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However, a critical or oppositional stance opens up a range of issues

concerning the narrative illusion and condition of the spectator. In action montage
the join between one shot and the next is invisible but awareness of their
separation, their differences of time and viewpoint, destroys the illusion of their
continuity and undemines the narrative. Together with some other experimental
filmmakers, notably Kurt Kren and Peter Gidal, I sought to disrupt the narrative
illusion through stressing the independence of each shot. By making the start and
end of each component shot evident - revealing it as time-frame - the narrative
continuity was broken, allowing other forms of connection to be made between
images. Disruption of narrative continuity makes new and latent meanings
availible to the spectator rather than determined by a hidden ideology held in the

Time Levels in Cinema

Once the shot is dislodged from its position in the narrative flow, other
fundamental issues arise that are concerned with the status of the cinematic
image as reality, truth and document. Whist these issues apply to single-screen
film, multi-projection and performance, engaging the time and space of projection
in my expanded cinema works particularly led me to distinguish different forms of
temporality and I identified three "levels" of time experience. Here I will call theses
Narrative Time, Production Time adn Screening or Spectator Time.

Narrative Time

In narrative time, “seeming to be there with the depiction” is an illusion –

an apparent unfolding of events “as if we were presente”. There are two main
aspects to this illusion. One is the pictorial and spatial illusion of the photograph
(and sound recording), and the other is the constructed coherence of the
represented events – their apparent consequence on each other. I have found it
useful to draw a parallel between the way perspective fixes the spectator into a
single viewpoint on the visual scene and the way a narrative spectators are
unconsciously controlled and their acts of choice are constrained within the
authority and habito f the convention. For narrative this is an imposed coherence
of cause and effect. However powerful in our culture, neither perspective nor
narrative is inevitable.

Production Time

All the action of narrative film is in an implicit past with the illusion of
presence. Even if a film’s represented time is in the future, the presente unfolding
of narrative is a telling of how something happened – a “once-upon a time”.
However, more fundamentally, the building blocks of the cinematic narrative were
produced before the experience of its ‘screening’ – the pro – or pre-filmic event.
All the componente shots (scenes) were recorded in some actual time and place
other than the apparent (narrative) presence experienced discontinuities of the
production time. Nonetheles, this producion time is recorded in the shot and it
has a direct (evidential) relationship toa n event that actually took place.

Screening Time / Spectator Time

In narrative cinema everything possible is done to reduce awareness of

the actuality of the screening time and space – this is integral to the whole
institution of cinema. The seats are soft, the sound surrounds, the screen fills the
visual field, all reducing awareness of our actual physical presence to the
minimum. More particularly, in relationship to time, the forms of narrative
continuity supported by character identification are designed to remove
experience of the passage o factual time in favour of its represented illusion.
Tradional narrative cinema relies on giving complete priority to
represented time. In both my practice and theory, together with a number of other
experimental film artists, I sought to reverse this order of priority by making the
spectator time primary and giving it clear priority. We did this thought a range of
strategies that increased rather than decreased the spectator’s awereness of
their own physical presence in the space of the projection and the temporal
encounter – the duration – of the work. It emphasised the physicality of the screen
surfasse, the space between screen and projectors and between theses and the
spectator. It also emphasised the materiality of the film’s surfasse and the image
as a material, photochemical trace. It used multi-projection to initiate a formo f
visual choice and comparison counteracting the singularity of narrative stream.
Through the editing and montage structure, using repetition and partial repetition,
it forced an awareness of difference between the passage o factual tim and any
represented time requiring a ‘conscious’ structuring through memory. Placed at
the centre of this process, it is the spectators who produced the coherence (or
incoherence) of the work. I am aware that the coherence they apply may (though
does not inevitably) take the formo f a ‘personal’ narrative, but at least they do
this in some (dialectical) interchange with the construcion made by the filmmaker.
I see theses strategies as fundamental to much of expanded cinema – particularly
as this was understood in Europe – and so ‘structural materialism’ as defined by
Peter Gidal
Reversing the priority of temporal experience in cinema by making
spectator time primary, new issues are again unlocked in practice. Here I identify
two broad regions, one related to ‘Production Time’ – the pre- or pro-filmic- and
the other to a replacement of narrative time by other principles of time-structure.

