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Rethinking the camera eye: dispositif and subjectivity
Christian Quendler
a a

Department of American Studies , University of Innsbruck , Innrain 52, 6020, Innsbruck, Austria Published online: 26 Oct 2011.

To cite this article: Christian Quendler (2011) Rethinking the camera eye: dispositif and subjectivity, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 9:4, 395-414, DOI: 10.1080/17400309.2011.606530 To link to this article:

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New Review of Film and Television Studies Vol. 9, No. 4, December 2011, 395–414

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Rethinking the camera eye: dispositif and subjectivity
Christian Quendler*
Department of American Studies, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria Metaphors of the camera eye are among the oldest and most powerful tropes to depict human vision and subjectivity. As a proto-cybernetic metaphor that lends itself both to anthropomorphic and mechanomorphic readings, the camera eye has become a double agent of subjectivity. It has served as ´ Descartes’s midwife for a modern philosophy of the subject in Rene discourse on Optics and as a gravedigger for classical notions of subjectivity in Dziga Vertov’s radically constructivist aesthetics of the kino-eye. By looking at Descartes’s early modern and Vertov’s modernist notions of the camera eye as two paradigmatic case studies, this paper sets out to explore the intricate relation between subjectivity and mediality. It examines figures of the camera eye as conceptual metaphors that construct subjective relations to orders of discourse and media spaces. Drawing on Joachim Paech’s reflections on the dispositif for a theory of the order(ing) of media, I will review the concept of the dispositif as strategic place in the alignment of medium, discourse and genre. ´ Descartes Keywords: dispositif; camera; Dziga Vertov; kino-eye; Rene

The work of the camera eye, like the work of any verbal or nonverbal metaphor, is to bridge gaps or open up and accommodate spaces that seem foreign, uncanny or cognitively impenetrable to us. We can describe the work of metaphors, figures and tropes or any given conceptual configuration as creating new mental spaces that blend elements of familiar mental frames. By projecting similarities and differences between the camera and the eye, metaphors of the camera eye have been variously employed to account for mechanisms of both media and the mind. The camera and the eye in these uses function metonymically as they stand in for the entire human and cinematographic (or photographic) apparatus, respectively.1 In a historical sense, the fusion of camera and eye can be interpreted as a modern expression of the age-old philosophical dream of returning to an original unity. Only this time the return promises the entrance into a cybernetic paradise that is entirely the creation of a human engineer. If the camera, which stands in

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It resolves the complications of thinking about discourse as co-determined by structures of the dispositif and receptive dispositions. The camera eye has become above all an emblem of cinematic modernism. Camera Dispositif Regime of the visible/sayable Screen Dispositio Discourse space Eye Disposition Psychological realm of perception. I will suggest a ´ Descartes’s ‘Means of Perfecting Vision’ which dialogic exchange between Rene he discusses in the seventh discourse of his treatise on Optics (published together with his Discourse on Method in 1637) and Dziga Vertov’s ideas on the forever perfectible kino-eye. then their horizons seem to converge into one and the same screen. the beginnings of a philosophy of the subject in the early modern period of the sixteenth century and the radical way of rethinking subjectivity during the modernist period in the twentieth century. To illustrate this. emotion. which stands in for the human perceptual and cognitive disposition. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 Cultural habitus Genres (practices of use) for the medial dispositif. my examples will come from historical extremes. How are orders of discourse informed by regimes of light? How are they accommodated by genres and practices of use that shape a cultural habitus? Since camera-eye conceptions are geared towards calibrating media and senses. Taking up Joachim Paech’s suggestion (2003) of thinking about dispositif in a conceptual triad with the rhetorical notion of the dispositio and the psychological category of disposition. I will discuss how regimes of visibility organized by a dispositif can be seen to encroach upon discursive regimes either to construct or deconstruct classical notions of subjectivity.396 Table 1. 1. are united. The mind as a screen is a powerful and equally flawed explanatory analogy that expresses this desire. Camera and dispositif In retrospect. analyzing them sheds light on these questions. which he propagated in the 1920s in numerous manifestoes and filmic works. and the eye. the discourse displayed on the screen appears to be the product of a single unitary force. Quendler Orders and domains in camera – eye and mind – screen notions. This paper revisits the relationship between dispositif and subjectivity by examining how figures of the camera eye align with regimes of visibility with discursive regimes. which in ‘outlining’ the discourse that is projected onto it may be likened to the rhetorical notion of the dispositio (see Table 1). a time long before the indifferentiation of human and technological organs in the digital matrix. Token Order Domains C. the camera eye appears like a relict of a bygone modernity. Downloaded by [Library Services. In this interpretation. etc. where camera vision promised to synthesize the experience of modernity .

