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. Cinema Beyond Film : Media Epistemology in the Modern Era.

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Cinem a Beyond Film

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C i n e m a Beyond F ilm

M e d ia E p i s t e m o l o g y in t h e M o d e r n E ra

Edited by François Albera and Maria Tortajada

Amsterdam U n iversity Press

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This publication is m ade possible by a grant from the Faculté des Lettres de
l'Université de Lausanne, Réseau Ciném a CH.

Translated b y Lance H ewson

Front cover illustration: The Zoopraxiscope b y Eadw eard M uybridge (1893)


Back cover illustration: Runner w ith apparatus for recording speed (Marey).
Design: Claire Angelini, Munich

Cover design: K ok Korpershoek, Am sterdam


Lay-out: ja p e s , Am sterdam

ISBN 978 90 8964 083 3 ( p a p e r b a c k )


ISBN 978 90 8964 084 0 ( h a r d c o v e r )
e-ISB N 978 90 4850 807 5
NUR 674

© François Albera and M aria Tortajada / Am sterdam University Press, Am ster­


dam 2010

A ll rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above,
no part of this book m ay be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or b y any means (electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both
the copyright ow ner and the author of the book.

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C o n te n ts

A c k n o w le d g m e n ts 7

In tr o d u c tio n t o an E p is te m o lo g y o f V ie w in g and L is te n in g
D is p o s itiv e s 9
François Albera and Maria Tortajada

1 E p is t e m o l o g y

T h e 1900 E p is te m e 25
François Albera and Maria Tortajada

P ro je c te d C in e m a ( A H y p o th e s is on th e C in e m a ’s Im a g in a tio n ) 45
François Albera

T h e Case f o r an E p is te m o g ra p h y o f M o n ta g e 59
The Marey M oment
François Albera

T h e ‘ C in e m a to g ra p h ic S n a p s h o t’ 79
Rereading Etienne-Jules M arey
Maria Tortajada

T h e C in e m a to g ra p h ve rsus P h o to g ra p h y , o r C y c lis ts and T im e in


th e W o r k o f A lfr e d J a rry 97
Maria Tortajada

2 E x h ib itio n

D y n a m ic P aths o f T h o u g h t 117
Exhibition Design, Photography and Circulation in the W ork of
Herbert Bayer
Olivier Lagon

T h e L e c tu re 14 5
Le Corbusier's U se of the Word, D raw ing and Projection
Olivier Lugon

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6 Films that W o rk

3 B o d y a n d V o ic e

D a n c in g D o lls and M e c h a n ic a l Eyes 17 1


Tracking an Obsessive M otive from Ballet to Cinema
Laurent Guido

F ro m B ro a d c a s t P e rfo rm a n c e to V ir tu a l Show 19 3
Television's Tennis Dispositive
Laurent Guido

T h e L e c tu re r, th e Im a g e , th e M ach in e and th e A u d io -S p e c ta to r 2 15
The Voice as a Component Part of A udiovisual Dispositives
Alain Boillat

O n th e S in g u la r S ta tu s o f th e H u m a n V o ic e 2 33
Tomorrow's Eve and the Cultural Series of Talking Machines
Alain Boillat

A b o u t th e A u th o r s 25 3

B ib lio g ra p h y 255

In d e x o f N a m e s 259

In d e x o f T itle s 265

In d e x o f S u b je c ts 269

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A c k n o w le d g m e n ts

The editors are grateful to Thom as Elsaesser for m aking this publishing project
possible, and they w ant to em phasize that the U niversity o f Lausanne (UNIL),
the Faculty of Hum anities of U N IL and the Reseau/Netwerk Cinem a C H con­
tributed to the realization of this project. They thank too the editors at AU P,
Jeroen Sondervan and Jaap W agenaar, for solving problem s of any sort.

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I n t r o d u c t i o n t o an E p i s t e m o l o g y o f V i e w i n g
and L is te n in g D is p o s itive s

François Albera and Maria Tortajada

For some years now, scholars w orking in the H istory and Aesthetics of the Cin­
em a Departm ent o f the U niversity of Lausanne's Faculté des Lettres have been
actively engaged in research and teaching that stems from their belief that, at
the present moment in time, one can no longer restrict one's approach to cinema
to the narrow field and specific object that w ere established in the early decades
of the 20th century, and that culminated in the semiotics approach of the 1970s.
Paradoxically enough, this apotheosis occurred just as the m odel that in circa
1906 had reflected the independent and specific nature of cinem atography and
the cinematographic institution w as clearly becoming obsolete w ith the multi­
plication both of the m odes of capturing film (first video, then the DVD, com­
puters, mobile telephones, etc.) and of audiovisual communication support sys­
tems and media (in particular television, and more recently the Internet).
The 'return' to history on the one hand1 and the historicizing of aesthetics on
the other hand - w ith the latter thereby bypassing an essentialist, ontological
approach - are based on a new approach to the archive. They allow the re­
searcher to w iden the field of investigation and examine anew the different
questions related to cinematographic 'language' and the problematics of repre­
sentation —i.e., the practices and theories of view ing and listening which devel­
oped during the 19th century and were linked to the rapid industrial and tech­
nological developm ent of western societies. The cinema is one of those
instruments that condenses a whole series of distinctive characteristics of indus­
trial and technological society (serialisation, the division of w ork, multiplica­
tion, mechanisation, standardisation, speed, globalization, etc.) - where a whole
series of questions converges —from the social to the political, the medical to the
ideological, the artistic to the anthropological, etc.
Since the m iddle of last century, it can be said that the field has been broaden­
ed by the arrival of the 'm ass m edia' and m ass communication in their relation
to new m edium s and m edia - the focus has m oved from television to the Inter­
net, digital technologies, and further beyond, to the issue of cloning. The key
position that cinema occupied in the 1950s has consequently become relati­
vized, even though its 'm odel' continues to organise much of the imagination
in the shape of the procedures involved in the means of communication and
m edia representation.

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10 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

Once one is aw are that the paradigm has shifted, one can, correlatively, take a
fresh look at the 'cinem a' sequence itself and approach it from other angles.
Research into 'early cinema' has paved the w ay for this re-examination by high­
lighting its prim arily heterogeneous aspects that both the history and the aes­
thetics of legitimation had suppressed. These traits had been partly envisaged in
certain lines of research - including the n ow adays disregarded but important
w ork of the Institut de Filmologie (1947-1962) —which allow ed one in particular
to m ake a heuristic distinction between 'cinematic fact' and 'film ic fact', while
m aintaining a restrictive model of the 'cinem atic'.2
In the w ake of our contacts w ith 'early cinem a' specialists such as Laurent
Mannoni, Tom Gunning, André Gaudreault and Thomas Elsaesser, and as a
result of our interest in new theories straddling the history of art, photography
and the m eans of communication developed by such scholars as Jonathan
Crary, Friedrich A. Kittler, Philippe H am on and Stefan Andriopoulos, w e
decided to focus on an epistemological reflection on these questions in order to
produce a revitalised conceptual fram ew ork for our historical and theoretical
research, covering both the history of cinema and the aesthetics of cinema and
its language.
The fram ew ork that has been developed arises out of a hypothesis, the '1900
episteme', w hich epitomises this bod y of phenomena, discourses and practices,
m any of whose distinctive features w ere incorporated into 'cinem a' over a peri­
od of several decades.
The foundation of our reflection is a redefinition o f the question of the 'd ispo­
sitives', which can be used to construct a schema that then becomes an instru­
ment of research.

D is p o s itiv e , e p is te m o lo g y

We shall now clarify the tw o key terms that w e use: 'dispositive' and 'epistemol-
°gy'-
The term 'dispositive' has come into English academic discourse through the
translation of w orks by such scholars as Michel Foucault. The dispositive is a
network of relations. The French equivalent, 'dispositif, w as originally used in
legal contexts, and then spread to include the idea of disposition, whether of
troops or in the field o f mechanics. The w ord is so greatly exploited in French
today that some of its original force has been diluted. It m ay designate any type
of technical organisation or construction, or any arrangement, including with
hum an actors, as long as it correlates actantial positions and relations. In
French, it w as quickly taken into the realm of scientific or technical experiments

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Introduction to an Epistemology o f Viewing and Listening Dispositives

(where one also speaks of experimental 'protocols') and is w idely used in con­
tem porary art to speak of an 'installation'.
The notion of dispositive is of particular interest here as it includes everything
that is laid out in front of the spectator, together w ith all the elements that allow
the representation to be view ed and heard. The dispositive involves both the
m aking and the showing. The term is used w hen one or other of these aspects
is addressed, on condition that it is considered as a network of relations be­
tween a spectator, the representation and the 'm achinery' that allow s the spec­
tator to have access to the representation (cf. 'The 1900 Episteme'). However, the
task of renew ing the historiography of the cinema and, more generally, the
audiovisual dom ain via the notion of dispositive im plies constructing a kn ow l­
edge (savoir) that reduces the concept neither to a strict historical actualization
nor to a causal genealogy.
It is important to stress that dispositives have both a concrete existence —a
cinema auditorium actually exists —and a discursive existence. For exam ple, a
particular phonographic practice m ay only be found in discourse, e.g., in lit­
erary discourse. M oreover, our long-term aim is not to describe the dispositives
themselves, but the network of notions, theories, beliefs and practices that are
w oven into the discourses directly related to the elements of the dispositives,
w hich are them selves put in relation w ithin these discourses. By approaching
dispositives from the angle of discourses, w e are aim ing to construct the condi­
tions of possibility of the dispositives themselves as constituted knowledge.
For Michel Foucault, the notion o f dispositive came to be increasingly asso­
ciated w ith a strategic perspective, and then a perspective of power; moreover,
the technologies of control (the key exam ple being the panopticon) do not them­
selves define the category of dispositive, w hich is wider, i.e., the disciplinary re­
gime or sexuality. In other w ords, from Foucault's point of view, neither 'cin­
em a' nor the w hole collection of audio and visual 'm achines' in themselves
constitute 'dispositives' but w ould have to be seen as belonging to an all-en­
com passing whole. When Paul Virilio introduced the problematic of a 'logistics
of perception', he heralded such a whole, w hich w ould have situated disposi­
tives of view in g (and, for us, listening) w ithin a historical whole. But his idea
has been only very partially developed.
O ur definition of dispositive has therefore not been sim ply borrow ed from
Foucault: it comes not only from the exchanges in the field of the historiography
of cinema, and particularly 'early' cinema, but also from the broadening of the
discipline, w hich has freed itself from semiotic or aesthetic discourse on the one
hand and a purely technical (i.e., historical or functionalist) discourse on the
other. This is the background of our specific epistemological approach.

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12 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

When one defines the dispositive as a network of relations that goes beyond
the dispositive itself, one is already in a sense im plying a method for defining
the object.
It is also im portant to clarify our use of the term 'epistem ology'. Back in 1969,
Foucault preferred to speak of 'archaeology', as a reflection of his decision to
w ork on the m argins of the sciences, on w hat Gaston Bachelard him self rejected
as an 'epistem ological obstacle' (i.e., the discourses and im aginary beliefs that
obstruct the theoretical and straightforward constitution of the scientific con­
cept), and Louis Althusser rejected as ideology. The present book covers similar
territory: the 'know ledge of dispositives', their conditions of possibility, is a dif­
fuse know ledge that is not determined b y a type of enunciation or institution.
Dispositives intersect with many discourses - many more than those discourses
that are fighting for the institutionalization of dispositives themselves - such as
cinema and photography. The discourses that appear in the follow ing chapters
are literary, scientific and technical, and m ay involve various other fields (legal
and economic), social practices (tourism, sporting events) and, of course, cultur­
al practices and spectacles (theatre, the circus, etc.). In other w ords, the kn ow l­
edge of dispositives is not only constructed w ithin the heterogeneity of sources
and data, but also in the confrontation between the discursive and the concrete
historical object, the social practice that it implies, and so on.
Archaeology is used here to mean an epistem ology that does not aim at scien­
tific coherence - but it is not the epistem ology of a tekne. It aim s to construct an
episteme - a know ledge that is confronted w ith practices.

I ‘ T h e 1900 E p i s t e m e ’

The opening chapter of the volum e, 'The 1900 Episteme', is a paper that Fran­
çois A lbera and M aria Tortajada gave at a Domitor International Association
sym posium . It builds on the hypothesis that the new conditions of view in g that
arose out of the industrial society of the 18th and 19th centuries reformulated
the 'spectator-spectacle' schema by introducing the question of the dispositive,
w hich assigns a new place to the view er within a tripartite spectator-machine-
representation. This tripartite representation m ust be constructed as an epistemic
schema and, as such, integrated within a network, a w ider epistemic configura­
tion (that of cinematics, M arey's physiology of movement, or social practices
such as the railw ay journey and the spectacularisation of the landscape, bring­
ing together an immobile spectator, a mobile spectacle and a fram ew ork of v i­
sion). Furthermore, in its capacity of schema, it provides a model not only w ith­
in the restricted field of view ing and listening dispositives, but going beyond to

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Introduction to an Epistemology o f Viewing and Listening Dispositives 13

encom pass that of visuality (painting, literature) and even that of thought ('cin­
em a', a m odel of know ledge according to Bergson, a model of the psychic appa­
ratus for some psychologists or psychoanalysts). The epistemic schema thus
combines the specification of the concrete elements of the various dispositives
w ith the concepts that are linked to them, for exam ple, the notions of breaking
dow n movement, temporal im m ediacy or deferred broadcasting, etc. Finally, in
order for the schema to be constructed, it is vital sim ultaneously to develop a
study of discourses, a study of concrete dispositives, and a study of the institu­
tional and social practices that are both engaged b y and engage these disposi­
tives.
François Albera's chapter entitled 'Projected Cinem a (A H ypothesis on the
Cinem a's Imagination)' follow s on from the perspective outlined in 'The 1900
Epistem e' by exam ining a historical and theoretical approach to the problematic
of technical invention that revolves around audio and visual dispositives. His
vision encom passes not only literary texts (Villiers de l'Isle Adam , de Chousy
and Jules Verne), iconic texts (Robida), and scientific popularisation (Camille
Flammarion), but also w riters and philosophers (Rabelais, Cam panella, Sorel
and Cyrano de Bergerac) w ho w ere active long before the emergence of cinema
and w ho thus belonged to a different topic, and others w riting in the w ake of
the advent of cinema (Raym ond Roussel, Saint-Pol-Roux, René Barjavel and
Bioy Casares, as w ell as G iuseppe Lipparini, M aurice Renard, Maurice Leblanc,
Léon Daudet and m any others). H is hypothesis is that the 'utopias' o f com m u­
nication technologies are not so much im aginations of precursors or prospective
fantasies as stages of the invention itself that take the shape of actualizations of
the potential inherent in the technologies of the day. Leaving aside the fact that
these fictional w orks w ere part and parcel of the invention that w as about to
come into being, they offer fertile ground for experimentation, a space for extra­
polation based on research and existing apparatuses or machines, and thus they
bear w itness both to the im aginary side o f these technologies and the expecta­
tions to which they give rise. In the w ake of Gilbert Sim ondon's reflections on
the 'm odes of existence of technical objects', one m ay indeed suggest that the
'genesis' of the invention is constituent of it. These 'fictions' consequently reveal
certain dimensions of existing technologies from which they borrow, but which
the catalogue of history - that gives precedence to one of the chosen usages -
fails to record. W hat w e have here is both the potential related to the medium or
machine (once one has m oved from small-scale production or the prototype to
generalisation) and the expectations that they create, whether social, im aginary
or pragmatic. The two types of discourse (fictional and learned on the one side,
technical on the other) m ust thus be pitted one against the other within a space
that is common to both. This leads to the reconfiguring of the audio-visual field,
w hich grew out of social, industrial or ideological 'specialisations' that sim ply

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14 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

ignored not only projects, but also transitory expectations or realisations. In this
regard, one can cite the exam ple of 'photosculpture' or the 'theatrophone'. Fi­
nally, these confrontations reveal the spaces of intelligibility of the new technol­
ogies and the conceptual and semantic field that is associated w ith them, and
thus define the mental frame of the invention and its reception (Apollinaire ex­
trapolated virtual im agery from the gramophone, while Saint-Pol Roux came
up w ith hum an cloning from the cinema-machine).
In 'The Case for an Epistem ography of Montage: The Marey Moment', Albera
sets out to redefine the concept of 'm ontage'. This involves re-examining the
Marey question or Marey 'm om ent' in the history, prehistory or archaeology of
cinema. Albera distinguishes between on the one hand the technical-aesthetic
discourse on montage (the epistemonomical level), which creates a set of limits
and control principles and 'rules', and on the other hand the prescriptive dis­
course of cinema criticism and theory (the epistemocritical level), which defines
the processes of inclusion in or exclusion from the concept of montage. This led
him to construct the ' epistemological' level of montage. On this level, it is vital not
only to pinpoint the fields of application o f the concepts and rules of usage, but
also to identify transformations and variations, in order to relate them to their
conditions of possibility. The aim is to understand how the conceptual field of
m ontage has been transformed (via such notions as end, piece, moment, inter­
val, intermittence, pause, phase, position, jerk, shock, dissociation, cut, break,
interruption, discontinuity, joining, assembling, collage, link, continuity, articu­
lation, succession, etc.) by leaving behind the purely internal, descriptive or pre­
scriptive definitions and by going beyond obstacles of the technological type
w hich im pede or limit comprehension. This m akes it possible both to identify
the contours of a m ontage function, w hich m ay not be given that name but
which needs to be linked to various procedures, practices and utterances, and
to locate the thinking related to m ontage in the system of concepts and practices
w here it has its roots, and subsequently envisage its extension and variability. In
this perspective, the M arey 'm om ent' is a key element of the puzzle: not only
w as he outside cinematographic teleology and yet present in the sequence of
'cinem a' inventions (both conceptually and technically speaking) and gave the
'invention' both scientific and social respectability (Académie des sciences, Collège
de France), but he belonged to a field - physiology - that had been w ell explored
in conceptual terms and w as the scene of fundam ental controversies between
opposing tendencies, abounding in a body of notions, concepts and practices
that w as to provide an 'interface' w ith the toys and machines used for animated
images. M arey's mechanistic conception (the 'anim al machine') w ould lead to his
discovery of a machinic dispositive that is analogous to his object as an instru­
ment of observation - the 'cinem a' machine.

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Introduction to an Epistemology o f Viewing and Listening Dispositives 15

M aria Tortajada's two contributions, 'The "Cinem atographic Snapshot": R e­


reading Etienne-Jules M arey' and 'The Cinem atograph versus Photography, or
Cyclists and Time in the W ork of A lfred Jarry', set out to define the idea of cin­
em a and the idea of photography, two dispositives that w ere similar at around
the turn of the 20th century and yet in opposition to each other. W hen cinema
em erged, it w as photography that played a part in defining its concepts and the
im agery associated w ith it. Photography founded the 'cinem a', or a certain idea
of the cinema at this moment in time. M eanwhile, photography itself took on a
new status in its confrontation with cinema. Exam ining the relations between
the two dispositives means exploring the mechanical sources of modernity,
since the notion o f dispositive is intrinsically linked to mechanics and cine­
matics - m ovement and speed are associated both with cinema and photogra­
phy in a variety of w ays.
Etienne-Jules M arey's research is a key factor for understanding 'cinem a' at
the chronophotographic stage and provides a means of observing how cinema
broke aw ay from photography. It can be argued that one cannot conceive of
cinema w ithout taking chronophotography into account. By mastering the tech­
nique of the photographic snapshot, M arey conceived o f a kind of 'cinem a' that
w as determined by the conceptual and methodological prem ises of his scientific
approach.
The photogram is generally considered a fixed im age that is opposed to the
reconstituted m oving image that defines cinema. H owever, w hen one re-reads
Marey, one begins to see that w hat fundam entally distinguishes cinema from
photography is not sim ply the illusion of movement. The very status of photo­
graphy, of the fixed image, is transformed by the cinematographic dispositive -
the photogram is a snapshot w hose nature is a paradoxical one. The analysis
put forward here is based on a redefinition of the notion of instant, associated
w ith the technique of the photographic snapshot and determined by the expo­
sure time. The aim of the chapter is to show that one can conceive of an instant
that lasts. This is w hat transpires w hen one begins to construct the concepts
linked w ith the instant of illumination in M arey's writings. One can see how
these concepts make up a system of relations w ithin his various scientific pro­
posals related to the photographic snapshot and chronophotography on fixed
plates and film. This is the idea that Bergson dism issed w hen he radically sepa­
rated the instant from the flow of time.
A lfred Jarry is associated w ith one of the major themes of m odernity: me­
chanization. H is novel, The Supermale (1901), is an excellent exam ple of a series
of reflections on 'bachelor m achines'. There are only a limited num ber of explicit
references to the cinematograph, but one can nevertheless show just how im ­
portant it w as to Jarry. H is w ork is of interest because his writings, whether
fiction or journalism , explore the potential of cinema that eludes not only most

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16 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

aspects of the cinematographic dispositive of his contemporaries, but also w hat


w as to develop later and become dominant today. Jarry's w orks give concrete
form to some of cinema's unexplored potential, as they use cinema to conceive
and represent a certain experience of time and speed linked to modernity. They
use cinema to project themselves into a philosophical fiction, Jarry's 'pataphy-
sics'. Jarry's ideas are a clear illustration of the fact that dispositives should be
understood w ithin a system of relations. Cinem a and photography are brought
together by means of the presuppositions that their representations set in m o­
tion. In short, they stand in opposition to several of their defining characteris­
tics, which link them to a network of notions or practices belonging to the
highly paradoxical m odernity that Jarry describes.
The references to photography and cinema m ay thus be put in parallel. Be­
tween a conception of the instant and a conception of movement and speed,
between Zeno and Bergson, Jarry p lays w ith the paradoxes of time by m aking
them m aterialise as representations that can only be fully understood by refer­
ence to the dispositives of view in g and listening.

2 T h e e x h ib itio n

The second section of the book examines the dispositive of the 'exhibition' and
its relation to the cinematographic dispositive. O livier Lugon's two chapters
take the reader beyond cinema proper by studying the w ay in which cinema
w as taken beyond its ow n limits w hen it crossed paths w ith other media. He
develops tw o exam ples: the exhibition and the lecture, calling on two of the key
figures of modernism, Herbert Bayer for the exhibition and Le Corbusier for the
lecture. Both explicitly referred to cinema as a model, and especially to the idea
of a certain dispositive w hose various elements they utilised in order to explain
different aspects of their ow n designs. These include a temporal and rhythmic
definition of visual art, the sequential nature of the film, the event-like character
of the presentation o f lum inous images, the play of silence and of the voice, and
the effects of surprise or shock that are attributed to montage. These are all
forces that can be used to capture the spectators' attention and can thus be
highly efficient for the communication of ideas.
These two exam ples show us how communication in the 20th century relied
not only on the form s of representation, but also on the control over the disposi­
tive of 'show in g' and the meeting between the spectator and the image. The
specific nature of the spatial and temporal fram ew ork used to present the im­
age, i.e., w hat surrounds and supports it, m ay be as important for constructing
its m eaning as w hat it actually contains.

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Introduction to an Epistemology o f Viewing and Listening Dispositives 17

This is the case w ith photography, which is analysed through the w ay it is


exploited in the staging of Herbert Bayer's exhibitions. In 'D ynam ic Paths of
Thought: Exhibition Design, Photography and Circulation in the W ork of Her­
bert Bayer', Lugon describes Bayer's career as an artist, graphic designer and
exhibition designer from Germ any in the 1920s to the US of the 1940s. He looks
at the theoretical foundation of Bayer's w ork and the w ay it evolved over the
years, with particular attention paid to the omnipresent question of the specta­
tor's mobility and circulation. Here is the very centre of Bayer's strategies,
where he turns the m ovements of visitors into a tool of communication. He cre­
ates scenarios by building circuits, developing narrative and emotional se­
quences by setting out a route and channelling spectators through it. This can
be seen in the M oM A 's 1942 propaganda exhibition, The Road to Victory, where
the principle of cinema is reversed by locating the development of the montage,
narration and emotional dram a in the spectators' very movements. Thus, physi­
cal mobility establishes a particular form of 'cinem a' w hich by claim ing to lead
to greater participation in fact tends to increase the psychological hold it exer­
cises over the spectators.
'The Lecture: Le Corbusier's U se o f the Word, D raw ing and Projection' looks
at the lecture as a dispositive and multimedia 'spectacle' through Le Corbusier's
extensive experience as a lecturer. He devoted forty years to his 'lecture techni­
que' b y developing multiple and changing form s of interaction of voice, direct
draw ing, and the projection of fixed and m oving images. He thus embellished
his scenic and perform ative art b y exploiting mechanical forms of show ing
im ages, the aim being to develop a force of persuasion that w ould go beyond
the actual event itself by means of further publications and exhibitions, which
w ere them selves characterised b y these scenic dispositives and complex forms
of projection accompanied by spoken commentary.

3 V o ic e /b o d y

The third section of the book looks at questions that relate to how m anifesta­
tions of hum an presence m aterialise within the representations that emerge
from dispositives involving machines. Alain Boillat and Laurent Guido examine
the mechanical evolution of the human element w ithin anthropocentric audio­
visual dispositives and concentrate on tw o elements - the voice and the body -
that belong to different aspects of spectacular practices. On the one hand, con­
siderations of the voice's status have been common w ithin the major paradigm s
that determined the developm ent of technological and cultural series and that
share m uch with the 'cinem a' series - in particular the means of reproducing

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18 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

and broadcasting sounds during the second half of the 19th century. These con­
siderations have determined how the interactions between the auditive and v i­
sual dimensions of the representation w ere envisaged (i.e., the image of the talk­
ing subject). On the other hand, the issue of the body refers not only to certain
m odes of analysing and representing hum an movement that w ere developed
over this sam e period, but also to certain scenic approaches that w ere adopted
w ithin particular dispositives and that these dispositives themselves influenced.
There is, of course, a fundamental difference between the disem bodied voice of
the phonograph or telephone and the physical presence of the body show n by
view in g dispositives. Nonetheless, both voice and body are manifest in the 'pre-
sence-absence' schema that is inherent to every representation, though in vary ­
ing degrees and in accordance with a variety of modalities.
M anifestations of the voice and the im age of the body are sometimes trans­
posed in time and/or space and m ay also be firm ly located in the hie et nunc of
production-reception. A lain Boillat draw s a distinction between talking cinema
and spoken cinema in order to account for this distinction between the fixing of
the voice by the machine and the live situation of orality. These two system s
cannot be divided into strict periods, even if the lecturer of early cinema did
become a major figure of the talkie, but can be exam ined from the perspective
of 'cinem a' archaeology. Quotation m arks should be used here, as the objective
is to dismantle the 'cinem a' object in order to examine the technological series or
parallel traditions of the spectacular, such as the talking or dancing automaton,
the phonograph, opera, etc. In 'The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the
Audio-Spectator: The Voice as a Component Part of A udiovisual Dispositives',
Boillat reflects on the use of 'sounds before the talkie' b y follow ing two lines of
enquiry. Firstly, he focuses on the often overlooked voice, w hose specific char­
acteristics have to be studied in order to understand the phenomena that it in­
volves. Secondly, he uses Albera's and Tortajada's concept of the visual disposi­
tive to exam ine the roles of the live speaker, w ho is a veritable mediator
between the audience and the screen. This second premise means adapting A l­
bera's and Tortajada's parameters to include interactions between im ages and
sounds —i.e., m aking the network of relations resulting from the sim ultaneous
presence of the three poles of the dispositive more complex and broadening the
'm achinery' to include a w ider whole, w ith hum an actors and the production
space of the audiovisual representation. Boillat also looks at w hat orality im ­
plies w hen it is an integral part of a production space that is partly machinic in
character. The theoretical fram ew ork is based on the contem porary accounts or
the hypotheses of early cinema historians, and allow s one to envisage how the
lecturer's different functions varied according to the place that w as attributed to
him. The cinematographic spectacle is not envisaged from one view point but
calls on the diversity of the dispositives used.

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Introduction to an Epistemology o f Viewing and Listening Dispositives 19

The w orld of fiction —where the possible can take concrete shape - w as the
preferred means of expression for the imagination and the im aginary w orlds
that em erged from the spreading of (audio)visual technologies. Thus, to answ er
the questions regarding certain specific dispositives, one needs to take into ac­
count the literary texts that feature machines that perform before an audience in
a fictional context. W riting thus becomes a mediation that m irrors the audiovi­
sual production produced by a dispositive, w hile offering an indication of how
the dispositive might be received. In 'O n the Singular Status of the Hum an
Voice: Tomorrow's Eve and the Cultural Series of Talking M achines', A lain Boil-
lat highlights the issue of the inscription of the voice by exam ining Villiers de
l'lsle A dam 's novel, Tomorrow's Eve, w ith its w ell-know n exam ple of 'projected
cinema'. He uses the perspective of the archaeology of talking 'cinem a' to exam ­
ine the place and function of the voice via anthropomorphic sim ulacra - a gen­
uine audiovisual dispositive —in de Villiers's novel and, m ore generally, the spe­
cific characteristics of the voice considered as an affirm ation of the presence of
the hum an in the machine. When the voice is reproduced via the phonograph, it
leads to a system o f 'presence-absence' that can be com pared to Christian Metz's
w ritings on the 'im pression of reality' in the cinema. In Tomorrow's Eve, Edison's
inventions - which, in epistemological terms, are observed in all their diversity
(and not just the oft-quoted description of stereoscopic projection) —are asso­
ciated w ith the principle of delinking that is generally hidden in talking cinema
because of the prim ary position accorded to the unique speaking subject. The
anguish brought about by the dehum anizing exhibition of the machinic dim en­
sion seems both to underpin the novelist's fetishistic description of the technol­
ogy and encourage interest in the occult, w ith Villiers calling on a spiritist argu­
ment that w as symptom atic of the w ay recorded voices w ere understood at the
end of the 19th century.
Laurent Guido's chapter entitled 'D ancing Dolls and M echanical Eyes: Track­
ing an O bsessive M otive from Ballet to Cinem a' uses a similar approach. Guido
highlights certain variations in a dispositive where the spectacle of the dancing
bod y is mediatised via a view in g technique that sets out to enlarge and examine
the details of a physical performance. He investigates the representations that
refer first and foremost to literary w ritings that were m arked by the Romantic
reaction to the mechanistic model (Hoffmann, Kleist), and then concentrates on
the im aginary w orld of librettos and certain processes that are particular to
French ballet. He also examines the theoretical questions that dominated the
arts that w ere inspired b y body movem ents w hen the cinem atograph w as being
developed. There em erges the conception o f a human —usu ally female - figure
that is progressively reduced to its mechanical dimension, and limited in parti­
cular to the rhythmic parameters that em erged from the scientific study of
movement, w here the body w as treated as a mere object. The chronophoto-

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20 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

graphic and then cinematographic camera w ere developed as analytical instru­


ments, before finally establishing them selves as the prosthetic tool par excellence,
covering functions that w ere previously occupied by such technologies as the
opera glass.
However, one should not confine oneself to the im aginary representations of
dispositives but, w hen considering the body, bear in mind a more pragmatic
consideration of the various w ay s in w hich the cinematographic representation
reformulates certain fundam ental characteristics of view in g in the scenic arts.
One of the key m odels that influenced the aesthetic and social reflections on
the audiovisual spectacle w as the opera, especially W agner's utopian Gesamt­
kunstwerk and its ideal of a rhythmic interaction between the different m odes of
expression. However, it is the less recognised form s of theatre and dance (i.e.,
the music hall, acrobatics and the circus) which, from a historical perspective,
w ere the key factors that influenced the w ay the body w as handled in the cin­
ema. This can be seen in the short acts reconfigured for the camera in early films
or the countless m usicals and choreographic perform ances show n in cinemas or
on television. Irrespective of whether these performances constitute the film's
main theme or are sim ply partly autonom ous moments of attraction, they refer
to two canonical modes of representation of the body. On the one hand, there is
the respect for the integrity of the original physical performance. On the other
hand, the performance is edited and inserted in a dynam ic series of shots. Both
of these important paradigm s m ake u p varied and secondary actualisations of
primary dispositives relating to the code of body m ovements in scenic specta-

Laurent Guido, in his chapter entitled 'From Broadcast Performance to V ir­


tual Show: Television's Tennis Dispositive', concentrates on one of the relation­
ships between tw o successive dispositives. He aim s system atically to identify
some of the aesthetic and dramatic implications of how tennis is filmed and
edited w hen it is broadcast live, in other w ords the media dispositive that turns
it into a television spectacle. Particular attention is paid both to the relationship
between the scenic representation that is em ployed in the stadium and to the
sequencing of the different view points that m ake up the film version, by in­
creasing the num ber of cameras used. The recurring figures that stand out dur­
ing this live cutting are organised b y switching between the all-encom passing
and geometrical vision of the match (overview from above or even from the air)
and a series o f shots that concentrates on the individual gestures and emotions,
w hich are m ainly filmed at court level. While exam ining different broadcasts of
the W imbledon tennis tournament over the period 1997-2007, Guido also
adopts a historical perspective that highlights how some traditional uses and
m odes of representation have been maintained over a long period, w hile others
have changed. This change is especially evident in the notion o f 'plurifocality'

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Introduction to an Epistemology o f Viewing and Listening Dispositives 21

and the question o f the analysis and animation of 'invisible' gestures that arose
w ith the first photographic and cinematographic im ages of sports events, from
Georges Dem eny to Leni Riefenstahl.

O v e rtu re

The contributions in the current volum e are part of a broader research project
being conducted at the U niversity of Lausanne. A series of related develop­
ments have been undertaken either by the authors of the present book (biblio­
graphical details of w hom can be found below) or b y researchers, lecturers and
PhD students w ho are currently w orking on sim ilar themes. Some exam ples of
current research projects include medical discourses linked to the appearance of
the cinema at the end of the 19th century, the archaeological approach to
voyeurism , which evolved into one of the recurrent concepts of cinemato­
graphic studies, the introduction of audiovisual technologies in contemporary
theatre and how they have affected not only the actor's body but also the televi­
sion dispositive as it spread in the 1950s, and finally Sw iss national exhibitions,
w here both cinematic and audiovisual means have been regularly employed.
This body of research starts w ith cinema w hile attempting to broaden the
field and perceive it at a crossroads of other cultural, cognitive or social series.
This is unique within French-speaking Europe, w here scholars are often con­
cerned w ith staying within the boundaries of conventional cinema studies as
defined b y cinema critics and the general public. It is clear, however, that var­
ious transformations, whether on the technological level or those involving cus­
toms and social practices, have shifted the boundaries of this restricted 'm odel'
once and for all. It w ould, however, be foolish to deny that the model itself is
going through a crisis. The field of art has absorbed cinema w ithin a m edley of
disparate categories; the new m edia have em ployed cinema for other purposes
and connected it w ith other sources. Even the parameters of cinema's canonical
exploitation are changing with the new, miniaturized m eans o f reproduction.
When w e examine the 19th-century novelists w ho 'projected' the future cinema
and the aspirations and undertakings of avant-garde artists and theorists such
as Lissitzky, Gan, Vertov, Klutsis, Arvatov, etc., w e see that 'cinem a' potentially
contained today's diversification, or hinted at possibilities that w ere never fully
developed. Archaeology is thus a m eans of constructing the present.

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22 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

N o te s

1. The perspective is quite different from that of the pioneers who fought for recogni­
tion of the medium.
2. The emergence of film studies, launched by Gilbert Cohen-Seat in 1946, coincided
with the domination of cinema over the audiovisual field and beyond, the 'mass
media'. Its 'end' coincided with television taking over the dominant position, and
the fact that sociologists took other mass media into account (the illustrated press,
photographs, advertising etc.). Roland Barthes, who took part in research work at
the Institut de Filmologie, wrote about this 'move', which he himself made, in his
review of the 'First International Conference on Visual Information, Milan' (9-12
July 1961) (Communications no. 1, 1961) - he calls on people to question 'the imperi­
alism of the cinema over the other means of visual information'. 'Cinema’s domina­
tion is doubtless justified "historically"', he continues, 'but it cannot be justified
epistemologically'. One year previously, he stated that cinema was 'recognised as
the model of the mass media' ('Les "unites traumatiques" au cinema. Principes de
recherche', Revue intemationale de Filmologie, no. 34, July-September i960).

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T h e 1900 E p i s t e m e 1

François Albera and Maria Tortajada

In tro d u c tio n

The technical society that came into being in the 17th century and became the
flourishing industrial society of the 19th century introduced a series of new con­
ditions into the field of im age and sound. These conditions influenced firstly the
effects that w ere sought and produced. There w as a m ove both to record and
reproduce reality as exactly as possible and, on the contrary, to create the fantas­
tic and em body fantasy. There w as the portrayal of such phenomena as m ove­
ment, succession and the flow of time. Secondly, and more significantly, the new
conditions had an impact on the means used, in other w ords, the devices and
machines.
The mechanical model, which began w ith Descartes and de la Mettrie, over­
turned Aristotle's physics and opened up a new conceptual space that gave rise
to a series of propositions concerning the m odes of apprehension of both objects
and beings, w ith in particular the division into discrete units, which could then
be combined. This conceptual space allow ed for the body's m obilising pow er
and dynam ics to be located outside of it. The importance of the paradigm of the
clock in the seventeenth century is w ell know n —the clock w ith its w eights and
the spring-driven watch w ere micro-mechanisms that inaugurated a new state
that combined two types of m ovem ents and stop mechanisms to achieve regu­
larity; its effect is to transform m ovem ent into information. One might speak of
a 'clock-m aking' episteme spreading implicit or stated know ledge in various
w ays, in various sectors of know ledge, ideas, practices and institutions, kn ow l­
edge based on dissociation, assembling, articulation, automatism, etc. (the clock
or watchm aker w as a central character in the 18th century together w ith clocks
and also automata, right up to Méliès's Robert-Houdin theatre).2
We speak here of episteme. The term, coined b y Michel Foucault, is proble­
matic, partly because of the w ay it 'com petes' in this chapter w ith the notions
of 'm odel' and 'paradigm ' w ith w hich it is often confused. Foucault's episteme
has a characteristic w hich distinguishes it from the paradigm (described by Tho­
m as S. Kuhn)3 and a fortiori from the model, in that it does not define a state of
know ledge - whether scientific or philosophical —at a particular moment, but
that which m akes a theory, practice or opinion possible.

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26 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

Thus, one can say that the representation of the 'mechanical era' w as 'fitted
out w ith tools', 'engineered', and no longer used its own techniques (those of the
painter or sculptor, their savoir-faire) but, instead, used instruments and techni­
ques designed for other ends. This 'equipm ent' of the processes of representa­
tion represents one o f the transformations of this period, w hich w as charac­
terised by the promotion of (existing) apparatuses from the status of instrument
to that of machine (Diirer em ployed apparatuses, as did the perspecteurs, but they
w ere controlled by their ow n hands).4 It is true that Bazin saw this m ove to
automatism as the dispossession of m an as creator, but he im m ediately brought
back Providence into the liberated space: the photographic imprint is the Veil of
Veronica, but there is no longer an intermediary (it is the artist's 'temperam ent'
that is interposed as a prism in Zola's fam ous expression that is referred to
here). Bazin, contrary to Walter Benjamin, believed that one should do without
the apparatus because Veronica's Veil is not the screen, it receives its imprint
using neither lens nor exposure time, nor developm ent, printing, calibration,
etc. (and yet w hen Niepce took his first photograph, he w as im m ediately sub­
jected to the weight of the technical dispositive of his machine w ith its two
shadow s - already the very 'first' landscape is not an imprint in Bazin's use of
the word: it records several time-periods because of the very nature of the m a­
chine).
When Canaletto introduced his Cam era Obscura in Venice's piazze and, as it
were, 'fixed' the landscapes, he w as taking part in this automatism; w hen he
combined different images, added a campanile taken from elsewhere, m oved a
church or a palace, it w as because he w as able to conceive of the process of
dissociating and reassem bling a view on the basis of presuppositions that were
not based on those of El Greco, w ho 'turned' a building around in his painting
of the Toledo landscape.5 And a fortiori the photographer G ustave Le Gray, w ho
'm ounted' his im ages from several negatives.
The introduction of this equipment led to a new type of relation between ob­
ject, apparatus, representation and spectator, w hich w as to take concrete form
at a certain moment in the dispositives o f viewing and listening (i.e., an organisa­
tion that assigns positions to its protagonists) —the cinematograph, photograph,
television, phonograph, telephone, etc., each of which assum ed various struc­
tures and shapes. B y exam ining the conditions of possibility of these disposi­
tives, w e shall construct w hat w e call the 1900 episteme. Thanks to this analysis
of the epistem ology o f dispositives, w e shall be in a position to entirely restruc­
ture the field of modes of representation, including traditional m edia such as
painting or literature.

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The 1900 Episteme 27

D i s p o s i t i v e s a n d m a c h in e s : h y p o t h e s e s

Other scholars have envisaged these dispositives and machines. From our point
of view, however, none of their approaches is satisfactory. We are referring here
firstly to the vision of the 1970s, w hen scholars such as Jean-Louis Baudry and
Jean-Pierre Oudart concentrated on the cinematograph, which w as only exam ­
ined from the point of v iew of the perceiving subject w ith a Lacanian perspec­
tive. Secondly, there is Friedrich Kittler's transferring of the Lacanian triad (ima­
ginary, symbolic, real) onto that of the gram ophone, cinema and typewriter, and
thirdly Jonathan Crary's analysis6 which, despite its Foucauldian premise, not
only fails to address the relation between concrete ‘machinid dispositives and the
discourses he analyses, but also changes direction by fixing on the stereoscope
as the place of rupture and em ergence of a phenomenological model of the sub­
ject. C rary sees the introduction of subjectivity with time and duration, and fo­
cuses on the subject rather than analysing the construction of the subject via the
dispositive (for Michel Foucault, there is no (phenomenological) subject, but
discursive dispositives which assign a place to the subject and constitute it as
such —'the dispositive is above all a machine w hich produces subjectivations').7
O ur hypothesis is therefore that the new conditions of view in g and listening
that em erged out of industrial society have redrawn the spectator-spectacle
schema b y introducing the question of the dispositive, w hich assigns a new posi­
tion to those w ho view. This can be seen not only in the introduction of m a­
chines and tools that increase vision (from the telescope to the m agic lantern),
and recording or capturing devices (photography, the gramophone), but also in
the promotion-spectacle of the manufactured object, its exhibition (as Philippe
Ham on has show n w hen w riting about universal exhibitions),8 traffic condi­
tions (speed) and urban relations (shocks), as w ell as in the commentaries that
highlight such phenomena.
There is no shortage o f exam ples of this 'regulation' b y these apparatuses and
machines, w hich belong to a w hole series of fields to which they w ere pre­
viou sly not connected —the regulation or dom ination proceeding from the P räg­
nanz of their m odes of functioning. Félix Fénéon w rote about the shadow thea­
tre in 1887 as follows:

M. Henry Rivière has civilised the previously rudimentary art of the shadow theatre.
Before him, the shadows filed past like characters on friezes or 'Paronies'. When he
had to engineer M. Caran d'Ache's Epopée, he positioned them with an effect of per­
spective at ever-greater distances, and thought up masterly and instantaneous tricks
to have the groups of characters advance and then disappear. Granted, the screen still
only showed black silhouettes, but at least it was no longer a naïve surface, and

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28 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

achieved depth. And now there is decisive progress with the addition of every colour
- in forty minutes, forty tableaus hold their own.9

Emile Verhaeren commented sim ilarly on Claude Monet's w orks - the pictorial
reality - v ia M arey's chronophotographic machine. A s it w as the representation
of a landscape, he evoked its 'successive aspects, arrested in flight by an eye of
extraordinary acuity'.10 Monet's eye becomes the photographic gun, it captures
objects in mid-air, including objects that are not necessarily birds. A s Whistler
wrote to Fantin-Latour in 1862: 'Y o u catch it [the instant] in flight just as you kill
a bird in the air'.
These are some exam ples o f machinic elements that m ake up the dispositive
before the advent of the cinema, and that the epistemic schema allow s us to for­
mulate, avoiding the content-based, teleological approach w hich w ould have
Fénéon 'anticipate' the successive im ages of the cinem atograph in Riviere's
shadow theatre, or Verhaeren and Whistler be 'under the influence' of or in­
spired by chronophotography. The question is of another order, and indeed re­
fers to that 'im plicit know ledge' that m akes such statements possible.
The question thus becomes: w hat did one call 'recreated m ovem ent' in the
nineteenth century before the appearance of the kinetoscope and the cinemato­
graph, and afterwards? This m ay seem to be a som ewhat unrefined variable, but
the answ er is by no means a straightforward one.
The notion of movement, or even that of breaking out of the fram ew ork of the
representation, w as something that could be effectively realised before the ac­
tual production of movem ent b y the machine or the effect of movem ent by
means of optical illusion. The enraptured critic, standing in front of one of G u s­
tave Le G ray's photographs, 'the Great W ave' (1858), w rote that the spectator
standing in front of the im age w as subjugated b y its exactness and its rendering,
'and w ould be tempted to step backw ard in order not to be touched b y its fur­
ious m om entum '.11 When discussing such a reaction, one can, of course, take
into account the literary garrulousness of the critic. This is, after all, w hat he
wrote after the event, and he w as not actually caught in the act of backing aw ay
in the m anner of the first spectators at the Grand Café reacting in front of the
irruption of the locomotive. But the fact remains that the critic cannot describe
such a reaction without a certain agreement, without it being acceptable to read­
ers (irrespective of whether they have seen the photograph). It should, more­
over, be noted that like Le Gray, the Lum ière brothers set out to 'fix' the m ove­
ment of w aves which, like that of smoke, w ind rustling leaves, waterfalls, etc.,
produces a greater effect than that of people parading past, like in the shadow
theatre. The notion of effect is a crucial one for certain photographers and, to a
large extent, addresses the relation between the representation and the specta­
tor. Le G ray enters into some detail on the question in his treatise of 18 50.12

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The 1900 Episteme 29

M ovem ent can be inferred from effect if the effect fixes something m oving with
particular force (as is the case for a wave).
This notion of effect also allow s us to understand how black-and-white photo­
graphy in 1850 could belong to the problematic of the colourist painters, w ho
broke w ith the suprem acy of d raw ing in favour of w ork on the 'econom y of
light', contours, nuances of the sam e colour, or mass processing which alone
suited colour, as Baudelaire wrote in his Salon of 1846 (TIL On C olour').13
Such agreement in the type of reactions aroused by a representation can
doubtless be explained b y the change brought about by photography when
com pared to a pictorial representation, leading to a phenomenon of 'absorbment'
(the m eaning being a little different from M ichael Fried's 'absorption'), several
exam ples of which were given by Diderot in his descriptions (he constructed a
narrative w hich involved penetrating inside the picture and navigating w ithin it
—and even losing oneself inside it).14 The photographic paradigm thus becomes
the interprétant of the different visual phenomena.
In Le G ray's w ork, this effect o f breaking out produced the dissociation of the
two planes (the sea and the sky), even if the dissociation is not literally enacted
but 'faked '. Since the tw o elements are not continuous, they produce the dehis­
cence which sees the bottom threatening to detach itself from the top because
the respective precision of their execution m akes them dissociable, in a manner
of speaking. The acknow ledged influence of the panoram a model on Le G ray
can be seen here, where tw o or three horizontal zones w ere superposed - the
sky, the sea and the shore, w here nothing limited them on the sides. Here w e are
in a 'm achine' (with faking by means of two juxtaposed negatives) and a dispo­
sitive (the spectator is invited to discover an effect of precision that exceeds the
codes that are in force and is thus brought to a 'new vision' of a phenomenon
that w as nevertheless w ell know n and represented).
Thus, w e see that photography adopted something of the dispositive of the
panorama, before painting borrow ed it from photography in the w orks of
Whistler, Courbet, Manet and Boudin. A s Walter Benjamin w ro te/5 Le G ray's
w av e spread in painting, where Courbet in particular w on the reputation of
having fixed an instantaneous snapshot.16

R esearch a im s

We have decided neither to espouse the approaches of the 1970s, nor to follow
in the footsteps of such scholars as C rary — w hose example, despite our re­
serves, is an interesting one - but to examine the cinematographic dispositive.
For the purposes of our demonstration, it has been reduced here to the 'view -

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30 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

ing' dispositive alone, im plying that the 'listening' dispositive still has to be con­
structed. Our aim is thus to describe and apprehend this dispositive:
1. as an episternic schema (definition);
2. as belonging to a network, a w ider episternic configuration (that of cine­
matics, of M arey's physiology of movement, which breaks dow n both animal
and hum an movem ent into different phases; or that of social practices, such
as being in a train w ith the spectacularisation of the landscape, bringing to­
gether an immobile spectator, a mobile spectacle and a fram ew ork of vision)
(inclusion);
3. as providing a model - a paradigm - not only w ithin the restricted field of
view in g dispositives, but going beyond it to the broader field of visuality (i.
e., painting and literature), and even to that of thought (the 'cinem a', a model
of know ledge according to Bergson, a model of the psychic apparatus for
some psychologists or psychoanalysts) (extension).

To develop these three points:


1. W hat is an episternic schema in the context of our research? A formation or
episternic schema defines the formalisation of a series of view in g dispositives
— to be understood as machines/discourses/practices - that w e must con­
struct.17
2. Once the schema is m ade explicit as a network of relations, that it has the
status o f a theoretical object, singular dispositives appear as empirical singu­
lar actualisations o f this schema.
3. The schema that brings together all the elements associated w ith the cinema­
tographic dispositives w ill be the 'cinema' schema, it being understood that
the term does not match cinema seen as an empirical object.

Our definition of the view in g dispositive is sufficiently broad to enable us to


open up to research beyond any particular singular historical variation of the
cinematographic dispositive. We consider that a view in g dispositive formalises
the links between spectator, m achinery and representation. By machinery w e
mean not only the view in g machine as a technical object (for exam ple, the pro­
jection apparatus) but also all the elements used to show (in the w ider sense of
the term): for exam ple the screen, the m irror of the phenakistoscope, photo­
gram s, the chemical process of photography.
The episternic schema brings together two distinct levels in its definition: the
specification of the concrete elements of the various dispositives, and the concepts
that are linked to them — for example, the notions of the breaking dow n of
movement, temporal im m ediacy or deferred broadcasting.
We believe that in order to construct such a schema, it is vital to bring to­
gether several approaches, w hich w e can sum m arise as follows: a) the study of

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The 1900 Episteme 31

discourses, b) the study of concrete dispositives, even if this is too simplistic a


formalisation, as in both cases discourses m ay allow know ledge (savoir) to be
constructed, and c) the study of institutional and social practices that are both
engaged by, and that engage, these dispositives. The first tw o w ill be developed
further.

S t u d i e s o f d is c o u r s e s

A n epistemological perspective w ill be taken to study the different discourses,


and to distinguish the various spaces of enunciation:
1. the scientific discourses of inventors, engineers and popularisers;
2. the technical (prescriptive) discourses of technicians, salesmen, etc.;
3. the discourses of users (spectators, event managers) considered within their
institutional fram ew ork (im plying hierarchies, legitim ating discourses,
pow er relations, etc.);
4. literary discourses that produce variations of the dispositive w ithin an im a­
ginary w orld (Verne, Villiers de l'lsle Adam , Jarry, Apollinaire, Roussel);
5. discourses of the spectacular (magic and conjuring, i.e. Melies).

We aim to identify the different view in g dispositives in these discourses, w hat­


ever their nature (and not only those dealing w ith cinem atography in the strict
sense of the term) and thus pinpoint the constituents of the epistemic schema to
w hich cinema in its various forms contributes as a singular historical disposi­
tive.
We shall, moreover, not only set out to identify the various constituents of the
dispositive such as they are evinced in these discourses, but also pinpoint the
different variations, extensions and links that are established within the differ­
ent discourses between such elements of the dispositive and other fields of
know ledge or practices.
Finally, w e shall determine the place given to each visual dispositive in each
discourse. This will, for exam ple, entail defining the function given to the parti­
cular dispositive. Is it a tool, a model of thought or the actual object of study?
V arious exam ples of this kind o f investigation can be envisaged - two aspects
are presented in the brief account that follows: l) W hat does a particular dis­
course retain of the view in g dispositive that it establishes? 2) W hat function
does it give to this/these dispositive(s) in its discourse?

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32 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

M arey

M arey approached the different view in g dispositives that he used or developed


(from the graphic notation method to chronophotography) by starting from his
interest in locomotion. His aim w as to note, break dow n and transcribe animal
and hum an movem ent in discrete units. He w as absolutely unconcerned with
perception, which, in fact, he avoided because it did not capture the relevant
articulations.
The zoetrope and chronophotography provided him w ith a means of check­
ing and fine-tuning his notations. The increase in phases and greater fragmenta­
tion w ere a result of the sought-after correspondence between phenomena and
notations.
— For him, the dispositive w as defined b y the cinematic traits of the observed
phenomenon, and its transcription w as grounded in the fram ew ork of phy­
siology.
- The dispositive w as the model of the object that he w as analysing (he high­
lighted the relevant characteristics).

However, research into the correspondence between the phases of the phenom­
enon and the instants that w ere chosen w as complicated by the quest for a scale
of temporal notation based on the regularity of the intervals. When the chosen
moments correspond to the intervals of the clock, w hat is noted is sim ply any -
and not only remarkable - instants: 'photogram s' break dow n the movement
without considering the relevance of the cuts.
Moreover, this cutting up is verified by the reconstitution of the movement,
w hich is apparent during projection and adjusted according to the perception of
the spectator.
® The logic of the apparatus - i.e., its functioning - supplants the logic of the
phenomenon under analysis, thus the visual dispositive is defined in other
terms.

When M arey adopted a vector of regularity (i.e., equidistant intervals) that is


outside the actual phenomenon, he w as brought back to perception, and thus
to illusion.
- It thus became necessary to develop a third phase - m anipulating the projec­
tion apparatus, which can be slowed down, speeded up or stopped to come
back to analysing movem ent in scientific terms. These characteristics of the
'cinem a' dispositive, which M arey systematized, w ould in part be integrated
into the cinema as entertainment (reversion, slow motion, and accelerated
motion as attractions for the Lum ière brothers), and then scientific cinema
(the grow th of flowers, etc.).

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The 1900 Episteme 33

Bergson

M arey's chronophotography w as a view in g dispositive that played a key role


for Bergson, as the dispositive determined the view point he w as to develop: he
aim ed to go beyond it in the name of higher knowledge. In the context o f philo­
sophical discourse, Bergson referred to a variety of view in g dispositives - for
exam ple, the photograph, 'already taken, already developed', that he used to
model 'pure perception, and the 'discernment' that it implies; or the process of
photographic focusing, w hich refers to the activity of the memory.3®
He used the reference to cinema by considering certain of its aspects - the
mechanical element, the photogrammatic, the phenomenon of the breaking
dow n of movement and its recomposition. He w as thus particularly interested
in the machinery, rather than the representational side. It w as a dispositive that
w as part of the project that Bergson developed, his aim being to criticise the
analytical process of science - and it gave him a model of the functioning of
scientific thought. It w as thus a central pillar of Bergson's discourse, and became
not only the illustration of a historical phenomenon, but also a model, in essence
a concrete epistemic schema that w as proper to the com plex philosophical sys­
tem that he elaborated. That, of course, does not mean that this model of the
cinema corresponds to the epistemic schema that w e w ish to construct, but it is
interesting to note that in the historical context of 1900, the view in g dispositive
in question acquired this status. The epistemic schema to be constructed w ill
have to take this aspect into account.

Jarry

Alfred Jarry takes us into the w orld of literary discourse which in no w ay claims
to constitute a type of know ledge (connnissance), and yet which invents a type of
know ledge (savoir) via the im aginary w orld that it develops. Thus, through Jar-
ry's various fictions, w e can construct a criticism of Bergson's theory on the ex­
perience of m ovem ent as continuity, thanks, in particular, to reference to the
cinematographic dispositive.
The cinematographic dispositive is form ulated in a variety of w ays in Jarry's
w ork, which distance it from the historical m odel that spectators at the turn of
the century w ere fam iliar with. He exploited the machine, the series of photo­
grams, the projector's and cine-camera's rotating movements, and the impact of
speed.
A b ove all, Jarry breaks up the different fields of know ledge and experience
b y pitting them against each other, m ixing them together and playing with
paradox. He exploits the various machines o f the modern w orld - trains, auto­
mobiles and cycles of all types are present, whether in his plays, novels or news-

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34 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

paper articles. The im aginary variations on the cinematographic dispositive


come face to face w ith other view in g dispositives, such as photography, as is
the case in some of the texts in la Chandelle verte. But there are also other scien­
tific fields - in le Surmâle (The Supermale), Jarry stages a combat between two
giants, one em bodying kinematics via the cinematograph, the other electricity
via the dynam o. Between the lines, one can spot the traces of the conceptual
battle being fought out between the two key dom ains of physics —mechanics
and electromagnetism - which went through a serious crisis at the end of the
19th century, that w ould ultimately be resolved by Einstein's discoveries of re­
stricted relativity.
Jarry tested both philosophical and scientific concepts in his literary w ritings
and by m eans of inventing machines - 'his' cinem atograph being one of the
most important ones. H is proposals concerning view in g dispositives enter into
the extended epistemic schema that w e seek to construct, and allow us to gauge
his capacity of defining a certain 'm odernity'.

A p o llin a ire

Apollinaire's interest in the cinema is regularly evoked by scholars w ho mention


the column about films that he started w riting in the 19 10 s in les Soirées de Paris,
and the rolls of film that are kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale. They also note
that he composed a script - la Bréhatine —that w as 'not meant for film ing' - as
Benjamin Fondane later pointed out in defining a 'genre' that w as popular with
the Dadaists and Surrealists. Like his contemporary, the humorist Cam i, A polli­
naire parodied cinema's action-packed stories. Scholars also mention the inter­
v iew he gave to SIC in 19 16 and his lecture at the Theatre du Vieux Colombier in
19 17 , w here he extolled the virtues of 'art nouveau', 'popular art par excellence'.
But nowhere is mention m ade of the story entitled 'le Roi-Lune' (the 'M oon
King'), which w as published at the sam e time in the Mercure de France.19 He
used machines that combined some of the characteristics of the cinematograph
and the phonograph. These included recording and the ability to reproduce a
sound or im age taken, and thus furnished the possibility of re-living a past
event, creating the illusion of reality, etc. He thus developed two aspects which
anticipated the future to come: virtuality and simultaneity. Firstly, the filming of
improbable im ages of people living in the past (i.e., great inamorata) caught in
improbable situations (sexual pleasure, for exam ple) produces a sim ulated ac­
tivity that is really experienced (m oving from sim ulacra to simulation). Sec­
ondly, communication v ia a microphone w ith the whole of the planet from a
centre point (thanks to the telegraphic wire, w hich takes the place of the radio
w aves that w ill come later) brings about the generalised intercommunication
w ithin the 'global village'. Apollinaire thus conceived of operations that one

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The 1900 Episteme 35

w ould now usu ally relate to the advent of 'n ew technologies' by using 'old new
technologies'. His narrator describes a box, a kind of apparatus that enables one
to interact w ith virtual im ages ('I could look at, touch, in a w ord I could plea­
sure ... the body within m y reach, w hereas the body had no idea that I w as
there, as it had no present reality'). Moreover, the organ belonging to the Moon
K ing (Louis II of Bavaria), w hich is connected by 'sophisticated microphones ...
so as to bring into this underground place the noises coming from the furthest
outposts o f terrestrial life', brings him directly up to date w ith the murmurs,
fracas, and w ords from the rest of the world: 'N o w it w as the m urm urs of a
Japanese landscape ... Then ... w e w ere transported ... Then ... w e found our­
selves at Papeete market, ... now w e are in Am erica ... It is four o'clock. In Rio
de Janeiro a carnival-like cavalcade goes past ... It is six o'clock on Saint-Pierre-
de-la-Martinique . .. Seven o'clock, Paris', etc. In other w ords, w e are presented
w ith an auricular, immobile tour of the world.
Apollinaire thus used some of the characteristics of the cinematographic and
phonographic dispositives and their variables related to view in g or listening
apparatuses that preceded or are contem porary to the cinema. He produced
novel combinations that convey how the im aginary w orld of the 'cinem a' in­
cludes functions and faculties that w ould later be distributed differently (by
specifying that a particular machine w ou ld deal w ith a particular task) accord­
ing to industrial or commercial determinations.

T h e p ro p o s e d m o d e l f o r s tu d y in g c o n c r e te d is p o s itiv e s

A p art from these discourses, it is necessary to study not only the concrete func­
tioning of the various view in g dispositives, but also the machines themselves as
material objects, together with the specific dispositives in their historical and
structural dimensions, and finally the social dimension of spectators.
In order to ensure optimum comprehension and description of the different
dispositives, a model has been developed that allow s fine distinctions to be
m ade between the possible visual dispositives. The model is founded on the
three terms that them selves constitute the defining constants of view in g and
listening dispositives - the spectator, the machinery and the representation. It is
important to stress firstly that 'm achinery' does not sim ply boil dow n to the
machine, secondly that the problematics of the theory of representation are in­
cluded in 'representation', and thirdly that 'spectator' includes the various p sy­
chological, sociological and cognitive approaches to the notion. Moreover, the
three levels have to be redefined each time.

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36 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

It is a useful model in that it clearly distinguishes between the three levels and
highlights data that are used to develop problematics that could not take shape
if they w ere sim ply addressed from the view point o f current approaches. M any
authors w ho have approached these questions anew insert the dispositive into
pre-existing theories, which, more often than not, ends up sim ply b y checking
that the theories function properly rather than actually exploring the character­
istics of the dispositive.20 The model should, for exam ple, allow one to leave
behind some of the classic oppositions such as the alternative between the spec­
tator's activity and passivity, or between transparency and mediation, i.e., hid­
den and displayed mediation, and those endless debates around the notion of
realism. These issues arise and begin to dominate because the angle from which
they are approached is a representational one. Without denying the pertinence
of such an angle, w e believe that it is not alw ays prim ordial in the understand­
ing of view in g and listening dispositives. It is thus possible to envisage describ­
ing some aspects of dispositives b y only dealing w ith the relation between spec­
tator and machinery. This is the case, for example, w hen one isolates a criterion
such as spectator movem ent or imm obility in reception mode. Hence the useful­
ness of the model, w hich ideally evinces the m aximum number of the diverse
aspects that define the dispositives.
One m ay study the dispositive as a means of determining each relevant level.
One exam ple is machinery, w here one w ill examine the specification of the m a­
chine (if it exists, of course), describe ho w it w orks and functions; the type of
support used for the representation must be defined - whether on paper, by
projection, by means of the actor's body in the theatre, for instance, or by means
of an effigy such as a w ax or stone statue or a mannequin. A t the spectator level,
the definition of the spectators' institutional and social position can be exam ­
ined —whether they are scientists, gam e operators or technicians; or their char­
acteristics, in terms of identity, gender or cultural traits. Ultimately, the repre­
sentation w ill be defined according to its intrinsic functioning and formal traits,
together w ith their possible combinations.
It should, however, be pointed out that w hat defines the dispositive is not
only w hat characterises each of the three levels as such, but the relations that the
dispositive leads to w ithin the three levels it is comprised of. Theoretically, one
can produce the follow ing combinations:
— The relation between the spectator and the machinery;
— The relation between the spectator and the representation;
- The relation between the representation and the machinery;
- The relation between the spectator and the whole - (the machinery and the
representation).

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The 1900 Episteme 37

The idea here is not to present a sim ple combination of elements of an equiva­
lent type - spectator, representation and machine - but to link together these
three terms in their diverse variations while bearing in mind the purpose of the
view in g and listening dispositives and thus the function that each of the three
terms has in relation to the others:
- The spectators are the element that m akes the dispositive function or for
w hom the dispositive functions; they are the ones for w hom the representa­
tion is given.
— The representation is w hat the dispositive produces or shows.
- The machinery gives access to the representation and m akes possible the
show ing (in the w idest sense of the term).

