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Of all the primary components of the new digital media in the 1990s, graphic design became the core discipline. Why? Because it integrated  three of the other core disciplines: typography |(the design, selection and layout of letterforms and text), photography (the creation, selection and processing of photographic images), and illustration (the whole range of graphics from line illustrations through to technical, information graphics). Towards the end of the 1990s graphic design began to integrate animation, sound and the moving image |(through software like Flash, Adbobe After Effects and other post-production film-compositing and editing software. But where did ‘graphic design’ in its modern iteration, come from?

 

Graphic Design is a twentieth-century discipline arising from the 500 year old traditions of Printing and Publishing, and the innovations of  advertising design, and photography in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, graphic design is characterised by the work of several keynote designers, and notable among these are Peter Behrens, El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, Raoul Hausmann, Piet Zwart, Karel Tiege, Fortunado Despero, Lazlo Moholy Nagy, Jan Tschicholde, – and I will try to provide mini-monographs on all these key designers in further posts to mediartinnovation.

 

In this post I want to sketch something of the pivotol role of graphic design in the 1920s, as designers were grappling with the demands of mass publishing, advertising, propaganda, new art forms like Cubism, DADA, and constructivism, and the emerging sciences of information design, especially in the work of pioneers like Otto and Marie Neurath (Isotypes), Harry Beck (London Underground Map), and Paul Otlet (information science).

 

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media innovation timeline sample 1983-85

This is an attempt at creating a chronofile (Buckminster Fuller’s word for a timeline-cum-archive) that is also a concept map (Joseph Novak’s term for a graphical tool for the representation of knowledge) linking important developments together into a narrative tracing the evolution of 21st century media.

How to Make Transmedia Stories (briefing paper)

how to make transmedia stories_2013

Transmedia Narratives – a briefing:

What is Transmedia? (answer: the end of mono media)

This is a phenomenon that, while it has been emerging for most of the history of modern mass media (eg since the early 20th century), has not only become more broadly feasible, but technically very sophisticated only in the last couple of decades. It is an approach to multimedia storytelling in the digital age. It is a media-strategy that can be both top-down and bottom-up. It can encourage multiple authorship or collaborative authorship and participation. It can encompass social media, broadcast media, print, video, performance, photography, illustration, typography, comic-strip, animation. Importantly the consideration of how your otherwise linear programme (be it a documentary, a dramatic play, a television series) is situated and optimised within a transmedia environment is now an essential part of the commissioning consideration for broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4. They encourage the planning for a multi-channel or transmedia approach to programme-making and programme delivery – encouraging a broad spread of media to encourage audience-participation, the creation of fanzines, blogs etc, and the general ‘viral’ (word-of-mouth/audience-led marketing. It is based upon the belief that the broadcast media, while still immensely powerful, have to be seen in the context of the interactive media they are packaged within – whether its the red button on a DTV set, a hyperlink, a media-player, tablet, phone or a games console. Implicit in this is the conjecture that different media attract a wider spread of audience, and that different media can be optimised for the most successful communication, (Consider the synergy between a map and a guidebook, then consider how a tablet or smart phone app integrates the two with GPS position-finding).

The project: 

Learning Objectives: By the end of this project you should be able to analyse a narrative and construct a transmedia presentation from the narrative. You should be more aware of transmedia narrative, to be able to cite successful examples of this kind of narrative; be able to develop a strategy for the further construction of transmedia narratives; be aware of the history of transmedia, intermedia, multiple-media, mixed media (etc) in performance art, curatorial design, installation art, and its roots in DADA performance, in Cabaret, at Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), in Happenings, and in art movements and groups  like Fluxus, Situationist International, Archigram, Independent Group, Oulippo, EAT, (etc).

Methodology: Pre-Project research: Please make sure that you have read my briefing paper/pdf. Read at least one book from the bibliography below. I want you to be ready to present your preliminary research (i) your chosen example of transmedia narrative could be historical or contemporary), (ii) prepare the components you will need to develop your own ransmedia narrative based on your personal story – your career and life so far; (iii) prepare ideas for a map or diagram of the transmedia ‘opportunity-space’ or ‘media environment’.

Project methodology (see The Brief-Main Project below):  introductory talks and pdf scoping documents, individual tutorials and group seminars. Short overview illustrated lectures on aspects of transmedia art.

a major project – the preparation, production and presentation of a transmedia narrative of your own devising; a group critique of the presentations with defence by each student; post-project tutorials.

Post-Project: Document your research and your practical work (your personal transmedia story) as a case study, identifying your aims, methods, results, reflection on the presentation of your work, feedback from lecturers, colleagues, etc.

The Brief: Main Project – in three parts:

1, present an example of a transmedia narrative that most impresses you from your historical research – show us the components how they ‘link’ or how they could link (1).

Produce a transmedia narrative based upon your own personal story – we want to know your history, your aspirations, your tastes and preferences, your career, your skillset, and your plans. We want to know more about you, and we want this presented to us in a set of transmedia inter-related and interlinked sub-narratives.

research, design and produce a Transmedia map – a map of the ‘opportunity-space’ of this interesting narrative strategy – produce this as a concept-map, a Prezi, an information-graphic – or in any form you want as long as it indicates the main and peripheral media and media-technologies that can be surveyed when planning a transmedia event.

Criteria: Your work will be judged by:

(1) how well you present your research on your chosen narrative

(2) how well it communicates its main aim (to communicate your story to your peers)

how well you have chosen appropriate media to tell your story

How the narrative is ‘branded’ or otherwise stylistically connected

How a linear story works in this non-linear treatment

(3) the transmedia map should indicate as much as you can of the entire possibility-space open to transmedia directors.

Issues to address:

the construction and analysis of your story

which media in the entire new/old media-mix are suitable for presentation of your narrative?

How will the story segments be branded, linked or fused into a coherent aesthetic whole or seamless user-experience?

Will the narrative rely on a central video/television programme, a website, a central text/pdf?

notes:

Consider that many transmedia narratives existed before hyper-linking: examples include the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ short stories and novellas about Tarzan of the Apes, Jerry Siegel and Bud Shuster’s Superman (countless iterations). These were then remediated through comics and comic books, television serials, radio plays and serials,  computer gamesand eventually though several feature films. Consider how you mioght plan a transmedia narrative based upon these extant media elements – how would you pull these together into a hyperlinked whole – a coherent transmedia narrative? What else might you need to add to the available media components?

Consider your choice for the first part of this project – most of the fictional heroes and villains of the past 200 years  or more would lend themselves to transmediation. Consider – Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, The Lone Ranger, Superman, Batman, the Marvel comic heroes, Mickey Mouse and other Disney cartoon characters, Popeye, TinTin, etc…

(2) I have suggested constructing a transmedia narrative based upon your own life and your aspirations, as you already have the research as it were. An interesting example of how to construct a layered narrative using html5 is Chris Milk’s The Wilderness Downtown

(http://thewildernessdowntown.com) take a look. Milk does something very interesting here – constructing a personalised generic life story.

consider how far fanzines, parody and homage play in the bottom-up expansion of the transmedia central theme. How do criticism, endorsement and marketing extend the transmedia environment?

One of the earliest examples of transmedia storytelling is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

Importantly, please consider how more recent extensions of the digital media ecology affect the transmedia story space. For example: how do CCTV, bio-sensors, position sensors, face-recognition systems, mms, twitter, projection-mapping, smart textiles, GPS, WIFI, augmented-reality, QR codes, Vimeo and Youtube, Facebook and other social media, fit within the transmedia opportunity-space?

bibliography

Marsha Kinder: Playing with Power in Movies, Television and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles University of California Press 1993

Henry Jenkins: Convergence Culture Where Old and New Media Collide NY University Press 2006

Tom Dowd et al: Transmedia – One story-Many Media Taylior and Francis 2013

Lev Manovitch: Software Takes Command (2013)

Read my pdf of work in progress on Digital Media Basics:

digital media basics _2

The Story of Experimental Film

by Bob Cotton, June 2012

“The measure of an artist’s originality, put in its simplest terms. is the extent to which his selective emphasis deviates from the conventional norm, and establishes new standards of relevance. All great innovations which inaugerate a new era, movement or school, consist in sudden shifts of a previously neglected aspect of experience, some blacked-out range of the existential spectrum. The decisive turning-points in the history of every art form…uncover what has already been there: they are “revolutionary”, that is destructive and constructive, they compel us to revalue our values and impose new sets of rules on the eternal game.”

Arthur Koestler: The Act of Creation (1964)

Koestler’s 1964 book is about inspiration, innovation and creativity, and it was the first major treatment of this subject in the 20th century. His central point about creativity is that it doesn’t happen if you just do nothing. In order to be really creative you must first of all be immersed in your subject – you must be full of it. Then your personal insight or intuition can work on something ‘tangible’ – you can find an original perspective on the subject – you can provide your ‘selective emphasis’, perhaps on some ‘previously neglected aspect of experience’. More recently Margaret Boden has pointed out that discovery is akin to creativity – and it can have two results – discoveries that are new to the individual (these are common as we learn about things), and discoveries that are new to mankind (these are rare). Creativity can be ordered on the same scale – we often feel really pleased when we make a song, a painting or a story (or a film, or any sort of mediated experience), but when this is put into the historical context of the artefact (ie compared with what everyone else is doing), then we humbly realise that maybe it isn’t so original after all. Or maybe we are really pleased that we have got somewhere close to originality (and – what joy when we discover that other people recognise this too!)

“(Ettiene-Jules) Marey made it possible for the avant-garde to become receptive to new values: instead of escape into the past, the unreal or the dream, there was the double cult of machines and their propulsion ….inspiring Giacomo Balla & Luigi Russolo, Marinetti, and ultimately Duchamp (1912 Nude Decending a Staircase)

– Etienne-Jules Marey : a passion for the trace, by François Dagognet

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Etienne-Jules Marey: chrono-photographe 1882

The history of experimental film is therefor heavily weighted towards the early experiments – simply, there was much more to innovate and invent then! So what we take for granted as devices ‘natural’ to film – the edit, the flashback, intercut parallel stories, the closeup, medium close-up, long-shot, positioning or location shot, the pan, tracking, back-projection, double-exposure, special effects – all these techniques had to be ‘invented’ by the early film-makers, and this has justifiably made these men and women famous.

Credit for the invention of motion pictures is usually given to the American Thomas Alva Edison (1891) , or to the French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere (1895). The Lumiere brothers have the best claim because their technology used a camera-projector technology that produced a projected image for an audience of many people, while Edison’s first machine was a ‘peep-show’ machine.