opsis and ordering principle of narrative (or. e.New Review of Film and Television Studies 397 ` re 2006). Rancie camera are often paradoxical. they emerge as vanishing points where a number of opposites converge: the objective and the subjective. By addressing the viewer’s or critic’s projections. it is the viewer’s reception that projects a camera. Branigan surveys a catalogue of camera conceptions that range from material definitions of the camera as an origin of sensory display to semiotic and cognitive labels or shorthand descriptions for viewing hypotheses. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 . 18). While a camera may be perceived as a mechanical device used to record an event that lies ‘outside’ the world represented on a screen. Notions of camera cut across profilmic and postfilmic understandings that invoke the camera as pointing devices and narrative agents. the notion of the dispositif belongs to and Fe a tradition of twentieth-century philosophy that theorizes the limits or premises of knowledge without assuming a meta-stance or committing teleological fallacies. the pure visibility of the spectacle and the ` re [2006] has put it. Branigan’s study on camera conceptions examines what happens in film theory after a camera has done its magic. Not only do film scholars apply the label ‘camera’ for moving images that were made without a camera but. The two sides of the camera and its polyvalence as a theoretical concept have interesting parallels to the philosophical and methodological implications of the concept of dispositif that gained currency in the wake of Michel Foucault’s writing in the 1970s. notions of the camera are themselves projections generated within specific film theoretical language games. Rather than seeking an encompassing principle. the dispositif approaches the ‘outside’ of knowledge in the intervening spaces of networks.g. the conjunction between camera and eye or between camera and man has become obsolete. the organic and the mechanical. What can the old prosthesis of the camera eye still show us today? As William Brown points out in his insightful essay ‘Man without a Movie Camera – Movies without Men: Towards a Posthumanist Cinema?’ (2009). If the camera eye served as a means to re-negotiate such oppositions. Parsing a century of film theory. the real and the imaginary. Branigan draws attention to the complex processes of aligning the spaces generated by a visual technology with the language games that seek to conceptualize these spaces. as Edward Branigan argues in Projecting a Camera (2006). the inside and the outside. While camera work typically precedes the projection of a film. Giorgio Agamben has offered an intellectual genealogy that links Foucault’s notion of the dispositif to the theological legacy of the Christian Downloaded by [Library Services. North 2005. Casetti 2008. A camera may be ‘seen’ to express mental and bodily states or encode mechanisms of the unconscious. Not unlike Gilles Deleuze’s ´ lix Guattari’s notion of the rhizome. as Jacques Rancie muthos). the private and the public.2 Philosophically. In What is an Apparatus?. the case is far more complicated. its signification is bound to ‘the formal and informal languages we use to see it’ (Branigan 2006. Foucault’s conception of the term responds to the demands of a theory of immanence. the conscious and the unconscious. it may be tempting to conclude that in a post-humanist and post-cinematic age. Modernist invocations of the (see.

and so on. scientific. Henri Bergson and Martin Heidegger are often cited as philosophical patrons who criticized substantial conceptions of being. but regimes which must be defined from the point of view of the visible and from the point of view of that which can be enunciated. Deleuze’s and Fe in Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980) bring together both philosophical traditions (Welchman 1997). Foucault (1980. the space shaped by the dispositif is an engineered space. architectural forms. political. transformations and mutations which this will imply. In his interpretation of Foucault.398 C. with the drifting. This functional definition implies that the specific historical or cultural configuration of the dispositif can only be resolved as relations to the physical or material world. While traditionally. And in every apparatus [dispositif ] the lines break through thresholds. Paech proposes distinguishing between medium and discourse as different places or orders of subject formation. Paech has criticized Deleuze’s definition of the dispositif for conflating the spaces construed by media with the dimensions gauged by discourse. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 church. operations are thought of as behavior grounded in essence or metaphysical cause. institutions. For this reason. philosophical moral and philanthropic proposition’. twentieth-century philosophy has challenged this hierarchy by re-conceptualizing being as process or by attributing the operational mechanism an autonomy of thought. Put differently. as Foucault and Deleuze stress. the dispositif can help to conceptualize relations that cut across oppositions and interdependent structures such as the subject and the object. form and medium (Peeters and Charlier 1999). Notably. administrative measures. the dispositif mediates between the world of objects (including the material support structure of the dispositif) and it informs the space that extends between the subject and the object. laws. Quendler Downloaded by [Library Services. 11). Methodologically. which between the second and sixth century came to signify a division in God as being and praxis: ‘the nature and essence on the one hand. body and mind. scientific statements. 194) views the heuristic power of the dispositif in its translinguistic application for a ‘thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourse. decisions. Thus conceived as an ‘in-between’. subject formation. regulatory ideas. it defines the relation between subject and object as regimes of what can be seen and expressed. As a threshold of information. Deleuze has described dispositifs as: neither subjects nor objects. Cybernetic philosophy of the 1940s and 1950s represents another influential approach to deconstructing the subject as an autonomous ´ lix Guattari’s reflections on ‘machinic thinking’ agent. according to which they might have been seen as aesthetic. This is why the dispositif always involves a process of objectification and. Defined in functional and relational terms. Rather than viewing media and discourses as exhausting themselves in a series of entanglements and mix-ups. and the operation through which He administers and governs the created world on the other’ (Agamben 2009. he reserves the concept of the dispositif for the place where media arrange . He traces the dispositif back to the Greek notion of the term oikonomia.

which begins by delimiting. (In this paper. which provides the backbone for Descartes’s Optics. Another crucial device for showing the order of discourse are diagrams.3 To illustrate this. congruence means that each point in the object correlates with one point in the subject. The dispositif refers to a space of interaction and communication organized by media assemblies where things become visible and virtually available to be identified discursively. Traditionally. He describes disposition as a state of mind that is more like the ‘state of a mental apparatus (perhaps the brain) by means of which we explain the manifestations of that knowledge’. which. is the classical premise of obtaining a clear focus on the object. Yet. ‘there are objections to speaking of a state of mind here. as a logic or grammar that structures an argument. 149) draws attention to this analogy when he emphasizes the operational sense in our conceptions of disposition. a prominent place where the dispositio manifests itself is in the segmentation of discourse and the network of the critical apparatus. inasmuch as there ought to be different criteria for such a state: a knowledge of the construction of the apparatus. Genres and conventional practices of media that inform a cultural habitus can thus be seen to emerge recursively from blending principles or mechanisms of discourse and understanding. chap. such an introductory outline is the rhetorical application of the dispositio. map or model transformed into discourse. This understanding of disposition faces a problem that is analogous to the division between being and praxis that. 5]. lies at the heart of the concept of the dispositif. Dispositio may be described as a model of coherence. defining and outlining the subject matter of discourse. Downloaded by [Library Services. It is the proper method of discourse championed by Descartes. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 . the ordering of discourse in the medial space of the dispositif is illustrated by modeling the diagrams on the principle of refraction.New Review of Film and Television Studies 399 elements.) Paech describes the dispositio as co-determined by dispositif and disposition. he adds. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1958. Or rather. The dispositio refers to an intentional ordering of things in discourse in order to achieve a certain persuasive effect. we may place the dispositif in series with the dispositio and disposition. Together they structure the intervening spaces where intentionality as the flow between the subject and object is refracted (see Figure 1). the cognitive and affective attitudes and beliefs that inform behavior. He considers the dispositif in a conceptual triad with the rhetorical notion of the dispositio and the aesthetic-psychological concept of the disposition. it is an outline. the relation between subject and object is represented as some sort of equation where identity and truth are seen as successful or satisfying correlations. on ‘Thinking in Diagrams’ see Mullarkey [2006. Thus. quite apart from what it does’ (Wittgenstein 1958. for Agamben. Disposition may be considered a virtual system of knowledge in contrast to the actual manifestations of knowledge engendered by this system. 149 –50). In this model. as I will show in my discussion of Descartes. The dispositif projects a discursive order of things that seems congruent with the order of things organized by the hierarchy of our senses.