Problematics of the Pro-filmic

Though this includes the editing and montage process, my main focus
here is on the trace of the pro-filmic in the recorded image and the veracity of its
representation in the screened presence. What is evidenced in the record, what
is suppressed, what is seen, not seen or almost seen, and what is manipulated
in editing or image processing all become intentionally problematic within the
content of the work. In practice, the act of filmng here is no longer seen as already
subserviente to a script or story and the status of the recorded image (as reliable
record) becomes an issue of meaning related to the presente time of the
spectator. William Rabn’s 2’45 1973 is an excelente example of the way the act
of filming and the experience of carrying one time to another becomes the
problematic contente of the work. The issues of ‘indexicality’, photochemical or
electronic trace, conditions of médium as well as the ‘language’ conventions of
discourse, all become an active (problematic) element in the construction of the
work and experience of the spectator.
Non-narrative Time

If spectator time is primary what alternatives are there to narrative

construction? My earliest resistance to narrative came from my sense of its
oppressiveness. I came to dislike, resent and then resist the way in which I was
seduced into a subjectivity that undermined the value of my own life wxperience.
At the same time, other contemporary art forms, particularly jazz and some
modern theatre, offered me an experience that was not oppressive and that
structured time in a way that was not resolved by narrative. As a developing film-
artist in the late 1960s. I also became aware of the then little-known history of
early avant-garde film – Léger, Man Ray, etc. – and other contemporary
experimental film from Europe and the USA. Fromm y own experiments with
cinematic form and from work by other artists, I can now identify some types of
time-structure that are non-narrativeor go beyoind narrative conventions. I have
loosely grouped these into four basic approaches, but many actual examples
share features.

The groups are:

-Non-representational abstraction
-Structural or structural materialista
-Post-narrative symbolic
-Expanded cinema

Non-representational Abstraction

The main time-structure reference point in this approach draws on musical

form and many of its issues and concepts are commom with music. In principle
this direction is based on the contention that it is possible to use elements lije
colour, luminosity, line, or shape and to modulate theses throught simultaneous
interaction (equivalente to harmony), graded sequence (equivalente to melody)
periodicity (equivalente to musical rhythm), repetition and partial repetition
(equivalente to composition). In this kind of work the sequential structure relates
to a formo f musical dramaturgy based on. For instance, changes of tempo,
crescendo or ritando. Early examples from Ruttmann or Oskar Fischinger draw
on classical musc structure, where a work like The Flicker 1966 by Tony Conrad
explores a parallel to more modern musical concepts.

Structural or Structural Materialist

There are a number of interpretations of structuralism in film) structural

materialism is more strictly defined by Peter Gidal in various publications) but I
will define two major characteristics. The first, resisting narrative and reducing
symbolic interpretation, explored a range of ‘strategies’ for structuring symbolic
interpretation, explored a range of ‘strategies’ for structuring cinema sequence.
Theses included mathematical systems and various forms of repetition, looping
and partial looping, ad often made direct reference to the material construction of
the cinema apparatus: the câmera, the projector, photochemistry. The second
increasingly shifted attention away from the sequential construction of the Works
to the sequential perception and conception of the spectator. In this respect the
act of structuring by the spectator became central to form and contente. This
included specific issues of sequential perception – the effect on eye ande ar – as
in the colour flicker films of Paul Sharits and the more complex forms of
relationship between perception and temporal conception foun in, for example,
the films of Peter Gidal.