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1891 Edison – Kinetoscope ‘peep-show’ motion pictures for one

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1894 Edison: Kinetoscope Parlour in New York City

Of course these machines only had an audience of one, so  it wasn’t long before Edison was developing a film camera and projector system – one machine could reach audiences of a few hundred! in 1896 Edison launched first the Vitascope then the Kinetoscope Projector.

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Auguste and Louis Lumiere: Cinematographe 1895


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The other main contenders for the invention of the Movies were August and Louis Lumiere, with their combined camera-projector launched in 1895. Their ingenious invention was commercially supported by a range of films shot by themselves (including the famous Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat), as well as talented new directors, including the first woman film director Alice Guy Blaché:


Alice Guy Blaché: La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy) – first narrative filmImage
Alice Guy Blache’s film The Cabbage Fairy is widely regarded as the first narrative film.
But with this smorgasbord of different inventions in the technology of film-making, viewing and projection, what was actually drawing the audiences into the Kinetoscope Parlours, amusement arcades, and viewing theatres (no proper ‘cinemas’ until 1904), was the films themselves – often no more than a minute or two long. Alice Guy Blaché  was the first female film director that we know of, and the author of the first narrative film – predating those of Lumiere by a few months.It fell to Blaché to make the first narrative film – the first attempt to tell a story with motion pictures. Although only a minute long, Blaché’s film was the first one of several hundred thousand storytelling movies.

Just to recap the history of the technology of motion pictures, takes us back over the 19th Century, beginning with the optical toys like the Thaumatrope:

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1824 John Ayrton Paris: the Thaumatrope

 – the images on either side of a spinning disc fuse in the viewer’s perception to create a composited virtual  image

But recently the complexity of the story of the invention of the Motion Picture has become apparent. After nearly a century of necessary preliminary inventions, including various toys that provided the illusion of a motion picture (like the thaumatrope), the magic lantern, Photography itself, flip-books, cameras that could take successive images on paper, the invention of celluloid film and then film strips, film-projectors (etc). By the last decade of the 19th Century, all these ‘preliminary’ inventions werre in place, and several dozen inventors, working largely on their own, competed to produce a viable motion-picture system.

http://www.victorian-cinema.net/machines.htm

These included:

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Louis le Prince:  Roundhay Garden Scene 1888 

(this is the earliest surviving motion picture, predating both Edison and Lumiere) 1888

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1i40rnpOsA

Leeds Bridge 1888

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7saH58usq4

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Louis le Prince was French, and later worked in England and the USA. As a child he spent time with his father’s friend Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre who in the 1830s had perfected the first positive photographic system the Daguerrotype. So Le Prince learned about chemistry, cameras, lenses, and the art of photography from one of the great inventors. (Daguerre had made his own name initially by the production of large scale Dioramas (360-degree panoramas) – huge paintings on canvas that were mounted in specially built circular pavilions, and showed famous city-scapes, battle-scenes or notable countryside vistas)


Louis le Prince: Leeds Bridge 1888

Louis le Prince went on the study Painting in Paris, and Chemistry in Leipzig.He went to Leeds in 1866 where he married an artist and with his wife’s brother set up a company specialising in printing coloured images onto metals and ceramics, they also founded Leeds Technical School of Art. In the early 1880s, Le Prince first worked on a 16-lens camera in an attempt to make a motion picture, by exposing a sensitised sheet of paper – one frame per lens, but the results were jerky as each lens was taking an image from a slightly different perspective. Then Le Prince made a single lens camera, shooting onto a strip of sensitised paper 90mm wide and 1.2 metres long (very short movies!).

Georges Demeny: Phonoscope 1892

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Georges Demeny worked with Etienne-Jules Marey on his chrono-photographes, and then in 1892 devised his Photophone for taking motion images and his Phonoscope for projecting them.

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Georges Demeny pronouncing ‘je vous aime’ to Marey’s chronophotographic gun camera in 1882

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Etienne-Jules Marey: Chronophotographic Gun 1882

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Etienne-Jules Marey: Chronophotographe 1882

Photography was spurring innovation in other directions too – both HP Bowditch and Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, who was mainly interested in research into faces, and whether facial features could reveal anything of the inner psychology or character of the sitter (he made many composites of criminal types) – both Bowditch and Galton produced studies or composition images (over-printed or sandwich-printed) portraits, where several negatives would be printed onto one sensitised plate.

HP Bowditch 12 Boston Doctors composite overprint 1894


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These were still images formed from overprinting 12 negatives in order to produce an ‘archetypal’ or average image (centre) for a doctor.

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Nancy Burson: The New Face of America 1993

A hundred years later, working at the New York Institute of Technology, Nancy Burson developed sophisticated computer-graphic layering techniques to create composite portraits. By averaging dozens of photographs of models, film-stars, great society beauties (etc) can you create the portrait of a type of person?
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2004 Nancy Burson: One (Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha)
Original ‘types’ are called Ur-types or archetypes, and I guess Burson had the same fascination as Galton and Bowditch in trying to discover the ur-type ‘holy man’ or avatar. This is a fascinating area of research. Have you ever wondered where we get our mental image of Christ, Buddha or Mohammed? Historically there are no contemporary portraits that we know of, so where do these pervasive images come from? They recur throughout recent history as artists and illustrators tackle the mythological – look at the commonalities in pictures of fairies and elves and other mythological creatures. What souces do illustrators and artists draw from? How do they assess the verisimilitude of their pictures?
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Wanda Wulz 1932 Self-Portrait

1932 Wanda Wulz: self-portraits

Wulz was a late-Futurist artist – she met Marinetti in 1931. By this time the Futurists were aligning behind Mussolini’s fascist. A very beautiful woman, she made a variety of Futurist photographs using multiple exposures, photodynamic long exposures, and she was a very proficient conventional photographer too – running her father’s studio in Trieste. But Wanda and her sister Marion also flirted with Surrealism. In this double-exposure, Wanda has retained a human eye – her own. She also made a portrait of her cat again with her own left eye superimposed on the cat’s.


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Marcel Duchamp: 5-Way Self-Portrait 1917
Of course artists and experimental photographers – like Duchamp, Man Ray, Moholy Nagy, Dziga Vertov – had experimented with multiple exposure composites or ‘sandwich printing’. The discovery of how photography could be a flexible tool for compositing images together, had been shaired by Mid Victorian photographers like Henry Peach-Robinson and Oscar Rejlander.
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Oscar Rejlander: Two Ways of Life 1857 – the kindly father shows his sons the rewards of the life of Vice and a life of Virtue. A Composite of 32 separate negatives were used to create this, (at that time) a really large photograph – 41cm x 79 cm –  one of the first great examples of multiple-printing.

But these composites were a interesting sideshow in media development compared to the work of the Englishman Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge had taught himself the wet-collodion photographic process in the 1860s, and settled back in California, becoming a noted landscape and architecture photographer. In the 1870s Muybridge had been contracted by Leland Stanford, a wealthy race horse owner (and founder of Stanford University), to settle a bet – whether all four feet of a horse were off the ground when trotting. Muybridge had already done some time-lapse photography of the building of the San Francisco Mint, and had already invented and patented a device for printing – and a washing machine – so he was an inventor. He created a special test-track where horses could be encouraged to trot, and set up a series of cameras and trip-wires, so that as the horse trotted along the test-track, it would break the trip-wire and trigger an exposure in each camera in turn.


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Muybridge: test-track for the Leland Stanford-funded horse locomotion  photographs – 24 cameras, 24 trip-wires = 24 photographs of each stage of a horse’s locomotion.

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Of course, when you displayed these images one after the other (when you animated them), you could ‘see’ the movement of the horse:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Horse_in_Motion-anim.gif

Realising this, Muybridge revisited an older invention and produced his Zoopraxiscope – a simple spinning device that created the illusion of movement, and could be projected

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Muybridge: Zoopraxiscope slide-disk 1893

Muybridge, another great media innovator from this period had started to animate drawings based on his chronological photographs in a device based upon a magic lantern that he called the Zoopraxiscope (from 1893).

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Muybridge: Zoopraxiscope Projector 1893

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Hughes: Portable Triple Magic Lantern c1880

Gradually through the 19th Century, first with oil-lamps, then with large electric bulbs, the public were getting used to seeing projected images – at fairgrounds, music halls, sea-side variety theatres, carnival tents and market arcades. In Brighton – still a fashionable and slightly risque holiday venue – they saw shows produced by George Albert Smith, one of the pioneer British film-makers. Smith (who started his career as a professional hypnotist) performed with his wife, creating a mix of story-telling, illustrated lectures, and music-hall comedy sketches accompanied by projected images using magic-lanterns like this one.

By 1898-1900 Smith had created significant innovations – like the film title, the inter-title, and parallel action – as in Santa Claus 1898.

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George Albert Smith: Santa Claus 1898

 – frame within frame parallel action.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmSJ5SAXHws

The technology of moving pictures was roughly coeval with that of another medium that told stories with pictures – the comic strip. The comic strip began to appear in American papers in the last couple of decades of the 19th Century – Rudolph Dirks Katzenjammer Kids was one of the first great strips – it appeared regularly in American newspapers for nearly a century – as The Captain and the Kids until 1979! There is a kind of interplay between comics and the movies – especially the development of the storyboard, reputed to be from the Walt Disney studios in 1933. Now of course, comic strip characters are becoming major box-office – think of Sin City, and the comics movies like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Thor etc….

1897 Rudolph Dirks: The Katzenjammer Kids


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1897 Rudolph Dirks: The Katzenjammer Kids

George Albert Smith, like Georges Melies, came from a theatrical, music-hall background (as a hypnotist), running his own stage-show with his wife, a professional music-hall entertainer and actress, who appears in several of his films. Smith began by showing magic lantern slides as part of his stage-show, amplifying these with live performance and narration (and presumedly smoke, mirrors, lighting effects and music and sound effects), before experimenting by transferring these skills and techniques to film-making.

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George Albert Smith : Grandma’s Reading Glass  1900 – first close-up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-LVBb3TXAs

George Albert Smith pioneered ‘dissolving views’ – presumedly using cross-fades between magic lanterns – and he developed a movie camera in partnership with local Brighton camera-maker Alfred Darling, and he invented Kinemacolor – one of the first colour filter-based colour movie film formats:

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Alfred Darling: Biokam – movie-camera/projector/stills camera 1899

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1910 George Albert Smith: Kinemacolor Camera

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George Albert Smith: Film Studio at Hove Sussex 1897

And he built his own filming studio with glass roof, proscenium stage, barn doors for extra daylight. And as noted, in 1897 Smith invented and patented a double-exposure technique in 1897, enabling him to produce ‘frame-in-frame’ parallel action sequences.