and have frequently done so in the same way. or embedded in a psychoanalytical framework as in the later works of Christian Metz. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 P2 P1' Figure 1. Terminologies in phenomenology and media theory offer an interesting point of intersection when . we can find similar kinds of reasoning whenever orders of the dispositif and orders of the disposition seem to converge. This is the type of phenomenon that biologists call convergent evolution. Notwithstanding the differences between these film theoretical approaches. 32) proposed in accounting for the resemblances between the camera and the eye: Of all the instruments made by man. dispositio and disposition affect the extensions of the subject and object. Subject – object relations ‘refracted’ by dispositif. Yet. 13 – 26) has dubbed ‘the basic story’. Yet this is not by design. such versions of film history. Quendler Dispositio Disposition Subject P2' Downloaded by [Library Services. but because both have had to meet the same problems. none resemble a part of his body more than the camera does the eye. yet peculiar in that the one evolution is organic. and if this has brought the camera and the eye together. they all aim at blending aspects of the cinematic dispositif and the viewer’s disposition in order to make the filmic discourse determined by one unitary force (see Figure 2). Another way to look at this model is to consider how the dispositif. have been refuted by later generations of scholars as overdetermined and teleological. Although biological frames of reference were common in early histories of film that compared the development of film to the growth and decline of a biological organism. One way of doing this is to conceive of a convergent evolution as the biochemist and Nobel Prize winner George Wald (1950. For Wald the frame of reference that organizes the convergence of camera and eye is the biological model of evolution. The organizing constraints of convergences may be ontological or idealistic as in the case of Bazin’s myth of a total cinema. A camera is no more a copy of an eye than the wing of a bird is a copy of that of an insect. it is not because one has mimicked the other. the other technological.400 Object P1 Dispositif C. Biology subsumes technology. There are many ways of establishing correlations between dispositif and disposition and whether we find them successful or satisfactory depends to a large extent on the appeal of the discourse that organizes the correlations. Each is the product of an independent evolution. or the constraints maybe founded upon ideological grounds as in Braudy’s apparatus theory. dispositio and disposition. which David Bordwell (1997.

The figure –ground model. as it were. this is suggested by having each point in the object correlate with a point in the subject. Translucent or opaque states can be considered as low resolutions that diffuse one-to-one correlations between subject and object. they talk about resolution (cf. . discourse and subjectivity. a fuzzy background and what emerges in high resolution are the figures of motion or flow between subject and object (see Figure 3). The convergence model. I want to propose an unlikely conjunction Object Dispositif Dispositio Disposition Subject Figure 3. the subject and object become. In Figure 1. dispositio and disposition. 2. If we focus on the intervening spaces organized by the dispositif. Descartes and Vertov on perfecting vision In order to illustrate consequences of this figure – ground inversion for conceptions of media. we may arrive at a different idea of resolution if we invert the figureand-ground relation.New Review of Film and Television Studies Object Dispositif Dispositio Disposition 401 Subject Downloaded by [Library Services. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 Figure 2. However. Le Morvan 2005): high resolution means the medium is transparent and the delimiting lines between subject and object are concise.

However.402 C. The different ways in which Descartes and Vertov blend notions of camera and eye highlight the bi-directionality of camera – eye metaphors. the mind becomes sensitive screen. The camera obscura is the place of a twofold reflection: the observation of empirical phenomena and the reflective introspection of observation. As I will discuss below. This double reflection makes the camera obscura an ideal metaphor for human consciousness. As a site where relations between the outside world and the observing self are negotiated. more importantly. in contrast to a projection screen. which blends an anatomical depiction of an eye with the geometric model of a camera obscura. Notably. upon which impulses are impressed and reflected. In classical logic. the reflection is not returned back to the world but thrown into a deeper recess. which lend themselves to both anthropomorphic and mechanomorphic readings and engender respective notions of subjectivity. It is not surprising that the camera obscura has also become a popular refuge for the Baconian project of the socalled mastery of nature. the camera obscura can be read as a figuration of subjectivity. It serves as a laboratory where the laws of nature interface with human or manmade laws of physics. Quendler between Descartes’s theory of vision modeled on the camera obscura and Dziga Vertov’s futurist vision of the kino-eye. and the mind represented by the head of the homunculus. the camera obscura does not simply provide a model for human vision but. Descartes’s application of the law of refraction not only helps to account for principles of human vision. The shaded field delimits the space where the ‘retinal image’ becomes a ‘conceptual image’. it may be tolerated as an experiment in thought. Both Descartes and Vertov approach perceptual technologies as scientific instruments where vision becomes synonymous with the production of truth. While this juxtaposition of ideas from early modern philosophy and twentieth-century avant-garde cinema must seem historically irresponsible. As Jonathan Crary (1990. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 . the shaded field outlines an interface that includes the ‘inner body’ of the eye. I will consider their conceptions of visual technologies as two paradigmatic approaches towards a theory of subjectivity. In Optics. it provides a common background for both the first (‘optical’) and second (‘cognitive’) reflection. In constitutes a minimal definition of consciousness (see Gu Descartes’s diagram. the way the shaded field divides the eye indicates where Descartes conceives of a linkage for aided vision. it also enables him to point to certain shortcomings in the provisions nature has made. When viewed against the white background. In this model. The conclusions Descartes Downloaded by [Library Services. this superimposition of the second reflection (‘I see’) onto the first reflection (‘image’) ¨ nther 1957). a new model of consciousness and subjectivity. where it appears for the second time. mathematics and logic. which is linked to the nervous system. 25 –67) observes. Rather than suggesting an evolutionary logic between Descartes’s metaphysical investment in the camera obscura and Vertov’s futurist celebration of the kinoeye. this screen may be located as the shaded field (see Figure 4). It excludes the body of the homunculus from the shoulder downwards (representing perhaps the body of the mind).

