Representation of movement in expanded cinema


Thesis Statement

An analysis on the representation of movement and time in expanded cinema.


The expanded cinema has altered the representation of movement and time, as well as their characteristics. The works in expanded cinema have indirectly affected the way people view at what is presented. With technological advancement and in understanding how movement and time is being perceived by the viewers, these works are able to alter their representation.

References from Gilles Deleuze's books called Cinema 1: The Movement-Image and Cinema 2: The Time-Image are taken to explain the vital difference between the movement-image and the time-image which influenced the way people perceive the type of movements and passing of time in expanded cinema.

Mostly influenced by Henri Bergson, Deleuze often referenced Bergson's writings to further explain the definition of movement and time as perceived by the audience of moving visuals.

Technological advancement in expanded cinema also dramatically changes these notions of movement and time. Referencing from Walter Benjamin's book called The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, this essay will also investigate at how technological advancement contributed to the way an artwork is presented and viewed by the viewers.

Several video artworks were analysed to understand how changes in movement and time due to technological advancement as well as the psychoanalysis aspect of the viewer's perception were formed.


We believe that succession of movement and time is passing only because our ordinary consciousness, absorbed in the transience of material forms, is capable of "illuminating" only one particular moving cross section of space-time at each instant. In other words, form and substance, including the brain and body through which we perceive, are continually changing, and we experience movement and time as passing because each instant of consciousness is different. This is because we are always thinking new thoughts, experiencing and noticing new things, metabolizing new substances; and it is this constant sequential difference of one instant from the last or the next that gives the experience of movement and time passing -- the mind-body relationship drives time into its appearing and disappearing movement.

With the ability to arrest and deconstruct movement and time through advancement in technology, the ordinary linear perception of time disappears. These manipulation of movement and time in expanded cinema have in fact made the viewer probe further into the possibility of distorting movement and time at one's will.

Chapter 1

Understanding Movement-Image and Time-Image

The sense of movement in any form of expanded cinema, be it film or video, is achieved through combining several still images. However, according to Gilles Deleuze, he sees films and videos not as immobile and still, but instead as mobile and given to us along with an abstract movement or time that makes up movement-image.

Deleuze asserts that 'cinema does not give us an image to which movement is added, it immediately gives us a movement-image' (Deleuze, 1983, pg. 2). He derived at this claim from the philosopher Henri Bergson[1] who opposed real movement and concrete duration, with immobile sections and abstract time. He explained further that real movement in everyday life cannot be divided, is unstoppable, and thus in no way can it be doctored, while in expanded cinema what we get is false movement but which is not received by the viewer as in any way artificial.

Deleuze extended this definition of movement into changing sections. He explained movement as 'a mobile section of duration, that is, of the Whole, or of a Whole' (Deleuze, 1983, pg. 8). Movement is seen as a 'translation in space' (Deleuze, 1983, pg. 8) and it does express a change in duration. For instance, when an ice cube is being place in a cup of water, there is a transition - from two individual entities, water and ice cube, into 'iced water' over time. Thus, a qualitative change is seen in the Whole. The Whole here refers to external relations of the objects in which when connected formed the movement-image. Subjects and objects in the movement-image are placed in narrative positions where the passing of time is determined and measured by movement. Systematically, the subjects and objects in the movement-image will perceive things, react and take action in routine and in line with the events around them.

In summary, movement-image is dependable on its succession of movement in images to complete the whole and to make sense of. These kind of movement-image examples are widely seen in early Hollywood cinema where the narration takes on a smooth and systematic storyline. It is thus rational and the links between shots are understandable.

As opposed to movement-image, time-image creates a moment in which the spectators are forced to go into our own memories to construct meaning for ourselves. Time-images are confusing movements in films which can occur in two instances, aural and optical. These time-image instances are synonymous to the avant-garde art films, which Deleuze described as the highest pursuit of cinema.