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Georges Melies: Voyage dans la Lune (1902)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dTVfSJoj04&feature=related

In France, Georges Melies, the great experimental film-maker, had also enjoyed a background in music hall and variety theatre – as a magician. This was an ideal background for his work with cinematic special effects. Voyage to the Moon (1902) is his masterpiece – the first science-fiction film – and a catalogue of innovative effects, stage designs and cinematic story-telling.


Edwin S. Porter: Great Train Robbery 1903Imagehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc7wWOmEGGY
Between them, these early pioneers (George Albert Smith, RW Paul, Georges Melies, Edwin S. Porter (and others) invented most of the basic grammar and syntax of the motion picture, including: the close-up, the double-exposure, stop motion, elapsed time, hand-colouring, editing shots into sequences, parallel action, titles and inter-titles, prosthetic make-up, and much more that would become the building-blocks of  the major art and entertainment form of the 20th Century.

Raoul Grimoin-Sanson: Cineorama 1900ImageRaoul Grimoin-Sanson: The Cineorama (1900)
The Paris World Exposition in 1900 was the launchpad for a number of innovations and continued an artistic obsession which re-occurs throughout the history of media developments from Greek Theatre, through Wagnerian Opera, Victorian Dioramas and the Ballets Russes, – it was the interest in making immersive multimedia experiences. Wagner christened this the Gesampkunstwerk or ‘Composite Art Work’. Grimoin-Sanson’s fabulous Cineorama was shown at the Paris Exposition in 1900 and was a brave attempt to create a 360-degree simulation of a balloon flight over Paris, using 10 synchronised 70mm projectors…

Lumiere: Photorama 1900-1902
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The Lumiere Bros also exhibited in 1900 – their Photorama was another sophisticated attempt to create a photographically mediated ‘immersive’ experience for the audience… this was to become a recurring motif in new media art…

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Autochrome colour Photography 1903 Autochrome – subtle, painterly, impressionist colour in a photograph

During this same period, the Lumiere Brothers were experimenting with a colour photography technique that they called Autochrome (patented in 1903). This produced beautiful, soft-coloured images, the soft colour coming from the microscopic potato-starch partlcles that had been dyed with three primary colours – red-orange, green and blue-violet, then randomly mixed onto a paper substrate, coated with a lamp black background, then covered with a pan-chromatic photo-sensitive solution. 

These 3 additive primary colours had been identified in the Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell Theory of Trichromatic Vision in 1861 – which analysed the light-sensitive rods and cones in the eye, and determined that they were sensitive to red, green and blue and that all other colours were made by mixing RGB values.

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Clerk Maxwell’s theory of colour vision sparked a number of innovations – the Autochrome Process was one, Pointillist (post-Impressionist) painting another, and the third was a commercial printing technique for printing full-colour images by breaking the image down into dots of the primary colours:

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close-up of a pointillist painting (Seurat 1884)

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trichromatic colour printing (enlarged to show colour dots ) – from 1892


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Edward Steichen: Autochrome c1904
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Claude Renoir: Baigneuse 1888
Renoir and the impressionists began to explore the the nature of vision in the light of the Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell theory of colour vision, often using a pointillist brush-mark – dots of pure colour – to create their subtle paintings. So trichromatic printing, the Autochrome colour photograph, and the pointillist painting shared some features in common, all being derived from the same theory.
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Stereo-Autochrome c1900
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Stereo viewers had been invented by Charles Wheatstone in the 1850s, and a spate of stereo cameras became available soon after. When Kodak launched its Stereo Brownie camera around 1904, stereo photography became widespread. The brilliant 20th Century photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue (Diary of a Century, 1970), made most of his early work in the stereo format.
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Charles Wheatstone (who had previously invented a telegraph system) proposed his theory of stereo vision in 1838. By 1851, stereo-cameras and viewers like this one were available.
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Thomas Sutton (for James Clerk Maxwell) the ‘first’ colour photograph 1861

By exposing a panchromatic plate through three colour filters (RGB of course), Maxwell was able to create a colour scene (the tartan ribbon):

“The first color photograph made according to Maxwell’s prescription, a set of three monochrome “color separations“, was taken by Thomas Sutton in 1861 for use in illustrating a lecture on color by Maxwell, where it was shown in color by the triple projection method. The test subject was a bow made of ribbon with stripes of various colors, apparently including red and green. During the lecture, which was about physics and physiology, not photography, Maxwell commented on the inadequacy of the results and the need for a photographic material more sensitive to red and green light. A century later, historians were mystified by the reproduction of any red at all, because the photographic process used by Sutton was for all practical purposes totally insensitive to red light and only marginally sensitive to green. In 1961, researchers found that many red dyes also reflect ultraviolet light, coincidentally transmitted by Sutton’s red filter, and surmised that the three images were probably due to ultra-violet, blue-green and blue wavelengths, rather than to red, green and blue.[2]

Maxwell’s 1855 suggestion and this seriously defective 1861 demonstration appear to have been quickly and completely forgotten until being brought to light again in the 1890s. In the intervening decades, the basic concept was independently re-invented by several people.” (wikipedia)

Mutoscope: 

flick-book ‘What the Butler Saw’ penny-slot machines

The Mutoscope Player c 1903

Herman Casler: Mutoscope showing flip-book mechanism

“The Mutoscope worked on the same principle as the “flip book.” The individual image frames were conventional black-and-white, silver-based photographic prints on tough, flexible opaque cards. Rather than being bound into a booklet, the cards were attached to a circular core, rather like a huge Rolodex. A reel typically held about 850 cards, giving a viewing time of about a minute. The reel with cards attached had a total diameter of about ten inches (25 cm); the individual cards had dimensions of about 2-3/4″ x 1-7/8″ (7 cm x 4.75 cm).

Mutoscopes were coin-operated. The patron viewed the cards through a single lens enclosed by a hood, similar to the viewing hood of a stereoscope. The cards were generally lit electrically, but the reel was driven by means of a geared-down hand crank. Each machine held only a single reel and was dedicated to the presentation of a single short subject, described by a poster affixed to the machine.”

(wikipedia)

The Ludoscope (‘games-viewer’) – based on Joseph Plateau’s Phenakistoscope (1832)

The highly successful Mutoscope (still in Amusement Arcades in the UK until decimalisation in 1970), and Edison’s profitable Kinetoscope, followed in a long tradition of toys like the Thaumatrope and Joseph Plateau’s Phenakistoscope as individual viewing machines in parlours, amusement arcades and fair-grounds around the UK.

http://www.veengle.com/s/Phenakistoscope.html

 But now I want to illustrate the context in which the ferment of innovation and experimentation in motion pictures was taking place:
Henri Matisse: Woman with a Hat 1905

Matisse was a most important contemporary of Picasso – his style of painting extended the Impressionist idea of colour into a much more expressive territory – this style of painting was called Fauvist (like a Wild Beast) by its detractors.

Peter Behrens: AEG Corporate Identity 1906

Just another flavour of how the 20th century media-arts were developing around the same time as Cubism and Fauvism – Peter Behrens was a German artist who became the world’s first ‘industrial’ designer, and in 1906 he created a wide range of products, including electric lamps, electric clocks, and other products for the German electrical supplier AEG. In doing this, he also created the world’s first ‘corporate identity’ – a complete branding system for AEG, all their products, their factories, livery, etc…

All this activity – new art movements (Futurism, Fauvism, post-Impressionism, Vorticism etc), new ways of looking at the world (Cubism, Special Relativity, the Movies, Animation etc), industrial design – all these things were happening at the same time as the invention of radio telegraph (Marconi), voice-radio transmission (Fessender), half-tone photo-reproduction, trichromatic printing, the Autochrome colour photograph, electric typewriter… all these innovations and inventions in art and science and technology began to create a world that is a kind of preview of our own times. Consider how the WWW (1993), ipod (2001), iphone (2007), ipad (2010), PS2 (2000),  X-Box (2001), HDTV (2004), iTunes (2003), movie special effects, e-books (2007), Facebook(2004), and the rest have altered our world in just a few years…

Robert W Paul + W.R. Booth: The Motorist 1906

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sk1ZunbY7Xc

This is the first ever feature film. It was a box-office success in both Australia and England, and spawned several imitations, and indeed was remade or partially remade by the Tait brothers in 1910.

It’s inspiring of course, because it is the first ever feature film (predating D.W. Griffiths’ Birth of a Nation (1915) by almost a decade, and a year before the first European feature L’Enfant Prodigue (Michel Carre 1907). Coincidentally, the first Westerns shot in the real Wild West, were made in the USA the following year – bushrangers, bandits and outlaws fuelled the public taste for screened entertainment.

This was the first ever feature film (not just the main film in an evening’s entertainment but at some venues in Australia in 1906 the only film to be shown). Produced by the theatrical entrepreneurs the Tait brothers, the film capitalised on the public’s taste for bushranger stories, as evidenced by the success of shorts like Bushranging in North Queensland (1904) and The Bushranger (1904). The eponymous hero and most notorious bush-ranger, Ned Kelly, had been captured and executed only 25 years previously (1880).

George Albert Smith: Kinemacolor (1906)

So during this fascinating period of transformative developments in the arts, sciences and communications and entertainment media (Arts: Cubism, Futurism, Fauvism; Sciences: Quantum Theory, Relativity, Psychology; Technology: Wireless telegraphy and voice radio, theory of television, colour printing, electric typewriter, telephone, (etc); Entertainment: Film, Mutoscope, cylinder and disc record players; juke-box, colour photography, Brownie snapshot camera, etc)) there is a parallel between the innovation in media technologies and the innovation of artists, directors and entrepreneurs (producers, impresarios, show-men, arcade owners) who were developing commercial content for these technologies.

The directors, including Georges Melies, Alice Guy Blache, Charles Tait, Louis Feuillade, George Albert Smith, Eric Porter, and RW Paul invented the movies as much as Edison, Lumiere and the others that we have mentioned invented the technology of the movies.

The remainder of this talk illustrates just some of these developments in form and content that characterised the period up to around 1915 – the period of the invention of Cinema.