although given me by nature merely to signify to my mind what things are beneficial and hurtful to the composite whole of which it is a part. draws from these insights have extensive ramifications. (1641. 60) puts it. As Neil M. cannot be improved. because these perceptions of the sense. and being sufficiently clear and distinct for that purpose. Technology not only allows human beings to see ‘more’ and ‘better’. are nevertheless used by me as infallible rules by which to determine immediately the essence of the bodies that exist out of me. Ribe (1997. Descartes himself has described this transformation as a habitual perversion of the order of nature: I have been accustomed to pervert the order of nature. insofar as it is a product of nature. technologically aided vision is perfectible. While human vision. 97) . Diagram form Descartes’s discourse on Optics (1664). University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 Figure 4. of which they can of course afford me only the most obscure and confused knowledge. it also fundamentally changes the function of seeing altogether. the ultimate role of Cartesian optics is ‘to “raise” the eye from an instrument of self-preservation to one of scientific knowledge’.New Review of Film and Television Studies 403 Downloaded by [Library Services.

He does so by modeling this blend on the regime of light organized by the law of refraction. in 1920s Moscow. In contrast to Sergei Eisenstein. The second question will deal with the distinction of ‘seeing better’ and ‘seeing more’ as a cultural hierarchy of practices of seeing and their embodiment in genres and discourse types. Vertov developed the idea of the kino-eye together with his wife Elizaveta Svilova and his brother Mikhail Kaufmann and promoted it in a number of programmatic writings and filmic works.404 C. In other words. Set out to discover ‘regularities in the accidental’ and to explore the ‘laws that govern the chaos of life’ the kino-eye resorts to microscopic. ‘the internal organs that receive the impulses of these objects. As an instrument of scientific knowledge. I will now take a closer look at their respective ideas on perfecting vision. and the external organs. he notes: ‘Not kino-eye for its own sake. Quendler Although the scientific endeavor remains committed to a project of illuminating the obscure realms of nature. How does place and order of the dispositif facilitate transparency or high resolution? What kind of discursive order is modeled on this transparency? The first question addresses inferences made between the media dispositif and the human disposition. Not unlike Descartes. telescopic and X-ray vision. and it introduces mathematical and psychological principles to its editing method. It is concerned with the linkage or continuity through which media become extensions of the senses. 5– 8) has emphasized. the kino-eye subsumes virtually all existent cinematic techniques and inventions. which dispose these impulses to be received as they ought’ Downloaded by [Library Services. i.4 Descartes’s misuse of sensory perception blends the human disposition towards sensory perception with the dispositio of the scientific reasoning. Some 300 years later. 15). Inspired by constructivism and futurism. Set against this common concern of exploring visual technologies as an instrument of scientific knowledge. it also points towards a scientific decoupling from nature to make room for an engineered world. Descartes’s discourse ‘Of the Means of Perfecting Vision’ is also a discourse on the proper (or transparent) alignment of the orders of the dispositif. their implied notions of subjectivity and its relations to medium and discourse. Vertov was strongly influenced by the art-denying spirit of constructivism and the revolutionary movement. In an article on ‘The Birth of the Kino-Eye’ dated 1924.e. it operates on remote control and shows things in slow or accelerated motion. Vertov’s enthusiasm for the camera as metaphor for seeing is based on an idea of technological perfectibility: ‘We cannot improve the making of our eyes. kinopravda [“film-truth”]’ (Vertov 1924. this kind of detachment from nature finds a radical expression in Vertov’s concept of the kino-eye. As Yuri Tsivian (2004. Descartes begins his discourse ‘Of the Means of Perfecting Vision’ by suggesting that (in principle) they can be applied to three things: the objects seen. but we can endlessly improve the camera’ (Vertov 1923. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 . The language of the kino-eye for Vertov was one of higher mathematics and its ultimate goal was the production of truth. 41). dispositio and disposition. he conceived of the kino-eye above all as a scientific project. but truth through the means and possibilities of the film-eye.

The first one may be called ‘clear focus’: rays that reach the optic nerve in the retina should correspond (as far as possible) to a single point in the object. he argues. meaning the nervous system and the brain. As a third way of improving the brightness of vision. The rays must not be altered in intervening space between object and eye as to avoid diffusion. For Descartes the best way to magnify images is to increase the distance between this point of intersection and the retina by extending the natural eye with a long tube filled with water: Descartes’s prototype of the telescope. Since this option is only available for accessible objects. both ‘the transparent parts of the eye. nature – although it presumably ‘has done all that is possible’ – falls short of perfection.New Review of Film and Television Studies 405 (1637. 120). 115). this extension is almost a natural process: ‘Sight will take place as if Nature had made the eye longer’ (1637. that is. such an endeavor would be a concern of medicine and is thus irrelevant for his subject matter. He considers three methods of adjusting the brightness of an image. The first one is to place cloudy objects or veils between the eyes and the objects of observation. He has even less to say about internal organs. For instance. placement and lighting. quite remarkably. Finally. they are imperfections that can be amended by applying the law of refraction. suggests that ‘Descartes has the natural eye “give birth” to a telescope’. 54 – 5) in this context. Even if it were possible to improve or modify them. the distance between the retina and the point of intersection of the rays. Descartes (underestimating the role of refraction) erroneously views this deficiency mainly as a matter of the size of the eye. their treatment becomes simply a question of mise-enscene: that is. image size.and farsightedness are imperfections of clear focus that result from the limited range of curving and changing the body of the eye. Yet. 114). near. Since we cannot change the objects themselves. or to use additional sources of light (gathered by means of mirrors or burning glass). In the case of the second condition. Descartes also discusses widening and narrowing the aperture as means of adjusting image brightness in telescopes. Since Descartes considers the outer body of the eye and optical lens of the same category. With the notable exception of the last provision. Descartes considers the angle or field of vision: we should see as many objects as possible ‘at a single glance’ (1637. which include. Ribe (1997. Descartes (1637. 115) maintains. Descartes adds little to the issue of image brightness. The third provision regards ‘image brightness’ in relation to its impact on the optic nerves. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 . distortion and obscurity and to guarantee a distinct resemblance between object and image. 114). The second condition concerns the ‘size’ or ‘resolution’ of the image. as well as the all the other bodies that we can place between the eye and the object’ (1637. Descartes considers four conditions or provisions for perfecting sight. Descartes has little to say about the objects of vision and explicitly brackets internal organs from his discussion. he mentions Downloaded by [Library Services. This leaves Descartes with the external organs. It should be ‘large’ in the sense that its lineaments or lines can be easily discerned.