Post-narrative Symbolic

A detailed discussion of the symbolic and its implication for cnema is

beyond my scope here but symbolic forms of representation are not synonymous
with narrative. Prior to psychoanalysis it was broadly assumed that a symbol had
a defined area of connotation. However after psychoanalysis a symbol was
understood to have a wide range of latency both in its emergence (expression.)
and interpretation. In both aspects, this latency was fundamental to Surrealism.
In Surrealist cinem, symbolic units (shots or clusters of shots), became separeted
from narrative representation in favour of an atemporal formo f connection, This
is initially evidente in the Bunuel / Dali films L’Age d’or 1930 and Un Chien
Andalou 1929. Here the sequence of shots does not represent a developing
story, though aspects of narrative continuity do exist in the details. Meshes of the
afternoon 1943 by Maya Deren is not a Surrealist work but takes the non-
narrative form of Surrealism further, introducing a comparative ‘spiral repetition’
into the sequential construction. That Deren understood this form its distinction
from narrative is evidente in the famous 1958 Cinema 16 Symposium ‘Poetry and
the Film’, where she develops a concept of ‘vertical’ rather than ‘horizontal’ time-
In order to understand the implication of this form I have proposed the
concept of a non-linear matrix of cinema units (shots), where the sequential
structure merely defines one of a number of possible passages than a symbolic
construction, as for example in Man With A Movie Camera 1929 by Dziga Vertov,
or Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin” Symphony of a City 1927. In each case, the
sequence suggests a series of parallel passagens through simultaneous
continuities. In the contexto of the debate about narrative and expanded cinema
it is essential to draw distinctions btween the temporal structures that are opened
up through the concept of a matrix (or data-base) and those produced by the
implicit linear causality of narrative form. (I note that recente debate by Lev
Manovich and others, using a data-base concept, also recognises a distincion
between the componente units and their insertion into the narrative flow).
At the core of these distinctions is again the condition and role of the
spectator, Even if the various passages ‘drawn’ through the matrix are not directly
interactive (as ina computer-based interactive system), when the matrix of
possibilities is ‘represented’ by multi-screen presentation, the spectator must
make connections through choices within the visual and physical space. Again,
whilst the elements of the matrix (images, sounds, sequences) may have
associative and symbolic qualities, their connection need not conform to any
resolution by consequential narrative. Connections made remain speculative,
provisional and latente – the spatial and temporal formo f (for example) my three-
screen work Even a Cyclops pay the Ferryman 1988 embodies and induces this
latency of experience and interpretation. Although the spectators may form some
personal narrative from the encounter, narrative becomes a subset within
temporal structures rather than the exclusive (quasi-natural) method for
structuring experience within or without representation. The resistance to
narrative interpretation is a resistance to enculturation. Both structural
materialista fim and expanded cinema dislodge dramaturgy, symbolic connection
and interpretation from authorises cultural interpretation and all become
problematic in the presence encounter of the spectator – spectator time.

Concepts of Spector Time

From my practical work I have outlined a number of issues and concepts

that derive from the general notion of the spectator time. Thses begin with an
understanding of how perception Works for cinema (film, vídeo or digital) at a
basic level, how time is experienced as pattern and then conceptualised.

Perception Time

Basic cinematic perception seems to dependo n thresholds of

discrimination – the rates at which cinematic units can be perceived as separete
– outside their experience as flow. I understand this to belong to autonomic
responses of the sensory mechanism of eye ande ar. The Eye seems unable to
separate individual stimuli fasther than about 16 frames or images per second
(fps). At this point the presente stimulus ‘blends’ with the previous stimulus, which
may be perceived as movement – fundamental basis of apparent motion at the
core of cinema. However this ‘blending’ between moments of rapid change may
also apply to features of the image other than motion, like, for exemple, colour,
three-dimensionality or effects of superimpositon. This autonomic process of
‘blending’ is out o four control – it is a function of neurons and the rate at which
they receive and recover from stimulus. A similar process applies in sound whre
frequencies below 40 cycles per second (cps) becomes beats – above this, to
about 20,000 cps, they are perceived as pitch. Above 40 cps the sepate waves
or cycles are beyond our separate discrimination and ‘combine’ to be heard as