Pablo Picasso: Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907

We are now aware, as we look back, that there are several epoch-changing events in this formative period. For example, Picasso’s painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) – widely regarded to have initiated the Cubist movement – an art movement that was going to affect Western Art in a fundamental way. Demoiselles is a painting of a group of women in a bordello or brothel (in a street called Avignon in Barcelona). The subject matter is itself shocking to Edwardian/Belle Epoque cultural tastes, but even more shocking was the manner in which Picasso had painted these women – had created a painting with them as the subject. Had created a painting with stylistic references to African art, to Mediaeval Spanish sculpture, had dispensed with conventional perspective, conventional backgrounds, conventional ideas as to how a nude should be painted. Picasso had made a painting – a large (8 foot-square) painting – that even his friends found so shocking that they persuaded him to hide it away. It wasn’t exhibited until 1937.

Alan Campbell Swinton: A Vision of Distant Electronic Vision (Tele-Vision) in 1908

Campbell Swinton’s visionary article in Scientific American of 1908 is the first ever description of an electronic television – he calls it ‘distant electronic vision’ which, after Baird’s abortive attempt at an electro-mechanical television system, became the only way that TV works..until the digital revolution removed the need for the cathode ray tube.

“This part of the problem of obtaining distant electric vision can probably be solved by the employment of two beams of kathode rays (one at the transmitting and one at the receiving station) synchronously deflected by the varying fields of two electromagnets placed at right angles to one another and energised by two alternating electric currents of widely different frequencies, so that the moving extremities of the two beams are caused to sweep simultaneously over the whole of the required surface within the one-tenth of a second necessary to take advantage of visual persistence.” -A. A. Campbell Swinton in Scientific American

Emil Cohl: Fantasmagorie 1908 – first animation?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEAObel8yIE

1909 Albert Kahn: Archive of the Planet

Kahn’s project lasted from 1909 to 1930. He commissioned hundreds of photographers, gave them cameras and colour film (Autochrome) and they created and collected 72000 colour photographs from over 50 countries.

http://www.albertkahn.co.uk

1909 Serge Diaghilev: Ballets Russe

Leon Bakst costume for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Firebird 1910

Ballets Russes were another epic attempt to create a composite or total art work, after the gesamptkunstwerk ideal described by Wagner 50 years earlier.

Serge Prokudin-Gorsky: Colour photo-documentary: Russian Empire 1909

Working directly for Czar Nicholas, Prokudin-Gorsky tried to document every aspect and region of the Imperial Russian Empire – stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific, and the Arctic to Azerbajan, with beautiful autochrome-style colour photographs – a project nearly as grand in concept as Albert Kahn’s Planetary Archive – began the previous year.


1910 Winsor McCay: Little Nemo in Slumberland


Winsor McCay created animated films and stage performances, where he would tell a Little Nemo story, illustrating it with drawings, clips of previously made animations, and live drawing.

1911 Winsor McCay: Little Nemo animation


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcSp2ej2S00

Why does this inspire?

McCay stands out above all other comic artists, for his delightful and quintessential Art Nouveau drawing and colouring, but it is the imaginative animation that inspires. Like Norman McLaren some 30 years later, McCay is not afraid to improvise and innovate. In Little Nemo, he combines frame-by-frame drawing, live drawing to camera, live action, colour and captioning – mixing these styles to both capture the magic of animation, and hinting at his stage performances to be developed fully in 1914 with his Gertie the Dinosaur shows. The breakdown of the audiences’ cognitive framework – their suspension of disbelief – by revealing the technique of the animator and illustrator, is McCay’s original contribution to the history of animation.

1911 Anton Bragaglia: Photodynamic Typewriter

Photography was still under the spell of Marey and Muybridge, and the Futurists welcomed this opportunity to exploit motion blur, multiple exposure and chrono-photography to create images with motion.


Anton Bragaglia: Photodynamic Typewriter 1911

1911: Robert Delaunay: The City of Paris

In a series of works initiated by The City of Paris, Robert Delaunay began to use painting as a compositing tool, drawing together and synthesising visual components derived from his own paintings and sketches from nature, postcards, newspaper images and the works of other painters, developing a cubist-derived style to integrate these fragments together in works that are still fresh and new. In City of Paris, you can detect fragments of his own Eiffel Tower (The Red Tower 1910) some cityscape by Henri Rousseau, and the classical Three Graces. This approach is revolutionary in Modernist painting, though some Victorian artists had explored the compositing idea some 50 years before (see William Powell Frith Derby Day 1858), and so too had photographers in the 19th century – see Aaron Scharf: Art and Photography (1967)

1912: Marcel Duchamp: Nude Descending A Staircase

Robert Delaunay: Red Tower 1912

Giacomo Balla: Dynamism of a Dog 1912

Influenced by the chrono-photographic work of Etienne-Jules Marey, the Futurists thought that they had found the solution to the ‘static’ qualities of Cubism – Balla, Severini and others applied this to painting, the Bragaglia brothers developed the artistic use of chronophotography in their ‘photodynamic’ photo-prints…


Gino Severini: Bal Tabarin 1912The Futurists borrowed many ideas from Cubism – and applied them to dynamic subjects, trying to capture the dynamism and simultaneous mesh of movements of real life, the multi-sensory experience of a night-club dance – such as Severini’s Bal Tabarin – the full title is Dynamic Heiroglyph of the Bal Tabarin – literally a short-hand description of a dance at the Bal Tabarin night-club in Paris. Of course, our real experience of events we are closely engaged in – dancing at a disco for example are comprised of different fragmentary impressions, bits of bodies, faces, dresses, neon, tables, wine glasses and bottles, as well as our memories and associations triggered by our experience…Anton Bragaglia: Fotodinamismo Futurista

Luigi Russolo: Art of Noise

The main strands of avant-garde art during this period affected Music too – Alexandr Scriabin composed his Prometheus for instruments and coloured lights, Russolo – another Futurist – developed his theory of The Art of Noise – and put this theory into practice with his ‘Mechanical Orchestra’.

1913: Giorgio de Chirico: Melancholy and Mystery of a Street

Around this time, the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico – not a futurist – was exploring the imagery of dreams (Freud had published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900), mixing different styles or formats of perspective:multiple  vanishing-point, isometric, axonometric, with threatening shadows, mysterious figures, unanswered questions and narratives… his ‘metaphysical’ (pittura Metafisica) paintings of 1911-1918 greatly impressed and influenced the Surrealists some ten years later – you can see this influence especially  in the paintings of Paul Delvaux, Rene Magritte and Leonora Carrington…

1913 Louis Feuillade: Fantomas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTWccq8xn_w

The Surrealists were also vastly impressed and influenced by the serial films of Louis Feuillade: Fantomas (1913), Les Vampires (1915), Judex (1916) – these were serials – 10, 12, or 13 part-films, each around 25 minutes long, magical and fantastic crime thrillers (the Vampires are a gang of thieves and murderers, who invent ingenious crimes). Most, if not all of these films are available on Youtube.

Feuillade: Les Vampires

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTM_4X64x5w

1920-21 Walter Ruttmann: Lichtspiel Opus and Spiel der Wellen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9vSRPN4jDk

In the climate of DADA, and the vibrant Russian Constructivist arts emerging from the Civil War (1917-1922) Ruttman, Richter and other artists began to experiment with abstract animations. These short films set the tone for a wave of 1920s experimental films that have become collectively known as avant-garde film.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gftt3_8D3gU

1907 Stuart Blackton: The Haunted Hotel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTE8gXCb_og

The jugs, crockery and bottles in an hotel room come alive after dark in the haunted hotel, and they are joined by a tiny Comedia del’arte mannequin. This is an early stop-motion animation.

 

1927 Robert Florey: The Love of Zero

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_qKQnt4dP8&feature=related

Florey was a Franco-American who directed many Hollywood movies including Murders in the Rue Morgue. You can see from the still above that he was influenced by Robert Weine’s Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and his aptitude for interesting shorts in the 1920s probably stemmed from his work as an assistant to Louis Feuillade in the early part of the century.

Fernand Leger: Three Women 1921

Fernand Leger: Ballet Mecanique 1924

Leger was already an established and successful ‘post-Cubist’ painter at the time he collaborated with American film-maker Dudley Murphy and composer George Antheil on maybe one of the first ‘art’ movies – the Ballet Mecanique.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SgsqmQJAq0

Ballet Mecanique was a unique and influential experiment, though due both to technical reasons (synchronised sound wasn’t available until 1929-30), and artistic-personal reasons, the film was not married to its sound-track until the late 1990s. Antheil’s music is an iconic Modernist piece – at one and the same time, very much of its time, but using sound samples and audio-trouve techniques more familiar to the digital age. It must have seemed incomprehensible at the time…

Leger worked with Dudley Murphy and Man Ray on the visual (silent) film. Man Ray was an artist and experimental photographer and cinematographer, and Murphy a young revolutionary film maker (Danse Macabre 1922) who went on to make the first feature film with a Black cast and Star (Bessie Smith in St Louis Blues (1929).

I found the music of Ballet Mecanique so inspiring I incorporated in my film ZeitEYE – which features 11 decades of media-arts innovations in 11 minutes, set to Antheil’s iconic composition.


Dziga Vertov Man with a Movie Camera 1929http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iey9YIbra2UThis is Vertov’s masterpiece, following his epic One Sixth of the World (1926), and his work on the Agit Kino Trains with Alexander Medvedkin during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922 – the period central to Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago), and his work on Kino-Pravda – (Movie-Truth) in the early 1920s. The Man with a Movie Camera is ‘an experiment in cinematic communication’ – ‘without the help of intertitles, without the help of a story, without the help of theatre,” it is a film that attempts to create a truly international, purely cinematic experience… The ‘Author-Supervisor-Experimenter’ is David Abelevich Kaufmann, aka Dziga Vertov.Luis Bunuel: Le Chien Andalou 1929

Bunuel had met Salvador Dali and the poet Federico Garcia Lorca at university in Madrid. Beginning his adult life as a philosopher, he moved to Paris and began work as an assistant director, working with Jean Epstein and Josephine Baker. In 1929, he developed a short film Le Chien Andalou (The Andalusian Dog) with Salvador Dali. This became the most famous film of the Surrealist movement, and vastly influential in the world of experimental film. So in 1929 you have two major seminal works: from Vertov and Bunuel.

