Man and mchines

From PhalkeFactory

“ The characteristics of the film lie not only in the manner in which man presents himself to mechanical equipment but also in the manner in which, by means of this apparatus, man can represent his environment.” the technology of reproduction of image and sound substituted photography and cinema for the traditional forms of art such as painting and theater, thus providing the masses with a new vocabulary for communication of politics and ideologies. Today, following another technological leap into the realm of electromagnetic reproduction, we are to ask a similar question: How do the dialect of virtual imagery and the idiom of electronic art modify the syntax of our -by now-traditional form of art, the cinema? One is best equipped to project the trajectory of the present state of the new media into the future of cinematic discourse using the tools of history. , I will draw attention to parallels between early cinema and the one which is promised by the advent of the new image technologies; and then, following the path of early cinema’s evolution into the narrative form I have adopted the term hypercinema in order to refer to the formal aspects of a cinema which is equipped by 1) virtual reality and digital simulation at the level of mise-en-scene ), 2) artificial intelligence as an apparatus for capturing or constructing the image, in other words replacing the human eye behind the camera with that of a machine and 3) an interface which allows individual interaction with the narrative. The new digital and electronic technologies are well on their way to expanding the narrative dimension of hypercinema. As we become increasingly accustomed to artificially created virtual realities, cinema's apparently chaotic present recalls in many aspects its origins about a century ago.” the recurrence of this historical cycle opens up a non-linear conception of the past from which the “shards of a future discarded or disavowed” can be discovered The historical precursors of cybercinema can be traced back to exhibition techniques such as Panorama, Fantasmagoria and Kinetoscope. The core resemblance between these image techniques and cybercinema rests not only in the principle mechanisms of their operation but also in the reasons for which they have come to exist, as well as the ways they attempt to hide or display the fantasy. Panorama was invented in 1787 by an Irish painter, Robert Barker, who thought of reproducing a painting on a cylinder encircling the viewer. By overcoming the difficulties of achieving the right perspective, and of mounting and lighting such large pictures, Barker produced a panoramic image of London and patented his invention in 1792.[5] , Panorama changed “the web of relations between things” in the image and “conveyed a new image of the world,” where the single vanishing point of the baroque observer was substituted by a ‘democratized’ point of view, that of the observer; a mobile point of view based on the viewer’s decision to choose the part to which he/she would pay greatest attentionThe panoramic scene intersects the virtual reality of the cybercinema to the extent that it engages the viewer actively. the observer is not placed in front of the image, but surrounded by it, occupying an imaginary space inside the image, “an image which is intended to resemble as closely as possible the experience of being surrounded by or being inside nature in reality.” In contrast to painting, panorama did not address an individual, but a large number of spectators who could simultaneously observe very different scenes of a panorama. by denying the full view of the image at once Panorama forced an increased level of the spectator's attention The DVD release of the movie allows the viewer to view each frame at a time and in doing so to edit the movie sequentially, as he/she desires. Just as Panorama multiplied the perspective and changed the web of relations between the objects of an image, hypercinema multiplies the objects of the viewer’s gaze and allows a non-sequential access to the web of relations between the elements of a plot. Interactive hypercinema and Panorama both invoke the notion of a mobilized and active gaze. The magic lantern has been long christened as one of the fore fathers of cinema and the gothic horror of Fantasmagoria has been carried over in the form of the horror genre (with the aid of special effects technologies). The history of Fantasmagoria in the age of Enlightenment, however, parallels cybercinema in its ability to advertise itself as scientific, rational and at the same time astounding

“I pretend to be neither priest nor magician; I have no wish to deceive you; but I know how to astonish you.” Today’s creators of computer-generated special effects resemble the optics specialists of the Enlightenment era. The purveyors of magical illusions learned that attributing their tricks to explainable scientific processes did not make them any less astounding, because the visual illusion still loomed before the viewer, however demystified by rational knowledge that illusion might be.” The computer-aided cineastes of today also do not seek to hide the elaborate scientific and technological tricks of their trade from the spectators; on the contrary, the very devices of image making and effect generation are now a source of entertainment in their own right.