e. (1637. As mentioned before. Observing subjects must not be found out by their objects of observation. come to know the location of the object that these more perfect ones can make us perceive. the process of discovery and recognition or the observer’s subjective and technological investment is necessarily edited out. Vsevolod Pudovkin is an early important theoretician in point. What is important is that the function of selective approximation that is attributed to ‘seeing more’ is strictly subservient to what is already a given object. it conflicts with the imperative of seeing distinctly: ‘Seeing more’. whose purpose is only to minister to the same deficiency through the application of other organs that are artificial. 16) has had a strong impact on later generations of film scholars (cf. besides this. than to Optics. It is along the outlines of the shaded field that the optical lens and the outer body of the eye form a homogeneous threshold. It is for this finding function that the provision of ‘seeing more’ is included in Descartes’s description of the three-barreled telescope: as these telescopes make objects appear larger. which Descartes considers mutually incompatible in unaided vision. In fact.g. to join the most perfect ones to some others with less strength. through the aid of which we can. Lindgren 1948). the only condition where Descartes cannot find a way to improve nature is the field or angle of vision. Descartes (1637. whose purpose is to remedy the deficiency of sight through the correction of natural organs. In this scientific rationale. like Descartes’s subsumption of the lens and the outer body of the eye as one category. His psychological definition of montage as the filmic organization of time and space that results in a ‘clear and distinct impression’ (Pudovkin 1925. 126) Downloaded by [Library Services. However. ‘is principally useful only in order to ascertain toward what direction we must subsequently turn the eye in order to look at the one which we will wish to consider better’. where the law of nature coincides with the law of refraction. The subservience of ‘seeing more’ to ‘seeing better’ is a necessary premise to ensure a one-directional causal determination. presupposes a continuity of body and media that finds its expression in the clarity and . For the same reason the telescopic eye in being like nature rules out other additional forms of determination.406 C. (Descartes 1637. Quendler training to look at extremely bright objects or to discern objects in the dark but immediately discards them: these things belong rather to medicine.. 125) argues. Descartes’s subordinate integration of ‘seeing more’ and ‘seeing better’ on principles of selection and distinction has been a key source for a long tradition of thinking about cinema. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 As pointed out in Descartes’s diagram (Figure 4). 156) The telescope in this sense not only perfects vision but also reconciles – at least serially – ‘seeing more’ and ‘seeing better’ as two aspects of seeing. for him the convenience of ‘seeing more’ is only of relative importance. they let us see less of them at one glance – it is even necessary. as if by degrees. for him the nexus between artificial and natural organs is the outer body. Pudovkin’s equation of the camera’s lens with the viewer’s eye.

In ‘The Film Director and Film Material’. 16). Pudovkin (1926. This scientific logic and its conception of technology differ radically from what goes on in procedures of experimental arrangements that identify objects approximately through loops of positive and negative feedback (which is facilitated by the built-in homing function of the three-barreled telescope). so too the film-maker in the process of montage exposition must retain the viewer’s attention in the appropriate manner and thus imbue his work with the necessary credibility. Gu ¨ nther (1957. ‘technology is directed outwardly. which so far had been forced to ‘copy the work of the human eye’ (Vertov 1923. Pudovkin’s camera eye is an observation in postproduction that entails the process of editing modeled on scientific exposition: Downloaded by [Library Services. uses words – whole pieces of exposed film – and sentences – combination of these pieces’. discarding what is superfluous and leaving in what is essential. The metonymical chain of eye. then technology can be attributed a sense of consciousness in that they are expressions of intentionality and action ¨ nther (1979) put it later. An early reformulation of metaphysics and classical logic that introduces technology and engineering as the excluded third can be found in ¨ nther’s cybernetic philosophy. the discourse and the recipient’s disposition (see Figure 3). (1925. Vertov calls for the emancipation of the camera.New Review of Film and Television Studies 407 distinctness of the observation and its ensuing discourse. 67) argues that if Gotthard Gu figures of fantasy and imaginations are expressions of consciousness in the form of intentions or actions directed inwardly. 16) Like expositional writing. Alternatively. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 Just as a scholar preparing an article setting out the course and results of his research carefully plans and constructs it. 78) explicates this. Here technology is recognized as a subject – object relation.5 Having asserted the superiority of camera vision over human sight on the basis of technological perfectibility. suggesting that ‘[m]ontage. observation and scientific exposition informs a correlating chain of camera. like living language. as Gu the only historical form in which volition can express itself in a generally binding form’ (my translation). montage and cinematic exposition. The affirmation of the kino-eye with its own dimensions of time in space culminates in the point of self-affirmation. Coherent vision and clarity are inferred as imperative generic aspects for considering the camera eye as an integral element of cinematic exposition. The subjectivity and objectivity are distributed over the intervening space that is organized by the medium. As an expression of desire. which in the manifesto is mimicked by a conspicuous pronominal shift from the filmmakers’ first person plural to the first-person point of view of the kino-eye: . Such a reflexive definition of technology can help us to interpret what is perhaps the most controversial passage in Vertov’s manifesto of ‘The Council of Three’ (1923). sometimes dwelling on a characteristic detail and sometimes confining himself to general observations. the medium becomes a vehicle for the objective part of our subjectivity. cinematic exposition combines principles of selection and combination and strives to make a cogent and persuasive argument.

