conceptsmethod | C1 Chp1 | Any Instant Whatever | Glossary | Privileged Instants
archives1.2003 | 12.2002 | 11.2002
written and published in Tinderbox 1.2.3
immobile sections + abstract time.
This is one half of Deleuze's opening 'formula' and is derived from his consideration of Bergson's thesis that movement is distinct from the space covered. I guess to begin with it isn't a particularly difficult idea, though for someone coming from cinema studies you tend to already feel, well, that there's a precipice you're about to tumble into somewhere round about.
If you approach this via Xeno's paradox, for instance of the archer, the arrow, and the target, it helps. In this paradox the archer shoots an arrow towards a target, and at any point we can easily determine where the arrow will be in the plane of its trajectory at any point in time (velocity = distance/time, for instance). With can divide this point in time so that we can calculate where the arrow is at 3 seconds, 3.3 seconds, 3.33 seconds, 3.333 seconds and so on and so forth.
However, no matter how small or minute we make our time scale, or take our measurements, all we will ever be able to calculate (and 'see') is where the arrow is at that instant (at 3.3 seconds it is, let's imagine, 6.2 metres from the archer). We will never be able to find that moment in time where the arrow actually moves from one point to the next. This is the paradox Xeno described (well, one of them) and is what Deleuze describes as abstract time (mechanical time).
So, simply, even if we measure the time of the arrow's flight to thousandths of a second and its distance to fractions of a millimetre all that we could reproduce is where the arrow is at any instant in time and space, but never the moment at which it moved from one point in space to the next. Nor, for that matter, would we be able to 'see' that movement. In other words, what this reproduces in relation to the flight of the arrow is not the movement of the arrow through that space, but the location of that arrow at any-instant-whatever, which in this example are being defined by our viewing or measuring apparatus - the movement of the arrow from one cartesian point to the next will always appear to have happened between our scales of measurement.
For Deleuze, following Bergson, this paradox only happens because space and time are treated as equivalent to the extent that they're both conceived of as quantities. However, for Deleuze (via Bergson) this is a category error as space may be a quantity but time is a quality.
[Sun 8 Dec 2002]
For Bergson, and very much for Deleuze, space is a quantity, and able to be infinitely divided ("The space covered is divisible, indeed infinitely divisible"), whereas movement is a quality, and so to divide movement (real movement), is to qualitatively affect that which is divided.
A simple example (not from cinema yet). Red is a quality, so no matter how big your red balloon is, or how many of these red balloons you have, the 'redness' of your red balloon is unaffected. This is because colour is a quality, not a quantity. You can let down your red balloon to make a smaller sphere, pop several of the other red balloons, but the quality of redness of the red of the balloon remains unaffected, though of course the size or number (a quantity) has varied. Hence any change in 'redness', that is a change in the balloon's quality of redness, affects the whole and is a change of a different categorical type to a change in quantity.
Space on the other hand is a quantity and is homogenous as when I divide it there is not a qualitative change - dividing a metre of timber in half gives me two half metres, but it is still length. However, time is heterogenous because to divide time (time as time not time as distance covered) is to qualitatively affect that which is divided.
[Sun 8 Dec 2002]
The distinction that Deleuze makes at the beginning of Chapter One, between space and movement, allows him to argue that movement, the act of changing qualitatively, always occurs in the present and is distinct from the space covered: "According to the first thesis, movement is distinct from the space covered." [C1. 1.]
I suspect that this use of 'distinct' is going to be turn out to be significant, or at least something I might need to return to, because we have inserted into movement what, just for now, appears as a dualism, or at least a difference yet it is not apparent where this difference arises: movement is in the present and is qualitative, and this is a separate thing from space, because that is what movement is through. The significance of this is that throughout the two volumes of the cinema books Deleuze will develop a typology (this is a provisional term) where each of the terms appear to be split in two and so are seen to contain, or produce (at the moment I am not sure whether it is one or the other, or if it wanders) what at first glance could be mistaken as an almost dialectical series. That Deleuze in general is understood to be antithetical to the dialectic I think is pretty much a given, so I am interested in exploring, once I get there, how or why these things always split in two.