Our model analysis of the view in g and listening dispositives is based on these
criteria (highlighting especially the view in g dimension).
Some exam ples follow below.

1 T h e r e la t io n b e tw e e n th e s p e c ta to r s a nd th e m a c h in e r y

1 . 1 The relation between spectators' bodies and the m achinery —the question of
places.
a. A lone spectator or group of spectators (magic lantern spectator vs. the
stereoscope).
b. Mobile or immobile spectators (zoetrope, w here movement is possible vs.
the dom inant model of cinema).
c. Spectators w ho move.

1.2 The relation between the spectator's body and the machinery - the question
of size and presentation of the machinery.
a. Spectators included in large-scale m achinery (magic lantern, cinema, diora­
ma, panorama).
b. Spectators handling an apparatus, a kind of visual prosthesis (kaleidoscope,
some stereoscopes).
c. The spectator faced w ith an effect of the mechanism - hidden in a 'box' (ki-
netoscope) vs. the spectator faced w ith a machine in the proper sense of the
w ord, w ith a visible mechanism (for exam ple, the praxinoscope).

2 T h e r e la tio n b e tw e e n , o n th e o n e h a n d , th e s p e c ta to r s and,
o n th e o th e r , th e m a c h in e r y a nd t h e r e p r e s e n ta tio n

2 .1 W hat the spectators see of the representation and/or the machinery,


a. They see both levels at once (zoetrope).

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38 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

b. They only see the representation (the illusion of transparency, if the techni­
ques of the representation tend to efface the techniques).
c. A borderline case is w hen they only see the m achinery (as in experimental
cinema). This also covers the exhibitions of apparatuses outside their func­
tion as view in g and listening dispositives. They are then integrated into an­
other type of dispositive - that of the exhibition itself, w ith its multiple m od­
alities. The demonstration of these apparatuses also belongs here.

2.2 The spectators' mode of access to w hat is seen. The aim here is to define the
point from w hich one considers that the spectators 'try out' the dispositive.
a. Spectators see the tw o levels successively (one being substituted for the
other) (stereoscope, cinema).
b. Spectators are faced w ith a progressive process of accommodation: they even­
tually see w hat is represented after having looked for the point from w here it
can indeed be seen (examples include anamorphosis, trompe l'oeil, and the
stereoscope).
c. The machinery and w hat is represented are im m ediately visible (zoetrope,
phenakistoscope).

2.3 Spectators taking action or remaining inactive in relation to the machinery.


a. Action taken on the machinery to produce the image.
b. 'Action' in the form of a sim ple m ovem ent in, or in relation to, the m achinery
and representation.
c. N o action is taken other than perception.

3 T h e r e la t io n b e tw e e n th e s p e c ta to r s a nd th e r e p r e s e n ta tio n

This part includes questions of cognition — deciphering and decoding visual


signs - and the specification of the spectators' various system s of beliefs in rela­
tion to the aesthetic choices im plied by the 'techniques' of the representation.
Theories of representation, which turn representation itself into a 'p ro xy' of real­
ity - or to be more precise, a 'represented' and a referent —are relevant here.

4 T h e r e la tio n b e tw e e n th e m a c h in e r y an d th e r e p r e s e n ta tio n

4 .1 The materialisation of the representation.


a. W hat is show n (or represented) has no material support in the dispositive
(telescope, microscope).
b. The representation is materialised in one w ay or another on a support.

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The 1900 Episteme 39

c. The representation relies on a multiple and combined support: it is produced


by elements (actors, objects, painted or photographed elements, etc.) that are
them selves seen via a certain dispositive (theatre, stereoscope).

4.2 The tem poral relation of the show ing is im plied by the dispositive: sim ulta­
neity differance'.
a. Immediate transmission (immediacy: camera obscura, television, micro­
scope).
b. Deferred broadcasting (time gap: photography, cinema).

5 T h e o v e r a ll q u a lific a tio n o f th e d is p o s itiv e

5 .1 The 'nature' of the dispositive producing relations between the three levels:
a. mechanical
b. computer-based
c. theatre production
d. exhibition
— hanging (on a wall)
— 'installation'.

This model is merely a tool that needs to be rethought, completed or reorga­


nised during the research stage in accordance w ith each dispositive examined.
The aim is not to build up an exhaustive descriptive model, but to have an ade­
quate tool for each specific set o f questions. The outline that w e are presenting
here underlines the relations by m ainly adopting the spectators as a point of
reference. They m ay be defined em pirically b y confronting each dispositive
with the distinctive criteria of the model. In parallel to any theoretical or ab­
stract discourse, one can understand the very concrete role of the different ele­
ments involved - for exam ple, spectators can be seen as spatial bodies occupy­
ing a specific place in relation to the machine or the whole dispositive. Such
spectator characterisation should allow one to reflect on the subject, the receiver
of the representation. It might even uphold Crary's original theory, w hen he saw
in the optical instruments of the first half of the nineteenth century the sign of a
new conception of the subject, a new m ode of view ing, 'a subjective vision'
grounded in the 'observer's' ow n body - she or he is defined as being mobile,
not just having one view point, experim enting w ith an apprehension of things
that is opposed to the mode of contemplation, as Benjamin put it. This idea goes
hand in hand w ith the notion of the decentring of the spectator, which Crary
also envisages in relation to these optical instruments (starting from the analysis
of the stereoscope). A n essential aspect must be added to this definition: the
classifying of these dispositives within all of the coercive modes of view ing, im-

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40 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

plying subm ission to the machinery that is comparable to the panopticon ana­
lysed by Michel Foucault.
However, a concrete approach to dispositives - w hen one tries to characterise
them in finer detail by combining several descriptive criteria — leads to ques­
tions about how in tune they are w ith the definition that C rary borrow s from
Foucault and above all Benjamin. The zoetrope, phenakistoscope, thaumatrope,
diorama, stereoscope, and kaleidoscope are examined to show how they contri­
bute to the changing of the mode of view ing. Some of these apparatuses share
the characteristic of m aking spectators an element o f the machine,21 which sub­
mits their bodies to a practice of view ing, but also of constructing a new model
of the spectator as someone w ho is mobile, decentred, etc. However, if one re­
exam ines the criterion of mobility, it is clear that the spectator's experience in
relation to these different dispositives is not the same: w hile the phenakisto­
scope requires the spectator not to m ove, as Crary points out - as does the
stereoscope —the zoetrope allow s her or him to m ove around the rotating me­
chanism at the very moment w hen it is producing the animated representation.
While retinal persistence is the model that explains the represented m ovem ent -
a model that w as used in the nineteenth century in connection w ith Plateau's
experiments for several of these view ing dispositives - it cannot hide the funda­
mental difference that sets them apart.22 The fact that some are based on mobil­
ity and others on fixedness is all the more significant as the essential criterion of
m odernity is precisely the mobility of the point of view. The spectator's experi­
ence is shaped in a significantly more m eaningful w ay by the concrete m ove­
ment im posed on the body b y one or other dispositive than by the perceptive
(and not im m ediately analysed) 'm ovem ent' that is attributed to retinal persis­
tence. When one w ishes to define the subject in relation to her or his experience,
the analysis of scientific discourses and theories is no substitute for the concrete
phenomenon im posed by the dispositive in its materiality.
A further point should also be added, which our model incorporates: free­
dom of movem ent is not the sam e in the zoetrope, thaumatrope and diorama,
and this is the result of a significant difference. In some cases, the apparatus is a
tool that remains outside the spectators' bodies —at best it is a prosthesis that is
applied to the eyes (like the kaleidoscope or some 'stereoscope-glasses'), which
they can thus handle at w ill; in other cases, spectators are included in a disposi­
tive that incorporates them —that is, w hen one refers to spectators as 'elements
of a machine'. The nature of the movement and the physical and phenomenolo­
gical relation of the spectator to the dispositive are very different each time, and
one m ay w ell ask if this does not completely change the ascendancy of the dis­
positive, its supposed coercion. To put it very bluntly: in order to introduce the
model that Foucault bases on the panopticon, is it sufficient to retain the fact that
the subjects are manipulated by a certain politics of the body? Is it not necessary

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The 1900 Episteme 41

to envisage the very structure of the dispositive in order to postulate the effect
of control produced by machineries that are sim ply not defined institutionally
as instruments intended for such a function?
It is hard system atically to pinpoint the know n and already established cri­
teria of m odernity in dispositives, given that one m ight refute such criteria after
exam ining the dispositives closely.
A good exam ple is the stereoscope, an apparatus that im poses fixedness.
Here the new subject of view in g is constructed thanks to the decentring of the
spectator, which can be demonstrated via an analysis of the representation that
the stereoscope offers. But as w e are speaking of the spectator's 'experience',
should one not also take into account all the dispositive, the very condition of
the spectator's perception, even before one addresses the issue of representa­
tion? For w hen it comes to perception, the stereoscope im poses the centring of
the spectator, on the one hand w ith regard to the fixedness of her or his place in
front of the lenses, without m oving, and on the other hand in the need to ac­
commodate her or his view in g to the only point where it w ill be possible to see
the 'depth' of the objects presented. This type of experience requires a certain
type of centring, even if this is not defined according to the codes of perspective.
The analysis of the discourses on w hich an epistemological approach is based
must proceed by gauging the theoretical development against the concrete di­
mension of the object of these discourses, specifically w hen the aim is to devel­
op an understanding of the subject that has been constructed as a body sub­
mitted to an experience. One cannot turn a blind eye to the actual conditions of
this experience and their plural nature, in order to w eigh them against the theo­
retical discourses that surround them in a particular context.
The m odel represents a means to avoid an apprehension of a dispositive that
w ould be too rapid, too partial and not sufficiently concrete in the design of a
theoretical, epistemological and thus a fortiori conceptual discourse. It is thus a
kind of safeguard. But, more positively speaking, it should provide a means of
displacing and renewing the problematics that question the view in g and listen­
ing dispositives, while exploiting the largest number of terms that can be used
to set up the epistemic schema of the 'cinem a' in c. 1900.

N o te s

1. This article is a rewritten, developed and modified version of the paper presented at
the Domitor Symposium (Montreal), with a number of corrections and additions.
Some of the publications that present these ideas can be found in the bibliography.
2. The French etymology of 'montage' comes from the clock whose weights must be
wound up (monter), is said to be wound up (tnontee), and metaphorically speaking

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42 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

in French one uses the verb remonter when one speaks of winding (up) the clock's
successor - the watch. François Dagognet has addressed the place of the 'clock mod­
el' in the history of techniques, in his l’Essor technologique et l’idée de progrès, Paris:
Armand Colin, 1997, pp. 46-50. Regarding the extension of automata, see Jean­
Claude Beaune, /'Automate et ses mobiles, Paris: Flammarion, 1981.
3. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chica­
go Press, 1962.
4. Pierre Francastel has underlined Brunelleschi's use of an optical instrument several
times as 'a kind of little box' with a hole for the eye and a mirror reflecting a view of
Florence, or Poussin's manipulation of a scenographic box which he used to study
the effects of light on the people he painted (see 'Destruction d'un espace plastique',
in Etudes de sociologie de l'art, Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 'Médiations', 1970).
5. Regarding the multiplication of viewpoints and their montage in El Greco's work,
see S. Eisenstein, 'El Greco y el cine', in Cinématisme, Dijon: Les Presses du Réel, 2009
[1980]), passim. On Canaletto and his 'montaged' Venice, see André Corboz, Venezia
immaginaria, Milan: Electa, 1985, 2 volumes.
6. See Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, Palo Alto: Stanford University
Press, 1999 [1986] and Jonathan Crary, I’Art de l'observateur, Nîmes: Jacqueline
Chambon, 1994 [1990].
7. Giorgio Agamben, Qu'est-ce qu'un dispositif?, Paris: Rivages-Poche, 2007, p. 42. One
could add that, more recently, we have not been convinced by the 'philosophy' of
the apparatus as espoused by Jean-Louis Déotte, where perspective with a unique
vanishing point is considered to be 'apparatus' that forms 'the base of modernity'.
He also speculates on the move from the technical apparatus to the aesthetic and
then the cultural apparatus (see in particular: J.-L. Déotte, l'Epoque des appareils,
Paris: Lignes & Manifestes, 2004).
8. Philippe Hamon, Expositions, littérature et architecture au XIXe siècle, Paris: José Corti,
1989.
9. F. Fénéon, "'Calendrier de décembre 1887", Cirques, Théâtres, Politiques', Œuvres
plus que complètes, Geneva: Droz, Tome II, p. 720-1.
10. P. Verhaeren, Mercure de France, October 1902, reprinted in Sensations d'art, Paris:
Séguier, 1989, p. 208. The relation between impressionist painting and photography
is thus very different from what Bazin describes in his 'Ontologie de l'image photo­
graphique', where photography 'delivers' painting and allows it to gain its ‘aes­
thetic autonomy' (Qu'est-ce que le cinéma ?, Paris: Cerf, 1985, pp. 16-17) - a position
that was popularised by Malraux in his writings on art in the 1940s.
11. Henry d'Audigier, la Patrie, 25 July 1858 (quoted in Sylvie Aubenas (ed.), Gustave Le
Gray (1820-1884), Paris: BNF-Gallimard, 2002, pp. 366-7). Cézanne's comments, as
noted by Joachim Gasquet in front of one of Courbet's 'Waves', are similar in their
intention.
12. Gustave Le Gray, Traité pratique de photographie sur papier et sur verre, Paris: Baillère,
1850 (at: gallica.bnf.fr)).
13. Regarding several of the points briefly raised here about Le Gray, see Sylvie Aube­
nas (éd.), op. cit. This 'colourism' of the photograph stands in opposition to the
photography criticism of such scholars as Rodolphe Topffer, who contrasts it with
the greater efficiency of drawing.

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The 1900 Episteme 43

14. See his Salons, which were compared to paintings in the exhibition entitled 'Diderot
et l'Art, de Boucher à David. Les Salons 1759-1781' (Hôtel de la Monnaie (Paris), Oc­
tober 1984-January 1985).
15. This is an important question and should stimulate anew the question of the effect
'breaking out' has on the spectators of the La Ciotat train in the Lumière brothers'
film. Yuri Tsivian, when distinguishing between reception and perception, thought
that the reception of The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat in Russia was, as it were, 'over­
determined' for cultivated spectators by the description of Anna Karenina's suicide
in Tolstoy's novel. (See the fourth chapter of his Istoriceskaja recepcia kino. Kinemato-
grafv Rossii 1896-1930 [Riga, 1991], and the sixth chapter of the English translation,
Early Cinema and its Cultural Reception, translated by Alan Bodger, London and New
York: Routledge, 1994, 'The Reception of the Moving Image'). It could also be said
that the Parisian or French spectators received the same film via a passage from
Maupassant's novel Une Vie (A Woman's Life), or, in any case, patterns of comprehen­
sion that are common to the text and the film. One can clearly see that Maupassant's
description recounts all the phases of the film, and one can thus conjecture that the
effect of surprise, or even of panic, that often allegedly took place when the train left
the foreground of the screen encountered conceptual frameworks in the spectators'
brains that were perfectly well established, and was thus received and understood
without surprise: 'Nothing was visible on the track. Suddenly she saw a cloud of
white smoke, then under it a black spot, which grew larger as it approached at full
speed. At last the huge engine, slowing up, roared past Jeanne; she kept her eyes on
the carriage doors. Several of them opened and passengers got out, peasants in their
blouses, farmers' wives with baskets, small shopkeepers in soft felt hats.' (Guy de
Maupassant, Une Vie, Paris, Le Livre de Poche no. 478, 1962; A Woman's Life, trans­
lated, with an introduction by H.N.P. Sloman, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books,
1965, p. 201).
However, the 'same' movement from the rear to the front against a black back­
ground - as Méliès portrays in his Man with a Rubber Head - takes on a different
meaning: if the train gets larger as it approaches, the spatial distance represented
(set up by expectation, a fortiori, if one begins by projecting the stationary image of
the perspective of the rails disappearing into the distance) allows one to assume a
permanence in the size of the moving object and to be assured of its movement right
up to the moment when it leaves the frame. On the contrary, Méliès's movement on
a bench facing a camera loses its characteristics of movement, since there are no
points of spatial reference, and simply appears to change size. In this case, the mag­
nifying effect borders on the monstrous or on anomaly, and may give rise to fear
(fear of the head bursting, which then actually happens). The bursting takes place
inside the frame, whereas the arrival 'in the hall' that the train is supposed to accom­
plish has to happen off-camera. Tsivian, following Arnheim on this point, notes that
as the figure approaches, it spreads across the surface of the screen. And this is what
happens to Méliès in excess. Similarly, the wave - if indeed one can compare it to
the train - clearly gets its force and the effect of reality from the dual presence of the
two aspects of the landscape. And it is the fact of its breaking away that produces the
effect of breaking out.
16. One of his 'Waves' is special, in that there is an extremely sharp horizon line,
against which three elements are juxtaposed: 1) the sky unfolding with very de-

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44 François Albera and Maria Tortajada

tailed clouds; 2) a rough sea with high, foamy waves; and 3) a strip of land with two
moored boats, creating an effect of verticalization of two-thirds of the painting (the
sky and the sea), which the perception of the land redistributes in depth because of
its initiating place in the foreground and its brownish tonality, which stands out
against the whiteness of the foam.
17. Our starting point is Michel Foucault's definition in l ’Archéologie du savoir (Paris:
Gallimard, 1976; Archeology of Knowledge, English translation by Alan M. Sheridan
Smith, London and New York: Routledge, 2002, p. 211): 'By episteme, we mean, in
fact, the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices
that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized sys­
tems ... The episteme is not a form of knowledge (connaissance) or type of rationality
which, crossing the boundaries of the most varied sciences, manifest the sovereign
unity of a subject, a spirit, or a period; it is the totality of relations that can be dis­
covered, for a given period, between the sciences when one analyses them at the
level of discursive regularities.'
18. Henri Bergson, Matière et mémoire, 1896, p. 35, p. 148; Matter and Memory, translated
by Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, London: George Allen and Unwin,
19 11, p. 31, p. 78.
19. Guillaume Apollinaire, 'le Roi-Lune', Mercure de France, no. 440, 16 October 1916,
pp. 609-624.
20. We are thinking here of scholars such as Crary (who, without warning, presents
representational criteria while giving them a meaning that needs to be debated -
his use of the notion of 'referent' in particular) or Kittler, who assumes the Lacanian
approach - but one could also mention Deleuze's Bergsonism (only Alain Badiou
has espoused the idea that Cinema 1 and 2 were in no way books 'on' the cinema -
or, as Deleuze said, 'of' the cinema - but a reading of Bergson that was intended to
bring him up to date and find a way round the prodigious phenomenologist obsta­
cle - See his Deleuze, Paris: Hachette, 1997).
21. The diorama, phenakistoscope and zoetrope are specifically cited (op. cit., p.163).
22. Leaving aside the fact that, for several decades, its importance has been relativised
on the basis of the experimental research of psychologists (including those working
at the Institut de Fihnologie [1947-1961]).

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P ro je c te d C in e m a ( A H yp o th e s is on th e
C i n e m a ’s I m a g i n a t i o n )

François Albera

When one exam ines very different kinds of statements (énoncés) (scientific and
technical documents, w orks of popularisation, legal, m oral or political texts)
written during the 19th and 20th centuries and not belonging to mainstream
institutions or practices dealing with the technology involved in recording, re­
producing and transmitting sounds and images, one finds a considerable litera­
ture devoted to the field - whether novels, tales, am using or illustrated stories,
sketches, and so on. They are peripheral in relation to the institutional field
(covering invention, exploitation and spectacle) but 'exploit' the technical ob­
jects of communication within their ow n space - and their stories - and imagine
new objects to suit their anticipatory nature and purpose.
Despite their apparently secondary or even futile place - one might think that
they are reduced sim ply to quoting or using w hat science and technology have
implemented - they nonetheless have their ow n worth, which, in the perspec­
tive I shall develop here, is com parable to that of the others.
In both new spaper articles and academic papers on the cinema and later on
television, reference w as quickly, and increasingly often, m ade to the most fa­
mous of them - Villiers de L'lsle Adam 's Tomorrow's Eve - joined more recently
b y Jules Verne's Carpathian Castle and A d olfo Bioy Casares's The Invention of
Morel —for their presentiment about 'the' or 'a' cinema to come.
But there are other w orks that have been catalogued w ithin the genres of
science fiction, or futuristic (anticipatory) and utopian w orks.1
When one looks anew at this sundry and m ultifarious set o f w orks, one finds
- w hen taking the w idest possible perspective —at least two grounds for pursu­
ing research: a) the texts do build up a diegetic universe —there is thus verisim i­
litude, capable of m aking the reader believe in the w orld put forw ard —which
they fill w ith technological objects that are seen as everyday and ordinary, to be
used by one and all and thus even commonplace; b) the anticipatory gap -
sometimes of only a few years, sometimes a century - or the geographical dis­
tance (a m ysterious island, another planet) underline certain characteristics of
these objects w hose functions and properties are 'prolonged' as they are devel­
oped and perfected in relation to the present moment (of the writing).
These tw o points merit further attention as they provide clues to the place
occupied by these technical objects in everyday life of the period under consid-

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46 François Albera

eration, w hat is expected of them, and the w ay in w hich one m ay apprehend


them - i.e., their intelligibility fram ework. On the one hand, b y stripping them
of their experimental and exceptional nature, they are inscribed in a technical
imagination, linking them w ith general (i.e., intellectual, scientific or para-scien­
tific, moral, etc.) categories that define their social dimension. On the other
hand, it can be said that this literature provides technologies that are still m atur­
ing or on the draw ing board w ith a space for experimentation, allow ing un­
proved hypotheses or scientific facts to be linked together (astronomy and
photography, for exam ple).2
One m ay conjecture that thanks to these two aspects, 'futuristic' literature not
only takes part in the genesis of the technical invention, but also determines
some of the total number of directions and w ays in which it m ay develop.
Henri Fescourt and Jean-Louis Bouquet noted in their pam phlet entitled
'l'Id ée et l'Écran' that:

at a time when the idea of the submarine had already been floated, Jules Verne drew
up the plan of his Nautilus. It remains the work of a novelist, however ingenious we
may find the description. It did not contribute so much as an iota to solving the prob­
lem, and in the end Gustave Zédé had the merit of realising it.
You say that it is a period of precursors? It is above all a period of novelists.3

The authors are correct in their judgem ent that Verne did nothing to further the
actual technology of the submarine, but they are w rong to underestimate the
contribution of the novel and the invention 'on p ap er'.4 Fictions and im ages
give body to a hypothesis and fully develop its logic. Today's practices of 'pro­
jecting' data backed up by figures to construct 'm odels' (on climate evolution or
the spread of cars in China), which, moreover, correspond to 'scenarios', belong
to such a rationale.
In the most marked projects put forw ard in these works, the technical inven­
tion is a key element of the fiction. In less m arked cases it is part of the diegetic
universe, one of the series of paradoxical clues em bodying the impression of
reality of the future. The tw o can be found in the sam e w ork - in the first part
of Tomorrow's Eve (1878 - 1886), w e see Edison in his everyday life with the com­
monplace usage to w hich he puts the voice transmission devices or w riting ap ­
paratuses that he has invented.5 Then one reaches his sensational invention -
the android - which outstrips these 'gad gets' from every point of view.
It is instructive to exam ine a less w ell-know n novel by Jules Verne —l ’Ile à
hélice (Propeller Island, published in 1895 ) - that has attracted less critical interest
than his most fam ous books. Unlike his Paris au XXe siècle (Paris in the 20 th
Century, published posthum ously but written before 1863 ), the fiction is only
projected forward in a near future a few years hence. M oreover, the key issues
have nothing to w ith communication or sound and im age reproduction, which

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Projected Cinema (A Hypothesis on the C inem as Imagination) 47

are omnipresent in the w orld of this island of the future and its capital, M illiard
City, w here everything w orks by electricity. There are three communication de­
vices: the teleautograph, which carries w riting in the w ay that the telephone car­
ries speech;6 the kinetograph, w hich records movements; and the telephote, which
reproduces im ages. In addition, thanks to the theatrophone, one can comm uni­
cate w ith the theatres of Am erica and Europe, and music — a 'therapeutic
agent ... exercising a reflex action on the nervous centres' and the effect of
w hose 'harm onious vibrations dilates the arterial vessels, influence the circula­
tion, increasing or dim inishing it' —is transmitted to people's homes b y telephone
from 'm usical energy stations'. Libraries contain 'book-phonographs' that one
does not need to read: 'one presses a button and hears the voice of an excellent
storyteller w ho reads'. Newspapers are printed on an edible mixture with choco­
late ink - 'once read, one eats them for breakfast' —and the 'n ew s' is 'displayed'
telautographicalhj on facades.7 A m ong other objects, one finds 'a talking watch, a
phonographic w atch', and all the inhabitants are equipped w ith a device en­
abling them to keep track of

[their] constitution, [their] muscular strength measured with a dynamometer, [their]


lung capacity measured with a spirometer, the force of contraction of [their] hearts
measured with a sphygmometer ... [their] degree of vital strength measured by a
magnetometer ...

M ost of the technical objects mentioned above can be related either to existing
devices (the theatrophone invented b y Clém ent A d er in 18 8 1, Edison's kineto­
graph dating from 1890) or planned (the teleautograph) or im agined appara­
tuses (the telephote, an im aginary machine introduced by du Montel in his Mi­
crophone, radiophone et phonographe of 1882) - and, of course, the instruments for
m easuring the body, all of which were borrow ed from M arey - and it can be
noted that they all function on the basis of transfers and montage between techni­
cal objects. Thus, adapting the w ords of Edison ('do for the eye w hat the phono­
graph does for the ear'), the kinetograph is described as doing for the image
w hat the phonograph does for sound; similarly, the transmission of im ages and
w riting uses telephone technology w hich here —w ith the exam ple of music at
home —takes the place of radio. The other process introduced is the hybridization
of technical objects. Verne w as quick to introduce the technology of the 'theatro­
phone', but his friend Albert Robida, in Le Vingtième Siècle (Paris in the 20 th cen­
tury, 1882), developed a 'new ' transmission technology w ith the telephonoscope,
capable of directly transmitting a spectacle, the im age of a correspondent, or an
event b y combining the theatrophone, photograph and the projection lantern.8
A n d Didier de C housy went one better in the follow ing year (1883) by dream ing
up the telechromophotophonotetroscope, which 'electrically' reproduces 'the face,
speech and gestures of an absent person'.9

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François Albera

A ll these existing, projected or im agined devices have in common technical


and technological means that people w ished to see realised or generalised.
Fifteen years after Verne, Octave Béliard evoked 'L a Journée d'un Parisien au
XXIe siècle' - 1 December 20 10 - in Lectures pour Tous,10 w here Edison's devices
w ere multiplied and generalised: a 'phonograph-alarm ', a microphone in a bed­
side table for ordering breakfast, the morning papers that one 'listens to'. All
houses are connected to an information centre providing news from the w orld
over at all hours (night dispatches, general new s items, political and commercial
information, scientific articles, literature in serial form, critical pieces). A t work,
everything functions by telephone, and w orkers' m ovements are reproduced by
a 'dynam om eter-recorder' that calculates the hours w orked. The portrait of a
suspect is projected on screens in the streets and transmitted to all points of the
globe by w ireless telegraphy. The screens are refreshed. One character says: 'I
am stunned to think that at this very moment, the same infinitely multiplied
traits are being imprinted on millions of sensitive plates ... N o man is too small
not to be connected to the universe by the telephone, the telegraph and even the
telephote - w hich is wireless of course'.
Béliard's contemporary, Guillaum e Apollinaire, speaks of Louis II of Bavaria
in his Roi-lune (The Moon King, 19 16 ) —of w hich more w ill be said later —w ho
uses 'giant copper pinnae [sticking out] of the w all' to listen to nothing less than
the m urm uring of the w orld thanks to microphones connected to it. With the
help of a device equipped w ith a keyboard, the monarch can press on w hatever
key he chooses and hear the sounds transmitted from the w hole w orld (Papeete,
Rio de Janeiro, N ew Zealand, Am erica, China, Chicago, N ew York, Bonn ...): in
Tripolitaine, 'around a bivouac fire, Marinetti practised speaking pidgin while
the troops of the House of Savoy surrounded him in soldierly manner, ready to
defend him in the im probable event of an aggression, firing a few onomatopoeic
salvos, and clarion calls echoed around the cam p' ... One can go on 'a tour of
the auricular w orld - while rem aining im m obile'.11
In a parod y of Villiers's novel, Josuah Electricmann, written in 1883 by Ernest
d'H ervilly, a generalised system of connections of w orldw ide information w as
extrapolated from the telephone and telegraph, w ith a 'netw ork of conducting
w ires corresponding to all the telegraphic stations of the globe combined w ith a
"scribograph", "m echanical secretary"', etc.12
René Barjavel, in his 19 4 1 novel Ravage (translated as Ashes, ashes), provides
us w ith a third exam ple, as does science fiction written in the 1950s (Philip K.
Dick, Pierre Boulle, R ay Bradbury, etc.) up to the present time —the observations
one can m ake w ould be similar, even if the technical references have evolved
along w ith technological developments.
W hatever the futuristic fram ew ork of such novels, there are a certain number
of 'convictions', beliefs, values or fears that are consistently present. The voice

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Projected Cinema (A Hypothesis on the C inem as Imagination) 49

taking over from the written word, for example, is one of the most w idespread
ideas, going back at least as far as Cyrano de Bergerac in his journeys to the
m oon.13 To w hich one can add the general distribution of music, instant new s
from the w orld over, services available at home, etc., all 'values' that the Internet
has borrow ed from the end of the 19th century and multiplied. Finally, one m ay
note the idea of generalised surveillance - thanks to the preservation of im ages
b y light (Flammarion), by m eans of observation by optical devices and finally
b y dint of various means of diffusion.
These exam ples clearly show that the division between different m edia and
technologies - such as has been established and developed (to the point where
scholars have theorised on the processes of remediation or today envisage new
distributions w ith regard to the new digital technology and w hat it allows) -
has not been 'respected' by the authors of these writings, as they system atically
w iden the functions given to these technical objects, just as they do not 'respect'
their 'specificity' but cross their characteristics, turning them into hybrid techni­
cal objects. This provides us w ith precious clues about the w orld of technical
imagination, the conceptual and social fram ew orks (categories and ideologies)
that w ere prevalent w hen such techniques were 'im agined' - which, on the b a­
sis of specialisation developed later, w e tend to believe w ere created w ithin the
restricted, autonom ous and specialised fram ew ork that has become, or is to be­
come, their own.
We shall come back to this 'turnaround' in the theory and historiography of
the cinema and other communication m edia (television, Internet ...), for the hy­
pothesis of envisaging a '1900 episteme' proceeds from the conviction that, con­
trary to the ever narrow er focusing on the 'specificity' of a medium, it is useful
to w iden the dom ain it belongs to, to consider it within a broader fram ework, in
a w ay to 'd issolve' it in accordance w ith the categories that pass through it and
that link it to other categories.
Turning now to fictional texts that 'invent' new technologies more vivid ly
than the previous ones, one can classify them according to several trends - the
visualisation of the past, direct transmission (ubiquity), the virtual image, and
'au d iovisual' cloning.
The audio-visualisation of the past is clearly the dominant fantasy produced
first by photography and then phonography. Since today w e can fix, i.e., make
fast, the appearance of the present - which tom orrow w ill belong to the past -
could one not fix a past that happened before the arrival of photography and
phonography? Villiers's Edison deplores the fact that he has 'arrived too late'.
The fixing of im ages and sounds and their free repetition transform the rela­
tion to time, m aking possible a claim, w hich is m ade possible by the contempo­
rary discoveries in astronom y and their effects on the understanding of the na­
ture of light.14 Cam ille Flam m arion w as the dominant figure in the field of

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50 François Albera

scientific popularisation, but also its extensions tow ards science fiction and even
parapsychology.
In the 1860s, Flam m arion becam e interested in the question of the 'delay
caused in our observations of aspects of stars by the time that luminous rays
take to come to u s' and, consequently, in the fact that these rays 'tell us the
ancient history of these stars' —as A rago put it.15
One of the conclusions that Flam m arion drew from the observation of this
'd elay' and the 'journey' of lum inous im ages w as the persistence of these im ages
of phenomena 'in the cosm os': 'nothing is destroyed,' 'at the moment w hen [an]
act has been accomplished, light seizes it and carries it into space at lightening
speed. It is incorporated w ith a ray of light; becoming eternal, it eternally be
transmitted in the infinite'.16 But Flam m arion w as above all fascinated by his
hypotheses on 'the plurality of inhabited w orlds' - he wanted to take off from
earth and favoured the intersidereal voyage. In Lumen (1884), his speculations
about retrospective vision incorporated the movem ent of the observer, w ho
goes back in time faster than the speed of light, w hereas synchronising the
speed w ith the speed of light allow s him to isolate a picture. Flammarion thus
does not speculate on the m eans of capturing and recording the im ages that
surround us. This, however, is the case of the m any stories dealing w ith the
question of the capturing device or developer screen allow ing one to visualise
and then record these itinerant images.
In the majority of these stories, the narrator is the scientist w ho provides
scientific explanations of the phenomena that happen (theory) and o f the appa­
ratus he has designed to observe and fix them (technology). These characters
and their discourses are constructed by adapting w hat w as being said at the
time in scientific circles —as can be seen by the appearance of Edison 'in person'
in some of these stories, or the repeated references to him ('the French Edison').
There again, as in the case of the 'N autilus', rather than looking at the explana­
tions, inventions and discoveries of these scientists, it w as more important to
link them to the concepts m aking them possible - thus w ith less em phasis on
the solutions and more on the questions from w hich they stem.
In the exam ples exam ined here, these scientists belong respectively —or si­
m ultaneously - to the fields of chemistry, astronomy and physics.
When reasoning is developed on the basis of the theory that analyses im ages
as a reflection of the light of a body, w e have noted that it is astronom y that
provides the hypothesis of capturing im ages of the past b y means of the time
gap between the em ission and reception of the light emitted by far-off stars.17
Then physics is required to design devices to observe and capture images, and
chemistry necessary to find sensitive supports on w hich these em issions of light
m ay be developed and recorded.

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Projected Cinema (A Hypothesis on the C inem as Imagination) 51

The reasoning behind these stories w as sum m arised in exem plary fashion by
M aurice Renard, w ho had undoubtedly read Flammarion:

The past exists always in the order of light and the optical; but up to now, our past,
that of the inhabitants of the Earth, has not been available to our own eyes. That does
not prevent it from going on and on visually, like all pasts where light reigns. Thus
when we observe the stars, it is their past that we see. For, despite its speed of 3,000
kilometres per second, it takes light years to come to us from the nearest star, in other
words to send us the image of that star. Consequently, in the firmament we only see
the stars such as they shone ten, twenty, fifty or one hundred years ago, according to
the distance separating us from them, and not such as they shine at the moment when
we contemplate them.1*

Clearly, the problematic of the instantaneous image that arises in photography,


causing the very definition of photography to be redefined19 (particularly in
relation to Niepce's first experiments w here the exposure time records the pas­
sing of time —or later those of Nègre), is correlative to that of the gap, the delay
m ade possible in the im aginary w orld of im age capturing of w hat is no longer
present at the sam e time as the camera, w hereas on the contrary, the instanta­
neous im age exacerbates this sim ultaneity of existence in the guise of im m edi­
acy.
For further exam ples of the problematic of the audio-visualisation of the past,
aside from M aurice Renard's le Maître de la lumière (The Light Master, 1933),
w hich puts forw ard a precise and original dispositive to reach im ages from the
past: the 'sum m aries of the past', rear-view m irrors or developers, heavy and
very thick opaque plates m ade up of an infinite number of very thin black or
lum inous lines and others that are light or dark.20 Three novels have been cho­
sen: G uiseppe Lipparini's le Maître du temps (The Master o f Time, 1909), M aurice
Leblanc's les Trois Yeux (The Three Eyes, 1920), and Léon Daudet's Bacchantes
(1931),
U sing the character of Professor Antonio Schwarz, G uiseppe Lipparini21
evokes the question of the 'photography of time'. Following a handling error
during astronomical observation, im ages of the past appear. However, the ex­
planation of the phenomenon introduces a new parameter of the energy devel­
oped by each body in movement. The hypothesis is that the energy m ust 'su b ­
sist'. In other w ords, each of man's acts corresponds to a projection of that act in
space, which, as Flam m arion wrote, is preserved in time. The cinematograph
confirms this law of projection (in space) / preservation (in time) for: 'the sur­
rounding air is a veritable cinem atograph where thousands of successive projec­
tions intersect and m erge'.22
Schwarz thus sets out to find a receiver, which w ill enable him to reconstitute
the act that has produced these projections. The instrument, close to the human

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52 François Albera

eye, is a dark room. The task then becomes to 'coordinate the dispersed and
blurred im ages, and give back and restore their initial continuity'.
In M aurice Leblanc's novel,23 the scientist, N oël Dorgeroux, is a chemist, and
he sim ply contributes to the visualisation of im ages from the past that the Ve-
nusians, w ho have received them b y reflection, project onto the earth. This thus
involves finding a screen and a developer for 'photogram s' that once again are
present in the surrounding air.
In both cases, the existence of millions of invisible im ages and sounds circu­
lating in the atmosphere is the result of assim ilating these two phenomena with
the Hertzian w aves of w ireless communications. W hile both the telephone and
the telegraph foster an im aginary w orld of transmission by means of electric
impulses, a current m oving through some carrier (however thin this may be,
such as a cable or a wire), radiophony implies m oving to a different physical
element, that o f flux by emission in the air w ith neither carrier nor energy, aside
from the initial energy of the w aves.
This aspect of the w aves of time carrying the past is exactly w hat Léon D au­
det highlights w hen creating his physicist and 'French Edison', Rom ain Ségétan.
The w aves can be com pared to 'sound vibrations' - they interpenetrate without
merging, appear and disappear. The aim here is to capture them, and to do so
Ségétan designs a device called D yonisos —there is scant detail about this de­
vice, but w e do know that it w orks in 'zones of predilection' for iong-duration
w aves, sites that are positively haunted'; they are placed close to 'certain areas
of the skin that are especially accessible to sensory hyperaesthesia'. The em pha­
sis that is put on the 'vibrations' and 'w aves' - rather than on the preservation of
the im ages as such (and thus projected either from the past or from elsewhere
[Venus]) —causes him to adopt a mental model of vision rather than an optical
one. The theories about the skin's hyperaesthesia and vision via the skin were
developed b y Louis Farigoule [Jules Romains] in 19 19 , in a w ork that w as sin­
gular com pared to w hat he w as later to w rite and which found little favour.24
Clearly, Léon D audet - w ho had trained as a doctor - w as familiar w ith it.
Guillaum e Apollinaire took an early interest in the cinema - his scenario, la
Bréhatine, and his short story, 'U n beau film ' ('A beautiful film ', published in
l'Hérésiaque), parody action film s w ith sudden changes of fortune in the w ay
that his contemporary, the hum orist Cami, did. He also wrote two m uch more
interesting texts entitled 'L e Toucher à distance' ('Distance Touch') and 'le Roi-
lune' ('The Moon King').
The first story evokes a 'm essiah' capable of sim ultaneously being in a series
of different places. He has designed a machine that combines the cinematograph,
the phonograph, the telephone and the telegraph and thanks to w hich he can be
duplicated in as m any places as he likes, on condition that he has placed a recei­
ver there shaped like and the size of a nail. N ot only do im age and sound ap-

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Projected Cinema (A Hypothesis on the C inem as Imagination) 53

pear in these various places, but also a three-dimensional figure that can be
touched (thus he regularly meets his mistress for their w eekly rendezvous w ith­
out her suspecting that he could be at the other end of the w orld - and he even
m anages to give her three children). When the narrator fires six shots from a
revolver at w hat he believes to be the character's 'double', the latter dies sim ul­
taneously in 800 different places w orldw ide. Duplication and ubiquity are thus
the parameters of this story.
In The Moon King, Apollinaire speaks of devices that do not project images,
but that plunge their users into a virtual world. The im ages are of fam ous w o ­
men from history (Cleopatra, Heloise or Lola Montez, etc.) are called up ('a
naked body sm iling voluptuously at him takes shape before his delighted
eyes') and offered for the users' sexual pleasure ('The hands of the young people
stretched out in front of them and w andered, as if they w ere fondling lithe,
treasured bodies, their mouths gave enam oured kisses to the air. Soon they be­
came more lascivious and spiritedly united w ith the void').
The machine is an extrapolation of the phonograph (with which it shares the
turning 'cylinders'): there is a recording of the past, w hich is reiterated for indi­
vidual use - im plying a certain interaction w ith the machine. But, above all, it
breaks w ith the belief in the 'com m unication' w ith the im ages of the past by
introducing the fact that 'I could look at, touch, in a w ord I could pleasure the
bod y within m y reach, w hereas the body had no idea that I w as there, as it had
no present reality'. The capturing o f im ages of people from the past (great ina­
moratas) in im probable situations (sexual pleasure) produces a present, sim u­
lated activity that is really felt (m oving from simulacra to simulation).
Finally, the sym bolist Saint-Pol Roux, w ith his 'livin g cinema', announced a
screenless cinema, rem oved from the platitude of being shown, going all over
the w orld as anyone may, sim ultaneously painting and sculpture - and opening
up to 'Im m ortality'. This is the cinema of tomorrow. Up till now, the im age w as
reflected, but in tom orrow's cinema it w ill be crystallised, taking the place of
and supplanting biological reproduction, it is the vector of a super-humanity
that is reproduced by the sound and im age technology. Saint-Pol Roux thus
adds the production of 'doubles' - cloning —to the simultaneous presence of
the living and the dead.

C o n c lu s io n

Gilbert Sim ondon's reflections on the 'm odes of existence of technical objects'
and, more precisely, on the linking of 'im agination and invention' help one to

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54 François Albera

understand the 'genesis' of the invention constitutive of it, or even that 'the gen­
esis o f the technical object is part of its being'.25
His reflections on the definition of the technical object meet those developed
b y Georges Canguilhem on the history of sciences, stressing the origin of the
concept rather than its beginning, the origin alw ays being indebted to causal­
ities that are outside w hat w ould be considered a 'logic of science'. Thus, the
concept of reflex did not arise w ithin scientific discourse as if b y internal engen-
derment (of the Hegelian type), but in the context of pathology and the clinic.
In w hat condition, asks Simondon, can the technical object be called such? It
is not w hen I contemplate it, not w hen it is sim ply used, not even w hen it is
considered objectively from the point of its use and functions, or considered
according to its physical structures: it is the know ledge of the concretization of
the technical object that constitutes it as such.
In this genesis, there is the imagination, the project and the conception —Si­
mondon calls it an 'im age-producing genesis' - which has a virtual dimension.

When it does not 'go wrong', the invention can be distinguished from the images that
precede it by the fact that it brings about a change of scale - it joins the middle, which
it organises. An invention is an image that has succeeded, that has become concrete.26

The interest of fiction is not so m uch that it 'announces' or 'prefigures' w hat is to


come (its prophetic quality) but that it takes part in this genesis, doubtless more
on the side of 'creativity', which is syncretic, disorderly and abundant —while
the 'invention' is discontinuous, spread out over time and through history.
Moreover, to the extent that such fiction borrow s or experiments - purely in
w riting - on the basis o f the state of know ledge or current projects, it has the
faculty of shedding light on some dimensions of existing technologies that are a
source of inspiration, but that history, in its catalogued form, has not retained, in
that it has favoured use alone, thereby crushing other possibilities.
There are at least two aspects to these dimensions: the potential proper to a
m edium or machine (once the m ove from hand-building or prototype to gener­
alisation has been made), and the social, im aginary or pragm atic expectations
that both receive and solicit it.
In an article published in Paris-Soir on 8 M ay 1925, M aurice Renard comment­
ed on the notion of anticipation in literature and came up w ith the ad hoc expres­
sion of anticipation as a fictitious solution:

By using new data, by prolonging into the future the presumed continuation of re­
search underway, writers with methodical imaginations delighted ... in giving ficti­
tious solutions to certain problems that people had been facing for centuries, and other
problems that had only just arisen through progress. They skilfully busied themselves
with imagining the advent of possibilities, some of which were desirable and others
appalling; in short, they absorbed themselves in anticipations, a word used first by

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Projected Cinema (A Hypothesis on the C inem as Imagination) 55

Wells in this way (but he had predecessors: Poe, Villiers, Verne, Flammarion, the el­
der Rosny).2'

In these 'anticipations', the narrative fram ew ork is a frame that allows the extra­
polations authorised b y the object under consideration to unfold.
By understanding the 'cinem a' at the time of its advent through the represen­
tations of it that are provided in fictional works, to envisage it as a field of pos­
sible developm ents, in its extension, one m ay define its very concept beyond the
empirical definitions that have held sway.
This approach leads to a reordering of how things are divided up between
different m edia and the borders between them, and hence their respective
chronologies. Thus, the extrem ely rigid partition between 'cinem a' and 'televi­
sion', which go through their respective values and purposes of recording, stor­
ing and deferred repetition on the one hand, and transmission, simultaneity and
contiguity on the other hand, sim ply retro-projects later (and current) distinctions
that have been established b y society, and which depend on choices, w ithin the
m edium s and m edia under consideration for the purposes of specialisations,
profitability, and so forth.
B y exam ining 'utopian' novels or w orks of extrapolation, one can m easure
just how far these later specialisations —w hatever their importance m ay have
been - have consequently retro-projected borders and chronologies b y consider­
ing the media separately.
The outline of developm ents postulated b y the first historians has contributed
to this overshadow ing by m aking the very overshadow ing seem like a natural
process - but certain theories of sem iology or theories of intermediality do like­
w ise w hen they set out the 'phases' and successive modalities that these media
have passed through, thus slotting them into periods but without inscribing
them into a broader space of intelligibility.

N o te s

1. See, for example, Pierre Versins in his Encyclopédie de l'utopie et de la science-fiction,


Lausanne, l'Age d'Homme, 1972 (2nd edition 1984).
2. One of Edison's inventions mentioned in passing in Tomorrow's Eve is an instrument
used to 'measure the heat of starlight' (p. 156). Measuring the light emitted by extin­
guished stars: 'the man who looks up and admires the stars is often looking at suns
that no longer exist, which he nonetheless perceives as a result of that phantom ray,
darting endlessly through the illusion of the universe' (p. 156).
3. Henri Fescourt and Jean-Louis Bouquet, 'L'idée et l'écran. Opinions sur le cinéma',
préface de Francis Lacassin, Archives 99, November 2006. Jules Verne knew both of
the American Fulton's submarine project (1798) and of that of Delonney who, in

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56 François Albera

1859, registered patents that had no practical applications. Seventeen years after the
novel was published, the French naval engineer Gustave Zede (1825-1891) perfected
an operational submarine propelled by electricity and armed with two torpedoes,
called the 'Gymnote' (1887).
4. One may ask where a project develops if not on paper - and how does one 'demon­
strate' it if not on paper by means of the description of an experiment - its narration,
its description?
5. For example, the telephonographic link with his secretary (he does not reply di­
rectly but by means of a recorded message, and calls the secretary by identical
means) following the transmission of a written dispatch ('fax').
6. In this novel, which was only published in 1994, there is talk of the 'photographic
telegraph, invented last century by Professor Giovanni Caselli of Florence, [which]
allowed one to send over distances the facsimile of any writing or drawing and thus
sign bills of exchange or contracts at five thousand leagues' distance' (p. 70).
7. In Les 500 millions de In Begum (The Begum Millions, 1879) where the ideal city,
France-Ville, built from scratch in the desert in the south of Oregon - again a kind
of island - not far from its evil twin city, Stahlstadt, the City of Steel, built by a Ger­
man despot and scientist with the sole aim of destroying everything that is not Ger­
manic on earth, with the hygienic, peace-loving and Eden-like France-Ville first on
the list.
The organisation of the 'futuristic' city includes ultramodern architectural, urban,
industrial and agricultural dispositives (with the primary concern of excluding all
morbid germs from the city) and thus a number of advanced technical objects in the
field of communication - a very developed telephone system enabling the Civic
Council to meet at a moment's notice in an 'audio-conference', with an almost im­
mediate transcription of discussions noted in shorthand in newspapers, a system of
calling up its citizens by means of sound and visual columns (loudspeaker, alarm
and luminous dial) situated on 85 of the city's crossroads.
8. The telephonoscope also appears in Camille Flammarion's la Fin du monde, set in the
25th century (The End of the World, 1894).
9. Ignis, 2nd part, chapter 3.
10. ('The Day of a Parisian in the 21st Century') Lectures pour Tous (13th year - 3rd
instalment [December 1910]).
11. Guillaume Apollinaire, 'Le Roi-lune', Mercure de France, Tome CXVII, No. 440, 16
October 1916.
12. Marie-Ernest d'Hervilly, 'Josuah Electricmann', in Timbale d'histoires a la parisienne
(Paris: Marpon-Flammarion, 1883).
13. The idea of freeing oneself from writing by reading texts aloud goes back at least as
far as Cyrano de Bergerac, who encounters very convenient portable machines on
the moon, which allow him to 'listen' to books. The move from the dispositive of the
book (produced by the printing press) to that of a diffuser of sound is meant to go
beyond the obstacle of the materiality of writing (letters, pages, printing) and its
lack of clarity in relation to the meaning, located where there is transparency of the
voice. This brings us close to Rousseau's Essay on the Origin of Language, which was
stigmatised by Derrida in Writing and Difference (I'Ecriture et la difference). There is
also the fantasy of being able to store the sound of a voice. Cyrano, follows on from
Rabelais and Sorel, but introduces a mechanism that is clearly modelled on watch

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Projected Cinema (A Hypothesis on the C inem as Imagination) 57

making, while his predecessors banked on natural phenomena (frozen words,


words absorbed by sponges): (Voyage dans la lune, 1657).
14. One can measure the gap between the technological conceptual framework of this
fantasy and what prevailed some centuries earlier in Rabelais's or Sorel's works.
Rabelais exploits the 'natural' phenomenon of the freezing of words and noises that
are reduced to steam by the expending of body energy, and Sorel, by assimilating
the spoken word to a liquid, transfers the sponge's absorption and reversion capa­
city via pressure. (Rabelais, Quart livre', Sorel, le Courrier véritable)
15. See Danielle Chaperon in her Camille Flammarion. Entre astronomie et littérature, Paris:
Imago, 1998, pp. 48-49.
16. C. Flammarion, 'La lumière ressuscitant le passé', Magasin pittoresque, 1873 (quoted
by D. Chaperon, op. cit., p.65).
17. This issue of dead stars was one of the major topoi of the time (cf Baudelaire); in
Charles Cros's 'drame interastral' (la Renaissance littéraire et artistique of 14 August
1872) one moves from the observation of planets to the transmission of sound by
telephonic mode, and of images by 'series that are sufficient for the reproduction of
the relief and the movements' - one of the rare cases of the application of the astron­
omy problematic to the field of sound.
18. Maurice Renard, le Maître de la lumière [1933], Paris: Tallandier, 1948 (published in
Romans et Contes fantastiques, Paris, Laffont 'Bouquins', 1990, pp. 1020-1021).
19. See André Gunthert, 'La Conquête de l'instantané. Archéologie de l'imaginaire
photographique en France (1841-1895)', Doctoral Thesis, Paris: EHESS, 1999.
20. The past here is not 'photographed' after the event (as in Lipparini), nor repeated
using a support that has 'reproduced' it (the cinematograph) - it is seen live, with­
out projection, via a kind of 'memory' of the plates. Compared to the partition be­
tween immediacy and différance, it is a third proposal - an immediacy of the past,
based on the model of starlight - one sees it now, but it comes from the past.
21. Guiseppe Lipparini (1877-1951?) - the lack of concrete details about this author may
have something to do with the modern Italian movement, which wrote about Mar­
inetti in 1943 (?). His novel was published in France, with the approval of Riciotto
Canudo, who incorporated it into the serials published by the periodical les Annales
in 1909. The passages here are from instalments 1 and 2 in numbers 1340 & 1341 of
28 February 1909 and 7 March 1909.
22. The similarity of this expression to the one that Deleuze infers from Bergson is strik­
ing (see the fourth chapter of his Cinema 1. The Movement-Inmge, translated by Bar­
bara Habberjam and H. Tomlinson, London: Athlone, 1986).
23. Maurice Leblanc, les Trois Yeux, Paris: Pierre Lafitte, 1920
24. Louis Farigoule [Jules Romains], la Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique: Re­
cherches de psychophysiologie expérimentale et de physiologie histologique, Paris, Galli­
mard, 1964 [1919]. (English edition: Eyeless Sight, London, 1924. Reprint, New York:
Citadel Press, 1978). In 1917, Farigoule, a medical student, studied the phenomena
of 'extra-retinal vision'. He was laughed at by scientists, abandoned his research
and adopted the pen name of Jules Romains. In the 1960s, Rosa Kuleshova (1955­
1978), writing in the USSR, returned to this subject.
25. Gilbert Simondon, Du mode d'existence des objets techniques, Paris: Aubier, 2001
[1958].

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58 François Albera

26. Gilbert Simondon, l'Invention dans les techniques. Cours et conférences, Paris: Seuil,
2005 ('Imagination et invention', cours de 1965, p. 297).
27. Published in Maurice Renard, le Maître de la lumière, op. cit.

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T h e C a s e f o r an E p i s t e m o g r a p h y o f
M ontag e

T h e Marey M o m e n t

François Albera

M y long-term ambition is to redefine the concept of m ontage in the cinema.1


But this ambition is part and parcel of a w id er field of enquiry of an epistemolo-
gical nature, which entails adopting a certain view point on the Marey question
or Marey 'm om ent' in the history, prehistory and archaeology of cinema.2
It started to become clear that the concept of montage needed to be redefined
when, in the 1980s and 1990s, scholars specialising in early cinema saw —first in
the film s of Méliès, then of Lum ière and Edison - that there w ere processes of
montage that stood in stark opposition to the doxa associated with the term.
Researchers like Jean Giraud, the lexicologist - w ho identified the first use of
the term in 19093 - and historians like Jean Mitry, or the theorists and philoso­
phers of the cinema w ho came in his wake, agree that m ontage only exists when
there is a certain narrative, discursive and stylistic developm ent of the cinema,
whether it is a process of narrative (sequence) or exhibition (parallelism), or a
trope ('m etaphor', analogy, or series).
But this approach is clearly limited b y a prejudgement of an aesthetic nature,
and, hence, obfuscates the very core of the matter and prevents one from appre­
hending the true nature of cinema.
In 1984, w hen André Gaudreault identified M éliès as the pioneer of the link
shot, Pierre Jenn suggested that Méliès's operations of special effects, assem ­
blage and substitution be exam ined in terms o f montage or proto-montage.4
There is the w ell-know n story - w hich M éliès him self referred to in 19075 -
about the camera accidentally stopping for one minute w hile filming on Place
de l'Opéra. The result w as that an omnibus became a hearse and men changed
into wom en. This w as seen as the beginning of the special effect 'b y substitu­
tion' and w as later used for different effects of 'conjuring aw a y' or transforming
a character or object before the spectators' eyes. But w hat is not known is that
M éliès wrote that he only mentioned this effect after having 'stuck together' the
film 'w here it broke' - i.e., after having cut and mounted the film. Later it w as
learnt that, in any case, the inertia of the handle pow ering the camera w ould
have m ade it im possible to have a 'm agic' substitution operation b y sim ply
stopping the film and starting it up again, and that a certain number of photo­
gram s that progressively became darker and then lighter had to be removed

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60 François Albera

and the film 'stuck together' in all events. The substitution trick w as thus in­
separable from a montage operation, even though the w ord had not yet made
its appearance.6
It is m oreover symptom atic that w hen Eisenstein referred to this episode, he
saw an effect of superposition, a term that he considered as the very 'basis' of
montage.7
Then G audreault went back in time and closely studied the original Lumière
films. He discovered that they also had discontinuities and breaks, so he went
on to exam ine Edison's w ork and take a look at optical toys8 - thus corroborat­
ing the poetics of the film director Werner Nekes, w hich w as predicated on his
know ledge as an enlightened am ateur and collector, and on his w ork in experi­
mental cinema.9
This transformation in the approach to these film s means not only m oving
back the date w hen m ontage first appeared, it also means redefining the notions
used.
In order to rew ork the concept of m ontage and the associated notions, one
needs to draw up w hat Michel Foucault in 1969 called an 'epistem ography'.
D uring the Journées organised at the Institute d'histoire des sciences under the aus­
pices of Georges Canguilhem , w here Foucault w as speaking about 'the Situa­
tion of C uvier in the history o f biology', a discussion took place about the ana­
lysis of the 'Cuvier-transform ation' in Tlie Order o f Things. In his relatively sharp
reply to an exposé b y François Dagognet, Foucault proposed to distinguish
three levels of epistem ography: the epistemocritical (épistémocritique), epistemo-
nomical (épistémonomique) and epistemological (épistérnologique) levels.10
We shall m ake the follow ing distinctions: a) the technico-aesthetic discourse
on montage (the epistemonomical level), which consists of a set of limits and con­
trol principles and 'rules'; b) the prescriptive discourse of criticism and cinema
theory (the epistemocritical level) defining the processes of belonging to or being
outside the concept of montage; in order to construct: c) an ' epistemological' level,
w hich identifies the fields of application of the concepts and rules of usage re­
garding montage, and their transformations and variations in order to link them
to their conditions of possibility.
The issue here is to foster comprehension of the conceptual field of montage
(via such notions as end, piece, moment, interval, intermittence, pause, phase,
position, jerk, shock, dissociation, cut, break, interruption, discontinuity, join­
ing, assembling, collage, link, continuity, articulation, succession, etc.) by leav­
ing behind the purely internal, descriptive or prescriptive definitions and going
beyond the obstacles of the technological type, w hich im pede or limit com pre­
hension.
It w ill then be possible to: a) identify the contours of a montage function,
w hich m ay not be given that nam e but which needs to be linked to various

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 61

procedures, practices and utterances (as w e have just seen w ith Méliès and L u ­
mière); b) locate the thinking related to montage in the system of concepts and
practices where it has its roots, and subsequently envisage its extension and
variability; c) and finally address the question of 'w h at governs statements, and
the w ay in which they govern each other so as to constitute a set o f propositions
that are scientifically acceptable', i.e., the regime and politics of these utter­
ances.11

T h e M a re y ‘ m o m e n t ’

In the perspective described above, the M arey 'm om ent' is crucial for several
reasons:
a. he is outside cinematographic teleology (he did not 'attem pt' to 'arrive at' the
spectacle of an animated im age that w ould be identified under the names of
kinetoscope, phonoscope, cinématographe, etc.);12
b. he w as nonetheless present in the sequence of 'cinem a' inventions (both con­
ceptually and technically speaking) and gave the 'invention' both a scientific
and a social guarantee (Académie des sciences, Collège de France);
c. he belonged to a field - p hysiology13 - that had been w ell explored in con­
ceptual terms and that w as the theatre of fundam ental controversies between
opposing tendencies, abounding in a body of notions, concepts and practices
which, in his particular case, w as to provide an 'interface' w ith the toys and
machines used for animated im ages.14

The result is a fairly striking one w hen one realises that M arey's mechanistic
conception (the 'anim al machine') led him to encounter a machinic dispositive
that is analogous to his object, as an instrument of observation - the 'cinem a'
m achine:15 the 'anim al machine' w hose locomotion is 'distinct and successive'
(Canguilhem), and the machine w ith '[distinct and] successive im ages'.
M arey thus successfully developed this dispositive b y combining two ele­
ments: on the one hand, research aim ed at breaking things dow n in order to
understand 'h ow they w ork' and, on the other, a series of illusion-producing
machines, w hich had been developed on other foundations. In other words,
there w as the combination of a conception of the living being and a model to
capture reproducible movements.
A ll of the early cinema protagonists broke dow n animal and human m ove­
ments, but w ith the intention to reproduce them as a continuity, especially via
the zoetrope. They considered breaking dow n m ovement as a trick or an optical
experience.16 When the research and experiments associated w ith this process

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62 François Albera

had a scientific dimension, they involved perception and not locomotion. First
came observation and then the speculation regarding the inability of the eye to
discriminate between the moments in rapid succession to force it to 'digest' the
illusory synthesis or continuity of the thaumatrope, zoetrope, phenakistoscope,
praxinoscope, etc.
While Plateau and others developed the scientific know ledge of hum an v i­
sion, i.e., its physiology, M arey's interest as a scientist w as neither in vision nor
in astronomy. He focused on m ovem ent.17
For him, 'understanding the movem ent of a body' meant 'understanding the
series of positions it occupies in space during a successive series of instants'.18
These instants are discrete and pertinent elements, w hich define the process of
locomotion, jum ping, etc. When Pierre Jules Janssen im proved the 'cinem a' dis­
positive in order to im prove observation o f Venus, he broke dow n its path as it
passed in front of the sun into successive movements, but without considering
the fact that they w ere 'rem arkable' moments of the planet's progress around
the sun. 'Celestial mechanics' are not found on that level. These moments result
from observation, and it is subsequent analysis that w ill select the 'particular' or
'rem arkable' moment or moments.19 Marey, however, w as convinced that hu­
man movem ent is not m ade up of a random series of moments but of successive
positions, which he could determine once they w ere captured.20
His experimental protocol (capture, transmit, analyse, restore) thus included
operations that broke dow n ('démontage') the observed phenomenon into its
phases, moments or positions, then determined its 'mechanics', then pieced
everything together again (‘ re-montage') for the purposes of demonstration,
aided and abetted by chronophotography and the zoetrope or, subsequently,
using a projector.
There can be no doubt that M arey's approach (only partly shared by M u y­
bridge, am ong others) played a part in how 'cinem a' w as conceived in its early
years. A fter all, he provided the new invention w ith its scientific conceptualisa­
tion. N ot only w as he seen as one of the inventors in learned circles and in pub­
lic opinion (possibly opposed to another, competing scientist such as Edison),21
but the Lum ière brothers, w ho w ere both entrepreneurs and inventors, claimed
they w ere his followers. A t the beginning of their 'trium ph', they borrow ed his
term of 'chronophotography in m ovem ent', which they continued to construct
and perfect until their deaths. M oreover, they wanted to share the title of 'scho­
lars' w ith him, a m ove that he did not oppose.22 A s w e now know, it w as only
after his death that M arey w as marginalized, for reasons that w ere on the one
hand circumstantial (and perhaps 'sordid'), and on the other hand more pro­
found, i.e., linked to the evolution of the cinematographic spectacle. D uring his
lifetime, he w as the person asked to organise the photography and cinema p a­
vilion at the Paris Exhibition of 1900, and he clearly maintained ascendancy

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 63

over the discourse on 'cinem a', even if he w as sidelined both in technical and
commercial terms.23
One can thus hypothesise that M arey's conception of movem ent (locomotion,
etc.) w as based on discontinuity and articulation, and established the main
guidelines not only for the new medium, but also for the technological ap ­
proach to the apparatus w hose developm ent and mechanical processes (the
drive, etc.) w ere frequently discussed. 'Cinem a' discourse w as dom inated by
topics such as the freeze, intermittence, immobility, interval, jerk or pause, while
admiration w as sim ultaneously being expressed for the reconstitution of live
m ovem ent and creating the im pression of real life. It thus does not seem out of
place to point out that the idea of 'm ontage', in the various m eanings and m od­
alities listed above,24 w as im m ediately em ployed. 'M ontage' preceded 'cinem a'
in the processes used by M arey to analyse movement, and he im m ediately be­
gan exploiting this idea.
However, M arey's model w as confronted w ith an obstacle just as the 'm iracu­
lous' synthesis of his theory of mechanics and the cinematographic mechanism
w as taking place. It w as overwhelm ed by the mathesis to w hich it belonged.25
Projection introduced an instance m issing from M arey's scientific approach: that
of the spectator, the subject w ho perceives, the 'observer', w ith the two asso­
ciated aspects of perception and duration.
Indeed, the w ay a spectator perceives provides the means of verifying how
m ovem ents can be broken dow n. The isom orphism between the mechanisms of
the object and the analytical apparatus is not continued in perception. Locom o­
tion finds itself, as it were, supplanted by perception, and transcending percep­
tion, w hich w as reintroduced b y the projection apparatus, w as a prerequisite of
M arey's scientific approach (seeing beyond common perception, 'seeing the in­
visible').
Tw o outcomes w ere envisaged to address the first aspect of this 'crisis', but
neither of them addressed the actual issue of the 'constitutive' subjectivity that
w as now an obstacle. The first solution led M arey to discover the techniques
that rationalised hum an behaviour (gymnastics, w ork movements, the general
'econom y' o f m ovements).26 The other solution led to an ever greater interest in
phenomena that challenged geometry, including the mechanics of fluids, the
formless, smoke, w hirlw inds and w ave-like animal movements (the skate or
jellyfish).
The second aspect w as the arrival of duration, the spectator's subjective ex­
perience of time. Until then, M arey had concentrated on kinematics (including
its dynam ic dimension) and, in the w ord s of Alfred Jarry, '[kjinem atics is a geo­
m etry in w hich events have neither past nor future'.27 Time for M arey w as a
scale of measurement. Scientific demonstration presupposes situating oneself
outside the 'lived ' experience of time (that Bergson w as to reintroduce).28

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64 François Albera

This epistemological crisis by no means prevented cinema from being 'con­


ceived of' in the 'physiological' terms used in the mechanistic analysis of loco­
motion, that coexisted w ith wonderm ent in front of 'life itself'. Later, cinemato­
graphic epiphany and the feeling of duration came out on top, but the
combining of the machine w ith life continued to give rise to theories of m on­
tage: Kuleshov, Eisenstein, then W alter Benjamin in particular, continued to
link the physiology of m ovem ent and locomotion and the mechanics of succes­
sive images. After M arey w ould come others, such as Pavlov, Bekhterev or T ay­
lor.^
Anson Rabinbach, in his Human Motor, tries to 'snatch' M arey from the nine­
teenth century language of science and situate his im ages am ong the founda­
tions of the canons of twentieth-century art, and to link them with the technol­
ogy of w ork (Taylor).30 W ithout denying this outright, it is important not to
stray too quickly from this scientific and technical discursive field. A related —
and accessory - exam ple, that of the French scientist and philosopher Charles
Henry, w ho inspired both impressionists and neo-impressionists, show s w h y it
is interesting to devote a little m ore space to this issue.
I shall now develop the various points mentioned above.

