On Multiplicity and Simultaneity Essay

ELA BOYD

December 2011

UCSD VIS ARTS

 

On Multiplicity and Simultaneity

From McLuhan’s position on technology as an Extension of Man1 to the many essays regarding the

psychical spaces of Avant Garde Cinema, relating Media to human processes is not a new critical

move. Both the content and technological devices have been implicated in metaphorical, symbiotic

and pedagogical relationships between the object (media) and the subject (viewer). I will further bisect

Media into the technical viewing/recording/projecting devices and the image content in itself.

Content is often positioned as a mirror or simulation of the Real. Within filmic media, the Real appears

to be enacted as specific interior psychical schemata, archetypal narratives and visual renderings with

an ontical aesthetic. Narrative films endeavor to play out “real-life”, while the camera is commonly

regarded as a metaphor for the eye/vision. Does the camera see what the operator sees? If this is the

case, is the theater of the projected film indicative the directors’ consciousness? It seems apt to

correlate the camera with seeing and content with consciousness. Yet the mistake is in the

introduction of the tertiary layer of metaphor. Where in fact, the camera is not a metaphor for vision, it

is in actuality a vision system and content is a physical manifestation of forms mediated vis-á-vis

consciousness. Filmic imagery is both generated and apprehended as forms that can correlate

causally to cognitive processes of imagination, memory, Gestaltian projection and phenomenological

intentionality. Ultimately, Media is unified by it’s inherent temporal capabilities. Although, specific

theories of the structure and ontological aspects of time vary, many philosophers, such as Kant,

Heidegger, Bergson and Deleuze have projects that posit the primacy of time as a binding and

inescapable phenomena intrinsic to existence. Within Temporology2, can new forms of time be

introduced? If we are of time, within a permeating time, we can’t therefore invent new types of time.

Following this logic, would it be said that media content invents, mirrors, augments, catalyzes or

realizes temporal scenarios? I posit Media not as a mirroring simulation of the Real, but the Real in

itself within an en-presenting singularity (not to be confused with Deleuze’s singularities). I have

formerly held the position of Media offering altered temporal situations. Yet, I now put forward that

filmic temporal effects, such as slow-motion, repetition, freeze-frame, multiplicity and simultaneity do

not offer a glimpse into imaginary or “un-real” temporal schemata, but present us with what actually is.

More broadly, Deleuze constructs a theory that the Virtual does not “have it’s own specific mode of

reality… but it is a mode of what is.”3 How is multiplicity a more viable scenario for the real? Can a

virtual/synthetic representational medium become more realistic than what we perceive as Reality? I

hypothesize in showing us the Real as actualized in objective/non-representational temporal and

spatial terms, media (time-based and digital/new media) reveals the ways in which we mistake

composites of representations for (non-filmic) Reality.

Herein, I will reference and build upon the concept of the virtual in the works of Bergson and Deleuze,

as a comprehensive ontological theory of film and photography. Jacques Maritain writes of

Bergsonism as a theory of pure actuality, “In denying the virtual as some ideal pre-existent possibility,

Bergson shows, he argued, that things become what they are by passing from one state of actuality to

another.”4 Bergson and Deleuze define the virtual in terms of multiplicity and more specifically discreet

and continuous to further elucidate upon concepts of time, space and subjectivity. The virtual is in

Bergsonism, a positive, non-active mode, as it only becomes what it is, “in differentiating itself, both

ceasing to be itself and retaining something of itself, and it is in this very respect that it can be

considered to be ‘the mode of what is’ 4 I interpret the virtual here as homogenous permeating

existence, which is only discernible in our qualification of aspects we subjectively divide from the

whole. “Bergson gives the example of a simultaneity of fluxes in which sitting on the bank of a river,

the flowing of the water, the flight of a bird, and the uninterrupted murmur in the depths of our life, can

be treated either as three things or a single one.”5 I put forward that in Gestaltian form we make sense

of divisions from a simultaneous whole (pervasive Universal spatio-temporal existence) by consciously

generating continuity between said discreet units. Bergson and Deleuze both use duration to point to

this part of this phenomenon. For Deleuze, duration is ‘difference or becoming itself’.6 Yet, duration for

