This audio-visual found footage essay is an explorative study and is part of a research project on the idea of ‘filmmakers as metallurgists’ that bend and shape our collective consciousness by mining the archives of our audio-visual past. Filmmakers, however, are not just smiths of sorts in a metaphoric way. This compilation follows ‘a nugget of gold’ from the mine across its metallurgic transformations into objects, images and stories that have constructed (and still construct) our world. Gold can be considered an ancient and primal metal, it has an allure that speaks to deep desires in humankind, ranging from freedom to greed. Too soft and malleable for weapons, it has been used in art and jewelry since ages; it has inspired many stories of gold rushes, fights and wars; it is connected to the idea of the nation state (including Hitler’s hunt for gold in every country he invaded); it is the basis of market speculations and the suspicion of an empty ‘Fort Knox’; and it is connected to the idea of urban mining (re-transforming the gold conductors in our computers and cell phones back into gold); as such gold is also related to the first transformers of metal, the alchemists, who not only transform base metals into gold, but also and especially were looking for a pure and spiritual transformation and the eternal return of life and death. In the larger project other metals will be followed, metals that connect to different aspects of our media as metallic machines, in connection to the different stories of our collective consciousness that they inspire. The project subscribes to a material ecological approach of our digital media culture that is inspired by Felix Guattari’s ‘three ecologies’ (the environmental, the socio-political, and the mental). Here's my article on Deleuze's Metallurgic Machines for the Los Angeles Book Review. And a related article The Filmmaker as Metallurgist in Film-Philosophy.
An Indefinite Corpse Experiment in Digital Alchemy
Emerald Transmutations is an experiment in digital alchemy inspired by the surrealist parlour game Exquisite Corpse and by the Emerald Tablets, the foundational hermetic text in Western alchemy. Starting with the “prima materia” of two scenes from celluloid film history, each transmuted scene was passed along between seven “digital alchemists” who each performed a process of transmutation on the material in an attempt to turn base metal into gold and to find “the philosopher’s stone." Each participant was only given the previous stage of the transmutation, together with a description of the next stage in the alchemical process, and asked to transform (and add to) the material according to their own insights. The final video presents the transformations in the order in which they have been applied, gradually processing the outer limits of indefinite vision (and eternal revision).
I made this compilation for an evening on Helmut Newton's relation to surrealims and feminine desire organized by FOAM, photography museum Amsterdam in June 2016. The evening also included talks by Catriona McAra (writer of Sadeian Woman: Erotic Violence in Surrealist Spectacle), Marijke Peyser (guest curator Boijmans van Beuningen) and Matthias Harder (curator Helmut Newton Foundation).
Referendum Day, 23rd June 2016. A day I collaborated with Ian Magor at a videoworkshop as part of the Whitechapel Indefinite Visions events. Electricity was on our mind. The skies were full of lightning. The referendum was on our mind. Officiall, it was not on the mind of the British media since the day was a "blackout period" as far as coverage of the referedum was concerned. We wondered what images and sounds were finding their way into the (un)consciousnessof the British voting public. This compilation of memories from the campaign and more nostalgic, personal recollections are the result.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Jean-Luc Godard's film Alphaville of 1965.
See also Film Studies for Free's Celebration of Alphaville's birthday on May 5th 2015.
Watching Alphaville fifty years after its making in 2015, most striking is the enduring presence of wounds of the Second World War. The ruins, scars and the horror of the war can be felt in every image of this film, even if it is set in the future. But what is even more striking is that so much of the films traumas related to the past, and related to the cold logic of modernity, still resonates with today’s reality. Just replace ‘Alphaville’ with ‘NSA’ and think of Lemmy Caution as Edward Snowdon, and the future that Godard captured in Paris of the 1960s represented by the totalitarianism of the Alpha 60 machine has transformed into the more invisible algorithms of the billions of metadata patterns that trace, predict and control our steps in today’s global digital networks. The allegory I mention in this video-essay not only concerns to the past and an imaginary future, but to the actual present of our control societies that have taken the snake-like intricateness and hard to grasp modulations announced by Gilles Deleuze about twenty-five years ago.
‘In control societies, the key thing is no longer a signature or number but a code [that function as] password […]. The digital language of control is made up of codes indicating whether access to some information should be allowed or denied. We’re no longer dealing with a duality of mass and individual. Individuals become “dividuals” and masses become samples, data, markets, or “banks.”’ Gilles Deleuze, ‘Postscript on Control Societies’ (1990)
This video has also been publised and peer reviewed in [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies, 2,1, 2015. See for this publication here.
In The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Contemporary Screen Culture (2012), I suggest that cinema gives us increasingly intensely direct access to character’s brain worlds. Our audio-visual images co-evolve in resonance with the knowledge we have of principles of the brain and with a philosophical understanding of the complex entanglements between bodies, brains and world.
The short video-experiment Emoticons departs from a common principle studied in affective neuroscience that facial expressions relate to basic affects that are at the core of more complex emotions and feelings. I took these basic emotions as simple guidelines for evoking a memory or an association with each mood. They all include a reference to film and other audio-visual media. Consciousness has become cinematographic consciousness.
This project was originally conceived as a mini-installation consisting of two video-channels. One video shot and projected in a 360⁰ pan, expressing events inside a brain space. The other video of a talking head projected on a dummy, pronouncing thoughts associated with each basic emotion.
With great thanks to filmmakers Igor Kramer and Pepijn Schroeijers to suggest transforming some theory into practice and to help create a ‘neuro-image’ of my brain.
Below a photo impression of the double channel video installation-version of Emoticons. Pepijn Schroeijers, Igor Kramer, Patricia Pisters at SIN (Straattheater Instituut Nederlands, NDSM wharf Amsterdam, May 2014).