M e c h a n is m

When it w as stated above that M arey saw the cinema as a machinic dispositive
that is analogous to the subject he w as studying, w as it not sim ply stating the
obvious? Is it not true to say that the m echanism that envisages the body as a
machine rediscovers in the machine w hat it had itself put into the body? The
circular nature of the argument, w hen the result is foreseen in the initial data,
should not fool us. Jean-Claude Beaune has written that the advocates of the
man-machine 'm arvelled constantly to find one of those "m achines" sim ilar to
the one m ade by man him self in the hum an body ... There are only pistons,
valves and levers'.31 According to Michel Serres, the Cartesian machine is a
'topography (a description of the shapes of organs) to which one applies a se­
quence of mechanical transmissions'. It is, of course, true to say that M arey the
physiologist w as a successor of Descartes, Harvey, or Borelli, w hose questions
he m ade his own. He apprehended the living being as a machine and all m ove­
ments as mechanical, alw ays analysing the animal machine, the mechanism of a
jum p, o f the organs, or o f work, the mechanics of locomotion, etc.32 But two
points are worth raising here. Firstly, it w ould be w rong to exaggerate Cartesian
naivety — Descartes's method w as a com parative one, and for him mechanics
had as much a rhetorical function as a heuristic one.33 It w as a question of tak-

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 65

ing the automaton, the clock - but also the animal —as a starting point for rea­
soning, in order to distinguish, classify and thus clear a space for reflection and
research that w as free from the ideological constraints of the time. M arey did
likew ise w hen he stated this admirable and simple truth at the beginning o f his
scientific career:

When studying the movement of blood, we start from the principle that any move­
ment is subject to physical laws, whatever the nature of the force that brought it into
being: thus a stone thrown by the arm of man follows the same trajectory as a projec­
tile fired by a canon-powder; and yet in the one case it is the will of a man, the con­
traction of a muscle that has given the impulsion, whereas in the other it is physical
force that has acted.34

Both men describe a space of objective investigation in the face of adversaries


who, w hen all is said and done, evoked the unknowable in the name of God,
the soul or the life force. From the moment w hen it is established that it is possi­
ble to analyse movem ent and the living being and experim ent w ith them, what­
ever force has brought them into being, one leaves behind the controversies of be­
lievers, and the scientist's w ork can begin.
Secondly, the above quotation establishes that there is a com m unity of physi­
cal law s that govern both 'natural' and 'm echanical' phenomena. It is not suffi­
cient to say that one applies the latter to the former.35

M a c h in e s

When M arey speaks of machines with levers, pistons and valves, he is referring
to them as instruments for noting movem ents and for carrying out investiga­
tions. He neither 'rediscovers' the machine in the body nor assim ilates the body
to a machine - on the contrary, he exteriorises. The manufactured machine is not
used as a model for the animal machine, but the latter lays dow n the w ay in
w hich the form er - which w ill be used to analyse it — is made. The series of
apparatuses that he designed or perfected bears witness to this (the sphygm o-
graph, polygraph, kym ograph, recording cylinder, etc.) and chronophotogra-
phy, which w as meant to break dow n the movement o f the w in g or the fall of a
cat, recorded this mechanism because it w as based on it, and did not 'create' it
b y analogy.
It w ould be absurd to take the comparison between Descartes and M arey any
further, as both biology and physiology were profoundly transformed during
the two centuries separating them —and, moreover, there w as little in common
in their aims. But the mechanistic doctrine is conveniently brought back to its

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66 François Albera

founding father, and the distinction between M arey's mechanism and that of
Descartes must be underlined. Descartes wrote: 'the motion which I have now
explained follow s as necessarily from the very arrangement of the parts ... as
does the motion of a clock from the power, the situation, and shape of its coun­
terweights and w heels'.36
This is tantamount to saying that his descriptions proceed from anatomy, the
observation of organs, muscles, nerves, etc. w hose functioning he deduces or
understands on the basis of their arrangement. The concern w ith finding a force
or energy m oving these dispositives (heat, animal spirits)37 does indeed exist,
but the construction remains a largely deductive one.
Marey, for his part, im m ediately places cinematics w ithin dynam ics, which is
not envisaged from the rather mysterious aspect of 'forces' alone. M arey's d y ­
namics w as the implementation and w orking of the mechanism.3® That pre­
cluded cutting up the body (anatomy, vivisection). His interest in the function­
ing of the anim al machine thus put him at odds w ith anatomists - w ho w ere
only interested in the cadaver, and claimed that they could deduce the function
of organs and their structures by exam ining them39 - and brings him closer to
the vitalists. But, unlike the latter, he did not give up on the idea of dividing up
the body, but without cutting it to pieces, as that breaks up both m ovement and
function.
His approach did not infringe upon the mechanism, but made it more com­
plex, the organism is still sim ply m ade up of a series of parts, of pieces as­
sembled according to a system of links creating a series of geometrical and mea­
surable displacements.
The effect is doubled, as François Dagognet has noted: respect of the w hole­
ness of the body and the m oving object; the conviction that the observed phe­
nomenon must itself m ake note of its rhythms, scansions, and pauses by the
trace it leaves40 - traces that are first indicial (curves, traces, notes), and then
icono-indicial (the photograph).
If, to be as precise as possible, the system of notation must proceed from the
m oving object itself (the phenomenon inscribes itself), it produces recording m a­
chines that exteriorise and imitate the observed traits of the phenomenon. M a­
rey 'changed and aligned the instrument w ith w hat he w as to evaluate, not the
other w a y round'.41 This can be seen in the follow ing sim ple exam ple:

To imitate the jerks of horses' traction, it may be necessary to make facets and salient
angles on the drum round which the rope is wound42 [my italics].

These two characteristics are important as they set M arey apart, and it is thus
important to study how his mechanicism is different from that of his colleagues,
as research into the mechanics of m ovement and the animal machine were very
popular at the time. To quote just a few nam es - they appear in his letters - one

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 67

m ay ask w hat makes him any different from Louis-Félix Giraud-Toulon (the
author of Principes de la mécanique animale ou Etudes sur la locomotion chez l'homme
et les animaux vertébrés)43 w ho attacked him and w hom he attacked, or from
Sam uel Haughton (author o f Principles o f Animal Mechanics),44 or from the 'me-
chanotherapist' Dr. F. Lagrange, not to mention G uillaum e Duchenne de Bou­
logne and his Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine 45 There is no doubt that Mar-
ey's theories took shape within a w hole series of texts, only a small number of
w hich bore his signature, even though there were m any of them. But within this
collection, leaving aside that sim ilar terms or identical theories m ay belong to
different system s and thus have significantly different effects, it m ust be under­
lined that M arey alone linked his physiology to the machine that produced suc­
cessive images, to the extent that this machine guaranteed that the phenomenon
under evaluation could be better imitated.

P h o to g ra p h y , c h ro n o p h o to g r a p h y

The interest that M arey developed for photography and the photographic series
(M uybridge) clearly illustrates his conception of movem ent as something that
can be broken dow n into specific moments or positions, and hence, his view
that it w as discontinuous in nature and fundam entally imitative.
Photography —which, according to Laurent Mannoni, w as a m eans of liberat­
ing the graphic method 'from its limits and even from its technological im ­
passe'46 - and later chronophotography provided M arey with a machine which
has characteristics that are sim ilar to the body or physiological phenomena: dis­
continuity, jerks and intervals.
His activity w as thus different from that of Janssen, from w hom he drew in­
spiration and w ho him self pointed to 'the physiological path'. His photographic
revolver distinguished phases in the trajectory of Venus, but they w ere those
dictated by the instrument that took them from a continuum (the trajectory) in
order to capture the 'decisive' moment w hen the tw o planets w ere superposed.
This w as follow ed by a scale o f measurem ent that allow ed the event under in­
vestigation to be identified. Similarly, Albert Londe's chronophotographs at the
Salpêtrière clinic aimed, in the photographer's ow n w ords, to meet the chal­
lenge of manifestations of paralysis, hysteria, epilepsy, chorea, etc. that were
hard to distinguish w ith the naked eye. 'Hence the need for a special apparatus
allow ing a num ber o f proofs to be taken at intervals, as close together or far
apart as necessary'.47
The body-m achine as envisaged by M arey already com prised the discontinu­
ity matched in and reproduced (and analysed) b y the machine.48 Isomorphism

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68 François Albera

between the instrument and object analysed w as sought: 'the time the slotted
disc takes to revolve is coming closer to that of the w ing,' he noted;49 'the photo­
graph m ust g iv e me the vibrations of an insect's w in g '.50 In 1879, M uybridge
spoke of m odifying his 'autom atic dispositions' to meet M arey's demands,
while, in 1882, he noted that he w as 'finding another method that w ould better
correspond to the horse's regular m ovem ents'.51
Research w as obviously not centred on the instant as a privileged moment
(the problematic of the 'm eaningful' instant belonging to the field of art is m ar­
ginal here),52 but on the photographic instant that coincides with a phase of the
movem ent - the position or the vibration. It is not a question of time or of the
speed of a phenomenon that m ust be grasped, but its rhythm (speed is mea­
sured thanks to an appropriate background, a scale).
This is the commentary he m ade about M uybridge's instantaneous pictures:
'These positions, as revealed b y M uybridge, at first appeared unnatural . .. they
have taught us to find attitudes in Nature w e are unable to see for ourselves'.53
The 'pose' (representation) interests the artist w hile the scholar observes the
'instants' of the phenomenon,54 just as 'attitudes' (representation) account for
the 'successive phases' of the movem ent of the bird's w ings.55
Reflection on the instantaneous photograph as any-instant-whatever of the
movement, which 'rem oves a non-significant moment of the succession',56 cor­
responds to the isolated image, w hich is opposed to Lessing's 'pregnant' m o­
ment. But is this true in the chronophotographic series and, in particular, in
M arey's w ork? He w as seeking to establish precisely w hat happens in the me­
chanics of movement, and not sim ply select a single moment. The revealed poses
reveal w hat w e w ere not able to see about nature: they reproduce the various
aspects of a movement.
M arey's aim w as neither to capture the decisive 'instant' nor to confer the
dignity of art on some instant or other. Londe m akes a clear distinction here
between his approach and that of M arey:

... as is well known, [the instantaneous photograph] consists in capturing the image
of any object in movement from only one viewpoint - that is what differentiates it
from the work of M. Marey. It is not only documentary, but the very purpose of the
operation.'57

For Marey, not only w as the object not just any random object and the aspect
not unique, but the photo w as not an end in itself.

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 69

T e m p o r a litie s

The question remains of whether this division of time establishes a different


type of tem porality from that of the animal machine, from the moment when
the relevant phases, points and instants dividing or shaping the phenomenon
are subjected to the regularity and mechanical repetition o f the instrument itself
When M uybridge spoke of m aking his 'successive exposures at regular inter­
vals b y m eans of a clock' to obtain more precision, he adjusted his camera in
relation to an exterior machine - the clock —and no longer to the animal m a­
chine to w hich he w ished it to 'correspond'. The instantaneous photographs
thus became any-instants-whatever. Now, 'any-instant-whatever' is required
b y the projector, w hich needs to use rigorously equal intervals and equidistant
im ages in order to reconstitute m ovem ent and cause the caesura to disappear -
this is the photogram. H owever, the photogram operates at a different level
from the chronophotographic shots that M arey w as interested in: its potential
for recreating apparent m ovem ent does not come from its correspondence to a
relevant articulation of the gallop or the walk, a discrete unit of locomotion - it
cuts up at a low er level, even if it contains the unit as well. To be more precise,
M arey's project (the theory) differed from the idea of regularly capturing any
instants whatever, but his practice, i.e., the actual recordings, did just that, since
he used series of tw elve and then twenty im ages per second and constantly
w orked on the speed and regularity of the intervals. The intervals allow ed im ­
provem ents in the recording of the phenomenon as they became more and more
dissociated from the caesura that characterised it. The theory w as based on med­
iation, and chaining: it is clear that 'the series of successive im ages representing
the different positions ... occupied b y a body during a series of successive in­
stants' (definitions front both 1878 and 1882 [m y emphasis]) corresponded better
to M arey's aim w hen it w as set out 'on the sam e plate' (a 'figure-m ovem ent')
than in an immediate m oving im age w hich m oves forw ard without an inter­
m ediary (an 'im age-m ovem ent'). In this case, it w as then necessary to add an
operation to the restitution in order to m ake the phenomenon comprehensible:
'm anipulating' the series by slow-motion or freeze-frames.
This 'return' of the spectator, implied by the machine taking successive shots,
casts doubt not only on the objectivity of the observation and the mechanical
model guaranteeing it, but also on the place of the observing subject. If the spec­
tator does not perceive the breaking dow n of the flight into static instants, but
captures 'the exhilarating pow er of flying ... the maelstrom of feathers', it
m eans that subjectivity m ust become attuned to the projection mechanism, to
avoid, as Merleau-Ponty puts it, 'the dispersion of the self'58 and maintain an
im aginary unity in the im aginary w orld of the spectacle.

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70 François Albera

One m ay ask whether the evolution of the cinema w ould sim ply invalidate
this question, thanks to a 'naturalisation' of the representation of movement.
This is clearly not the case, however. Specialists w ho analyse gesture and ges­
ticulation have encountered the sam e problem in their studies of kinetics, i.e.,
whether a dancer's gesture is 'the movem ent from one position to another', and
w hat is the 'unit of the step'. It thus becomes necessary to m ake a distinction
between structural articulations and perceptual articulations. In the 1970s, semi-
oticians used the communication model to set up an opposition between the
sender (the dancer), defined b y kinesthesic patterns, and the receiver (the specta­
tor) of the visual patterns.59
M arey's theory w as thus at a crossroads. One entire aspect of his research
could be considered to be limited to techniques, a technology of the body. De-
meny, the advocate of gym nastics, bore witness to this, as did the studies on
how the foot soldier marches or the w ay in which M arey approached the bi-
cycle.6<> But in parallel, M arey w as pursuing 'pure' research that, w ith regard to
his conceptual tools, w as ever riskier. He took a greater interest in fluids than
solids, in undulating phenomena w hose movement, one could say, 'defines'
them m ore than they m ove on the basis of the potential of their structures. A c­
cording to Jakob von Uexkiill, 'an amoeba is less of a machine than a horse', and
it w as indeed formless organism s such as the skate, the jellyfish, the veil and
breath that M arey w ould examine.
Should one consider this an intrusion of non-Cartesian physics or even undu-
latory mechanics?61 This clash between the M arey mechanism and 'cinem a'
should lead to a reformulation of the concept of movement at the very moment
it occurs. M arey's reflection and w hat he has bequeathed to the cinema as a
rational system of comprehension does not become less important because 'It is
w hen a concept changes its m eaning that it is most m eaningful' (Bachelard).62
Its true importance can be seen in the fact that this dissociative and successive
- in other w ords, discontinuous - consideration of the 'cinem a', this reflection
on the paradoxes of imm obility and movement, quickly became a model, in­
cluding for the contem porary arts of the time. W hat Eisenstein called 'cinema-
tism' m akes the cinematographic mechanism a general operator.63 A lfred Jarry,
w hose Docteur Faustroll contains evocations that are suggestive o f a 'machinic'
art,64 im poses a distinction between literature, which 'is obliged to make the
objects it describes file past in succession, one by one' and 'the painting or statue'
w hich 'captures and fixes a moment of the duration'. 'Literature' and 'painting-
sculpting' here are modalities of the cinema and photography, which im ple­
ment the question of time and m ovem ent in an unusual manner.65

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 71

N o te s

1. See also 'Pour une épistémographie du montage: préalables', Cinémas, Journal of


Film Studies, vol. 13, No. 1-2, Autumn 2002, pp. 11-32.
2. I would like to acknowledge my indebtedness to the authors of the studies on Ma-
rey I have consulted: Michel Frizot, E-J. Marey, la photographie en mouvement, Paris:
Centre Georges Pompidou, 1977 and Etienne-Jules Marey, chronophotographe, Paris:
Nathan-Delpire, 2001; François Dagognet, Etienne Jules-Marey: La Passion de la trace,
Paris: Hazan, 1987; Marta Braun, Picturing Time: the Work of Etienne-Jules Marey, Chi­
cago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992; Laurent Mannoni, Etienne-Jules
Marey: La Mémoire de l'œil, Paris and Milan: Cinémathèque française-Mazzotta, 1999.
3. The French verb 'monter' generally is thought to mean 'assemble' or 'compose' (see
Jean Giraud, Le Lexique du cinéma des origines à 1930, Paris: CNRS, 1958).
4. At the symposium in Cerisy, August 1981: 'Méliès et la naissance du spectacle ciné­
matographique' (published under same title by Klincksieck, Paris, 1984).
5. G. Méliès, 'Les vues cinématographiques' in Annuaire général et international de la
Photographie, Paris: Pion, 1907, pp. 390-1.
6. According to Méliès, the Gaumont-Demenÿ camera was not suitable for creating
effects by stopping the camera as it was not sufficiently precise, and its lack of 'free­
dom' let the cat out of the bag (see Jacques Malthête, Laurent Mannoni [eds.] Méliès,
magie et cinéma, Paris: Espace Electra EDF, 2002, p. 154). André Gaudreault and
more recently Laurent Le Forestier state that blurry or fogged images were always
cut and reassembled when there was a so-called 'stop-camera' substitution (Ibid.,
p. 220). It thus does not seem possible that the effect was discovered by projecting a
film shot by accident!
7. 'George Méliès's Mistake' ([Oshibka Georga Mel'e], Sovietskoïe kino no. 3-4, 1933,
published in Selected Works, vol. 1 of Writings, 1922-1934, ed. and trans. Richard
Taylor (London: BFI, 1988), pp. 258-60. Eisenstein, together with the experimental
filmmaker Werner Nekes at a later date, objected to the terminology of linking or
even substitution, and spoke of 'superposition' - 'each successive element is not
positioned next to the last, but above' - superposition creates a certain tension, con­
tradiction, non-congruence, etc. of the elements brought into play (see 'Dramaturgie
der film-form' in F. Albera, Eisenstein et le constructivisme, Lausanne: L'Age
d'Homme, 1989, p. 68). A series of inferences could be drawn from the inscription
of 'montage' in a conceptual framework such as that of 'superposition', starting
with the fact that this type of articulation belongs to other 'series' of images in
movement - in particular the magic lantern and optical toys. Cf. the 'lantern' or
'cinematographic' metaphor used by Marcel Proust, who makes a clear distinction
between super(im)position (in perception) and succession (on the material medium,
as it were): ' . .. the superimposition ... of the successive images which Albertine had
been for m e ,... in a germination, a carnal efflorescence' (La Prisonnière, Paris: Galli-
mard-Pléiade, 1965, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, The Captive, <http://ebooks.
adelaide.edu.au/p/proust/marcel/p96c/chapteri.html>, accessed 21 September
2008).
8. See, in particular, 'Les traces de montage dans la production Lumière' [1995] in
P. Dujardin, A. Gardies, J. Gerstenkorn, J.-C. Seguin (eds.), l'Aventure Lumière Actes

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72 François Albera

du Congrès mondial Lumière, Lyon: Aléas, 1999, pp. 299-306 (the article contains a
bibliography of previous papers) and 'Fragmentation et segmentation dans les
"vues animées'" in F. Albera, M. Braun, A. Gaudreault (eds.), Stop Motion, Fragmen­
tation of Time, Lausanne: Payot, 2002, pp. 225-245.
9. In the beginning of the 1970s, Werner Nekes began defining montage as an articula­
tion between two photograms (the kineme). He gave weight to this idea by inscrib­
ing it in a large collection of toys and machines, going from the simplest - the thau-
matrope - to the most complex - the cinema. See W. Nekes, 'Whatever happens
between the pictures', Afterimage (New York), vol. 5, no. 5, November 1977, pp. 7­
13. Nekes was the first person to extrapolate Eisenstein's ideas, as set out in 'Drama­
turgie der film-form' (1929).
10. François Dagognet's paper, followed by Michel Foucault's contribution, can be
found in: F. Dagognet, Les Outils de la réflexion [Epistémologie], Le Plessis-Robinson,
les Empêcheurs de penser en rond, 1999 (pp. 214-231) and Foucault's contribution
together with the whole of the discussion - including the other participants - in: M.
Foucault, Dits et écrits 1934-1988, Paris: Gallimard, 1994, vol. II (pp. 27-66).
11. A. Fontana, P. Pasquino, "Intervista a Michel Foucault" in Microfisica del potere: in­
tervene politici, Torino, Einaudi, 1977 (also published in M. Foucault, Dits et écrits,
op. cit., vol. III, p. 143). English version: The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954­
1984. vol. 4 Power, edited by James D. Faubion, Translated by Robert Hurley and
others, London: Allen Lane-Penguin, 2001. The quotation is on p. 114.
12. Even though he is sometimes criticised on these grounds, or this teleology is forced
upon him: 'He lost interest in the cinematograph that was both called for and neces­
sitated by his work ... The Lumière brothers stole his victory from him’ (F. Dagog­
net); 'E.-J. Marey ... was unable to go to the end of the path that led to the cinemato­
graph' (M. Sicard).
13. Marey was one of the 'third generation' of successors of Cuvier at the Collège de
France (chair of natural history of organised bodies).
14. These three points merit further development - which cannot be undertaken here as
they lead to a history and an epistemology of the 'cinema'. One may simply point
out that once one has sidelined the conception of history as a chronological series
producing its results following the logic of what engenders what, or how things fit
together - and it has been severely criticised during the last twenty years - there
remains the question of the 'logical' construction with which epistemology pro­
ceeds, starting from the present. On this subject, see: Michel Fichant, 'l'Idée d'une
histoire des sciences' in: M. Fichant, M. Pêcheux, Sur l'histoire des sciences, Paris:
Maspéro (coll. Théorie), 1969, pp. 49-139.
15. I use this all-encompassing expression for convenience, but without a finalised
meaning. 'Cinema' (in quotes) is neither cinematograph nor cinema. It includes
both the zoetrope and chronophotography.
16. See the most recent large-scale synthesis on the subject undertaken by Laurent Man-
noni, in the English translation by Richard Crangle: Great Art Of Light And Shadow:
Archæology of the cinema, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000.
17. This formulation is obviously not intended to overlook the close links that indeed
exist between the physiology of perception, astronomy and the study of movement.
Pierre-Jules César Janssen, an astronomer with a doctorate in physical sciences had,
moreover, defended his PhD on vision.

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 73

18. La Méthode graphique dans les sciences expérimentales et principalement en physiologie et


en médecine, Paris: Masson, 1885 [1878], p. XI.
19. 'Particular moment' is an expression used by Marey in Le Mouvement, Paris: Jacque­
line Chambon, 1994 [1894]; Movement, translated by Eric Pritchard, London: Wil­
liam Heinemann, 1895, P- 54 ­
20. At first sight, the movement of an 'inanimate' - so to speak - moving body, such as
a 'bright ball' thrown within the apparatus's field of vision (this is Marey's example
in his definition of chronophotography) can be distinguished from the movement of
an 'animate' moving body, and its trajectory should come close to that of celestial
mechanics, but in the case of the ball, Marey examined the phases of immobility that
mark the end of the movement in one direction, and the imminence of its starting
up again in the other direction - which he calls 'dead points' (Movement, op. cit. p.
177)-
21. Alphonse Allais's sarcastic remarks about Edison speak chapters about the impor­
tance of national competition between inventors (see 'Chez Edison' in Le Parapluie de
l'escouade (1893), Œuvres anthumes, Paris: Robert Laffont "Bouquins", 1989, pp. 330­
331, which find an echo in Perrigot's indignation when the Swiss National Exhibi­
tion of 1896 contemplated featuring the Cinematograph in the Edison pavilion. 'If
there were a Marey pavilion, we would be able to house ourselves under the French
flag' (Jacques Rittaud-Huttinet, Yvelize Dentzer (eds.), Auguste et Louis Lumière Cor­
respondances 1890-1953, Paris: Cahiers du Cinema, 1994, pp. 139-140).
22. See his letter to the Minister of Commerce of 22 May 1900 (Auguste et Louis Lumière
Correspondances 1890-1953, op. cit., p. 173).
23. Leaving aside Demenÿ's attempt to market his system of driving the film and his
own projection apparatus, Marey tried in vain to sell the patented processes of the
chronophotograph to the Lumière brothers (Letter of 18 August 1899 in: Auguste et
Louis Lumière Correspondances 1890-1953, op. cit., p. 171).
24. The (greater) majority of the terms listed are part of Marey's vocabulary, picked out
during the reading of his main works: Du Mouvement dans les fonctions de la vie,
Animal Mechanism and Movement.
25. In the sense put forward by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things: An Archeology of
the Human Sciences. London and New York: Routledge 2002, p. 79 ff.
26. This is the domination of the machine over the body by rationalisation of the animal
mechanism, pointed out by Siegfried Giedeon in La Mécanisation au pouvoir, Paris:
Centre Pompidou, 1980 [Mechanization Takes Command, New York: Oxford Univer­
sity Press Inc., 1948] and developed by Anson Rabinbach, The Human Motor: Energy,
Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity, New York: Basic Books, 1990.
27. Alfred Jarry, 'How to Construct a Time Machine' ('Commentaire pour servir à la
construction pratique de la machine à explorer le temps', Mercure de France, no. no,
February 1899, pp. 387-396), translated by Roger Shattuck, <http://dev.null.org/psy-
choceramics/archives/i995,i2/msgooo65.html>, accessed 21 September 2008.
28. 'In kinematics, duration plays the part of an independent variable, of which the co­
ordinates of the points considered are a function' (A. Jarry, Ibid.) The 'time machine'
that Jarry mentions in this text is meant to foster 'absolute' knowledge based on
immobility and transparency. Several allusions to optical machines can be found in
this text (including cinema in the form of 'reversibility of phenomena' and 'the visual
aspect of succession' - 'One sees the apple bounce back up into the tree, the dead

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74 François Albera

man comes to life, and the cannon ball re-enters the cannon.' [op. cit.] - which will
later be the source of such inspiration for Jean Epstein) with special emphasis put on
panorama (op. cit.).
29. Reflections linking the question of body movement, walking and dancing to their
filming by Kuleshov (see: L'Art du cinéma et autres écrits (1917-1934), Lausanne:
L'Age d'Homme, 1990), Renoir (regarding Nana) and Benjamin (on Chaplin), and
more widely addressing the problems of 'expressive movement' (Eisenstein-Tretia-
kov).
30. A. Rabinbach, op. cit., p. 115.
3 1. J.-C. Beaune, L'Automate et ses modèles, Paris: Flammarion, 1980, p. 223.
32. In 1886, in a letter to Demenÿ, he mentioned the plan of a lecture entitled the 'appli­
cation of mechanics to biology'. Elsewhere he speaks of the 'mechanics of organs'
and the 'mechanics of the jump' (see G. Demenÿ, Les Origines du cinématographe,
Paris: Henry Paulin, 1909, p. 47. The lecture was called: 'Biologie. Collège de France
- Histoire naturelle des corps organisés, leçon d'ouverture. Des lois de la mécanique
en biologie.' Revue scientifique 3. VII. 1886 no. x, quoted in T. Lefebvre, J. Malthête,
L. Mannoni (eds.), Lettres d'Etienne-Juks Marey à Georges Demenÿ, 1880-1894, Paris:
AFRHC-BIFI, 1990, p. 189 note x).
33. 'And one can well compare the nerves of the machine that I am describing to the
tubes of the mechanisms of these fountains, its muscles and tendons to divers (sic)
other engines and springs which serve to move these mechanisms ...' (L'Homme,
Œuvres philosophiques I, Paris: Gamier, 1997, p. 390; Treatise of Man, French text with
translation and commentary by Thomas Steele Hall, Cambridge, MA, Harvard Uni­
versity Press, X972, p. 22).
34. J.-E. Marey, Recherches sur la circulation du sang à l’état physiologique et dans les mala­
dies, doctoral thesis in medicine of 1859, quoted by L. Mannoni, Etienne-Jules Marey:
La Mémoire de l ’œil, op. cit., p. 25. Cf. Descartes (speaking of the functions in the
'machine' such as the digestion, the beating of the heart, food and the growth of its
members): ' ... it is not necessary to conceive in it any other vegetative or sensitive
soul ... than its blood and its spirits, agitated by the heat of the fire that burns con­
tinually in its heart...' (Quoted by F. Dagognet, Philosophie biologique, Paris: Presses
Universitaires de France, 1955, p. 7, English translation <http://alepho.clarku.edu/
huxley/CEi/DesDis.html#note7>, accessed 2x September 2008). The same argumen­
tation can be found in Les Passions de l'âme (xst part, article 5, Œuvres philosophiques
III, Paris: Gamier, 1989, p. 954).
35. François Jacob in La Logique du vivant (Paris: Gallimard, 1970) evinces this condition
of possibility of knowledge in the classical period linked to the mechanism and that
is curtailed by vitalism, notwithstanding the fact that G. Canguilhem has analysed
the paradoxical 'liberating' function that vitalism was able to have, in particular for
Claude Bernard. Canguilhem, however, agreed after reading Jacob that vitalism
was henceforth 'out of the running' (see 'Logique du vivant et histoire de la biolo­
gie', Sciences, no. 71, March-April 1971, p. 23).
36. Discours de la méthode in: Œuvres philosophiques I, Paris: Gamier, X997, p. 623; A Dis­
course on Method, Translated by John Veitch, LL.D., Introduction by A.D. Lindsay,
London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 1953 (19x2). But
it is also necessary to wind up the watch, the automaton or the machine, i.e., it con­
tains 'the corporeal principle of those movements for which it is designed along

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 75

with all that is requisite for its action' and not 'broken' (dead, inert). (The Philosophi­
cal Works of Descartes I, rendered into English by Elizabeth S. Haldane, CH, LLD,
and G.R.T. Ross, MA, D Phil, London: Cambridge University Press, 1931 (1911),
P- 333 )-
37. See the Discourse on Method 5th part - the description of the functioning of the heart
- for example.
38. 'To say that the successive photographs - leaving aside the cinematic solution that
they contain - would encompass the dynamic solution if one were able to photo­
graph the successive positions of the centre of gravity' (quoted in: T. Lefebvre,
J. Malthête, L. Mannoni, op. cit., p. 140). My italics.
39. Claude Bernard 'denounces the study of organic functions by anatomic deduction,
the subordination of physiology to anatomy,' wrote G. Canguilhem ('Claude Ber­
nard et Bichat' in Etudes d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences, Paris: Vrin, 1970,
p. 161), but his physiological functionalism still remains 'narrowly analytical be­
cause too faithful to morphological decomposition' (Ibid). In fact, he recommends
vivisection.
40. Paul Valéry congratulated him on replacing the 'discreet signs that are arbitrarily
established' by the 'traces of the things themselves or even by transpositions or in­
scriptions deriving from them directly' ('Notes et digressions', 1919, Œuvres, vol. I,
Paris: Gallimard "La Pléiade", p. 1266).
41. F. Dagognet, Etienne-Jules Marey... op. cit., p. 137.
42. Letter to G. Demenÿ of 21 November 1884, in T. Lefebvre, J. Malthête, L. Mannoni,
op. cit. p. 137. The drum in question is a cylinder around which the rope that trans­
mits the 'information' to the apparatus that measures the horses' paces is wound.
43. Paris: Baillière et fils, 1858.
44. London: Longmans Green & Co., 1879.
45. Paris: Renouard, 1862.
46. L. Mannoni, op. cit., p. 80.
47. Albert Londe, 'Appareil photo-électrique', Bulletin de la Société Française de Photogra­
phie no. 5, vol. 30, May 1883, p. 127 (quoted by Denis Bernard & André Gunthert, in
l'Instant rcvé Albert Londe, Paris: Jacqueline Chambon, 1993, p. 134)-
48. The evolution from the photograph of the document to the research instrument is
analysed by Denis Bernard & André Gunthert, op. cit., chap. 3.
49. 'Le Vol des oiseaux', La Nature, June 1883, p. 37 (quoted F. Dagognet, Marey, op. cit.,
p. 78)-
50. Marey to Davanne in: Alphonse Davanne, 'Inventions et applications de la photo­
graphie' (1891) (quoted by Denis Bernard and André Gunthert op. cit., p. 153).
51. Quotation from La Nature (22 March 1879) and The Horse in Motion, quoted in
J. Mitry (éd.), 'Le cinéma des origines', Cinéma d'aujourd'hui, no. 9, autumn 1976,
p. 60. My italics.
52. Not that Marey does not refer to it - on the contrary, he was keen both to give
scientific data to scientists and exact references to painters, whom he regularly in­
troduced as beneficiaries when setting out his discoveries (there is an example in La
Machine animale, [1873] P- 1 5^)- but one cannot draw conclusions about Marey's con­
ceptualisation of movement - it is more a question of social utility and allusion to a
type of representation within everyone's reach (Descartes also uses the comparison
with the painter in his Discourse, and before him Galileo). It is a secondary benefit.

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76 François Albera

53. Movement, op. cit., pp. 194-5.


54. A distinction is made between the two terms when the aims of the experiences set
out in la Machine animale are put forward: 'from the physiologist's point of view one
must ask them to express actions and reactions at great speed, the energy and dura­
tion of each movement, the rhythm of their successions. But the artist is not less
interested to know exactly the attitude corresponding to each instant of a walk in
order to represent it faithfully with the various poses that characterise it.' (op. cit.,
p. 158).
55. Marey speaking of Muybridge, la Nature, 28 December 1878 (quoted by L. Mannoni,
op. cit., p. 155).
56. D. Bernard, A. Gunthert, op. cit., p. 174.
57. Albert Londe (1888) quoted by A. Gunthert, 'Esthétique de l'occasion', Etudes photo­
graphiques no. 9, May 2001, p. 87, note 31.
58. M. Merleau-Ponty, Phénoménologie de la perception, Paris: Gallimard "Tel", 1994
[1945], p. 318. Bergson was a contemporary of Marey's, and was thus mindful of the
'cinematographic mechanism', whereas Merleau-Ponty no longer took the mechan­
ism into account but only the effect, or 'melody' as he put it. Even a strong advocate
of the elusive 'photogeny', such as Epstein, saw this as 'a spark, an exception caused
by jerks' (Bonjour cinéma!).
59. See Nicole Scotto di Carlo, 'Analyse sémiologique des gestes et mimiques des chan­
teurs d'opéra', Semiótica IX, 4, 1973 (pp. 289-317), Paul Ekmar, Wallace V. Friesen,
Silvan S. Tomkins, 'Facial Affect Scoring Technique: A First Validity Study', Semióti­
ca III, 1, 1974 (pp. 37-58) and especially Margot D. Lasher, 'The Pause in the Moving
Structure of Dance', Semiótica 22, 1/2, 1978, pp. 197-126, from whom I have bor­
rowed the expressions in italics.
60. See the discussion on the bicycle during the meeting of 18 September 1894 at the
Académie de médecine. Marey, who quickly stressed that he was no cyclist, immedi­
ately thought of improving the cyclist's performance by calculating the movement
of the pedals in relation to the body's centre of gravity (Bulletin de l'Académie de
médecine, 1894, pp. 278-280).
61. It should be noted that in 1864, Louis Ducos du Hauron patented an apparatus cap­
able of capturing 'any scene with all the transformations that it has undergone dur­
ing a specific time period', and underlined its capacity to capture 'the movements of
a dancer, one or several soldiers, a machine, facial expressions, a maritime scene,
waves, clouds moving or the eruption of a volcano ...' (quoted by G.-Michel Cois-
sac, Histoire du cinématographe, Paris: Editions du Cinéopse, 1925, pp. 89-91).
62. Gaston Bachelard, The New Scientific Spirit, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, fore­
word by Patrick A. Heelan, Boston: Beacon Press, 1984, p. 54.
63. See, in particular, S.M. Eisenstein, Cinématisme Peinture et cinéma, Dijon: Les Presses
du Réel: 2009, [1980] and Le Mouvement de l'art, Paris: Cerf, 1989.
64. A. Jarry, Gestes et opinions du docteur Faustroll, 'pataphysicien, roman néo-scientifique,
Paris: Gallimard "Poésie", 1980 [1897-1911].
65. A. Jarry, Le Temps dans l'art (lecture of 8 April 1902 at the Société des Artistes Indépen­
dants), Paris: L'Echoppe, 1995. Speaking of the legend of Lofs wife, he wrote: 'Then
the Lord said: "Move no more!"' (p. 9). In Lenz, Georg Biichner's fascinating unfin­
ished text from 1778, the eponymous poet undertakes a somewhat frenzied walk in
the mountains that leaves him quite breathless and exhausted, and muses on the

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The Case fo r an Epistemography o f Montage 77

sights and images (evoking 'the play of shadows', 'scenes' and also 'instants') lead­
ing him to the following observation: 'Yesterday as I walked up the valley I saw two
girls sitting on a stone, one putting up her hair, the other helping ... Sometimes one
would like to be a Medusa's head to be able to turn such a tableau to stone, then shout to
everyone to come and look. They stood up, the beautiful tableau was gone forever; but
as they clambered down amongst the rocks there was yet another picture. The most
beautiful images, the most resonant harmonies, coalesce, dissolve. Only one thing abides:
an infinite beauty that passes from form to form, eternally changed and revealed
afresh, though needless to say you can't capture it and stick it in museums ...' Com­
plete Plays, Lenz and Other Writings: Danton's Death; Leonce and Lena; Woyzeck; Lenz;
the Hessian Messenger; on Cranial Nerves; Selected Letters, translated by John Reddick,
Harmondsworth, Penguin Classics, 1993 [my italics]. The desire to be a 'Medusa's
head', to transform people that one meets into stone statues in order to show them
to others, portrays the place of photography - and even of cinematography ('there was
yet another picture').

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T h e ‘ C in e m a to g ra p h ic S n a p sh ot’

R e r e a d in g E t ie n n e - J u le s M a r e y

Maria Tortajada

The background to our discussion is the opposition between photography and


cinema: between the fixed im age and the im age in movement. In 1970, when
Roland Barthes attempted to pin dow n the specific nature of cinema in the
photogram —the fixed im age that must be assembled as a series for cinemato­
graphic projection —he underlined that his approach w as an original one. He
w rote that it went against 'everyd ay opinion', which identifies the projected
m ovem ent of im ages as the 'sacred essence' of cinema.1 There is no shortage of
references supporting w hat today still seems to be the predom inant 'idea' of
cinema, and where the influence of Bergsonism can be felt. In this vision, m ove­
ment is seen as continuity. A ndre Bazin and Gilles Deleuze adopted this ap ­
proach, leaving their im print on cinema theory. Bazin deemed cinema superior
to photography, as for him, film takes on the im pression of movement. Deleuze
concentrates on w hat he calls the 'm ean im age',2 which is comprised of continu­
ity and flux, as opposed to the 'still cuts' of the photograms.
In order to conjure up the illusion of continuous m ovem ent in the cinema, a
series of photographic im ages w ere projected very quickly. It can thus be said
that photography is an integral part of the cinematographic dispositive.3 Photo­
graphy also played a key role in the w ay cinema came into being. Etienne-Jules
M arey played a vital part in this process. His w ork on chronophotography laid
the technical and theoretical foundation for the synthesis of movement. By m as­
tering the technique of the snapshot, he conceived of a kind of 'cinem a' that w as
determined b y his conceptual and methodological premises. This state of the
'cinem a', as actualized in symbolic and discursive terms, in turn leads to the
construction of an 'idea' of photography. Even if the developm ent of w hat w as
known as 'anim ated photography' is a sine qua non of the cinematograph, the
key difference between the cinematograph and photography is not simply the illusion o f
movement. A n epistemological approach reveals that the two procedures can al­
ready be distinguished in the very status of the photographic im age that is spe­
cific to each - the photogram is a snapshot w hose nature is a paradoxical one.

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80 Maria Tortajada

T h e p a r a d ig m o f th e c o n tin u o u s and th e d is c o n tin u o u s -


th e n o tio n o f in s ta n t

Henri Bergson's place in the developm ent of a cinematographic model is a very


important one. N ot only did he explicitly refer to the cinem atograph and photo­
graphy, he also envisaged them w ithin the fundam ental opposition that struc­
tured his philosophy: the distinction between the continuity and discontinuity
of movem ent and time. The opposition between the continuous and the discon­
tinuous is a recurring theme in the history of the cinema. It has been very pro­
ductive in the historiographical revival of the last 30 years, but w as also used
earlier, in particular by those w ho might be called Bergson's offspring. In 1983
and 1985 , Deleuze revised his reading of Bergson by m aking cinema the repre­
sentative of continuity, w hile Bazin came up w ith his definition of reality based
on Bergson's intuition of temporal continuity. There is currently no specific
study of Bergson's place in the history of cinema. It is, nonetheless, important to
underline the extent to which Bergson's ideas pervaded intellectual circles in the
19 10 s and 1920 s .4 The cinematic milieu w as no exception to the rule. A t a time
w hen cinematographic criticism w as gradually finding its w ay into the press,
M arcel L'Herbier, Paul Souday and Emile Vuillerm oz disagreed about the sta­
tus of cinema as art.5 They claimed to be follow ing Bergson either to stress the
importance of the machine, or to connect the cinem atograph to Bergson's con­
ception of life. Another exam ple is Jean Epstein, who, in 1946 , drew inspiration
from Bergson in a w ork entitled L'intelligence d ’une machine.6 The title of the
second part of his book w as 'The M isunderstanding concerning the Continuous
and the Discontinuous'. In other w ords, Bergson w as not only cited by those
w ho extolled continuity and flux, but he w as also cited for his analysis of the
cinematographic machine as an abstract model.
Scholars often refer to the w ell-know n fourth chapter of Creative Evolution
(l'Evolution créatrice, 1907 ), which uses the 'cinem atographical mechanism' as
the m odel of how thought functions, and of science. Bergson w as an excellent
analyst of the dispositive. He associated the cinematographic machine's break­
ing dow n of movem ent and the series of photogram s w ith the analysis of m ove­
ment as proposed b y science - w hereby w hat exists sim ply as continuity and
duration is broken dow n. Science splits up into discrete instants w hat m ust be
described as the immediate experience of time. Bergson first expressed this v i­
sion in Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data o f Consciousness (Les
données immédiates de la conscience, 1889 ) via his criticism of Zeno's paradoxes. In
Creative Evolution, the cinema is taken as a negative model: the photogram —i.e.,
the fixed image that freezes m ovem ent and that Bergson, in fact, called a 'photo­
graph' - is an im age which is equivalent to Zeno's instant, the place and mo-

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot’ 81

ment where movem ent is nullified. The discontinuity of cinema, which only
produces the illusion of movem ent through a series of instants, stands in oppo­
sition to Bergson's philosophy, which is based on the intuition of duration. The
instant, for Bergson, is precisely that im age, that 'v ie w taken' from movement, a
stoppage, a geometrical point. The instant, which is associated w ith the photo­
graphic image, is im placably opposed to duration and continuous movement. It
can be said that Bergson's concept of the instant radicalizes the m eaning of the
term, w hich is com m only opposed to that of duration.
The result is that Bergson's m odel of the cinematograph im poses a certain
definition of the photogram which, as a synonym of the instant, becomes the
ultimate element that cannot be broken down, the place where both duration
and m ovement are impossible. It can be said that this idea extends across the
history of the cinema, and that Bergson's philosophy provides its subtext.
Anson Rabinbach7 has show n that Etienne-Jules M arey's research lies at the
basis of this criticism of the breaking dow n of movement. M arey w as a physiol­
ogist and scientist of repute, w ho devoted his w ork to understanding m ove­
ment. He began his studies of movem ent by using the graphic method, which
he sum m arized in 1878, then turned to w hat he called chronophotography,
which, for him, served as a scientific method8 and allow ed him to perfect appa­
ratuses that recorded m ovem ent b y breaking dow n its phases.
Chronophotography allow s one to take a series of photographic im ages of a
m oving body at a certain frequency and thus depict various moments of the
m ovem ent by means of juxtaposing and aligning the fixed im ages obtained in a
series. The m an w ho runs or jum ps over an obstacle, the bird flying or the horse
galloping, are all captured in a series of juxtaposed photographic figures, which
reflect 'particular' moments (that M arey called 'im ages'):9 chronophotography
m ust 'define the various positions of this body on the trajectory at any particu­
lar m om ent'.10 These chronophotographs, moreover, influenced 20th-century
art, a subject that goes beyond the present chapter's domain.
M arey im posed an essential element on chronophotography: he wanted the
interval between im ages alw ays to be the same, i.e., that the shutter be opened
at a regular rate. To carry out his measurements, M arey built instruments that
allow ed him to control the time variable w hen producing series of im ages. This
condition not only forms the basis of M arey's scientific approach but is also one
of the conditions underpinning the cinematograph, because the regular rate
m akes it not only possible to break dow n the photographed movement, but
also to synthesize it and project animated im ages. This essential element distin­
guishes M arey from M uybridge.11 The synthesis of movem ent w as also an im ­
portant stage for M arey.12 From the very beginning of his research, he used ap ­
paratuses that w ere based on the principle of the retinal picture.13 These
apparatuses - zoetropes or phenakistoscopes - are classified in the category of

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82 Maria Tortajada

early cinema. They allow m ovem ent to be reconstructed from fixed images, by
transforming discontinuous im ages into an animated image with continuous
movement.
Both Bergson and M arey associated the term 'instant' w ith the photographic
im age - the equivalent of the photogram. Bergson's designating of an instant via
a geometrical point can be illustrated by a certain type o f chronophotography.
In order to explain how chronophotography breaks dow n the movem ent of a
m oving object, M arey compares the instant photograph of movem ent taken
w ith only one opening of the shutter, a curved line and the chronophotograph
of the same movement, which produces a series o f points (fig. 1).

Figure l Le mouvem ent, Nîmes, J. Chamboti, 2002 , p. 72 . This figure is number


37 (p- 55) in original edition o f Le m ouvem ent (Paris, G. Masson, 18 9 4 ). Jacque­
line Chambon's edition has tnodified illustrations

29. Trajectoire simple et trajectoire chronophotographique d’une


boule brillante qui se déplace devant un champ obscur.

These points reflect a series of instants in the movem ent of a ball. There are
several variations of this demonstration, w hich w as regularly undertaken by
M arey w hen he w as dealing with w hat he called the photography o f trajectories.
The comparison reveals a very efficient representation of the opposition be­
tween the continuum of m ovement and the discontinuity of the Chronophoto­
graphie trace.
Thus, if the 'instant', in its opposition to duration, is a synonym for the m o­
ment extricated from the movem ent of a m oving object, if the instant is a notion
associated w ith an instantaneous photographic image, or snapshot, if, w hen all
is said and done, this term has the sam e m eaning w hen used by both Bergson
and Marey, it can nonetheless be shown that the concept of the instant actually
changed between M arey's use of it and that of Bergson.

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot’

It can indeed be show n that M arey's instant - the instant that is reflected by
the photographic im age in a chronophotographic series - is not Bergson's in­
stant: it is a paradoxical image, because M arey form ulated it as a duration.
In order to construct the concept of the instant, it is not sufficient sim ply to
note that the photographic im age reflects a particular moment in an object's
movement. It is also necessary to ask how this relation is constituted, bearing in
mind that it is not sim ply a relation of signification. The epistemological ap ­
proach can provide an answer: the concept depends on the scientist's project
and practice, on w hat he is looking for and w hat he w ishes to analyse, on the
m eans available, on the difficulties he encounters and on the type of solutions
he proposes. The epistemological concept is a w eb of links and relations, which
give rise to all these questions. It emerges from the Foucauldian analysis o f the
discourses.
W hat is important here is not sim ply to examine the initial period of innova­
tions and discoveries, but to understand w hat M arey meant w hen he spoke of
the photographic im age, and the technical aspects that he chose to highlight
w hen explaining his approach. It is of param ount importance to observe the var­
iations in the definitions of chronophotography that he presented over the years
— the presentation of the definition m ay change without the technique itself
changing. The epistemological concept is determined both by a practice and a
w ay of speaking about that practice. For example, it is not enough sim ply to
point out that the principle of the regular interval is laid dow n from the outset.
It is also important to exam ine w hat varies around this core defining element in
other w ords, one m ust locate the concept within the very process of its form ula­
tion, and in particular identify the purpose that governs it. When Gaston Bache­
lard wrote about the scientific concept, he noted that: 'The sam e w ord can at the
sam e period in time have within it very m any different concepts. What m isleads
us here is the fact that the sam e w ord both denotes and explains. W hat is de­
noted stays the sam e but the explanation changes.'14 M y aim here is to try to
shed light on the 'explanation' of at least one of the aspects of M arey's concept
of the instant.
To this end, I shall be exam ining M arey's w ritings and questioning the status
of the snapshot in chronophotography, w hich at the end of the century includes
the cinematograph. From this point of view, the most important sources are not
the scientific articles, which give accounts of each result on a daily basis, but the
key texts that have sym bolic import. I have chosen four of them:
1 . Développement de la Méthode graphique par l'emploi de la photographie, 18 8 5,15
the first synthesis of the research on chronophotography.
2. Le Vol des oiseaux, 1890.16
3. Le Mouvement, 1894,17 the major synthesis of w ork on this question.

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4. The text of the Musée centennal de la Classe 12 for the Universal Exhibition of
1900.

Class 12 w as dedicated to photography, and M arey w as its president. This w as


the most important presentation in concrete and symbolic terms m ade after
1895, the year of the Lum ière cinematograph. It accompanied an exhibition of
objects and im ages.lS
The aim of these various w orks is apparently different, but they all contain a
synthesis of research on chronophotography, w ith an explanation of the
method, a presentation of the apparatuses w ith their various applications, and
a renewed effort to write the history of chronophotography. M arey w as a histo­
rian of chronophotography, but, in fact, did not relate its history the same w ay
each time.
To address the question of instantaneity, it is important to exam ine its links
w ith photography. I w ill only refer to tw o aspects. M arey chose early on to write
a history of chronophotography, but began by locating it within the history of,
and by presenting it as an application of, photography (1885). Moreover, the
demonstration introducing the practice of chronophotography - and therefore
the key moment w hen the method is presented —alw ays refers to the photogra­
phy of trajectories, w hich is precisely w hat brings out the difference between
instantaneous photography and chronophotography. In other w ords, by follow ­
ing the w ay the concept of the instant w as established, w e shall be able to ob­
serve how an 'idea of the cinema' - called chronophotography at that precise
moment in the past - em erged from photography. It w as at that time when, at
the turn of the century, the snapshot first saw the light - and it is, of course, the
notion of instantaneity that allow s one to construct the concept of the instant.

The snaphot

The idea behind the snapshot w as one of brevity, something that could be cap­
tured on-the-spot, such as accidents, or people jum ping or falling. A n iconogra­
phy began to be established in the 1880s, and by 1900 it had become popular.
But the snapshot w as also associated w ith another type o f image produced in
scientific experiments and published in the press - this is how M arey's figures
becam e w ell known. From the technical point of view, the snapshot is also de­
fined by speed —history tells us that the speed of illumination and the speed of
the chemical reaction depended on the creation of new supports, and on there
being innovations in optics and radical im provem ents in shutters.19

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot’

There is no doubt that photography did not w ait for the technique of the
snapshot to associate the image obtained w ith the idea of the instant.20 But
painting did not w ait for photography either in order to represent an instant.
With the snapshot, however, the status of the im age w as over-determined by
one element of the dispositive, i.e., a characteristic of how it w as made. A s can
be clearly seen in the French term ' instantané', w hat the term 'snapshot' under­
lined w as the brief nature of the moment w hen the image w as produced. A t the
end of the nineteenth century, 'instantané' meant both very rapid shutters and
the im ages obtained by means of a short exposure. In a w ord, the photographic
im age referred to the instant not only as the very brief moment of the photo­
graphed action, but also as the instantaneous moment of the taking of the
photograph. The opening of the shutter defines the duration of the illumination,
i.e., the exposure time, the moment w hen the photographic im age is recorded
on the light-sensitive surface. The construction of the concept of the instant re­
quires an understanding of this technical process related to the exposure time -
w hich is w hat I shall develop in the follow ing section.
When the exposure time is short, w e have a snapshot, an instantaneous im ­
age. But how can one qualify 'short'? When one defines the snapshot, it is not
enough to m erely mention the rapidity. Instantaneity —the trait that form s the
basis of the concept of the instant —is conceived of by means of a relation: that
connecting the duration of the illumination to the speed of the object's m ove­
ment.21 If one w ishes to obtain a sharp im age of a movement, the shutter speed
m ust be sufficiently fast in order that the movement o f the object is not recorded
b y means of a blur or fuzziness.
This relation evinced by the snapshot w as posed by M arey at the very out­
set.22 For M arey the scientist and for all photographers taking snapshots, the
shutter opening w as described as a duration and even m easured in fractions of
a second. This is the field of micro-temporality that w as explored in the 19th
century, as testified b y M arey's enthusiastic w riting in La Méthode graphique.
Micro-temporality im plies that one can conceive of the second in fractions of a
second, and that a fraction of a second is a duration that can be broken dow n
even further.23 It m ay seem strange w hen speaking of a snapshot to connect the
moment the im age is produced to a duration. From a technical point of view,
this is indeed w hat happens. This issue is even broached in photography m an­
uals —how can one master the duration of the exposure time?24 In fact, every­
thing depends on the purpose for which snapshots are taken. It is clear that
w hen the duration is indicated, it is supposed to be particularly short, as can be
seen in the term inology ‘ snapshot'/'instantané' —and rapidity is conceived of in
relation to the speed of the m oving object (see Synthetic Table: The Snapshot).
The purpose is essential for constituting the concept o f the instant that is asso­
ciated w ith photography. The construction o f the concept is not just a technical

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86 Maria Tortajada

question —it is linked to the context defined by those w ho use the technique,
which constitutes its epistemological dimension.
In 1885, M arey stressed how much his practice belonged to the history of
photography w hile sim ultaneously insisting on the need for a very brief expo­
sure time; in his 1900 paper, however, he sim ply cited 'snapshots' ('images photo­
graphiques instantanées') as a defining element of chronophotography. The brief­
ness of the illumination is sim ply presupposed. From a technical viewpoint, this
requirement naturally remained. But w hen he came to define chronophotogra­
phy, other factors predominated, which resulted in changes to the status of the
photographic im age w ithin chronophotography.

T h e c h ro n o p h o to g ra p h ic sn a p sh o t

The main element of the snapshot technique that M arey kept w as the shutter,
w hich is a key element in the construction of the concept of the chronophoto­
graphic instant.
In M arey's work, the shutter speed had to meet other requirements that w ere
related to the nature of chronophotography. If one w ishes to take several im ages
over a very short period of time (50 im ages per second, for example), the shutter
must open and close extrem ely quickly in order to produce a series of photo­
graphic im ages. Hence, M arey's need to m ake a special shutter based on the
model of the phenakistoscope's slotted disc - w hen it rotates quickly, the inertia
of the system is reduced considerably. The celebrated photographic gun along
w ith the apparatuses that M arey eventually built all used the slotted disc.
The duration that interested M arey the most in his method for m easuring the
movem ent of objects was, in fact, that of the interval between the im ages of the
photographic series. A s discussed above, the interval w as essential in the defini­
tion of chronophotography from the outset, and M arey w as adam ant about its
regularity.25
When one exam ines the variations between his various presentations, the
most significant moment occurs in Movement in the very important first chapter
entitled 'Tim e'. On this occasion, M arey took great trouble in constructing the
notion of time in his practical w ork, linking together the graphic method and
the chronophotographic method. The key moment for us concerns the chrono-
metric dial, which appears on a certain num ber of chronophotographs (fig. 2) -
M arey had barely established the technique for m easuring the exposure time in
a specific subsection w hen he began noting its lack of precision:

By reason of the clear definition of the images, they can be accurately measured, not
by the time of exposure, which is too short to be appreciated, but by the intervals of time

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot' 87

between successive exposures. Now, this is the important point in the measurements
which we shall have to make of the duration of certain phenomena.’ *1

Figure 2 Cinémathèque française, Paris

There follow s a subsection entitled ‘ M easurement of the Intervals of Time


w hich separate Successive Exposures'.27 With the comment on the briefness of
the exposure time, w e indeed find ourselves in the rationale of the snapshot -
but w ith one difference w ith regard to the photographic snapshot. In 1894,
chronophotography w as explicitly presented by M arey as involving troo correla­
tive durations that w ere internal to the machine. If one of the two durations is to
be considered as an instant —i.e., if the notion of instant can be applied to the
im ages produced by the illumination available using an extrem ely brief expo­
sure time —its relation to the other duration, i.e., the interval, m ust be defined.
Indeed, M arey considered that the interval w as the only element that could be
m easured and controlled. This is a key argument, as it show s that the very w ay
of conceiving of instantaneih/ w as m odified w hen m oving from photography to
chronophotography. Chronophotographic instantaneity is characterised as a
structural relation between exposure and interval, and no longer between expo­
sure and the m oving object being photographed. The exposure, or concrete m o­
ment w hen the im age is made, is shorter than the interval in this relationship

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88 Maria Tortajada

(see Synthetic Table: The Chronophotographic Snapshot). This change in the


relevant relationship serves as the conceptual basis for an initial separation be­
tween the photographic snapshot and the chronophotographic snapshot.
But this is not tantamount to saying that the speed of the m oving object is not
relevant for chronophotography, as its importance can be plainly seen in one of
the problem s that M arey encountered. M arey's scientific purpose obliged him to
find the greatest possible readability of the images. Leaving aside the possible
blur that is solved by the brief duration of the illumination, there is also the
problem o f the 'confusion' of the im ages in a chronophotographic series. In
Movement, a subsection of the chapter entitled 'Chronophotography on fixed
plates' deals explicitly w ith the 'Influence of the Rate of M ovem ent'.28 The prob­
lem here is that of slow speeds and w hen the movem ent comes to a standstill, in
w hich case the im ages are superim posed on the plate and are no longer legible
or analysable.29 While for a snapshot the speed of the m oving object is signifi­
cant for setting the exposure time, his argum ent em phasises the speed of the
m oving object in relation to the interval w hen addressing chronophotographic
snapshots. The variable that is essential to the photographic snapshot, i.e., the
speed of the object, is now related to the interval. The speed does not directly
influence the duration of the exposure time, the factor that determines the con­
cept of instant. The definition of exposure time, as w e have seen, is something
that is internal to the machine.