Bergson is not a quantity. “Experience itself offers us nothing more than composites, such as time

imbued with space and mixtures of extensity and duration.”7 Extensity herein being the perception of

extended space. Bergson’s early writings on time theorize it as an interpenetration of conscious states

that synthesize successive points and

“outside of ourselves we find only space, and consequently nothing but simultaneities ‘of which

we could not even say that they are objectively successive, since succession can only be

thought through comparing the present with the past’. The qualitative impression of change

cannot, therefore, be felt outside consciousness. Duration and motion are not objects but

‘mental syntheses’.8

We are compositing temporal instances in space and completing the gesture vis-á-vis intentionality–

mapping memory onto each instance to form a whole. We have to retain a memory of an instance to

count the next as successive. In this perceptual process, are we also generating the divisions? I will

posit a singularity or whole outside of the empirical linear trajectory we formulate in apprehension of

perceived units in a perceived succession. This whole can also be viewed as simultaneous instances

spanned out in space. In that it is at once singular and divided. It is all instances at once–similar to an

atomized form. Yet the question remains is the division existent as another mode of the one or is it

only instantiated within conscious perception?

For Deleuze, ‘Time is not extensive; it is not the connection of distinct units. Time is intensive; always

taking the form of different and divergent ‘durations’.9 Additionally, Bergson looks at how we form a

complete picture of a singular collection of objects–are we to place items side by side in ideal space or

are we to repeatedly count the single object? The conclusion being a composite picture involving

retained images is required for the quantity to increase exponentially;10 “Bergson’s contention is that

this act in which I am juxtaposing the images being built up, takes place not in duration but in space. It

is not that we do not count in duration; rather, the point is that we count the moments of duration by

means of points in space.”11 This rendering of quantified instances or frames to assume cohesion is

exactly the process of viewing successive film cells. In extending frames, we perceive continuity. Look

at the illusion of motion–“the paradox of the flying arrow which at any point is not in flight. If the arrow

is always at a point when is it ever in flight or mobile?”12 Bergson and Deleuze point to mis-conception

in viewing motion, wherein we imply duration or change by comparison. I contend that each moment is

not a multiple of the last or a linear succession, but instances or impressions that unfold or emanate

from a singular simultaneity. Outside of empirical spatio-temporality is an always already singularity

wherein all moments; possible, past and present are equally existent. Therefore, the Real is a

simultaneous singularity.

This theory of continuity as an intentional process is similar to the way avant-garde filmmaker and film

theorist, Maya Deren describes viewing film, “As we watch a film, the continuous act of recognition in

which we are involved is like a strip of memory unrolling beneath the images of the film itself, to form

the invisible underlayer of an implicit double exposure.”13 This double exposure is a form of

simultaneous-seeing. In relating film viewing to our illusion of linear temporality, I uphold it is evident

that the actual simulation is not in the content being “representational” in itself, but in our simulation of

simultaneity–which happens in the moment of a simultaneous composite of memory (retention of

previous instance) and the intentional apprehension of immediate perceptual phenomena.

Furthermore, simultaneity is simulated in the cognitive process of at once dividing or framing instances

from the whole (permeating Universal spatio-temporal existence) and rendering cohesion. This

inversion positions our cognitive processes as more synthetic than the “representation” or “simulation”

of media content.

To further illustrate the paradigm between the one and the many, imagine five identical lines side-byside

spanning out as adumbrations in space. This accordion formation of lines are iterations of the

same line yet the only way we are able to quantify them as different is due to their position in space. If

the vantage point were collapsed, say we walked around to view them head-on, they would at once

become a single line. The line multiples are not copies or divisions of a “line-original” they are

equanimous instances of a single line’s “line-ness”. This term “instance” is not to imply an overlapping

or collapsing of linear temporal moments. Rather, it refers to emanations of one and the same form (in

this case, viewed in different ways). The tendency is towards quantification- to imagine when all 5 lines

are united, it will be somehow thicker. Imagine the same illustration with a projection of a person–

seeing five identical instances of the same complete figure spanned out as horizontal slices in space

which can at once be collected to be a single figure. The bodies appear to be the same (a one), but

they are discreet due to their position in space. As with the line, these bodies are not divisions of a

body whole, parts, or copies of each other. They are instances of the same that take on a

simultaneous multiplicity by their extensity in space. The multiplicity does not precede or follow from a