Of course there are many other experimental films still of interest from the 1920s. It was the decade in which the artist’s film – the experimental film – came alive. And they weren’t just ‘films’ in the narrative style that had become major box office – they weren’t just films that told stories, or ‘remediated’ older media like the play, or the novel. A classic example from this period is Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema (1926) – working with Man Ray and others, Duchamp began to explore the same territory as Laslo Moholy Nagy and Hirschfield-Mack (we’ll look at their work a bit later in this talk) – building machines that would make films…

Duchamp had become famous with his Nude Descending a Staircase (1912), and his giant  construction – the ‘Large Glass’ – The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.(1923)







 


The Story of Experimental Film

by Bob Cotton, June 2012

“The measure of an artist’s originality, put in its simplest terms. is the extent to which his selective emphasis deviates from the conventional norm, and establishes new standards of relevance. All great innovations which inaugerate a new era, movement or school, consist in sudden shifts of a previously neglected aspect of experience, some blacked-out range of the existential spectrum. The decisive turning-points in the history of every art form…uncover what has already been there: they are “revolutionary”, that is destructive and constructive, they compel us to revalue our values and impose new sets of rules on the eternal game.”

Arthur Koestler: The Act of Creation (1964)

Koestler’s 1964 book is about inspiration, innovation and creativity, and it was the first major treatment of this subject in the 20th century. His central point about creativity is that it doesn’t happen if you just do nothing. In order to be really creative you must first of all be immersed in your subject – you must be full of it. Then your personal insight or intuition can work on something ‘tangible’ – you can find an original perspective on the subject – you can provide your ‘selective emphasis’, perhaps on some ‘previously neglected aspect of experience’. More recently Margaret Boden has pointed out that discovery is akin to creativity – and it can have two results – discoveries that are new to the individual (these are common as we learn about things), and discoveries that are new to mankind (these are rare). Creativity can be ordered on the same scale – we often feel really pleased when we make a song, a painting or a story (or a film, or any sort of mediated experience), but when this is put into the historical context of the artefact (ie compared with what everyone else is doing), then we humbly realise that maybe it isn’t so original after all. Or maybe we are really pleased that we have got somewhere close to originality (and – what joy when bt.yahoo.comwe discover that other people recognise this too!)

“(Ettiene-Jules) Marey made it possible for the avant-garde to become receptive to new values: instead of escape into the past, the unreal or the dream, there was the double cult of machines and their propulsion ….inspiring Giacomo Balla & Luigi Russolo, Marinetti, and ultimately Duchamp (1912 Nude Decending a Staircase)

– Etienne-Jules Marey : a passion for the trace, by François Dagognet

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Etienne-Jules Marey: chrono-photographe 1882

The history of experimental film is therefor heavily weighted towards the early experiments – simply, there was much more to innovate and invent then! So what we take for granted as devices ‘natural’ to film – the edit, the flashback, intercut parallel stories, the closeup, medium close-up, long-shot, positioning or location shot, the pan, tracking, back-projection, double-exposure, special effects – all these techniques had to be ‘invented’ by the early film-makers, and this has justifiably made these men and women famous.

Credit for invention of motion pictures is usually given to the American Thomas Alvar Edison (1891) , or to the French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere (1895). The Lumiere brothers have the best claim because their technology used a camera-projector technology that produced a projected image for an audience of many people, while Edison’s first machine was a ‘peep-show’ machine.

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1891 Edison – Kinetoscope ‘peep-show’ motion pictures for one

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1894 Edison: Kinetoscope Parlour in New York City

Of course these machines only had an audience of one, so  it wasn’t long before Edison was developing a film camera and projector system – one machine could reach audiences of a few hundred! in 1896 Edison launched first the Vitascope then the Kinetoscope Projector.

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Auguste and Louis Lumiere: Cinematographe 1895


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The other main contenders for the invention of the Movies were August and Louis Lumiere, with their combined camera-projector launched in 1895. Their ingenious invention was commercially supported by a range of films shot by themselves (including the famous Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat), as well as talented new directors, including the first woman film director Alice Guy Blaché:


Alice Guy Blaché: La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy) – first narrative filmImageAlice Guy Blache’s film The Cabbage Fairy is widely regarded as the first narrative film

But with this smorgasbord of different inventions in the technology of film-making, viewing and projection, what was actually drawing the audiences into the Kinetoscope Parlours, amusement arcades, and viewing theatres (no proper ‘cinemas’ until 1904), was the films themselves – often no more than a minute or two long. Alice Guy Blaché  was the first female film director that we know of, and the author of the first narrative film – predating those of Lumiere by a few months.

It fell to Blaché to make the first narrative film – the first attempt to tell a story with motion pictures. Although only a minute long, Blaché’s film was the first one of several hundred thousand storytelling movies.

Just to recap the history of the technology of motion pictures, takes us back over the 19th Century, beginning with the optical toys like the Thaumatrope:

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1824 John Ayrton Paris: the Thaumatrope

 – the images on either side of a spinning disc fuse in the viewer’s perception to create a composited virtual  image

But recently the complexity of the story of the invention of the Motion Picture has become apparent. After nearly a century of necessary preliminary inventions, including various toys that provided the illusion of a motion picture (like the thaumatrope), the magic lantern, Photography itself, flip-books, cameras that could take successive images on paper, the invention of celluloid film and then film strips, film-projectors (etc). By the last decade of the 19th Century, several dozen inventors, working largely on their own, competed to produce a viable motion-picture system.

http://www.victorian-cinema.net/machines.htm

These included:

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Louis le Prince:  Roundhay Garden Scene 1888 

(this is the earliest surviving motion picture, predating both Edison and Lumiere) 1888

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1i40rnpOsA

Leeds Bridge 1888

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7saH58usq4

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Louis le Prince was French, and later worked in England and the USA. As a child he spent time with his father’s friend Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre who in the 1830s had perfected the first positive photographic system the Daguerrotype. So Le Prince learned about chemistry, cameras, lenses, and the art of photography from one of the great inventors. (Daguerre had made his own name initially by the production of large scale Dioramas (360-degree panoramas) – huge paintings on canvas that were mounted in specially built circular pavilions, and showed famous city-scapes, battle-scenes or notable countryside vistas)


Louis le Prince: Leeds Bridge 1888

Louis le Prince went on the study Painting in Paris, and Chemistry in Leipzig.He went to Leeds in 1866 where he married an artist and with his wife’s brother set up a company specialising in printing coloured images onto metals and ceramics, they also founded Leeds Technical School of Art. In the early 1880s, Le Prince first worked on a 16-lens camera in an attempt to make a motion picture, by exposing a sensitised sheet of paper – one frame per lens, but the results were jerky as each lens was taking an image from a slightly different perspective. Then Le Prince made a single lens camera, shooting onto a strip of sensitised paper 90mm wide and 1.2 metres long (very short movies!).

Georges Demeny: Phonoscope 1892

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Demeny worked with Etienne-Jules Marey on his chrono-photographes, and then in 1892 devised his Photophone for taking motion images and his Phonoscope for projecting them.

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Georges Demeny pronouncing ‘je vous aime’ to Marey’s chronophotographic gun camera in 1882

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Etienne-Jules Marey: Chronophotographic Gun 1882

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Etienne-Jules Marey: Chronophotographe 1882

Photography was spurring innovation in other directions too – both HP Bowditech and Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, who was mainly interested in research into faces, and whether facial features could reveal anything of the inner psychology or character of the sitter (he made many composites of criminal types) – both Bowditch and Galton produced studies or composition images (over-printed or sandwich-printed) portraits, where several negatives would be printed onto one sensitised plate.

HP Bowditch 12 Boston Doctors composite overprint 1894


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These were still images formed from overprinting 12 negatives in order to produce an ‘archetypal’ or average image (centre) for a doctor.

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Nancy Burson: The New Face of America 1993

A hundred years later, working at the New York Institute of Technology, Nancy Burson developed sophisticated computer-graphic layering techniques to create composite portraits. By averaging dozens of photographs of models, film-stars, great society beauties (etc) can you create the portrait of a type of person?
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2004 Nancy Burson: One (Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha)
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Wanda Wulz 1932 Self-Portrait

1932 Wanda Wulz: self-portraits

Wulz was a late-Futurist artist – she met Marinetti in 1931. By this time the Futurists were aligning behind Mussolini’s fascist. A very beautiful woman, she made a variety of Futurist photographs using multiple exposures, photodynamic long exposures, and she was a very proficient conventional photographer too – running her father’s studio in Trieste. But Wanda and her sister Marion also flirted with Surrealism In this double-exposure, Wanda has retained a human eye – her own. She also made a portrait of her cat again with her own left eye superimposed on the cat’s.


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Marcel Duchamp: 5-Way Self-Portrait 1917
Of course artists and experimental photographers – like Duchamp, Man Ray, Moholy Nagy, Dziga Vertov – had experimented with multiple exposure composites or ‘sandwich printing’. The discovery of how photography could be a flexible tool for compositing images together, had been sharred by Mid Victorian photographers like Henry Peach-Robinson and Oscar Rejlander.
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Oscar Rejlander: Two Ways of Life 1857 – the kindly father shows his sons the rewards of the life of Vice and a life of Virtue. A Composite of 32 separate negatives were used to create this, (at that time) a really large photograph – 41cm x 79 cm –  one of the first great examples of multiple-printing.

But these composites were a interesting sideshow in media development compared to the work of the Englishman Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge had taught himself the wet-collodion photographic process in the 1860s, and settled back in California, becoming a noted landscape and architecture photographer. In the 1870s Muybridge had been contracted by Leland Stanford, a wealthy race horse owner (and founder of Stanford University), to settle a bet – whether all four feet of a horse were off the ground when trotting. Muybridge had already done some time-lapse photography of the building of the San Francisco Mint, and had already invented and patented a device for printing – and a washing machine – so he was an inventor. He created a special test-track where horses could be encouraged to trot, and set up a series of cameras and trip-wires, so that as the horse trotted along the test-track, it would break the trip-wire and trigger an exposure in each camera in turn.


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Muybridge: test-track for the Leland Stanford-funded horse locomotion  photographs – 24 cameras, 24 trip-wires = 24 photographs of each stage of a horse’s locomotion.

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Of course, when you displayed these images one after the other (when you animated them), you could ‘see’ the movement of the horse:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Horse_in_Motion-anim.gif

Realising this, Muybridge revisited an older invention and produced his Zoopraxiscope – a simple spinning device that created the illusion of movement, and could be projected

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Muybridge: Zoopraxiscope slide-disk 1893

Muybridge, another great media innovator from this period had started to animate drawings based on his chronological photographs in a device based upon a magic lantern that he called the Zoopraxiscope (from 1893).

