuppositions (Deleuze 1994, 129–67), Deleuze tries to expose himself fully to this shock that forces philosophers to think anew. In his cinema books, Deleuze analyzes how films deliver a new concept of image, which includes time, leaving all forms of representation behind: the “movement-image” that expresses time indirectly and the “time-image” that expresses time directly. Deleuze, who considers himself also as a science fiction author in the preface of Difference and Repetition (1994, xx–xxi), steps into the role of a “dark precursor” (ibid., 119) questioning the future of the image and our thinking about time.

My presentation will focus on the “series of time,” a third type of image that Deleuze briefly mentions in the second cinema book (Deleuze 1989, 55). To accomplish this task, I will analyse a complex science fiction thriller that gained a cult status over the years, Shane Carruth’s film Primer (2004). I argue that the film clarifies what Deleuze means by the “series of time,” insofar as Primer connects the time machine of the plot closely to a paradoxical element circulating between series. Reading Primer from the perspective of Deleuze’s cinema books also allows further consequences. First, showing how the time machine works in the film, the “series of time” can be clearly distinguished from the “time-image,” as instantiated in Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime je t’aime (1968). Second, the “series of time” allows us to reconnect Deleuze’s film-philosophy with Difference and Repetition. Third, the time machine in the film exposes principles of identity and resemblance as artificially constructed “primary” differences, thus supporting our understanding of Deleuze’s philosophical practice as a dark precursor itself. Fourth, the series of time opens up a new dimension of time beyond the succession model, as the powers of the false confront various possible worlds inconsistent with one another but sharing the same universe (the paradoxes of time travel). Finally, the series of time draws a line of flight from the newly elaborated notion of image toward the unseen interval between images. The shock of cinema, as the falsifying, forceful (self-)affection of time, forecasts new philosophical practices. For this reason, I intend in my presentation to adopt Deleuze’s somehow futuristic narration, oscillating between stringently arguing science and intentionally misleading fiction.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.

Slowness as a Pure Form af Time: Tsai Ming-Liang’s Stray Dogs

In recent years, the term “slow cinema,” often circulated simply as a buzzword for a trend of global art cinema, has been theorised in more sophisticated ways. Despite the differences in their focuses, the recent theories of slow cinema have a common tendency to highlight how slow cinema, by slowing down the pace of life and restoring the supposedly insignificant details of life, challenges the accelerated pace of global capitalism and thereby renders the viewing subject more contemplative. While this form of challenge is significant, however, it runs the risk of endorsing the neoliberal packaging of slow life. Is slow cinema now subsumed under the economy of global cinema, albeit under its niche market? Would it be possible to rethink the notion of slow cinema in a way that undoes neoliberal economy and at the same time creates a new mode of affective life?

This paper retheorises slow cinema by resituating Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema in the context of his theory of the three syntheses of time, as well as in the historical context of neoliberalism. In this retheorisation, I show how the limitations of recent discourses on slow cinema can be attributed to their exclusive reliance on the Bergsonian second synthesis of time and how slow cinema at its most radical can be theorised as a type of time-image characterised by the Nietzschean third synthesis of time or its pure form of time. In this alternative theory of slow cinema, I would argue, slowness is no longer regarded as the degree to which the plenitude of life is restored, but rather as that to which time returns the power of becoming and dissolves the homeostasis of life. In this sense, slow cinema ceases to serve the neoliberal valorisation of affective life and instead produces, in Deleuze’s terms, a pure form of time that can bring affective life beyond (or below) this valorisation. From this perspective, I also argue how Malaysian Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang’s recent film Stray Dogs (2013) radicalises this power of slowness. By comparing an impoverished family’s and an upper-middle-class family’s slow life, the film debunks the packaged “mainstream” slow cinema and, instead, suggests alternative images of slowness in a way that resituates Glauber Rocha’s aesthetic of hunger in the context of neoliberalism. This alternative slowness is especially embodied in the impoverished family members’ instinctual bodily attitudes, such as those of sleeping, eating, urinating, and weeping, as they are shown in excessively extended durations. This excess enables slowness to break with the second synthesis of time and, instead, to constitute a pure form of time that forces the viewer to cross the limit of neoliberal governmentality against the now “mainstream” slow cinema’s tendency to compel the viewer to “contemplate” life in its economic sense.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London: Athlone.

—. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lazzarato, Maurizio. 2015. Governing by Debt. Translated by Joshua David Jordan. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e).

Lim, Song Hwee. 2014. Tsai Ming-liang and a Cinema of Slowness. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Rocha, Glauber. 1997. “An Aesthetic of Hunger.” In New Latin American Cinema, edited by Michael T. Martin, 2 vols., 1:59–61. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Schoonover, Karl. 2012. “Wastrels of Time: Slow Cinema’s Laboring Body, the Political Spectator, and the Queer.” Framework 53 (1): 65–78.

L’image-Temps

En juin 2015, j’ai présenté à Sheffield (EMS15) une perspective d’analyse fondée sur l’utilisation des concepts d’image-mouvement et d’image-temps, introduits par Deleuze pour décrire l’évolution du cinéma au 20e siècle. Considérer une pièce de musique acousmatique comme une image-temps revient à dire que la musique ne serait plus seulement un art du temps (dans lequel le temps serait articulé par le mouvement), mais pourrait laisser de côté l’articulation du temps au profit de son déploiement dans l’espace.

En parallèle de ce travail musicologique, j’ai produit une série de quatre pièces acousmatiques. Il s’agissait aussi de montrer qu’en plus de pouvoir être exporté pour l’analyse d’autres arts, les concepts deleuziens peuvent servir d’inspiration pour la créativité esthétique. Il s’agit de mettre en avant une conception moléculaire de la musique, non pas pour rejeter la conception molaire de la musique comme art du temps (linéarité, contrastes, tensions / détentes, énergie), mais pour mettre en avant une autre possibilité, peu explorée en-dehors des drones et de la musique de transe : celle de la musique où rien ne se passe, où quelque chose est donné à voir plutôt qu’à vivre par sympathie kinesthésique.

Les trois premières explorent différents aspects de la durée, de l’espace et du silence, dans un cadre cinématographique : même dans le cas d’une diffusion sur acousmonium, les pièces doivent être diffusées sur le plan frontal (sauf la quatrième pièce quadriphonique).

La première pièce, Funambules et autres abstractions (5’), donne au silence un rôle prégnant, une existence propre. Il entoure les fragments sonores apparaissant comme des percées dans le silence plutôt que des sons articulés (image optique/sonore). La forme n’y est pas téléologique, mais plutôt fragmentée, rhizomatique (image-cristal).

La deuxième pièce, Les lèvres d’Isis (2’) est extrêmement proche du silence complet, permettant aux sons « parasites » de la salle d’y prendre part. La pièce révèle l’érotisme de ces sons. La forme est linéaire, bien que fragmentée, et chacun des fragments constitue une image lisible, un système de relations subtiles.

La troisième pièce, Le dormeur du val (3’), articule quatre identités spatiales, mettant en avant la distance entre l’auditeur et le son articulé. Encore une fois, les sons apparaissent comme sur un écran de cinéma, sans que l’auditeur y soit immergé. La forme est rhizomatique.

Alors que la quadriphonie et l’espace tridimensionnel sont généralement utilisés, en musique acousmatique, pour générer des mouvements immersifs dans l’espace, elle sert dans la quatrième pièce, Une des chambres n’aurait presque pas de fenêtre (10’), à mettre en place une identité spatiale : le haut-parleur arrière-gauche est notamment utilisé exclusivement pour diffuser un texte en morse stylisé.

De manière globale, il s’agit de proposer une conception systémique, rhizomatique, non-téléologique et non-causale de la forme musicale, par opposition aux conceptions dominantes qui, en s’inspirant parfois des propositions des sciences cognitives, mettent l’accent sur l’articulation, la continuité, la dialectique et la rhétorique. Le même médium peut proposer, à condition que l’auditeur veuille bien s’y prêter, une autre manière d’écouter.

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).