whole or a one ultimate being temporally. Although the diagram seems to be abstracted from time, this

is exactly a picture of time as it is. If the bodies are not successive are they parallel instances? Do

parallel iterations include potentiality? The multiplicity scenario is always present in a form’s

manifoldness yet appears to be actualized in our perception–by seeing it and counting it. Therefore it

is not a potentiality, but a permutation of it’s being-ness in the moment of recognition. Within the Real,

there is no continuity or discontinuity, but a simultaneous enfolding and unfolding manifold of

instances. Building upon Bergson’s early writings, beyond any psychological distinctions we make, “At

any moment in our lives we are neither simply one or many but an unfolding and enfolding virtual

multiplicity: the time of our lives is both continuous and heterogenous.”14 Although, I posit the

continuity and heterogeneity as an illusion. I would like to present this picture of a singularity which

can be quantified only by making a move to perceive its extensity. Following this logic, universal

temporality (the Real) can be read as a pervasive “being-ness” or “one-ness” of time, or an always

already multiplicity of instances occurring as simultaneous points in space. The instances become

instantiated in our own synthetic focusing or framing as we engage in a conscious experience of

being.

If for Bergson, continuous time is a product of our conscious states synthesizing retained images,

immediate moments and anticipatory spatial projections, then there is no movement–only the

appearance of successive moments. All instances are emanating from a manifold of instances. We

have a tendency to focus on specific instances out of perceived spatial field of all-instances. These

instances are homogenous in homogenous space, in that they non-hierarchical. The appearance of

heterogeneity is in comparing content.

In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant points to our intuition of the whole in counting. “… the pure

schema of magnitude (quantitatis), as a concept of the understanding, is number, a representation

which comprises the successive addition of homogenous units. Number is therefore simply the unity of

the synthesis of the manifold of a homogenous intuition in general, a unity due to my generating time

itself in the apprehension of the of the intuition.”15 Keith Ansell Pearson elaborates on Kant’s

statement,

Over and above the successive marking of units we have a mental synthesis of the whole

simultaneously apprehended. We count successively, but intuit simultaneously, which we can

only do by referring a multiplicity to space. A sum implies the simultaneous existence of the

parts and unless we apprehend the whole of the sum in a single act no counting of successive

units can produce a sum (we have to know when to stop counting). This means that number is

an act of synthetic unity. But in an addition to intuition of space it rests on an intuition of time.

The concept of magnitude is explained ‘by saying that it is determination of a thing whereby we

are enabled to think how many times a unit is posited in it’6 This ‘how-many-times’ is, says

Kant, based on successive repetition, that is, on time as a synthesis of the homogenous in

time. Bergson’s contention is that Kant has illegitimately extended his treatment of space as a

homogeneous medium to time itself. 15

I am inclined to echo Kant in this conjecture of homogenous time. Time is non-hierarchical, rather we

apply qualification and quantification to it. Which means despite having ‘intuitions’ of time and space,

we mis-interpret the intrinsic character of spatio-temporality in itself. Furthermore, Kant upholds ‘there

being only the one space and only the one time.”16 Although he views time as a “condition of sensible

experience by which we are able to represent to ourselves a manifold of things as existing at one and

the same time (simultaneity) and at different times such as one after the other (succession).”17

Back to media content, it can then be determined that it is the frozen instance of the photographic

image rather than the successive linear continuity of film/video that presents us simultaneously with an

iteration of a ‘point-in-space’ and a singularity which is characteristic of the Real. With this logic, the

individual frozen motion cells of Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion series, offer the Real more than our

native apprehension of seeing a horse galloping in person. Not because the artifice of technology

provides a view-point that is unavailable to un-aided vision, but because it provides the view of what

actually is–the structure of the Universe in its independent spatio-temporal terms, without the doubleexposure

of our perceptual process of synthetic image compositing. This vision of time outside of our

experience of time is available within media works that embed simultaneity and multiplicity into

content. Whereas, content featuring alternative vision strategies such as x-ray vision, microscopic and

abstract/ cropped fragments of bodies are in my analysis classified as augmented vision via the

artifice of technological media. This is not to say that said phenomena such as a microscopic universe

does not exist, but it is not the intrinsic structure of the universe beneath our intentional visual

perception composite simulation. Maya Deren, relates photography to reality:

The application of the photographic process to reality results in an image which is unique in

several respects. For one thing, since a specific reality is the prior condition of the existence a

photograph, the photograph not only testifies to the existence of that reality (just as a drawing

testifies to the existence of the artist) but is to all intensive purposes, its equivalent. This

equivalence is not a matter of fidelity but is of a different order altogether. If realism is the term

for a graphic image which precisely simulates some real object, then a photograph must be

differentiated from it as a form of reality itself.18

Although crafting an argument within a different theoretical context, in Deren’s text, she points to a

structure wherein an authentic presentation of reality in itself is available in the photographic image

over and above mediation vis-á-vis the artist’s consciousness. What then is the relationship of media

content to consciousness? Is the simultaneity of singularity and it’s multiplicity of instances subsistent

or immanently instantiated within consciousness? Is the Real generated, mediated or merely passing

through consciousness? Photographs as a portal into to the Real, in my estimation does not extend to

all of photography. Various abstract scenarios, the aforementioned augmented or inverted forms of

vision are not in line with the actuality embedded in works that frame instances in time and space.

Although, if one were to view film cells spread out on a table it would be closer to an experience of the

Real, in seeing a whole (recorded content) only differentiated as atomized points in space (film cells).

The film cells are ultimately interchangeable which I will conclude to be the case with temporal

instances.

The primary mis-conception contributing to a synthetic spatio-temporal illusion, is in our incessant

need to surmise a causal relationship within our conscious empirical experience. Wherein fact, I would

like make a radical claim–causality is an illusion. Imagine the interchangeable film cells spread out on

the table, singularity comprised of all instances (all-time and all-space) is just that–interchangeable

homogenous units. The mistake is to re-collect the cells into a strip where one follows the other.

It is only a function of our intuitive successive counting of moments as a simulation of duration that

gives us the sensation of time passing in sequence. As with a fourth-dimension that is imperceptible,

yet understood to be existent, it’s difficult to imagine abstract time. Yet, we can recognize it in the nonlinear

editing of Experimental and Avant Garde film (which is perhaps the exception to my film as a

synthetic or illusion of linear temporality position). Films such as Chris Marker’s, La Jetée and Maya

Deren’s, Meshes of the Afternoon, offer the experience of an interpenetrating temporality. In utilizing

techniques such as showing the end at the beginning, inter-cutting scenes and repetition we see an

interweaving time that is arbitrarily unfolding. Deleuze writes of the accessibility of time available in

montage, “What amounts to montage, in itself or in something else, is the indirect image of time, of

duration. Not a homogeneous time or a spatialised duration… but an effective duration and time which

flow from the articulation of the movement-image.”19 Although, I have previously illustrated the

singularity as both spatialized and homogenous, I agree with Deleuze that a vision of time as it is in

itself is available within cinematic montage.

For example, in the plot of La Jetée (1962):

The film begins with the main character’s childhood memory of watching a man die on a jetty.

He is recruited post WWIII to be part of an experiment that aims to “pass through a loop hole in

time to find food, medicine, energy… mission: to throw emissaries into time and call past and

future into the present”. The narrator explains that the men conducting the experiment have

moved from unconscious bodies to “concentrating on men with strong mental images–if they

were able to dream another time perhaps would they be able to live in it”

When the main character first goes into psychic time travel space, “images ooze like

confessions”. It is unclear if he is dreaming, remembering or physically inhabiting past

moments of “Real children, real birds and real cats…”. He continues to search for a girl, which

he eventually meets. They meet several times and it is clear is in two times simultaneously–

physically in the post-war experiment and in a pre-war time. This is echoed by frames that

include ‘two selves’ of the girl and the main character via a mirror and a window reflection. The

narrator continues to comment on the construction of and ambiguity of time, “They have no

memories, no plans, time builds itself around them….He never knows whether he is moving

toward her, whether he is driven, he has made it up or he is dreaming.” The team leading the

experiments decides to send him to the future. He then goes back to the childhood memory he

is obsessed with (the scene the film opens with). We learn in the narration, “he thought in a

confused way that the child he had been was due to be there too watching the planes…. He

knew there was no way out of time….This haunted moment he had been granted to see as a

child was the moment of his own death.”