T h e c in e m a to g ra p h ic sn a p sh o t

U p to this point and in M arey's wake, I have underlined the importance of the
shutter, i.e., the very basis of the snapshot - that which conditions the moment
w hen the im age is m ade and is associated w ith the instant. M arey subsequently
com plexified this logic that he had first applied to the photographic snapshot.
We have now reached w hat I have called the cinematographic snapshot. To
solve the problem of the 'confusion' o f im ages, M arey defined two different
w ay s of practising chronophotography: either using a fixed sensitive plate as a
support or by exposing the chronophotographic series on a m oving support,
i.e., a disk or a film. This is how the Lum ière Cinem atograph entered into the
history of chronophotography, em erging as one exam ple am ong others at the
1900 Exhibition.
The principle of the second approach, enabling one to increase the number of
sharp images, is as follows. The im ages are produced successively on a m oving
sensitive surface, w hich pauses intermittently in front of the lens. Each time the
film or plate pauses, the shutter opens to allow light to enter, thus producing a

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot’

rapid series of snapshots. One thus obtains distinct photographs, or photo­


gram s as M arey called them, arranged in series on a disk or film. W hat w as
important for M arey w as the synchrony between the exposure time and the
pause time of the film w hile the snapshot w as being produced.30 The pause
time w as superim posed on the exposure time - but without their duration being
identical, which further determined the success of the shot because they are in­
trinsically linked.
From a technical point of view, the pause time is a necessary condition for the
second approach to chronophotography. But the period w hen the technical ele­
ment took on a sym bolic and structuring dimension in M arey's method did not
correspond to the moment w hen M arey used the intermittent pause procedure
for the first time - which M arey himself identified with the photographic gun,
where the sensitive plate w as a disc turning intermittently on the sam e axis as
the disc shutter. But for M arey in 1885, w ho had been using this system since
1882, the gun w as not part of chronophotography, since the v ery definition of
chronophotography limits it to the use of a fixed plate, and the moment when
the im age is produced is defined solely by the question of the shutter.31 The cri­
teria are the exposure time, the frequency of illumination, and the control of the
regular interval for the production of a 'collective im age'.32 In Le Développement
de la méthode graphique, the pause time of the sensitive plate is considered a
problem .33
In 1890 and the years following, the gun began to acquire a status within the
field of chronophotography at the sam e time as the intermittent pause w as be­
coming more important. M arey's main aim w as alw ays to increase the number
of im ages while avoiding their 'confusion' - chapter X of the Vol des oiseaux is
centred on this question. A new technique allow ed for a change in the status of
the pause, which w as then envisaged as a solution to the problem: it w as the
possibility of using a lightweight support - the film - rather than the plate of
the photographic gun, w hose inertia prevented a large num ber of im ages from
being captured. This method34 w as presented as one solution am ong many, in­
cluding alternating im ages (paragraph 96), the revolving mirror (paragraph 98),
m oving the apparatus (paragraph 99) and the stroboscopic method (paragraph
10 1). But, paradoxically enough, w hen M arey chose to use supple film rather
than the photographic gun, he sim ultaneously m ade the latter part of the chron-
ophotographic method proper - the gun w as henceforth presented as the prime
m eans of dissociating the im ages by m oving and intermittently pausing the sen­
sitive surface.35
The synthesis in 1894 radicalised M arey's standpoint. In Movement, the
'Chronophotography on m oving plates' w as given a status in its ow n right, tak­
ing up a separate chapter (VII) after 'Chronography on fixed plates' (IV). The
photographic gun thereupon entered fully into the history of chronophotogra-

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90 Maria Tortajada

phy37 — it w as presented chronologically, after M uybridge, but w as directly


linked to the question of the intermittent pause, which w as a fundam ental ele­
ment of the film-based chronophotographic apparatuses invented by Marey.
The beginning of this 'history' that culminated w ith the new possibilities of in­
termittent pauses is attributed to Pierre-Jules-César Janssen: 'The honour is due
to him of having inaugurated w hat is n ow adays called chronophotography on a
m oving plate.'38
A fter this decisive turning point, the 1900 Exhibition kept the same principles
of presentation. Janssen's experiment w as qualified as follows: 'This experiment
seems to have been the earliest achievement of chronophotography',39 and the
gun is presented as item number 6 (No 6. Photographic gun, 1882). The intermit­
tent pause is again presented as essential for addressing a w ay to avoid the con­
fusion of im ages w hen their number is increased.
In short, the intermittent pause is an essential parameter, firstly, because it
conditions the double definition of chronophotography, whether on fixed or
m oving plates; secondly, because this parameter determines the historical pre­
sentation of chronophotography, which sometimes excludes and sometimes in­
corporates the photographic gun. The intermittent pause is not only important
from a technical view point, it is also fundamental from a symbolic view point in
order to enable one to establish w hat chronophotography entails.
Once the epistemological value of this question has been established, it is fas­
cinating to observe how M arey proceeded. He treats the intermittent pause as a
duration, as a new parameter in the constitution of the chronophotographic
snapshot, and thereby of the concept of the instant, w hich is associated with it -
this instant then becom es a paradoxical instant.
When he set out to provide details, M arey calculated the pause and m ove­
ment times of the film as part of the overall data in the chronophotographic
series.
In 1890, the total pause time in the production of a series o f chronophoto­
graphic im ages w as equivalent to half the total time that the film passed by the
front of the lens - in other w ords, there w as as much pausing in the machine (to
allow the exposure time) as there w as film movement (simultaneous to the in­
terval).40 In 1894, no equivalent details w ere given.
In 1900, the relation between m ovem ent and pause w as inverted: the dura­
tion of the pause w as now set out as the longer one. One can see that M arey's
method w as caught between tw o essential and com plem entary ends: the inter­
val must be as short as possible, creating a lot of im ages; the film m ust pause for
as long as possible (sharpness). In the paragraph entitled, significantly enough,
'M ultiplication of the N um ber of Pictures ... (No. 8)', M arey began thus his pre­
sentation: 'A perfect analysis of motion requires that the photographs be taken
at as short intervals as may he'.41 Com ing to the Lum ière cinem atograph (No. 12),

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot’ 91

w hich he had identified as part of the series and variations o f chronophoto-


graphs, he stipulated the nature of the alternation between the movement and
pausing of the film: ‘ During two-thirds of the whole time, the film is at rest'42 in the
unfurling of the film.
The total duration of the pauses w as greater than the duration of the m ove­
ment. So w e m ay indeed ask ourselves w hat has changed in the construction of
instantaneity and the concept of the instant, between the rationale of the shutter
(chronophotography on fixed plates) and that of the combination of intermittent
pause and shutter.
In actual fact, the essential terms highlighted by the discourse are no longer
the interval and exposure time, but the interval and the am ount o f time the film
is paused. In chronophotography w ith a m oving support, the exposure and
pause times are synchronous - together they define the moment w hen the snap­
shot is produced. But their rationale is the opposite: for the sake of im age sharp­
ness, the pause time must be thought of as a substantial duration, w hile expo­
sure time m ust be very brief. And, in M arey's w ords, the briefness of the
duration of the exposure time - the technical requirement of the snapshot - is
hidden b y the em phasis that is put on the need for a long-lasting pause of the
film (see Synthetic Table: The Cinem atographic Snapshot).

Synthetic Table

Instantaneity Exposure time Key elements


(concept o f instant) Aim o f the practice
Photographic very quick Exposure time /
snapshot Mobile (speed)
Chronophotographie very quick Exposure time /
snapshot Duration o f the interval
Cinematographic Exposure time // Pause time Intermittent pause
snapshot T h e p ause tim e is v e ry long AND
Duration o f the interval

A n important conceptual tension presides over the constitution of the photo­


gram, the snapshot produced by chronophotography on a m oving plate, which
is precisely the same as for the cinematograph: w e see that the instant associated
w ith this in M arey's scientific and historic discourse is paradoxical, because
w hat underpins it from the view point of the dispositive is precisely the require­
ment that it be both short and long. This is the instantaneity that w e call cine­
m atographic. The epistemological separation between photography and cinema
- between photographic and cinematographic paradigm s - is played out in the
value of the fixed im age before being posed in the rendering of movem ent and

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92 Maria Tortajada

the illusion of continuity. The photographic snapshot and the cinematographic


snapshot do not construct the sam e concept of the image in the M arey era.
In c. 1900, something w as being played out that bypasses the distinction be­
tween fixed and animated that distinguishes photography from cinema. This
unassum ing 'event' concerns the status of the snapshot. What happens to it
w hen it enters the realm of cinema via chronophotography? It becomes a para­
doxical snapshot, the photogram, which requires both the duration o f the pause
and the brevity of the instant. Behind the photography vs. cinema debate, w e
discover that there are tw o types of instantaneous photograph. But it is not
enough sim ply to exam ine the mediums. We come to see that in the discursive
use of dispositives of vision, the key issue is the transformation of our w ay of
conceiving the instant and instantaneity in their relation to the image and repre­
sentation. We are thus dealing w ith an instant that lasts, an instant that Berg-
sonism w ould hasten to sideline —and w ith it the history of cinema.

N o te s

1. Roland Barthes, 'Le troisième sens' (1970), L'Obvie et l'obtus, Seuil (Tel Quel), 1982,
p. 59; English translation by Richard Howard: 'The Third Meaning', in The Responsi­
bility of Forms, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
2. Gilles Deleuze, L'image-Mouvement, Paris: Minuit, 1983, p. 1 1 (English translation by
Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam: Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. London
and New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001) and L'image-
temps, Paris: Minuit, 1985 (English translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Gale­
ta: Cinema 2. The Time-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).
3. The viewing dispositive covers everything that allows the spectator to see a repre­
sentation, from the machine to the machiner)', from production to projection and
reception, from technique to practice and institutional constraints. The whole in­
cludes not just technical parameters, but also the codes of the representation.
4. See Julien Benda, Sur le succès du bergsonisme. Précédé d'une Réponse aux défenseurs de
la doctrine, Paris: Mercure de France, 1914.
5. Marcel L’Herbier, 'Hermès et le silence (19x7), Intelligence du cinématographe, Paris:
Corréa, 1946, pp. 199-212; see Pascal Manuel Heu, 'La querelle de 1917', Le temps du
cinéma. Emile Vuillermoz père de la critique cinématographique, 1910-1930, Paris: L'Har-
mattan 2004, pp. 187-212; and for the sources: ibid. pp. 220-335.
6. Paris: Jacques Melot, 1946.
7. 'Temps et mouvement. Etienne-Jules Marey et la mécanique du corps', Le moteur
humain. L'énergie, lafatigue et les origines de la modernité, Paris: La Fabrique, 2004, pp.
146-208. Original edition: The Human Motor, New York: Basic Books, 1990.
8. Marta Braun shows the particular scientific nature of Marey's use of chronophoto­
graphy, compared to Muybridge, for instance. See Picturing Time. The Work of Eti-
enne-jules Marey, 1830-1904, Chicago and London: Chicago University Press,
pp. 228-254.

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot’ 93

9. In Marey's experiments, the images came on three different types of support: the
fixed plate, the mobile plate of the photographic gun and the cinematographic film.
10. Etienne-Jules Marey, Le mouvement, Nîmes: Jacqueline Chambon, 2002 (1894); Move­
ment, translated by Eric Pritchard, London: William Heinemann, 1895, P- 54 ­
11. The notion of 'measurement' is as intrinsically linked to Bergson's cinematographic
model as it is to Marey's practical work. But its conceptual framework is by no
means the same. See M. Tortajada, 'Evaluation, mesure, mouvement: la philosophie
contre la science et les concepts du cinéma (Bergson, Marey)', Revue européenne des
sciences sociales, no. 141, vol. XXXXVI, 2008, pp. 95-1x1.
12. Scholars working on Marey often minimise his interest in the synthesis of move­
ment. This is even the case in the most remarkable research work, i.e., François Da-
gognet's (Etienne-Jules Marey. La passion de la trace, Paris: Hazan, X987, translated by
Robert Galeta and Jeanine Herman, Etienne-Jules Marey: A Passion for the Trace, New
York: Zone Books, 1992) and Michel Frizot (in particular Etienne-Jules Marey cnrono-
photographe, Paris: Nathan/Delpire, 200X). Laurent Mannoni, however, gives weight
to the 'filmic' dimension of Marey's work on chronophotography (in particular in
Etienne-Jules Marey. La mémoire de l'œil, Milna/Paris: Mazzotta/La Cinémathèque
française, X999). I believe that it is important from an epistemological viewpoint to
reassess the place given to the synthesis of movement in Marey's approach.
13. I.e., 'the physiological property of the retina of retaining for a brief moment the im­
pression of an image after the object which has produced it has disappeared' (Move­
ment, op. cit. p. 305).
14. Gaston Bachelard, The Formation of the Scientific Mind: A Contribution to a Psychoana­
lysis of Objective Knowledge, introduced, translated and annotated by Mary MeAll es­
ter Jones, Manchester: Clinamen, 2002, p. 28.
15. Supplément à La Méthode graphique dans les sciences expérimentales, Paris: Masson,
1885. Sometimes only the dates of the first editions are indicated for these four
sources.
16. Paris: Masson, 1890.
17. Op. cit. English translation: Movement, trans. E. Pritchard, New York: Appleton,
1895; London: Heinemann, 1895.
18. 'Exposition d'instruments et d'images relatifs à l'histoire de la chronophotographie',
par le Docteur Marey, membre de l'Institut, Musée centennal de la classe 12 (photogra­
phie) à l'Exposition universelle internationale de 1900 à Paris, Métrophotographie et
chronophotographie, Saint-Cloud, impr. Belin, s.d. English translation: 'History of
Chronophotography' Smithsonian Report for 1901, Washington, DC: Government
Printing Office, 1902, pp. 317-340. For reasons of space, I shall not refer to Marey's
lecture that synthesised his work - 'La chronophotographie. Conférence faite au
conservatoire national des arts et métiers le dimanche 29 janvier 1899', Annales du
Conservatoire des arts et métiers, 3e série, vol. I, Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1899, pp. 283­
3 18. It confirms the conclusions presented here.
19. All of these questions are addressed in the research papers published by André
Gunthert, Michel Frizot and François Brunet, and in particular: A. Gunthert, 'Entre
photographie instantanée et cinéma: Albert Londe', Alexis Martinet (éd.), Le Cinéma
et la science, Paris: Ed. du CNRS, X994, pp. 62-69 and 'Esthétique de l'occasion. Nais­
sance de la photographie instantanée comme genre', Etudes photographiques, no. 9,
May 200X, pp. 64-87; M. Frizot, Le temps d'un mouvement. Aventures et mésaventures

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94 Maria Tortajada

de ¡'instant photographique (catalogue d'exposition), Paris: CNP, 1986, and 'Vitesse de


la photographie. Le mouvement et la durée', Michel Frizot (éd.), Nouvelle histoire de
la photographie, Paris: Adam-Biro, Bordas, 1994, pp. 243-255; F. Brunet, 'Refonda­
tions: Le moment Kodak', La naissance de l'idée de photographie, Paris: PUF, 2000,
pp. 213-329.
20. See François Albera, Maria Tortajada, 'L'Epistémè « 1900 »', Le cinématographe, nou­
velle technologie du XXe siècle/The Cinéma, A New Technology for the 20th Century, Lau­
sanne: Payot, 2004, pp. 47-49, regarding Gustave Le Gray.
21. M. Frizot, Nouvelle histoire de la photographie, op. cit.
22. 'Light was admitted nine times per second, and the illumination time about 1/900 of
a second. This brevity of exposure time is once again a necessary condition for the
sharpness of the images, for it prevents the bird from making a noticeable move­
ment while the photograph is being taken.' (Développement de la méthode graphique
par l’emploi de la photographie, op. cit., pp. 26-27).
23. '[CJhronography is admirable; it is a true microscope of time and shows that the
indivisible instant that is so often evoked does not exist, and that sometimes regular,
rhythmic and perfectly coordinated acts take place within one hundredth of a sec­
ond', Etienne-Jules Marey, La méthode graphique dans les sciences expérimentales et par­
ticulièrement ni physiologie et en médecine, Paris: Masson, 1878, p. XII. On the graphie
method, see M. Frizot, 'Les courbes du temps. L'image graphique et la sensation
temporelle', Pascal Russo (éd.), Aux origines de l’abstraction, (Catalogue), Musée
d'Orsay, 2003, pp. 68-83 and J°ël Snyder, 'Visualisation et visibilité. La méthode
graphique de Marey', Études photographiques, no. 4, May 1998, pp. 64-86.
24. See, for example, what Albert Londe (La photographie moderne, Paris: Masson, 1896
(1888)) wrote on 'determining the duration of exposure in instantaneous photogra­
phy', with reference to James Jackson's tables that calculate the speeds of different
mobile objects (pp. 261-263) and his doubts on the usefulness of knowing the abso­
lute value of the time of exposure (p. 143).
25. From 1885 onwards, the interval was either based on the frequency of the images
(8 images per second, meaning an interval of i/8th sec. between each image), or by
the distance separating the images within the chronophotographic series, or by the
angular distance measured on the shutter between two windows or on the so-called
chronometric dial.
26. Movement, op. cit., p. 17, my italics.
27. Ibid., p. 17. Right from the beginning, Marey had stressed the brevity of the interval.
In 1890, this comment was part and parcel of the definition. But in 1894, when he
introduced the fundamental relation (exposure/interval), it was the exposure time
that was the briefer of the two.
28. Ibid., pp. 58-60.
29. 'In different speeds of translation (of the moving object), the number of images
which can be taken in a given time without producing confusion, increases as the
former become greater.' (ibid., p. 58). And again: 'When the object, of which succes­
sive images are to be taken, confines its movements to one particular spot, confu­
sion and superposition are bound to occur', (ibid., p. 63). This problem was identi­
fied as early as 1885.

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The ‘Cinematographic Snapshot’ 95

30. This is contrary to what happened with Edison's Kinetoscope where the film does
not stop. The exposure must then be extremely brief, thus not allowing there to be
projection.
31. 'An ingenious trick consisting of taking a series of photographs of a moving body at
equal time intervals on the same immobile plate, reproducing the most complicated
movements in an extremely simple form. / Chrono-photography, such is the name that
I shall give to this experimental procedure that overcomes an important shortcom­
ing in the graphic method' ('Avertissement', Développement de la méthode graphique,
op. cit., p. V).
32. Ibid. p. 28.
33. The inertia of the plate prevents the number of images from being increased: 'It is
difficult to go beyond ten to fifteen images per second by using apparatuses in
which a plate has to alternately move and stop to be exposed at different points of
its circumference. Sometimes I have doubled this speed, but the apparatus then
started vibrating and the sharpness of the images may be jeopardised' (ibid., p. 17).
The solution put forward at this period was the partial photograph, thanks to which
the overlapping of figures was avoided by reducing their surface area they occupy
on the photographic plate.
34. Paragraph 100: 'Dissociation des images au moyen d'une translation imprimée à la
surface sensible', Le vol des oiseaux, op. cit., p. 154.
35. Even though it was introduced in paragraph 88 (ibid., p. 132) after Muybridge, i.e.,
using chronological order as in 1885, the problems it posed were only addressed in
paragraph 100, when he introduced the need to use a 'long band of sensitive paper'
(ibid., p. 154).
36. The methods of alternating images, rotating mirror and moving the apparatus are
presented in the chapter entitled 'Chronophotography on fixed plates' (Movement,
op. cit., pp. 62-66). It should be noted that, at this juncture, Marey was no longer
presenting the stroboscopic method.
37. The explanation is the same as that given in 1890, with some additional information.
Marey begins the subsection entitled 'Principles of Chronophotography on moving
plates' by making a list of the gun's defects: 'The weak point of the photographic
gun was principally that the images were taken on a glass plate, the weight of which
was exceedingly great. The inertia of such a mass, which continually had to be set in
motion and brought to rest, necessarily limited the number of images. The maxi­
mum was 12 in the second, and these had to be very small, or else they would have
required a disc of larger surface, and consequently of too large a mass, [new para­
graph] These difficulties may be overcome by substituting for the glass disc, a con­
tinuous film very slightly coated with gelatine and bromide of silver.' (ibid., p. 115).
38. Ibid., p. 103.
39. 'History of Chronophotography', Smithsonian Report for 1901, op. cit., p. 318.
40. 'The interval between two consecutive images was 18 millimetres, the number of
images fifty per second. The average speed of the paper was therefore 18 x 50 milli­
metres or 900 millimetres per second. The total of the fifty pauses of the paper taken
alone represented half of the time, the result being that during the transfer, the aver­
age speed was about 1.80m per second'. (Le vol des oiseaux, op. cit. p. 155, note 1).
41. 'History of Chronophotography', op. cit., p. 323 ('The perfect analysis of a move­
ment requires that the images be taken at very short time intervals', my italics). Right

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96 Maria Tortajada

from the beginning of his text for the Universal Exposition, at the key moment when
Marey was giving the definition of chronophotography, the interval was given a
double specification, with brevity being as important as equidistance: 'By chrono­
photography is meant a method which analyses motions by means of a series of
instantaneous photographs taken at very short and equal intervals of time', ibid.,
p. 3 1 7 .
42. Ibid., p. 328, my italics.

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T h e C in e m a to g r a p h versus P h o to g ra p h y , o r
C y c l i s t s a n d T i m e in t h e W o r k o f A l f r e d
Jarry

Maria Tortajada

A t the end of the nineteenth century, speed w as both in vogue in popular cul­
ture and at the heart of scientific research. Insight w as gained into movem ent by
m easuring speed variation and by observing the various positions required by
locomotion. The energy spent in perform ing various tasks w as calculated,
sometimes forcing people's bodies to their utmost limits. It w as fashionable to
organise races, of bicycles or trains for example, enabling one to compare
speeds and put the machines - the flagships of industry - through their paces.
V arious fairground contraptions w ere constantly competing to be the best, such
as switchbacks looping the loop at breakneck speeds. Speed as a scientific object
and as a social phenomenon fascinates - accidents them selves have become
spectacles of m odernity —because our understanding of it is based on the two
concepts of time and space that were constantly explored and questioned at the
turn of the century. Speed w as central to the paradoxes explored by H.G. Wells
in his literary laboratory via the contem porary popular theme of the fourth di­
mension. Speed w as also a considerable contributor to the futuristic novel,
w hich put new techniques to the test of the im aginary w orld. W hile Etienne-
Jules M arey brought the physiologist's approach to the questions of movement,
time and space, w ith the invention of the chronophotographic method and by
breaking dow n movem ent captured by means o f photography, Henri Bergson
took a stand against the scientific view point in the name of a particular experi­
ence of time and the intuition of duration. Time and space w ere no longer a
priori data but w ere used or relativised according to notions of measurement,
experience, perception or intuition. Scientists, philosophers and w riters worked
on fleshing out these notions.
Cinem a and photography lie at the centre of these questions. When M arey
m ade chronophotography a scientific method - thus defining some of the con­
ditions that m ade cinema possible —it w as by fixing the time variable, by im pos­
ing a regular interval between each shot. W hen Bergson defined the functioning
of science, it w as by building up the 'cinem atographic m odel' of thought. When
Alfred Jarry brought photography and cinema into his chronicles or novels, it
w as to tackle the paradoxes of time. It is hard to im agine a m ore revealing

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98 Maria Tortajada

theme than the bicycle race, w ith the speed records it involves, to put cinema
and photography to the test in their capacity to model the concept of time.
A lfred Jarry, fam ous for his Ubu the King, took great interest in the themes of
m odernity at the end of the century, w hen cinema w as just beginning to emerge.
In his writings, the cinematograph and photography are linked together by
means of a multitude of machines and the phenomenon of speed. There w as an
abundance of stories of spectacular races and competitions w ith trains, autom o­
biles and bicycles. These diverse m oving bodies, which included trams and om ­
nibuses, took the stage together with the machines that Jarry him self invented,
such as the physics stick in Caesar Antichrist, the painting machine in the Exploits
and Opinions o f Dr Faustroll and the love machine in the Supermale. A t the heart
of this modernity that Jarry him self w as attempting to pin down, cinema and
photography have neither the sam e historical function nor the sam e symbolic
value.
Photography and cinema w ill be understood here as being dispositives struc­
tured by a spectator, a representation and a 'm achinery' that allow the spectator
to have access to the representation.1 To w hat end are these dispositives em ­
ployed w hen they are not used for m aking or show ing im ages and sounds -
w hen they are exploited by discourses that appropriate them and transform
them, exploiting them to construct their ow n argumentation or set up a specific
conceptualisation? A nd in w hat conceptual constellation can they be inscribed?
These questions can be addressed using an epistemological approach. It is the
determining aspects of the dispositives of cinema and photography that interest
us here - not to foster a genealogical type of interpretation, but to identify the
elements that belong to the scientific or technical environment of the time and to
the cinematographic or photographic model, w hile sim ultaneously looking at
the relations between them. The dispositives bring various elements into play -
other dispositives, theories, notions or concepts - w ith w hich they are them­
selves correlated. W hen seen as a network, these elements m ay be said to make
up the cultural presuppositions that determine not only the cinematographic or
photographic dispositive, but also Jarry's machines. Photography and cinema
w ill appear in positions and functions that sometimes differ from the practices
themselves, thereby producing original configurations and parallels.
Thus, I w ould like to show that during the closing years of the 19th century,
w hen the theme of time in m ovem ent and conceptions of progress w ere so im ­
portant,2 Jarry not only inscribed him self paradoxically in the m odernity of his
era, but also came to elaborate tw o conceptions of time that w ere independent
of the model of his contemporary, Henri Bergson. I shall thus be exam ining the
cinematographic dispositive as an epistemic m odel,3 which I shall confront with
another set of relations associated w ith photography, in order to construct one
or several 'im ages' of time.

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Time in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry 99

T h e c in e m a to g ra p h

In Jarry's w ork, one finds two important cinematographic figures. The first is
Ixion, a victim o f the torture of Hades, like Tantalus and Sisyphus. He w as
chained to the perimeter of a w heel and destined to revolve for all eternity. He
w as mentioned in 1903 in a text published in La Plume, 'L a mécanique d'Ixion',
and republished in the collection of Jarry's new spaper chronicles, La Chandelle
verte. The second is the Superm ale, the hero of the eponym ous novel published
in 19 0 1, a man w ho is so pow erful that he is capable of proving his virility more
than 82 times in a single day.4 This tale of love tells the story of tw o w agers - the
first seeks to show that five cyclists on a five-man bicycle, fed on exceptional
food, can beat a locomotive over a distance of 10,000 miles. The second involves
proving the Superm ale's virile performance.5
Ixion appears several times in Jarry's work, but it is in 1903 that he is explic­
itly compared to the cinematograph:

And let us first of all examine the torture of the condemned man from the point of
view of the feelings.
Ixion, according to the poets, is tied to the wheel on the exterior of the circumference.
It is in such manner that men-snakes 'revolve' in fairs, their neck touching their heels.
We should note that Ixion's eyes are turned outwards and thus reflect the world, just
like the lenses of a Lumière cinematograph.6

It is, of course, significant that Lum ière is mentioned, but equally important are
the elements describing the torture. For w hat is pinpointed regarding the cine­
m atograph is the structure of the machine — the wheel, whose circular shape
and revolving motion recall the spool o f film and its unw inding. The cinemato­
graph itself is designated b y its lenses which, in the passage, are com pared to
Ixion's eyes as he revolves on the wheel. They reflect the w orld, in other w ords
reproduce it, and constitute the representation of it in the very heart of the m a­
chine. Since Ixion is forced to pass indefinitely b y the same point, he is sub­
mitted to a repetitive process that he shares w ith the cinematograph. A t the
turn of the century, this machine constantly exploited repetition, as had optical
toys such as the phenakistoscope or the zoetrope before it. The same little film
w as projected several times both forw ard and backw ard and at varyin g speeds,
thereby introducing a mechanical element into the heart of the cinematographic
spectacle. Ixion is attached to a machine as one of its w orking parts, but, at the
sam e time, he is in the position of the spectator, as he looks at the w orld and
turns it into a representation. Contrary to the cinema, however, the spectator is
inside the apparatus - his eyes are w orking parts of the mechanical system that
incorporates him. The figure enacts a condensation of the cinematographic dis-

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100 Maria Tortajada

positive - the spectator is not in front of the projected image, but is sim ulta­
neously the projector (or device taking the shots, no distinction is made in the
text here),7 the person watching the spectacle, and finally, the place where the
representation is materialised via the reflection of the lenses. A ll these elements
are contained in a single mechanical structure - Ixion's wheel.
The rotating movem ent w ill lead to Ixion being com pared to a cyclist:

Those who may never have been initiated into cycling have doubtless forgotten or
simply not known that the first memorable record for the time of the mile was estab­
lished by Johnson, by means of an elliptical cogwheel that, theoretically at least, elimi­
nated neutral - with the least effort coming from the highest gear.
And in relation to this, suffice it to indicate that Ixion is the father of middle-distance
racers.
Middle-distance racers, absolutely. Ixion the eternal no longer remembers when he
started nor that he started. Ixion is in the 'state of mind' of the cannonball savouring
its trajectory.
He enjoys going quickly, without patting his own back.s

The cinematograph thus forges a link with speed, races and a certain conception
of time, to which I shall return below.
The fam ous 10 ,OOO-mile race is of the same ilk. The Superm ale is also assim i­
lated to a machine and involved in repetition. The cinematograph is not named
in this scene, but underpins the text.9 The race is a competition between two
machines, a train and a five-man bicycle, w ith the cyclists strapped to it as if
they are being tortured. Various other m oving objects join in: an automobile
and a flying machine that pulls the bicycle, a trailer and finally a 'sh ad o w ',10
w hich turns out to be the Superm ale. The text underlines the extraordinary
speed reached by the m oving bodies and their constant acceleration. It is not by
chance that one speaks of the 'perpetual motion' race, and that the dramatic
tension is increased by the constant reference to measurements:

The silken thread of the speedometer was still quivering regularly, tracing a vertical
blue spindle against Corporal Gilbey's cheek, and I read on its ivory dial, as had been
predicted for that time, the number of kilometers per hour: 250.11

Or again:

The education of Jewey Jacobs had taken us a whole day. It was the morning of the
fourth day, three minutes, seven and two-fifths seconds after nine o'clock, and the
speedometer was at its farthest limit, which it had not been designed to exceed: 300
kilometers per hour.12

A m ong the m any clues that refer to the cinema, the appearance of the Super­
male is the most striking - he suddenly appears like a shadow born of a shad-

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Tim e in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry 10 1

ow, like a figure projected on a screen, in the m iddle of these num erous m a­
chines. The Superm ale is associated w ith the phenomenon of the cinemato­
graphic illusion:

... When the lamp was lit behind us, sweeping our shadow forward along the track,
the five members of our shadow were grouped for an instant so as to seem, fifty yards
in front of us, like a single racer seen from behind, riding in front of us. Our simulta­
neous pedal strokes completed the illusion - which I heard afterwards was not an
illusion. When our shadow was thrown forward we all felt sharply and distinctly
that some silent and unbeatable opponent, who must have been watching us for
days, had taken off on our right at the same time as our shadow, hidden within it,
and kept fifty yards ahead ...13

The narrator sim ultaneously pedals on the five-m an bicycle and plays the part
of the spectator observing the shadow and recalling certain memories. He gives
vent to his astonishment:

... I did not notice that the vibrations caused by our speed had put out the lamp, and
yet the same odd outline, still visible because the track was very white and the night
quite clear, was "leading the pack" fifty yards in front!
It could not have been projected by the locomotive's headlamps ...
Still, there is no such thing as a ghost - then what could this sliadmv be?14

This new m oving body is, of course, the Superm ale, the m ysterious rival.
In order to m ake the apparition appear, the text sets up the im aginary w orld
of a projection. The spectator is thus plunged into darkness - it is night-time,
there is no light, and the track is white, like a screen providing the surface
against w hich the figures stand out. The shadow motif is also important here. It
is as if w e are in the w orld of Gorki, w ho described that 'strange silence' of the
w orld o f silent films: 'Yesterday evening, I w as in the Kingdom of Sh ad ow s',15
im m ediately locating cinematographic projection in the night of H ades. The
shadow also refers to the model put forw ard by the Platonic myth of the cave
and the deceptive illusion, that, right from outset, became a stereotype of the
im aginary w orld o f the cinema.
A nd it is precisely as a cyclist that the Superm ale is represented as a projected
figure born o f a cinematographic dispositive. The m oving object which finally
appears is a road hog w ho is faster than all the other vehicles and ends up by
being the first to cross the finishing line. Another of his characterstics is that he
avoids accidents, even w hen he collides w ith things and comes close to cata­
strophe. One of the two descriptions presenting him underlines this aspect —
the narrator has just seen the road hog appear and fears the w orst w hen the
locomotive seems to bestride him:

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«02 Maria Tortajada

... the Road Hog, coming up at the very instant when the shadow disappeared, and
merging for a second with it, crossed the track in front of our machine with incredible
awkwardness but with providential luck, both for him and for us. On his apocalyptic
machine, he went veering into the first rail... You would have thought, my goodness,
from the amount of zigzagging he was doing, that he hadn't ridden a bicycle for more
than three hours in his life ... he was carrying out his imbecilic little maneuvers in
front of a great express train that was booming down on him at more than three
hundred kilometers an hour. ... At precisely that instant the front of the machine
caught up with his rear wheel.

During that second when he was about to be crushed to pulp, everything about his
comical silhouette, down to the details of the spokes in his bicycle wheels, remained
photographically imprinted on my retinas. Then I closed my eyes, not wishing to
count his ten thousand fragments.
He wore pince-nez, was practically clean-shaven, and had just a small, sparse, curly
beard.
He was dressed in a frock coat and wore a top hat gray with dust. ...
Surprised to hear the regular clicking [of the wheels], as well as the grating sound of
the worn bearings, a good half-minute after what I had supposed must be the cata­
strophe, I opened my eyes again and couldn't believe them - I couldn't even believe
that they were open. The Road Hog was still gliding along on our left, on the track!
The locomotive was up against him and he seemed in no way inconvenienced by it.
Then I saw the explanation of this marvel: the wretched fellow was no doubt unaware
of the arrival of the great train behind him otherwise he would not have shown such
perfect composure. The locomotive had bumped into his bicycle and was now push­
ing it by the rear mudguard! As for the chain - for of course the ridiculous and senseless
character would not have been able to move his legs at such a speed - the chain had
been snapped in two by the impact, and the Road Hog was pedaling joyfully in space
- needlessly, moreover ...

Nothing can stop this cinematographic cyclist going at full tilt. His race is
marred neither by stops nor accidents. Even the narrator's fear —he keeps the
fatal instant 'photographically imprinted on [his] retinas' before the final colli­
sion - proves to be false: m ovem ent and speed are the very conditions of the
cyclist associated w ith the cinematograph.

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Time in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry 103

P h o to g ra p h y

The machine, the torture victim and the cycle race are brought together in a
chronicle in the Chandelle verte, which is no longer centred on cinema but on
photography: 'L a Passion considérée comme course de côte' ('The Crucifixion
Considered A s A n Uphill Bicycle R ace)/7 published by Jarry in Le Canard sau­
vage in A pril 1903, portrays the cyclist protagonist as Jesus Christ on the day of
his crucifixion. The story is a hum orous one, juxtaposing in a som ewhat mock­
ing m anner the crucifixion w ith details of m odem life such as the bicycle, the
tyre and photography. Tw o narrative m odels are intertwined: the cycle race
with its uncertainties and Christ's Passion. The comic and iconoclastic effect de­
rives from the w ay in w hich the reader is asked to read the narration of a sacred
story as a spectacle, a popular competition.
A dose of irony is added to all this, w hich is all the more visible w hen one is
aw are of races in general and Jarry's 'cinem atographic' cyclists, because,
although breakneck speed and continuous movement are very important to Ix­
ion and the Supermale, the 'racing cyclist' Jesus Christ is characterised b y inac­
tivity and stopping. The problem at the start of the race involves the wheel, the
very object that fosters the comparison w ith the cinematograph. This is how the
story begins:

Barabbas, slated to race, was scratched.


Pilate, the starter, pulling out his clepsydra or water clock, an operation which wet his
hands unless he had merely spit on them - Pilate gave the send-off.
Jesus got away to a good start.
In those days, according to the excellent sports commentator St. Matthew, it was cus­
tomary to flagellate the sprinters at the start the way a coachman whips his horses.
The whip both stimulates and gives a hygienic massage. Jesus, then, got off in good
form, but he had a fiat right away. A bed of thorns punctured the whole circumfer­
ence of his front tire.18

The accident —the failure of speed and movem ent —is sym bolised by this cy­
clist, w ho is fated to carry his bike and walk. The narrative strategy em ployed is
to maintain the reader's expectations b y only narrating the moments w hen the
cyclist stops. After having mentioned the tyre incident, the chronicler describes
Christ's bicycle outside the context of the race, as if parenthetically within the
story.

We had better begin by telling about the spills; but before that the machine itself must
be described.’ 9

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104 Maria Tortajada

A fter a long detour via the humouristic presentation of the bicycle in the shape
of Christ's cross, the chronicler finally begins to narrate the race, which, signifi­
cantly he cuts before the end:

We shall abridge the story of the race itself, for it has been narrated in detail by spe­
cialized works and illustrated by sculpture and painting visible in monuments built
to house such art. There are fourteen turns in the difficult Golgotha course. Jesus took
his first spill at the third turn. His mother, who was in the stands, became alarmed.20

When he finally does narrate the race, he does so in pointillist fashion, only
mentioning the falls - the 'spills' - the stops, as it were. It is interesting to note
that Jarry twice refers to photography w hen staging the event. In actual fact,
photography appears as the opposite of cinema and its defining elements such
as are exploited here, i.e., the cyclists and the race. The notion of time based on
the photographic dispositive is thus the contrary to that based on the cinemato­
graphic dispositive.
In La Chandelle verte, photography is mentioned more often than cinema, and
it is often associated w ith accidents.21 It is thus no surprise to discover that
photography is present in the cycle race section of the Supermale w hen the nar­
rator expects there to be a catastrophe, foreseeing that the train w ill crush the
m ysterious cyclist. The accident is precisely one o f the elements that defines
photographic practice as Jarry saw it.
It is important to note that photography here is diverted from its indicial
character. Jarry occasionally mentions the darkroom on other occasions,22 but it
is not linked to the networks of speed and cycling. Portrait photography, with
its poses and concomitant constraints - the duration of exposure, stillness of the
model, finding an attitude — are not used, despite their w idespread use in
France during the last decades of the nineteenth century.23 Jarry w as not inter­
ested in another aspect that increased photography's standing at the end of the
century: its capacity to reveal the invisible, apparitions and visions - a dream
that spiritist photography claims to satisfy.24
Jarry uses the accident to introduce press photography, w hich w as develop­
ing at the turn of the century, and to bring on 'reporters'.25 He is resolutely
'm odern' in the w ay that he points to the instantaneous nature of the photo­
graph, and thus to the developm ent of both the techniques that nurtured the
instantaneous photographic im age and the w orld of the imagination that
thrived on and stimulated this development. Thanks to the instantaneous im­
age, speed becomes a vital element of the photo, as both the speed of the shutter
and the chemical reaction are necessary to capture m oving subjects.26 In the
final narration of the different 'spills', the mention of photography - the second
in the text - underlines this aspect.

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Tim e in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry 105

His excellent trainer, Simon the Cyrenian, who but for the thorn accident would have
been riding out in front to cut the wind, carried the machine.
Jesus, though carrying nothing, perspired heavily. It is not certain whether a female
spectator wiped his brow, but we know that Veronica, a girl reporter, got a good shot of
him with her Kodak.
The second spill came at the seventh turn on some slippery pavement. Jesus went
down for the third time at the eleventh turn, skidding on a rail.
The Israelite demimondaines waved their handkerchiefs at the eighth.
The deplorable accident familiar to us all took place at the twelfth turn. Jesus was in a
dead heat at the time with the thieves. We know that he continued the race airborne -
but that is another story. (My italics)

Thus ends Jarry's chronicle. This passage includes a double reference to photo­
graphy, explicitly w ith 'K o d ak '27 and 'shot', and more playfully w ith the refer­
ence to the demimondaines, w ith Jarry punning on the w ord instantané, French
for both snapshot and prostitute. The character of Christ is surrounded by
photography. Jarry im m ediately exploits the doubt about the legend of Veroni­
ca's veil and the imprint of the H oly Face in order to underm ine the indicial
value that one might be tempted to attribute to photography.
It is notable that in the reference to the 'shot', the movem ent of the photo­
graphed subject is of little import. Speed is not the Christ-cyclist's strong suit.
One might think that b y linking the photo to the accident - w ith the associated
surprise, the loss of balance, the upsetting of an order - that the topic of speed
w ould be maintained, together w ith the im aginary w orld of fleetingness, the
ephem eral and time suspended. But Jarry does not follow that path. Either
m ovem ent is absent, as in this exam ple (the only action is 'Jesus ... perspired
or it is nullified by the accident, w hich is defined purely in negative terms and
the denial of all speed, since movem ent is excluded from the literal representa­
tion of the falls. In short, the instantaneous photo has no connection w ith speed.
This conclusion, at first sight surprising, alludes to one of the characteristics of
how instantaneous photography w as perceived at the time - although the in­
stantaneous shot is involved in the speed, it freezes subjects in their movement
and offends observers, as if the imm obility it creates is difficult to accept.28 'The
Crucifixion Considered A s A n Uphill Bicycle Race' seems to portray this. When
Jarry develops one of his contemporaries' preferred themes - accidents and falls
- he eliminates all idea of movement, and thus m akes the photographer-repor-
ter's act laughable, as all that has been captured of the accident is w hat eludes
speed, i.e., the radical halt that is the result.
In short, the movem ent and speed constructed by the cinematographic fig­
ures stand in opposition to the halt and accident of a figure modelled on the
im aginary w orld of the instantaneous photographic image. Is that tantamount

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106 Maria Tortajada

to saying that Jarry sets up a conception of the instant that w ould stand in op­
position to the flow of duration, the continuous flow that is the prerogative of
the cinematograph? These are the terms addressed by his contem porary and
former professor, Henri Bergson, for w hom the notions of the continuous flow
of time, m ovem ent and experience are crucial. It w as by enhancing their status
that he w as able to criticise not just the breaking dow n of movement, but also
the cinem atograph and its mechanical nature. Bergson associated photography
w ith stopping w hen it designated the photogram of the cinematographic m od­
el, such as is put forw ard in Creative Evolution (1907 , translation 1 9 1 1).29 But it
belongs to another paradigm w hen used in Matter and Memory (1896)30 - it is
thus linked to the very movem ent of matter of which it becomes, through exam ­
ple, a substitute.3’ Duration, moreover, is fundamental in the photographic
function w hich Bergson calls upon to define 'the very m ovem ent of the memory
at w ork':

Whenever we are trying to recover a recollection, to call up some period of our his­
tory, we become conscious of an act sui generis by which we detach ourselves from the
present in order to replace ourselves, first in the past in general, then in a certain
region of the past - a work of adjustment, something like the focussing of a camera.
But our recollection still remains virtual; we simply prepare ourselves to receive it by
adopting the appropriate attitude. Little by little it comes into view like a condensing
cloud; from the virtual state it passes into the actual; and as its outlines become more
distinct and its surface takes on colour, it tends to imitate perception. But it remains
attached to the past by its deepest roots ...

The 'focussing' serves as a model for the memory: the 'pure m em ory' that the
recollected im age 'has progressively developed'32 im plies a photographic pro­
cess that is based on the passing of the time necessary for development, which
Jarry, however, com pletely abolishes w hen he exploits this medium. In these
last two exam ples, Bergson's approach has nothing to do with the instantaneous
shot as the cessation or stopping to which Jarry refers. A nd w hen it is associated
w ith the fixing o f the continuous movem ent in the 'cinem atographic model', w e
note that photography is defined b y Bergson in relation to the flow of time. For
Jarry, however, interrupted speed and movement are used without im plying
notions of temporal flow and the passage of time. The instantaneous shot is
m erely the reverse o f speed, its denial. Like the accident, paradoxically enough,
it is defined without reference to time.

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Time in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry 107

Tw o pa ra d o xe s o f tim e

A n d yet in this text, photography plays its part in developing another form of
time. The first quotation in this context occurs in the part preceding the actual
narration of the race by m eans of the different falls. Jarry describes the machine
—the bicycle —at the sam e time as he sets out a kind of historical parody of the
sport of cycling:

Jesus, after his puncture, climbed the slope on foot, carrying on his shoulder the bike
frame, or, if you will, the cross.
Contemporary engravings reproduce this scene after photographs. (My italics)33

It is a lapidary comment, but rich in meanings. The first is the comic nature of
the historic inversion. It is unexpected, to say the least, to introduce photogra­
phy in biblical times and to turn the photograph into a means of later reproduc­
tion. The p lay is on the respective positions of the old and the new, the begin­
ning o f a questioning of the essence of the m odem . But another reading must be
added to this first one, related to the history of photography and the w ay it w on
over the press, reminiscent of the register of the 'reporter photographer'. M e­
chanical reproduction had started to develop in 1880. Previously, on the rare
occasions w hen photos did appear in new spapers or reviews, they relied on the
technique o f engraving on w ood — these illustrations bore the label 'after a
photograph'.34 The expression used by Jarry and the allusion to engravings re­
fer back to a form er time, but recent in relation to the time he w as w riting (in
1.903) - a time w hen one did indeed make an engraving from a photograph,
where modern practice could paradoxically 'precede' a traditional procedure.
This forces us to rethink our first reading: there is not only one past, that of the
crucifixion, and one modernity, that of photography, but there is also a past
within modernity, w hich m akes m odernity itself appear w ithin historical time,
and, ironically, accords it a place previous to the one that tradition reserves for
it. The reference allow s us to think of modernity in a paradoxical way. For w hat
is m odem is ancient, from a certain point of view, and vice-versa. W hat is
achieved here is the disorientation of History.
We m ust also envisage a third reading of the same sentence. The p lay on the
question of reproduction is not only significant in relation to such a m odality or
practice of photography. It is also a central element serving to define its status as
a representation. Reproduction in this text appears as the inserting of the differ­
ent representations of the event narrated within a series - a series that, m ore­
over, has come through H istory and time.
Clearly, the photograph taken b y the Kodak is necessarily taken at the time of
the race; it is the witness givin g an account, since the reporter Veronica w as

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108 Maria Tortajada

indeed there. It could appear as a m em ory tool, an instrument serving to regis­


ter all notable events and putting itself in the service of history,35 Even if w e can
initially agree that the photograph is a representation that is produced at the
sam e time as the event it shows, even if it is originally placed in a direct relation,
it is, however, not unique —w e shall see that in certain respects it is not even the
first. It enters into a network of representations to w hich the text constantly
alludes. The accumulation of references speaks volum es. A part from the en­
gravings mentioned in the quotation commented on here, w e find:

It is not true that there were any nails. The three that one sees in the images belong to
a rapid-change tire tool called the "Jiffy."36 ...
That explains why the illustrated magazines, in reproducing this celebrated scene, show
bicycles of a rather imaginary design (p. 123, my italics).

Similarly, a network of stories or descriptions, or references to old texts, histo­


rians or m emorable nam es in the history of religion, take over from the figura­
tive representations. Jarry thus uses the w ell-know n practice o f w riting a com­
mentary on the text, confirming or questioning previous discourses:

A few people have insinuated falsely that Jesus's machine was a draisienne, an un­
likely mount for a hill-climbing contest. According to the old cyclophile hagiogra-
phers, St. Briget, St. Gregory of Tours, and St. Irene, the cross was equipped with a
device which they name suppedaneum. ...
Lipsius, Justinian, Bosius, and Erycius Puteanus describe another accessory which
one still finds, according to Cornelius Curtius in 1643, on Japanese crosses ...
This general description, furthermore, suits the definition of a bicycle current among
the Chinese ...37

When Jarry sets out to narrate the race proper, he uses a pretext - that it has
been 'narrated in detail b y specialized w orks and illustrated by sculpture and
painting visible in m onuments built to house such art' - sim ply to give a sum ­
mary. There is no better w ay of stressing the proliferation of the representations.
It is thus no coincidence that he chooses to give the account of the race based on
its fourteen bends, i.e. the w ay of the cross w ith its fourteen stations. The w ay of
the cross is already in itself a staging of the Passion. The crucifixion scene had of
course already been used in early cinema as a m eans of transition between a
narrative structure based on the tableau and the linearization of the film narra­
tive,3* but here w e note that Jarry deliberately chose it in 1903 for its non-linear
form, stressing its pluri-punctiliar and static nature. Finally, the event itself is
lost in the network of representations —even before being a unique, prime his­
torical fact that could have been 'photographed', the race-Passion already pre­
sents itself as a pre-structured narration thanks to the form of the w ay of the
cross. A ll that is left is a series o f representations w here photography does not

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Tim e in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry 109

have a clearly defined historical place, either as a modern medium as w e saw


above or even, at the other extreme, as an original representation contemporary
to the event.39
In conclusion, Jarry saw photography as an instantaneous photograph that is
in contact w ith the event, even though the event vanishes in the historical and
non-vectorized series of representations. Photography joins a network of repro­
ductions that are a testimony, w hile sim ultaneously helping to disrupt the link
between past and present. It thus becomes problematical to conceive of History
as an advancing of time that is both vectorized and submitted to progress - a
positive value in the century that saw the industrial revolution. H istory can
only be captured or approached on a point-to-point basis through each represen­
tation. It is based neither on duration nor on a temporal unfolding of time. In
'The Crucifixion Considered A s A n Uphill Bicycle Race', time is the pointillist
and paradoxical deepening of history through its representations.40
But w hat can one say of time in Jarry's cinematographic models? For Ixion
and the Superm ale, it is constructed through the experience of speed. Contrary
to the act of rew orking history through the different moments chosen, cinema­
tographic figures are in time, they live in the present by experiencing speed -
speed w hich never stops because there can be no accident. In the ten-thousand-
mile race, the accident is announced several times but alw ays avoided —it is the
reverse side of Jarry's photographic model. The 'experience' of superlative speed
could bring Jarry closer to Bergson, w ho also makes experience a particular
m eans of knowledge, peculiar to intuition. H is requisite, speaking of the intel­
lect and the know ledge of matter, is to 'install itself w ithin the m oving' instead
of breaking it dow n or building it up by multiple stopping points, such as the
practice of modern or ancient science does.41
And yet, the experience of speed in Jarry's w ork is also linked to a paradox. In
the race in the Supermale, the prodigious velocity is constantly measured, but
the effect produced on the narrator, sitting on the five-man bicycle, is quite dif­
ferent. N o m oving body m anages to outdistance the other - they are all corre­
lated, as it were, and inseparable, like the parts o f a single and huge machine
travelling at an incredible speed.

... the locomotive, looking like a big, good-natured animal, was grazing42 in the same
part of our visual "field", neither advancing nor receding. Its only apparent motion
was a slight trembling of its flank ... (p.52).
The train had retained its previous position, with the same apparent immobility ...
(P- 54)-
Or again:

The train kept up with us steadily ... (p. 60).

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1110 Maria Tortajada

We were now again moving as before ... The locomotive was still at the same level (p.
61).

In other w ords, the experience of speed in the phenom enological sense of the
term is immobility.43 This is m ade explicit in another text published in La Revue
blanche (15 M arch 1903), about looping the loop:

We believe that within a few months, new switchbacks will adopt this system, where
the spectators in seats in wagons will whizz around an immobile 'acrobat'. Acrobacy
and speed will very naturally be, one day, immobile .. .44

That is how the follow ing description of Ixion in the 1903 story quoted above is
to be understood: 'Ixion is in the 'state of mind' of the cannonball savouring its
trajectory. He enjoys going quickly, without patting his ow n back' (p. 406). By
refusing the glory of speed ('without patting his ow n back'), Jarry creates an
insurmountable paradox, and thus calls into question both the experience and
its excessive valorization as a place of know ledge. The time that one experiences
in m ovem ent is not that of the flow of life but that of eternity - Jarry says that
Ixion is 'eternal'. We should note, however, that this is not a return to the ideal
and unchangeable classical values, as they too are m ocked.45
The chance stopping linked to the photograph is opposed to the im mobility
of speed, linked to the cinematograph. A time turned tow ards the past and the
paradoxical elaborating of history are opposed to an equally paradoxical time
linked to 'experience'. In the first case the paradox belongs to historical time,
conceived through the stopping of movement, the accident and its pointillist
reconstitution in a series of representations, not finalized b y progress. In the
second case it stems from the nature of the experience linked to speed and
movement. Neither the photographic nor the cinematographic models give ac­
cess to time as duration, unfolding or flow. Even w hen one experiences speed,
one is faced w ith its negation. It is because speed and movement, those essential
qualities of cinematographic machines, cannot be reduced either to the stopping
of the instantaneous shot and the photographic accident, or to continuous
movem ent conceived in its duration according to Bergson's model. Jarry can
thus stimulate new readings of cinema theory that recall the important role
played by Bergson, whether for his detractors - the defenders of discontinuous
movement, stops and breaks (as is proper to a cinema of the photogram) —or
those w ho claim to be influenced b y his philosophy and w ho find in the appar­
ent m ovem ent o f projection the experience of the continual flow of life.

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Time in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry III

N o te s

1. The term dispositive covers the system of relations that is established between these
three elements, taking into account the mode of producing and showing the repre­
sentation.
2. Denis Bernard and André Gunthert track down this mode of thought in the relation
of anatomy and physiology: 'A few years after the French publication of Darwin's
Evolution of the Species (1862), that put forward the idea of analysing the movement
of nature as an evolutive, dynamic and irreversible process, Claude Bernard's Intro­
duction contributed to imposing the idea of a movement that integrates the repre­
sentation of time, where contemporaries recognised the very image of the forward
march of social, scientific or industrial progress' (L'Instant rêvé. Albert Londe, Nîmes/
Laval: Jacqueline Chambon, Tois, 1993, p. 165).
3. See Michel Foucault, L'Archéologie du savoir, Paris: Gallimard, 1969, pp. 249-250. In
other words, the relations between the distinct elements that become a historical
model through the cinematographic dispositive - the machines that Jarry invented
or made his own make up distinct epistemic interpretations of these distinct
elements.
4. Alfred Jarry, Le Surmâle. Œuvre complètes, II, Paris: Gallimard (La Pléiade), 1987; The
Supermale, translated by Ralph Gladstone and Barbara Wright with an introduction
by Barbara Wright, Cambridge: Exact Change, 1999.
5. I have written elsewhere in some detail on these two figures and their relation with
the cinematograph - here I give a brief summary. See in particular 'L'ombre projetée
de la vitesse. Le cinématographe et la course des dix mille milles dans Le Surmâle
d'Alfred Jarry', Etudes de lettres, 'On a touché à l'espace!' (eds. D. Chaperon,
Ph. Moret), (Université de Lausanne), no. 1, summer 2000; 'Machines cinématiques
et dispositifs visuels. Cinéma et « pré-cinéma » à l'oeuvre chez Alfred Jarry ', 1895,
no. 40, July 2003, pp. 5-23.
6. 'La mécanique d'Ixion', La chandelle verte, Œuvres complètes, Vol. II, Paris: Gallimard
(La Pléiade), 1987, p. 405.
7. Moreover, the Lumière cinematograph is both camera and projector.
8. 'La mécanique d'Ixion', op. cit., p. 406.
9. It is explicitly associated with the Supermale and the repetition imposed on him in
the scene leading to the revelation about love, where a curious phonograph-voyeur
plays a part. The man and woman are about to recommence: 'A phonograph loud­
speaker occupied the center of the table from which they had eaten. From its horn,
now strangely blocked by odors and colors, there blared forth a loud singing that
filled the hall. / "Bravo, said Virginie again. / The word was inaudible, but the ges­
ture of her pudgy hands could be seen as they tried, ironically, to applaud, without
relinquishing their grip on her vantage point. / "Why not — " and she shouted at
the top of her voice in an effort to be heard above the organlike roar of the enor­
mous instrument — "a cinematograph?" / The girl's lips were moving, but their
voices could no longer be heard. / Whether or not they heard Virginie, André and
Ellen seemed disposed to answer her request by striking some theatrical attitudes:
the "Indian" had plucked a red rose from the bouquet and offered it, with a ternder-
ness humorously tinged with ceremony, to the masked woman on the divan; then

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112 Maria Tortajada

their mouths joined for a minute, with no more concern for their audience, who
were now unable to trouble them, and let themselves sway to the flowing rhythm
of the music.' (The Supermale, op. cit., pp. 115-6). [Translator's note: I have modified
one part of the published translation of Virginie's monologue, which reads: "'Why
don't you —" [...] "show motion pictures?"'.]
10. Ibid., p. 66. It is alluded to from the beginning of the race, but without identifying it:
"'Something's following us!"' (Ibid., p. 53)
11. Ibid., p. 54.
12. Ibid., pp. 59-60.
13. Ibid., p. 65.
14. Ibid., p. 66.
15. Presented by Jay Leyda, Kino. Histoiredu cinétrn russe et soviétique,Lausanne:L'Age
d'Homme, 1976, pp. 172-174. Itshould, however, be noted thatJarry opposes the
impression of silence by introducing the metallic noise of the machines - the clank­
ing creaking, etc.
16. The Supermale, op. cit., pp. 67-69.
17. In The Selected Works of Alfred Jarry, edited by Roger Shattuck and Simon Watson
Taylor, translated by Roger Shattuck, New York: Grove Press, 1965, pp. 122-4.
18. Op. cit., p. 122.
19. Ibid., p. 122.
20. Ibid., p. 124.
21. For example, the article published in the Revue blanche on 15 May 1901, 'La photo­
graphie des accidents', La Chandelle verte, op. cit., pp. 297-298. Or in Le Canard sau­
vage (23-29 August 1903), the article entitled 'L'auto populaire': 'Not a letter but an
illustrated post card with an instantaneous photograph of the accident" (ibid.,
p. 504). Jarry's infatuation with accidents - reworked by him as a news item - covers
machines other than bicycles, all of which are on wheels.
22. See in particular: 'The swan is distinguished by its whiteness, which is not compar­
able to that of the lily when observed in the conditions that best bring it out, such as
in a valley shaded from the sun sufficiently to be more or less transformed into a
dark-room' ('Le chant du cygne', in La Revue blanche of 1 November 1902, Ibid.,
p. 378).
23. Gisèle Freund describes the fad of portrait photography during the Second Empire
and its spreading and success up to the end of the nineteenth century (Photographie
et société, Paris: Seuil, 1974, pp. 60, 85 in particular). Walter Benjamin goes back over
different historic modes of the practice in order to conceive of its relation with the
aura ('Petite histoire de la photographie' (1931), 2. Poésie et Révolution, Paris: Denoël/
Gonthier (Lettres nouvelles), 1971, pp. 22-25. He also brings it up in 'L'œuvre d'art à
l'époque de sa reproduction mécanisée' (1936), Ecrits français, Paris: Gallimard, 1991,
p. 150 (English translation: 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduc­
tion', translator unknown, published on <http://academic.evergreen.edu/a/arunc/
compmusic/benjamin/benjamin.pdf>). As for Jarry, mention must be made of 'A
propos d'un album', published in 1901 in La Revue blanche of 1 March 1901 (op. cit.,
pp. 280-281), with reference to 'portrait[ing] a writer'.
24. I.e. Hippolyte Baraduc: L'Ame humaine, ses mouvements, ses lumières et l'iconographie
de l'invisiblefluidique, Paris: C. Carré, 1896.

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The Cinematograph versus Photography, o r Cyclists and Time in the W o rk o f A lfred Jarry 113

25. See for example 'Modern reporters see no further than the ends of their noses, which
they sport short. / So they take photographs' ('Faits divers', Le Canard sauvage, 27
September/3 October 1903, op. cit. p. 519). A distinction must be made between 're­
porters', associated with photography, the instantaneous event and also the accident,
and 'observers', whom Jarry calls upon in his chronicles to bear out knowledge that
he claims is accepted and verified, but which in fact allows him to develop a paradox
and comic effect. In the chronicles, the observer becomes, as it were, the partner in the
act of enunciation. For example ' ... thus the most superficial observer could not cast
doubt on the fact that if shooting is organised outside of Paris, the vestiges will be
found alongside the railways' ('La quadrature du disque', La Chandelle verte, op. cit.,
pp. 369-370) or: 'Any observer knows that rails, which are guaranteed to be parallel
over a short distance, join up when nearing the horizon, through some defect or other.
Somewhere beyond the horizon there is most certainly a point where they come to­
gether and form a V ...' ('L’aiguillage du chameau', ibid., p. 377).
26. Michel Frizot defines as follows the instantaneous image: 'The accession to instanta-
neity, which is not an end in itself but a modality of the evolution of photography, is
defined by speed, and more precisely the coupling of two speeds: that of the subject,
that one can imagine greater and greater, and that of the shutter, that element which
determines the brevity with which light enters into the chamber' ('Vitesse de la
photographie. Le mouvement et la durée', Nouvelle histoire de la photographie (ed.
M. Frizot), Paris: Bordas, Adam Biro, 1994, p. 244.
27. 'Kodak' is the name of the camera designed by Eastman. There were other portable
cameras at the time: the 'Detectives'; the 'Express Détective Nadar ' (1888), the 'Vé-
locigraphe' (1891), the Lumière Brothers' 'Automatique'. What was special about
the Kodak was that it worked with a film that was entirely developed in the factory.
The advertising slogan 'You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” underlines this facil­
ity which would ensure its success (Jean-Claude Gautrand, 'Photographie à l'impro-
viste. Impressions instantanées', Nouvelle histoire de la photographie, op. cit., pp. 237­
238).
28. André Gunthert and Denis Bernard write in the following way about the favourable
reaction expressed by Meissonier, a painter of the equestrian genre, in favour of
photography and of what it reveals about the horse's gallop: 'But this beautiful tale
is deceptive. It is an isolated episode in the history of reception of the instantaneous
shot and dissimulates that ever-present violence of its images and the profound
resistance to which they have always given rise.' (L’Instant rêvé. op. cit., p. 172).
29. See the famous pages of Chapter IV of Creative Evolution, translated by Arthur
Mitchell, PhD. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 19 11: 'We take snapshots, as
it were, of the passing reality ..., ( ibid., p. 306).
30. 'The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from the fact that we
imagine perception to be a kind of photographic view of things, taken from a fixed
point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception - a photograph
which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some unknown chemical and
psychical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photo­
graph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at
all the points of space?' Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory, authorized translation by
Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, New York: Zone Books, 1988 (London:
Distributed by MIT Press, 1988; originally published: London: Swan Sonnenschein,

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114 Maria Tortajada

1911), pp. 38-9. The translation is available on the Internet at the following address:
<http://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Bergson/Bergson_ 191 ib/Bergson_i9ii_p3.html>.
31. There are indeed two photographic paradigms, not be confused under any circum­
stances. See 'Photographie/Cinéma: paradigmes complémentaires du début du XXe
siècle', Colloque Fixe/Animé, Université de Lausanne, Section d'histoire et esthé­
tique du cinéma, 2007, forthcoming (see www.unil.ch/cin/page56362.html).
32. Op. cit., p. 134.
33. Translator's note: Roger Shattuck's translation ('from photographs') has been mod­
ified here.
34. See Gisèle Freund, op. cit., p. 101, and Sylvie Aubenas, 'La photographie est une
estampe. Multiplication et stabilité', in Michel Frizot, op. cit., p. 229, and André
Barret, Les premiers reporters photographes 1848-1914, Paris: A. Barret, 1977, p. 6.
35. This was already one of its functions during the Second Empire. See André Rouillé,
L'Empire de la photographie 1839-1870, Paris: Le Sycomore, 1982, p. 164.
36. Translator's note: I have modified the published translation, which reads: '[t]he
three objects usually shown in the ads ...'
37. Op. cit., p. 123. We may also mention the presence of a 'female spectator' - this is
how Veronica is designated - since the sporting and historic event is indeed treated
as a spectacle-representation.
38. See Noël Burch, La lucarne de l'infini. Naissance du langage cinématographique, Paris:
Nathan, 1990.
39. Creating a series of representations through a phenomenon of reproduction may in
some respects be compared to Benjamin's thinking on the aura of the prime object,
whether work of art of natural object - the 'hic et nunc, its unique existence'. We
could thus say with Benjamin that in 'The Crucifixion Considered As An Uphill
Bicycle Race', the reproduction of the event 'substitutes a plurality of copies for a
unique existence' ('The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', op.
cit.). One must however underline that the nature of reproduction as envisaged by
Jarry differs from that studied by Benjamin, who concentrates on mechanised repro­
duction and the accessibility that it gives to the masses in the synchrony of a period
(in particular by means of the idea of 'ubiquity', ibid). Jarry for his part worked on
serializing reproductions in historical time, which he confronts with this paradox.
40. The temptation here is to link the breaking down of time brought about by this way of
treating history to the real 'breaking down of movement' realised by Marey by
means of the chronophotographic method, even though in this method, there is still
a refererence to an unfolding of time that is measurable, and thus vectorized.
41. Creative Evolution, op. cit., p. 343
42. Translator's note: I have modified the published translation, which reads 'seemed to
be grazing'.
43. Or a very slow movement, as can be seen in my article entitled 'Le spectateur méca­
nique', op. cit. dealing with the stroboscopic effect and the reference to early-cinema
apparatuses.
44. Textes critiques divers, Œuvres complètes, Vol. II, op. cit., p. 674.
45. With a neat pun Jarry, in Faustroll, speaks of 'ethernity', an allusion to scientific the­
ories about ether, introducing an ironic touch with relation to the classic values of
the Ideal time in which the notion of eternity is inscribed. See Book VIII, entitled
'L'éthernité', Œuvres complètes, Vol. 1, op. cit., pp. 724-727.