[Sun 15 Dec 2002]
Because space is a quantity genuine movement cannot be the distance something covers in space - that would be to mistake movement as quantity (we could and can call it movement, after all we ought to be pragmatic about these things, but it is not the genuine movement that Deleuze is discussing, perhaps it can hereafter be movement). Genuine movement requires a qualitative change and as it is a qualitative change it must happen temporally, not spatially.
Another example. I can return to my home each day (pragmatically and in theory), and it is reasonable to think of it as the same space and place. However, I can't return to yesterday, I can't even return to tomorrow. This is, I guess, because time has an arrow (a direction) that is not reversible, whereas space has no such concerns. It is trivial to return to the same place, rather less so to try the same trick for time.
Why must a qualitative change be a temporal change? Well, one answer I imagine might be simply that this will largely be dealt with by how Deleuze develops his particular conception of the shot, framing, and montage. Which I also imagine is a way of saying there isn't an answer here yet. On the other hand I've already written about the simple distinction to be drawn between quantity and quality, but this doesn't really account for why there might not be a qualitative change that is spatial, rather than temporal. Because, as we saw, movement will always happen between the instants that we identify, yet it is clear that movement has happened, so movement is a different category or order to movement as simple movement in space. In fact, if we think about the qualitative change that an individual life is, then space is irrelevant to this qualitative change.
For instance, my death is a qualitative change, it is an event in time and it is the time of my death that, by any account, really is of much more significance (pragmatically and ontologically) than the place of my death. Certainly for me. In addition all of those sorts of things that might mark my life qualitatively (birth, marriage, parenthood, and so on) are first and foremost events in time. They are irreversible (I can be divorced but never not-married, or more accurately not-having-been-married) and qualitatively change my status, position, and so on and so forth. And if they don't do this for my perception of myself - let's assume I regard marriage as a trivial and meaningless social rite - they certainly still do this for me outside of myself whether I like this or not.
I mean this quite outside of the ideological, social, linguistic and so on contexts that obviously accrue to these acts, they're secondary in the context of what I'm describing - of the order of what they might mean which I would suggest or think of as an epistemological issue.
[Mon 16 Dec 2002]
real movement → concrete duration
This is the other half of Deleuze's opening formula at the very beginning of Cinema One. Movement cannot be remade by instants or positions in space, as that will only reconstruct where the object is at that instant, but never the movement of the object between each point in space. However, it is clear that movement happens in time - it was here and now it is there - and that this time, what is here being labeled duration (after Bergson), has a real existence.
However, this time is not equal or able to be equated to mechanistic time (seconds for example), which treats time as equivalent to velocity in space, because, as I'll eventually get round to showing (once I get off this first page) real time is always a qualitative not a quantitative change. Hence it exists, it is real, but it is not measurable in the manner that we might ordinarily think we measure time. (How long is the memory of the moment of your first intimate kiss and are seconds how this is really measured?)
What is of more import, right now, is that the above formula is in opposition to 'immobile sections + abstract time' and that they are in now way dialectically related or in any way ought to be thought of as coming out of some dialectic process. One is a mechanistic concept of time which translates time into space covered, and so misses movement and real time. Period.
[Tue 17 Dec 2002]
A photogramme is an immobile section. In the cinema usually at the rate of 24 per second. I'm not sure if photogramme is a common term in French writing on cinema or if it is peculiar to Deleuze. Here, and this is the first use of the term by Deleuze in the books, it describes the apparatus of capture and projection and the way each individual frame, as an individual frame, is a still and so appears as an immobile section. Deleuze is quick to point out that there is much more to it than this, but for Deleuze it would seem that the cinema does "proceed" from the photogramme and that the photogramme begins with immobile sections.
[Thu 19 Dec 2002]
Deleuze dismisses the photogramme as the basis of the cinematic image immediately after introducing it. The basis for this appears to be that though cinematic movement appears identical to our phenomenological perception of movement in the world, it is an error to treat cinematic movement as a derived movement in relation to phenomenological perception on the basis that cinematic movement is artificial. That is, recorded and projected via mechanical and chemical (or electronic?) means.
