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The interior image?

July 19, 2012

In Trauma TV, her complex analysis of the Rodney King video, Avital Ronell notes how the image’s flatness and lack of interiority was compensated by witness testimony in the courtroom. It is this position of interiority that is sought for in the works of Dziga Vertov Group, and other films by Jean Luc-Godard. If the exteriority of the image, purported by the position of the lens and consequently the figure looking through it, could be transformed into its opposite, then the positions of the activist and filmmaker could potentially align. This interior position is supported theoretically by a mode of Marxist self-reflexivity, constantly conscious of the producers position within the conditions of production.

British Sounds, Dziga Vertov Group, 1969, vimeo still frame

In the final section of British Sounds – a film that intersperses chronicles of the worker’s struggles, together with separate Marxist and Feminist voice-overs, mixed with footage from Marxist workers discussions, activist students, etc – we see a bloody hand gripping a red flag, this is followed by a set of shots that show a fist penetrating the British flag, and each time the flag is torn by the fist, the voice over names another solidarity front e.g. the squatters, the artists’ offensive, the Workers New Daily, etc. This scene is then followed by a shot of a red flag waving in the cloudy grey sky by the branches of a leafless tree. Watched closely, it becomes clear that rather that the camera shooting the flag from a fixed position, the camera itself is waving together with the flag, the flag is not moving within the fixed frame of the film, the film is framed by the movement of the flag. The camera suddenly reveals its own position vis-a-vis the action that it is set to capture, and represent, and exposes how it is in fact captured by it. This scene is an instant of the mentioned interiority sought by the filmmaker, an interior image that is not propelled by an exterior positioning, ideologically, aesthetically or otherwise. This is also the position that possibly the Rodney King video lacks and thus is reduced to evidence. It aspires to be a witness, but it is caught by its own flatness, it becomes its own gag.

Could it be that the contemporary modes of digital image production, with its unprecedented immediacy, economy of access and mobility, allows for a visual interiority, previously unavailable? While, the video incursion into television that Ronlell talks about still holds, and this form of image making has been recuperated by the news media, nevertheless an outstanding number of indigenous footage is disseminated over the web daily. However, it could be argued that this footage is nonetheless defined by the technological restrains and possibilities that give rise to it and potentially follows pre-defined modes of visual articulation. Yet, one wonders if the Flusserian shift from linear/textual articulation to the visual dimension is gradually taking shape.

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