killing denouement

stroboscopy, editing and the attention theory of value

From The New Inquiry, Joan Didion from “After Henry”:

“What editors do for writers is mysterious, and does not, contrary to general belief, have much to do with titles and sentences and ‘changes.’ The relationship between an editor and a writer is much subtler and deeper than that, at once so elusive and so radical that it seems almost parental: the editor … was the person who gave the writer the idea of himself, the idea of herself, the image of self that enabled the writer to sit down alone and do it.”

I like this a lot. Stroboscopic photography, too, is fascinating. From what I understand, the camera';s shutter is left open, and a strobe light is set to the desired frequency. A picture is essentially taken, and imprinted onto the same frame every time the strobe light flashes. It seems well suited to capturing movement; human bodies dancing seem especially beautiful.

Following Didion, I suppose the strobe light is the editor, to the dancer-as writer. Illuminating, clarifying, revealing: not just in the immediate moment but the same kind of stroboscopic image of what a piece, and the writer’s movements through it, could be? There’s a strange and lovely jouissance here too. Or perhaps it is that everything shot; penetrated, if you will, with a mechanic lens or kino-eye has the same sense of heightened transgression that’s only made undeniably apparent in this kind of image?

Didion continues:

This is a tricky undertaking, and requires the editor not only to maintain a faith the writer shares only in intermittent flashes but also to like the writer, which is hard to do. Writers are only rarely likeable. They bring nothing to the party, leave their game at the typewriter.”

Without this rare breed of editor, or even rarer unqushable self-confidence, I suppose writers are left in the dark. Tapping away at what once was a typewriter, but is now more likely the backlit glow of a laptop.

Onto these images, then. The first is “Dancers in Motion” by Harold Edgerton. He appears to have invented stroboscopic photography, and subsequently the Rapatronic camera that captured these wonderful duende-bombshots. I’m led to wonder whether stroboscopic cinema exists and where such pieces would fit into the attention economy. And especially, how it might work (or not) with Jonathan Beller’s attention theory of value? I’m currently re-reading The Cinematic Mode of Production – properly this time – and am pretty provoked by some of its ideas. I suspect much of it will become incredibly useful and relevant in my eventual MA thesis.

More specifically, is looking in the dark still productive? For the writer, perhaps, but for the spectator? I don’t mean the darkened hush before-the-ads-before-the-film, but rather the presumable spaces of sheer blackness in a stroboscopic film. The absence of a projected image, even, though that’s debatable. Not that I’ve seen any, although Dominic Angerame seems to have experimented with this, which I’ll definitely have to look up. I’m also assuming that this ‘stroboscopic cinema,’ might have a freer sense of time, and an irregular tempo of flash. This would be as opposed to perhaps strobe-lit sequences in conventional films, which, now I think about it, surely must exist.

A regular, metronomic flash pulse works in photography to capture, and even expose the mechanics of movement. If stroboscopic cinema had different aims though, this could have some interesting synaesthetic effects. At worst, it might just look like a strobe-lit party or concert scene. Admittedly I don’t understand 3-D too well, but I do wonder what using red and blue lights would result in. I.e. not to enhance image depth perception so much as to be the image?

From the stills of Angerame’s film, his take, at least suggests a sense of cinema-meets-xerox. A kind of literalised video-zine, where the flats are made of human flesh instead of paper, UHU stick and paper. Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve been thinking of zines so much lately (of course, in the dark)

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The stroboscope is extremely exciting, especially re: what you’ve written here. It’s more exciting in photography, where the stillness of a single frame makes movement scream. Its beauty comes from a certain ode to the everyday event of movement. Gorgeous!

In film, it gets interesting re: strobe light as error & the obsessive search for what is in the blacks/what is edited out. Otherwise, I think the same point as that made with the photographs can easily be made with slow-mo.

Also, what’s been most interesting to me over the past year = playing with fps/workflow (which seems like it’s done here with adjusting the strobe light). Filming 30fps (video) on a film camera (24fps) / filming very fast movement at 12fps … it definitely is about the glitches & the mistakes & especially the blacks (when they are edited by the form and not by the artist).


Comment by tobogganeer

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