Although the demystification of the source of shadows and sounds removed the magic lantern technology from the hands of priests and black magic charlatans, it did not stop haunting the imagination of spectators. . However, the invention of Fantasmagoria generated a new pictorial lexicon for artistic and creative expression; one which has since evolved into our current fantasy genre. Similarly, the computer technologies that constitute cybercinema are capable of expanding the horizon of narrated image beyond the boundaries available to celluloid film and optical cameras. The extension of narrative possibilities by means of digital technology may be the most trivial topic for theorization but not the most prevalent one. The most revolutionary aspect of cybercinema and that which differentiates it from traditional cinema is not narrative, but the apparatus of image making On the other hand, cybercinema does not have its root in the physics of optics, nor in photorecording of reality, but rather in creating discrete images of objects and bringing them to life through animation. Cinema was not conceived as a recorder of reality, or an art of audiovisual narrative, nor did it aim for collective spectatorship in its beginnings. Proto-cinematic techniques of the 19th century, such as the Phenakistiscope, the Thaumatrope, the Zootrope, the Praxinoscope, and the Choreutoscope, created ‘moving pictures’ by manual animation of hand painted images.[15] It was the ease of photographic re-production of the image and the coherence of mechanically generated movement, along with the ability of film to project the reality of the modern age, that pushed animation into the periphery of motion pictures, reserving the manual manipulation of the image for the creation of special effects. “[t]he opposition between the styles of animation and cinema [that] defined the culture of the moving image in the twentieth century.” As”[a]nimation foregrounds its artificial character, openly admitting that its images are mere representations.” The graphic visual language of animation is in opposition to the indexical and photographic idiom of film, with its discrete and crudely rendered movement of characters against a stationary and detailed background standing in contrast to the uniform sampling of motion by a film camera. Animation’s construction of space from separate layers of image as opposed to different lengths of lenses are characteristics that led digital cinema as “a particular case of animation which uses live action footage [only] as one of its many elements.” Similar to the animated images of the 19th century, computer generated motion pictures are constructed individually, and the spatial and temporal coherence or discordance of the action in them is a function of the artist’s ability -or desire- to interpolate the matrices of the image(s) with details. On the one hand, he creates the virtual reality of the “, depictions of God, and temporality distorted events, as did Barker's panorama and Robertson's Fantasmagoria. He also inserts enough digital noise to draw attention to the limitations of the operator and the apparatus, as did the animators of the Kinetoscopes. Another striking similarity rests in the genesis of these fantasy-making technologies. , it was primarily the scientific interest of the French Physiologist, Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) that led to the birth of ‘instant’ photography, which made the transition from animation to cinema possible. Marey was interested in the mechanical recording of an individual’s blood circulation. In 1880 he met with Eadward Muybridge, who was commissioned by Stanford university to provide photographic evidence for horses’ locomotion. In advancing Muybridge’s technology of recording animal motion, Marey invented a clocked photographic mechanism so that when the shutter was tripped it made twelve exposures of 1/72nd of a second each. He used this device to record the changes in the shape of birds wings during flight in relation to air resistance, thus making a significant contribution to the knowledge of aerodynamics. Similarly, the age of space exploration, the fascination with genetics of life, and the medical demand for a view of internal images of body’s anatomy and function have necessitated an increase in computer speeds which is beyond any mechanical imagination, while the exponential increase in the computer’s capacity to hold and process information is beyond the imaginable perception of the human brain. It is ironic that as science demystifies the secrets which haunt our imaginations, ‘entertainment’ fills in the gap of the departing God. Science shed a light of ‘optics’ on superstitious fears of the spectators of Fantasmagoria, but the movie theater became the new Mecca of capitalist/Marxist/fascist/feminist gods. And now that science is making modest progress in replicating the physics and physiology of human cognition and conscience, we have embarked on a fantasy ride along artificial intelligence. . In fact, the most significant outcome of appropriation of science by entertainment is not the production of more fascinating fantasies, but more realistic fictions. ”It is precisely when it appears most truthful, most faithful and most in conformity to reality that the image is most diabolical,” “[i]t is in its resemblance, not only analogical but technological, that the image is most immoral and perverse “the irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits, certain intellectual and emotional reactions which bind the consumers... to the producers” and thus, “the products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood.” . While the indexical nature of a film image increases the believability of the photo-realistically captured scene, the awareness of a digitizing apparatus creates a distance between the screen and the spectator which he/she can fill according to his/her own individuality. Furthermore, the relative access to the technological means of digital image production, even if small in scale and capacity, demystifies the almightiness of the studios behind hypercinematic production and bring miniature studios to the personal computers of the general publicwould] usher a deep crisis which will affect society and hence, democracy.”