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bel67dc29bl5e7d8223a7c2bSbed0e00
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D y n a m i c P a th s o f T h o u g h t

E x h i b i t i o n D e s ig n , P h o t o g r a p h y a n d C i r c u l a t i o n in t h e
W o r k o f H e rb e rt Bayer

Olivier Lugon

A ll exhibitions - whether they be artistic, commercial or didactic, and how ever


diverse their design - are very sim ilar in one respect: visitors are supposed to be
able to m ove around inside them.1 The ordered set of objects or im ages on dis­
p lay encourages the spectator to engage in physical activity and w alk around.
The blossom ing of the exhibition during the eighteenth and nineteenth centu­
ries w as indeed inseparable from the developm ent of the w alk —a social practice
that w as recognised b y the bourgeoisie. But leaving aside the fact that an exhibi­
tion norm ally takes place inside, it constitutes a special type of walk, given that
it m ay offer both the attraction of the spectacle and the cognitive virtue of the
book.
This physical and kinetic component has not alw ays been given the im por­
tance it deserves. Artistic exhibitions in particular have long ignored the specific
nature of the visit, the particular w ay of linking an intellectual or sensory pro­
cess with the spectators' m ovem ents through the building. D uring the 19th and
20th centuries, the m ajority of exhibitions continued to assign the supposed
force of their impact to a pre-existing and self-sufficient object - the w ork of art
—taking little notice of the effects produced by the actual setting up of the space
and the w ay visitors' movem ents are organised. They have basically stayed
close to the principle of the shop in the w ay they function - a m anufacturer
m akes autonomous objects over a period of months or years, and they are then
brought together and put on sale, sim ply by displaying them as advantageously
as possible.
The mode of production of didactic exhibitions is a very different one. W hat­
ever their theme - singing the praises of hygiene, health food, leisure activities
or m odern housing, or setting out a political discourse - they began to flourish
in the 1920s, particularly in Germany, and enjoyed great prestige am ong artistic
and intellectual circles, which identified them as belonging to the new, modern
m ass media, alongside the cinema, radio and illustrated newspapers. Even if
they are part of the tradition of the nineteenth century's fairs and universal ex­
hibitions, and often include a commercial section, they nonetheless differ on one
important point - exhibitions w ere less concerned w ith presenting products
than ideas. The task of exhibition designers w ent beyond that of sim ply provid-

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1118 O livie r Lugon

ing a setting for pre-existing objects. They generally had to create from scratch
both the material and argumentation to be put forward, and think out a set of
graphic, textual, photographic or mechanical elements that w ere specially made
for the demonstration. These elements w ere thus irrelevant in any other context
and were usually destroyed at the end of the exhibition. A bove all, designers
had to use this specific material to compose argum entative or narrative struc­
tures, logical developm ents or em otional sequences in which each exhibit had to
find its place, like a sentence in a speech or a chapter in a book.
A t the end of the 1920s, this new responsibility attracted m any of the figures
of m odernism - architects such as W alter G ropius and L u d w ig M ies van der
Rohe, graphic designers such as M ax Burchartz, Hans Leistikow and Johannes
Molzahn, but also artists like El Lissitzky, Herbert Bayer and László M oholy-
Nagy, together w ith other Bauhaus m embers such as Xanti Schaw insky or Joost
Schmidt. They them selves admitted that the conception of like exhibitions went
far beyond the sim ple bread-and-butter contract, and could even become a spe­
cial centre of interest, a source of enthusiasm that w as often greater than for
their ow n artistic presentations, which some of them considered to be obsolete.
In 19 4 1, at the end of his life, El Lissitzky, for example, remembered such w ork
as his 'm ost important w ork as artist', while Herbert B ayer designated the dis­
cipline 'as an apex of all media and pow ers of communication'.2

B e yo n d p a in tin g

The fact is that the didactic exhibition crystallized m any of the hopes of m od­
ernism. It allow ed these artists, w ho came from constructivism and w ho w ere
intent on going beyond art for art's sake and fostering a more active commit­
ment of their practice within society, to leave the w orld of pure delectation for
an activity that w as more in phase w ith the real w orld and contemporary issues.
It seemed, moreover, to inaugurate a new and essentially visual mode of com­
munication, which w ould thus be more efficient, intense and democratic than
the written m edium: 'N o longer read! See!' proclaim ed Johannes MoLzahn in
1928.3 The exhibition w as supposed to have that capacity of putting together a
coherent discourse, like the book, while rem aining grounded in the visual. This
is w hat the art historian Franz Roh asserted in 1930, for w hom 'it is not the book
that offers the most fruitful link between a purely sensory visual experience and
a necessary abstraction - it is the exhibition'.4 To this end, it not only made the
im m ediacy of the visual available for this new transmission of knowledge, but
also accumulated the strengths of a whole range of disciplines: architecture,
graphic arts, photography, colour, light and movement, which it w ould unite in

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 119

a new, total art of unequalled power. Finally, and above all, it w ould allow com­
munication to be freed from the traditional support of abstraction - paper and
canvas —to m ove into the real space of the spectator, w here it w ould interpellate
her or him in an almost corporeal fashion. Better than any other medium, the
exhibition could thus bring to fruition the modern idea of pedagogy based on
the union of the body and the mind and, thanks to the physical implication,
w ould help draw spectators out of their supposedly passive and distanced con­
templation and turn them into active and dynam ic participants.

Figure l. El Lissitzky, Promt Space, Berlin, 1923

In fact, everything in the installations of designers such as Lissitzky, Bayer or


M oholy-N agy tended to exalt the mobility and physical commitment of the visi­
tor. Since the beginning of the 1920s, El Lissitzky had taken traditionally flat
and static pictorial w orks and set out to redistribute them within space, shorn
of any hierarchy or perspective axis, and thus multidirectional and dynamic.
This meant that he first had to create almost architectural-like pieces. In 1923,
he thus realised the Proun Space in Berlin (fig. 1) —the w ork o f art covered the
entire exhibition space, not facing the spectators but surrounding them, and
calling on them to m ove both their eyes and their bodies. The geometric shapes
scattered over the w alls w ere not there sim ply to be looked at or to capture one's
look - w hich might seem to be the minim al function of a w ork of art —but on
the contrary to encourage spectators to look even further, to guide them con-

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120 O livie r Lugon

stantly tow ards another point in a kind of optical merry-go-round. Similarly, in


his 'dem onstration spaces' in Dresden and Hanover in 1926 and 1927, the sur­
face of the w alls w as treated w ith vertical, three-coloured strips, so that '[w]ith
every m ovem ent of the spectator in the room the im pression of the w alls
changes —w hat w as white becomes black and vice versa. Thus an optical d y ­
namic is generated as a consequence of the hum an stride. This makes the spec­
tator active'.5 For Lissitzky, such techniques had undeniable political connota­
tions - transforming contemplation into a physical process and spectators into
'active' participants im plies aw aking them as responsible individuals and
stim ulating a movem ent within them that spreads beyond the space of art, and
that reflects and accom panies the m ovem ent of history.

Figure 2. László Moholy-Nagy, Malerei Fotografie Film, 2nd edition, 1927

In the second half of the 1920s, another field — photography - also began to
transcend static painting, and display artistic activity in space and movement.
A ll the artists mentioned above used photography at that time. For them, the
camera w as less a means of expression or reproduction than a tool of vision, the
agent of a new perception of space, which, freed from the straight)acket of Re­
naissance-style perspective, w ould be multidirectional and infinitely mobile.6
This w as, above all, revealed in the countless tilted view s, high and low-angle
shots that w ere now possible thanks to small-format cameras (fig. 2). These

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 121

im ages w ere alw ays the result and the narration of a movement: w hatever the
motif w as, each one testified to the fact of having been created - as in dance - by
the real inscription of the subjects in space, by the mobility of their body, head
and eyes.7
From this period onwards, contracts for didactic exhibitions w ould give these
artists the possibility of bringing together architecture and photography, those
two previously separated w ay s of mobilizing space, thus allow ing them to inte­
grate graphic art and spatial art w ithin one single dom ain of activity. This idea
w as a constant source of fascination for them, and for Bayer in particular: 'In the
case of exhibition design the former borderlines between the graphic arts
(roughly typographic and advertising design), a discipline operating in two di­
mensions, and architecture - space design in three dimensions - have been ex­
ploded to form a new kind, in which so m any m edium s are combined.'8
Photography, nonetheless, belonged to print-room art, and to become inte­
grated into architecture and the techniques of spatial and dynam ic exhibition, it
w ould first have to undergo some metamorphoses in its forms of presentation.
The question that concerned these artists w as how to release the photographic
medium from the traditional, frontal and static m ode of contemplation of the
graphic arts to adapt it to the real conditions of the eye in space - mobile and
m oving from one object to the next. The didactic exhibitions, in this respect,
w ould provide an infinitely freer field of experimentation than w as provided
b y photographic exhibitions in the strict sense of the term, even by the most
innovative of them such as Film und Foto in Stuttgart or Fotografie der Gegenwart
(Photography o f the Present) in Essen, in 1929, precisely because they do not
directly depend on the dom ain of art and do not have to respect its codes.
When the sam e artists exhibited their ow n photographic w orks, the majority of
them continued to present them in a sm all format, w ith fram es and a light-co­
loured cardboard background, each photo clearly separated from the others
and hung m ore or less at eye-level - in fact, all the conventions that didactic
exhibitions w ould seek to become free of.

La rg e fo r m a t

The first condition of the m ove to the spatial and dynam ic exhibition of photo­
graphy is, of course, to conquer large dimensions. This took place quite late.
Until 1928, photography only appeared rarely in didactic exhibitions when
com pared w ith posters, graphics, texts or models, and it remained small-scale.
The Soviet hall designed by El Lissitzky for the Pressa Exhibition in Cologne, a
large exhibition on the press in 1928, marked a turning point. The entire propa-

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122 O livie r Lugon

ganda pavilion created a sensation and had a major influence on Germ an exhi­
bition design, particularly that of Bayer.9 A m ong the m any innovations it intro­
duced, spectators w ere particularly struck by his enormous Photo-Fries, a photo­
montage m easuring 4 metres high by 23.5 metres long, running the whole
length o f the end w all (fig. 3). When photography takes on such dimensions, its
essential nature is m odified. It becomes an architectural element in its ow n
right; it is transformed into a veritable m ass image, in that a large crow d of
people can look at it at the sam e time, like in the cinema; finally, and above all,
it doubly encourages the mobility of perception. N ot only can it be seen while
w alking around the exhibition, but its size intensified the spectators' eye-m ove-
ments within its area, causing the eye to flit from one section to the next, as it
cannot remain still - an im pression that is strengthened even more by the prin­
ciple o f the m ontage and its constant breaks.10
This last aspect gave rise to num erous criticisms, highlighting the confusion
of the whole pavilion. Bayer, for example, w ould say that he regretted the 'chao­
tic' aspect of the exhibition, despite his enthusiasm .11 In the follow ing years, as

Figure 3. El Lissitzki/ and Sergei Senkin, " Photo-Fries ", Pressa, Cologne, 1928

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 123

the size of these photographic w alls increased thanks to progress in reproduc­


tion techniques, efforts w ere m ade to sim plify in like proportion the images that
constituted them. One exam ple a year later could be seen at the Pavilion der
Deutschen Elektrizitàts-Lieferungsindustrie (Pavilion of the Germ an Electricity
Supply Industry) at the Barcelona U niversal Exhibition of 1929, w here the archi­
tect w as L u d w ig M ies van der Rohe and the photomontage w as created by
Eduard Blum (fig. 4). The installation w as pared dow n to a vast em pty cube in
which the photomontage took over the four 8-metre-high w alls in the room.
Consequently, to avoid the visual disorder that such a photographic cube might
produce, they tried to reduce the fragm entary aspect of the montage, to negate
the interruptions b y creating blends between its various parts. It thus resembled
a giant single image, im posing in its monumentality.

Figure 4. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eduard Blum, Pavilion o f German
Electricity Supplying, Barcelona Universal Exhibition, 1929

This trend reached its apogee in the propaganda exhibitions of the national-
socialists. The Third Reich appropriated m any of the techniques developed by
modernism - w hich it claimed to have abolished — while monumentalising
them in its search for a Germ an propaganda that w as 'peaceful', 'm agnificent',
fashioned out of 'im m ediacy' and 'cleanliness' —as opposed to the supposed
Russian 'chaos'.12 This race toward monumentality built up w ith Die Katnera in

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124 O livie r Lugon

1933, Deutsches Volk —Deutsche Arbeit in 1934 and Deutschland in 1936, and final­
ly culminated w ith the 19 37 Berlin exhibition entitled Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit
(Give M e Four Years). Record formats w ere achieved, such as the nine eight-
metre high photographic books that w ere autom atically leafed through in the
entrance, or the giant panel of Hall II, and, in particular, a 20-metre-high por­
trait of Hitler (fig. 5). This w as a far cry from the dynam ism sought by Lissitzky.
M onum entality actually ended up b y producing exactly the opposite effect
from the one that Lissitzky aim ed to achieve when he adopted the large format.
These giant images w ere meant to im press visitors, w hich means that they en­
couraged people to stop and stare from a respectful distance.

Figure 5. Egon Eiermann, Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit, Berlin, 1937

Large format is thus not in itself sufficient to stimulate the mobility of percep­
tion. In fact, in his Die Pressa frieze, Lissitzky had provided an additional device
to prevent spectators from rem aining immobile in front of it. The whole length
of the im age w as m arked off by canvas triangles that prevented the entire piece
from being seen from one fixed point, thus forcing visitors to w alk if they
wanted to see the entire piece, hi subsequent years, other techniques w ere de­
veloped to break dow n the frontal perspective and prevent the fixed view in g of
images. This w as the case for Herbert Bayer's three-dimensional hanging tech-

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 125

nique, w here photos leave the w all and spread out into space. He first used this
technique in the Germ an section of the Paris Exhibition of Artist Decorators in
1.930 - the prints w ere hung in front of a w all, from floor to ceiling, w ith each
one set at a different angle in order to accommodate the view ers' angle of vision,
alw ays appearing perpendicular to their gaze (fig. 6). This is w hat Bayer called
the principle of 'extended vision', in that the field of vision is broadened beyond
the horizontal axis alone in which the exhibition is traditionally confined, with
visitors invited to m ove their heads from the floor to the ceiling or, in a later
developm ent of this system, in all possible directions (fig. 7).

Figure 6. Herbert Bayer, German section, Exposition des artistes décorateurs,


Paris, 1930

A n d yet, despite its creator's intentions, mobility w as very relative here or to be


more precise, paradoxical. In order for the system to function perfectly, i.e., for
the eyes to fall perpendicularly on each one of the images, the spectator m ay
only stand at a certain distance from the arc of the circle. In other w ords, the
fact that the im ages w ere hung very freely in the exhibition space did not neces­
sarily mean that visitors could actually m ove freely because they had to stand in
a precise place to m ake the most of a particular photo. This contradiction be­
tween the freedom of the eye and the constraint of the path w ould prove to be a
central trait of Bayer's work.

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126 O livie r Lugon

Figure 7. Herbert Bayer, diagram o f "extended vision", en. 1935

He did, however, develop other techniques, which in real terms transcended the
fixed perception of images and provoked a kind of permanent instability in the
perception of photography, such as the presentation of prints on vertical strips
(fig. 8). This technique w as used in the Building Unions' H all at the Deutsche
Bauausstellung in Berlin in 19 3 1 that he created together with Walter Gropius
and Laszlo M oholy-Nagy. Three different photographs were mounted together
in such a w ay as to successively appear and disappear as the visitors m oved
past. This w as done by affixing the first photo to a panel, and by installing a
series of vertical strips perpendicular to the panel. The two other photographs
w ere mounted on either side of the strips. Visitors w ere thus obliged to perm a­
nently 'construct' the im ages themselves, by m oving in order to find an ade­
quate point from which to view, to m ake the im age appear and then disappear

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 127

in front o f their eyes thanks to the movements they made. Vision really became
an action, and visiting an exhibition a 'perform ance', to use the expression
coined in 1929 by Fritz Coerper, a theoretician of the discipline.13 In this m an­
ner, Bayer extended the w ork of photo production - adjusting and fram ing - to
the reception of the photos themselves - the w ay of constructing the im age by
m oving both eye and bod y within the space, of looking and, as it were, com pos­
ing w ith the legs, in the m anner of the figure he often used in his explanatory
draw ings. M obility - extolled to such extent in the modernist tilted view s - w as
no longer just illustrated in im ages which, w hen all is said and done, remained
static for the spectator, but w as practised in the very perception of them.

Figure 8. Herbert Bayer, Building Unions' Hall, Deutsche Bauausstellung,


Berlin, 1931

This type of fram ing w ork w as to be seen in another display device set up for
the sam e Unions' hall (fig. 9). This time the picture w as placed inside the wall, in
a cut-out section, w ith the result that, as with the view finder in photography,
the limits of the im age change slightly with the point of the observer's eye, w ho
is again m ade aw are o f mobility. The analogy w ith photography here is all the
more manifest as the circular cut-out w as often used as a symbol of the m ed­
ium, representing the shape of the lens, as seen on the fam ous cover of Werner
G raff's Es kommt der neue Fotograf! (Here Com es the N ew Photographer!, 1929),
one of the major manifestos of the N ew Vision.

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128 O livie r Lugon

Figure 9. Herbert Bayer and Ldszlo Moholy-Nagy, Building Unions' Hall,


Deutsche Bauausstellung, Berlin, 1931

T h e c in e m a to g ra p h ic m o d e l

Dispositives of this sort thus played with the temporal and dynam ic dimension
of vision in such a w a y that the im ages appear before the eyes over a span of
time. This allow ed exhibition art not only to parallel photo shoots but also cine­
matographic vision —the resemblance being emphasised by m any commenta­
tors at the time.14 Cinem a at that time w as not only the prime exam ple of a new
art form for the m asses that w as supposed to be more pow erful and democratic,
but also the very incarnation of modern perception characterised by mobility
and dynam ism . The exhibition ought thus to take it as a model and incorporate
a veritable kinetic dimension. This is w hat Siegfried Kracauer hinted at in 1932,
in his criticism of a photo display that for him w as too conventional:

They [the photos] are glued on modest white cards ... The fact that they seem a little
stiff, as if brought to a halt, can doubtless be explained by the fact that our way of

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 129

seeing has been changed by cinema. Films have accustomed us no longer to look at
objects from a fixed viewpoint, but to turn around them and freely choose our per­
spectives. What cinema is capable of - fixing things in movement - remains denied to
photography. This is why photography, when it still claims autonomy, is on the way
to becoming a historical form. It is gradually leaving the present and already is taking
on an old-fashioned air. In this it resembles the railway, which is to the aeroplane
what photography is to film. Railways and photography - both are contemporary
and related in that their development is complete, and both have long served as the
basis for new developments. Today we have freed ourselves from the rails in the
same way that we have freed ourselves from the immobility that previously was in-
dispensible for the camera.15

To stay modern, the presentation o f photography should in its turn 'free [itself]
from the rails' and base itself on cinematographic perception. This point of view
w as also put forw ard by Fritz Coerper in 1929, w ho stated: 'the dynam ic form
of the exhibition is a field of forces and political energy - switched to m aximum
p o w er' - it should thus seek 'not rest, but m ovement', i.e., 'not the image and
images, but film with accelerated and slow m otion'.16

Figure 10. Xanti Schawinsky, Die Schule, Magdeburg , 1930

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no O livie r Lugon

Figure 11. Herbert Bayer and Ldszlo Moholy-Nagy, Building Unions' Hall,
Deutsche Bauausstellung, Berlin, 1931

The strength of this cinematographic model can be felt at several levels. First, it
gives rise to pure, form al imitations, like the series of im ages mounted in suc­
cession, as if unfolding before the spectators' eyes. To strengthen this sugges­
tion, these series often set out to mime explicitly a roll of film, imitating its char­
acteristic perforations in decorative fashion. Xanti Schawinsky, a close friend of
Bayer's, m ade this one of his specialities (fig. 10). Some dispositives set out to
actually animate these sequences, to have them pass in front o f the visitor's eyes
according to the principle of m oving panoramas. For exam ple, in 19 3 1, Ella
Briggs, an exhibition designer in Berlin, proposed a system w hereby a row of
im ages w as set up in a dark, circular space and slow ly lit up by a projector
m oving across it, lighting up the im ages one b y one. The point once again w as
to give a dynam ic dimension to photomontage so that spectators had the im ­
pression that the im ages w ere taking shape in front of their eyes, thus boosting
their feeling of participation.17 A sim ilar result, strengthened even more by the
visitors' physical involvement, w as achieved by w inding system s using a han­
dle, such as in the Building U nions' hall in the 19 3 1 Bauausstellung (fig. 11).

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 131

This very m uch resembles film, and, in fact, most large exhibitions sought to
associate the two arts by including an actual projection room. It w as, nonethe­
less, a problematical association as it w as based on a fundam ental hiatus. Cin­
ematic im ages are mobile, but seeing them im poses a static activity. That is the
opposite o f the exhibition's aim - static im ages that stimulate mobile perception
- circulation. There were, of course, some individual attempts to adapt cinema
to a m oving audience. On the one hand, the projection space could be reduced
to a small piece of furniture, the 'cinem a cabinet' (Kinoschrank), which could be
installed in the actual exhibition rooms without having to block out the light.
This is w hat El Lissitzky chose to do in the Soviet Hall of Film und Foto in Stutt­
gart in 1929. A projection can then be divided up into several short, constantly
projected sequences, thus no longer interrupting the visit for extended periods.
Others, on the contrary, sought to convert the cinema hall itself into a place of
permanent circulation. It w as kept as open as possible, only partially darkened,
w ith people able to come in and out during projections and even watch stand­
ing up, thanks to the very w ide row s of seats and the high position of the
screen. M oholy-N agy did this at the Paris Exhibition of Artist Decorators in
1930, and the architect Egon Eiermann w ent to extremes in the cinema built for
2,000 mobile people at the 19 37 Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit exhibition.
Such endeavours were, however, few and far between, and before the 1960s,
the cinema hall w as something of a foreign body in these large events based on
the circulation of people. The cinematographic model thus left a profound mark
on these exhibitions in a more indirect manner. W hat designers envied most
about film w as the possibility of controlling a sequence of images, of im posing
on the visitor a planned progression of pictures, impressions and information.
Hence the follow ing challenge: how to extend this principle of unfolding to a
three-dimensional space, how to organise im ages and ideas as a flow and the
argument and persuasion as a walk?

‘ T ra ffic c o n t r o l’

When designers thought of the m odern exhibition as a dynam ic path, they revi­
talised the old metaphor of the path designating both the process of learning
and the linear advancing of thought. Some presentations purposely echoed this
idea. By explicitly announcing a 'path' or a 'route' in their titles, they identified a
very real itinerary and the process o f individual transformation or collective
progression that w as orchestrated along the circuit, in the tradition of the w ay
of the cross and the sacri tnonti. It could, for example, be 'The Path to the N ew

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132 O livie r Lugon

Life' (Der Weg zum neuen Leben) of Berlin's new real estate owners (1932) or the
'Road to Victory' of Am erica at w ar (N ew York, 1942).
The architecture critic, A d o lf Behne, underlined this definition of the trans­
mission o f ideas as the design of movem ent as early as 1928, w hen he comment­
ed on a Berlin housing presentation b y M oh oly-N agy under the direction of
Walter Gropius, entitled Bauen und Wohnen (Building and Living), in w hich he
celebrated:

a new type of exhibition. Here it is not just any material piled up anyhow in a suffi­
ciently large hall and anywhere in front of which the visitor is placed ... here, rather,
the exhibition signifies the organised path of the attentive visitor. And this path
alongside particular objects, following a determined and clear direction and order, is
identical to the path of the exhibitor's thoughts. The principles of the modern book
layout are here applied for the first time to an exhibition ... [t]he visitor has the feeling
of being engaged in a leisurely stroll while remaining aware that there is an aim. As
he moves forward, he sees things from various sides - in a word, he follows the dy­
namic path of thought in its logical twists and turns.18

Tw o years later, at the Paris Exhibition of Artist Decorators, Gropius, M oholy-


N agy and Bayer further developed this principle of the 'dynam ic path of
thought'. Bayer later even claimed that this presentation w as 'one of the first
attempts know n to me to organise an exhibition according to an organic flow
and sequence of exhibits', 'one of the first with planned circulation'.19 The press
expressed astonishment at the unusual rigidity of the route. It w as characterised
as a form of 'dogm atism ' and 'passionate didacticism' tinged w ith doctrinairism
- the moment the forced itinerary is a 'circulation, not only for the feet but for the
m ind', as one Paris critic put it.20 In order to direct the spectators' steps in a
rigorous m anner and above all m ake people understand the importance of a
logical and linear reading of the exhibition, designers did not sim ply organise
rooms in the clearest w ay possible. The catalogue, w ith a layout by Bayer, indi­
cated the visitor's path using a thin, continuous, w inding line m arked w ith ar­
rows, indicating one and only one route through the rooms - a graphical practice
that w ould soon become very common. The route in the exhibition itself w as
designated in a clear-cut fashion b y 'com m anding arrow s' that w ere both ani­
mated and lit up - lighting up w hen they m oved forward, going out w hen they
m oved backw ards — and w ith sound, producing 'cracking' and 'buzzing'
so u n d s/1 curiously blending together didacticism w ith borrow ings from urban
commercial publicity.
M ore than any other designer, Bayer ensured that control over circulation
w as at the centre of his practice. While Lissitzky conceived of his exhibitions as
the sum of its independent displays, w ith no particular view in g order, Bayer
w as fascinated by the idea that one can develop a line of thought b y setting up

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 133

an itinerary - i.e., guiding people's steps to guide their minds. He believed that
exhibition design w as not so much an integral part of decoration or interior
architecture, as w as thought in the 19th century; nor w as it even part of the
multiple techniques of publicity presentation and graphic visualisation that had
become increasingly important since the 1920s; it w as above all a science of traf­
fic. In this context he speaks deliberately o f 'traffic control',22 a notion borrowed
from traffic engineering, a discipline that w as also developing during the first
half of the 20th century in response to increases in automotive traffic, the spread
of w hich at that time undoubtedly also had an influence on the control of pedes­
trian flow —from exhibition design to the first supermarkets. Bayer liked to refer
to this by playing not only with countless arrow s, but also w ith floor markings,
as in his first exhibition in Am erica, the Bauhaus 19 19 -19 28 retrospective at the
M oM A in N ew York in 1938, the year that he emigrated to the US.

T h e c i n e m a in r e v e r s e

B ayer's w ork on circulation w as to come to a head in 1942 w ith his second large
installation at the M oM A, the Road to Victory exhibition.23 This propaganda ex­
hibition, directed b y the photographer Edw ard Steichen, w as aim ed at influenc­
ing public opinion in defence of the US's entering the w ar a year earlier, after the
attack on Pearl Harbour. Steichen's first idea w as to m ake a large photographic
portrait of Am erica and its army. The m ain w orking title used for the exhibition
w as Panorama o f Defence. M ore precisely, the exhibition w ould have been dom i­
nated by a modern form of the panorama, the giant photomural, a technique
that, in the 1930s, w as even more popular in Am erica than in Germany. It w as a
technique that had w on Steichen much renown during that period. The exhibi­
tion w ould have consisted o f a monumental composite im age in front of which
spectators w ould stand and stare, as they w ould be able to see the entire piece
from a single viewpoint. Bayer w as recruited late on to give shape to the whole
and transform the project. He believed that the panoram ic view from a single
central point, both all encom passing and omniscient, no longer corresponded to
the m ode of thinking of the 20th century The times for him w ere characterised
b y relativity, mobility, and the permanent questioning of acquired certainties
that are constantly and deliberately being confronted by new approaches and
changing perspectives. Bayer believed that this philosophy also required multi­
ple viewpoints, a dynam ic and open set of elements:

The consciousness of the relativity and the dynamic interrelation of phenomena


teaches us that we cannot approach the known as well as the unknown from a fixed
point of view. It teaches us that we must look at things from many standpoints ... The

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134 O livie r Lugon

idea of panoramic point of view has disappeared, because we dissect and put to­
gether again. Thus we have conceived a new view which is super-dimensional: the
montage.24

Figure 12. Herbert Bayer, model fo r Road to Victory, New York, 294 2

The w hole of the Road to Victon/ project - and its importance - w ould thus de­
pend on the meeting of tw o 20th-century m yths - the obsession with circulation
and the montage model, two themes that Bayer attempted to link together,
m aking every effort to turn the dynam ic path into a form of montage. In order
to achieve this, he imposed the idea of a spatiotemporal experience based on the
permanent displacement of the point o f view. In other w ords, he deconstructed
the photomontage —the rigid assem bly of im ages on the w all - in order to un­
furl it in space and invite spectators to 'w alk within the com position',25 in accor­
dance with an itinerary developed in advance, along which visitors w ere strictly
guided b y m eans of a w ind ing ram p protected by barriers (fig. 12). The exhibi­
tion thus became a 'procession of photographs', reflected in the subtitle that w as
ultimately chosen: A Procession o f Photographs o f the Nation at War, w ith all the
religious connotations of a ceremony of collective regeneration. A s this unfurl­
ing of im ages occurred both in time and depth, Bayer him self described it as a
sort of extension o f cinema to the surrounding space, or more precisely, as a

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 135

form of film in reverse: 'To tell the story dramatically, I wanted to reverse the
procedure of looking at the film where the public is static and the film moves.
Therefore, in this case, I had the public m ove through the exhibition.'26 Steichen
lost no time in adopting the idea and sum m arised it even better: 'The show is a
m oving picture . . . w here you do the m oving and the pictures stand still'.27
With this reversal, Bayer gave the spectator the role of the filmstrip in cinema.
The w ay he graphically represented the route through his exhibitions, w ith the
fluid and m eandering lines flow ing uninterrupted within the complex and an­
gular twists and turns of the architecture, in a certain w ay recalls the tortuous
journey of the cinematographic film through the projector. This reasoning al­
low s the spectators' body m ovements to produce the m ontage live; w hereas a
film director or photomontage specialist combines the im ages by means of p h y­
sically gluing them together, Bayer controlled the spectators them selves in order
to produce these associations and links. The spectators' m ovem ents became the
very raw material of his art, his instrument and weapon, on a par w ith the
im ages themselves.
Road to Victory thus achieves a genuine dram aturgy of movement, where the
physiological experience of w alking and each change of level and direction be­
come a series of dramatic and em otional vectors. This is borne out by the fact
that the psychological highpoint of the story and turning-point in the narration,
the attack on Pearl Harbour, corresponds to one of the major moments of dis­
ruption in the visitors' spatial movements. It w as the precise moment w hen the
ram p that they w ere climbing 'm ore and more steeply, tho' you are hardly
aw are of it consciously' - while being informed about the isolationist movement
of the previous years - arrived at the sum m it and sim ultaneously did a 180-
degree turn. The two corner-piece panels in the centre of the model could not
be seen in advance and brought about a shock that imitated the historical event.
'A fter that you are led dow nhill in the ever-increasing momentum of Am erica's
w ar effort';28 the more convinced one becomes about the inevitability o f victory,
the easier the pace becomes.
By exploiting movem ent as a rhetorical and dram aturgical tool, Bayer forged
a closer link between the communication of ideas and the visitors' physical ex­
perience than in any of his previous exhibitions. In some w ays, it could be said
that he took the 1920s' vision of communication based on the union of mind
and body to its apotheosis. However, his purpose at this time w as a very differ­
ent one. W hereas fifteen years previously, the appeal to the spectators' physical
and dynam ic experience w as supposed to free them from their supposed pas­
sivity, this w as no longer the case. H ow ever vigorously visitors w ere able to
m ove about in the three dimensions, crossing the exhibition space in all direc­
tions, their eyes darting left and right through the photographs, they were
neither m ore active nor more free. Since the photos were explicitly hung using

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m O livie r Lugon

a flexible approach throughout the exhibition space, in accordance w ith the pre­
cepts of 'extended vision' and a certain image of modern flexibility, it w as pre­
cisely in the dynam ic path that led one through the exhibition space that the
necessary rigidity of a propaganda discourse w as presented, w ith the constrain­
ing linearity of an argum entative and emotional sequence that w as determined
in advance, givin g visitors no room to m anoeuvre. Far from being the instru­
ment of their liberation, the hold of propaganda and the handling o f the v isi­
tors' psychology were now concentrated in their very mobility.
This points to a second, more general contradiction lurking in the very dream
of a new visual language, w hich w ould be both liberating and more efficient.
Clearly, if Bayer sought so ardently to solicit the physical participation of the
spectators, it were to make communication more efficient to ensure greater p sy­
chological control over them. In 1939, he pointed out that an exhibition should
'penetrate and leave an im pression on [them], should explain, demonstrate, and
even persuade and lead [them] to a planned and direct reaction'29. Ten years
later in 1947, the art historian Alexander Dorner wrote his book on Bayer en­
titled The Wfly Beyond 'A rt' and even spoke of the exhibition as 'an aggressive
energy seeking to transform the visitor'.30 In a w ord: taking such pains to set
spectators free means, paradoxically enough, being able to control them better.

M o v in g w a lk w a y s a n d m o t o r w a y s

Bayer's obstinate desire to control movem ents for a time led him to envisage
purely and sim ply autom ating them by mechanical means. He thus planned to
use the m oving w alkw ay thanks to which the visitor should 'perforce submit to
direction', as he explained in 1939.31 The system w ould not only have the ad­
vantage of ensuring the direction o f the visit more efficiently than barriers and
ramps, but w ould also do w hat no exhibition had previously done: dictate the
tempo and rhythm of the visit, sim ilar to the films that Bayer w as so envious of.
B y the end of the 1920s, some theorists had already developed the analogy
w ith cinema sufficiently far as to dream of mastering the tempo of the visit.
Considering the exhibition as a dynam ic experience meant defining it as an art
form that w as as time-oriented as it w as visually based, like cinema - and also
m usic or dance —i.e., based on control over cadence and rhythm. This, as w as
noted above, w as Fritz Coerper's view. He envisaged the 'dynam ic form of the
exhibition' as a 'film w ith its accelerated and slow motion', but also as 'rhyth­
m ics'.32 W ilhelm Lotz also conceived of 'the exhibition as a space-time experi­
ence', w hich meant not only structuring space and fixing an itinerary but,
through them, regulating the time and rhythm of the exhibition, in other w ords,

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 137

'organising it like the progression of a film ' and reaching 'the inevitable charac­
ter of the temporal experience of space'.33
Although Bayer did not succeed in im posing tempo on visitors b y electrome­
chanical means, the year in which he published his article saw the idea take
concrete shape in one of the most popular didactic presentations of the century
- N orm an Bel G eddes's Futurama exhibit in the General Motors Pavilion o f the
N ew Y ork W orld's Fair in 1939/1940.34 Like m any other presentations at the fair,
the theme of the Futurama w as traffic control, automobile traffic in this case. It
presented a vision of a future Am erica - that of i960 - w here traffic congestion
problem s w ould by solved by a com pletely new system of radio-controlled mo­
torw ays, allow ing for fluid traffic patterns. Fluidity w as considered a key con­
dition of prosperity and, hence, as a rem edy for the nation's principal economic,
urban and social problems.
In order to present his fairytale-like vision of circulation, Bel Geddes con­
ceived a series of giant m odels above which spectators are conducted, sitting in
a kind of endless train, a procession of 500 aligned seats along a long, w inding
track, w hich transported more than 2,000 people per hour in two-seaters pro­
vid ed w ith separate recorded comments (fig. 13). For these spectators, the route
through the exhibition took on something of the quality of the traffic presented
in the m odels — perfectly fluid traffic in which individuals were, so to speak,
taken along b y an invisible current determining their direction and speed w ith­
out leaving them the slightest room for m anoeuvre nor the slightest w orry
about dealing w ith the itinerary - Lew is M um ford m ade ironical remarks about
the fact that General M otors w as above all advertising for the railw ay.35 M e­
chanical spectators could enjoy the trip as pure spectacle, and for them, the pro­
menade through the exhibition takes on the characteristics of an outing to the
cinema. Com fortably sitting in their seats in near darkness, their eyes fixed on
the source of light, their attention taken b y a 'soundtrack' that has been synchro­
nised w ith the images, they allow them selves to be taken on a purely fictional
journey, carried along —a properly cinem atographic faculty - through changes
of scales and angles of vision that have no link w ith their actual size or position.
A b ove all, the itinerary they w ere invited to follow w as timed like a film, un­
veiling the General Motors m essage in a sequence program m ed dow n to the
smallest details. Such precision w as naturally no longer able to support random
strolling from the moment when —like the ghost train —the visitors' m ovements
and the unfurling of the spectacle became linked together, the first causing the
second to m ove forward. The success of the Futurama exhibit w as predicated on
the p assivity of the visitor —a kind of reversal of the first principles of the m od­
ern exhibition - m oving without physical effort, without the body participating,
w ithout individual mobility.

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O livie r Lugon

Figure 13. Norman Bel Geddes, Futurama, New York, 1939

P o s te r ity and p o s t- w a r d e b a te s

A fter the war, this kind of research on perfectly controlled spectator movement
tended to decline in the area of didactic exhibition design. Specialised publica­
tions on the subject from the 1950s and 1960s noted that people tended to be
increasingly suspicious of im posed itineraries, the 'forced intestinal circulation'
based on an authoritarian channelling o f spectators, in w hich the individual felt
'disciplined' and 'com pulsorily instructed'.36 Instead of basing modern com m u­
nication on the constraints of pedestrian freedom, m any designers tried to find
non-linear form s of didactic presentations that w ould give visitors a greater
sense of liberty.

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 139

Figure 14. Charles and Ray Fames, "history wall", A Com puter Perspective,
New York, 1971

Charles and R ay Eam es provide exam ples of this effort. From the 1950s to the
1970s, they developed a definition of m ontage in exhibition spaces that w as
very different from Bayer's. While he considered it an art of succession, the
regulated sequencing of im ages and idea, Charles and R ay Eam es saw it more
as a kaleidoscopic form based on the principle of 'inform ation overload'. In
their didactic presentations and multi-screen projections, they set out to provide
visitors w ith a deliberately uncontrollable profusion of elements, im ages or text,
into which spectators were necessarily led to dip, as the spirit —or the random
roam ing of their eyes or feet —m oved them (fig. 14). Rather than a linear con­
struction that had been fixed in advance by its designer, montage largely de­
pended on the spectators themselves. The combination of information w as

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140 O livie r Lugon

open and random, and perception deliberately fragmented and roaming. The
cinematographic model had clearly been left behind in preference for w hat
w ould become television zapping or Internet surfing (Charles and R ay Eames
w orked regularly for IBM). Spectators' pow ers of concentration w ere tested by
the m ultiplicity of options, new distractions and variations, w hich at the end
partly underm ined the relevance and m eaning of their choices.
This oscillation between freedom and constraint remained the subject of de­
bates between specialists of the exhibition for a long time to come. Typical ques­
tions were: w hat proportion of indetermination is compatible w ith the intellig­
ibility of a presentation? H ow can one develop a coherent m essage while
allow ing visitors to create their ow n sequences? Does not constructing a dis­
course necessarily mean defining a regulated and fixed organisation o f ele­
ments, as for the film or the book? In contrast, does absolute freedom of m ove­
ment and vision really guarantee the spectators' emancipation? What is the
point of one being able to m ove around as one wishes, w ithin a system that,
despite everything, remains codified and circumscribed by someone else? Does
this not lead to ever more visitor passivity, more inertia w ithin the predeter­
mined system ?
Put another way, it w ould be w rong to w ish to establish a m andatory correla­
tion between dispositives controlling movement, which by nature are m anipu­
lative and dictatorial, and free itineraries, which are necessarily emancipating
and democratic. It is paradoxical that it w as the democracies that w ere to make
imposed movem ent a privileged m ode of their representations, w hereas from
the end of the 1930s, totalitarian regim es w ould most often come back to much
more conventional form ulas of the expression of pow er - monumental m a­
chines, pom pous, axial stagings which, through their very rigidity, preclude the
control of complex movements. Such w as the paradoxical rule of movement
within the exhibition perceived by Bayer (fig. 15 ).37 A sym bolically authoritar­
ian, axial and symmetric organisation of space, such as w as favoured by dicta­
torships, actually led to uncontrolled itineraries, w ith visitors w andering from
display to display w ith neither their order nor the direction taken decided in
advance; a more flexible, multidirectional and contrasted dividing-up of exhibi­
tion space, such as found favour in democracies, constituted the best means of
controlling visitors' paths. For example, at the Paris U niversal Exhibition of
1937, a contem porary commentator noted that of all the pavilions, it w as finally
the intimidating pavilion of Hitler's Germ any which - with the Soviet pavilion -
w as the one where movem ent w as the least controlled. Once the monumental
entrance had been passed through, visitors w ere left to their ow n devices.38
Such a dictatorship sim ply has no use for an itinerary of persuasion — rather
than convince, it sets out to subjugate, and to attain this end prefers to sw ap the
rationale governing the cinematographic m ontage for the setting of the theatre.

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 141

Figure 15 . Herbert Bayer, [19 36 ]

disorder in floor plan in relation to


direction

organized direction

N o te s

1. This article combines two published texts: 'La photographie mise en espace. Les
expositions didactiques allemandes (1925-1945)' (études photographiques, no. 5, No­
vember 1998) and 'Des cheminements de pensée. La gestion de la circulation dans
les expositions didactiques' (Art Press, special issue 'Oublier l'exposition', October
2000).
2. El Lissitzky, 'Autobiography', 1941, in El Lissitzky 1890-1941: Architect, Painter,
Photographer, Typographer, cat. expo., Eindhoven: Municipal Van Abbemuseum,
1990, p. 8; Herbert Bayer, 'Aspects of Design of Exhibitions and Museums', Curator,
vol. 4, no. 3, 1961, pp. 257-258.
3. Johannes Molzahn, 'Nicht mehr lesen ! Sehen !', Das Kunstblatt, vol. 12, March 1928,
p. 78.
4. Franz Roh, 'Ausstellungen von heute', Das neue Frankfurt, vol. 4, no. 6, June 1930,
P*145-
5. El Lissitzky, 'Exhibitions rooms', [date unknown], in El Lissitzky: Life, Letters, Texts,
ed. Sophie Lissitzky-Kiippers, Thames & Hudson, 1980 (1968), p. 366.

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1142 O livie r Lugon

6. 'Through photography (and even more through film) we have acquired new experi­
ences of space, and with their help and that of the new schools of architecture we
have achieved the widening and sublimation of our appreciation of space. Through
its comprehension of the new culture of space - thanks to photographers - human­
ity has acquired the power to perceive its surroundings and true existence with a
new eye', Telehor, no. 1-2, 1936, reprinted in László Moholy-Nagy. Peinture Photogra­
phie Film et autres écrits sur la photographie, Nîmes: Ed. Jacqueline Chambon, 1993,
p. 195.
7. On the theoretical importance of dance for German modernism in the 1920s, one can
consider, for example, the following comment by Moholy-Nagy in Von Material :u
Architektur (Munich: Albert Langen Verlag Bauhausbücher no. 14, 1929, p. 195), re­
printed in The New Vision, Mineola and New York: Dover Publications, 2005 (1938),
p. 163: 'From the point of view of the subject, space is naturally to be experienced
most directly by movement; on a higher level, by the dance. The dance is at the
same time an elemental means for realization of space-creative impulses. It can ar­
ticulate space, order it.'
8. Herbert Bayer, preface to Erberto Carboni. Exhibitions and Displays, Milan: Silvana,
1957, P- 9 ­
9. Herbert Bayer was to remember his visit as an essential experience for his own re­
search in the field (interview with Arthur A. Cohen, 1981, quoted by Gwen Finkel
Chanzit, Herbert Bayer and Modernist Design in America, Ann Arbor and London:
UM1 Research Press, Studies in the Fine Arts. The Avant-Garde no. 58, 1987, p. 118).
10. These break-up effects here were all the stronger as the photographic fragments
were not glued up against the wall over a single surface, but hung in front of a
transparent cloth with gaps between the images or with some images partially cov­
ering others.
ix. From this point on, Bayer insisted on ordering and systematising the techniques
invented here (Herbert Bayer, in Chanzit, op. cit., p. 118).
12. Wilhelm Lotz, 'Zur Ausstellung "Die Kamera'", Die Form, vol. 8, no. 11, November
1933, p. 325.
13. Fritz Coerper, 'Die Deutsche Bauausstellung Berlin 1931 als Ausstellungsreform',
Bauwelt, vol. 20, no. 5, 31 January 1929, p. 91.
14. See, in particular, Herbert Starke, 'Neue Wege zum monumentalen Photo',
Deutscher Kamera Almanach, vol. 28: 1938 (1937), French translation in Olivier Lugon
(ed.), La Photographie en Allemagne. Anthologie de textes 1919-1939, Nîmes: Ed. Jacque­
line Chambon, 1997, pp. 427-430.
15. Siegfried Kracauer, 'Photographiertes Berlin', Frankfurter Zeitung, 15 December
1932, reprinted in Siegfried Kracauer. Schriften 5.3. Aufsätze 1932-1965, ed. Inka
Mülder-Bach, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1990, pp. 168-169.
16. Fritz Coerper, op. cit., p. 91.
17. 'The fact that spectators follow the creation of the images gives them the psycholo­
gical impression of participating, and thus brings about increased interest for the
theme represented' (Ella Briggs, 'Ausstellungs-Gestaltungen', Bauwelt, vol. 22, no.
19, 7 May 1931, p. 650).
18. Adolf Behne, 'AHAG-Ausstellung', iio, vol. 12, no. 17-18,1928, p. 94.
19. Herbert Bayer, 1961, op. cit., p. 260, and 'Principles of Exhibition Design', list of
transparencies presented at the lecture held at the Air Force Museum, Wright-Pat-

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Dynamic Paths o f Thought 143

terson, Dayton, Ohio, 13 October i960 (Herbert Bayer Archive, Denver Art Mu­
seum, Denver).
20. Jean Gallotti, 'L ’Architecture au Salon', Travaux publics, 17 July 1930; B.R., 'Der
Werkbund in Paris', Frankfurter Zeitung, 20 May 1930; Paul Werrie, 'Les Allemands
à Paris', Le Vingtième Siècle, 17 July 1930 (Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin).
21. Jean Gallotti, ' A propos du Salon des Décorateurs', Revue hebdomadaire, 12 July 1930,
p. 208; Julius Posener, 'Die Deutsche Abteilung in der Ausstellung der Société des
artistes décoratifs français', Die Baugilde, no. 11, 1930; B.E. Werner, 'Der summende
Pfeil. Der deutsche Werkbund in Paris', Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 12 June 1930
(Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin).
22. Herbert Bayer, 1961, op. cit., p. 260.
23. On the Road to Victory, see the founding articles by Christopher Phillips, 'Steichen’s
Road to Victory', Exposure, vol. 18, no. 2, 1981, and 'The Judgement Seat of Photogra­
phy', October, no. 22, autumn 1982, and Mary Anne Staniszewski, The Power of Dis­
play: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art, Cambridge and
London: MIT Press, 1998, pp. 209-224.
24. Herbert Bayer, 'Presentation and Display', lecture given at New York University, 5
December 1940, typed manuscript, p. 16 (Herbert Bayer Archive, Denver Art Mu­
seum, Denver).
25. Barbara Morgan, 'Photomontage', The Complete Photographer, ed. Willard D. Mor­
gan, 1942-1943, p. 2863.
26. Herbert Bayer, 'Notes given to Alexander Dorner for his writings about Bayer's ex­
hibition design', c. 1940, n.p. (Herbert Bayer Archive, Denver Art Museum, Denver).
27. Edward Steichen, quoted in anonymous, 'Photo Exhibit Shows Drama of US at
War', Illinois News, 31 March 1943 (Museum of Modern Art Archives, MoMA, New
York).
28. William Hickey, 'Self-portrait of America', Daily Express, 9 October 1942 (Public In­
formation Scrapbook, MoMA, New York).
29. Herbert Bayer, 'Fundamentals of Exhibition Design', PM, vol. 6, no. 2, December-
January 1939-1940, p. 17.
30. Alexander Dorner, The Way Beyorid "Art”. The Work of Herbert Bayer, New York: Wit­
tenborn, Schultz, 1947, p. 198.
31. Herbert Bayer, 1939-1940, op. cit., p. 20.
32. Fritz Coerper, op. cit., p. 91.
33. [Wilhelm] Lotz, '1932', Die Form, vol. 4, no. 16,1929, p. 440.
34. On the Futurama, see Norman Bel Geddes, Magic Motorways, New York: American
Book-Stratford Press, 1940; Roland Marchand, 'The Designers go to the Fair II: Nor­
man Bel Geddes, The General Motors "Futurama", and the Visit to the Factory
Transformed', Design Issues, vol. 8, no. 2, spring 1992, p. 23-40; Barbara Hauss-Fit-
ton, 'Futurama, New York World's Fair 1939-40', Rassegna, vol. 16, no. 60, 1994,
pp. 55-68,
35. Lewis Mumford, 'Genuine Bootleg', Nezv Yorker, 29 July 1939, reprinted in Sidewalk
Critic: Lewis Mumford's Writings On New York, ed. Robert Wojtowicz, New York:
Princeton Architectural Press, 1998, pp. 245-246.
36. Misha Black, Exhibition Design, London: Architectural Press, 1950, p. 31; Horst Döh-
nert, Messe- und Ausstellungsbauten, Munich: Verlag Georg D.W. Callwey, 1961, p. 9;

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144 O livie r Lugon

Hans Neuburg, Internationale Ausstellungs-Gestaltung. Conception internationale d'ex­


positions. Conceptions of International Exhibitions, Zurich: ABC Verlag, 1969, p. 14.
37. See Herbert Bayer, 1939-1940, op. cit., p. 18.
38. Serge Chermayeff, 'Circulation: Design: Display. The Architect at the Exhibition',
The Architectural Review, vol. 82, no. 490, September 1937, p. 93.

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T he L e ctu re

L e C o r b u s i e r ’s U s e o f t h e W o r d , D r a w i n g a n d P r o j e c t i o n

Olivier Lugon

For the last fifteen years or so, historians have been underlining how modern
architecture has taken on a life of its ow n in the m edia and been given consider­
able publicity through photographs, books, review s, exhibitions and film s.1
However, scant attention has been paid to the lecture, w hich is one of the major
vehicles of such publicity. Leaving aside how hard it is to reconstitute a lecture,
given the small quantity o f information available and its fragm entary nature,
the m ajor cause of indifference is undoubtedly that, for historians of art and
architecture, the lecture is sim ply a habitual exercise. Moreover, as it is based
on the spoken w ord, it seems more appropriate to study it as discourse rather
than as form .2 When scholars have looked at the lecture, it has been as a textual
source, and seldom as a dispositive. However, historians know very w ell —par­
ticularly after the advent of digital media - to w hat extent a lecture cannot be
reduced to w ords alone, but presupposes a considerable technical, visual and
stage dispositive which, from the 19th century onwards, led cultural and scien­
tific communication to cross paths with the developm ent of the optical spectacle
and the popular projection.
For architects, it is vital to master lecturing techniques. Their w ork involves
large sum s of money, and yet, they cannot use traditional advertising methods
and thus they have to rely more on academic channels to promote their work.
WTien they lecture, they do so not only to educate, edify and defend ideas, but
also to w in over an audience, w in contracts, w in over investors, local authorities
or states. M oreover, for the avant-garde movement, the lecture is m ore efficient
than a text for im posing the figure of the artist as a guide, a precursor w ho has
to m ake great efforts to w in over his contemporaries, w ho are alw ays presum ed
to be hostile because they lag behind the master. The modern artist's perfor­
mance in pedagogical terms is part and parcel of the recognition he seeks as a
pioneer.
The major players of the m odern m ovem ent ow e much to such activities.
Walter G ropius is an exam ple of someone who, as an expert in promoting, re­
lied heavily on the lecture. One can even say that it is as a speaker and lantern
operator that he established his authority as an architect. In 1 9 1 1 , after he had
broken off his studies without receiving a diplom a and had built nothing of any
note, he w as invited by a patron of the arts, Karl Ernst Osthaus, to give an illu-

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146 O livie r Lugon

strated lecture at the Folkw ang M useum in Hagen. Gropius prepared the visual
part of his talk w ith particular care, engaging in correspondence over a period
of more than one year in order to get hold of the seventy or so slides, am ong
w hich w ere the fam ous im ages o f Am erican silos. Seated am ong the audience of
industrialists w as the owner of the Fagus factories, w ho w as sufficiently con­
vinced to order the building which w as to launch Gropius's career.3 Similarly,
Erich Mendelsohn w on over the greater majority o f his clients in the 1920s dur­
ing a series of eight lecture-projections organised in a salon of Berlin's high so­
ciety in 19 19 .4
This strategy took on a new dim ension in both quantitative and qualitative
terms w ith Le Corbusier - several Le Corbusier scholars have draw n attention
to this, including Jean-Louis Cohen, M ardges Bacon, Yannis Tsiomis, and more
recently Tim Benton.3 Firstly, from the end of the 1920s, he gave a global dimen­
sion to the practice of lecturing, thanks to lecture tours that lasted up to several
w eeks at a time and began attracting larger and larger audiences (in the 1930s,
he boasted that he had already w on over some hundred thousand people by
w ord alone).6 Secondly, he invested an unusual am ount of energy and attention
in the task, in a flurry of persuasion akin to preaching. He gave m arathon talks,
sometimes lasting three or four hours. Here he displayed —if one is to believe
the accounts —a great talent as a speaker ('What m agic w ords w hen spoken by
Le Corbusier!').7 Moreover, w hatever his rhetorical talents and w hatever plea­
sure he took in public speaking, he w as not content w ith relying on the force of
w ords alone, as most of his colleagues did, by sim ply perpetuating the codes of
the nineteenth-century pedagogical presentation and lantern projection. He
turned his talks into genuine multim edia spectacles w hose form and content he
w ould constantly rework. In a period of 40 years, from 1920 to the beginning of
the 1960s, he untiringly perfected his persuasion strategies and tried out new
associations between the w ord, draw ing and projection.
Le Corbusier seems to have acquired this faith in the importance of the lec­
ture very early on, w hen in 19 10 - 19 11, aged 23, he w ent on a study-trip to G er­
m any to research into the vitality of Germ an decorative arts. One of the under­
takings that m ade a strong im pression on the young Jeanneret w as Karl Ernst
Osthaus's Germ an M useum for art in trade and crafts. This museum without a
building aim ed to reform the country's applied arts and architecture: beside
ready-to-visit exhibitions, it banked on the sustained activities of lecture-projec­
tions (Osthaus him self gave some 30 per year) and a system of loans of trans­
parencies m ade available to speakers throughout the country. In the report on
his journey, in which he set out to define the 'factors givin g Germ any its pow er',
the future Le Corbusier pointed to 'propaganda b y means of lectures' as 'one of
the efficient w eapons' of the Germ an movement.^ He w as then very struck by
Osthaus,9 w ho invited him to his house in H agen in the spring of 1 9 1 1 , a few

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The Lecture 147

w eeks after Walter Gropius's lecture, whose success w as certainly mentioned to


Jeanneret.
Nothing, however, points to Jeanneret him self lecturing in any form during
those years, and there is unfortunately no record of the first know n lectures
given at the beginning of the 1920s. The first dispositive that can be reconsti­
tuted dates from 1924 and w as tried and tested in Lausanne before the first pre­
sentation at the Sorbonne in Paris, w hich w as followed by a series of identical
presentations during the follow ing months. Like Gropius, he gave prime im por­
tance to the projection of plates, but w ith revitalized staging.

P ro je c tio n

D uring the w hole of the period between the wars, projection w as one of the
major w ay s in which Le Corbusier presented his w ork, even in private show ­
ings (fig. 1). He had a professional quality projector in his w orkshop,10 and a
room reserved for that purpose w here he liked to bring his guests, rather than
show them his buildings or his books. D uring the 1930s, w hen he w as trying to
set up contacts w ith Mussolini, he tried to m ake his case for private lantern
projection: 'A n adm irable w ay of organising the sym posium w ith M. w ould be
to be received som ewhere one evening, w ith a projection lantern, and to project
some photographs. That w ould replace the Exhibition and allow there to be
more substantial and more objective explanations.'11 There seem to be several
factors behind the unequalled pow er o f projection in the communication of
ideas and forms. On the one hand, it is possible to bring together in one hom o­
geneous presentation the most heterogeneous objects, w hose differences are
harm onised by the sam e format and the sam e immaterial quality, and thus un­
derline the coherence of the architect's work, whether it be furniture or town
planning.12 On the other hand, the moment the speaker him self handles the
equipment, it is better than a book, in that he is able in part to im provise and to
respond to the expectations and m oods of the listener, and thus to balance con­
trol and spontaneity, which w as a major aspect of Le Corbusier's practice. Final­
ly, it allow s one to take advantage of the potential to fascinate that the m onu­
mental, yet ephemeral, lum inous image has, w ith that almost magical
characteristic of appearing and then disappearing just w hen one looks at it, as
though it w ere constantly active and alive. Thus, it gives the photographic
document the quality of an event that is closer to a live draw ing than a book.
N aturally enough, Le Corbusier combined both.

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148 O livie r Lugon

Figure î. Kenjy Imai, Le Corbusier, Paris, 1926

This w as the case in 1924, w hen he developed a novel version of the lecture-
projection for the Sorbonne. Le Corbusier w as aw are of the impact that a rapid
succession of luminous im ages could produce in a darkened room, and thus,
after a short preamble, showed w hat he called his 'film ' in a completely silent
hall, without any com m entary whatsoever. It w as a rapid series of about one
hundred slides, w ith a series of intertitles show ing argum ents or slogans like a
silent film might have (fig. 2). There w as no doubt as to the surprise produced:
the em barrassing strangeness of a prolonged silence w as not only unexpected at
a lecture, but also not habitual in the cinema where, even during the silent film
period, there w ould alw ays be some form of accompaniment, whether it be
sound effects, commentary or music.
Le Corbusier's 'cinem a' w as also unusual in that he w as deliberately trying to
produce clashes and jerkiness at a time w hen the idea of editing had not yet
acquired the aura that it w as to have by the end of the decade. In any case, he
him self did not use the w ord 'm ontage'. He w as certainly aw are of certain ex­
periments carried out by the French avant-garde movement, such as his friend
Fernand Leger's Ballet mecanique, completed that same year. However, he did
not know the w ork and w ritings of Eisenstein, w ith w hom he w as to spend
time in M oscow four years later. These very 'm odern' effects of collisions and

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The Lecture 149

jerkiness w ere produced here by using the old technique of the lantern, exploit­
ing the constraint of having to w ork w ith disconnected elements, from which he
believed he could produce a 'shocking' impact:

For the Sorbonne I put together a series of projections whose aim was to put the audi­
ence into a shocked mental state. Shocked by the rapid succession of heterogeneous
images, events from the past and present, in contrast and opposition but also in har­
mony. Creating unexpected and dazzling relationships, which, in fact, were only the
projection of existing facts. Dislocated relationships because our society is itself dislo­
cated, at odds with its tradition, a period that creates suffering and grimaces.13

Figure 2. Le Corbusier, publication o f the lecture «L'Esprit Nouveau en


architecture» in Alm anach d'architecture moderne, 1926

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This use of breaks and shocks seems to have m ade a strong im pact on audi­
ences, not only in contrast to the traditional and often staid lantern projections,
but, above all, within the context of the scholarly paper, which is theoretically
meant to advance by using a logical and continuous progression of its argu­
ments. This w as em phasised in an account published in Paris-Jourtial, w here the
form of the lecture w as attacked as ferociously as its content. The author of the
article, Leandre Vincent, thought Le Corbusier's 'film ' belonged to the aggres-

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150 O livie r Lugon

sive layouts that had already been developed in L'Esprit nouveau, w ith the harsh
succession of plates replacing the contrasting effects produced b y juxtaposition
on the printed page. In this respect, Le Corbusier w as criticised for acting 'using
harsh suggestion rather than logic. He does not prove, he punches'; his only
means of w orking w as said to be by antithesis, whether by binary oppositions -
'im age against im age' — or by the construction of a coherent series that w as
brutally interrupted by some incongruous element: 'a succession of im ages of
the sam e type, three or four of them, a ship, an aeroplane or an engine, is sud­
denly followed by an isolated and different image: the gallery of the chateau of
Fontainebleau. The audience im m ediately sniggers'. Vincent considered the
method sim ilar to manipulation:

It's a nervous reflex resulting from a psychological calculation that if need be can be
applied to prove the opposite. When, after projecting five or six female monkeys ta­
ken from the Jardin des Plantes, one shows a Maillol figurine, or after a number of
chamber pots, one shows the Egyptian bread-carrier from the Louvre, the surprise
will make people laugh. You create an association for the audience by a series of
analogous perceptions, this produces inertia and then you interrupt the series, and
before the mind frees itself and takes in the unexpected, laughter breaks out! Another
means of suggestion.14

Le Corbusier did indeed bank on his audiences reacting in predictable w ays,


because the w hole developm ent of his lecture depended on these reactions. A t
the end of the long silent prologue that w as intended to shake up the audience,
he finally began to speak and to evoke the supposed shocks or astonishment, in
order to draw general conclusions about the state of contem porary thinking. Le
Corbusier w ou ld then begin a more traditional lecture, presenting his ideas via
a series of connected arguments, backed b y d raw ings on the blackboard. H ow ­
ever, at the end, he w ould come back to another projection, and a new 'film ' of
slides, but instead of a silent projection, he w ou ld this time comment on the
slides.15 He finished his demonstration by show ing his ow n works, and there
w as clearly no question of producing shock effects or a suggestion of disorder.
On the contrary, by speaking he w ould ensure the greatest possible continuity,
and provide the im ages w ith a coherently thought-out fram ework. The most
varied projects (i.e., urbanism, villas, furniture) and the m ost heterogeneous
types of representations (i.e., reproductions of models and drawings, photo­
graphs of buildings) w ere presented as elements in a homogeneous series of
argum ents that w ere the result of an overarching logic. Thus, a strong effect of
sym m etry w as created between the prologue and the epilogue. The instability
of the first lantern sequence w as balanced by the order and intelligence of the
final sequence, and the various elements that w ere initially used to represent the
harsh conditions of the period were brought together harm oniously at the end.

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The Lecture 151

D ra w in g

Thus from 1924 onwards, Le Corbusier's method w as to alternate projection


and draw ing —a method he continued to use throughout his life. It w as a w ay
of reconciling the machine w ith the hand, of combining a carefully planned v i­
sual demonstration and the im provised, spontaneous and alm ost physical pro­
duction of ideas put over b y the movem ents of the speaker draw ing on the
blackboard. Tw o antithetical models of m odernity w ere thus brought together
in the very form of his lectures, tw o m odels that w ere equally present in the
ideas that he developed: planning and standardising on the one hand, and the
creative burst and spontaneous inspiration on the other hand. The tension be­
tween the two m odels —extreme rationality and planning versus the sustained
m ythology of intuition - deeply affected his thinking and resulted in his being
attacked on the right as the apostle of out-and-out mechanisation and deni­
grated on the left as an old-fashioned romantic. But for him there w as no contra­
diction. The meeting of the two positions could even be seen as fundam ental to
one of the prim ordial forms of the m odem arts - jazz. Le Corbusier considered
that jazz succeeded in joining the 'im placable exactness' of a 'm athem atical' art
and a 'repercussion of the machine', w ith the cry, the effusion, the 'flash of light­
ening', as he noted in 1935 w hen commenting on one of Louis Arm strong's con­
certs in N ew Y ork w hen he him self w as lecturing in Am erica.16
From the second half of the 1920s, Le Corbusier devoted greater energy to
im provisation - or, to be more precise, its staging - by using drawing, in parti­
cular beginning w ith the first lecture tour he gave in South Am erica in 1929. For
this tour, he redesigned his dispositive, adding a genuine staging of the draw ­
ings to the dram a of the projection. The description he gives in his book Preci­
sions, which brings together the Latin-Am erican talks, show s how proud he w as
of this (fig. 3 ):

I managed to keep the audience on the edge of their seats for two, three or four hours
- they were following the breathtaking logical sequence flowing from my crayon and
coloured chalks. A lecture technique had occurred to me. I installed my trestle: ten or
twelve large sheets of paper on which I draw in black and in colour; a piece of string
stretched from one end of the rostrum to the other, behind me, where I put up the
sheets of paper one after the other, as soon as they are covered with drawings. Thus
they see before their eyes the complete development of the idea. Finally, a screen for a
hundred or so projections which materialise the preceding arguments.17

B y this stage, Le Corbusier had given up draw in g on the blackboard, as he had


to erase each demonstration to make w ay for new draw ings; it w as replaced by
sheets of paper, thus m aking the sketches permanent, so he could use them dur-

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IS2 O livie r Lugon

ing the lecture proper. He w as therefore able to combine tw o different w ays of


relating images: by juxtaposition (the continuous frieze of sheets that w as visi­
ble behind him) and by succession (either the sequence of slides or the new
draw ings he w as continually making), hi a sense, they brought together the
advantages of the book - one can alw ays go back over a previous stage of the
argument - and those of the cinema, w ith its permanent renewal of visual
stimuli. It guaranteed that spectators could both have a perfect overview of the
reasoning, 'the complete developm ent of the idea', and yet have their attention
constantly stimulated. Everything is given and yet changes. Once again, Le Cor­
busier adapted for the rostrum w hat had been the strength of his publications: a
line of argum ent that w as supposedly laid dow n with impeccable logic, far
from pure vociferation, and yet with shocks regularly introduced into the line
of the argument, each like a 'punch in the face', as he him self said of the cin-
lS

Figure 3. Le Corbusier, Précisions, 1930

The sheets o f paper d raw n live became the graphical equivalent of thought, the
double incarnation of the continuous developm ent of an argument and the per­
manent eruption of ideas. For Le Corbusier himself, the lecture delivered w ith a
crayon in the hand m ust indeed have represented a space in w hich thought

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The Lecture 153

could emerge and be structured, as m uch an instrument of reflection as a m ed­


ium of communication:

During the lectures I adopted my own technique which is fairly special. I never pre­
pared the lectures. There was a little card, about twice the size of a visiting card, with
four or five lines on it from which I improvised. Improvising is an amazing thing: I
would draw ... And when one draws around one's words, one draws with the useful
words, one creates something. And the whole of my theory - my introspection and
retrospection on the phenomenon of Architecture and Urbanism - comes from these
improvised and drawn lectures.19

Even if it is necessary to put the use of im provisation into perspective, the fact
remains that Le Corbusier w as seeking to stage thought in action. The 'draw ing
around w ords' must have been seen by audiences not just as a demonstration,
but also as an action, a m omentary and singular outflow ing of thought and crea­
tive energy, an event which justifies its being perform ed in front of people rather
than explained by means of sheets that had been prepared in advance (fig. 4).
There is a gesture, a resolution which carries within the impulsion that it gives a
potential effect on the real world.