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Muybridge: Zoopraxiscope Projector 1893

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Hughes: Portable Triple Magic Lantern c1880

Gradually through the 19th Century, first with oil-lamps, then with large electric bulbs, the public were getting used to seeing projected images – at fairgrounds, music halls, sea-side variety theatres, carnival tents and market arcades. In Brighton – still a fashionable and slightly risque holiday venue – they saw shows produced by George Albert Smith, one of the pioneer British film-makers. Smith (who started his career as a professional hypnotist) performed with his wife, creating a mix of story-telling, illustrated lectures, and music-hall comedy sketches accompanied by projected images using magic-lanterns like this one.

By 1898-1900 Smith had created significant innovations – like the film title, the inter-title, and parallel action – as in Santa Claus 1898.

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George Albert Smith: Santa Claus 1898

 – frame within frame parallel action.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmSJ5SAXHws

The technology of moving pictures was roughly coeval with that of another medium that told stories with pictures – the comic strip. The comic strip began to appear in American papers in the last couple of decades of the 19th Century – Rudolph Dirks Katzenjammer Kids was one of the first great strips – it appeared regularly in American newspapers for nearly a century – as The Captain and the Kids until 1979! There is a kind of interplay between comics and the movies – especially the development of the storyboard, reputed to be from the Walt Disney studios in 1933. Now of course, comic strip characters are becoming major box-office – think of Sin City, and the comics movies like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Thor etc….

1897 Rudolph Dirks: The Katzenjammer Kids


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1897 Rudolph Dirks: The Katzenjammer Kids

George Albert Smith, like Georges Melies, came from a theatrical, music-hall background (as a hypnotist), running his own stage-show with his wife, a professional music-hall entertainer and actress, who appears in several of his films. Smith began by showing magic lantern slides as part of his stage-show, amplifying these with live performance and narration (and presumedly smoke, mirrors, lighting effects and music and sound effects), before experimenting by transferring these skills and techniques to film-making.

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George Albert Smith : Grandma’s Reading Glass  1900 – first close-up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-LVBb3TXAs

George Albert Smith pioneered ‘dissolving views’ – presumedly using cross-fades between magic lanterns – and he developed a movie camera in partnership with local Brighton camera-maker Alfred Darling, and he invented Kinemacolor – one of the first colour filter-based colour movie film formats:

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Alfred Darling: Biokam – movie-camera/projector/stills camera 1899

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1910 George Albert Smith: Kinemacolor Camera

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George Albert Smith: Film Studio at Hove Sussex 1897

And he built his own filming studio with glass roof, proscenium stage, barn doors for extra daylight. And as noted, in 1897 Smith invented and patented a double-exposure technique in 1897, enabling him to produce ‘frame-in-frame’ parallel action sequences.

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Georges Melies: Voyage dans la Lune (1902)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dTVfSJoj04&feature=related

In France, Georges Melies the great experimental film-maker, had also enjoyed a background in music hall and variety theatre – as a magician. This was an ideal background for his work with cinematic special effects. Voyage to the Moon (1902) is his masterpiece – the first science-fiction film – and a catalogue of innovative effects, stage designs and cinematic story-telling.


Edwin S. Porter: Great Train Robbery 1903Imagehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc7wWOmEGGY

Between them, these early pioneers (George Albert Smith, RW Paul, Georges Melies, Edwin S. Porter (and others) invented most of the basic grammar and syntax of the motion picture, including: the close-up, the double-exposure, stop motion, elapsed time, hand-colouring, editing shots into sequences, parallel action, titles and inter-titles, prosthetic make-up, and much more that would become the major art and entertainment form of the 20th Century.


Raoul Grimoin-Sanson: Cineorama 1900ImageRaoul Gromoin-Sanson: The Cineorama (1900)

The Paris World Exposition in 1900 was the launchpad for a number of innovations and continued an artistic obsession which re-occurs throughout the history of media developments from Greek Theatre, through Wagnerian Opera, Victorian Dioramas and the Ballets Russes, – it was the interest in making immersive multimedia experiences. Wagner christened this the Gesampkunstwerk or ‘Composite Art Work’. Gromoin-Sansen’s fabulous Cineorama was shown at the Paris Exposition and was a brave attempt to create a 360-degree simulation of a balloon flight over Paris, using 10 synchronised 70mm projectors…


Lumiere: Photorama 1900-1902
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The Lumiere Bros also exhibited in 1900 – their Photorama was another sophisticated attempt to create a photographically mediated ‘immersive’ experience for the audience… this was to become a recurring motif in new media art…

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Autochrome colour Photography 1903 Autochrome – subtle, painterly, impressionist colour in a photograph

During this same period, the Lumiere Brothers were experimenting with a colour photography technique that they called Autochrome (patented in 1903). This produced beautiful, soft-coloured images, the soft colour coming from the microscopic potato-starch partlcles that had been dyed with three primary colours – red-orange, green and blue-violet, then randomly mixed onto a paper substrate, coated with a lamp black background, then covered with a pan-chromatic photo-sensitive solution. 

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These 3 additive primary colours had been specified in the Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell Theory of Trichromatic Vision in 1861 – which analysed the light-sensitive rods and cones in the eye, and determined that they were sensitive to red, green and blue and that all other colours were made by mixing RGB values.

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Clerk Maxwell’s theory of colour vision sparked a number of innovations – the Autochrome Process was one, Pointillist (post-Impressionist) painting another, and the third was a commercial printing technique for printing full-colour images by breaking the image down into dots of the primary colours:

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close-up of a pointillist painting (Seurat 1884)

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trichromatic colour printing (enlarged to show colour dots ) – from 1892


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Edward Steichen: Autochrome c1904
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Claude Renoir: Baigneuse 1888
Renoir and the impressionists began to explore the the nature of vision in the light of the Young-Helmhotltz-Maxwell theory of colour vision, often using a pointillist brush-mark – dots of pure colour – to create their subtle paintings. So trichromatic printing, the Autochrome colour photograph, and the pointillist painting shared some features in common, all being derived from the same theory.
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Stereo-Autochrome c1900
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Stereo viewers had been invented by Charles Wheatstone in the 1850s, and a spate of stereo cameras became available soon after. When Kodak launched its Stereo Brownie camera around 1904, stereo photography became widespread. The brilliant photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue made most of his early work in the stereo format.
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Charles Wheatstone (who had previously invented a telegraph system) proposed his theory of stereo vision in 1838. By 1851, stereo-cameras and viewers like this one were available.
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Thomas Sutton (for James Clerk Maxwell) the ‘first’ colour photograph 1861

By exposing a panchromatic plate through three colour filters (RGB of course), Maxwell was able to create a colour scene (the tartan ribbon):

“The first color photograph made according to Maxwell’s prescription, a set of three monochrome “color separations“, was taken by Thomas Sutton in 1861 for use in illustrating a lecture on color by Maxwell, where it was shown in color by the triple projection method. The test subject was a bow made of ribbon with stripes of various colors, apparently including red and green. During the lecture, which was about physics and physiology, not photography, Maxwell commented on the inadequacy of the results and the need for a photographic material more sensitive to red and green light. A century later, historians were mystified by the reproduction of any red at all, because the photographic process used by Sutton was for all practical purposes totally insensitive to red light and only marginally sensitive to green. In 1961, researchers found that many red dyes also reflect ultraviolet light, coincidentally transmitted by Sutton’s red filter, and surmised that the three images were probably due to ultra-violet, blue-green and blue wavelengths, rather than to red, green and blue.[2]

Maxwell’s 1855 suggestion and this seriously defective 1861 demonstration appear to have been quickly and completely forgotten until being brought to light again in the 1890s. In the intervening decades, the basic concept was independently re-invented by several people.” (wikipedia)

Mutoscope: flick-book tableaux vivants




 


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see ZeitEYE at:

http://www.vimeo.com/14138351

and at Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPXUGfOkyLg

Several researchers have explored this subject. Here I will be referring to, or quoting work from Rudolf Arnheim, John Berger, Jacob Bronowski, David Hockney, Alfred Yarbus, Arne Glimcher, Bernice Rose, Natasha Staller and others…

Introduction

There is an interesting confluence of innovation, invention, and discovery during the first decade of the 20th Century. In the context of the first major publication by Sigmund Freud (The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900), the first voice-radio broadcast (Fessenden 1900), the Theory of Quantised Energy (Planck, 1900), the first consumer camera (Kodak Brownie, 1900), first trans-Atlantic radio-telegraph (Marconi, 1901), first hand-drawn animation (Emil Cohl, 1904) the publication of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (1905), and short films by George Albert Smith, George Melies, Lumiere Brothers, Charles Tait, Robert Paul and many others, Pablo Picasso paints Les Demoiselle d’Avignon (1907), and Picasso and Braque begin to explore simultaneous perspective in their Cubist period (1907-1913).

This article looks at this extraordinary art movement, the possible influence of early films on Picasso and Braque, the issues of perspective, point-of-view and what recent research has revealed about how we see – how we make internal images in our mind (and how we make images on paper) – tells us about the Cubist approach.

Picasso’s studies and drawings for Demoiselles are powerful, revolutionary works in themselves and indicate his fascination with the kind of primitive, ethnographical art on display at the Paris Trocadero that year (Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro,1907)

 

Picasso: Drawing for Demoiselle d’Avignon, 1907

But the Demoiselles itself was so revolutionary that Picasso’s friend begged him not to exhibit it, fearing it would destroy his reputation. This large (2.3×2.4 metres) oil painting remained out of the public eye for 20 years. It was the central work in the MOMA Cubist Exhibition of 1937. It is reckoned by some to be the first Cubist painting, and it is certainly the direct antecedent of Cubism, but for many others the Cubist movement (initially just Picasso and George Braque) begins with the Braque painting House at L’Estaque in 1908.

Pablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)

Which in turn was probably influenced by Paul Cezanne’s later work (such as his Mont Sanite-Victoire of 1904).