[23] Thus, digital reproduction of works of art raises a similar dichotomy to the one Benjamin associated with the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. On the one hand, the loss of authenticity of the image . On the other hand, by bringing the technology to the reach of the contemporary masses it emancipates the ‘cinem-art’ from its “parasitic dependence” on the “cult” of institutions such as studio systems. Now the question to ask is, how -if at all- would the technology of digital reproduction enhance or modify the politics of cinema? How would it regress or progress the composition of “public spheres”? How does it morph the norms of cognitive experience and how does that mark the faces of culture and society? As Miriam Hansen argues, the persistence of early exhibition practices in the 19th century provided the conditions for an industrial-commercial public sphere which depended on peripheral social groups, and by catering to this public (working class, women, immigrants), cinema functioned “as a matrix of challenging social positions of identity and otherness and as a catalyst for new forms of community and solidarity.”[24] She proposes that today the global electronic media culture stands at a similar juncture, in its ability to form a new matrix of identities, by means of “reproducing itself through ceaseless diversifications.” While the mechanical reproduction of works of art in the 19th century opened the elitist cult of art criticism to the general public, the devices of digital (re)production (such as hand-size digital cameras, cheap editing software, and free-ware image processing and simulating applications) have opened the temples of movie production. Just as the masses of the 19th century could hang a copy of a painting on the walls of their living rooms as an icon of their “expression,” the contemporary masses can hold on to the experience of a mini-studio, with the capabilities of miniaturized digital lighting, editing, sound, camera and mise-en-scene. However, cybercinema also stands the risk of being appropriated by the hegemonizing institutions. by shifting the connection between the physical and the symbolic into the realm of the digital, into the realm of simulation, the image practices are simultaneously shifted out of the domain of the artist and into the domain of the administrators, the ‘packagers’ of the image. The ease of information control and meaning, facilitated by computers and software packages that allow digital manipulation of the image, , pose an anti-democratic threat. He sees no merit in the availability of digital image production, pointing out the power of the publishers and distribution institutions which reserve the full right of editing the raw footage, hence turning the filmmaker into “image peasants.” Narayan Shripad Rajhans alias Bal IM Gandharva made a sensational debut in 1906 as the beauteous maiden Shakuntala in the ashram of Kanvamuni. It was incredible - the transformation from the role of a coy maiden playing with her deer to the bashful lover of Dushyanta and then to the heartbroken fiancee, unaccountably rejected after carrying Dushyanta's lovechild, Indeed, he became a phenomenon on the Marathi stage. It is highly probable that subsequent plays were tailor-made with Bal Gandharva in mind. Be that as it may, these plays suited his talent to a T. Bal Gandharva even became the model and epitome of fashion for the Maharashtrian ladies of his times. Women's fashions stemmed from what he wore on the stage; ornamental jewellery was modelled upon his costume jewellery. Bal Gandharva identified him. self with his roles completely, displaying a fascinating range of character studies: coy maiden, the adoring lover, the devoted partner in life or the long-suffering housewife in his last role in 'Ekach Pyala'in 1955. His music earned him the title of Gandharva (which means' celestial singer') from no less a person than Lokmanya Tilak. Yet, Gandharva was an untutored genius whose music was largely the' highbrow' classical of the puritans of the day. When one analyses the fabric and character of Marathi Natya Sangeet, it is evident that Bal Gandharva helped develop an ear for Hindustani classical music without actually exhorting his listeners. While it is futile to seek a gharana streak in his veins, it is a well-known fact that his destiny as a singer was presided over by the Trimurtis - Bhaskarbuva Bakhale, Govindrao Tembe and Master Krishna - who had affiliations with the Jaipur Gharana. It has been said that even the great Ustad Alladiya Khan frequented the plays of Bal Gandharva because he was fascinated by the soaring flight of Gandharva's mellifluous voice. The popularity that Hindustani classical music enjoys in Maharashtra, is largely due to the aesthetic sense that was developed by stalwarts like Bhaskarbuva, Govindrao and Master Krishna through Bal Gandharva's music. HMV will release Bal Gandharva's 28 famous songs on a twin-cassette pack and a double LP album, to commemorate the singer-actors' birth centenary. The albums were released on June 25, at Ravindra Natya Mandir, Bombay, at a programme where Bal Gandharva's songs were sung by five topmost singers of Maharashtra - Nalini Wabla (Bal Gandharva's daughter), Pandit Ram Marathe, Jayamala Shiledar, Asha Khadilkar and Pandit Kumar Gandharva.