Figure 4. Le Corbusier at the Sorbonne, i960

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154 O livie r Lugon

D uring the lectures, this active pow er o f the gesture w as underlined by Le C or­
busier's commentaries. According to the shorthand notes that have been kept,
he w ould punctuate the flow of his speech by saying 'I draw ', 'I note', 'I w rite',
together w ith a large quantity of 'I put' - and it is not alw ays easy to know
whether this refers to the gesture of putting on the paper or the action on the
real w orld that this is supposed to represent: 'I put: The miracle o f new densi­
ties'; 'I put a lot of people in the same place'; 'I put four times more or ten times
more inhabitants per square m ile'; 'I put: Air, light and sound'.20 Like a mathe­
matician w ho completes his whole task b y unfurling his equation on the black­
board, Le Corbusier seemed to m ake no distinction between the m ovem ent of
the crayon and the solution to the problem s proposed by this gesture: 'I finish
m y draw ing by planting trees'.21 In the first film he contributed to, A r c h i t e c ­
t u r e s d ' a u j o u r d ' h u i b y Pierre Chenal (1930), this active force of draw ing takes

on an almost brutal dimension. A sequence show s the architect from behind,


standing in front of a m ap of Paris that takes up the w hole frame. M oving his
hand at a strangely slow speed, rather as if m aking a delicate and almost cere­
monial incision, he draw s a big line from left to right and then adds a central
rectangle, which everyone understands to be a demolition: the hand becomes a
bulldozer.
W riting and d raw ing before an audience w as thus the beginning of solutions
to problem s - and precisely because they w ere done before an audience. If Le
Corbusier believed that a draw ing m ade in public w as capable of having an
effect on the real w orld, it w as because the performance carries w ith it an en­
ergy and a driving force that are capable of carrying people along w ith him,
even once the lecture has ended. After the event, the sketches realised in the
heat of the moment m ay be said to preserve the im pulsive force of the gesture
that created them on paper. When he published his lectures, Le Corbusier w as
at pains to include the sheets he had scraw led as he spoke rather than better
draw ings perfected in calmer conditions. This is true of the South Am erican
lectures in Précisions, where the illustrations reproduce the sheets draw n on the
rostrum, w hereas he could easily have produced im proved versions, either by
copying the originals or b y recreating them from the little sketches on cards,
w hich served as models. On his return to France, the roll containing the hun­
dred or so sheets d raw n in public w as lost between Bordeaux and Paris. Le
Corbusier em phasized the seriousness o f this loss to the transporter.22 Even if
he could have done them over again, something fundam ental - that quality of
the event, the charge o f energy coming from the very moment of their coming
into being - w ould have been lost forever.
The desire to be rigorous in this respect led him to cheat a little in another
respect. W hile he liked to stress the im provised character of his performances
('good lectures are im provised'),23 not only did he have sketches in his hand

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The Lecture 155

that were very close to the draw ings finally produced, but above all some of the
original sheets reveal that under the strokes of the crayon there w ere fine pencil
sketches that the audience could not see, but that the speaker could sim ply fol­
low. This untruth was, however, there to guarantee the truth that w as to come,
the use of the draw ings actually m ade on stage. H e said the same thing about
the spoken word. When it w as suggested that a record be m ade of his lectures,
he insisted on not rereading his text in a recording studio, as he w ished to make
available the ephemeral w ord that had been spoken at a precise moment in
time,54
From the 1930s onw ards, Le Corbusier w orked on the idea of perpetuating
the effect of his draw ings not only by reproducing them in print, but also by
exhibiting the originals. Their size w as thus considerably enlarged. In Rio in
1936, during the second series of South-Am erican lectures, they took on the di­
mensions of historical paintings, and in the United States one year earlier were
up to 6 metres long.25 The idea w as to guarantee m axim um legibility for larger
and larger halls, but also a possible public exhibition at a later date. Graphic
demonstration had become a composition - the complex combination of sketches
in perspective, plans, m aps, diagram s, calculations, statistics, captions and key
w ord s took on the status of a 'fresco', as Le Corbusier him self called it,26 and
w hich from time to time he w ould sign. In Brussels in 1958, Le Corbusier ended
his lecture in the follow ing w ay:

I have drawn in front of you four large drawings in black and white and colour. They
contain the substance of possible and appropriate decisions.... These large drawings
may decorate the walls of administrations, where from time to time men's destinies
and the destinies of societies are forged, thus emulating Gobelins or Aubusson tapes­
tries made on drawing paper 27

From his perspective then, a d raw ing could be conceived as an enduring form
of lecture, the m em ory o f a gesture that continues to develop its force of invoca­
tion a posteriori, and that is capable of setting a w hole society in motion. This
definition heralds Joseph Beuys's blackboards, and the art of performance that
is based on the sam e belief that the 'rem ainder' has the capacity of developing
the energy of the initial action.

P u b li s h in g t h e w o r d

Just as he sought to perpetuate his draw ing, Le Corbusier w as also intent on


perpetuating his spoken w ords in printed form. A t first sight he w as sim ply
follow ing in the footsteps of intellectuals and academics, w ho use the lecture as

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156 O livie r Lugon

the first version o f w hat from the outset is intended to be a publication, where
speaking is a form of writing. But for him, speaking is not a mere rehearsal, i.e. a
preparatory stage that is forgotten once the 'real' text has been published. In
fact, it w as the other w ay round. By the choice of layout, Le Corbusier alw ays
took great care to recall the oral and scenic origin o f the text. Yannis Tsiomis has
show n that for the projected published version of the 1936 Brazilian lectures, he
w as considering rem oving the full stops and commas in order to give the im ­
pression o f a continuously speaking voice, just as, according to Tsiomis, he
w ould have referred to the process o f the lecture taking place by publishing his
preparatory notes and stage cards, in addition to the transcript of the spoken
text and the draw ings done on the rostrum.28
Some of his typographic innovations are the direct result o f his wish to print
the spoken w ord and introduce a graphic equivalent of his stage design into the
page layout.29 The book Une Maison - un Palais in 1928, for instance, begins with
the follow ing foreword:

The reader may imagine that he is in a lecture hall - the Auditorium Maximum of the
Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich or the Salle de la Residencia in Madrid. It is
dark. Images are projected on the screen, appearing at exactly the right moment. The
speaker develops his idea, which is directly linked with the images. ... Thanks to the
typography of this book, the reader will find himself in the same situation as that of
the audience for whom this conference was written.30

There follow s on the left-hand pages short fragm ents of text placed opposite the
photographs, w hich stand alone on the right-hand pages, thus materializing the
interdependence of the 'sound track' and the 'im age track'. N ot only is the text
short, but more often than not cut in mid-sentence, in order to strengthen the
idea of the 'exact' slide changes. Le Corbusier developed here another type of
interplay between the hand and the machine, the minimal gesture of reading -
turning the pages - being exploited like a kind of argum entative flip-book, to
evoke the auditory and optical experience of the spectator witnessing the jerky
progression of a commented projection.
The impact of the lecture w ould thus not end w ith the lecture itself. Conse­
quently, speaking does not sim ply mean convincing the present audience, but
also planning for an efficient continuation - by publishing, recording, or by the
expansive force inherent in enthusiasm. Le Corbusier w as not only careful to see
that each lecture w as attended b y important people and potential sponsors, he
also saw those attending the lectures as a relay. While addressing an audience
com posed of the members of an artistic circle or architecture students, he w as
actually reaching out to another audience: the big names in finance and politics.
To phrase it in his ow n terms, he set out to start a 'buzz' w ithin 'public opinion'
that w ould eventually reach the ears of 'A u thority',31 like the '3,000 students'

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The Lecture 157

w on over in the Sorbonne lecture hall in i960, upon w hom he called to 'intro­
duce the subject w ithin their ow n fam ilies',32 His desire to bring 'A uthority' and
'public opinion' together in the sam e hall inevitably led to problems. When lec­
ture halls w ere over-full and too enthusiastic, it w as sometimes necessary to
divide up the two groups in spatial terms in order to 'leave outside the possible
uproar from the students' 'the people I could have invited'.33 But the m edia can
also be exploited to orchestrate this rebound effect. In 19 5 1, w hen just back from
a lecture in Milan, Le Corbusier contacted the organisers and asked them imme­
diately to send a letter, w hich he dictated, to three large French ministries to
inform them of the excellent reception his talk had received, to which 'carefully
chosen cuttings from new spapers should have been added, w ith the useful sec­
tions underlined in red'.34

S ta g in g th e w o r d

The spoken w ord m arks Le Corbusier's exhibitions as much as his publications.


According to the first sketches made, the 'Electronic Poem ' staged in the Philips
Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels W orld's Fair should have been accompanied by his
ow n voice speaking out in the m iddle of Varese's music - but Varese rejected
this idea.36 Similarly, the Tem ps N ouveaux Pavilion at the Paris International
Exhibition of 19 37 - a large tent resembling a circus —brought the exhibition
closer to the live performance. It w as organised around a vast 'speech hall' re­
served for lectures, speeches and theatrical representations (fig. 5). The project
took shape w hen the Front Populaire w ere in pow er - a period marked by the
renewed importance of public address and harangue. A m ong m odern techni­
ques of persuasion - photomontages, diagram s, pictograms, models, dioramas,
and projections - the pavilion's central space, which w as kept for collective
events, w as a constant rem inder of this force of the spoken w ord for spreading
new ideas - a force based on the ideally close proxim ity of speaker and audi­
ence. Le Corbusier also designed a sculptural rostrum, a piece of furniture con­
ceived to house body, voice and draw ing by means of an L-shaped platform
linking together a long desk, a blackboard and a reflecting ceiling, a mixture
between a theatre hall and a classroom. The dominant feature w as the ceiling,
w hose importance w as both symbolical and practical. Le Corbusier designed it
like a 'resonant conch', w hose supple form s w ere the direct result of his research
into the spaces for political speeches at the end of the 1920s, such as the Great
A ssem bly Hall in the project for the Palace of the League of N ations in Geneva.
This architecture of sound w as supposed to m ake the voice carry more effec­
tively, and thus to conquer minds, virtually in the m ilitary sense of the word. In

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158 O livie r Lugon

Une maison —un palais, he developed a metaphorical network of modern warfare


to describe this im provem ent in the carrying of the voice: 'the front of the ros­
trum and the stage w all create barrage fire that sw eeps over the whole breadth
of the audience'; 'H avin g set up the rostrum and stage w all as batteries and
used them to spray the stalls, w e w ould be without artillery. But above the stage
w all w e shall set up a new stage w all which, in its turn, shall machine-gun the
gallery of guests and diplom ats'.3*1 Paradoxically enough, this battle-ready effi­
ciency of the acoustics w as used here to further a pacifist project, to help nations
to 'listen to each other'.37 In the 19 37 Speech Hall, the follow ing announcement
could be read on the conch against which the barrage fire of persuasion re­
bounded: 'A new era has begun ... an era of solidarity'. It is as if the audience
w as to be reminded that all the speeches m ade from this rostrum, and carried
by the conch, took part from the very outset in the birth of this new era, carrying
the momentum that w as capable of changing both beings and things.

Figure 5. Pavillon des Temps Nouveaux, Paris, 1937

In addition, there w as no separation between the rostrum and the visiting area -
it w as only raised b y a few steps, and thus could be seen as a fixture that w as

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The Lecture 159

available to anyone w ishing to speak. It w as not so m uch a stage, which presup­


poses inaccessibility, as a podium open for im provised speeches - a 'trestle', as
Le Corbusier called the equipm ent used in South Am erica in 1929. This w as a
recurrent feature o f the staging of his lectures - givin g the im pression of an im ­
provised venue, put together from odd props that gave an im pression of no
preparation. A simple rope w as stretched across the platform; there w as a chair,
not to sit on ('I speak standing up') but w here the charcoal could be casually set
dow n; help w as refused w hen he had to tear off the finished draw in g ('I'm the
one w ho tears off the sheet'); the carafe of w ater w as outlaw ed ('I drink a carafe
of w ater before beginning and not during. That's important!'), the carafe itself
being an admission of effort.3® In some of the later lectures, w hen the icono-
graphic material and technical aids took on greater importance, the staging
kept its im provised appearance. Despite the switches, lam ps and sound equip­
ment that had to be turned on and off, Le Corbusier preferred to continue m ak­
ing do w ith odd pieces of furniture, rather than using a table that w ou ld stop
him from having to lean forward. The fragile nature of the im provised stage is
there to add to the force of the representation as an event.
Le Corbusier the speaker seemed thus to apply to his ow n presentations the
principles behind his idea of 'spontaneous theatre' based on exam ples of cottime-
dia dell'arte or on Brazilian street performance. In his projects for open-air stages
and w hat he called 'm iracle boxes', he tried to give such a theatre an appropri­
ate form, i.e., the simplest possible.39 A s Hubert Damisch has noted, from the
1930s onw ards he w as increasingly engrossed in this art o f staging, w hich had
an impact on much o f his architecture.40 H is lecture practice w as undoubtedly
the result of this. But in his case, the 'sim plification of expression and m eans'
w hich he said he adm ired in the Guignol theatre,41 is in fact used to perfectly
control the staging. He paid great attention to the acoustics of the halls where he
w as to speak, the quality of the lighting (which he required to be fairly b a­
lanced, so he w as able to p lay w ith his audiences as they watched him, 'just as
the fisherman [plays] w ith the trout or the gudgeon '42) and w as very particular
about the w ay in w hich the props and equipment w ere prepared, givin g unbe­
lievably detailed instructions. For the lecture he gave at the Brussels Universal
Exhibition in 1958, which w as supposed to be supported by draw ing alone, he
sent the organisers two pages of instructions together w ith diagram s (fig. 6). He
spelt out the exact position of the props (a board, a table and a chair), the qual­
ity and size of the sheets of paper, the direction in w hich they should curve, the
length of the nails ('4 to 5 centimetres', no drawing-pins) and how far they
should be knocked in ('they should project 3 to 4 centimetres out of the sheets'),
enabling the speaker to tear them off easily. For a lecture at 5 PM, he wanted
everything to be ready b y noon so that he could 'm ake possible adjustments',
before concluding: 'It all seems idiotic, but it's very im portant'.43 The im provisa-

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160 O livie r Lugon

tion, such as it w as, w as apparently less turned tow ards bringing about an un­
expected performance than guaranteeing m axim um efficiency - a paradoxical
'spontaneous theatre' controlled by an intransigent director, or using another
oxym oron from his ow n writing: 'an im provisation [ ...] of impeccable exact-

Figure 6. Le Corbusier, sketches fo r the lecture «Architecture et urbanisme»,


Brussels World's Fair, 1958

F ilm

In the 19 3 7 Speech Hall, Le Corbusier had planned to erect a fourth element


over the platform, but which how ever w as not realised: a screen for film projec­
tions, the last instrument of his lecturing art. The cinema and the lecture were
for him intertwined in two w ays. First, as w e discussed in relation to Pierre
Chenal's A r c h i t e c t u r e s d ' a u j o u r d ' h u i in 1930, he w as intent on incorporat­
ing his didactic method into film, to integrate the physical presence of the archi­
tect in the exercise of demonstration into the m iddle of sequences on projects

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The Lecture 161

and realisations. It w as a kind of sim ulated lecture, except that it dealt w ith the
parts that w ere difficult to perform on the stage: a draw ing im plying the dete­
rioration o f its medium, w ith the m ap of Paris attacked by his drawing, or the
presentation of models - a pow erful act favoured by the architects and urba­
nists o f the century, but w hose force is derived from high-angle view that can­
not be offered during a lecture. In A r c h i t e c t u r e s d ' a u j o u r d ' h u i , it w as the
fam ous 'Corbu hand' —the name he gave to the picture in the synopsis he wrote
for Chenal - that often features in his publications (fig. 7). Tabula rasa and vision
from above: these two aspects of the m odem project w ere too vital to be absent
from his lectures, and it w as Chenal's recording, which he show ed during his
ow n performances, that m ade this possible.

Figure 7. Film Still from Pierre Chenal, Architectures d'aujourd'hui, 1930

It is here w e see the second aspect of exchange between cinema and stage -
using film w ithin the lecture itself (in this case, an architect show ing a film
show ing an architect expounding). From the beginning o f the 1930s, Le Corbu­
sier planned to bring in this new m edium next to draw ings and slides. Once
again Walter Gropius w as quicker to do so, m odernising his lecture technique

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162 O livie r Lugon

as early as 19 27 b y com bining projection o f plates and film.45 H e w as thus


furthering a frequent practice of early cinema, which lasted until the 1920s in
pedagogical circles: m ixing still and m oving im ages during the sam e pro­
gramme, w hen a narrative could be illustrated by a series of slides, and finish­
ing w ith the projection o f a reel. For Gropius, like for Le Corbusier, film w as not
an autonom ous w hole on the m argins of the lecture, but an integrated part of it.
A film could even be edited by the lecturer for the purposes of the presentation.
It w as first seen as a repository of shots, and accordingly, a user such as Le
Corbusier could envisage ordering just one sequence, as if he w ere ordering a
particular slide.46 'Lecture cinem a' was, like fixed projection, a malleable art,
exploited within a perform ative practice w here the user had room for m an­
oeuvre during the performance. This was, moreover, to give rise to problems,
w hen Le Corbusier had to deal w ith reels w hich had been so greatly modified
as to have lost their coherence.47
Such freedom w as, however, to disappear later during the 1930s w ith the
generalisation of the sound-track, which also greatly interested Le Corbusier. In
1930, he w as adam ant that A r c h i t e c t u r e s d ' a u j o u r d ' h u i should have a m usi­
cal sound-track, w hich not only sw allow ed up half of the budget, but also w as
difficult to perform in lecture halls that w ere not yet adequately equipped (in
the U.S. in 1935, w here the film w as show n at each of his lectures, he eventually
solved the problem by using a record of Gershwin's music).4® What in particular
attracted Le Corbusier to the sound cinema even more than music w as the com­
bining of im age and voice. Contrary to the majority of intellectuals at that time,
he did not consider the m ove to talkies as debasing cinematographic art, but on
the contrary, as a 'm iracle'. He gave an enthusiastic account of his first encoun­
ter (a 'commotion')49 w ith a talkie —a M ickey M ouse seen in Buenos Aires in
1929, on the d ay follow ing his arrival for his South-Am erican lecture tour: 'A
m iracle w as being played out ... It w as m y first time. I w as in full harmony, in
full synchronisation, in the full harm ony of gesture and w ord '.50 To have such
an effusive reaction to a M ickey M ouse m ovie m ay seem surprising. But the
little mouse's movements, w hich w ere drawn, spoken and projected, seemed
very sim ilar to w hat he had been trying for so long to build up - that efficient
'synchronisation' of draw ing, gesture and the w ord, that 'synchronism of the
im age and the w o rd ',51 which w as one of the m ajor factors contributing to his -
and M ickey M ouse's - w orldw id e success. In 1938, Le Corbusier w as him self
able to take advantage o f this in the cinema w ith Jean Epstein's L e s B â t i s s e u r s ,
a talkie w here he could show all his expertise in lecture-giving. The sequences
w here he appears faithfully respect his lecture principles, w ith Le Corbusier's
voice constantly commenting on a series of short fixed shots of his buildings,
like a slide show, and long sequences show ing him draw in g for a phantom
audience —that now knew no limits.

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The Lecture 163

N o te s

1. This article was first published in Les Cahiers du musée national d'art moderne, no. 103,
spring 2008. It stems from three different papers: the probationary lecture given at
the University of Lausanne on 23 April 2004, entitled The lecture with projection. Three
examples in the 20th century (Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Charles Eames), the presen­
tation entitled Le Corbusier's Lectures in the 'Current issues in Research' seminar
moderated by Prof. Dario Gamboni at the University of Geneva on 25 April 2006,
and the lecture entitled The 'cinema' model between still and moving images: Marey, he
Corbusier, with Maria Tortajada at the University of Lausanne on 27 October 2006.
The author would like to thank Arnaud Dercelles for all his help with the research
carried out at the Le Corbusier Foundation.
Concerning publications, and Le Corbusier's in particular, see Beatriz Colomina's
Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
1994 and Catherine de Smet's Le Corbusier: Architect of Books, Baden: Lars Miiller
Publishers, 2005; her Vers une architecture iiu livre. Le Corbusier: édition et mise en pages
1912-1965, Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, 2007. Concerning photography, see An­
toine Baudin's Photography, Modern Architecture and Design. The Alberto Sartoris Col­
lection. Objects from the Vitra Design Museum, Lausanne: EPFL Press, 2005, Robert El-
wall's Building with Light: The International History of Architectural Photography,
London and New York: Merrell Publishers, 2004, and Rolf Sachsse's Bild und Bau.
Zur Nutzung technischer Médiat beim Entwerfen von Architektur, Braunschweig and
Wiesbaden: Vieweg, 1997. For cinema, see Andres Janser's 'Only Film Can Make
the New Architecture Intelligible! Hans Richter's Die neue Wolmung and the Early
Documentary Film on Modern Architecture', in François Penz and Maureen Tho­
mas (eds.), Cinema and Architecture: Melies, Mallet-Stevens, Multimedia, London: Brit­
ish Film Institute, 1997, and with Arthur Rüegg, Hans Richter. Die neue Wolmung.
Architektur. Film. Raum, Baden: Lars Miiller Publishers, 2001. Concerning exhibi­
tions, see in particular, Beatriz Colomina, 'The Exhibitionist House’, in At the End of
the Century: One Hundred Years of Architecture, cat. Museum of Contemporary Art,
Los Angeles and New York: Abrams, 1998. In a recent article, Beatriz Colomina
looks at the relationship between Le Corbusier and television: 'Vers une architecture
médiatique' in Le Corbusier - The Art of Architecture, Weil am Rhein: Vitra Design
Museum and Netherlands Architecture Institute, RIBA Trust, 2007.
2. Generally speaking there are few studies on the lecture, even outside the field of the
history of art. Mention must be made of Erving Goffman, 'The Lecture', in Forms of
Talk, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981 (my thanks to Alain Boil-
lat who drew my attention to this essay); Françoise Waquet, Parler comme un livre.
L’oralité et le savoir (XVIe-XXe siècle), Paris: Albin Michel, 2003; Alain Clavien and
François Vallotton (eds.), 'Devant le verre d'eau’: regards croisés sur la conférence comme
vecteur de la vie intellectuelle (1880-1950), Lausanne: Ed. Antipodes, 2007. There are
more studies on speakers, lecturers and barkers in the history of cinema and early
cinema: see in particular Jacques Perriault, Mémoires de l'ombre et du son. Une arché­
ologie de l'audio-visuel, Paris: Flammarion, 1981; Laurent Mannoni, Great Art of Light
and Shadow: Archeology of the Cinema, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000; Ger­
main Laçasse, Le Bonimenteur de vues animées. Le cinéma 'muet' entre tradition et mo-

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164 O livie r Lugon

dernité, Montreal, Québec: Nota Bene and Paris: Méridiens Kiincksieck, 2000; Rick
Altman, Silent Film Sound, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004; Alain Boil-
lat, Du bonimenteur à la voix-ooer. Voix-attraction et voix-narration au cinéma, Lausanne:
Editions Antipodes, 2007.
3. See Reginald Isaacs, Gropius. An Illustrated Biography of the Creator of the Bauhaus,
Boston, Toronto and London: Bulfinch Press, 1991, p. 25-26.
4. See Regina Stephan, '"Die Vorträge wollen ... für die Forderungen einer neuen
Epoche günstigen Boden schaffen." Die Vorträge im Salon von Molly Pilippson', in
Erich Mendelsohn. Gedankenwelten. Unbekannte Texte zu Architektur, Kulturgeschichte
und Politik, ed. Ita Heinze-Greenberg and Regina Stephan, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz
Verlag, 2000, p. 13.
5. See Jean-Louis Cohen, Le Corbusier et la mystique de l'URSS: théories et projets pour
Moscou 1928-1936, Brussels and Liège: P. Mardaga, 1987, and Le Corbusier. La planète
comme chantier, Paris: Editions Textuel/Editions Zoé, 2005; Mardges Bacon, Le Corbu­
sier in America: Travels in the Land of the Timids, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001;
Yannis Tsiomis (ed.), Conférences de Rio. Le Corbusier au Brésil - 1936, Paris: Flamma­
rion, 2006; Tim Benton, Le Corbusier conférencier, Paris: Editions du Moniteur, 2007. 1
only came across Tim Benton's book after I had written the present chapter, thus it
has not been taken into consideration here.
6. 'I've already spoken worldwide to some one hundred thousand people and I have
affixed them to a dream' (Le Corbusier, Quand les cathédrales étaient blanches. Voyage
ail pays des timides, Paris: Pion, 1937, p. 41).
7. P. A.D., 'Hier soir à Lausanne, Le Corbusier expose sa conception des trois établisse­
ments humains devant un auditoire enthousiaste', Gazette de Lausanne, 16-17 Febru­
ary 1957, p. 7.
8. Ch.-E. Jeanneret, Etude sur le mouvement d'art décoratif en Allemagne, [La-Chaux-de-
Fonds], 1912, p. 16, 23.
9. On their relations, see Françoise Véry, 'La correspondance Jeanneret-Osthaus', in Le
Corbusier, le passé à réaction poétique, cat. Hôtel de Sully, Paris: Caisse nationale des
Monuments et des Sites, 1988, p. 161-164.
10. The apparatus made by Radiguet & Massiot, successors to the great lantern maker
Alfred Molteni, can be found today in the collection of the Le Corbusier Foundation.
Le Corbusier contacted Massiot for the installation of the periscope in the Bestegui
apartment in 1930-1931.
12. Letter from Le Corbusier to Pietro Maria Bardi, 19 June 1934, reproduced in full in
Faces, 5/6, spring 1987, p. 44-45, and quoted in Jean-Louis Cohen, 2005, op. cit.,
p. 108.
13. 'I prefer the workshop to one or two houses, as in my workshop I shall be able to
show on the screen studies going from furniture to the urbanism of big cities, via
architectural reform.' (letter from Le Corbusier to Paul Landowsky, 3 January 1930,
LCF C3-5-25).
14. Hand-written notes for a new showing of this 'film' during a lecture in Zurich in
1926 (LCF C3-8-70). See also: 'You have just shown a heterogenous series of images
on the screen; this series, shocking for many, and striking in all event, makes up the
almost daily spectacle of our existence ...' (Le Corbusier, Almanach d'architecture
moderne, Paris: Ed. Georges Crès, 1926, p. 20); 'Before beginning to talk, the speaker
showed his audience a kind of film, reproducing with sometimes blunt eloquence

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The Lecture 165

the objects that today confront our sight and our intellect - an incoherent set of the
most varied, contradictory and paradoxical sights' (Typewritten text of the Sor­
bonne lecture, 1924, LCF C3-18-10).
15. Léandre Vincent, 'Divagations intempestives', Paris Journal, 20 June 1924 (LCF C3-6-
39). It should be pointed out that monkeys and sanitary fittings were part of Le
Corbusier's iconographie bric-a-brac in L'Esprit Nouveau - it is highly probable that
he used these photographs in his projections. But when he published a reply to
Vincent two weeks later, he sought to play down his alleged intention to provoke:
he denied that he had wished to denigrate the examples of old objects that had been
interspersed among contemporary objects, but had sought to underline what they
had in common. ('M. Le Corbusier répond', Paris Journal, 3 July 1924, LCF C3-6-38).
Be that as it may, other accounts of the lectures during the 1920s speak of laughter
during the projections: 'Do Le Corbusier's acolytes think they are so special when
the applaud at every pause or snigger at every image of an old palace that is pro­
jected?' (La Gazette de Lausanne, 1 July 1927, LCF X1-5-1).
16. The existence of the commentary is vouched for by the page of self-criticism that Le
Corbusier wrote after the trial run in Lausanne in February 1924: 'Finish by urban­
ism projections, don't go into detail but calmly and in relaxed manner give the sub­
stance and link to the question of the apartment.' (LCF C3-6-27).
17. Le Corbusier, Quand les cathédrales étaient blanches, op. cit., p. 235.
18. Le Corbusier, Précisions sur un état présent de l'architecture et de l'urbanisme, Paris: Ed.
Georges Crès, 1930, p. 20-21.
19. Le Corbusier, 'Deux Films de Pierre Chenal: Bâtir & Architecture', manuscript, n.d.,
p. 3 (LCF B3-382). In his publications, these shocks may be produced by the title,
slogan, image, or even by a break in syntax.
20. Sound recording at the Aventure Le Corbusier Exhibition, Centre Pompidou, 1987,
quoted by Mardges Bacon, op. cit., p. 336, note 7.
21. Account taken in shorthand of La grandeur et la beauté de Paris sauvegardées par les
techniques modernes, Musée du Louvre, Paris: 28 February 1930, p. 18-19 (LCF C3-8-
118).
22. Le Corbusier, 3rd Rio lecture, 7 August 1936, in Yannis Tsiomis, op. cit., p. 105.
23. See his letter to the Chargeurs Réunis, 28 December 1929 (LCF B2-9-695).
24. Le Corbusier, Une Maison - un Palais, Paris: Les Editions G. Crès & Cie, 1928, p. 1.
25. See his letter to François Gire, 22 February i960 (LCF: P5-12-310).
26. The Brazilian drawings are reproduced and discussed by Yannis Tsiomis, op. cit.;
the US drawings by Mardges Bacon, op. cit. Jean-Louis Cohen has already pub­
lished and discussed the Moscow leafs in Le Corbusier et la mystique del'URSS, op. cit.
27. When on tour in the US in 1935, Le Corbusier spoke of his 'extreme pleasure in
creating large, coloured frescos three metres long', adding 'I adore the difficulty of
inserting these figures within the limits of the paper' (Le Corbusier, Quand les cathé­
drales ..., op. cit., p. 204).
28. Le Corbusier, 'Architecture et urbanisme', lecture at the auditorium of the French
Pavilion at the Brussels World's fair, 26 June 1958. The text of the lecture has been
taken from a tape recording and published in Entretiens et conférences donnée à l’Au­
ditorium du Pavillon de la France d'avril à octobre 1958, Exposition universelle et inter­
nationale de Bruxelles, Commissariat général de la section française, 1959, p. 134
(LCF C3-13-92). In actual fact, Le Corbusier insisted that once the drawings had

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1166 O livie r Lugon

been fixed, they be given to André Malraux, to whom they were dedicated. They
eventually came back to Le Corbusier, who immediately used them to preface the
new editions of Trois Etablissements humains in 1959. This addition brought virtually
no new information, as the book already contained the various sketches - and con­
sequently their power of invocation was much greater.
29. Yannis Tsiomis, op. cit., p. 48. The details are taken from a letter to Pietro Maria
Bardi, 30 May 1950, reproduced in ibid., p. 10-11. Yannis Tsiomis also stresses Le
Corbusier's desire to maintain in the transcribed text all the jerkiness and repetitions
of the oral delivery (ibid., p. 42).
30. On Le Corbusier's typography, see Catherine de Smet, 2005 & 2007, op. cit.
31. Le Corbusier, Une Maison - un Palais, op. cit., p. 1.
32. Le Corbusier, inaugural speech of the Pavillon des Temps Nouveaux, Paris: 1937, in
Des Canons, des munitions ? Merci ! Des logis ... S.V.P. Monographie du « Pavillon des
Temps Nouveaux » à l'Exposition internationale « Art et technique » de Paris 1937, Bou­
logne: Editions de l'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 1938, p. 145. Le Corbusier here
speaks of 'popular education' in general.
33. 'The fact is now that these 3,000 students are going to introduce the subject within
their own families as you asked them to, and for them the game is starting' (Fran­
çois Gire, letter to Le Corbusier, 14 February i960, LCF P5-12-309).
34. Le Corbusier, letter to Mme. Humbert, Paris: 26 March 1935 (LCF C3-13-20).
35. Le Corbusier, letter to Carla Marzoli, 4 October 1951 (LCF U3-10-55).
36. Marc Treib, Space Calculated in Seconds. The Philips Pavilion, Le Corbusier, Edgar Varese,
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, p. 207.
37. Le Corbusier, Une maison - un palais, op. cit., p. 116.
38. Ibid., p. 118. Le Corbusier is playing here on the polysemy of 's'entendre': to listen
to each other and to agree - and even to get on well together.
39. All the quotations are taken from his instructions for the lecture at the Brussels
World's fair in 1958: Le Corbusier, letter to Guillaume Guillet, 18 June 1958 (LCF
C3-10-97 and 98).
40. See Hubert Damisch, 'Les tréteaux de la vie moderne', in Le Corbusier. Une Encyclo­
pédie, ed. Jacques Lucan, Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1987, p. 256-259.
41. Ibid., p. 252-259.
42. Le Corbusier, 'Le théâtre spontané' (1948), in André Villiers (ed.), Architecture et dra­
maturgie, Paris: Editions d'aujourd'hui, 1980, reprint of the 1950 edition, Actes de la
îe session du Centre d'Etudes Philosophiques et Techniques du Théâtre, Sorbonne, De­
cember 1948, p. 151.
43. Ibid., p. 162.
44. Le Corbusier, letter to Guillaume Gillet, op. cit.
45. Le Corbusier, letter to Pietro Maria Bardi, 30 May 1950, printed in Tsiomis, op. cit.,
p. il.
46. Gropius was actively involved in making the film he used: T h e B a u h a u s i n D e s s a u
a n d t h e w a y i t w a s b u i l t (Dns Bauhaus in Dessau und seine Bauweise), part of a series
of four films entitled How can we live healthily and economically? (Wie wohnen wir ge­
sund und wirtschaftlich ?), 1927-1928.
47. See Le Corbusier, letter to César-Films, 22 November 1934 (LCF C3-13-6).
48. 'I'm informing you that the film B â t i r [another film by Pierre Chenal, in 1930, pro­
duced at the same time as A r c h i t e c t u r e s d ' a u j o u r d ' h u i ] ... is in Algiers (from

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The Lecture 167

where I have just come back) and contains at best a quarter of the actual film; there
are no captions, it is in complete disorder and in such conditions cannot be shown
to an audience. This is what I had the misfortune to discover during a showing in
Algiers with an audience that was indeed disappointed.' (Le Corbusier, letter to
L. Dumont, secretary of the Alliance du Cinéma Indépendant, 7 May 1936, LCF B3-10-
368).
49. See Mardges Bacon, op. cit., p. 60.
50. Le Corbusier, 'Le théâtre spontané', op. cit., p. 167.
5 1 . Ibid., p . 1 6 7 .
52. Le Corbusier, Une Maison - un Palais, op. cit., p. 1.

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3
Body and Voice

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D a n c i n g D o l l s a n d M e c h a n i c a l Eyes

T r a c k i n g an O b s e s s iv e M o t i v e f r o m B a l l e t t o C i n e m a

Laurent Guido

A s the nineteenth century m oved forward, the im age of the dancer that began
to gain ascendancy w as one in which her rhythmic m ovem ents reflected both
the fundam ental pulsation of the universe and the embodiment of the new d y ­
namics of industrialization. In this chapter, I shall exam ine certain artistic repre­
sentations of the dancing body (as it appears in the literature, on stage or in the
cinema) that in various w ays derive from aesthetic discourses inspired by the
em ergence of technological modernity. I shall look in particular at the various
occurrences of a dispositive, w here the figure of mechanical body movement -
sometimes associated with electrical energy —subjects the spectator to the m ag­
netic pow er of its attractiveness. In order to address this question, I shall first
exam ine the scientific research that w as being conducted at the end of the En­
lightenment and that captured the attention of the romantic poets in particular.
In his fam ous text on the art of the puppeteer (On Puppet Shows, 1810), Hein­
rich von Kleist concentrates prim arily on choreographic art. H is protagonist is a
puppeteer, w hom the author has met in a public garden and w ho provocatively
sets up the puppet as a m odel for ballet dancers. He believes that because the
hum an performance is vulnerable both to affectation and physical limitations, it
cannot equal the prow ess of mechanical beings w hen the latter are controlled by
operators capable of adapting their m ovem ents to the law s of gravity. The w ork
of such a puppeteer, in the view of this extraordinary character, can be assim i­
lated to a true dance, 'transferred entirely to the realm of mechanical forces'.*
This fantasy of m ovements that are basically controlled by natural law s clearly
motivates the discourse of Kleist's puppeteer —w hen the body is envisaged from
a mechanical perspective, it am ounts to a series of positions determined in
space that can then serve as the basis for com posing more rational and efficient
movements.
This w ay of thinking belongs to a more general trend w hereby the m ove­
ments of the hum an body w ere apprehended from the model of the machine.
The mechanist tradition goes back to the rediscovery of the natural sciences
during the Renaissance and is characterised b y the search for physical supple­
ness and corporal discipline,2 and to Descartes's physics;3 it w as spread in parti­
cular by Julien-O ffray de La Mettrie (L'Homme-machine, 1744)4 and, from the
1730s and 1740s, influenced the w ay automata designed to imitate hum an atti-

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¡72 Laurent Guido

tudes were made. Leaving aside their value as an attraction, creating such artifi­
cial beings corresponded to scientific orientations, w hich aimed not only to re­
produce body mechanisms but also to further the understanding of them and
hence im prove them by simulation. Jacques de Vaucanson (1709-1782) w as one
of the main creators of automata. His creations took one step further the 'livin g
anatom ies' that w ere supposed to refer to the main vital functions (breathing,
digestion, blood circulation, etc.).5 A n ancient tradition w as thus being revived
- the 'Anthropom orphous Theatre' of Hero of Alexandria, author of a Treatise on
Automata, where Bacchantes w hirled around to the sound of cym bals and
drum s6. The eighteenth century w as indeed fascinated b y musical automata,
such as Vaucaison's flautist and tambourin player (1737 and 1738) or the artifi­
cial female m usicians m ade by Jaquet Droz (his pianist, 1774) and Kintsing (his
dulcim er player, 1784).
Beginning with the Enlightenment, scientific research on body m ovements
w as linked w ith aesthetic and spiritualist ideas, and w as particularly connected
w ith the quest for an original language of universal value.7 The result w as re­
new ed interest in m im ing and communication via signs, which w as to become
even more important in the w ritings of Germ an Romanticist philosophers and
poets. A m ong their precursors w as Jean-Georges Noverre, w ho prom oted the
'action ballet' —a new 'pantom im e' capable of reproducing the essential lines of
the 'intrigue' without the help of the libretto. Although he underlined the im­
portance of studying anatomy,8 and the pow er and agility incarnated by the
'm an machine', in his Lettres (1760) he attacked the dogm as that w ere uniquely
centred on the 'mechanical execution of dance'. He believed that the perfection
of technical 'grace' (precision, dexterity, the mastery of enchaînement and speed)
should not hide the emotions sought b y the choreographer's 'spirit' and 'gen­
ius': 'let us stop resembling those puppets w hose movements, directed by
coarse wires, only am use and take in the common people. If our soul deter­
mines the movem ent of our inner workings, then our feet, legs, body, face and
eyes w ill be m oved in the right directions'.9 Kleist's dancer responded to such
criticism by situating this 'purest' expression of the mobility of the soul outside
the hum an interpreter, i.e., either in the 'infinite' consciousness of the divine, or
in the total absence of consciousness in the 'articulated puppet'. The suppleness
of this ideal body com pletely adapts to the sm allest of movements defined by
the choreographer/puppeteer, w hose com m ands point to the veritable 'path ta­
ken by the soul of the dancer' w ith almost scientific rigour: 'In fact, there's a
subtle relationship between the movem ents of his fingers and the m ovements
of the puppets attached to them, something like the relationship between num ­
bers and their logarithm s or between asym ptote and hyperbola'.10

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes 173

T h e a u t o m a t o n a n d t h e p o c k e t t e le s c o p e : R o m a n t i c
i r o n i e s in E .T .A . H o f f m a n n

The puppet metaphor thus engages the self-reflexive potential that is part of a
w ider reference to the im aginary w orld of artificial beings. A s Christophe De-
shoulières has pointed out, the psychological break-up of the baroque character
during the final years of the eighteenth century w as captured by means of 'a
series of expedients - emblematic m asks and costumes, parodie puppets or fan­
tastical autom ata'.11 This w as, of course, a source of inspiration for the anti-ma­
terialist discourse of the romantic poets and writers. W hile Kleist used the fig­
ure of the puppet as the model for something that went beyond physical
constraints and could thereby denounce the narrow individualism of m any ar­
tists, the artificial being w as usually evoked in order to stigmatise the limits of
scientific pretention. Besides Jean Paul's Titan (1803), E.T.A. Hoffm ann's Automa­
ta (18 13) also highlights the criticism of m usical automata, w hich w ere judged
to be incapable of expressing the sam e artistic intensity as their hum an equiva­
lents.12 This judgem ent corresponds to the status attributed to music in the aes­
thetic hierarchies o f the Germ an romantics — music reveals the immaterial
m ovem ents of the soul, echoing the invisible rhythm s of nature.
During the first years of the nineteenth century, there w as a w idespread no­
tion that dominated the literary imagination. It w as based on the recent discov­
eries of 'electric fluid', postulating that there w as a synæsthetic correspondence
between the five senses.13 In Corinne (1807), M adam e de Staël thus described the
bewitchm ent produced b y her heroine dancing, w hen she im provised on the
traces left b y ancient painters and sculptors, and gave new life to ideal, ossified
postures: '[she] electrified the spectators of the magic dance, and transported
them to that state of ideal existence ...,14 In Germany, the scientific and occultist
theories espoused by Johann W ilhelm Ritter, w ho wrote important papers on
the physiological foundations of electricity, permeated the w ritings of Germ an
authors such as N ovalis and Hoffmann. In 18 15 , shortly before M ary Shelley
published her gothic novel Frankenstein (1818), in which an artificial creature is
animated by an electrical current, Hoffm ann wrote The Sandman, one of his fan­
tastic tales on the subject o f automata. Freud's w ell-know n analysis of this tale
(Das Unhemtliche/Tfte Uncanny, 19 19 ) focused on the anguish of castration ex­
perienced b y the hero, w ho is confronted w ith figures of paternal authority.
This explains w h y Freud neglected the fascination that the young poet N atha­
niel experiences for the strange O lym pia, not realizing she is actually an auto­
maton created by the joint efforts of a scientist and an optician.15 Thanks to a
pocket telescope, the protagonist can satisfy his voyeuristic passion for O lym ­
pia, w hom he watches from his apartment, com pletely captivated by this irre-

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174 Laurent Guido

sistible attraction. Hoffm ann gives the follow ing description: 'Nathaniel stood
before the w in d ow as if rooted to the spot, lost in contemplation of O lym pia's
heavenly b eauty'.16 He underlines the fact that the pocket telescope gives
Nathaniel the illusion of seeing the doll's eyes light up. He goes as far as saying
that their glance 'grew ever w arm er and m ore lively' (whereas the other men
are im m ediately aw are of this m ysterious girl's clum siness w hen she dances,
plays music or sings). Nathaniel's attitude m ay be seen to reflect his alienation
from a new type of spectacular illusion that stems from both scientific and com­
mercial interests (Coppola, the supplier of the prosthetic device, is described
both as an optician and a mercant). In another tale, The Deserted House (1817),
the hero also uses a pocket telescope to examine a w om an's hand that appears at
a window, evoking the sam e feeling of the sublime combination of petrifaction,
bewitchment, anguish and pleasure. Hoffm ann compares the feeling to that of
an electric current, an im age he also uses in The Sandman w hen he describes the
relation between the w riter and his reader. He also underlines the split in per­
ception that the phenomenon engenders and the morbid, mechanical repetitive­
ness that characterises it, b y describing how Nathaniel is affected by the m any
glasses that the optician has put on the table during the sale of the pocket tele­
scope. The glasses are caught b y the sun's rays, which seem to charge them up
w ith aggressive energy: 'A thousand eyes gazed and blinked and stared up at
Nathaniel, but he could not look aw ay from the table, and Coppola laid more
and more pairs of spectacles on to it, and flam ing glances leaped more and
more w ild ly together and directed their blood-red beam s into Nathaniel's
breast'.17 A t the end of the story, the author returns to the fatal mechanism that
created the optical illusion. When the hero finally understands the trickery, he is
so traum atized that he eventually dies. He becomes insane and constantly re­
lives a sequence from the ball during which he had m anaged to align his body
movem ents with those of the artificial creature, repeating like a leitmotif: 'Spin,
puppet, spin! Spin, puppet, sp in !'18

M a r b l e - b r e a s t e d g i r l s o n b r e a t h t a k i n g l y h ig h p o i n t s :
O p e r a ’s r h y t h m i c b a l le t s

O lym pia eventually did end up dancing, thus transforming the fantasies of this
alienated and deluded character into reality. The romantic ballet Coppelia debu­
ted in the Paris Opera in 1870 —the libretto borrow s from the Sandman the idea
of the fascination exercised by watching a mechanical doll. The heroine, Swanil-
da, decides tem porarily to take the place of a female automaton to w hich her
lover, Franz, is attracted. She imitates the automaton's m ovements and per-

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes 175

form s several dances, accompanied by autom ata m usicians (cymbals and dulci­
mer). Elisabeth Roudinesco has written about the differences between the tale
and the ballet. She notes that Hoffm ann's original tale is more of a 'pretext' that
allow s the sam e ballerina to dance the two parts —the fiancée and the doll. The
combination of the two roles has led to the notion o f the ideal w om an as a pro­
totypical figure: the ethereal, romantic ballerina, dancing on points: 'The dis­
turbing strangeness is displaced from the character of Coppélius to that of C op­
pélia, half flesh and half automaton, sometimes alive and sometimes dead, and
w ho, as a successor to Giselle, represents the disturbing spectacle of a w om an
deprived of her fem ininity'.19 Coppélia clearly belongs to the tradition of roman­
tic ballet but, at the same time, heralds the end of a tradition, a form ula that had
exhausted itself, and the emergence of a new context. Although the dual role of
Sw anilda/Coppélia is perfectly adapted to the choreographic conventions of the
period, centred on the performance of a supple and light virtuoso ballerina, it
remains strangely distant from the supernatural beings and sylph-like incarna­
tions that appear in La Sylphide (1832), Giselle (1841) or La Péri (1843), and con­
stantly seek to leave the ground, aided and abetted by various machine effects
(cables, scenery, lighting, etc.).20
Coppélia's choreographer, Arthur Saint-Léon (1821-1870), w as one of the great
figures of romantic dance, both an energetic dancer and dem anding choreogra­
pher. A t the end of the 1860s, he w as w orking on the close relationship between
the dancing body and the rhythm of the music (he w as also a virtuoso violinist)
and sim ultaneously engaged as ballet master for the Imperial Ballet of St. Pe­
tersburg and the Paris Opera. Théophile Gautier noted that his ability to bend
his body to meet the most difficult technical requirements earned him the nick­
name, the 'rubber-m an'.21 Gautier, in his dance criticism, supported Saint-
Léon's proposals for developing a system of rapid ballet notation (La Sténochoré-
graphie, 1853) and for im proving the training that ballerinas received (De l'état
actuel de la Danse, 1856).“ Gautier also wrote about his fascination for artists
w ho manifest great suppleness in their dancing. On various occasions, he used
another qualifier, 'elastic ball', to describe Saint-Léon,23 and to call attention to
the most dynam ic artists' jum ps.24 He praised the extreme agility that pushed
physical possibilities to their utmost limits, and sim ultaneously sharply criti­
cised ballet artists' insufficient training. In Gautier's view, the accomplishments
of the best acrobats opened up possibilities for the 'choreographer w ith im agi­
nation': 'W atching them leaping so far, falling from such heights, w e realised
just how incomplete and backw ard most opera dancers' training is'.25 The theo­
retical side of Gautier's w ritings is not com parable to Kleist's w ork, and when
he speaks of puppets, it is to m ake fun of the least rhythm ically reliable dancers:
'It w ould be better to have an assortment of w ooden dum m ies that w ould be
m oved by strings, at least they w ould be in time'.26

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176 Laurent Guido

There w ere also a large num ber of w orks from the Romantic era that pre­
sented the figure of the animated statue - for exam ple, two ballets choreo­
graphed b y Saint-Léon: La Fille de Marbre (1847) ar>d Néméa (1864). This motif
w as dear to sensualist philosophy, exem plified by Condillac's statue, and had
already been staged through the myth of Pygm alion in w orks by Ram eau in
1748 and Rousseau in 1770.27 G autier's im pressions of Néméa reflect the fantasy
of an idealised corporality, located at the very intersection of the differences
between the sexes. Gautier thought that the main protagonist of this ballet, Eu­
génie Fiocre, seems to 'combine w ithin herself the perfections of the girl and the
ephebe, producing an asexual beauty, which is beauty itself'. Despite the back­
ground of the story/8 Gautier assim ilates the ballerina's rhythmic m ovements to
an animated statue:

It is as if a Greek sculptor had hewn her out of a block of Paros marble and animated
her by means of some miracle similar to that of Galatea. With the purity of the marble
she has the suppleness of life. Her movements develop and offset each other in sover­
eign harmony. Each of her attitudes produces ten profiles of statues which art regrets
that it cannot capture in stone.29

This motif associating the durability of marble with the ephemeral grace of
movem ent took on a paradigm atic value during this period, pointing to the ob­
session of capturing each of the multiple aspects of the fleeting and transitory
instant in order to endow it w ith the eternal value extolled b y classical aes­
thetics. Baudelaire, in his Le Peintre de la vie moderne (1868), w as one of the main
advocates of this vision. Gautier, w riting about the same ballerina, noted that
each of her m ovements

would - if one were to stop her in mid-action - provide the subject of a drawing or
statuette: the accuracy of the proportions and purity of the forms ... produce felici­
tous profiles from all sides, undulations of charming lines, eurhythmy of outline, as
could be found in antique statuaries'.30

This text refers on one level to a discourse that interprets the succession of m ul­
tiple view s produced by breaking dow n the m ovements via the classic canon of
the statuary and the fertile instants that Lessing called for (Laocoon, 1766). But
the form ulation of this concept of movem ent - a series of successive v iew s -
w as also dependent on the scientific discoveries that occurred in the second
half of the nineteenth century. This w as w hen research in physiology form u­
lated the invisible mechanisms of motricity, first using the graphic method, and
then the chronophotographic method at the end of the 1870s. According to
Bergson (in his Creative Evolution, 1 9 1 1 [1907]), the technical production of any-
instant-whatever is interpreted using the privileged instants of classic aesthetics -
w hich is hardly surprising in the nineteenth century, w hich w as m arked by the

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes 177

rediscovery of the ancient ideals regarding the proportions of the body. This
reading of the new, scientific im ages of the body, w hich w ere seen as traces of
the 'natural' rhythm of movement, eventually led people at the end of the cen­
tury to challenge the art of arbitrary poses and turn to aesthetic system s that
favoured the system atic and rational study of human m ovem ents (Delsartism,
Dalcroze's eurhythmies, Laban's expressive dance, etc.). Gilles Deleuze in parti­
cular em phasised how cinema w as involved in the transformation process,
w here the art of poses progressively gave w ay to body movements, a 'function
of space and time, a continuity constructed at each instant, which now only
allow ed itself to be decom posed into its prominent immanent elements, instead
of being related to prior form s w hich it w as to em body'.31

T h e im p a c t o f te c h n o lo g y : N e w ways o f lo o k in g and new


b o d ie s

Coppelia's immense success w as due to a context where the already considerable


appeal of dance during the last quarter of the century w as increased by contact
w ith new visual representation techniques, some of which came from the field
of physiological and aesthetic analysis of hum an body movements. Chronopho-
tography aroused the interest of those w ho sought to breathe new life into
movem ent on stage and choreography. This w as particularly true of Georges
Dem eny, Etienne-Jules M arey's chief assistant at the Station Phusiologicjlie in
Paris. In 1895, Dem eny - a pioneer in the field of physical education - took part
in a project run b y M aurice Emm anuel, one of the key specialists of Greek or­
chestics, w ho used film to verify the choreographic attitudes he observed on
ancient bas-reliefs (figs. 1-2).
These new mechanical m odes of visual representation focused on the dancing
female body. The performances of ballerinas in operas, French cancan dancers,
acrobats and skirt-dancing enthusiasts w ere highlighted in the various specta­
cles that utilised animated im ages based on chronophotography (M uybridge,
Marey, Anschutz, Londe, etc.), and later on film (Edison, Biograph, Lumiere,
Gaum ont, Pathe, etc.). This isotopy of dance, sport or music hall corresponded
first and foremost to the goal of producing an attraction, w hich w as espoused by
everyone interested in givin g the spectacle a new lease on life. For film histo­
rians, the notion of attraction has served to characterize the dominant mode of
representation of early cinema32 as it encom passes both the performance re­
corded by the camera and the medium reproducing that performance.

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178 Laurent Guido

Figure 1

M a u o M íitm n i l u n a n ut m *


R g . 433 ; louairat itârriufliM ire ¡
% - 434 = S|. 4 ï l a io a ea l «aaculid. an limita tin » «lu pre-
--( 277);
K g. t u •iKinrnl kiilrrmi* Jta lrr ,
Fig. U 5 iiionirut intrrraK'Jiaire (
Fig. 437 : pirulí J r la ligure 4.10; ttlaur au potnt J < iltfa rt ¿
M IM n t r w n llt l
[Lm !■•£*• I «I 2 delà planche IV mmI la raprmliM-iuu d urcir
de» J r i » cliclM i J'a p il» IrafiM-U «al tue cuaaliuilr» Ira ligure*
•rtirmiti<|«c« 4,'Ml (| ¿l| |
3 1 4 . C o rp a P a n o tó . od p e i u a a e o e o . Par awilM ar aux
I‘m «A 1« lo r p . r n tr La mitra, il ru n i d iu trea m la Corpt rrali-
l'enrli/ rn a»»n 1 . aaaa ta radm aer. |»i»l»iil i|ui> la« janlini n l M
Uni de* niiieirmrula iliirr* T r i ail rrlid q ae Ira Q^urr» 4.H cl
4 30 ntontrcnl k m d rin miment« rnm tirU e l dual le» im-ij;«-« r i
4 d» la planrlir IV rrjwvaealral ïr » *» t.« m

Aar «ne «H*pr j ligarv* rou jr» de t* prrnurrr im itir d* •* »iftlr,


•igi*V <1 lluruu (II), a » - daaw d r ll u r l u K r im d. riMilt iIjii» uniI
I» ¿ « a r J r * <!«•• . i c j >■» « « « in r i de Diunram. K lln «ont nu
Minore de once ¡ l'une «relira ¡nme d» b dultile llrte. ITne iJ o lf du

1. M l « I f y lai i»«a (ran 4a I'M » ! M llj< araúraa» plu k<a ¡W).

Figure 2

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes 179

The relationship between the dancing body and a w ay of looking that is m edia­
tised by means of a technical dispositive inspired the illustrator Albert Robida
to produce his futuristic book, Le Vingtième Siècle (1883). Basing his vision on the
potential of the theatrophone, show n at the Paris International Electricity Exhi­
bition of 18 8 1, he im agined the téléphonoscope, an instrument for distance v iew ­
ing that allow ed a man to enjoy in all comfort the spectacle of a dancer show ing
her legs (fig. 3). This vignette belonged to a whole series of literary texts or car­
icatures describing the voyeuristic dispositive of the ballet lover, w ho sought to
cut up the dancer's body in successive segments, often using a lorgnette.33 This
instrument is the m agic m edium that allow s the hero of the Sandman to ascribe
bewitching grace to a w ooden puppet (see above) —it successively selects and
enlarges the subject under observation, w ith technical mediation taking on a
com pensatory value. In the age of romantic ballet, this motif not only crops up
in Théophile G autier's theatre chronicles,34 but also in m any of Honoré D au­
m ier's caricatures, w here the delighted figures o f the rich bourgeois observe
questionable entrechats from their boxes (fig. 4), or in Dum as's novel, The Lady
with the Velvet Collar (18 51), w here Hoffm ann him self is put in the position of the
voyeu r under the spell of the telescope dispositive.35 Thanks to this 'im proved
eye', the gaze itself becomes part of a process of mechanization sim ilar to that
w hich reduces ballerinas to groups of stereotyped figures. It is the sam e pros­
thetic phenomenon that M ary Ann Doane describes w hen addressing the filmic
dispositive: the implicit alliance between the spectacular exhibiting of the fe­
male body in the cinema and the activating of technology as a compensatory
prosthesis is manifested in a specular organisation where the (masculine) spec­
tator dissociates him self from the representation both corporally and spatially.36
The recognition and fetishist appreciation of the mechanical —and even indus­
trial - character o f such a dispositive of vision are evident in m any descriptions.
For example, Félicien Cham psaur, in his L'Amant des danseuses of 1888, evoked
'the m agic electricity pouring an incantation of erotic paradise on the negligees',
the w hole happening in the 'unceasing noise of a factory'.37
This inscription of the body w ithin a technological context took place at a
time w hen the whole question of the artificial being w as re-emerging, in parti­
cular follow ing Edison's invention of the phonograph in 1877, and his develop­
ing of 'talking dolls' based on his sound-recording device. The w ay in w hich the
traditional figure of the automaton w as rew orked lies at the heart o f Villiers's
novel, Tomorrmv's Eve (1886), where chronophotographic projection is exploited
in the 'dance m acabre' section. Its main purpose is to deconstruct the seductive
pow er produced b y the rhythmic steps of a cabaret girl. If one rem oves from her
the illusion that is built up by ingenious devices and m odish make-up, nothing
w hatsoever remains of the initial charm, and w hat is left is a being whose ugli­
ness m ay even be repulsive. Paradoxically enough, the fictional Edison makes

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180 Laurent Guido

Figure 3

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical E/es 181

an artificial w om an in order to overcome this problem. This 'electro-human


being' aim s to em body an ideal w here science literally manages to give shape to
m ystical and aesthetic aspirations, by virtue of conceptions stemming from the
sym bolist sphere of influence. Between the decline of romantic ballet and the
beginnings of m odern dance, there is a transition from a sensual conception of
the dancer —w ho is often assim ilated to the prostitute —to that of an abstract or
higher symbol. This can be clearly seen in the very popular spectacles organised
b y Loie Fuller and lauded b y M allarm é and H uysm ans as the demonstration of
the convergence of aesthetic concerns and scientific technology (lighting, special
effects, etc.).38 Tow ards the end of her life, Fuller, w ho w as - in a sense - a
veritable 'electro-human being', directly referred to the w orld of Hoffmann's
automata for a ballet (L'Homme au sable, 1925) and a film that has since been lost
(Les Incertitudes de Coppélius, 19 2 7).39

Figure 5

«4M. >. £•r * U T h fl. W h w M wd U w f krém Strptm tm tntm m

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1182 Laurent Guido

R h y t h m s a n d g e o m e t r i c id e a ls : T h e p e r s p e c t i v e o f t h e
‘ p h o to g e n ic * b o d y

The metaphor used by Kleist one hundred years previously w as strongly


echoed in the first years of the twentieth century by those seeking to renovate
stage production. Edw ard Gordon Craig's concept of the Uber-marionette de­
signated the ideal of an actor w ho had become stylised material, situated be­
yond the very limitations of life itself.40 Valentine de Saint-Point challenged not
only the 'conventional m ovem ents' o f ballet, but also the predilection for 'd ra w ­
ing inspiration from the Greeks and Egyptians, statues and paintings from all
periods', such as were found in Isadora Duncan's w ork, in Daleroze and Appia's
Orpheus (19 12 ) or Nijinsky's Après-Midi d'un Faune (1912): 'Putting back into
movem ent attitudes that artists have immobilised in their w orks ... means
breaking dow n and analysing. It is the opposite of art w hich is synthesis, in a
w ay it means destylizing.'41 Consequently, Saint-Point adopted the central pos­
tulate of those w ho favoured m odern dance as a quest for absolute continuity
and pared-dow n movem ents that could be interpreted by means of geometrical
values (fig. 6). Such criticism of stiffness frequently came up in theoretical w rit­
ings on modern dance, from Laban to John Martin.4^ It m ay also take on a more
parodical form, thus updating Bergson's reflections on the comic —the mechan­
isation of the living indeed engenders an 'interference of series' that is exorcised
b y a salutary laugh. Valentine de Saint-Point subscribed to this idea in her Me-
tachorie, w hich contained dances evoking the figure of the artificial being (The
Puppet and Death and The Puppet Dances). From Petrouchka ( 19 11) to Pulcinella
(1920), several ballets set to music by Stravinsky w ere grounded in a mixture of
fascination for and sarcasm about the w orld of puppets and masks. According
to a prominent dance critic from the 1920s, André Levinson, Petrouchka plays on
a tension where the hum an soul fails to free itself from its mechanical 'fram e­
w ork' - the character 'slides into the doll's automatic reflexes. A nd this duality
of the movement, w hich is both heartrending and funny, keeps the audience
spellbound'.43 Finally, there w as O skar Schlemmer, w ho w as explicitly torn be­
tween reflections on the puppet model (from Kleist to Craig) and ironic inter­
pretations (from Hoffm ann to Russian Ballets), and who, w ith his conception of
the dancer as a 'figure of art' (Mensch und Kunstfigur, 1925), stressed the need to
explore geometrical space in the name of the quest for new physical horizons,
situated beyond the constraints of the physical body.
A s I have noted elsewhere,44 it is the same quest for the rhythmic potential­
ities of space and time, envisaged on the basis o f m odels of m usic and dance,
that characterises the approach of the avant-garde cinema during the 1920s.
Gilles Deleuze, w hen w riting on the French photogenic 'school', astutely con-

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes

fers the epithet 'autom atic ballet' on the geometrical dimension that is expressed
in the montage sequences in the Ballet mécanique, L ’Inhumaine, Cœur fidèle and La
Roue, and which for him bring about a vast 'mechanical composition of image-
m ovem ents':

A first type of machine is the automaton, a simple machine or clock mechanism, a


geometrical configuration of parts which combine, superimpose or transform move­
ments in homogeneous space, according to the relationships through which they
pass. The automaton ... illustrates a clear mechanical movement as law of the max­
imum for a set of images which brings together things and living beings, the inani­
mate and the animate, by making them the same.45

This therm odynam ic and electric fusion of the living being and the inanimate
object takes us back to a broader fantasy of a pas de deux between tradition and
m odernity or between the realm of the aesthetic and that of science, such as had
already been em bodied by Loïe Fuller.