We can think of Vertov’s notion of film language as a gradual process of abstracting natural languages. Music as the most abstract art forges a link to the prosodic properties of language and poetry. 287) argues in his scenario of Man with a Movie Camera. Vertov (1928.’ However. ‘Life’s chaos gradually becomes clear [ . In a Deleuzian sense. most succinctly and vividly. . Vertov’s resolution is best described as the visceral effect that results from calibrating technology to the chaos of life. Vertov’s idea of resolution is linked to his ‘theory of intervals’. an imaginative leap that projects the deictic center onto the kino-eye itself. ‘resolution’ refers both to kinesthesia and music. the kino-eye represents a threshold where different kinds of discourse break and diffuse. ] Nothing is accidental. The ambiguous state of the kino-eye as neither subject nor object is expressed effectively in its act of self-affirmation. (Vertov 1923. Downloaded by [Library Services. In this process.6 Vertov’s theory of intervals may be compared to a kind of information theory. Quendler I make the viewer see in the manner best suited to my presentation of this or that visual phenomenon. it affords us with different figures or lines of coherence. The kino-eye assumes a hybrid identity in that it signifies both a theory of film and its application. literary. Yet. . His notions of ‘phrase’ and ‘resolution’ and his theory of intervals share musical connotations. 16) This passage on the kino-eye illustrates well the state of in-betweeness attributed to the dispositif. The paramount goal of the kino-eye as an instrument of scientific knowledge is kinesthetic resolution. The eye submits to the will of the camera and is directed by it to those successive points of the action that. music and his theory of intervals play a crucial mediating role. It is at once actual and virtual in that its actual performance of the kino-eye aims at exhausting its virtue or full potential. It is an odd form of applied mathematics that maps musical structures across kinesthetic patterns and principles of perception. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 . this poetic vagueness seems almost programmatic. It blends subject and object as well as being and praxis. While ‘phrase’ further extends to language and writing. 40) stresses these meta-implications by equating the kino-eye not only with film analysis but also with a theory of movement along with a theory of how all things are related on the screen. While this obscures traditional patterns of coherence. bring the film phrase to the height or depth of resolution. linguistic. Through this explorative process. His notions of phrase and resolution blend many conceptual domains combining musical. which we can correlate to Descartes’s imperative of a clear and distinct vision.408 C. kinesthetic and mathematical frames of reference. while Descartes’s imperative is geared towards ascertaining an autonomous object. which became a recurrent concern throughout his writings of the 1920s (Petric 1987). scientific. Everything is explicable and governed by law. Vertov saw himself more as a poet than as a theorist and he is never precise about what exactly makes up the resolution of a film phrase. Vertov (1924. Yet. In this deictic projection the notions of the camera as technique of visibility (to record and present visual phenomena) and as a means of expression (that generates ‘film phrases’) blend with human scale scenario of actual language use.

then away from objects. thus schematizing processes of long duration inaccessible to the normal eye. assuming. increased kinesthetic resolution is geared towards exciting the sensory–motor experience of the film viewer. gropes its way through the chaos of visual events. a camera. The kino-eye gains insights into the chaos of movement by emulating the very movements and gestures of the visual world. However. fling myself along their resultant. dispositio and disposition. 17) This kind of mimetic or emulative learning of the kino-eye becomes the trajectory for training the perceptual sensibilities of the cameraman or ‘kinokpilot’. Vertov (1929a. I outstrip running soldiers. the interaction of camera angles. In his Paris lecture ‘From Kino-Eye to Radio-Eye’. It experiments. recording movement. I am in constant motion. it seems. mapped across with the human ability to learn. their point of view: Now and forever. rejecting the human eye as crib sheet. (Vertov 1923. (Vertov 1923. I draw near. ‘directs’. by selecting and combining elements in such a way that their order coheres to the dispositio of scientific discourse. movements within frames and relations between recording speeds. as it were. In addition. absorbing time within itself. I move apace with the muzzle of a galloping horse. starting with movements composed of the most complex combinations. It outlines film discourse by scientific. 19) The kino-eye. The order of elements in Vertov’s film phrase is not modeled on a preconceived discursive order in the sense of a preestablished synthesis of dispositif and disposition guided by a persuasive purpose. ‘observes’ and ‘gauges’ the recordings and presentation of the camera . I crawl under. that is. it aims at discarding instilled habits of human embodied perception: The mechanical eye. in contrary fashion. I plunge and soar together with plunging and soaring bodies. The perfectibility of the camera. 90–1) lists as the most important relations of shot scales. which. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 Intervals organize the order and duration of shots in the montage of film phrase by correlating a number of visual parameters. the camera. I ascend with an airplane. is. I fall on my back. maneuvering in the chaos of movement. The roles of the cameraman and the director in this process are somewhat ambiguous as they are at once fully at the service of the camera and the strategic brain that ‘controls’. The kino-eye promotes an extension of the regime of the visible and sayable by combining all kinds of visual technologies and expressive forms.New Review of Film and Television Studies 409 Downloaded by [Library Services. swallowing years. on the one hand. Now I. I free myself from human immobility. probing as it goes its own movement. I plunge full speed into a crowd. dissecting movement. musical and verbal models. distending time. Not unlike Pudovkin’s principles of montage. The persuasive power of Vertov’s film phrase is to be discovered in the resolution of a pattern that emerges from foregrounding the structures of the dispositif. as he commends himself to the camera’s experiments in space. For Vertov. is opposed to the imperfect human eye. the aim of organizing film with reference to the theory of the interval is to intensify the viewing experience. for Pudovkin intensification results from turning the viewing process into an ideal form of observation. or. ‘learns’ by adapting possibilities of the cinematic apparatus to conditions of the visual world it records. on the other hand. I climb onto them. letting itself be drawn or repelled by movement.