Georges Braque: Houses at L’Estaque 1908

The Orthodoxy of Vanishing-Point Perspective

Let’s start with the examination and representation of reality by means of vanishing-point perspective, an analytical image-making process that dates back to the Renaissance, and the discovery of the Book of Optics, (written by the Arabian scientist Alhazen in 1021, translated into Italian (around 1350) by the artist Lorenzo Ghiberti. The architect Filippo Brunelleschi devised a mirror-projection to test his perspective drawings:

“The first Baptistery panel was constructed with a hole drilled through the centric vanishing point. Curiously, Brunelleschi intended that it only be observed by the viewer holding the unpainted back of the picture against his/her eye with one hand, and a mirror in the other hand facing and reflecting the painted side. In other words, Brunelleschi wanted his new perspective “realism” to be tested not by comparing the painted image to the actual Baptistery but to its reflection in a mirror according to the Euclidean laws of geometric optics. This feat showed artists for the first time how they might paint their images, no longer merely as flat two-dimensional shapes, but looking more like three-dimensional volumes just as mirrors reflect them. Unfortunately, both panels have since been lost.” wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filippo_Brunelleschi

 

The kind of mirror apparatus described by Brunelleschi in his notebooks…

Filippo Brunelleschi: perspective drawing of Santo Spirito c1428

Renaissance artists began to explore the ‘conical vision’ of vanishing point perspective, and, as these prints by Durer and others show, they investigated mechanical and optical devices to improve their perspective drawings.

 

Alberti: Della Pittura 1435

In Della Pittura (1435) , his treatise on perspective, Alberti devised a geometrical basis for perspective, and proposed replacing Brunelleschi’s mirror with a gridded window – the scene could then be transcribed onto gridded paper…

Durer: Perspective Projection: Pictures for Geometry 1532

http://www.ecse.rpi.edu/Homepages/wrf/pmwiki/Main/HomogeneousCoords#toc6

Durer: Perspective Projection: Pictures for Geometry 1532

Carlo Crivelli: The Annunciation with Saint Emidius 1486

Mastering the art of single-vanishing point perspective is the first step in discovering the geometrical basis of why things that are further away look smaller to us than things which are close. However, this is not a realistic method – as we look from side to side and up and down, we become aware that several vanishing points are required. Lines drawn parallel to the picture-plane (in the Crivelli – such as the architraves where the peacock stands) also must obey the logic of their vanishing point – and so it is with the verticals…

Drawing large objects that are close requires the artist to consolidate different points of view into a single image – even ‘ordinary’ drawing is not mechanical…

Alfred L. Yarbus: Saccadic eye-tracks viewing a portrait (1965)

The Eye is not a camera

By the 1950s and 1960s the Russian scientist Alfred Yarbus had made us all aware of how human vision differed from the mechanical single-vanishing point perspective and split-second capture of the camera. Artists have always understood that the process of drawing is temporal – it involves exploring the subject by means of looking, carefully transcribing lines onto paper, assessing and correcting, and gradually constructing the drawing over time. Hockney calls this process eyeballing (careful visual study) and groping (working with the pencil to gradually evolve a satisfactory representation). The camera catches an image in a few seconds or a few thousaands of a second. The artist constructs an image over a much longer period of time, as if aware of the saccadic eye-movements recorded by Yarbus. (David Hockney: Secret Knowledge. 2001)

The human eye perceives reality in a way quite different from the way that a camera captures a scene. All aspects of a photograph – every pixel – is mechanically recorded from the scene. The photographer uses viewfinder cropping, light and shadow,  (chiaroscuro), or sharpness and blur, to focus our attention upon the subject, but the image is captured all-at-once, while the artist may be looking (eyeballing) and drawing (groping) for hours to create a drawing. The artist is using both eyes, interpolating the three-dimensional form of the subject. The artist is moving his head – and his eyes –  to examine each element in the scene. The resulting drawing is then necessarily a composite of views – a simultaneous perspective, a composition achieved by the interaction of the subject, the artist’s perception (and his knowledge and memory), and the skill of his hands with the drawing tools at his disposal.

Here’s one example: here is a reproduction of Alfred Yarbus’ record of eye movements while studying a picture of a girl’s face. The jittery line drawing on the right shows how frantic our eye movements are, even when we believe we are taking in an object ‘at a glance.’

http://premiumblend.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/saccade.jpg

“. . .in reality my eyes are never still. Every third of second they jolt or ‘saccade’ moving my gaze from one part of an object to another. My single ‘glance’ is a multitude of little fixations, not unlike the twitching of an insect’s antennae, or a mouse’s whiskers. . .”

John Henderson et al: The effects of semantic consistency on eye movements during complex scene viewing 1999

“Eye movements were recorded while participants viewed line-drawing pictures of natural scenes in preparation for a memory test (Experiment 1) or to find a target object (Experiment 2). Initial saccades in a scene were not controlled by semantic information in the visual periphery, although fixation densities and fixation durations were affected by semantic consistency. The results are compared with earlier eye-tracking studies, and a qualitative model of eye movement control in scene perception is discussed in which initial saccades in a scene are controlled by visual but not semantic analysis. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)”

Then there are other recent psycho-neurological studies (including Manfred Zimmerman Human Physiology 1989, and Tor Norretranders: The User Illusion 1991)), that show that of all the 10 million bits/second that we perceive unconsciously, actually only 40 bits/second are consciously apprehended. Our Consciousness works by throwing away vast amounts of data – in Norretranders words we operate by using exformation rather than information. The camera records all the incoming data. An artist selectively chooses the data most meaningful to them. So drawing is an activity that is conditioned by the artists memory, their intellectual and emotional state, and of course by their physical skills.

The moments of Cubism

The momentous realisation, by Picasso and Braque (during 1907-1913), that they could explore how we see and what we see (and how we record this process in drawings and images) in our saccadic-scanning, multiple/simultaneous perspective perception of reality was the Modernist’s challenge to the idea that the photograph was an accurate model of our visual perception – that photographs were somehow more truthful than paintings…

Braque: Fruitdish and Glass 1912 – Papier Colle and charcoal

After Cubism, Photographs could be seen for what they were: a monoscopic reproduction of a single fraction of a moment of reality.

“The Cubist’s created a system by which they could reveal visually the interlocking of phenomena. And thus they created in art the possibility of revealing processes instead of static states of being. Cubism is an art entirely concerned with interaction: the interaction between different aspects;  the interaction between structure and movement; the interaction between solids and the spaces around them; the interaction between the unambiguous signs made on the surface of the picture, and the changing reality they stand in for.

What the Cubists mean by structure, space, signs, process, is quite different from what nuclear physicists mean. But the difference between the Cubist vision of reality and that of a great seventeenth century Dutch master like Vermeer is very similar to the the difference between the modern physicist’s view and Newton’s – similar not only in degree but in emphasis.

Such parallism between different branches of culture is rare in history. It is probably confined to those periods which immediately precede a revolution. To emphasise once more the remarkable convergence of new factors which produced this poarallism in the period between 1900 and 1914, let us, for one moment, consider the film.

…………………………..

The film is the art form of the first half of our century….Artistically, the film is the medium which, by its nature, can accommodate most easily a simultaniety of viewpoints, and demonstrate most clearly the indivisibility of events.”

John Berger: The Success and Failure of Picasso Penguin Books 1965 p69-70

John Berger and Jacob Bronowski have independently observed that Cubism emerged in the period immediately following the publication of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (1905). This important paper challenged the established Newtonian position that there is a fixed frame of reference for the measurement of celestial events. Einstein proposed that in mechanics and electromagnetism only relative motion is important and that there is no absolute frame of reference…

What Berger and Bronowski were hinting at is that Cubism – the realisation in image-making that the Renaissance single vanishing-point perspective (Newton’s, ‘frame of reference’) no longer had an exclusive claim to representing reality – appeared at the same historical moment as Relativity – an interesting coincidence at least!

(What is remarkable in all this, is of course the stable consensual perception of reality that emerges from these fleeting, flitting, staccato eye-tracking scans. – but more on this some other time).

Richard Gregory’s detailed description of the theories pertaining to perception of movement have hardly been improved in the 50 years or so since they were published (Gregory: Eye and Brain – The Psychology of Seeing 1966):

“We have seen that there are two neural systems for signalling movement, the image/retina and the eye/head systems – and it seems that during normal eye movements, these cancel each other out to give stability to the visual world…” (p95)

“The Cubists use, among other devices, the superposition of objects that render each other transparent and the fading out of objects into the neutral ground of the picture. The psychological effect becomes evident if we remember that the same means are used in motion pictures to represent discontinuity of space. If the scene shifts from the living room to the hotel lobby, the room will fade out into spacelessness – that is, for a moment pictorial space gives way to the physical surface of the screen, after which the opposite process introduces the new space of the lobby. Or, in a lap dissolve, both scenes appear for a moment as overlaying each other, thereby indicating their spatial independence to the eye. But whereas in the conventional film story, fade and dissolve represent only leaps within homogeneous and orderly space, experimental films and modern paintings use them for their attempts to obtain an integration of discordant orders.:”

Rudolf Arnheim: Art and Visual Perception. 1954 (p291)

Anton Guilio Bragaglia: Polyophysiognomical portrait of Boccioni, 1913

http://wd.blogs.com/wisch/2004/03/anton_giulio_br.html

The Bragaglia brothers pioneered Futurist Photography, using multiple exposures, long exposures, super-imposition during printing, and other techniques to express their idea of the algebra of movement – an attempt to capture motion, and to liberate the photograph from the strictures of simply the realistic recording of reality. In effect the Bragaglias were introducing movement through time into the photographic image, following Muybridge and Marey in the 1880s and 1890s.

more to come….- a picture essay on Cubism, Photography and Film

Anton Giulio Bragaglia: Fotodinamismo Futurista 1912

Anton Giulio Bragaglia: Still from Thais (1916)

Georges Braque: Woman with Guitar 1913

Picasso and Braque Go To the Movies [Arne Glimcher, 2008]

Narrated by none other than Martin Scorsese and featuring interviews with scholars and artists alike, the film doggedly makes the case that moving images exerted a profound influence over the formal development of Cubism, inspiring Picasso and Braque’s invention of a new kind of pictorial space in which, like cinema, reality is viewed from multiple angles at once.

http://bjws.blogspot.com/2011/06/evolution-of-womens-portraits-by.html

“Adding fuel to the Picasso frenzy is Arne Glimcher’s documentary Picasso and Braque Go To the Movies, a short but incisive look at how two of art history’s most prominent figures were influenced by the revolutionary medium of cinema. Narrated by none other than Martin Scorsese and featuring interviews with scholars and artists alike, the film doggedly makes the case that moving images exerted a profound influence over the formal development of Cubism, inspiring Picasso and Braque’s invention of a new kind of pictorial space in which, like cinema, reality is viewed from multiple angles at once.”

http://www.cynephile.com/tag/cubism/

An interview with Arne Glimcher and Bernice Rose on Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism.