Figure 6

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184 Laurent Guido

M e t r o p o l i s and th e c h o ru s g irls ’ ‘a u to m a tic d a n c e ’

This ideal finds emblematic expression in a sequence in Fritz Lang's M e t r o p o ­


l i s (1927), where an artificial w om an has been created by the scientist, Rot-
w ang. Thanks to electricity she appears to be flesh and blood, and does an erotic
dance in front of an exclusively male audience m ade u p of the notables of the
futuristic city. The spectators are gradually bewitched by the irresistible attrac­
tion of the choreographic illusion directed by both Rotw ang and the important
capitalist w ho runs the city (another alliance between science and commerce, as
in the Sandman). The dance visions, expressing the bewitching pow er of me­
chanised sexual energy, gradually take a hold on the delirious mind of the film's
idealistic hero, Freder, w ho is not present since he is ill in bed. The electric body
is first show n in a veil recalling cinema projection. It sum m ons up neo-antique
nudity, w hich w as particularly appreciated in Germanic countries, where at that
time people looked favourably on the prim itivistic values of trance and ecstasy
promoted b y Körperkultur. Moreover, the android dancer's body recalls the per­
formances of chorus girls in revues, m usic halls and film s - a phenomenon often
addressed in philosophical or sociological terms b y a large num ber of scholars
in the G erm any of the 1920s (fig. 7). Thus, w hen exam ining a number of these
choreographies, Siegfried Kracauer and Fritz Giese came to identify a Taylorist
im age o f the rationalised and mechanized body-fetish promoted by industrial
m odernity and the rhythm of the Big City innervated by electricity. It w as then
common to com pare — in the w ords of a critic w riting in 19 27 for the French
periodical L'A rt cinématographique - the new bodies generated by 'beauty salons
and physical education classes' to 'shiny automata m ade of nickel or steel
w hose trigger mechanisms can easily be predicted'.46 A t the beginning of the
talkie era, Emile Vuillerm oz still associated the dynam ic rhythms of show s fea­
turing chorus girls to those characterising the actual film, capable of 'submitting
all the im ages to the law s of a superior choreography'. In his view, both ex­
pressed the 'hallucinative intoxication emanating from certain machines w ork­
ing flat out, that one cannot but help looking at ,..'47
In terms reminiscent of Craig's arguments about the harm ful consequences of
Dalcroze's eurhythmies (in a w ord, the modern w om an's becoming a model),48
A ndré Levinson sim ilarly sees the chorus girl in the music-hall - a 'precision
autom aton'49 - as the prototype of 'a whole army, disciplined and resolute'
m odelled on the production line: 'The future Eve, the anonym ous sports­
wom an, the im personal beauty, the mass-being: the chorus girl'.50 With the in­
evitable reference to the m ilitary m odel,51 these turns seem to him above all to
deploy a form o f 'collective organism ', 'the absolute sim ultaneity of movement
underlin[ing] the physical quasi-identity of these beings turned out in series'.

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes I&5

Philippe Soupault, in his 'L es girls ou la danse autom atique',52 also speaks of
the 'undifferentiated girls' w hose regulated and uniform activities produced a
ephem eral and seductive 'coldness', being progressively assimilated to 'm ore or
less pretty machines', 'youn g "girl soldiers"', 'well-regulated m echanisms'.53

Figure 7

M e tr o p o lisseems to take these comments one stage further, but b y highlight­


ing the m ale spectators and the w ay they are hypnotised by the automaton's
artificial ballet. They are designated as the victim s of the scopic drive brought
about b y the bewitching spectacle of technology, expressing an unconscious fe-
tishisation of the machine in the disturbing shape of a body animated by electri-

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186 Laurent Guido

city.54 This sequence does not refer to the intense corporal fragmentation in the
important sequences of 'photogenic' dance in French cinema in the 1 9 2 0 s -
K e a n (A . Volkoff, 19 2 5 ) , M a l d o n e (Jean Gremillon, 19 2 8 ) or L a F e m m e e t l e
P a n t i n (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1 9 2 8 ) .55 In M e t r o p o l i s , it is the fragmentation
of the w ay that men look which claims our attention. Besides a close-up high­
lighting a frontal glance from M edusa, the dancer's silhouette is alw ays filmed
in m edium shots. However, the montage of these body postures follow s two
separate approaches - initially, the attitudes are juxtaposed, the effect of which
is to em phasize the discontinuity in the sequence of im ages (and of the graze
focused on them); then they alternate with shots of the diegetic spectators. The
latter are represented b y means of progressive blending: rapid montage, super­
imposition, then a synthetic image sequentially pulling out their eyes and rein­
serting them in a single divided screen (as in Hans Richter's F lLM ST U D lE, 1 9 2 7 )
(figs. 8a-8c). The maniacal repetitiveness of their looks are thus exposed like the
'thousands of eyes' represented by the glasses in Hoffmann's S a n d m a n repre­
sented. This sequence from M e t r o p o l i s show s us how the cinema can give a
new form of expression to the condemnation of scientific m irages and em pha­
sise its ow n specular dimension to highlight the fragmented, discontinuous, and
in a w ord kaleidoscopic character o f hum an perception in the era of m echanisa­
tion. Contrary to w hat Emile Vuillerm oz states, it is thus indeed possible to
'detach one's eyes' from the new electric phantasmagoria.

Figure 8a

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes 187

Figure 8b

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188 Laurent Guido

N o te s

1. Heinrich von Kleist, 'Über das Marionettentheater', Berliner Abendblätter12-15 De­


cember 1810. English translation: 'On the Marionette Theatre', translated by Idris
Parry, in Hand to Mouth and Other Essays, ed. Idris Parry, Manchester: Carcanet New
Press, 1981, pp. 13-18. See also <http://www.s0uthemcr0ssreview.0rg/9/kleist.htm>
(28.08.08).
2. See, in particular, Marina Nordera, 'Le corps de la femme', in La construction de la
féminité dans la danse (XVe-XVIIe siècle), Pantin: Centre National de la Danse, 2004,
p. 13.
3. For example, the comparison between the human body and the watch's mechanism
in the 6th chapter of Traité des Passions (Treatise of the Passions). According to legend,
Descartes made an automat, Francine. See Philippe Breton, A l’image de l’homme. Du
Golem aux créatures artificielles, Paris: Seuil, 1995, p. 35.
4. Julien-Offroy de la Mettrie, L’homme-machine, précédé de Lire La Mettrie par Paul­
Laurent Assoun, Paris: 1999 (Folio-Essais); English translation: Machine Man and
Other Writings, translated by Ann Thomson, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1996.
5. See, in particular, Alfred Chappuis and Edmond Droz, Les Automates, figures artifi­
cielles d’hommes et d’animaux, Neuchâtel: Griffon, 1949 and Pierre Brunei (ed.),
L’Homme artificiel, Paris: Didier Erudition/CNED, 1999.
6. P. Breton, op. cit., p. 91.
7. Gérando, De l ’Education des sourds-muets (1827), Denis Diderot, Lettre sur les sourds et
muets (1751), Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Essai sur l’origine des Langues (1754 -176 1, pub­
lished in 1781); Johann Gottfried Herder, Treatise on the Origin of Language (1772).
8. He was also interested in studying how horses walk. Noverre, Lettres sur la danse,
Paris: Ramsay, 1978, p. 131.
9. Ibid., pp. 107-108, 247.
10. Today choreographer-puppeteers can control a virtual dancer's body from a dis­
tance by using the digital techniques of motion capture, allowing them to pilot a
body that becomes a series of geometrical points moving in all the possible dimen­
sions of time and space.
11. Christophe Deshoulières, L’opéra baroque et la scène moderne, Paris: Fayard, 2000,
p. 397. Moreover, this trend extended the popular tradition of fairground spectacles
where human performers rubbed shoulders with singing and dancing dolls, the aim
of which was to produce a miniature pastiche of contemporary stage successes.
Lully, for example, was constantly parodied in Parisian theatres - from the Opéra
des bamboches in 1675 Travesty in 1736. Ibid., p. 400, 411.
12. Hoffmann mentioned Kleist's text in a letter of 1 July 1812 to his friend Hitzig,
quoted in Lienhard Wawrzyn, Der Automaten-Mensch, Berlin: Verlag Klaus Wagen­
bach, 1985, p. 104.
13. Otto von Guericke's research on the electrostatic machine, Benjamin Franklin's work
on storms, Luigi Galvani's demonstration of animal electricity (1786) and Alexandre
Volta's battery (1799).
14. Madame de Staël, Corinne ou l’Italie, Paris: Garnier, s.d., pp. 108-109; English ver­
sion: Project Gutenberg EBook #16896 (translator unknown).

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes

15. It is interesting to recall Hoffmann's obsessive interest in the new technologies of


vision, as Max Milner has pointed out in his essay on phantasmagoria in the literary
imagination. See Max Milner, La fantasmagorie. Essai sur l'optique fantastique, Paris:
PUF, 1982, p. 40-63.
16. The Sandman, in Tales of Hoffmann, selected and translated with an introduction by
R.J. Hollingdale, with the assistance of Stella and Vernon Humphries, and Sally
Hayward, London: Penguin, 2004 [1982], p. no.
17. Ibid., pp. 109-110.
18. Ibid., p. 123.
19. Elisabeth Roudinesco, 'L'oiseau sorti d'un rêve obscur ... et dont le sexe est incer­
tain', in L'Avant-Scène. Ballet Danse, [Spécial Coppélia], no. 4, November-January
1981, p. 15.
20. Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp, Ballerina: The Art of Women in Classical Ballet, Lon­
don: Princeton Book Company, 1987, p. 29-45.
21. La Presse, 25 February 1850. Théophile Gautier, Ecrits sur la danse, Arles: Actes Sud,
1995, p. 244 [ed. Ivor Guest],
22. La Presse, 1 February 1853, p. 258-261; 20 January 1845. Ibid., p. 179.
23. Idem.
24. Augusta Maywood (La Presse, 25 November 1839. Ibid., p. 104); Mme Guy-Stéphan
(choreography by Saint-Léon, La Presse, 1 February 1853. Ibid., p. 259).
25. Risley et Fils au Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, La Presse, 24 June 1844. Ibid.,
p. 159.
26. La Presse, 3 June 1844. Ibid., p. 154.
27. C. Deshoulières, op. cit., pp. 407-411.
28. In actual fact, it is the statue of the god Eros that comes to life in this ballet,and not
the character played by E. Fiocre.
29. Le Moniteur universel, 18 July 1864. T. Gautier, op. cit., pp. 318-319. See Le Moniteur
universel, 4 June 1866. Ibid., p. 331.
30. Le Moniteur Universel, 27 February 1865. Ibid., p. 322.
31. Gilles Deleuze, Cinéma 1. L'image-mouvement, Paris: Ed. de Minuit, 1983; Cinema 1,
The Movement-Image (trans. Tomlinson, H. and Habberjam, B.) London: Continuum,
2005, p. 7.
32. See Tom Gunning, Charles Musser or André Gaudreaulfs publications.
33. On this topic, see Guy Ducrey, Corps et graphies, Paris: Honoré Champion,1996,
p. 238-241.
34. In a critical piece written in November 1858, Théophile Gautier observed a ballet
troupe coming down a staircase from above, with an 'artillery of lorgnettes aiming'
at the ballerinas' legs and feet, later described as a young choreographic army.
T. Gautier, op. cit., pp. 303 and 308.
35. On this point, see my analysis in 'Le regard et la danseuse. Sur quelques utopies
télé-visuelles, de la lorgnette romantique à l'écran interactif', in Mireille Berton and
Anne-Katrin Weber, Pour une archéologie de la télé-vision, Lausanne: Antipodes, 2009,
PP- 349 -374 ­
36. Mary Ann Doane, 'Technology’s Body: Cinematic Vision in Modernity', Differences,
vol. 5, no. 2, Summer 1993, pp. 1-23.
37. Félicien Champsaur, V Amant des danseuses, Paris: Ferenczi et Fils, 1926, p. 24.

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m Laurent Guido

38. For more detailed analysis of this point, readers may consult my book, L’Âge du
rythme. Cinéma, musicalité et culture du corps dans les théories françaises des années
1910-1930, Lausanne: Payot, 2007 [chapter 7.6] and my article entitled 'Rhythmic
Bodies/Movies: Dance as Attraction in Early Film Culture', in Wanda Strauwen
(ed.), The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press,
2006, pp. 157-178.
39. Giovanni Lista, Loïe Fuller Danseuse de la Belle Epoque, Paris: Stock/Somogy, 1994,
pp. 580, 644. Even if Fuller's adaptations are mainly centred on the problematic of
the eye thief, her use of the automaton theme refers to a ’'critical relation to her own
body, that masked engine of all her dances. Simultaneously mastered and excluded,
it had always expressed itself in accordance with the Other. Loïe had thus experi­
enced her dancer's body solely as a source of energy and regulating drive of move­
ment, exactly as happens in the mechanical heart of an automaton, which drives its
movements without sharing its vital presence,' Ibid., p. 596.
40. 'The actor must go, and in his place comes the inanimate figure - the über-marion-
ette we may call him, until he has won for himself a better name.', 'The Actor and
the Uber-Marionette', The Mask, vol. I, no. 2, April 1908, in Gordon Craig on Move­
ment and Dance, New York: Dance Horizons, 1977, p. 50 [Arnold Rood, ed.].
41. ' And it is within the limits of this geometrical figure that my heart can then obey its
instinct of cadence and multiply the variation of its rhythms.' 'La Métachorie', Janu­
ary 1914. Reprinted in Valentine de Saint-Point, Manifeste de lafemme futuriste, Paris:
Arthème Fayard, 2005, pp. 54-56.
42. John Martin also stigmatises the artificial, arbitrary and abstract poses of ballet, and
the excesses of Rhythmicians, who tried to go beyond them. Their efforts, nonethe­
less, led to the creation of a 'high-quality machine', i.e., the dancer as a 'three-di­
mensional instrument' who should now perform in a context that is both spatial
and physical (with the importance of depth and weight, as in Laban's kinespheric
model) - 'Where more than one dancer is performing, the possibilities are increased
in geometrical proportion'. John Martin, The Modern Dance, Princeton: Dance Hori­
zons, 1965 [1933], p. 54.
43. André Levinson, La Danse d'aujourd'hui, Paris: Editions Duchartre et Van Buggen-
houdt, 1927, p. 79.
44. See my 'Entre corps rythmé et modèle chorégraphique: danse et cinéma dans les
années 1920', Vertigo Esthétique et histoire du cinéma, Paris: Images en Manœuvre,
Special Issue, October 2005, p. 20-27, and L'Age du rythme, op. cit., Chapter 7.
45. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: the Movement-Image, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, London: Athlone Press, 1986, pp. 41-2.
46. Albert Valentin, 'Introduction à la magie blanche et noire', L'Art Cinématographique,
t. IV, Paris: Alcan, 1927, p. 13.
47. Emile Vuillermoz, 'Le cinéma et la musique', Le Temps, 27 May 1933.
48. According to Craig, the girls living in Hellerau would bring forth a 'distinguée, nice
and pretty modern Venus', a 'brainless and soulless goddess', who would, above
all, follow the canons of fashion. This harmful influence would produce an opera­
tion of 'stereotyping of hundreds of women a day', creating generations of 'maids,
programme vendors, servants, and all those who are or wish to follow the uniform
pattern'. 'Jaques Dalcroze and his school', The Mask, vol. V, no. 1, July 1912. Reprin­
ted in Gordon Craig on Movement and Dance, op. cit., pp. 228 and 233.

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Dancing Dolls and Mechanical Eyes 191

49. André Levinson, op. cit., p. 362.


50. Ibid., p. 354.
51. 'I have spoken of the phalanx, and it is not only a metaphor. The fact is that one can
see in chorus girls' exercises the martial prestige of the parade ground, those mili­
tary ballets of yesteryear, the popular jubilation surrounding the torchlight tattoo,
drums out front, the rhythmic enthusiasm of the warlike extravaganza.' Ibid.,
p. 358.
52. Terpsichore, Paris: Emile Hazan & Cie, 1928. In this work, Soupault, aspired to an
alliance between dance and cinema, which at the time seemed to him only devel­
oped in a few fragments and documentaries. Ibid., pp. 107 and 1 1 1 .
53. Ibid., pp. 64-65.
54. Regarding this relationship with the male gaze, see Tom Gunning's analysis (The
Films Of Fritz Lang: Allegories Of Vision And Modernity, London: BFI, 2000, pp. 72­
73). For Andreas Huyssen, the woman-creature in M e t r o p o l i s reflects two contra­
dictory yet fascinating trends of the relationship to the machine: on the one hand,
her submission, her efficiency and her passivity, and, on the other hand, her power
leading to fear and rejections. See 'The Vamp and the Machine', in A. Huyssen, After
the Great Divide, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1986,
pp. 65-81.
55. On this point, see my detailed analysis of two sequences in La Femme et le pantin,
'Le corps et le regard: images rythmiques de la danse dans La Femme et le pantin', in
B. Bastide and F. de la Brétèque (eds.), Jacques de Baroncelli, Paris: AFRHC, 2007,
pp. 232-241, and my article entitled 'Le style chorégraphique au cinéma', in Film
style/cinema and contemporary visual arts, Udine, 2007, pp. 499-522.

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e b rary

e b ra ry

e b ra ry

e b ra ry

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F ro m B roadcast P e rfo rm a n ce to V irtu a l
Show

T e l e v i s i o n ’s T e n n is D i s p o s i t i v e

Laurent Guido

In 2001, Jean-Luc Godard w as interviewed by the French sports new spaper


L'Equipe. He put forw ard his view s on the modes of audiovisual representation
of sport, saying that, for him, sport is one of the rare fields of expression in to­
day's w orld that is characterised by a form of 'truth', thanks to the material
inscription of physical perform ance in space: 'I still watch sport because som e­
thing has rem ained w here the body does not lie'.1 However, he w as more criti­
cal of the perceptions in the m edia of the movements of sportsm en and women,
especially w hen show n on television. Despite the constraints that come from the
physical distance between the athletes and one part of the spectators, Godard
believes that a fragm entary experience of reality (where 'one can clearly see that
one sees little')2 is better than the pretence, m aintained by television, of opti­
m ally reproducing a sports performance, which he assimilates to the production
of a deceitful illusion. He backs up this position b y alluding to tennis, a sport he
personally indulges in and to w hich he refers on different occasions in his w rit­
ings and cinematographic w ork.3 H is first exam ples are basically laconic value
judgem ents on the personalities and physical attributes of the players - when
going to Roland-Garros, Anna Kournikova seemed to him to be 'really beautiful
and really elegant', or Thomas M uster had finally divested him self of the lum ­
berjack im age he had in the media. He then goes on to examine the more serious
question of ball speeds (whereupon he m akes some not terribly original com­
ments about the blatant difference between the pow er of V enus W illiams's and
M artina Hingis's strokes) and w hich television, in his view, is quite 'incapable of
rendering'.

A g a in s t th e m e d ia tiz a tio n o f s p o r t: A c r it ic a l p e rs p e c tiv e

Such statements —how ever valid they m ay be - are, of course, too peremptory
to be of any real theoretical value, but they are o f use in that they do lead to
important issues regarding how the m edia represents sport. Godard's pessi­
mism derives from a more general philosophical criticism of contemporary

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194 Laurent Guido

audiovisual culture, which - as a more or less conscious extension of the ideas


first developed by the theorists of the Frankfurt School, and then by G u y De-
bord and Jean Baudrillard - is seen as irrem ediably subservient to the gradual
arrival of a show biz society centred on the excessive commercialisation of sym ­
bolic goods. The proliferation of em pty and useless im ages stimulated by this
systematic process of m erchandising is thus thought to have brought about a
correlative modification in the w ay w e look at the world, and hence the w ay
physical performance is represented on the screen.

Filming sport boils down to showing the work of the body as continuity. The problem
is that this priority has disappeared. The way of 'showing' has dramatically deterio­
rated. ... On the TV there's no more respect for what is filmed, it's just a matter of
programmes and broadcasting. Things have really changed!4

In order to support this general v iew w ith more concrete examples, Godard
mentions the harm ful modifications which, in his view , have taken place in the
w ay television records and edits sporting events. He evokes in particular the
'enorm ous differences' between the w ay cameramen some fifteen or twenty
years ago could dw ell on certain gestures ('a dangling arm, a thoughtful expres­
sion') and the rules now prevailing: 'T od ay it's all over. Everything has speeded
up, there's the jum p and nothing else. A bove all, there is no waiting, no pa­
tience From this point of view, profit at any price has encouraged the ap­
pearance of an economic conception of time w ithin the audiovisual field, re­
m oving any possible form of spontaneity or anything unexpected, despite the
fact that this is w hat characterises sporting and recreational activities based on
the pursuit of exploits and suspense. In order to stigmatise how sport is shown
on television, Godard once again turns to tennis. He m akes no bones about call­
ing Françoise Boulin, w ho is the director of the Roland-Garros broadcasts, his
'w o rst enem y', in that the complex set-up that she directs from the control room
seems to him to sym bolise the fragmentation of view points w here m eaning be­
comes diluted: 'H o w can you "see" in front of twelve screens? You don't see one
image, you "b lu r" it.'5
In his perspective, the possibility of really seeing does indeed exist. Godard's
disillusionm ent goes hand in hand with the profound belief in certain virtues of
the cinematographic image, in essence, the relationship of im m ediacy that some
theorists, in particular A ndré Bazin,6 have been able to identify between the
camera and reality thanks to the indexical nature of the photographic shot. This
idea refers to the broader stakes that have governed the conceptualisation of the
w ay gesture is represented in film since the beginning o f cinema. M ost of the
theoretical w ritings on the film ing of the m oving human body relate to the op­
position between two fundamental paradigm s. The opposition concerns first
and foremost dance,7 but can be extended to include any type of physical per-

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 195

formance such as sport or the martial arts. On the one hand, priority is given to
the totality and continuity that are proper to the profilmic event (via w ide shots
and long takes) - this ideal m eans of capturing and reproducing gestures is
favoured by dancers (typified by Fred Astaire);8 on the other hand, em phasis is
laid on editing the performance, as advocated by Lev Kuleshov or Slavko Vor-
kapich,9 and developed along various lines, from the avant-garde movement of
the 1920s to video-dance, or from Busby Berkeley to music videos.
Research - particularly in the field of football10 - has demonstrated that today
w hen sports competitions are show n on television, they, like other live broad­
casts (of ceremonies, concerts, etc.), use multiple cameras to show the action
from various angles. They are generally divided up between long-range shots,
if possible high-angle shots that give an overall, geometrical view of the scene,
and various closer view points of the various protagonists, including the specta­
tors. Panoramic and zoom shots - for the most part chosen by the camera op­
erators them selves - enrich the changes of shot decided up in the control room
in order to select and highlight the supposed high points of the gam e (i.e., a
gesture or remarkable expression). On the diachronic level, several factors are
em phasised here: the progressive multiplication of view points available, the in­
creased use of slow motion and computer animation, or the integration of per­
ipheral elements (interviews, statistics or view s behind the scenes). M ost re­
searchers concur that these various aspects form a series of parameters that
increasingly fragment the continuity that is characteristic of the filmed event
and transform it into television entertainment, which is governed by certain re­
quirements relating to dynam ism and explication. M any studies have em pha­
sised the limitations of the strict separation between the tw o types of experience
of sport - being present at the event and watching it on TV. Tw o reasons can be
put forw ard: firstly, both have w ell documented advantages and disadvantages
w hen it comes to giving the best possible assessment of competitions, and sec­
ondly, w ith im ages now being projected inside stadiums, and more generally,
w ith the stadium now increasingly occupied by the audiovisual m edia in the
coverage of sporting events, both types of experience are tending to m erge.11
This observation often goes hand in hand w ith m ore pessimistic comments that
equate today's developm ent of sporting culture w ith the excesses on both the
commercial and competitive planes.12 This is just w hat Godard is saying in the
quotation above w hen he refers to an ideal visual transcription that promotes
the most faithful restitution possible of the original w holeness of performances
show n on screen.13

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196 Laurent Guido

A c c o u n tin g f o r c e rta in tr a d itio n s o f re p re s e n ta tio n

It is, nonetheless, possible to go beyond such nostalgic dem ands or philosophi­


cal prejudices, and to develop an idea of how television mediates sports compe­
titions by trying to identify the rationale behind this mediation, in particular by
exam ining the traditions it belongs to, because it is precisely these traditions
that enable one to discount a certain number of presuppositions linked to the
audiovisual recording and representation of sporting events.14 Even if one can­
not dispute the existence of mechanisms of intensification and diversification
that have been present in the field for some years, m any of the techniques cur­
rently used in television draw on practices that have long been tried and tested
in cinema. These practices should thus not only be situated in their immediate
context, but also inscribed in deeper aesthetic and historical reflections on how
physical performance is represented via techniques based on the mechanical
recording of movement.
In 1938, Leni Riefenstahl's film O l y m p i a w as already considered an accom­
plished synthesis of a trend tow ards plurifocality in the w ay sports events w ere
documented. Despite its different purpose (a docum entary film m ade to be
show n in the cinema and not to be broadcast live),15 this w ork prefigures m any
of the processes and modes of cutting used in sports competitions seen on tele­
vision today. Riefenstahl w as inspired b y the practices that w ere in fashion in
the avant-garde m ovem ents in photography and cinema in the 1920s and 1930s
- including the 'new vision' promoted at the Bauhaus by T. Lu x Feiniger and
Herbert Bayer or the m ontages of Walther Ruttmann and D ziga Vertov. She
used these film methods beginning w ith her propaganda films of the N azi party
rallies in Nuremberg. She developed new techniques that made the camera m o­
bile by using balloons, boats, cars, rails, etc. and am plified the vision of the
event by using different telephoto lenses, including a 600-mm one, the most
pow erful available at that time. But the most characteristic trait of Riefenstahl's
technical dispositive w as her desire to m ultiply the points of view using her
100-m an team .lfl The sim ultaneous efforts of dozens of cameramen covering an
event from every angle — especially from elevated positions,17 under water,
from specially built towers and pits dug into the very stadium in order to come
up w ith high and low-angle shots - produced large amounts of film footage
that required considerable editing. Riefenstahl's approach is sim ilar to the pluri­
focality of television that Godard has criticised. Godard did, however, give her
credit for trying to shoot more 'lengthw ise' because of her affiliation to certain
aesthetic principles: 'Riefenstahl did, after all, respect w hat w as being filmed.
She fram ed her shots using scientific principles. Meanwhile, today, w e are suf-

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 197

focating under an avalanche of film ed im ages. Anyone can pretend to be a cam­


eram an and think they are doing a take.'18
Despite the fact that live broadcasts have specific aim s and use particular
m eans of production, film ing for television raises issues o f view point, approach
and cutting that are rem arkably sim ilar to those raised by cinema. A n y cinema­
tographic representation of a spectacle centred on human movem ent proceeds
v ia a series of choices in relation to its profilmic execution. A sports event cannot
- contrary to Godard's premise - be seen as a sim ple manifestation of the real
that is separate from its production. It depends on a pre-existing configuration
(the scene, the stadium, the structure used for the aw ard ceremony), w here pre­
cise positions are assigned to the sportsmen, referees, judges and groups of
spectators. The entire film ing process is thus a secomlan/ action that occurs in
addition to this fundam ental dispositive. Scholars do not sim ply comment on
the w ay m edia representation dilutes sportsmanship, but also draw attention to
the w ay the film ing process contaminates the ritual itself by introducing new
conditions, from the structural and dynam ic levels to that of advertising.

A n a ly s in g f ilm ic p ro c e d u re s - th e e x a m p le o f te n n is

If one excludes the articles that examine the spoken commentaries (which I shall
not address here)/9 the main studies regarding television's sports dispositive
have generally confined them selves to looking at the increasing number and
diversity of the cam eras and screen shots used.20 Com pared to these statistical
studies, there is com paratively little research that has presented the principles
underlying this progressively more dynam ic treatment of the physical action.
These principles usually focus on the types of representation of the body that
are produced by ever more diverse film ing techniques. Even if the techniques
used tend to produce a fragmented and objectivised image of the events, they
do create coherent identification and participation mechanisms that m ay vary
according to discipline and specific geographical or cultural characteristics.
This is the angle I have adopted to study broadcasts of tennis matches. M y re­
search attempts to identify some of the aesthetic and dramatic implications of
the m odes of film ing and editing involved in documenting the body m ove­
ments.
Thanks to some of tennis's specific qualities - the long gaps between the ac­
tion,21 its technical and geometrical nature, its dualism —it is undoubtedly one
of the sports that intellectuals in the w orld of cinema most appreciate and dis­
cuss (in France, besides Jean-Luc G odard's remarks, there are also the passion­
ate comments of Serge D aney and Michel Chion).22 However, if w e ignore a

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198 Laurent Guido

num ber of fairly obvious fundam ental facts, there is as yet no reliable definition
of the 'cinegenic' value of tennis, in particular from the view point of the media
dispositive that turns it into a television spectacle. A s has already been pointed
out above, the num ber of cameras on the tennis courts has increased consider­
ably, especially during Grand Slam tournaments (the '4 or 5' different cameras
at Roland-Garros, in the early 1980s increased to 15 b y 2000).23 Like most sports
filmed in stadiums, the main recurring figures that are edited live in the control
room alternate between (a) the all-encom passing and geometrical vision of the
match (an overview from above or even from the air) and (b) a series of shots
highlighting the individual gestures and emotions, for the most part filmed at
court level. There has been a m arked increase in the number of shots and re­
verse shots used during the course of the match, particularly at the key m o­
ments. They highlight the dramatic relationship that starts to develop between
the two players, or bring out the link between the court and the spectators.24
This fundam ental structuring of space form s the basis upon which all the
broadcasts in m y corpus depend. I examine four men's matches at W imbledon
over the past thirty years: the 19 77 semi-final between Björn Borg and Vitas
Gerulaitis, the 1980 final between Borg and John McEnroe, the 1998 semi-final
between Goran Ivanisevic and Richard Krajicek, and the 2007 final between Ro­
ger Federer and Rafael N adal.25

Figure 1. The basic axis

P2 Pi C i Position

In thirty years, the main camera position (henceforth C l), i.e., the one that con­
stantly records all the exchanges, has remained the same (fig. 1). It is situated
high up in the north stand (thus opposite the Royal Box) and provides a general
view of the court from above, covering the w hole breadth of the surface of the
court in a single, synthetic vision. One player (Pi) is on the side o f the camera
C l and thus has his back to the camera, w hereas the other player (P2) is located
at the far end of the picture and faces the camera. The first position is in the axis
of the camera, w ith P i's watchful eyes extending, in a m anner of speaking, the
television audience's view point, w hile the second position places P2's body at

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 199

the centre o f the representation. This fundam ental axis creates a desire to com­
prom ise between, on the one hand, a shot from above that perfectly captures the
m ovem ents and trajectories but reduces the players to points m oving inside a
geometrical space, and, on the other hand, an angle shot that allow s one to ap ­
preciate the technical gestures at body height, but that m akes it more difficult to
comprehend the movem ents because the perspective is flattened.
The desire not to fragment the action belongs to the first of the tw o paradigm s
mentioned above, where an attempt is m ade to respect the spatial w hole of the
performance, to understand the interdependence of the forces present and to
ensure that as m uch visual information is processed as possible. The fact that
part of the dispositive is allocated to the match's unpredictable developm ent
leads to very different results, depending on the players' styles and the playing
surface. For instance, the characteristic slowness of clay obliges the players to
engage in long exchanges from the baseline and produces much longer shots in
C l than the tw o or three exchanges needed to w in a point on faster surfaces
such as grass. Despite the gradual introduction of other shot angles, there is no
doubt about the centrality of C l.
Occasionally, during a few brief exchanges in the course of the four matches
in 1998 and 2007, the action m ay be filmed from the sam e direction, but from a
low er position than C l. This allow s one to get a front shot of P2 and, later, to
provide a large number of replays. In addition, a lateral camera m ay briefly take
over from C l if C l cannot adequately follow the ball outside the low er limits of
the frame. There are only two exam ples of this in m y corpus (Borg in 1977, and
N adal in 2007).

L a t e r a l v ie w s , t h e f i r s t s t e p t o w a r d s a 3 6 0 - d e g r e e space?

The cam eras on the court are positioned at player height and film the players
using a variety of shots w ith variable distances (medium to close-up). In 1977,
two cameras w ere located in the north stand and m ainly shot P i, w hile two
other cameras (one film ing from below) w ere principally docum enting P2 along
the length axis where the um pire's chair is located. Respecting the 180-degree
rule, the cam eras are situated along an axis that corresponds to half of the court
(one w idth and one length), outside of which nothing is filmed. This set-up at
W im bledon m ay surprise people w ho are used to seeing broadcasts of other
European and Am erican tournaments, because, at first sight, their minimal or­
ganisation w hen it comes to shots from the edges of the court depends much
more clearly on cameras located near the net (the centrifugal locus of the um ­
pire's chair), so that each camera follow s one player. This results in a clear shot

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200 Laurent Guido

Figure 2 Figure 3

Figure i Figure 5

and reverse shot from the lateral axis, alternating w ith shots by C l and, on rare
occasions, the low er shot.
This canonical set-up appears clearly in the 1980 final, where a lateral camera
is explicitly aim ed at P i from the net, reinforcing the im pression of shot and
reverse shot between Borg and McEnroe. In 1998, these shots w ere still central
to the dispositive, w ith only rare departures from the 180-degree axis, made
possible by the presence of additional cameras positioned along the length axis
opposite the umpire's chair (shooting at a low angle from the court). These cam­
eras are m ainly there to film the players w hen they are sitting dow n during
pauses, and for various slow-motion shots. Moreover, there is also a perspective
shot from the top of the stands givin g a second view of the stadium from above.
This type of shot has signficantly grow n in importance, as can be clearly seen in
the 2007 final. In the meantime, the w ider 16/9 set-up w as adopted at W imble­
don, w ith the editing strategy as described above, but set within a more spa­
cious and ethereal context - the new view points, and in particular the two cam ­
eras situated laterally around P2, significantly extend the space (with a w ide
stretch of grass in the foreground, and the sky in the background) (fig. 2). This
type of framing, together w ith extra cam eras located at the top of the terraces,26
or even on a crane outside the stadium, produces a more distant, geometrical
and ordered view of the stadium, and o f the event itself (figs. 3-4). One can also
add the use of another recent innovation - a remotely controlled dolly that
m oves along the baseline (fig. 5). The resulting shots from below and from the
side along the edge of the court are very strikingly sim ilar to Leni Riefenstahl's

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 201

i m a g e s o f th e N u r e m b e r g s t a d iu m ( T r iu m p h o f t h e W i l l , 1935) a n d th e O ly m ­
p ic p o o l ( O ly m p ia , 1938).

E d i t i n g , o r l i n k i n g t h e d i s t a n t a n d t h e c lo s e

A relatively large number of cameras is not a sine qua non condition for produc­
ing the sensation of speed and dynam ism , which m ay partly depend on the
rhythm of shot exchanges, and the ability of cameramen to zoom, thus produc­
ing not only very quick camera movements, but also varied angles. The full use
of these possibilities explains the striking contrast that w as already clear in the
oldest exam ple used in m y research (1977) between the static character of C l,
used exclusively for movements w ithin the frame, and the constant, nervous
m obility that emanates from the im ages between exchanges. In 1977, the scale
of shots had already tightened as the match progressed in accordance with the
dramatic tension. The view s between exchanges w ere often confined to body
shots, focusing more closely on the two players' facial expressions only when
Borg had a decisive set point.
Particular attention is paid to the w ay a balanced return to C l is m anaged
after num erous detailed shots. The switch is systematic after the serving player
has thrown up the ball - the m ovem ent up w ards corresponds to the displace­
ment of the dispositive itself, from the gam e on the court up to the spectators in
the stands. M ost of the time, an im age of the beginning of the service is inserted
just before it returns to C l, corresponding to the precise moment w hen the ball
is hit. Usually, the serving player's entire body is seen in a medium shot,
although the camera m ay focus on his hands, or even on his feet on the baseline.
This crucial 'last shot before returning to C l ' m ay also show a detail of the op­
ponent receiving serve. This strategy had already been used in 1997 and w as
still very much part of the basic repertoire in 2007.
Even if the rationale behind editing is mostly on this fundamental alternation
between the two players, some sequences do seem to serve a prim arily aesthetic
function. In 1977, for example, there is no hesitation about breaking up Borg's
service movem ent into three distinct fram es - from the side close-up (preparing
his arms); from the front, medium distance (throwing up the ball) and C l (serve
and play). The im pression is that of the camera progressively m oving aw ay
from the subject, first via a 90-degree angle, follow ed b y a link shot in the rear
axis. There m ay indeed be redundancy in the three im ages in terms of inform a­
tion, but they perfectly foster the fluidity of the movement between the court
level and the high shot which is constantly used for the volleys. Thirty years
later, in 2007, a return to C l occurred im m ediately after a close-up of N adal's

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202 Laurent Guido

eyes as he threw up to ball to serve. This is an explosive link that corresponds


perfectly to the m axim um investment of energy being expended b y this player.
Another N adal serve later in the match w as used as a pretext for a movement
linking the server's shadow to Federer's racket, w ith the shot then m oving up to
Federer's face before going back to C l.
Similarly, the editing can also be used to m agnify the psychological reaction
of one of the players, constantly coming back to it by m eans of a series of differ­
ent shots. When M cEnroe m issed a volley during the tie-break in the fourth set
of the 1980 final, his expression of vexation, starting w ith his gesture to cover
his eyes w ith both hands, w as cut into seven continuous shots (C l, lateral shot,
side shot, dolly along the net, C l, close-up, C l). In 1998, just before a very tense
match point (14 -13 in the last set!), the editing emphasised the exchange of looks
between the two players via tw o close-ups, reinforcing the feeling of an intense
psychological duel (figs. 6-7).

Figure 6 Figure 7

B e t w e e n a t t r a c t i o n a n d n a r r a t i o n - c o n t r a s t e d im a g e s o f
th e s p e c ta to rs

D uring the first broadcasts in m y study, the focus w as mostly on the players,
thus rem oving the action from the actual context of the stadium itself to concen­
trate on the protagonists. The um pires were rarely focused on, w ith the notable
exception of 1977, w hen an older line judge adopted an uncomfortable, almost
grotesque position in order to follow the action more closely (the rationale of the
funny insertion being one of attraction). The sam e judge w as show n again later
after doubts about the validity of a call (thus follow ing this time the require­
ments of narration).
Some low -angle shots taken from the court show the player against the back­
ground of the spectators in the stands. This superposition effect within the same
shot is an emblematic reference to the dialectic between the individual and the

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 203

group, between the cham pion and the uniform crowd, that is played out each
time sport is turned into spectacle. The vision is both one of close interaction
(the champion, with the crow d conferring hero status on him) and one that im ­
poses a hierarchy (the sporting body subsum ing the social body). It can be op­
posed to other passages in which the athletes appear to play in a closed w orld
w here the um pire and line judges only appear fleetingly. The majority of shots
are situated in the intermediary zone between these two extreme situations.
The rare im ages of the spectators in 19 77 (w ide and indistinct shots of the
sam e stand) had no particular relationship w ith the gam e on the ground. But
the 1980 match (the top-level gam e between Björn Borg, the most important
m edia star of tennis since the 1920s, and John McEnroe, w ith his air of a charis­
matic rebel and Borg's main rival) constantly drew attention to the spectators'
reactions, whether anonym ous fans or the players' nearest and dearest sitting
close to the Royal Box. The fans w ere only film ed briefly, in isolated fram es and
not in close up. They w ere conspicuous thanks to their noisy attitude and the
clothes they wore, and some even had a special relationship w ith the media
itself (when they occasionally spotted the camera and stared at it). Some were
filmed several times, becom ing protagonists of the spectacle, like a young w o ­
m an brandishing a scarf, or three McEnroe fans w earing lace frills (fig. 8). They
w ere initially seen during the first set, and during the fourth set they first exhib­
ited their dismay, w hen Borg took McEnroe's serve, then their jubilation when
their champion m anaged to equalise after a classic tie break.

Figure 8

The building up of such a relationship between the spectators and the court - a
frequent occurrence in Leni Riefenstahl's w ork (figs. 9-10)27 - is even greater if
one exam ines the interaction between the two players and the stand where their
trainers and fam ily members are. In 1980, at the end of a set that w as easily w on
b y McEnroe, two overview s of their box alternate sym m etrically w ith shots iso­
lating each player. Shortly before Borg's face appeared —terminating the series —
the im age focused on the w orried expression of his girlfriend. Apart from a few
brief shots of her at key moments of the match, it w as at the end of the hotly
contested fourth set that the film ing system atically exploited this dramatic ele-

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204 Laurent Guido

ment. Point after point, close-ups preceded or follow ed the developm ent of the
game, epitomised by the anguished posture of Borg's girlfriend, her hands
joined together and eyes shut, or the uninhibited clapping of McEnroe's father.
A t the end of the match, unlike in 1977, the first im age after the match point w as
consequently that of the box w here the Borg clan w ere rejoicing. In 1998, shots
of the spectators were not more systematic for a match of less historical dimen­
sions, but where the suspense w as just as extraordinary (the last set w as excep­
tionally long). The close-up inserts of Richard Krajicek's girlfriend took on a
leitmotiv value, justified not only by his dexterity, w hich she w as applauding
(the level of narration), but also by her stereotyped beauty (the level of attrac­
tion). It w as now m andatory for the match point to be quickly follow ed by a
prolonged exchange of looks between the winner, Goran Ivanisevic, and his
father, w hose fist w as raised.

Figure 9 Figure 10

The first im age of the spectators in the 2007 final reflected the particularly ethe­
real and distant nature of the dispositive, w ith a degree of mechanicalness, or
even dehumanisation. When a rem arkable point w as im mediately follow ed by
a frame show ing a compact crow d of spectators clapping, there w as the feeling
that a stock shot had been inserted that had no direct relationship w ith the
event being represented. It created a tension between this type of shot and the
close-ups that brought in a num ber of anonym ous spectators, either for their
eccentric or their seductive appearance. But these chosen ones only appeared at
exceptional moments w hen compared w ith the fam ous personalities picked out
w hen the camera m oved to the spectators. A part from the prominent presence
of previous champions (I shall come back to this point), the key reference points
w ere obviously the two players' families, w ho w ere w atching from the official
stand. They w ere singled out early on for the television audience's benefit and
their reactions show n at each crucial moment of the match. Emblematic of this
approach w as N adal's uncle-trainer, w ho cheered w hen his nephew got a break
point (fig. 11) , or the exclam ations of the Federer clan w hen their man got back

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 205

Figure 11

on top in the sam e gam e (in particular by m eans of the classic insertion of a very
expressive series of close-ups on the face of his girlfriend, M irka Vavrinec).
These various personalities in fact function as transitional figures between the
indistinct crow d of spectators and the patently individualised champions - an
aspect that is brought out by different visual techniques. Thus, a zoom in distin­
guished the haughty bearing of an unknown beauty belonging to the Federer
clan. This camera movem ent has two complementary functions: on the one
hand, its fetishist nature w as intensified b y the attitude of the young w om an
herself (her hands w ere nervously clutching a ball) (fig. 12); on the other hand,
the camera movem ent detached this iconic fragment from the celebrity context
of the Royal Box to inscribe it as an archetype o f spectator activity (half tense,
half passive), superim posed on an overview of the stadium. Moreover, the
zoom out w as used on various occasions to underscore the relationships be­
tween certain personalities sitting am ong the spectators and the players - for
example, the shot m oves between Federer's father and Rafael N adal (to under­
line the antagonism between the tw o camps), or from John McEnroe in the com­
mentator's box to Roger Federer (underlining the links between tw o distinct
generations of champions). M ore prosaically, another camera m ovement asso­
ciated N adal's face w ith the official tournament logo, displayed on a stand (figs.
13-14). This zoom m ay be interpreted in two w ays. It m ay be taken to indicate
the ongoing incorporation of N adal into the history of such a prestigious event
as W imbledon. Or it m ay bring out how the figure of the champion is diluted in
a pure graphical effect, thereby stressing the artefact nature of the television
spectacle set up by the dispositive to w hich this sam e camera belongs.
Figure 12 Figure 13 Figure 14

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206 Laurent Guido

P la y e r s ’ m o v e m e n t s : f r o m a n a ly s is t o c o m p u t e r a n i m a t i o n

The w ay the players are sim ultaneously filmed from all possible angles leads to
an exhaustive (in both senses of the term) m ediatizing of the sportsmen's
bodies. D uring a pause at the beginning of the fourth set, N adal w as filmed
sitting on his chair and w as successively itemized by means of various lateral
shots, even including the personalised motifs decorating the heels of his shoes (a
'R afa' logo and a stylised bull). The next shot linked these figures to an inscrip­
tion on Federer's bag in honour of his four previous W imbledon victories. This
insistence on the relation between the different facets of sporting activity (from
the persona to the record of achievement) and the products o f its com mercialisa­
tion can also be seen in another emblematic im age where a camera zoomed
tow ards the scoreboard and focused on a particular number. The num ber gra­
dually becam e disconnected from its indicative value as part o f the score and
ended up b y existing in its ow n right - an increasingly blurred im age out of
w hich one of the tw o finalists suddenly appeared, thanks to yet another zoom
out (figs. 15-18).

Figure 1 5 Figure 16

Such an im age can be interpreted as the spontaneous sym bol of the objectivis-
ing process that had gradually been taking over the film ed events under the
influence of their virtualization. W hereas in 1980 the juxtaposition w ithin the

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 207

sam e image of a player and the scoreboard could still signify a real in situ ex­
perience, the use of the sam e image in the digital television era comes face to
face w ith another dimension of the screen. The TV image is now saturated with
m ultiple incrustations that constantly return to a tabular, synthetic and almost
spatialized vision of the match itself, b y highlighting not only the changes to the
score, but also various statistics - the num ber of aces, double faults, points
gained volleying, w inning returns, transformed breaks, and so on (figs. 19-20).
The w ay in which the flow characteristic of sport on television has progressively
become reconfigured by means of the stock of im ages that it continually gener­
ates can still be identified at another level: the fact that slow-motion replays are
continually being show n from various novel angles.

Figure 19 Figure 20

The journalists w ho interviewed Godard put forw ard several reasons explain­
ing w h y some spectators prefer the television screen to the stadium . It m ay be
that they like being able to see the action over again and thus better understand
thanks to the slow-motion replays show n during the broadcasts.28 It m ay also
be the desire to see better thanks to close-ups or the use of slow motion.29 In
their exam ples, the journalists are underlining one of the prime functions attrib­
uted to im ages in their relationship to hum an movement. The camera - a me­
chanical means of recording w ith indexical value - provides the sports special­
ists w ith the m eans to study or check certain gestures. Recorded film provides
an exterior v iew that divides up movement, thus allow ing for a more precise
vision. It m ay help analysis by m eans of repetition, slow motion or freeze
frames. This function goes back to the very origins of cinematographic techni­
que, w hich w as first perfected at the end of the 1870s to serve as an analytical
instrument in E dw ard M uybridge's, Etienne-Jules M arey's and Georges De-
m eny's physiological studies of animal and human movement. Dem eny w as
one of the pioneers of gym nastics in France and later played a fundamental role
in the rational study of gesture, to both utilitarian and aesthetic ends.30
There is an anecdotal but perhaps revealing fact concerning the location of
the Station Physiologique where M arey and Dem eny started w orking in 1882: it

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208 Laurent Guido

corresponded exactly to the location where the Roland-Garros stadium w as


built (and w hen it w as enlarged at the end of the 1970s, the vestiges of the Ma-
rey Institute, w hich had continued with the w ork of the Station, w ere de­
stroyed).31 W hen technical movem ents are studied or taught in sport, cinemato­
graphic methods (chronophotographical analysis, use of slow motion) are often
used, inspired in particular by Dem eny's research at the Ecole militaire in Join-
ville (specialised in soldiers' physical education),32 or the discoveries M arey's
successors m ade about slow motion. When one studies French sports m aga­
zines in the 19 10 s and 1920s, one finds that efforts are alw ays taken to provide
visual explications of m ovem ent by m eans of spatialization, resulting in extra­
ordinary page layouts that have both aesthetic and didactic value. Tennis regu­
larly appears among the sports highlighted by such 'stylistic' studies (fig. 21).
D uring the 1920s, the attitudes and gestures of the great star of wom en's tennis,
Suzanne Lenglen, w ho w as seen as a veritable dancer,33 w ere set out as a series
of successive im ages reminiscent of chronophotographic plates (fig. 22).34
N ow adays, scientific studies of gesture constantly use m odes of analysis that
have been inherited from such techniques o f breaking dow n gesture. For exam ­
ple, intensive use of motion capture allow s all the data of a m ovement to be
recorded, in order to im prove future performance - a direct extension of the
utilitarian aim s advocated more than a century ago b y Georges Demeny.

Figure z i. L a V ie au G ran d Air, 1 5 novembre 19 13

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 209

Figure 22. Le Miroir des Sports, 19 octobre 1926


HMMI»X»nun
LES DÉBUTS. SLR LES COURTS DAMERIOUE. DE SUZANNE LENGIEN
PREMIERE JOUEUSE ET PREMIERE DANSEUSE DE TENNIS DU MONDE

A s m y W imbledon corpus shows, this analytical activity is taking an ever more


important place in contem porary broadcasts of tennis. It first stemmed exclu­
sively from the aesthetic and technical aim s that conditioned its uses. The only
slow-m otion sequence show n in the 19 77 gam e (a series o f shots b y Borg, filmed
from the front and taken from a previous part of the game) does not aim to
pinpoint a certain phase of the game, but to bring out Borg's technical talent
and grace. The fact that the slow-m otion sequences show n during the 1980 final
(four in all, exclusively for analytical purposes) are visually integrated by means
of very noticeable w ipes illustrates the desire to determine the limits of these
interventions that break with the chronological development of the match.
When w e look at the 1998 images, w e are im mediately transported into another
universe, regularly interrupted by replays produced by the combination of all
possible camera angles and LSM m agnifying glasses. The 180-degree rule is no
longer relevant. One exam ple am ong dozens is a spectacular volley played by
Ivanisevic, show n three times afterw ards from different angles: C l and two op­
posite positions.
This association between a broken flow o f time that constantly loops back on
itself and a spatial perception that is continually put in question does indeed
produce the im pression of a certain perceptive confusion. But both echo the

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210 Laurent Guido

m odes of rhythm ical structuring that have already been tried out in certain
avant-garde conceptions of cinema. The first film theorists (in particular the
French film m akers Jean Epstein and Germaine Dulac), w ho w ere influenced by
Bergson's conceptions of inner duration, em phasised long ago cinema's prop­
erty of putting forw ard a new form of discontinuous and fragmented tem poral­
ity by using its specific m eans of representation. M aking due allowances and
bearing in mind the very different aesthetic contexts, there is indeed a logic of
this type in the sequences of varied and multiple slow-m otion shots which now
follow the smallest piece of action on the tennis court, not to mention the film ­
ing of gestures w ith aesthetic value, the players' warlike or frustrated attitudes
and the explosive reactions of their clans.
A ny great sporting event seeks to go beyond its ow n limited time frame and
take its place in the m ythological history of the great accomplishments of the
past. The 2007 W im bledon final provides a clear exam ple in the filming of Ro­
ger Federer equalling Björn Borg's phenomenal record (five consecutive vic­
tories). We note the presence - long dw elt on by the cameras —of former cham­
pions: Jim m y Connors and John McEnroe in the commentary boxes, Boris
Becker and above all Borg him self am ong the spectators. Borg is constantly as­
sociated w ith the day's champion, not only by means of link shots between their
respective faces (obviously before and after the championship point that gives
Federer his win, where his tears of joy stand in contrast to the former star's dis­
illusioned smile), but also b y different m odes of comparison between the two
men w ithin the sam e image, whether succession brought about by a zoom m ov­
ing dow n from the stand to the court, or split-screen juxtaposition (comparing
their respective forehands in slow motion).
Co-presence in the fram e is also used for other slow-motion shots aim ing to
compare Federer's serve with that of Pete Sampras, the great champion of the
1990s. This is w hen the virtual im age appears for the first time in the corpus.
A nalyses of the Federer serve, and later of the N adal return, are presented as
computer animations of the trajectories and points of impact. Once the 'real'
movem ent has been reproduced, the balls freeze in movement, and the v iew ­
point m oves towards a high-angle position, thus givin g a geometrical percep­
tion. These methods are interesting as they give the opportunity of visualising
the parameters that are not only invisible to the naked eye, but also to 'tradi­
tional' cameras, even the most precise models. Previously, in 1998, slow-motion
replays o f im ages recorded b y the camera were only used as footage for a de­
bate between commentators and television audiences. But in the 2007 final, a
novel system checking ball impacts w as introduced, based on the principles of
digital reconstitution outlined above. The Hawk Eye system w as developed by
Paul H aw kins and uses 10 auxiliary cameras. It has been recognised b y the ten­
nis authorities as a tool capable of overcom ing the limitations of hum an percep-

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show

tion w hen there are contested points35 and has thus revived the scientistic dis­
course of the second half of the 19th century (the urge to 'see the invisible as­
pects' of life), which finally led to the emergence of cinema. It is know n as the
'Challenge Player System ' and is also available to players. Its intrusion into the
space of the gam e indicates an important moment of transition w here the sec­
ondary dispositive itself finally reconfigures the primary space of the stadium.
This digital m odelling of the court functions autonomously, involving neither
the players nor the um pires and judges, and delivers a definitive verdict ('In' or
'Out') that appears both on the court and the television screen (figs. 23-25). It is
also show n on the giant screen present in most stadiums, thus m aking the slow-
motion replays accessible to spectators in the stands, and in some cases to the
players. When Roger Federer appealed to the um pire for a decision from this
system during the fourth set of the 2007 final, his desperate plea revealed the
absurd im age of an impotent hum an player. A t first sight, these rem arks seem
to justify Jean-Luc Godard's lamentations, but one should not forget that this
objectivising of the hum an body is not so much a regression proper to contem­
porary culture as the completion of a process begun at the end of the 19th cen­
tury, a process in w hich one of the key roles w as played b y film.

Figure 23 Figure 24 Figure 25

N o te s

1. 'Jean-Luc Godard. Le cinéma ment, pas le sport', interview with Jérôme Bureau and
Benoît Heimermann, L'Équipe, 9 May 2001, p. 9.
2. 'I recently went to the Lausanne meeting because I wanted to see Gabriela Szabo ...
I hardly saw her, but I was glad to observe. My recollection, as partial as it is, is
stronger than all the times I'd seen her on the television.' Ibid.
3. In his filmed self-portrait JLG/JLG (1994), Godard even portrays himself as a tennis
player during several discontinuous exchanges. He plays in particular on the dou­
ble meaning of a quotation from Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun: 'The past is never

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212 Laurent Guido

dead, it's not even passed', humorously relating it to hitting - or being on the receiv­
ing end of - a passing shot.
4. 'Jean-Luc Godard', op. cit., p. 9.
5. Ibid.
6. See, in particular, 'Ontologie de l'image photographique', reprinted in Qu'est-ce que
le cinéma?, Paris: Cerf, 1999 [1975; reduction of the 1958 edition], pp. 9-17.
7. Godard himself makes this link. To the question 'Perhaps one cannot film sport?',
he replies: 'That's probably so ... Dance is difficult to film ...' ']ean-Luc Godard. Le
cinema ment, pas le sport", op. cit., p. 9.
8. See John Mueller, 'The Filmed Dances of Fred Astaire', Quarterly Review of Film Stu­
dies, spring 1981, pp. 135-154, and Astaire Dancing The Musical Films, New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.
9. Lev Koulechov, 'La bannière du cinématographe' [1920], Écrits (1917-1934), Lau­
sanne: L'Age d'homme, 1994, pp. 38-39 [François Albera, Ekaterina Khokhlova and
Valérie Pozner, eds.]; Slavko Vorkapich, O pravom filmu/On true cinema, Belgrade:
Fakultet Dramskih Umetnosti, 1998, pp. 227-232.
10. Bernard Loiseuil, Football et télévision, Paris: Ed. Tekhné, 1992; Jacques Blociszewski,
Le match defootball télévisé, Rennes: Editions Apogée, 2007.
it . See, in particular, Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, Media Events: The Live Broadcasting
of History, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992, and Pierre Gabaston
and Bernard Leconte (eds.), Sport et télévision (Regards croisés), Paris: L'Harmattan,
2000. For a historical perspective, see Pierre Simonet and Laurent Véray (eds.), Mon­
trer le sport: photographie, cinéma, télévision, Paris: Institut national du sport et de
l'éducation physique, 2001.
12. For an overview of this perspective, see the articles in Frédéric Baillette and Jean­
Marie Brohm (eds.), Critique de la modernité sportive, Paris: Les Editions de la Passion,
1995­
13. 'These less intense moments nonetheless are an integral part of the match such as it
is experienced in the stadium. They are not themselves the wastage, the lifeless lull
that they have become for the audiovisual media. On the contrary, it is alive, but the
producer thinks that he cannot use it, so for him it's wasted time ... The more slow-
motion replays introduced by the producer there are, the more the match becomes a
creation and an audiovisual product... And yet, there is another, less sophisticated
way of filming, but which for us better respects football'. Jacques Blociszewski, op.
cit., p. 47.
14. This is the perspective developed in particular by Georges Vigarello, who empha­
sises that television discourse 'does not enable one to "see better", it creates a new
way of seeing.' 'Le marathon entre bitume et écran', in Communications, 67, Paris,
1998, p. 215 [Le Spectacle du sport]. The hypothesis has also often been espoused by
Guillaume Soulez, 'L'image en expansion. Plaisir de la retransmission sportive et
enjeux esthétiques', MédiaMorphoses, no. 11, pp. 41-46 [Le sport médiatisé, du voir au
savoir].
15. The Berlin Olympic Games of 1936 nonetheless led to one of the first, embryonic
experiments in broadcasting competitions on television. Manolo Romera and
Eduardo Gavilán, Broadcasting the Olympics, Olympic Museum's Exhibition Catalo­
gues, 20 October 1998-18 April 1999, p. 92.

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From Broadcast Performance to V irtual Show 213

16. Taylor Downing, Olympia, London: British Film Institute, 1992, pp. 33-48. See also
'Henry Jaworsky, Cameraman for Leni Riefenstahl Interviewed by Gordon Hitch­
ens, Kirk Bond and John Hanhardt', in Film Culture, 56-57, spring 1973, pp. 122-128.
17. This raised viewpoint has long been part of the imaginative world of the modern
Olympics, where the stadium must be perceived as a whole entity by the person
watching it. At the beginning of the century, people sought to have views from
above and from the tops of the stadiums, by placing cameras on towers or on fair­
ground attractions, such as the Flip-Flap of the Franco-British Exhibition of London
in 1908, next to the stadium where the Olympic Games took place that year. On this
issue and the plurifocal dispositive of Olympia, see the rich iconography assembled
in Laurent Guido and Haver Gianni, La Mise en scène du corps sportif, de la Belle Epo­
que à l'Age des Extrêmes / Spotlighting the Sporting Body, from the Belle Epoque to the Age
of Extremes, Lausanne: Olympic Museum, 2002, pp. 98-117.
18. 'Jean-Luc Godard', op. cit., p. 9.
19. I have chosen not to look in detail at the question of sound for want of space - and
more specifically journalists' and consultants' live commentaries during practically
all sports broadcasts. This clearly takes nothing away from the obvious importance
of such verbal discourses, on both the semantic and expressive sides, or the rhyth­
mic side in the construction of dramatic tension and the spectacular nature of the
event.
20. David Rowe gives a sound historiographical overview: 'Screening the action: The
Moving Sport Image', in Sport, Culture and the Media The Unruly Trinity, pp. 185-189.
He refers in particular to studies by Garry Whannel, Fields in Vision: Television Sport
and Cultural Transformation, London: Routledge, 1992 and John Goldlust, Playing for
Keeps: Sport, the Media and Society, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1987.
21. The journalist Olivier Joyard claims that the slowness is similar to a 'resisting form:
resisting the speed of other sports, which - sometimes to the point of fundamentally
changing the rules (basketball and American football) - follow the general ultra­
quick and spasmodic flow of other programmes; resisting the aversion to the va­
cuum that governs the contemporary spectacle in general. For boredom, duration
and slow suspense remain the basis of the game'. 'Dramaturgie du tennis', Cahiers
du cinéma, no. 548, July-August 2000, reprinted in Thierry Jousse (éd.), Le goût de la
télévision, Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, pp. 607-610.
22. Serge Daney, L'Amateur de tennis. Critiques 1980-1990, Paris: P.O.L., 1994. According
to Michel Chion, tennis represents 'acoustic sport par excellence' because of the
space given by somewhat laconic commentators to background noises: L’audio-vi-
sion Son et image au cinéma, Paris: Nathan, 1990, pp. 134-136.
23. As noted by France Télévision producer Françoise Boulain in Joyard, ibid., p 608. She
then [2000] reckoned that compared to English or even American broadcasts, 'the
resources available [to her] are immense'. The figure quoted includes cameras avail­
able for corridor interviews.
24. The figure illustrating Joyard's article (Ibid., p. 609) reveals the presence of a C i
camera that entirely covers the court from the top of one of the stands situated along
the width, at the players' backs. All the other viewpoints are used once the ex­
changes are over; 'The moment the ball has stopped moving, most of the time the
other thirteen cameras start filming'.

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214 Laurent Guido

25. The first two matches are available on DVD, produced by the British Lawn Tennis
Association, using the BBC broadcasts. The 2007 final was recorded on BBCi. The
1998 final was recorded on Eurosport France.
26. Thus, the beginning of the filming from a very high viewpoint of a spectator watch­
ing the match, as if alone, or the wide movements of the camera going from the
cloudy sky to the court.
27. In O l y m p i a (Riefenstahl, 1938), a relationship of this type is constructed between a
female spectator and the exploits of Jesse Owens, or between Adolf Hitler and the
prowess of a German athlete.
28. Godard acquiesces reluctantly: 'in order to study perhaps, but that supposes that it
was sufficiently well filmed at the start. But if one is present, why see it again?'
'Jean-Luc Godard', op. cit., p. 9.
29. Godard retorts: 'They do not try to find the truth of things, they look for the glory of
the event". More generally, he condemns in fairly conventional fashion the place
occupied by stardom and money in the sporting milieu. Ibid.
30. Laurent Mannoni, Marc de Ferrière and Paul Demenÿ, Georges Demenÿ, Pionnier du
cinéma, Douai: Cinémathèque française and Pagine/Université de Lille 3,1997.
31. Laurent Mannoni, Etienne-Jides Marey: la mémoire de l'œil, Milan and Paris: G. Maz-
zotta, Cinémathèque française and Musée du cinéma, 1999, pp. 174-184.
32. As was pointed out by an officer at this school in 1913: 'Nothing can give a better
idea than these documents of the various phases of movement, which escape even
the most practised eye. These scientific tecniques, when adapted to sport, are cap­
able of helping those training to make huge progress'. Lieutenant Rocher, 'Le labor­
atoire de l’Ecole de Joinville', La Vie au Grand Air, no. 768, 7 June 1913, p. 423.
33. 'Suzanne Lenglen has managed to combine choreographic art and the art of tennis.
Her playing is a continual dance with countless figures and ceaseless variations.' Le
Miroir des sports, no. 340,19 October 1926, p. 296.
34. 'La cinématographie de son jeu', La Vie au Grand Air, no. 852, March-April 1920, pp.
6-7.
35. Kate Battersby, 'Hawk Eye Gives Wimbledon a New Look' [The Official Web Site,
Wimbledon 2007, 7 June, 2007, <http://www.Wimbledon.org/en_GB/news/articles/
2007-06-07/200706071181244055781 .html>.