I take this to only indicate not that cinematic movement = phenomenological perception of movement but only very simply that just because cinematic movement is realised artificially whereas phenomenological movement is realised 'naturally' one is not a dependent and/or diluted/derived form of the other. This is an important point for a general Deleuzean ecology as there will be no precedence ever accorded the natural over the artificial. In the instance of the 'cinema' (the idea of cinema qua cinema and not as narrative) this is not because Deleuze will argue and show how cinematic movement is already a natural movement (an argument that could be made using phenomenology for instance) but more profoundly that the division between artificial and natural would be to already introduce a false and external distinction or division into the world and into movement. As we will probably see (and if I don't say it explicitly then this will have to do), cinematic movement is of a part of movement in general and this movement is neither natural or artificial, it is of the world as movement and movement as the world.
Deleuze then claims that the cinematic image is "an intermediate image, to which movement is not appended or added; the movement on the contrary belongs to the intermediate image as immediate given." [C1. p.2.] By this he is separating it from a naive mechanical view where cinematic movement would be conceived of as still images (frames aka photogrammes) that in their projection create the illusion of movement via the rapidity of their display (remembering that each film frame is held momentarily still in the film gate during exposure and projection) and the additional flicker that each frame receives as it is held in the gate. This would be movement added to the image, above the image as it were - above as it would be supplementary to the photogramme. This addition could be applied by the viewer, by the apparatus, or some combination of both. That this cannot be the case is quite important for Deleuze, because if movement where able to be added to the image or the cinema in any sort of additional or supplementary way then the economy of movement in the cinema would be merely representational and based on movement as an aporia.
It would be representational because cinematic movement would then become the redescription-as-representation of movement, and not be movement (with 'be' doing a lot of ontological work there). It would be based on an aporia for cinema would not be movement, and so would need something added for there to be movement, and so the equation, if you like, would be n + 1, where the '+' is providing that which is missing or absent and so 'n' would necessarily inscribe an absence. It is, for me at least (YMMV), a truism that Deleuze is antithetical to any position that requires or is founded on absence, and as described in the opening chapter of A Thousand Plateaus the economy of such systems is always n - 1, where 'n' is sufficient and so the event is a reduction, rarefication, or selection in or upon the field that is 'n'.
However, as is clear from the quote, for Deleuze cinematic movement is not something added to the film image come photogramme but is immediately given. This is, I imagine, why the image is intermediate. It is not a still image which requires movement to be added, but neither is it yet movement qua movement. (Which begs the interesting question, which I hope I remember to return to, of whether something like surveillance cameras and footage are then cinematic, according to Deleuze's definition.)
Finally Deleuze suggests that movement as "immediate given" in cinema is analogous to natural perception, however movement in natural perception is added 'above' the image by the perceiving subject, whereas in the cinema the apparatus ensures that movement is present at the same time as the image's appearance. They cannot be separated and so where natural perception 'corrects' the illusion of the image as an action or event apart from the image this would appear to not be the case in cinema.
[Thu 19 Dec 2002]
In short, cinema does not give us an image to which movement is added, it immediately gives us a movement-image. It does give us a section, but a section which is mobile, not an immobile section + abstract movement. [C1.2]
The cinematic image provides slices of time that are not mechanical, and they are not still images or slices of varying length to which movement is then added via an apparatus. The sections of time that the cinema provides us with are mobile in that they are already qualitative sections where their duration represents or is qualitative change. To cut a section (i.e., via editing) would then be to effect a qualitative change rather than merely a quantitative change, so that a one minute shot that is cut in half is now not just a thirty second shot, but is in fact (at least for Deleuze) a qualitatively different thing in terms of duration.
Clearly cinema is a mechanical process, and so like all mechanical processes is subject to (and its technological development is premised upon) standardisation; 35 millimetre film, 24 frames per second, and so forth. The manner in which this standardises time (rate of recording and rate of projection) is mechanical and abstract and so would appear to be quite distinct from duration as qualitative change. However, even before Deleuze introduces the significance of montage as effecting qualitative change in and between cinematic mobile sections, it is important to recognise that Deleuze has already attempted to establish that cinematic movement is not about the representation of corporeal movement (filming someone walking and representing this on screen) for cinematic movement is an immediate given and not an addition.