“By 1912 there are 200 cinema palaces in Paris, and film is the sensation of the moment.”

Arne Glimcher

“In 1895 Picasso was at the first showing in Barcelona of Lumiere Bros films at the Salon Naplolean” Bernice Rose.

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/8540

 

The film makes the case that Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon [1907} was inspired by the serpentine dance of Loïe Fuller.

Brassai: Gorillas – wife in her Loie Fuller dance at Place d’Italie

Braque Harbour in Normandy 1909 + high contrast monochrome

Dancing Girls at the Moulin Rouge c1910

In the belle epoque, this juxtaposition of flickering lights, rapid movement, swirling dresses, and rhythmic dance moved from the music hall stage to the cinema palace…

Ilsa Bing: can-can dancers at the Moulin Rouge 1931

Brassai: Bal des Quatr’arts 1931

Mirrors, Plate Glass, Shop Windows – all the reflections found in the modern city were new visual phenomena to be explored by artists and photographers fascinated by new perspectives, new symmetries, new juxtapositions and superpositions, and by new ways of situating subjects in context.

Dawley, Kent, Miller: A Christmas Carol 1910 (still: Marley’s Ghost)

Double or multiple exposures (achieved in camera by rewinding and re-exposing the neg, or in processing, by over-printing the positive), provided another source of perspectival juxtaposition or simultaneous perspective.

Louis Feuillade: Judex 1916

Even in early movies, deep-focus cinematography provided other juxtapositions of scale and perspective…

 

Monca, Rigadin, Peintre Cubiste, 1913 – the satire

Other short films presented satires and spoofs of the idea of filmic cubism…

Pablo Picasso: cubist costumes for Diaghilev’s Parade 1917 – the reality

Nicole Vedres, Images de Cinema Francais, Paris, Les Editions de Chene, 1945

http://www.fulltable.com/vts/f/fant/terror/24.jpg

Zecca, Le Portrait Vivant, 1904

And these were the kind of short films that Picasso and Braque saw every Friday night in the cine palaces of Montmartre…

Louis Feuillade: La Nativite 1910

Just to bring us back to perspective, Giorgio de Chirico paintings between c1911-1917 presaged the 1920s Expressionist Film, and most interestingly synthesised several perspective views and projections into each painted scene, mixing vanishing points, isometric and axonometric projections into fleeting images…like stills from movies yet to be made.

Dziga Vertov: The Man With A Movie Camera 1929

Of course, the apotheosis of ‘cubist film’ is Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera (1929). Vertov’s inspirational 68 minute silent film explores a day in the life of the cameraman as he explores Odessa and other Soviet cities, illustrating the new USSR through a montage of shots and sequences. During the making of Man With A Movie Camera Vertov evolved a technique of ‘non-linear’ narrative previously explored by the artist Fernand Leger and film-maker Dudley Murphy in their experimental film Ballet Mecanique five years earlier in 1924. This kind of narrative involved shooting lots of shots and sequences, then editing them into a loose visual narrative with assistant editor Yelizaveta Svilova, who had previously worked on short films in the Kino Pravda (Cinema-Truth) series,  and One Sixth of the World (1926) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsFT7D7spBQ) – a feature-length documentary (‘a poetic travelogue’ – Wurm) also directed by Vertov, which some critics have described as ‘the perfect documentary’. Again it is a montage of shots counterpointing the lives of the bourgeoisie and workers, factories, dance halls, tearooms, mills, foundries, dancers, building sites, Jazzbands, native villages, (etc) all punctuated with massive cyrillic typography inter-titles declaiming капитал (CAPITAL!) ‘ON THE BRINK OF HISTORICAL DOWNFALL’ and other Soviet slogans and descriptors.

Vertov comments “A Sixth Part of the World is more than a film, than what we have got used to understanding by the word ‘film.’ Whether it is a newsreel, a comedy, an artistic hit-film, A Sixth Part of the World is somewhere beyond the boundaries of these definitions; it is already the next stage after the concept of ‘cinema’ itself … Our slogan is: All citizens of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics from 10 to 100 years old must see this work. By the tenth anniversary of October there must not be a single Tungus who has not seen A Sixth Part of the World

(from the introductory essay by Barbara Wurm in the DVD booklet – Editions Filmmuseum 2009)

 
1928_Dziga Vertov: One Sixth of the World

“According to Vertov, the film anticipates the coming of sound films by using a constant “word-radio-theme” in the intertitles.” (Barbara Wurm). In many ways – bold, explosive and expressive typography flashed on the screen – Vertov’s developing style of film-making has much in common with the kind of motion-graphic essays mixing film, graphics, images, motion typography etc that were explored using Flash and other authoring applications from the mid-1990s onwards. This is also an example of the synaesthetic quest that repeatedly appears throughout the Modernist period – from Kandinsky’s colour-sound equation (1910), to Scriabin’s Prometheus colour-music poem (1915), and on to the work of Moholy Nagy (Lichtspiele 1922), Vladimir Baranoff’s Optophonetic Disc (1924), this theme iterates through into the 21st Century.. (for example, see Golan Levin’s Messa di Voce 2003 and other pieces).

The multiple-perspectives and variety of points-of-view, rapidly intercut, of Vertov’s revolutionary films illustrate the central point we are making here – that cinema – the medium itself, regardless of content, creates a kind of simultaneous perspective – a roving, restless and inquisitive eye that is the ‘new vision’ of the 20th Century.

David Hockney A Bigger Picture – 18 screen video

David Hockney has repeatedly returned to the exploration of cubist ideas and perception. His successive explorations of multiple simultaneous perspective, visual attention and saccadic-scanning in his Joiner photographs (from 1980s), his experiments with non-perspective drawings, his revelations of the use of camera obscura and other perspective-aids in Secret Knowledge (Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters, 2001) and now (2010-2012) his multi-screen, multi-camera videos, his video Bigger Picture. The impact of these 9-screen and 18-screen videos is very interesting. They have a visceral visual impact, driving the viewer’s attention to the saccadic scanning of our visual apparatus. The slightly different lensing, cropping and time-code imbue each frame of motion video with a degree of difference from the other frames such as to be a significant attractor for our attention. Our saccadic scanning of these screens – look at this, look at this, look at this…echoes and replicates our normally unconscious saccadic scene-scanning, forcing us to a realisation that ‘the Cubists were Right!’. We SEE more.

Hockney’s Bigger Picture multi-screen videos included in this C4 video-clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MXSQdMHGsE&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL8F8AEF4A2F4B3489

I’ve rather belatedly discovered that what I have been calling ‘the cognitive moment’ (meaning the amount of time it takes to recognise – and put a name or descriptor to an image), is labelled by psychologists as ‘the perceptual moment’. Such moments are also interestingly, called ‘frames’ – how convenient for film makers!

A frame of reality – the amount of time necessary for light signals from the object to travel the distance to the eye, to impact on the sensory system, for the cascade of electro-chemical signals to travel from neurone to neurone, being sifted as to the degree of life-threatening attention required, being filtered through pattern recognition and long term memory, then the nanoseconds necessary to retrieve that memory -that word, number, date -and to say to oneself ‘that’s a Rodchenko’! This remarkable process, according to cognitive psychologists, takes somewhere between 20 and 200 milliseconds. My film Zeiteye creates 7 frames of images a second, that is each image is projected for c 143 milliseconds -enough time you would think to see a frame of video, to re-cognise the image, and to say Rodchenko (or whoever it is).

But this is not just a single image you are seeing, it is a rapid montage – a succession of images, each viewed for 143  milliseconds… The brain is pushed to it’s cognitive limits. .

A sample strip of frames from ZeitEYE for 1964-1968

Context helps, as does chronology – the more you know of media history the more you can infill with logical interpolation. And how fast is the logical interpolation?

The story of Zeiteye is not a conventional narrative, but it is a chronological progression, one way of telling a story. the depth you need to round-out the story -to make a proper story – will come from interactive control over the frame-rate and the ‘book’ element of the film-book form -the contextual images and texts that appear around the video frame…

sample strip from 1964-1968 ZeitEYE eyes

So Zeiteye has an internal, content-driven narrative. It has an algorithmic narrative, driven by it’s look-ahead codec (MPEG4), and it has a procedural narrative – it’s database form of collected and archived images tracing the history of media innovation . . Cognitively, it relies on image-recognition, on reading the inter titles, and on ones stored knowledge of media history -your cognitive context of personal memories, learned facts, remembered images, faces, and facts.

images from 1966-68 ZeitEYE eyes

Are words more iconographic than images? You can read a single word say TURING as quickly as you might recognise a photograph of Turing, but with the word the abstraction is already done – it’s a word of memory already, you don’t have to ‘say’ it to yourself – to verbalised the thought, as you do with an image. A word is its own label, a picture requires a word of recognition. Is this true for everyone?

I realised this when I decided to introduce inter titles into Zeiteye in order to clarify some of the more obscure images. The inter titles came to provide another reading of Zeiteye, to supplement the images and the decade subtitles and dates.

The iconographic, instantaneous inter titles help ‘frame’ the more obscure images, as do images with identifying words and graphics embodied in them, such as film posters, illustrated book jackets, record sleeves. This framing of less easily identifiable images, together with the chronological context, helps the brain decipher and decode the stream of information in the film.

You have clues. The more knowledge you have of media history, the more you can ‘logically interpolate’ or simply guess the identification of unknown or unfamiliar images.

The logical interpolation process consists of the perceptual frame or cognitive moment (the 20 to 200 milliseconds) PLUS the time it takes for the interpolation. In short-term or ‘working’ memory, most of us can store some 6 or 7 bits of information – a phone number – while some of us enjoy a larger working memory of maybe 20 or 30 variables. Some programmers have this facility – a useful skill in developing a complex algorithm or the plotline of a novel or film.

But the onslaught of mutiple film frames per second stretches short-term memory to its limits. The brain has just decoded or recognised an image, and already another image and another is demanding attention. Quite soon, you realise that its an impossible task and the brain relaxes into a cognitive flow that can be immensely enjoyable, the images wash over the attentive consciousness, and you bathe in the almost hypnagogic trance of iconic media memories and memory triggers.

frames from The Natural History of Alamogordo

The new film pulls tiny images from the database of media inspirations, and expands them to full screen in a kind of exponential zoom. Intermittently, fragments of remembered media, scraps of media-memes are flashed on the screen, superimposing the staccato and seemingly endless repetitive zooms through the zeit-eyes of the last 100 years.

digital media opportunity-space