Time Pattern

At a stage of perception beyond the autonomic, I have attempted to apply

the concepto f Gestalt to time pattern – a time Gestalt. Here blocks of autonomic
perception units combine into recognisable repetitions. If their proximity in time is
not too great – these can be experienced as patterns i what we normally
understand as rhythms. The nervous system seems able to superimpose a
current perceptual configuration onto a recently previous configuration to be
experienced directly as pattern (a Gestalt). Our ability to recognise the difference
between one rhythm and another is evidence that we have a form of pattern
recognition for temporal as well as pictorial phenomena. Though the ear and eye
mechanisms for this are diferente, the neuronal response times are probably of
a similar kind. (see some film Works by Takahiko Iiamura, and my Spot the
Microdot 1969). A similar concept of Gestalt could possibly be applied to our
recognition of melody and rhythm and to harmonic ralations of sound as well as
colour. However if the time between the individual perceptual units becomes too
large (beyond the decay of the neuronal stimulus?) the experience of this
rhythmic pattern breaks down.

Conceptual Time

When the time distance between rhythmic experience is too great, other
processes take over. Both short- and long-term memory clearly allows us to
superimpose (or compare) presente onto previous experience. Connections and
continuities ar formed through this comparison / superimposition - a process
which is well undestood in experiencing musical composition. Theses may be
more or less conscious or, as with the conventions of narrative, be fitted into an
existing cultural template. In cinema this process not only involves memory but
also an act of prediction, a preparation for what might occur next in an interplay
of expectation and confirmation – a basic apprehension. In narrative cinema, this
is exploited in the processes of suspense, but the process is a more fundamental
feature o four mechanism of temporal coordination outside cinema as well as
within it. In structural or structural materialista cinema this process itself is
rendered problematic. In Kurt Kren’s TV 1967, for example, some intentional
recollection of previous repetitions leads to a provisional understanding of the
‘structure’ and prediction of possible development within the work – a visual
cinematic discourse – an internal dialogue of the spectator whether ‘spoken’ or
not. This process is also evidente in the ‘puzzle-game’ structure of Hollis
Grampton’s zorns Lemma 1970.
Time in Expanded Cinema

The term expanded cinema convers a broad field. For the presente
discussion I shall no take on the way time factors might be applied to the
expansionof cinematic technology, for example: internet fictions (multi-user
domains), computer games, or tele-presence. I shall confine my discussion to
explorations in expanded cinema presentation mainly as they took place in Britain
and continental Europe. Here I now see the crucial issues as related to spectator-
centered presence or encounter. The spatial aspacts of this are relatively well
understood. By extending the cinematic presentation through multi-screen forms,
the spectator must make choices of attention between one parto f a presentation
and another. Reconfiguring the cinema space simultaneously breaks the
singularity of the experience – but more particularly breaks any assumption that
there is a singular (authorised) interpretation based on matching spectator
experience to artistic intention. Meaning becomes latente and unfixed. Stressing
the spatial configuration of a work means the spectator is made aware of
occupying the space of the representation, and is often mobile in the space, as
in Lis Rhode’s Light Music 1975.
The temporal aspecto f expanded cinema has been less fully discussed.
Incorporation of bodily performance, as for example in Ping Pong 1968 by VALIE
EXPORT, my own After Leonardo 1973, or Gill Eatherley’s Aperture Sweep 1973,
adds a futher layer of uncertainty, stressing the unique aspecto f the encounter.
In all these cases, this encounter is both spatial and temporal. The spectator
(presence) becomes implicated in the unfolding (encounter) and becomes part of
the development of the work in a unique time. In my Horror Film 1 1971 (fig. 49),
the duration of the work is directly related to the time taken to move between the
screen and the projectors during the performance. In William Rabn’s Take
Measure 1973 the distance between the screen and projector is ‘measured’ by
the film strip passaing across the audience as it is projected, while in Line
Describing a Cone 1973 by Anthony McCall, time is demonstrated as a quasi-
sculptural dimension. In expanded cinema that stresses the spatial conditions of
screening, the presence of the spectator as part of that space and performance
becomes evidente and spectator presence in space i salso spectator presence
in time. Crucial to the understanding of time in expanded cinema is the notion of
‘duration’, a term that implies a subjective awareness of time’s passage within a
condition o factual, not illusory presence.
The processes of temporal awareness for the spectator in expanded
cinema are complex. Not only is this an awareness of the passage of time in what
is presented inside the work or performance; for the spectator it also involves
structuring of ‘meaning’ between time and space from the layers of their
perception, memory, prediction and conception. As the spectators is seen as
independent, there i salso an interplay between the spectators’ own motivation –
their ‘investment’ of time giving attention to the work – and the temporal
experience offered by the work. This may envolve an interplay of desire but also
of conflict between a worl’s duration and the desire of the spectators to structure
and occupy time. Within this process, whatever the temporal structura of a work,
the spectator may make use of a range of strategies to ‘undestand’ and “own’ the
experience. These may draw on a variety of discourses including musci, the
visual arts, gaming, and symbolic or narrative cinema. But here, other than the
power of cultural habit, narrative has no priority over other forms of interpretation.
By mixing media, expanded cinema also mixes discourses and consequently
opens the range of possible forms of interpretation. In expanded cinema, the
temporality of cinema is not constrained by habits of narrative. By drawing on a
history of non-narrative, anti-narrative, symbolic and abstract experimente,
narrative becomes no more than one option within a range of temporal