Vasily Rozanov’s experimental journals Solitaria (1912) and Fallen Leaves (1913 and 1915). 19). which – in turn – engenders a presentation of life that brings out new and startling aspects of reality. the prosthetic function of the camera as an explorative device blends with an elaborate scenario of mutual ` -vis the cameraman is seen as coemancipation. The relation between camera and cameraman is seen as correlative and dialectical: by submitting himself to the ‘will’ of the camera. the journal is by definition a work in progress. As journal and diaries come only with a minimal set of generic constraints. which in the 1920s Viktor Shklovsky both theorized (in Theory of Prose. We may also look at the notebook of Man with a Movie Camera in terms of Lev Vygotsky’s notion of a zone of proximal development.S. In this zone of approximation. there are also general aspects that bring journal and memoir writing into the generic proximity of the kino-eye as film language and writing. Cinematograph Operator (1916). It is like Vertov’s kino-pravda expressive both of the external reality of life’s chaos and internal impressions of an ordinary eye. More importantly. The journal also generates what Genette calls Downloaded by [Library Services. This is particularly true of Mikhail Kaufman’s expectations about the movie. the journal may generate a narrative of learning. a primer or methodological aid for beginners (Tsivian 2004. they can be easily adapted to the heterogeneous discursive regime of the kino-eye. e. the observer-as-camera creates. 19). which explore a new literary form through a polyphonic clash of a variety of genres (Crone 1978). (1930 – 36) and Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (1939) are wellknown examples that. explore ‘camera vision’ as literary mode of autobiographical writing. Bottomore’s [2003] essay on Charles Brabin’s diary written while filming in the UK for Edison in 1913).g. the cameraman liberates the camera from the shortcomings of embodied human perception. John Dos Passos’ trilogy U. In this sense. in which the camera vis-a operative agents.410 C. From the perspective of genetic criticism. Vertov 1923. the generic frame of the journal accommodates an intervening space that is both subjective and objective. 1929) and practiced (in his memoirs A Sentimental Journey. ‘an organized memo of the ordinary eye’s impressions’ (1923. as Vertov puts it. 25). Quendler (cf. The revival of the diary and memoirs as a literary form at the beginning of the twentieth century provides an important historical context. the connection between camera work and diary writing may be traced back to the practice of reporting on dailies (see. The diary as a literary counter discourse of a cameraman taking revenge on commercial mainstream cinema finds an early satirical treatment in Luigi Pirandello’s The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio. If progress is understood in a positive sense. It is also in this context that we can place the generic framing of Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera as fragments or ‘extracts from the diary of cameraman’. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 . 1923). In other words. Conversely. offered Vertov a literary model of reconciling accounts of personal everyday experiences with political and journalistic writing. Besides the historical intertext.A. inspired by Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera. envisioned as a kind of ABC of film writing.

The synthesis builds upon three shot/reverse-shot sequences: one between the audience and the projected film. In contrast to Descartes. on the other hand.New Review of Film and Television Studies 411 Downloaded by [Library Services. 366– 7) This breaking down of boundaries between spectators and spectacle is illustrated well in the framing sequences of the film. a complex form of narration that combines simultaneous reporting and reporting after the fact. another between the cameraman and the visual phenomena he records and the third between the editor and the filmstrips on her cutting table. ] By annihilating the boundaries between spectators and spectacle and by making the process of film production visible to the viewer Man with a Movie Camera navigates life’s chaos. it also allows for all kinds of positive and negative feedback loops and thus opens up a realm of interaction in the broadest sense. The epilogue of the movie provides a one-minute synopsis of the film and can be described as a thumbnail version of what Vertov (1923. (1929b. The visceral effect the editing has on the audience can be seen as a response to what may be thought of as the body of the image.7 Experiencing the body of the image through the visceral effects of filmmaking can be regarded as the counterpart to Descartes’s division of body and mind. dispositio and disposition. Interpolated presentation not only approximates a fusion of perception and communication. the editing responds to the synthesis of mechanical and human eye but cutting along the emergent patterns of this synthesis. In rhetorical terms. . 19) called ‘an organized memo of the ordinary eye’s impressions’. the body in Descartes’s dualism has an exclusive and inclusive side. through a conceptual unity of lens and vitreous. but also the process of filmmaking and its exhibition. In an interview about its reception in Berlin in 1929. we may view this juxtaposition as an illustration of how the theatrical apparatus accommodates (to) the audience and its structures of expectations. The chairs in the auditorium unfold themselves and the spark that ignites the projector also cues the orchestra’s entrance. the epilogue brings together recording. On the one hand. As I have demonstrated throughout this paper. Vertov has described the film as developing along three intersecting lines: (1) ‘life as it is in reality’ on the screen. Thematically and formally. (2) ‘life as it is in reality’ on the strip of film. Camera and cameraman find rapprochement in the observation of movement. editing and perception. the kino-eye generates a . The projection setup is cut across shots of the audience’s seating. In its experimental alignment of medial and dispositional structures. which can illustrate the spaces of the dispositif. the body extends to the materiality of instruments. In the Man with a Movie Camera. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 interpolated narration. the visceral appeal of the kino-eye conceives of a linkage between camera and eye along the ‘inner organs’. this applies not only to the interaction between man and camera. the body of the mind appears to be excluded in the representation of the homunculus. (3) simply: ‘life as it is in reality’ [ . . The prologue of the film shows the opening of a theater until the projection begins in an animated fashion that turns the preparatory phase before the screening into a spectacle.