The time-image refers to an image which you cannot comprehend. There are many ways in which a film can confuse you, or make you aware of "time." By abstracting the image, by disjointing the sound from the image, and by having the characters refer to events in their past which we have not witnessed. The disjointing link between shots, which Deleuze calls the non-rational or irrational cut, refers to the important difference between classical (movement-image) and modern (time-image) cinema:

"The so-called classical cinema works above all through linkage of images, and subordinates cuts to this linkage. On the mathematical analogy, the cuts which divide up two series of images are rational, in the sense that they constitute either the final image of the first series, or the first image of the second....rational cuts always determine commensurable relations between series of images and thereby constitute the whole rhythmic system and harmony of classical cinema....Time here is, therefore, essentially the object of an indirect representation, according to the commensurable relations and rational cuts which organize the sequence or linkage of movement-images....modern cinema can communicate with the old, and the distinction between the two can be very relative. However, it will be defined ideally by a reversal where the image is unlinked and the cut begins to have an importance in itself. The cut, or interstice, between two series of images no longer forms part of either of the two series: it is the equivalent of an irrational cut, which determines the non-commensurable relations between images" (Deleuze, 1985, pg. 213).

In the time-image, irrational links are obvious. When this happens, gaps in between shots start to form and viewers will construct their own meaning to make sense of the whole. Thus, the characters will then take a more passive role and the mental imagery, experiences and emotions of the viewer takes over to fill in those gaps.

Chapter 2

The Manipulation of Media

'The act of reaching for a lighter or a spoon is familiar routine, yet we hardly know what really goes on between hand and metal, not to mention how this fluctuates with our moods. Here the camera intervenes with the resources of its lowerings and liftings, its interruptions and isolations, its extensions and accelerations, its enlargements and reductions. The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.' (Benjamin, 1969, pg. 237)

Walter Benjamin already emphasized in his essay[2] on how the manipulation of new media, in this instance like film and video, has tremendously altered perceptions in viewing of an artwork. He illustrates by giving examples of how, with technology, a certain familiar routine can be viewed differently with the inclusions of techniques like slow motion and the close-up. By way of technologies like editing, that is, the structuring and recombination of images and sequences of films and videos offers previously unknown ways of seeing.

But through manipulation by utilizing media technology, in whichperceptions and thoughts are not trained to subside, by which each instant is made, through repetition and deconstructed images, to appear the same as every other instant, the sense of the irrevocable movement of time can be arrested, and a "timeless" status of consciousness experienced.

Chapter 3

The Works of Perception

Artists have the power to probe and explore new environments even not literally but mentally presumed environment on what it is. The power to foresee as the readiness to recognize is immediately present.

Perception plays a vital role in acquainting time. What if the mode of our recognition of time fails us? We want to simulate the failure of time, by deceiving perception's job to inform time by movement and visual changing stimulation.

In the video artwork, The Reflecting Pool by Bill Viola, he engages the familiar cycle of life as his main storyline. This however was presented in a different approach. His carefully crafted sequences of images and sound are in itself a work of Art.

Evident in this video work, and most of the other works of Viola's, was the distortion and deliberate slowness of the video. Most of the images are intensively slowed down to accustom the viewers to the atmosphere of the work and let them gradually take in the intended scene. These deliberate lengthening of time helps viewers to notice things that one might not notice in the normal 24 frames per second speed. This will help them reinvestigate and question the simple turns, moves or stirs of the visuals. Moving away from fast cuts and transition of visual imagery, Viola's slow motion video characteristic allows viewers to see common actions in new perspectives. The poetic nature of the work started to emerge as it leaves swayed to the noises of the surroundings. The work thus creates an alternate world at the turning point of the frozen imagery of the man suspended on air in a fetal position.

As time progresses and video has become much easier to handle as a medium, different treatment and processes using video for works of Art sprouted. In the case of The Reflecting Pool, the technology advancement allows editing and deconstructing the time-based video. The freeze, illusion and cropping of clips are made possible with these advancement.

In Sleep by Andy Warhol, a mundane activity of sleeping has been turned into a scrutinized routine. This was due to the fact that Warhol actually recorded this piece at a silent speed of 16frames per second as compared to the normal sound speed of 24 frames per second. The six-hour film shows poet John Giorno in various positions of sleep. Warhol elongated the action recorded on 100-foot rolls of film, by repeating filmed segments through loop printing. The concluding image is a frozen still.

The manipulation of time in this piece has evidently created different consciousness in the viewers. What was once missed - was instead magnified in this video. A simple stir of action can be caught because of its deliberate slow movement. The piece lets viewers examine the process in which most had taken for granted - thinking that time stood still when we fall asleep because of the subtle, unobvious changes.