During the 1960s and early 1970s, the projected image played a critical
role in creating a new language of representation, as artists used film, slides,
vídeo, and holographic and photographic projection to measure, document,
abstract, reflect, and transform the parameters of physical space. The pictorial
space created by Renaissance linear perspective, where a fixed vanishing point
dictated a singular position for the viewer, had endured for mora than four
hundred years. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century the viability of this
inmoving station was challenged, and by the 1960s, it was physically dismantled
by Minimalism. Minimalist artists engaged the viewer in a phenomenological
experiecne of objects in relation to the architectural dimensions of the gallery –
not to pictorial space – transforming actual space into a perceptual field. Artists
working with the projected image shifted the coordinates of this perceptual field
from the brightly lit architecture of the gallery to the dark, reverie-lade space of
the cinema. In this hybrid of White cube and black box, each model of space
informed and modified the characteristics of the other.
As Roland Barthes observed, in the darkness, spectators sink into their
seats as though slipping into bed. The cinema becomes a cocoon, inside which
a crowd of relaxed, idle bodies is fixed, hypnotized by simulations of reality
projected onto a single screen. This model is broken apart by the folding of the
dark space of cinema into the White cube of the gallery. Building on Minimalism’s
phenomenological approach, the darkened gallery’s space invites participation,
movement, the sharing of multiple viewpoints, the dismantling of the single frontal
screen, and an analytical, distanced form of viewing. The spectator’s attention
turns from the ilusiono n the screen to the surrounding space, and to the physical
mechanisms and properties of the moving image: the projector beams as a
sculptural form, the transparency and illusionism of the cinema screen, the
internal structure of the film frame, the câmera as an extension of the body’s own
mental and ocular recording system, the seriality of the slide sequence, and the
interlocking structure of multiple vídeo images.
This prising of the viewer’s gaze from the single screen into the
surrounding space mimicks the inherent mobility of the câmera itself. The viewer
is able to visually retrace the steps of the artist as the images were originally
recorded. Theses images appear in the darkened gallery space in a radically
diferente form from thoso experienced in cinema. Projections and vídeo screens
are presented on and around the walls of the gallery – Split, overlapping,
multiplied, serialized, mirrored, rotated, made miniature or gigantic. Theses
various forms belong to the conceptual, process-based practice of what came to
be known as Postminimalist art. Mosto f the artists who created these forms were
also making Works in other media, including sculpture, language, photography,
neon, earthworks, drawing, film, sound, and performance, each of which informed
the texture and form of the others, and all United by an underlying temporality.
This temporality is most clearly expressed in projective installations
through artist’s use of the gallery space, which in the late 1960s became a kind
of field of exchange and activity. The field evolved as a result of a dramat