time-space expansion

Cheap tape recorders, old televisions, blurred videos that are the copy of a copy of a copy—these are the material distortions endemic to the reproduction of media goods in situations of poverty and illegality, and they shape the ways these media take on cultural value and act on individuals and groups. The dialectic of technological breakdown and repair imposes its own cultural experience of modernity, an alternative speeding up and stasis, and a world where gaps in space and time are continually annihilated and reinforced.

Brian Larkin. “Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy.” Public Culture 16, no. 2 (2004): 310.

May Sky is a slowly-unfolding visual novel made by Japanese company Scrubbing, translated lovingly, painstakingly and slowly by Irene Ying. Ying writes about her translation process, “Remembering previous adventures, I reread May Sky multiple times, but not enough — I failed many times to realize I was setting up for the next scene. Possibly the hardest lesson for me to learn was listening to the voices of the speakers while I read…. all this was one very long lesson to me in listening to the piece and the characters inside. If I’d had more time that’s what I would have tried to focus on more. Since that was not the case, I will be spending some time after the release to study the original and the translation more.” You can download it from Insani, the hobbyist group Ying works with, which specializes in the “localization” of visual novels.

May Sky: Minori Kamiake at a piano in a Shinto temple and in the thoughts of Haruki Mizoguchi.

May Sky: Minori Kamiake at a piano in a Shinto temple and in the thoughts of Haruki Mizoguchi.

Let us … look at that land, where, although not perhaps its birthplace, the cinema found the soil in which to grow to unprecedented and unimagined dimensions.

We know from whence the cinema appeared first as a worldwide phenomenon. We know the inseparable link between the cinema and the industrial development of America. We know how production, art and literature reflect the capitalist breadth and construction of the United States of America. And we also know that American capitalism finds its sharpest and most expressive forms in the American cinema….

[Yet] in the [American] metropolis, … the high-powered automobiles are so jammed together that they can’t move much faster than snails creeping from block to block …. As you make your merely minute progress amidst a tightly packed glacier of other humans, sitting in similarly high-powered and imperceptibly moving machines, you have plenty of time to ponder the duality behind the dynamic face of America, and the profound interdependence of this duality in everybody and everything American…. as your eyes wander over the smooth surfaces of the skyscrapers …. you suddenly realize what “trick” the skyscrapers play on you: although they have many floors, each floor is quite low. Immediately the soaring skyscraper appears to have been built of a number of small-town buildings, piled up on top of each other….

The threads of both Americas are interwoven in the style and personality of [D.W.] Griffith–as in the most fantastic of his own parallel montage sequences.

– Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Translated by Jay Leyda. New York: Harcourt, 1979, pp. 195-198.

For an innovative analysis of Eisenstein’s “film poetics” , see David Bordwell’s The Cinema of Eisenstein. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1993.

How and why is it that the advent of a world market, implying a degree of unity at the level of the planet, gives rise to a fractioning of space — to proliferating nation states, to regional differentiation and self-determination, as well as to multinational states and transnational corporations which, although they stem this strange tendency towards fission, also exploit it in order to reinforce their own autonomy? Towards what space and time will such interwoven contradictions lead us?

– Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (1974). Donald Nicholson-Smith, trans. (Oxford: 1991), p. 351.

In whatever attitude it may be running, a carriage, like a ship derives from its movement a mysterious and complex grace which is very difficult to note down in shorthand. The pleasure which it affords the artist’s eye would seem to spring from the series of geometric shapes which this object already so intricate, whether it be ship or carriage, cuts swiftly and successively in space.

Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life” 1863. In Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (London: Phaidon, 2006), p. 40.

Behold a universe so immense that I am lost in it. I no longer know where I am. I am just nothing at all. Our world is terrifying in its insignificance.

– Bernard de Fontenelle quoted in Edward Robert Harrison. Masks of the Universe: Changing Ideas on the Nature of the Cosmos. 2nd ed ed. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003: 101.

Adorable spring has lost its fragrance!

And Time engulfs me minute by minute,
As the immense snow a stiffening corpse;
I survey from above the roundness of the globe
And I no longer seek there the shelter of a hut.

Avalanche, will you sweep me along in your fall?

– Excerpt from Charles Baudelaire, “Le Goût du Néant”. 1861. From William Aggeler, trans., The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954). To read a complete version in both French and English go to fleursdumal.org’s “Le Goût du Néant”. Or hear some of his other poems in French at fleursdumal.org.

To spread out the last moment so that it lasts almost through a whole act, has been the ambition of many a master of the film. The axe is raised, the fuse is lit and then … what happens between two battings of an eyelid? A rushing series of shots show the feverish working of human consciousness.

– Balázs, Béla. Theory of the Film; Character and Growth of a New Art [1945]. New York: Dover Publications, 1970, p. 131.

The first new world discovered by the film camera in the days of the silent film was the world of very small things visible only from very short distances, the hidden life of little things. By this the camera showed us not only hitherto unknown objects and events: the adventures of beetles in a wilderness of blades of grass, the tragedies of day-old chicks in a corner of the pultry-run, the erotic battles of flowers and the poetry of miniature landscapes. It brought us not only new themes. By means of the close-up the camera in the days of the silent film revealed also the hidden mainsprings of a life which we had thought we already knew so well. Blurred outlines are mostly the result of our insensitive short-sightedness and superficiality. We skim over the teeming substance of life. The camera has uncovered that cell-life of the vital issues in which all great events are ultimately conceived: for the greatest landslide is only the aggregate of the movements of single particles. A multitude of close-ups can show us the very instant in which the general is transformed into the particular. The close-up has not only widened our vision of life, it has also deepened it. In the days of silent film it not only revealed new things, but showed us the meaning of the old.

Bela Balazs. Theory of the Film; Character and Growth of a New Art. New York: Dover Publications, 1970, pp. 54-55.