A film that I believe may illustrate this is Chris Marker's 1962 La Jetée. Here most of the film (though not all) is made up of filmed photographs, yes the camera sometimes slowly zooms into the photograph, or pans across the image, but broadly speaking it is a film composed largely of stills. Now, then you view La Jetée it is clear that you are watching a film, it is not a slide show, and the experience of the work while you're watching it is dramatically different to what you would experience if it were a slide show, even with dissolves and fades between slides. This is an example I will be returning to, but at this point I would like to simply make the following observation, or claim, that here is a film that is obviously a film, yet there is no movement within the cinematic frame. This needs to be carefully qualified at this point, there is no record or representation of movement of the world (objects, characters) within the frame, so we don't see people walking, talking, leaves, water or clouds moving. But there is movement. That I think it is trivial to agree that there is movement for me begins to provide a concrete way of thinking about what Deleuze is claiming. If there is movement in La Jetée, indeed if we can agree that it is a film and not a slide show, then this movement is not the record or derived from the record or perception of ordinary movement in the world.
Oh, and we should remember, 'abstract movement' is pretty much time being treated as equivalent to distance covered, and while this formula clearly works in all sorts of contexts (to calculate how long a drive may take, or how fast a car is travelling) it is not time as qualitative change, which for Deleuze is genuine time, aka duration. Movement as duration cannot be recovered by rejoining or describing the space covered, movement as duration as a qualitative change happens elsewhere. This is not to discount or remove simple movement as ordinarily conceived, only to recognise that it is inadequate to account for change.
[Tue 7 Jan 2003]
Deleuze concludes the opening section of Chapter One in Cinema One by introducing the three major features that the cinema would develop that are the ways it begins to approach duration as duration. It does this via montage, the moving camera, and a mobile point of view.
Montage begins to establish qualitative relations between shots, and between the shots and the whole film, so that shot change begins to be an expression of a qualitative change.
The moving camera shifts cinema away from the fixed view and frame of primitive cinema and so in its very movement dynamically establishes continuing qualitative relations within the frame.
The mobile point of view provides the camera with some agency so that what it sees, how, and where from, is no longer defined or constrained by an anthropomorphic phenomenology, regardless of how much the colonisation of cinema by narrative may attempt to recover its mobile view into a rationalised real.
[Tue 7 Jan 2003]
Privileged instants are one illusion that misjudges movement as a transcendental pose. Deleuze describes this via an ancient conception of time and movement where the pose is understood to be the pure moment or essence that expresses (and contains) that which is the summation or encapsulation of a pure movement as moment. Things like the piéta immediately spring to mind, don't they? Those sorts of Platonic ideas given a form that though it may never be pure are premised on the ideality of a pure expression of an ideal moment.
The need for such poses (dance is an example that Deleuze uses) is premised on the idea that the material of the world is in flux, a sort of fallen materiality (the Platonism here ought to be obvious) where the potential of the ideal form (or idea?) need material embodiment, yet by being material they of course lose their ideality. Movement in this view then becomes a series of movements, regulated as or by a series of poses (no wonder the Greeks came up with the Olympics) where the transition between poses is subject to regulation.
Early photography, at least portrait photography, would appear to have attempted something like this with its highly mannered poses. Of course much painting and sculpture has also pursued the pose, and I suspect much religious iconography could be thought about in terms of a theological pose. In each case the pose is an abstraction that expresses an ideal and so in its formalism wants to rarefy itself within the aura of that ideal so as to approach a transcendental purity. Or something like that.
This does not have to mean still moments, only those moments within movement that encapsulate and sum that which the moment is thought to express of the enduring where that which endures is not the contingent or the accidental but the almost sublime. The infant's glance to Mary, Mary's glance to the infant, or perhaps those moments imagined during movement - the throw of the discuss, a horse galloping, or even perhaps a discus thrower.
[Sun 12 Jan 2003]
[Mon 10 Feb 2003]
A research blog come hypertext that is about Gilles Deleuze's cinema philosophy. Exegetical, pedagogical, writerly, (yes rhizomatic, though to claim hypertext is rhizomatic in the 21st century is a bit like declaring that water is wet). An experiment in method, process, and thought.
I'm Adrian Miles and I teach cinema, hypertext, and interactive cinema in the Media Studies degree program at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. I am a researcher in emergent media pedagogies at the InterMedia research lab, University of Bergen, Norway. [email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org]
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.