The same treatment has been done in Yoko Ono's piece Fluxus film No. 1 (Match), where the one-second single gesture of lighting a match was being stretched into almost a minute. This single gesture was made into a 'film' as the lighting of the match became a metaphor for the light of the projector and the illumination of its subject. Filling the screen, the match appeared within its own light and was consumed by the light-making process. The deliberate slow motion stretch made it possible for audience to 'capture' these metaphorical nuances. A one-second gesture would not make it through for the audience to get the metaphorical message. Time in this instance, had been essential in this piece.

'Realistically, no one can watch the whole of '24 Hour Psycho', which consists of Alfred Hitchcock's film 'Psycho' (1960) slowed down so that a single, continuous viewing lasts for twenty-four hours. While we can experience narrative elements in it (largely through familiarity with the original), the crushing slowness of their unfolding constantly undercuts our expectations, even as it ratchets up the idea of suspense to a level approaching absurdity.' (Ferguson, 2001, pg.16)

In Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho, the full Alfred Hitchcock's film, 'Psycho' was put in slow motion that it takes 24 hours to finish watching the whole film. Viewer will be familiar with this famous film and they would roughly know the storyline of the film. However, when the element of slow motion is added to the film, every frame seems like a still photograph, in which people can clearly examine. This is turn change the way this film is being viewed. It had, at one point, changed a seemingly suspense film into an absurd one as Russell Ferguson had described in his book entitled, 'Trust Me'.

These artists had successfully used time as an element to further communicate with the viewers on their intended message through their artworks using objects, experiences and events around them. The sense of time as perceived by the viewers had also been re-investigated, rearranged and redefined through the manipulative portrayal of the artworks by these artists.


When viewing a film or movie, one will know the passing of time through the progression of the storyline and scenes. Most of the time, audiences are too engrossed with the flow of the storyline that they did not quite take notice of the unobvious things in the background, etc. This was due to the fact that the ongoing main focus is on the subject/actresses/actors in the foreground.

'Time is a necessary representation, lying at the foundation of all our intuitions. With regard to phenomena in general, we cannot think away time from them, and represent them to ourselves as out of and unconnected with time, but we can quite well represent to ourselves time void of phenomena... Time is not a discursive, or as it is called, general conception, but a pure form of the sensuous intuition. Different times are merely parts of one and the same time. But the representation which can only be given by a single object is an intuition.' (Kant, 1781, pg. 28)

Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, in his book[3] believed that our sense of time is a necessary condition of our experience. He believed our sense of time is a simple sensation. He tried to prove the claim that the concept of passing time in space cannot just be determined by seeing changes in objects or experiences because time is passing even if we do not witness changes. Most researchers today would reject these claim that our sense of time is indirectly related to our ability to sense all sorts of changes; our sense of time is an intellectual construction that helps us account for our experiences. However, Kant did continue to explain that representations of objects cannot be possible without representing space and/or time. Our sense of time, according to Kant, is pure intuition because they represent singularity rather than classes of things. Each occurrence happens in the boundary of a single, unlimited space.

We are comfortable to perceive moving visuals for instance as a mere recognition for time. What if we decided to play with this perception itself? When we discourse time, it became ambiguous upon which direction time is heading. As we perceived visuals movement as passing of time thus moving forward, what if we discourse it until there's no obvious direction its going to and it just appears as if we are trapped in that time frame.


Book title: Matter and Memory

Author: Henri Bergson

Publisher: Cosimo Books, New York

Originally Published: 1912, Reprinted with new cover: 2007

Book title: Cinema 1 - The Movement-Image

Author: Gilles Deleuze

Translated by: Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam

Publisher: Continuum, New York

Originally Published: 1983 in French under the title 'Cinema 1, L'Image-Mouvement', Reprinted and translation edition: 2005

Book title: Cinema 2 - The Time-Image

Author: Gilles Deleuze

Translated by: Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam

Publisher: Continuum, New York

Originally Published: 1985 in French under the title 'Cinema 2, L'Image-Temps', Reprinted and translation edition: 2005

[1] Matter and Memory (Bergson, 2007)

[2] The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (Benjamin, 1969)

[3] Critique of Pure Reason (Kant, 1990)

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