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T h e L e c tu r e r , th e Im a g e , th e M a c h in e and
th e A u d io -S p e c ta to r

T h e V o ic e as a C o m p o n e n t P a r t o f A u d i o v i s u a l
D is p o s itiv e s

Alain Boillat

When one exam ines the various uses that w ere m ade of sound before talking
film s became the general rule and that have been recently brought to light by
research into the archaeology and history of the cinema b y scholars such as Jac­
ques Perriault, G iu sy Pisano or Rick Altm an, one is struck by the fact that the
co-presence of a voice and a visual representation1 m akes up one of the major
hallm arks o f 'cinem a',2 whether one extends one's epistemological view point to
cover earlier spectacles, the technologies then available, or the tangle of cultural
sequences to w hich cinema - in its various disguises - belonged. The interest
that early cinema historians such as Germ ain Lacasse have show n over the last
decade for the figure of the lecturer3 (known in francophone historiography as
the bonimenteur - the smooth talker or 'barker')4 is the sign of a new w ay of
conceiving of this period and a desire to rehabilitate not just the vocal element,
but also more generally the oral dimension of w hat w ere essentially ephemeral
'even ts'5 —cinematographic projections.
In this article,6 m y aim is to put forw ard a conceptual fram ew ork that can be
used w hen studying the w ays in which the voice of a speaker —whether live or
recorded - is integrated into (pre-)cinematographic spectacles. There are m any
differences between the two types o f voice production, but they both raise the
question of the place and function given to a specifically hum an characteristic
w ithin a dispositive that for the greater part is governed by technological para­
meters.
To study the discursive networks that are associated w ith historical objects
such as lecturers, machines for audiovisual representation or the means of
(tele-) communication — whether real or im agined by scientists or novelists -
one m ay use a theoretical fram ew ork that is gradually (and reciprocally) built
up on the basis of the discoveries of new practices or inventions and that is used
to organise the information that is gleaned from w ork on the various sources. In
m y view, the notion of dispositive is a productive one, as it allow s one to link the
study of voice production w ith that of other parts of the spectacle, and thus to
reach a better understanding of w hat is specific in the role that falls to the voice.
W hile it is clear that some of the criteria that underpin the typology put forw ard

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216 Alain Boillac

here w ork for all the various m eans of transmitting an audiovisual message, the
object of focus w ill be the early cinema lecturer7 - to m y mind a highly suitable
means of studying the interactions between w ord and image, between the
audio-spectator8 and the whole of the representation, and between the human
element (the performance of a speaker) and the machine (the magic lantern or
cinematograph), and which, from a methodological viewpoint, allow s one to
w ork on theoretical proposals based on the advances of historic and historio­
graphic research.

A th r e e fo ld c o n c e p tio n o f th e d is p o s itiv e

M aria Tortajada's and François Albera's project to categorise and conceptualise


visual dispositives (see above in the present volume) provides in m y v iew a
basis on which one can address the audiovisual field.9 They set about analysing
a dispositive as a defined set of interactions between three poles: the spectator,
the machinery and the representation. It is certainly true that some uses of sound
m ay initially seem to be devoid of any type of mediation that could be assim i­
lated to 'm achinery' — such as the voice of a person commenting on view s,
w here there is no fundamental difference from other uses of the w ord - after
all, the most w idespread m eans of communication. Nonetheless, the model
does encourage one to study the specific functions of such uses w hen they are
part of the dispositive of the spectacle. Indeed, as soon as there is the sim ulta­
neous presence of im age and voice production, one m ay see how the voice ele­
ment can be integrated w ithin the particular dispositive. Whether the voice be
reproduced and amplified mechanically or electrically, or produced 'naturally',
it plays a part in assigning a certain spectatorial position. The notion of disposi­
tive can thus be enlarged to include the coexistence of a spectator and an agency
situated w here the production of a representation originates, the w hole w ithin a
common space possessing certain characteristics. The 'm achinery' pole de­
scribed b y Albera and Tortajada m ay include diverse non-machine elements
(human agencies such as musicians, singers, the lecturer, the person responsible
for sound effects, orchestral conductor, projectionist, etc.), I shall thus refer to it
b y using the less restrictive expression of production space (o f the audiovisual re­
presentation), w ith the 'm achinery' (projection apparatus, noise machine, phono­
graph, etc.) m aking up only a subset of this pole. The different devices or agen­
cies belonging to this space sometimes intervene together, in particular in order
to produce a 'synchronisation'10 which, at different times and according to
varyin g practices, has led to human, mechanical or semi-mechanical m eans
being em ployed. The follow ing description by Rodolphe-M aurice Arlaud, w ho

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 217

is recalling memories of commented projections, reveals the potential that m ay


result b y associating the different agencies within the production space:

In front of the speaker there was now a row of little buttons, and between him and the
booth there was a mysterious and silent dialogue punctuated by red, white, green or
blue lights. It meant: 'Show a fixed view, show the film'. Or it was intended to stop
the orchestra, or start it up again, or change music.11

According to this account, which describes a configuration and a specific func­


tion of the production space, the lecturer deals w ith the controls of the different
parts of the machinery. It show s that to account for the heterogeneous - and
more or less artisanal and innovatory - practices of the 'sound of the silent era',
it is important to broaden the machinery pole and include the presence of a
person or persons, whose main representative is the lecturer. A s w e shall see,
the lecturer is an agency w ho m ediates - b y defining w hat access the audio­
spectator is given on the one hand to the visual representation and on the other
hand to the 'm achinery'. This agency does not exactly correspond to any of the
poles w ithin this three-part configuration, but intervenes between each one of
them. This position of intermediary can be explained by the fact that the person
of the lecturer is a source of 'production' com parable to the machinery; lecturers
can, moreover, be replaced by or share the stage w ith a phonograph (generally
b y alternating w ith it).12 M oreover, they have a direct relation w ith those w ho in
like fashion watch the im ages. A s they follow how the spectacle unfolds, they
can intervene physically to give more w eight to w hat they say, thus creating a
visual representation that 'com petes' w ith the projected image.
We can thus see that the machinery-spectator-representation model postu­
lated by Albera and Tortajada for im age production m ay equally w ell be ap ­
plied to sound dispositives. From the Kinetophone (when one person pays to
listen for a brief moment) to pre-recorded radio broadcasts via the Theatro-
phone, limited to one individual at a time,13 the various types of phonographs
for use at home or by a presenter, and even all the machines invented by engi­
neers or novels that only existed on paper,14 each system gives rise to a specific
dispositive that one can envisage within this theoretical fram ework. I shall re­
strict m yself here to the dispositives that use im age and voice together and that
have a mechanical element in at least one of the tw o parts of the representation.
The correlation between the mechanical (re)production of sounds and the
show ing of im ages does, however, require a twofold conception of the machin­
ery and the representation (and even of the receiver, whose senses are divided
and w ho thus becomes an audio-spectator). It can thus be said that on the one
hand, a vertical relation is established between the visual and sound components
(either inside the machinery or the representation), and on the other hand a
horizontal relation between w hat belongs to the m achinery and w hat belongs to

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218 Alain Boillac

the representation. The first type of relation deals w ith the linking of the appa­
ratuses producing the sound and pictures, and on the level of the representa­
tion, the links that are established de facto w hen sound and im age occur to­
gether. The horizontal relation is generally less visible in cinema as it
constitutes an obstacle to the referential illusion, for exam ple becoming appar­
ent w hen the sound setup ostensibly influences the audio-spectator's perception
of the diegetic space. One must also consider the representational nature of the
sounds themselves as, in the w ords of Rick Altm an (following A lan W illiam s)/5
recorded sound 'reveal[s] its m andate to represent sound events rather than to
reproduce them '.16 It is thus necessary to postulate that the occurrences of sound
produced by mechanical means them selves belong to the pole of representation.
One must m oreover stress that w hat is perceived plays a prim ordial part in
the phenomena involved in representation, since in order to institute represen­
tation, one m ust necessarily involve the spectator and/or auditor. A s cinema
became an institution, both narration and a closure of the diegetic universe
w ere privileged, thus bringing about a 'verticalization' of horizontal relations -
the current practice of synchronism follow s the sam e trend, as it aim s to erase
the horizontal relation by displacing it by a sleight of hand exclusively to the
level of representation. To varyin g degrees, these two types of relation can
either be hidden or exhibited by the dispositive.
One m ay w onder w hat happens to these relations w hen there is human inter­
vention. Given that the speaker also introduces a secondary visual element,
they are necessarily m ade more complex. Indeed, presenters can m ake them­
selves visible, look at the spectators and, b y means of their acting, gestures,
mimes or dress, create a distinctive referential universe that m ay prolong, con­
tradict, ironize, and so on that of the film. In his 1908 treatise on the oratorical
art of the magic-lantern speaker, G.M . Coissac noted: 'The w ord is indeed not
everything - the expression of the face and the gesture accom panying it give it
more energy and m eaning'.17

T y p o lo g y o f so u n d p a r a m e te r s

In order to put forw ard a synthetic vision of these various aspects, I have chosen
a grid based on the model proposed by François Albera and M aria Tortajada for
visual dispositives. Exhaustiveness is not the aim here, given the specific case
exam ined —and it w ould be a tall order indeed in this highly heterogeneous
field of practices m ade u p of cinema m anagers' one-off and ephemeral innova­
tions. I am looking to put forw ard a whole series of criteria to analyse specific
auditory dispositives. It goes without saying that the parameters chosen in this

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 219

typology m ust be combined w ith the elements of the machinery that are neces­
sary for image production - such as Albera and Tortajada have shown. The
typology put forw ard below follow s an increasing order of 'dem aterialisation'
of the speaker, allow ing me to highlight one of the main distinctions between
the cinema w ith lecturer and the talkie. If, as A ndre Gaudreault has noted in his
essay on narrative enunciation/8 the voice-over of the speaker constitutes a re­
surgence of the voice of the early cinema lecturer's voice, one must not overlook
the disem bodim ent that is characteristic of all voice-overs. One may, of course,
say w ith M ary Ann Doane that even w hen a filmic representation diverges from
the norm of voice-lip synchronism, as is the case w ith the voice-over, 'the phan­
tasmatic body's attribute of unity is not lost' for 'it is sim ply displaced - the
body in the film becomes the body of the film '.’9 However, that particular
'b o d y ' - that of the filmic discourse that the aesthetic of 'transparency' precisely
aim s to render invisible in order to m axim ise the spectator's immersion in the
w orld of the film - is very different from that resulting from the presence of the
lecturer, w ho intervenes between the audio-spectator and the representation.
The typology I propose is organised according to the different relations that
are likely to be established between the three poles of the dispositive. With re­
gard to the axis of horizontal relations (spectator-machinery) that I w ant to
highlight here —as the link w ith the representation is more often addressed, I
shall not envisage it as such - w e m ay distinguish the follow ing parameters:

Type o f source
— Voice of a speaker visible in the hall and speaking live.
- Voice of a speaker visible in the hall, transmitted b y technical means (mega­
phone, microphone and am plifier or electric modulator, etc.).
— Voice of a hidden speaker.
- Voice on phonograph or mechanically produced, w ith the device visible.

The device m ay be activated by the spectator (Kinetophone, talking-doll phono­


graph), the showm an (phonographic spectacles) or mechanically (synchronisa­
tion systems).
— Use both voice o f speaker and voice on phonograph, either sim ultaneously
or alternating.
— Voice on phonograph w ith the device hidden.

Spatial location o f the vocal source


— Space w here im age originates from.
— Spectators' space.
— Scenic space set out in the hall.
— Space behind the screen.

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220 Alain Boillac

— Space that cannot be pinned dow n because of the acousmatisation (in the
sense that Michel Chion gives to the term), multiple secondary spaces (an
encompassing dispositive).

Mode o f access to the visibility o f the source


— The speaker or equipment is perm anently visible.
— The speaker or equipment is tem porarily visible (prologue, interlude).
- There is progressive adaptation to w hat is being (audiovisually) show n with
the source being effaced.
- The source remains hidden.

It is obvious that privileged links are created between some of these aspects. For
example, the dissim ulation of the speaker, aim ing to conjure up illusion, tends
to favour the space behind the screen, as the support of the im ages 'm akes a
screen' and captures all the spectator's attention. Regarding the anchoring of
the voice in the representation, the degree that the live vocal source is exhibited
is therefore inversely proportional to the subordination of the sound to the im­
age on the screen.20 The m ode of presence of the speakers is a decisive factor:
w hen they actually appear, the w ay in w hich they present them selves in front
of the audience's eyes - and look at the audience —is vital. Moreover, the lec­
turer's presence could be highlighted b y visual elements. G.M. Coissac, for ex­
ample, recommended that the people givin g the explanations should stand in a
commanding, raised position, such that they m ight be seen by all the specta­
tors.21
In addition, the opposition between the human and the machine (at very least
the projector) that is inherent to the dispositive m ay be em bodied in the w ay the
speaker's actual performance unfolds — varied technological m eans m ight be
used, such as the 'noise machines' that some lecturers habitually used, accord­
ing to Jean A. Keim 22. The most basic of these instruments w as probably the
megaphone, used in w ide-open spaces. It w as m ainly used in the circus but
also in spectacles that arose w ith the emergence of m ass culture (such as Bill
Codi's Wild West Show begun in 1883), to w hich cinema also belongs.
The criterion of 'alternating' between live speech and the recorded voice also
im plies considering the opposite situation, that of 'sim ultaneity'. The possibility
of covering the live voice b y a recorded voice (or vice-versa) w as above all a
theoretical one - it is hard to im agine w hat advantages this situation could pro­
vide in the fram ew ork of the traditional conception of a representation using
sound, as it leads to a loss of intelligibility, especially w hen the text produced
b y both voices is not the same. However, one cannot theoretically exclude like
phenomena of overlapping such as are found in w orks belonging to cinemato­
graphic 'm odernity' (in particular w ith Jean-Luc Godard). Outside the cinema-

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 221

tographic institution, one finds this type of superposition used b y charlatan


m edium s as a means of authenticating. When Conan Doyle described a spirit­
ism séance, one of the initiated stated that it is preferable that the medium
speaks at the same time as the voice of the spirits so that the participants are
convinced that there is no ventriloquist.23 This certifying function is represented
in E.T.A. Hoffm ann's fictional story, Automata, w hose two protagonists remove
all suspicions of ventriloquism w hen the artist, w ho is to present a 'speaking
Turk', speaks to the people present at the same time as the machine.24 One m ay
imagine that a sim ilar role of testifying also fell to the showm an's voice in the
first presentations of the phonograph, the sounds of w hich could be perceived
as being supernatural manifestations because of their acousmatic nature. In­
deed, the presence of an individual w ho does not speak next to the device
caused even well-inform ed observers to have doubts.25
W ith the exception of these m arginal cases, other live spectacles can be caco­
phonous because of the superposition of different voices. In contemporary art,
cacophony is exploited for an aesthetic end in performances on stage or in in­
stallations. When the sam e voice and text are spoken by two different channels,
the result is an effect of delinking that destabilises spectators.
Exhibiting the mechanical nature of the phonograph im plies envisaging the
possibility of a physical link between the spectator and the sound dispositive. A
distinction can be m ade between a system such as Berthon, Dussaud & Jaubert's
Phonoram a (1898), where each spectator had to place an ear against a telephone
to hear the sounds accom panying the projected image, and Clément-Maurice's
Phono-Cinema-Theatre (1900), w hose sound came from a cylinder phonograph
in the orchestral pit, w ith its receiver only w orking inside the 'production space'
to link the phonograph to the projection booth (where the operator synchro­
nised live). The Phonoram a thus combined an encom passing visual dispositive
(the audience in front of a screen) w ith an individual sound dispositive,
w hereas another device, Edison's Kinetophone (the 1895 model), gave the spec­
tator individual access to the two components. Individual control of the device
is a particularly important factor, as it entails not just turning on the machine,
but allow s the sound to be turned dow n or off at any time w hile the im age is
being shown. In a traditional cinema hall, the sound volum e is virtually identi­
cal for all spectators, and the sound cannot not be heard as one cannot shut
one's ears, w hereas it is sim ple to shut one's eyes.
It is difficult to conceive of the positioning of the source of sound indepen­
dently from its effects on the audiovisual representation. Right from the first
attempts to link a phonograph and a cinematographic projector, the choice of
locating the phonograph(s) behind (or along) the screen becam e the rule - de­
spite the num erous practical advantages that could have been derived from
having the two devices near to each other - since, in the w ords of H arry Ge-

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222 Alain Boillac

duld, 'this arrangement w as considered necessary because it seemed unnatural


for the audience to listen to the sound coming from behind their seats while
they w ere facing the picture'.26 The unirity of the audiovisual representation -
guaranteeing diegetic completeness - thus took precedence over the m anage­
ability of the machinery. To a sim ilar end, Léon Gaum ont experimented w ith a
technique consisting of m anually m oving the phonographs behind the screen to
correspond to the visible movem ents on the screen.27 This adaptation of the
sound machinery to the screen space and consequently (and problematically)
the diegetic space m akes up a 'm aterial' equivalent to later stereophonic tech­
nologies. M oreover, the placing of the sound source behind the screen w as per­
petuated w ith the generalisation of the talkie. A s Rick Altm an has noted, as
soon as the voice became the 'ra w m aterial' of sound in the cinema around
1930, technicians added a second frontal loudspeaker above the screen, with
the orchestral-pit speaker being reserved for the music.28
I shall finish m y typology outline by exam ining in particular the voice and
looking at the follow ing 'vertical' parameters:

Vertical relations on the machinery level

Types o f projection and sound source


— Fixed im ages / animated im ages / combination of fixed and animated
images.
— Sound-producing device / technique of sound production / hum an voice
agency.

Location o f the sound source in relation to the projector


— Unique sound-im age system.
- Interdependent sound-im age system s (physically apart but linked m echani­
cally or electrically).
- Independent sound-im age system: hum an operator to run the (production or
reproduction) device / hum an voice agency.

Type o f synchronisation29
— Tem porary absence of im age or sound.
- Hum an synchronisation: lecturer speaking of something different from the
film / speaking of the film as film (presentation) / speaking of the context of
the w orld of the film (historical, scientific, economic, etc.) / describing the
w orld of the film / relaying w hat the characters say in direct discourse / dub­
bing the characters (synchronism).
- Hum an synchronisation assisted mechanically, realised thanks to 'chrono-
metric prostheses' such as w ere proposed b y some inventors and pioneers of

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 223

the 'silent' period to orchestral conductors perform ing in cinema halls, for
exam ple w ith the Visiophone, Ciné-pupitre or Cineoram a system s.30
Phonographic synchronisation: movem ent of a cylinder or disc (also for some
digital techniques) matching the movem ents of the im age (or vice-versa).
- Cinem atographic synchronisation: sim ultaneous reading of optical sound
and image tracks on the film.

Vertical relations on the representation level


- Voice produced b y the visual representation itself (automata, visual dim en­
sion of the lecturer's performance).
— 'Synchronous' voice (resulting from human, part mechanical or mechanical
synchronisation).
— Voice delinking (breakdown or tem porary perturbation of synchronism)
— Voice off.
- Voice-over: the degree of dissociation between the im age and voice depends
on the w ay that the presum ed speaker is visualised during other parts of the
film.

The internal relations of the audiovisual representation are traditionally exam ­


ined in analyses that stay centred on the film itself. However, it is fruitful to
include them in an analysis of all of the parameters considered in the typology
of the properties of dispositives. It is thus possible to integrate the question of
the film session beyond the unit of the film itself (as is required in such practices
as lettrist cinema), and to p ay attention to the reappearance of orality in certain
film s that portray an intermediary figure who, in some respects, m ay have a
connection w ith the lecturer of early cinema.31

T h e l e c t u r e r , an a g e n c y o f m e d i a t i o n i n t e g r a t e d in t h e
d is p o s itiv e o f spoke n ‘c in e m a ’

This cinema you know, it's in a neighbourhood where only workers live. And most of
them don't know how to read the titles. During the projections you must stand be­
hind the screen and explain to the audience what's happening in each scene. Do you
understand? You must speak loudly and distinctly and then in such a way as to inter­
est the audience ,..32

The Polish Jew ish writer Isroel Rabon has the joint ow ner of a cinema provide
this explanation. This character has abruptly taken on the novel's recently de­
mobilized narrator - w ho is wandering, penniless and lonely in the tow n of

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224 Alain Boillac

Lodz. Like all discourses dealing w ith projections commented on by a lecturer,


this commentary presupposes certain characteristics that establish a specific dis­
positive. Even if the events here are probably fictional, the author (born in 1900)
w as able to d raw on his memories to compose this plot set at the end of the
19 10 s. The working-class audience's illiteracy is w hat stimulates the presence of
the live hum an voice taking the place of the titles, with the lecturer intervening
like a kind of 'translator'33 —with all the latitude belonging to spoken discourse,
as the reader discovers later w hen a film about the French Revolution is shown,
an adaptation of Orphans o f the Storm34 - i.e. explicitly as a mediator between
screen and audience w hose attention he must capture. The instructions given
b y the cinema ow ner signify that the screening w ill happen in a particular w ay
- the lecturing will be done from the w ings at the same time that the film is
shown, w ith the lecturer hidden from the audience's sight (for which the young,
inexperienced man is very thankful: 'Thank heavens, I said to myself, w hile I
speak the audience w on't see m y face').35
The choice of not seeing the source of the voice corresponds to one modality
am ong others, as the dispositive of the cinema w ith lecturer can only be con­
ceived as a plurality. When commenting on two different sources, Albera and
Gaudreault remark as follows:

One can note [ ...] contradictory assertions regarding the dispositive that he [the lec­
turer] belongs to - here he is visible and even 'burdensome', a kind of orchestral con­
ductor (he organises the projection and dominates the music), while there he is hid­
den from the audience and uses a table and a dark lantern.36

B y exam ining the w ays in w hich different cinema operators disposed the agen­
cies that m ake up the production space (we have here a literal m eaning of the
term dispositive) during projections w ith lecturers mentioned in some testimo­
nies, one can examine the consequences a particular characteristic has on the
communication process set up b y the spectacle. This type of observation echoes
the concerns of operators and speakers from early times, w ho w ere confronted
w ith the concrete problem of how to arrange the space of the hall. Hence, cer­
tain unusual system s w ere favoured as they allow ed the projection device to be
placed behind the screen - such as the Dactylographe (a process that w orked in a
lit hall w ith a translucent screen show ing an im age that w as reflected several
times), w hose advantages w ere sum m ed up as follow s in 1909 b y a chronicler:

The speaker and lantern-operator came closer, making it easier for them to commu­
nicate while working, which is out of the question when the audience separates the
two. All the work is done outside the audience and not in front or behind it.37

The respective positioning of the different poles and agencies of the dispositive
are consequently thought out in relation to the effect produced on the audience

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 225

—here the production space is totally neglected. Such considerations often led
commentators at the time to mention the link between the source of the images
and the speaker. For example, one finds in the m anual discussing the magic
lantern lecture, published by the N ew York com pany producing and distribut­
ing York & Son plates, the recommendation 'not to adopt the too common
mode o f signalling to the operator by at one time rapping w ith the pointer, at
another givin g directions with the voice'.38 It w as thus a matter of rem oving the
'redundancy' of the signals and all references to the vertical relation between the
speaker and projectionist as, according to the authors, such a reference w ould
influence the horizontal relation w ith the spectator. In a text where Coissac ad­
vocated adopting a projection system b y light shining through the screen (see
fig. l),39 he underlined the disadvantage of traditional projection with the pro­
jector situated behind (or among) the spectators, which resides in the fact that
'the operator is generally surrounded by a large num ber of spectators whose
curiosity is aw oken by the least Little details of the manipulations; they thus
take aw ay the attention dem anded by the professor or speaker.40 The show ing
of the projection is considered by Coissac - in the pedagogical context that con­
cerned him - as an element curbing proper transmission of the spoken inform a­
tion (but not as a brake on the spectator's immersion in the w orld represented
visually — w hich w as secondary for him). H is remark indicates that the very
functioning of the projector could constitute an 'attraction' vyin g w ith that of
the speaker - m oreover like other elements in the production space (including
sound sources).41

Figure 1

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226 Alain Boillac

The 'production space' also exhibits itself w hen the speaker uses a baton — a
physical extension of him self (and thus 'technical', at a m inimum level) —in the
physical space of the screen. Such a 'prosthesis'-like object is generally asso­
ciated w ith the pedagogical projection because it implies that the im age is sub­
ordinated to the voice - Coissac advises the speaker to use one42 —one cannot
how ever rule out that the cinema lecturer also used it, if only to give him self the
appearance of a speaker giving a 'real' lecture. Following the exam ple of Jean
Keim, w ho mentions the lecturer's Tong baton',43 R.M. Arlaud recalls a lecturer
w ho w as em ployed by the director of a fairground, whose activities he de­
scribes in the follow ing w ay:

He was directly descended from the old image showman. He even had his baton. He
commented what everyone could see, striking the screen, getting more worked up
than the actors. [ ...] The baton pointed at Paul. 'She spots him!'. The baton stressed
how frightened Juliette was. 'She turns round!'44

This accessory allow s the lecturer to explicate and visualise the co-reference of
w ord and image, while underlining the presence of a human agency. Its explica­
tive function is not only concerned w ith the visual reference but w ith the read­
ing that should be m ade of it, thus orienting where spectators look. Moreover,
A ndre Gaudreault has linked the lecturer w ith the 'adm onisher' of certain pic­
torial w orks which generally indicate the central element of the composition by
means of a pointing finger.45
In order to define a given projection dispositive complete with lecturer, it is
vital to exam ine w hat the spectator is authorised to see of the equipment and
the origin of production of the discourse. H iding or exhibiting the source is a
key factor for defining the horizontal relation, in that it involves the illusionist
nature of the representation. However, over and above the physical location of
the elements belonging to the three poles of the dispositive, one must add the
question of how time is m anaged - activating sim ultaneously or in turn these
different agencies. In a report entitled 'O rganising a lecture' and published in
1905 in Le Fascinateur, the Abbot of Fouchecour commented on three methods
of fixed-im age projection. The first involved lecturing without im ages and with
the lights on - the lights w ere then put out and all the plates shown. In the
second, the speaker spoke in the dark at the sam e time as the im ages were
shown. The final one is a combination of the first two, w hen the speaker inter­
rupts his talk w ith visual illustrations each time he has finished part of his lec­
ture.46 Comm ents such as those of Fouchecour alw ays include rem arks about
the audience which must be disposed to listen to the lecture. D ark or lit hall, plat­
form or hiding-place behind the screen, baton or rem oval of the lecturer's body
- all these elements, set out in a large num ber of combinations, allow us to ad-

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 227

dress the figure of the lecturer via the different dispositives that he helps us to
define.
The use of the dispositive notion does have an impact on the w ay one con­
ceives of the place of the voice in early cinema - instead of stating, w ith Tom
Gunning, that 'the lecturer [ ...] reveals a fissure w ithin the cinema as an appa­
ratus',47 w e have here envisaged this practice as an element that fully belongs to
the projection of images. A nd although this hum an agency occupies a variable
position in the three-pole system that w e have adopted, the voice is more or less
strongly captured in the orbit of one of the three poles (space of the production/
representation/audio-spectator) and contributes to configuring the relations be­
tween the three of them.
Despite the plurality of dispositives whose traces can be discovered in docu­
ments o f different types, it can be said that theoretically speaking —and beyond
the diversity of practices - the presence of a lecturer leads to a specific disposi­
tive that I propose to call " spoken 'cinem a'". While the talking cinema refers to an
institutionalised practice of subjugating the spoken element to the w orld of the
film - people speak in the film - the category of spoken 'cinem a' covers a series
of heterogeneous practices that concern live spectacles where the film —spoken
—is considered as an object w ithin a dispositive which, taken as a whole, is a
speaking one. In the spoken film s one speaks of the film. A s the w ords of the
spoken 'cinem a' are m aterially outside the filmic diegesis, they can only be pro­
ductively envisaged as an element of this 'cinem a' dispositive w hose outlines I
have in part attempted to sketch here together w ith illustrations of some of the
form s in w hich it has been realised.

N o te s

1. Many people commenting on the first films lamented the absence of sound and
called for the addition of a sound dimension. In this context, Daniel Banda and José
Moure point out in the early cinema section of their anthology that 'the cinemato­
graphic idea is identified with total representation of reality', the cinema being 'con­
ceived with sound - like an extension of the phonograph' (Le Cinéma : naissance d'un
art, 2895-1920, Paris: Flammarion, 2008, p. 35). On this subject see Tom Gunning,
'Doing for the Eye What the Phonograph Does for the Ear', in R. Abel & R. Altman
(eds.), The Sounds of Early Cinema, Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University
Press, 2001.
2. The inverted commas here indicate an entity considered at the very beginning of its
possible developments and that had not yet been defined by fixed media properties.
In my view, the protean nature of the techniques and practices of the time forbids
one from conceiving of them within a monolithic and unifying framework.

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228 Alain Boillac

3. The first results of research into this question were published in number 22 of the
review Iris (autumn 1996) edited by André Gaudreault and Germain Laçasse. See
also Germain Laçasse, Le Bonimenteur de vues animées. Le cinéma « muet » entre tradi­
tion et modernité, Quebec/Paris: Nota Bene/Méridiens Klincksieck, 2000.
4. The terminology has been examined and the object of study legitimated in the arti­
cle by François Albera and André Gaudreault entitled 'Apparition, disparition et
escamotage du bonimenteur dans l'historiographie française du cinéma', in Giusy
Pisano & Valérie Pozner (eds.), Le Muet a la parole. Cinéma et performance à l'aube du
XXe siècle, Paris: AFRHC, 2005.
5. Here I use the expression suggested by Rick Altman in a text where he argued in
favour of taking into account the heterogeneity of sound phenomena during the
'silent' era ('General Introduction: Cinema as Event", in R. Altman (ed.), Sound Theo­
ry, Sound Practice, New York/London: Routledge, 1992).
6. The article is a reworked version of part of a chapter of Du bonimenteur à la voix-over.
Voix-attraction et voix-narration au cinéma, Lausanne: Antipodes, 2007, pp. 39-61.
7. The practice was actually continued well after this period - in France, for example,
at least up to the beginning of the Great War, while in Japan, the benshi continued
until the second half of the 1930s.
8. By using this neologism, I would like to underline my intention of contesting the
pre-eminence traditionally given to the visual dimension in cinema theory. In 1903,
G.-M. Coissac, who wrote a large number of texts looking at the practice of lectur­
ing, referred to the receiver of the audiovisual message in the following way: 'To
keep the audience - 1 mean the auditor-spectators - on tenterhooks, it is not enough
to project excellent images on the screen [ ...]' ('Méthode à suivre dans les séances
de projection', Le Fascinateur, N0. 12, 1 December 1903; all the references to the two
periodicals, Le Fascinateur and Ciné-journal, in the present article are taken from the
'Fonds de recherche de Monsieur Pierre Veronneau', Cinémathèque québécoise,
winter 2004, document put together by Marlène Landry). One can clearly see just
how his remarks follow the paradigm of what Albera & Gaudreault ('Apparition,
disparition et escamotage du bonimenteur op. cit., pp. 171-172) propose to
name the 'lecture-with-projection' (as opposed to the 'projection-with-lecture'),
where the image is so strongly subordinated to the word that, in the passage
quoted, Coissac was duty bound to refer to the fact that the audience is also com­
posed of spectators. Today, while cinema has been legitimized as an 'art of the im­
age', it is the vocal dimension that needs to be brought back into the limelight, fol­
lowing an approach begun in particular by Michel Chion.
9. François Albera & Maria Tortajada, ‘L'Epistémè "1900"', in André Gaudreault, Ca­
therine Russell & Pierre Véronneau (éd.), Le Cinématographe, nouvelle technologie du
XXe siècle, Lausanne: Payot, 2004.
10. To avoid any ambiguity, a distinction is made between synchronisation, an operation
whereby visual and audio co-occurrences are adjusted by associating elements in­
cluded in the production space, and synchronism, which refers to the level of repre­
sentation, and more particularly a certain state of the film such as established by the
audio-spectator - not according to the technique used but by the effect produced.
11. R.-M. Arlaud, Cinéma-Bouffe. Le Cinéma et ses Cens, Paris: Editions Jacques Melot,
1945- P- 69-

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 229

12. Leaving aside sung interludes, lecturers seem not to have used the phonograph
very frequently to reproduce a voice, as the recording doubtless competed too
strongly with their own performance. However, the Edison phonograph is some­
times mentioned in passing (see note 26 of 'On the singular status of the human
voice. Eve of the Future Eden and the cultural series of talking machines' in the pre­
sent volume). In the Phonograph and Cinematograph section of his manual, G.-Mi-
chel Coissac nonetheless advises those responsible for explaining fixed views to use
such recordings: '[ ...] many lecturers will double the interest they arouse if ani­
mated views from the cinematograph are added to ordinary projections or if there
is a discerning choice of a number of phonograph cylinders or discs'. (Manuel pra­
tique du conférencier-projectionniste, Paris: La Bonne Presse, 1908, p. 202). The move­
ment of the image and the production of recorded sounds are similarly considered
as sporadic additions aiming to reinforce the attractive nature of the spectacle.
13. See Giusy Pisano, Une archéologie du cinéma sonore, Paris: CNRS, 2004, pp. 139-163.
14. See François Albera, 'Le cinéma "projeté" et les périodisations de l'histoire techni­
que du cinéma', in Enrico Biasin (éd.), Le età del cinema / The Ages of Cinema, Udine:
Forum, 2008, pp. 393-400.
15. Alan Williams, 'Is Sound Recording Like a Language?', Yale French Studies, No. 60,
1980,
16. Rick Altman, 'The Material Heterogeneity of Recorded Sound', in R. Altman (ed.),
Sound Theory, Sound Practice, op. cit., p. 29.
17. G.-M. Coissac, Manuel..., op. cit., p. 179.
18. André Gaudreault, Du littéraire au filmique, Quebec/Paris: Nota Bene /Armand Co­
lin, 1999 (1988), p. 153.
19. M.A. Doane, 'The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space', in
R. Altman (ed.), Yale French Studies, No. 60,1980, p. 35.
20. In addition to examining the characteristics of the actual spatial organisation of the
hall, one must analyse linguistically the utterances produced, since the speaker may
refer in various ways to the hic et nunc of the spectacle.
21. G.-M. Coissac, Manuel..., op. cit., p. 175.
22. Jean A. Keim, Un nouvel art. Le Cinéma sonore, Paris: Editions Albin Michel, 1947,
P- 4 1 -
23. Arthur Conan Doyle, Histoire du spiritisme, Paris: Editions du Rocher, 1981 [original
English edition: The History of Spiritualism, London: Cassell, 1926], p. 310.
24. E.T.A. Hoffmann, 'Die Automate', in Die Serapions-Briider, tome 1, Darmstadt: Wis­
senschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1968 [1st edition 1813], pp. 329-330.
25. Thus, the chronicler of L’Illustration of 23 March 1878 proposed the following de­
scription: 'Moreover, the operator is always there with his instrument. He never
opens his mouth while the voice of the echo is being produced. These circumstances
give rise to doubts in the minds of several physicians. During the first moments, the
operator was accused of being a skilled ventriloquist.' (quoted by G. Pisano, Une
archéologie ..., op. cit., p. 151).
26. Harry M. Geduld, The Birth of the Talkies. From Edison to Jolson, Bloomington, Lon­
don, Indiana University Press, 1975, p. 44.
27. Ibid., p. 57.
28. Rick Altman, Silent Film Sound, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, p. 47.

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230 Alain Boillac

29. It should be noted that the setting up of synchronisation points is not only valid for
the dominant model of voice-lip synchronism, but that there are other modes of
synchronisation relating to the element chosen in the image (gestures, movements
of and in the image, joins in the montage, etc.).
30. See Emmanuelle Toulet & Christian Belaygue, Musique d'écran. L'accompagnement
musical du cinéma muet en France 1918-1995, Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux,
1994/ PP- 76-77 '
31. One may observe a specific audiovisual dispositive present in the filmic diegesis (or,
more precisely, at its margins) in such different films as L o l a M o n t é s (Max Ophiils,
1955), T h e E y e o f t h e D e v i l (Ingmar Bergman, i960), T h e T r i a l (Orson Welles,
1962) or D o l l s (Takeshi Kitano, 2002), or in the prologues of O u r T o w n (Sam
Wood, 1940) and M a n a b o u t T o w n (René Clair, 1947, the American version of Si­
lence est d'or, moreover one of the rare films to present an early cinema lecturer).
With regard to how orality is shown in talking films, see my articles entitled 'La
perpétuation de l'oralité du "muet" dans quelques incipit filmiques des premières
années du parlant (forthcoming in the review Cinémas) and 'D'une résurgence sous
forme fixée de la pratique bonimentorielle. La voix-over du Roman d'un tricheur et sa
postérité chez Resnais (Providence)' (forthcoming).
32. Isroel Rabon, La Rue, Paris: Juillard, 1992 (1928), p. 126.
33. See the links that I suggest at different levels between translation and lecturing in
Du Bonimenteur à la voix-over, op. cit., pp. 124-129.
34. Rabon attributes this film to a certain Moretti (p. 150), but it is probably the 1910
version directed by Albert Capellani. The passage of the book describing the projec­
tion of this film when the audience of workers takes control of the screening is better
known in French-speaking countries as it is quoted by Jérôme Prieur (Le Spectateur
nocturne. Les écrivains au cinéma, Paris: Editions de l'Etoile/Cahiers du cinéma, 1993,
pp. 88-92). Rabon's novel depicts an urban milieu where the circus and the crowd
play an important role, with a large number of situations of orality that are similar
to the cinema of attractions.
35. Isroel Rabon, op. cit., p. 151. Later in the novel, we learn that when the lecturer is
not there, an orchestra plays along with the films (ibid., p. 190).
36. F. Albera & A. Gaudreault, 'Apparition, disparition et escamotage du bonimen­
teur ...', op. cit., p. 182.
37. Hy Viel, 'Projections Dactylographiques (procédés de F. Mare)', Ciné-Journal, N0.
37, 29 April-May 1909.
38. 'Preliminary Hints to Amateur Lecturers' (circa 1880), quoted by Richard Crangle,
'Next Slide Please : The Lantern Lecture in Britain, 1890-1910', in R. Abel & R. Alt­
man (eds.), The Sounds of Early Cinema, Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana Univer­
sity Press, 2001, p. 45.
39. Illustration used in G.-M. Coissac's article entitled 'Projections par réflexion et pro­
jections par transparence', Le Fascinateur, 1 April 1903, p. 1 1 1 .
40. G.-M. Coissac, Manuel..., op. cit., pp. 198-199.
41. ... as is illustrated by the following advice given by the lecturer Georges Dalbe in
19 11 to his fellow-lecturers: '[...] he [the lecturer] must above all be good-tempered
and maintain excellent relations with the musicians, who can cause considerable
problems - they only have to play loudly and the lecturer is massacred' (Le Courrier

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The Lecturer, the Image, the Machine and the A udio-Spectator 231

cinématographique, 14 October 19 11, quoted in the second annex of André Gau-


dreault's article entitled 'Le retour du [bonimenteur] refoulé . Iris, No. 22, p. 32).
42. G.-M. Coissac, Manuel..., op. cit., pp. 182-183.
43. Jean A. Keim, op. cit., p. 41.
44. R.-M. Arlaud, op. cit., p. 101.
45. André Gaudreault (in collaboration with Germain Laçasse), 'Fonctions et origines
du bonimenteur du cinéma des premiers temps', Cinémas, Vol. 4, N 0 .1 , 1993, p. 139.
46. 'Organisation d'une conférence', Le Fascinateur, N0. 27, 1 March 1905, pp. 107-108.
47. Tom Gunning 'The Scene of Speaking: Two Decades of Discovering the Film Lec­
turer', ¡ris 27, 1999, p. 78.

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e b rary

e b ra ry

e b rary

e b ra ry

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O n th e S in g u la r S ta tu s o f th e H u m a n V o ice

Tomorrow’s Eve a n d t h e C u l t u r a l S e r ie s o f T a l k in g
M a c h in e s '

Alain Boillat

The cinema w as far from being the first 'talking machine' used for putting on
show s. The talking component is part and parcel of a long line of technical in­
ventions and discourses about the audiovisual representation of man. The term
itself underlines the preponderant role given to the w ord —the true 'subject' of
talkies being located in the talking Subject2 her/himself, as Jean-Louis Comolli
has noted. The talking element has fostered an anthropomorphic mimetism,
w hich is comparable in its principles to the mimetism underlying both the man­
ufacturing of automata w ith hum an faces and some of the w ay s phonographic
techniques are used. Rick Altm an has written about the phase in w hich talking
w as generalised: 'nearly every important technological innovation can be traced
to the desire to produce persuasive illusion of real people speaking real w ord s'.3
Jam es Lastra has noted that w hen analysing the w ritings of H ollyw ood techni­
cians at that time, 'all sounds were ultim ately recognized to be functionally sub­
ordinate to the voice'.4 Even if in science, as Jonathan Sterne underlines, a m ove­
ment of subordination of the voice to the more general category of 'sounds' can
be observed from the 19th century onw ards,5 the prim acy of the talking element
has been perpetuated in audiovisual representations, im plying all the phases of
sound m anufacturing in the cinema, from their recording to their projection in
halls. It is against this background that I shall address the conditions that have
contributed to the emergence of a conception of the relations between sound
and visual representations, where the dom inant parameter is voice-lip syn­
chronism. W hen one exam ines the possible combinations (exemplified in the
'installations' of contem porary artists), it becomes clear that institutionalised
talking cinema can profit from being set w ithin a w ider technological spectrum
belonging to the cultural series o f talking machines. 6 From a methodological point
of view , this conception allow s us to free historical study from the requirements
of periodisation, for if one series m ay be derived from another series, it m ay also
echo it at a distance or develop in parallel to neighbouring series. Reciprocal
influence m ay occur as a result of a spatial contiguity (when, for example, two
techniques are presented at the same exhibition)7 that is itself subject to consid­
erable diachronic variations and various contingencies, as it results from prac­
tices that have not been laid dow n and fixed. To take an exam ple that is specifi-

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234 Alain Boillac

cally linked to the hum an voice, one m ay suppose that the enthusiasm that the
painter Leopold Robert evinced on discovering the interactivity instigated by
the acousmatic voices o f the 'Invisible G irl'9 - a show staged in 18 15 b y the
fam ous phantasm agorist Robertson - can be explained b y the fact that this curi­
osity w as presented in the vicinity of an exhibition of talking autom ata.10 It is
this kind of convergence between series that allow s one better to comprehend
the specific nature of each dispositive used.
When the phonograph, patented b y Edison in 1877, w as first used in public, it
w as usually called the 'talking m ach in e'/1 a name w hich highlights the spoken
component of its 'perform ance' (the performance being not just a technological
one, but also a spectacular one w hen exhibited in public), but not its capacity as
a recording apparatus. This designation thus played the role of superordinate,
inscribing very different dispositives w ithin the same cultural series. The use of
a term that already existed clearly show s the filiation that people at that time
established between the phonograph and certain older machines. When devel­
oping an epistemological approach to the m ain reception paradigm s of the
'talking cinema' that w ere prevalent three or four decades before the latter be­
came standardised, it is helpful to compare certain fields of activity that w ere
particularly perm eable at the end of the 19th century. The border between a
show intended to am use and scientific demonstration (particularly in the field
of physiology), or exact sciences and spiritism, w as a tenuous one. I shall limit
m y study to one particularly discursive category: literary fiction based on tech­
nological speculation. A s Charles G rivel has show n,12 the im aginary w orld of
mechanical voice reproduction - which had already been evoked in 1748 in the
w orks of the philosopher Julien Offroy de La Mettrie13 —w as revived in litera­
ture w ith the spreading of Edison's and Berliner's inventions during the last
quarter of the 19th century.
One of the fictional w orks discussed b y G rivel that best illustrates the trans­
formations that took place in the 1880s is Tomorrow's Eve, a novel published in
1886 b y Villiers de l'lsle-A d am .14 He w as a close friend of Charles Cros, an in­
ventor and French poet who, eight months before Edison received his patent,
had sent a sealed letter to the French A cadem y of Sciences in which he set out
the phonographic process in plausible detail. Although often referred to in rela­
tion to the cinema, Tomorrow's Eve is a very rich w ork w hose hermeneutic po­
tential is far from exhausted. It is the story in w hich a fictive Edison, given
mythical status as the 'father of the phonograph', exploits his invention to re­
produce a talking being mechanically —a project similar to the talking doll that
the real Edison completed in 1889.15 The book fosters a discussion of the status
of the voice within the audiovisual dispositive, and in particular the recorded
voice, as the author em phasises the indexical nature of the phonographic re­
cording. This question has often been raised, but generally not explored in

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O n the Singular Status o f the Human Voice 235

depth by those w ho have studied Villiers's work. Research has concentrated on


the technological dimension of the w orld that is represented, either because it is
the im age that is foregrounded, or because the various spoken manifestations in
the book are not considered w ith regard to their particular characteristics. A
symptom atic illustration is w hen André Bazin, w ho succinctly refers to Villiers's
novel to illustrate the 'm yth of total cinema', does not refer to the android itself,
but sim ply mentions the fictitious Edison's projection of animated scenes using
a lam pascope.16 Even though the passage he quotes ends w ith the dancer sing­
ing, Bazin does not address the question o f the coupling of the image and the
voice. In an article on anthropom orphous sim ulacra created via audiovisual
technology, Tom Gunning discusses Bazin (albeit with little critical distance)
and cites the w ork of Villiers, but without going into detail, claiming that nu­
merous analyses have already been published.1” Despite recurring references to
Tomorrow’s Eve in studies investigating the representation of science in futuristic
novels and stories, I believe that this particular novel merits greater attention
from the point of view of the voice and the implications of phonographic tech­
nology, for - as m any scholars have underlined - it is a w ork w here the repre­
sentation of the voice is a fundam ental concern.

T h e v o ic e s in t h e n o v e l

One can see how important voices are in Tomorroiv's Eve from the very begin­
ning, w hen Edison, in his inaugural monologue, laments that he has not been
able to record all the voices from the past, particularly God's voice - which, one
m ight say, w ould have enabled him to provide phonographic proof for ontological
proof. Here Villiers is expressing the dream of acceding to the divine by means
of telecommunications - a dream shared later by Guglielm o Marconi, w ho
hoped to develop radiophony to the point of being able to capture Jesus's last
w ord s on the cross.18 The desire to conjure up a past shrouded in m ystery
show s to w hat extent the recreated voice is marked by the absence or disappear­
ance o f beings - a situation that also concerns God himself, w ho in this novel
has, as it were, been supplanted by the man of science and his sacrilegious chal­
lenge. The function of compensating for an 'absence' is not confined to uses of
the voice, since the photographic image w as also destined to replace the painted
portrait in its capacity to conserve a trace of those w ho have died.19 However,
the exam ple of the divine voice in Villiers's w ork reveals an alm ost mystical
conception of voice phenomena that are deprived of physical incarnation, asso­
ciated both w ith the origins of the w orld ('In the beginning w as the W ord') and
w ith manifestations of a source that eludes representation.

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236 Alain Boillac

In Tomorrow's Eve, Edison's soliloquy prefigures the w a y the voice is treated


throughout the novel. Firstly, the monologue - an instance of diegetized enuncia­
tion - is direct discourse relying on indications of linguistic register and orality.
Secondly, the voice is exploited as a narrative motif. One can join Gwenhael
Ponnau in affirm ing that 'not just thematically, but also poetically and structu­
rally, Tomorrow's Eve m ay appear as the novel of the voice, or rather, of voices'.20
However, Ponnau exam ines the polyphonic structure and various 'stage direc­
tions' without linking such stylistic characteristics w ith the technological ele­
ment built into the heart of the story. It is, however, enlightening to draw a
correlation between the representation of the voice and the problematic of talk­
ing machines im agined by Villiers. N ot only does his novel often describe in
detail the voices of feminine characters (referring to timbre, intensity, intona­
tion, etc.), but he also brings in various voices heard in acousmatic situations,
i.e., w hen the source of the voice cannot be seen. In the diegetic universe of the
novel, such manifestations are motivated either by m eans of long-distance com­
munication (telepathy or telephony) or b y playing a sound that has already
been produced (phonography). Sounds of the first type occur right from the
very beginning of Eve - the em ployee and Edison's son are presented only as
voices. In the tangled w eb of direct discourse, the expression 'a voice' often des­
ignates by synecdoche the various characters.21 The voice is thus associated
w ith an absence that the phonograph is partially used to cover —just as the
android is the idealised substitute for the real wom an. Edison, w ho is isolated
in his laboratory, is loath to speak directly to his interlocutors, but replies sim ply
b y setting off a phonograph linked to a telephone (p. 16). Thus, his relationship
w ith others is strongly mediatised by the techniques of voice reproduction and
transmission. This som ewhat asocial behaviour m ay w ell hark back to Villiers's
initial intention, which w as to portray Edison in a sarcastic manner. However,
the novel often uses voice-off, the source of which is situated elsewhere (i.e., the
sleeper A n y Anderson), or even in a time and place different from that of the
listener (when H adaly repeats Alicia's words), thus stressing the dissociation
and disem bodim ent brought about by activating Edison's dispositives.
Furthermore, the separation between the physical person and speech is ex­
plicitly thematized by Edison, w ho claims to be able to preserve Alicia's body
w hile m odifying her soul, and thus fulfil his friend's wish. A s Franc Schuerewe-
gen has written, Villiers's Edison m anages to 'abduct the present of a being by
capturing her voice, which is closest to the soul, and thus to the essence'.22 This
fundam ental dichotomy between (the) being and appearing allow s a distinction
to be m ade between the dim ensions of the w ord and the voice w hen Lord
Ew ald says of his lover th a t' ... her w ords seemed constrained and out of place
in her mouth.' (p. 3 1). Moreover, the same oppositional rationale (body-soul,
body-voice) governs the value judgem ents m ade regarding the attributes of the

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O n the Singular Status o f the Human Voice 237

voice. With the portrait that Villiers d raw s of Alicia, there is a contrast between
the perfection of the innate and the m ediocrity of w hat is acquired - everything
not belonging to her 'essence' is tainted by the base aspirations of the philistine.
For exam ple, he notes that she speaks 'after the fashion of a saleswom en in a
department store, but in a voice of perfect clarity' (p. 169, m y italics). The cap­
turing of the voice is thus presented as an undertaking to extract one part of the
real which, w hen assem bled w ith a new element, contributes to creating the
feminine ideal. It is no coincidence that Alicia is a singer, like the prim a donna
L a Stilla in Verne's Carpathian Castle23 - it is a profession that is associated w ith a
vocal performance that is grounded in hum an expressivity.

P h o n o g ra p h y and illu s io n

B y m aking the phonograph the key invention from w hich one m ay derive var­
ious applications, Villiers inscribes his im aginary invention in w hat Rick A lt­
m an defines as a context of 'interm ediality'.24 The m aking of the android - de­
scribed w ith fetishist-like precision - requires several uses of the projected
image. It is thus presented as the product of a visual representation that exceeds
the automaton's mere physical presence. When Villiers wrote that his Edison
intended to surpass such m akers of automata as Vaucanson or M aelzel (p. 61),
he w as underlining the filiation between his character and these automata-
m akers w ith w hom his Edison - as opposed to the real Edison, w ho w as alw ays
interested in the industrial prospects of his inventions - shared an artisanal con­
ception of autom ata m anufacturing, w hile surpassing them thanks to his m as­
tery of phonographic techniques. Even if visual machinery does not intervene
per se in the functioning of the mechanical being, it is necessary for the concep­
tion of its body and especially to set up synchronism between w ord and m ove­
ment. Edison first uses a projection dispositive, w hose 'successive photographs'
allow him to show Lord Ew ald the animated image of a dancer. It is not a silent
projection, for the singer sings, and Villiers comments that the Tip m ovem ent' is
also reproduced, indicating synchronism. It is interesting to note that the illu­
sory status of the audiovisual representation is never called into question by the
characters present at the spectacle, even though the demonstration aim s pre­
cisely to show the deceptive appearance (cf. the m isleading outfit) of the filmed
subject. The illusion of the representation produced by the dispositive is, as it
w ere, transferred onto the nature of the represented object in accordance w ith a
process that resembles the film spectator's immersion in the filmic diegesis.
G iven Villiers's scientific speculations, w e note that he postulates total fidelity
of the audiovisual reproduction to its source (in fact, its referent). In the descrip-

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238 Alain Boillac

tive sections, Villiers does indeed describe the functioning of Edison's appara­
tuses, but he tends to conceal the representational dimension of the phono-
graphed voices by repeatedly stressing their perfection. Thus, the speaker pays
absolutely no attention to the recording situation w hen she speaks - Alicia's
voice is fixed unbeknownst to Alicia, as if the optimisation of the reproduction
qualities w as independent of the 'prophonographic' conditions.25 Moreover, the
functioning of the apparatus seems to have no influence w hatsoever on the res­
titution o f the voice, whereas right up to at least the first years of the twentieth
century, people constantly commented on the imperfection of the phonographic
reproduction of the voice's characteristics.26 This conception - which could also
be detected in Jules Verne's w ritings27 - w hereby one does not perceive sound
technology as such influenced the dominant thinking on matters audiovisual
during the twentieth century (alongside the rare commentators w ho recom­
m ended exhibiting the mechanical side of the phonograph).28 G iven that the
technology is inaudible, the representation passes for perfect restitution, as if
the transmission did not require a transducer. This ideology reached its apogee
w ith the appearance of the so-called high fidelity system s.29

M a c h in e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n as an a u d io v i s u a l d i s p o s i t i v e : t h e
a n d r o i d a n d it s s p e c t a t o r

The idea put forw ard by Villiers of linking the lam pascope w ith the phono­
graph had probably been circulating since the time of the very first presenta­
tions of the phonograph, as can be seen in a review published in 1878:

It is already possible by ingenious optical contrivances to throw stereoscopic photo­


graphs of people on screens in full view of an audience. Add the talking phonograph
to counterfeit their voices, and it would be difficult to carry the illusion of real pre­
sence much further.30

In Villiers's novel, Edison's experiment puts Lord Ew ald in the position of


audio-spectator, thus creating a dispositive. The android's interactions with
Lord Ew ald that follow are, significantly, called 'scenes' on several occasions.
But before he falls for the illusion, he is filled w ith indignation about Edison's
vast ambition and exclaims: 'But I w as forgetting; this is a theater, I'm watching
a stage show! I'm bound to applaud. The last scene w as really good - strange,
indeed, but strong!' (p. 201). The relationship that develops between Edison and
his guest is thus grounded in the context of the spectacle (a kind of scenic per­
formance), which includes the object of the exhibition (the automaton) and the
two poles of communication (the instigator and the spectator). It is significant

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O n the Singular Status o f the Human Voice 239

that Lord Ew ald qualifies the contents of the phonographic inscriptions as


'paradoxes' (p. 201): he judges that w hen a machine is capable of conducting a
conversation, there is a lack of verisim ilitude, even within the fiction. This is a
nodal point on the narrative level, given that Edison keeps putting off his expla­
nation, and w as a decisive stage in the genesis of the novel, as Villiers only hit
upon the final outcome after several years. The android's functioning w as only
finally clarified w hen the work, which is presented as a rew riting of the Book of
Genesis, w as completed: phonography is the instrument repeating the founding
act, w ith the gift of speech guaranteeing that the artefact is endowed w ith hu­
m an qualities. This is w h y Edison, like the novel itself, m akes this gift his ulti­
mate purpose. If silence has the last w ord — it is literally the last w ord of the
book - this is because the divine origin proves in the end to be unsurpassable.
If w e turn our attention to the image, w e see that it intervenes via the crafting
of Hadaly, thanks to a series of m arks m ade on the basis of 'photographic enlar­
gem ents'31 (p. 15 1) .32 The physical appearance o f this artificial being is indeed
the result of a series of im ages sim ilar to those obtained by Etienne-Jules M arey
b y means of his chronophotographic technique.33 This part of the novel sug­
gests a possible link between autom ata and devices projecting animated films,
despite the fact the role of the projected animated im age is confined to creating
the machine —there is no trace o f the projection system used to conceive it once
it is finished. Villiers's Edison justifies such up-front experiments by underlining
the need for a correlation between the line representing the body movements
inscribed on the cylinder - itself a tool related to the phonographic process -
and the groove resulting from the recording of the voice. He calls this process
'expressive correspondences' and makes the follow ing comment on it: 'It fol­
low s accordingly (does it not?) that the action of two phonographs, combined
w ith that of the cylinder, must produce a perfect synchronizing of w ords and
gestures as w ell as of the movement of the lips' (p. 132). This explanation show s
the importance given to voice-lip synchronism - a principle which w ould later
come to dominate talking cinema.
Despite the perfection of the fictitious Edison's creation, Villiers points to the
fact that the w ord cannot be reduced to the level of the machine, which, funda­
mentally, has no soul. The movem ent that characterises chronophotographic
projection does indeed animate things, but only the voice truly 'anim ates' the
beings represented. For Villiers, the law s of mechanics and acoustics are not suf­
ficient to attain this origin of the voice.

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240 Alain Boillac

W h e r e s p ir itis m p u t th e fin is h in g to u c h e s on th e te c h n ic a l
in v e n tio n

When in Eve, Edison communicates w ith Menlo Park, a disem bodim ent results
both from the use of the phonograph (the manifestation of sound deferred in
time) and that of the telephone (the spatial separation between the places of
sending and receiving). This double demateralization of the speaker is also
played out on another level w ith the intervention of A n y Sowana, as the inven­
tor contacts this spirit both b y means o f his gift for telepathy but also, more
concretely, using a telephone handset. Thus, as Edison explains to Lord Ewald,
his transmission really is 'occult', w hile her reply comes 'by w ay o f electricity'.34
This principle is illustrated earlier in the book in a dialogue in which w e dis­
cover A n y Sow ana's hearing perception, depicting the strangeness inherent in
the sudden boom ing forth of a voice without a body. In this passage, w e note
that the telephone and phonograph intervene together to activate the talking
automaton - an alliance that is symptom atic of the lack of a clear boundary
between the paradigm s of the inscription and transmission of sounds at the end
of the 19th century. Patrice Carré, for exam ple, has underlined that the applica­
tions of the telephone w ere at first both uncertain and varied, w ith Bell's inven­
tion sometimes being envisaged as 'com plem entary to the phonograph'.35 Vil-
liers lets the invisible Sow ana explain precisely how this dispositive functions:

- It's a marvel of thought and ingenuity, but perfectly natural now that it's been
brought to reality.
Look: for me to hear you, in the mixed and marvelous state where I now am ... there's
no need of a telephone. But for you to hear me, you or any one of your visitors, isn't it
true that the telephone whose mouthpiece I'm now holding must be linked to a
sounding box, however concealed? (p. 12)

Sow ana has to use prosthetic technology in order to m aterialise the sound of her
voice in space and speak. Villiers underlines just how perfect the transmission
apparatus is,36 and thanks to the telephone, the speaker establishes proxim ity
and intimacy with the listener, m aking the technical instrument sim ilar to the
telepathy that is used to ensure the reciprocal nature of the communication.
Villiers's Edison provides his guest w ith a veritable séance w here the beyond is
reached thanks to the combined pow er of the spirit and electricity. The w ay in
w hich Villiers thought out the story is indicative of the similarities - in the col­
lective im agination at that time, and still today for those w ho believe in the
phenomenon of 'channelling' — between technology and the 'para-scientific'
field. This meeting between the occult dimension and a technology that allow s
instantaneous communication at a distance - a m ixture of ingeniousness and

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O n the Singular Status o f the Human Voice 241

the ideal, as A n y Sow ana puts it —reveals the rapprochement between telegra­
phy and m odern spiritualism that Jeffrey Sconce has examined in the discourses
of the second half of the 19th century,37 a paradigm that continued on into the
20th century via various m ystical or religious uses of telephony.38
The presence of the occult and the supernatural in Eve rem inds us that the
strictly technological context must not overshadow the symbolist side of Vil-
liers's work. The use of spiritist m eans to allow the machine to speak show s
how far he believed that speaking is totally incompatible w ith the mechanical
aspect. The singularity of the voice comes from the indestructible link it has with
an individual - for Villiers, the distinction between the hum an and the inhuman
partly rested on the opposition between production and reproduction at the
level of the voice. The sim ultaneously occult and technological origin of the re­
produced voice reveals —like the oxym oron 'Tom orrow 's E ve' of the title - the
paradox of the sym bolism that resides in the collusion of the mythological (the
m yth of A d am and the origin of hum ankind) and scientism. Although Villiers
initially intended to combat positivism just as he had done in some of his tales,
the final version of his novel bears w itness to a clear attraction to scientism,
despite the ending, w here he underlines the vanity of man's attempts - like Pro­
metheus —to become master of his ow n destiny.
The technological dimension that Villiers presented m ay be envisaged by
com paring it w ith the talkie. Delinking between the spoken voice and the visua­
lised body occurs w hen the voice seems momentarily to detach itself from its
hum an origin, and w hile it does not exactly reveal its nature as a recording, it
does unveil the trick o f voice-lip synchronism.39 In the novel, the character of
M iss Alicia is associated w ith the idea o f disparity between being and appear­
ing. Her 'audiovisual' reproduction - the result of complex operations that en­
sure the synchronisation of the various mechanisms —produces a m erging of
Alicia's physical beauty and the interior perfection that her model does not
have. The result is to repair any delinking effect. The w ork's technological Uto­
pianism thus resides more deeply in a unitary conception of the android - the
complete illusion of life.
In circa 1880, an advertisement for a spectacle involving automata em pha­
sized how the invention being exhibited w as both superior to and different
from reproduction devices: 'D o not confuse this m arvellous machine, unique in
the w orld, w ith the phonograph, w hich is sim ply an ECHO effect'.40 Thus, the
fact that speech w as produced without previous recording w as used as a pub­
licity argument, even though this process w as by no m eans a new one, but be­
longed to the tradition of face-to-face communication. Similarly, Villiers high­
lighted the limits of phonographic reproduction, suggesting that they were
outmatched by the 'techniques' of occultism: Sow ana's spirit expresses itself
through the android's mouth w ith the uncertainties that are characteristic of

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242 Alain Boillac

everyd ay conversation, and interacts w ith the audio-spectator. Spiritism and


phonography do, however, have one thing in common. Edison calls up A ny
Sow ana's spirit thanks to his m agnetising pow ers that he uses on Mistress A n ­
derson, w ho lies in another room in a quasi-cataleptic state. In other w ords,
Sow ana's spirit can be freed thanks to the dissociation from the body of a third
person w ho plays the part of intermediary, i.e., 'm edium '. If one links this inter­
vention of the supernatural w ith Edison's various inventions where voice and
body are separated, one understands w hat it is about the phonograph that
could be conceived of as an attractive, yet repulsive, dem iurgic invention. In
Eve, the meeting between a forsaken voice w ith an artificial body that is dedi­
cated to the mechanicalness of the phonograph is presented as the guarantee of
audiovisual completeness. It is instructive that the cornerstone of Villiers's
scientific Utopia belongs to 'psychic m agnetism '. He needs the help of the
supernatural to cast out the anguish of absence provoked b y the phonograph,
to avoid the m onstrosity that the phonographic voice represents w hen detached
from any soul - a totally dehum anized voice, like that of Marcel Schwob's La
Machine a parler (1892).41 This motif is part of the broader aspirations of the
sym bolist influence, which denounced the material foundations o f fin de siecle
society w hile it sought to find the lost soul, even if it meant availing oneself of
the products (material) of industry, as is the case in the novel Eve, w hich is par­
ticularly am bivalent in this respect.
Technology not only affects the spectators in w ays that are close to those of
'm agic' phenomena, but can also be used for spiritist practices. Jam es Lastra
notes that the transformations brought about by the technologies of photogra­
phy, phonography and telegraphy also affected the discourses and methods of
spiritism.42 A s early as 1673, Athanase Kircher recalled that m any of those w ho
mentioned 'talking heads' had interpreted the voices produced by these 'm a­
chines' as diabolical, because the devil w as supposed to manifest itself in the
shape of a voice spoken by statues.43 Villiers's talking machines go hand in
hand w ith a belief in the supernatural, and thanks to Edison, the 'm odem ' func­
tioning of the android inherits a medium 's ancestral powers. This contamination
of the technological by the m arvellous seems to be connected to the polysem y of
the term 'm edium ': from medial to medium there is but one step, from the m ateri­