ANO 04 - N10 - "Cosmopolíticas da imagem" ISSN 2359-4705

CHAMADA | BUSCA E OUTRAS EDIÇÕES | ENGLISH


Manuel DeLanda | Films

TÍTULO: Manuel DeLanda | Films


WORK: There is only one point of contact between my artistic and philosophical work: the concept of emergence. In philosophy, the concept of an emergent property is defined as the property of a whole that does not exist in its component parts, but that arises from interactions between its parts. When the concept was introduced into philosophy in the mid nineteenth-century, the example often used was water. Its components (oxygen andhydrogen) are both fuels which, if added to a fire, will make it burn withmore intensity. Yet, water has the opposite effect: it will put out the fire. The concept of emergence has not been as widely discussed in art, despite the fact that many artistic effects in painting and music arise from the interactions between individual brushstrokes or sounds. But in the case of film, the concept is hard to avoid: a sequence of motionless photographs projected at the right speed gives rise to a vivid appearance of motion. The effect is indeed magical, so much so that it was magicians who first exploited it as a form of entertainment. Some of the magic has gone away because the effect has been given an explanation: persistence of vision, the idea that successive frames fall on the same area of the retina, blending together into a stimulus that the brain interprets as motion. This explanation, however, cannot be correct because the emergent effect persists even if we move our eyes as we watch the film, looking at different portions of the screen, and hence destroying the supposed overlapping of stimuli in the retina.

But even if the explanation was correct, that by itself should not destroy the magic. The earliest philosophers to deal with emergence made that mistake: they thought emergent properties were inherently unexplainable and that that was what guaranteed their fascination. Today most philosophers agree that the emergent properties of a whole can be explained but that such an explanation does not imply they are reducible to the properties of its parts. Emergence is today our best weapon against reductionism. There is, on the other hand, one important difference between the use of the concept of emergence in art and science: whereas the emergent properties of water (its capacity to act as a universal solvent, for example) do not depend on the observer, the emergent effects of a work of art do involve an observer. In a sense, the whole that has emergent properties is not the work of art by itself but the assemblage work of art plus observer. In the case of film, the assemblage is more complex, involving the sequence of static shots, the projector, the screen, and the viewer. Nevertheless, the emergent effect is in a sense, objective: not independent of our minds, like the dissolving capacities of water, but independent of the content of our minds. We may have the wrong beliefs about the effect (e.g. persistence of vision) but that does not affect its reality.

My own artistic work is entirely devoted to creating emergent effects, all of which depend on the basic emergence of motion. In my earliest films, the effects were hand painted on the film itself: if one draws a diagonal line over 24 frames, when one projects the film, it will look as if a line is moving from left to right in one second. If two diagonals are drawn on two pieces of film and if, in addition, one paints with black opposite sides of the diagonal, when one superimposes the two pieces of film, the effect will be that one shot will seem to wipe out the other. This manner of creating effects is, of course, extremely time consuming, so after a few years of working that way I bought a computer to automate the process. The problem was that the year was 1980 and computers at the time could do very little with moving images. But today, all that has changed: even smart phones have the power of that supercomputers of the early 1990’s had. So in 2010 I decided to go back to that early project armed with all the software and hardware that is available today. The emergent effects that I have been creating are still very labor intensive: the computer takes away some of the basic routine work, but it cannot by itself invent new effects. But the kind of effects that can be achieved today is clearly beyond anything that could be dreamt of in my early years as a filmmaker.

Some of the effects, like the elongated walkers in Anonymous Multitudes, could have been created back in the 70’s, using an optical printer. Although unlike the A and B rolls used in a typical optically printed film, I would have had to use A to Z rolls. Similarly, some of the effects in Fractured Landscapes, could have been created by blowing up every frame as a photograph, and them superimposing multiple copies of each frame using an animation camera. But clearly, the degree of difficulty involved and the uncertainty regarding the potential results, would have made the project unfeasible. But the point remains: what computers do for me today is to speed up the process and allow the quick checking of the emergent effects, freeing me to experiment with multiple alternatives, until I find the right one. The emergent effects still have to be invented, much like scientists have to invent emergent phenomena in their laboratories.

This is what art and science have in common. The difference is that scientists must go on to explain how the emergent phenomenon is produced, formalizing the results and their models of them in a way suitable for publication, whereas artists do not have to do that. We are free to move on to invent the next effect.


Electric Arthropods

Macro shots of various insects, electrically colorized with animated particle backgrounds.

3min39 | 2017 | USA

Anonymous Multitudes

My take on New York City crowds. Some effects involve tracking individual faces and a lot of masking work, others use multiple slices of the same shot, offset a few frames, to stretch all moving figures in strange ways.

7min41 | 2015 | USA

Fractured Landscapes

Using multiple layers of the same shot and animating masks on each produces a wide variety of effects that fracture and distort the shot. These were used here for NYC buildings, to create a dissonant urban symphony. The music is classical piano pieces played backwards.

10min53 | 2014 | USA

Molecular Populations

This is NYC using populations of particles as the means to do image processing. The music was done by layering loops downloaded from the net.

13min10 | 2012 | USA

 


 

Manuel DeLanda

Manuel DeLanda is a Mexican-American writer, artist and philosopher. He is a professor of philosophy and science in the Architecture Departments at Princeton University and University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of many well-known works including Philosophy and Simulation (Continuum, 2011), Deleuze: History and Science (Atropos Press, 2010), A New Philosophy of Society (Continuum, 2006), Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (Continuum, 2002), A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (Zone Books, 1997) and War in the Age of Intelligent Machines (Zone Books, 1991). As filmmaker he is well-known for his experimental film IsmIsm (1979).


 

 

 

 

Electric Arthropods
3min39 | 2017 | USA

 

Anonymous Multitudes
7min41 | 2015 | USA

 

Fractured Landscapes
10min53 | 2014 | USA

 

Molecular Populations
13min10 | 2012 | USA

 

 


DELANDA, Manuel. Manuel Delanda | Films. ClimaCom – Cosmopolíticas da Imagem [online]Campinasano. 4n. 10,   Nov2017 . Available from: http://climacom.mudancasclimaticas.net.br/?p=7929 


 

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