Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Digital Baorque Part III and IV / Summary & Questions

Behind the complexity that is the digital baroque, and past Murray’s use of historical, cultural, and philosophical jargon, Digital Baroque is an explanation and examination of new media arts, temporal folds, and the past, present and future potential of cinema. Murray writes “The digital Baroque will be discussed as enfolding the user in the energetic present, as articulated in relation to the analog past while bearing on the digital future” (7). In my interpretation of Murray’s text, he provides an in-depth analysis of digital art and its takings from the Baroque period. From Part III to Part IV, Murray traces the transformation of the cinema, from its claimed death to its return in a very different, more philosophical and interactive form.

In Part III Murray discusses the claim that many have had about the death of cinema. Murray, taking the opposing side, highlights the possibility of the return of the cinema with new possibilities and potential. In this part, Murray discusses melancholy of the baroque period and its appearance in experimental art through the themes of loss, trauma, and mourning.

In chapter 5, Murray discusses the cinematic concept of code and craft. He writes “might the promise of digital art dwell somewhere in the in-between, in the interstitial zone between the binaries that are shared by our cinematic, critical, and digital heritages: code and craft” (141). He situates digital baroque as always in between, between two things because it does not fully belong to either binary. After many rhetorical questions about the cinema, its demise and return, Murray implies the continuation and potential of the cinema as it carries on the code in the digital realm through baroque-esk themes. Through a review of various projects of digital art, Murray explores melancholy as illustrated through new media and expresses his contention for interactive media.

Murray discusses Keith Piper’s works by explaining that, instead of viewing Piper’s CD-ROM as a diminished piece of art, it must be viewed by its relevance to new media. Murray writes “it is within the journey of interactivity that the user of Piper’s CD-ROM is situated in ‘the in between’ in the toggle effect, between the history of colonialism and its mime, between the object of technological interface and the subject representing racial, cultural, and national specificity and difference” (152). Murray makes the point of highlighting this potential of new media, to frame issues of social and cultural importance as often unrepresented in other forms of passive media.

Murray progresses with his discussion of trauma and loss represented in new media, with a look into Chris Marker’ Level 5 and the ability of new media arts to represent history in a way that is generally not shown. Marker’s inclusion of a personal narrative, that of Laura’s, within a historically significant context, promotes Murrays’ hope of digital arts to fold the viewer within the layers of the project while providing a more realistic approach to illustrating history.  Murray applauds Marker’s film for representing trauma in the kind of “in-between” that is the digital baroque, and additionally, a form that colludes the fictional with the historical and social. The blur of fiction and reality somehow allows the viewer to experience the story from a new perspective.

In chapter 7 and 8, Murray elaborates on his proposal of a “psychophilosophical” approach to art in the digital age and his theory of the folding of past, present and the future. Through explorations of digital installations, CD-ROMS, and other digital arts, Murray discusses the theme of becoming and the interactivity of new media.

In part IV Murray explores the future of cinema for new media arts. Murray discusses further, the different temporal states in which cinema and new media exist. Murray writes “Deleuze’s approach to cinema is guided by his rather simple formula of cinematic time, or time’s subjectivity: ‘it is in the present that we make a memory, in order to make use of it in the future when the present will be past” (240). This simple formula guided traditional cinematic code that new media tends to distance itself from. Murray continues by claiming “the body or shape of time, the event within which we find ourselves, is itself something of a phantom oscillating between the not yet and no longer, virtual but graspable in the actual. Deleuze insists that this phantom has been fundamental to cinema, haunting it and its spectators, until the arrival, that is, of “modern cinema” which has given form to the virtual image of time.” (240). Here, Murray refers to the cinema’s approach to preserving memory and projecting the “present past,” while also referring to the idea of digital media being capable of passing this temporal bound. In terms of time, Murray prioritizes the ability of digital media to manipulate time and thus manipulate the way users interact with such media.

Murray concludes by explaining the ability of digital media art to violate the traditions of the formal screen, and make possible a different, less restricted screen (243). Murray explores various digital art to support his claims of the future of cinema. Murray speaks of Jill Scott’s interactive series Frontiers of Utopia by saying “Scott’s complex new media events call on the sites of history, the projects of science, and the various possibilities of multimedia to solicit the users to participate collectively in her new media environments” (249). Participation is key in new media art and the ability of the user to fold themselves within the complexity of architectural layers adds a profound dimension to the viewing of cinema. The breaking of the traditional screen and the space for interactivity opens up the door for virtual reality and other forms of digital technology to change the way the viewer experiences narrative. Murray’s text is a complex exploration of temporal folds that inevitably alter the way we view cinema.

Questions for discussion:

1. Murray writes “In an interesting way, Deleuze positions new media at the interval of cinematic time, as the carrier of both cinema’s passing and its future” (241). Do you believe cinema and new media art can coexist? Is it possible for cinema to still exist as a form of expression, even with the rise of digital technology? What conditions must be met/kept for cinema to still hold ground in the digital age?

2. While discussing the shift of art to the digital realm, does this tend to lose its significance in translation? Can art still hold its meaning when transcribed and portrayed through technology?

Wed, October 25 2017 » Future Cinema