On the theory of blending mental spaces. may be located at the edges of the diagram. like the subjective and objective vanishing points in the kino-eye model (see Figure 3). The diary advanced to a key concept in auteur theory of the 1950s. involves a practice learning that goes beyond ingrained habits of perception. or responds to. see Fauconnier and Turner (2002). Quendler Downloaded by [Library Services. Descartes has described this practice as a habitual misuse of sensory perception. Seeing more and ‘making the invisible visible’ (Vertov 1924. Yet. As formats that are particularly conducive to this explorative process. he distinguishes between ‘appareil psychologiques de l’impression de re de base’ (the material apparatus required to produce and project films) and dispositif. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 discursive order that is radically at odds with Descartes’s method of discourse and classical notions of subjectivity. by which he refers to the viewing situation of the film. they also call for novel ways of charting the adjustments between dispositif and disposition onto new discursive orders. . The two sides also play a crucial role in another important theoretical affiliation of the term dispositif. In his essay ‘Le dispositif: approches me ´ alite ´ ’ (1975). it experienced a revival in avant-garde and documentary film of the 1960s and 1970s (Sitney 1977. the Cartesian model too. dispositio and disposition offers a useful distinction for analyzing the ramifications of these adjustments for our understanding of subjectivity. we can look at them as challenges for framework that manages to reconcile them. 2002. See also Kepley (1996) and Riesinger (2003). Acknowledgements The research for this paper was supported by the project of the Austrian Science Fund ‘Framing Media: The Periphery of Fiction and Film’. For Vertov the differences between camera and eye serve as an incitement for learning.412 C. rather than considering the two models as exclusive alternatives. Vertov’s kino-eye builds on. Lane 2002) and continues to be an important frame of reference in exploring novel forms of storytelling across new media. preconceived similarities between camera and eye. As such. Notably for him this transformation of a ‘natural’ disposition is a preliminary premise. which. They provide a backdrop for the disanalogies from which the kino-eye evolves. Paech’s conceptual triad of dispositif. Vertov’s kino-eye is merely one example in a long history that privileges the heuristic and scientific value of seeing more over the discriminatory practice of seeing better favored in traditions of analytical philosophy. 41) not only require forming new habits of perception and aesthetic sensibilities that attune to the visible regimes supported by visual technologies and techniques. Thus. I have suggested viewing Vertov’s kino-eye as a model of camera vision that inverts the figure – ground relations on which Descartes’s model is based. Notes 1. diaries and notebooks have served as popular generic models for accommodating personal and expressive ways of envisioning and engaging with the cinematic dispositif. 2. which Jean-Louis Baudry developed contemporaneously into what has ´ tabecome known as ‘apparatus theory’.

What is an apparatus?: And other essays. Crary. University of the West of England] at 17:23 12 October 2013 3. 1637. For a critique of Vertov’s kino-eye from within a classical instrumental logical of analytical philosophy. rational artisanship under the direction of the Cartasian mind’. Man without a movie camera – Movies without men: Towards a posthumanist cinema? In Film theory and contemporary Hollywood movies. London: Routledge. as a model for film language. New York: Basic Books. in which he outlined a program for the rationalization of the film production process. 2009. 139 –48). Ed. Power/knowledge. See also Mikhail Kaufman’s reflection on film language in ‘Film Analysis’ (1931. ‘Weather cloudy – no sun’ – Filming in Britain for the Edison Company in 1913: From Charles Brabin’s diary. of genre in Solitaria and Fallen Leaves. Techniques of the observer: On vision and modernity in the nineteenth century. optics. Colin Gordon. 2003. Stanford. 60) has aptly described this process as the replacement of ‘nature’s unconscious making with a new. 187n54) observes. Foucault. 2009. Trans. 6. Film History 15. Vordenker (Edition: Ma ¨ rz ———. Trans. ¨ t. Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus mediates between both symbolic forms and the disposition in the system of internalized patterns. Francesco.New Review of Film and Television Studies 413 Downloaded by [Library Services. 2008. 1978. Eye of the century: Film. Descartes.pdf. Indianapolis: Hackett. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella. Discourse on method. 1980. rather than natural. and selections from the principles of Rene ´ Descartes. Descartes terminates nature’s apprenticeship and reorganizes the enterprise by bringing in a new and more efficient production team. Projecting a camera: Language-games in film theory. 7. ———. 4: 403– 35. Le dispositif: Approches me ´ alite ´ . Identita 2000). see Turvey (1999). 4. 1990. Das Bewußtsein der Maschinen: Eine Metaphysik der Kybernetik. Trans. Gu Baden-Baden: AGIS. Cambridge. 1957. see Petric (1987. Ribe (1997. modernity. Rozanov and the end of literature: Polyohony and the dissolution ¨ rzburg: Jal Verlag. New York: Pantheon Books. geometry. and Mark Turner. This is not just a metaphor: Descartes’s attempt to grind hyperboloidal lenses in the 1620s was in fact organized as a rudimentary manufacturing business with three workers in a well-defined division of labor. References Agamben. Giorgio. 2001. Casetti. http://www. William. 23. Gilles. Gotthard. Branigan. and meteorology. New York: Routledge. Le La Salle: Open Court. Crone. Olscamp. Edward. David. 2006. 5. Anna Lisa. Paul J. Fauconnier. Meditationes de prima philosophia. 1966. no. 1641. As Paech (1997. 391) where he regards the ‘language’ of music. Brown. Trans. CA: Stanford University Press. Cambridge. He continues: ‘In effect. Michel. verbal languages. Jean-Louis. On the history of film style. and ed. 2002. de re Bordwell. MA: MIT Press. 1979. Warren Buckland. Communications. 1975. Bottomore. . no. New York: Columbia University Press. J.vordenker. John Veitch and Lucien ´ vy-Bruhl as The meditations. Gegenidentita ¨ t und Negativsprache. Jonathan. Selected interviews and other writings 1972– 1977. MA: Harvard University Press. Paul. Wu ´ . experience. ´ tapsychologiques de l’impression Baudry. Rene and ed. 1997. ¨ nther.’ We may construe here another parallel to Vertov’s ideas ‘On the Organization of a Creative Laboratory’ (1936). In Man with a Movie Camera visceral effects often synthesize the act of observation with the event observed. Stephen. The way we think: Conceptual blending and the mind’s hidden complexities.

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