Constructed entirely of still photographs, each moment appears as an instance. Not only is time

interchangeable within the plot, but the individual photographic frames seem as though they could

easily be re-ordered. The only sequence that seems to be in the tempo of continuous film is when the

female lead opens her eyes, waking from a dream. It seems of course indicative of a conceptual move

to point towards the perception of time. In La Jetée, we are shown the “end” as the first scene. When

we see the “end” again as the final scene, we recognize it simultaneously as both the beginning of the

film, the end of the film, the end of the story, a childhood memory from the main character’s present

tense vantage point, the always already imminent end of his life that is about to happen and has

already happened. It is also the beginning of a new narrative (heretofore unavailable while watching

the film). The linear sequence and hence the arrow of causality for these events is at once inverted

and dissolved.

Similarly, in the plot of Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren and Alexander Hamid (1943):

We several looping yet slightly different sequences with repeated objects and motifs; keys,

mirrors, stairs, telephone and a knife. It begins with the main character walking down a path

chasing a mysterious hooded figure. While cinematically, incorporating first person and

objective view-points, she walks inside and falls asleep. We see the first path walking scene

repeated as if it is part of the dream. Several frames of the character moving through spaces

(tunnel vision, staircase, a scrim) at various speeds imply some sort of ambiguous time travel.

The main character then sees herself sleeping and sees multiple versions of herself within the

home. She watches many of the previous events, which differ slightly again. One self tries to

kill the sleeping self. She wakes again to see a man above her. She falls asleep again and

sees the events repeated- yet this time the man runs after the figure on the path. He walks into

the house and sees she’s been murdered in the chair where she was sleeping.

Meshes was filmed in 1943 and remains a perfect presentation (not representation) of the ontological

paradigm I have outlined. Not only the temporal interchangeability, but the view of multiple instances

of the same woman in a single frame, reveals being as it is outside of our illusion of a linear temporal

experience. In Meshes, we see a sampling of the aforementioned Universe of all-instances (all-time

and all-space) in a homogenous fashion. None of the selves seem more or less important, or from a

past/present and the moments in time seem equanimous. Beyond the line and body illustrations

previously outlined, Deren’s multiple bodies are both instances differentiated by their points in space

and their place in time (they are engaged in different activities simultaneously). It’s as if instances from

the all-time all-space singularity have been picked at random as a focal point. Additionally, even when

only one body in present in the frame, through montage (image retention), we are at once seeing one

of the bodies from our own point of view (as the audience) and from one of the multiple’s point of view

(another simultaneity). Deren, keenly aware of the role intentionality plays in viewing film, uses the

synthetic aspects of the medium to show us the Real as it is in itself. We are simultaneously as a

viewer watching durational successive frames using our powers of retention looking for causality and

we are positioned as an equanimous instance enfolded into abstract space-time looking out at the

other instances. It is of note here that dream or sub-conscious states are used to show us abstract

time in La Jetty and Meshes of the Afternoon. Perhaps it can then be said that the illusion of duration

and succession are exclusively a product of waking conscious states and the interchangeability of

dream-time is less synthetic than we think it to be.

As media theorist, Lev Manovich, points out, “The avant-garde strategy of collage reemerged as a “cut

and paste” command, the most basic operation one can perform on digital data. The idea of painting

on film became embedded in paint functions of film editing software. The avant-garde move to

combine animation, printed texts and live action footage is repeated in the convergence of animation,

title generation, paint, compositing and editing systems into single all-in-one packages.”20 Although he

is referencing praxis within media history, the significance of sustaining a methodology that treats

content as interchangeable homogenous units (homogenous in that all parts have equal potential to

but ‘cut or pasted’) is another way not just content but media technology present the structure of the

Real.

Time as interchangeable units of course seems out of synch with our empirical experience of being.

You might ask–how can I die before I’m born? How can a person be married before they are old

enough to walk? Herein, consciousness plays a key role to the confluence of extant presences.

I would like to argue that contemporary qualifications for actuality are antiquated and explicitly too

narrow. My cosmology of all-time and all-space includes all-forms. A form does not have to be

tangible, visible, mutually conceptually viable or empirically verifiable to be considered as existent. A

form if only immanent in consciousness has a presence and therefore has actuality in and of itself.

Therefore, your parents can imagine you growing up to be beautiful bride while you are still a child. In

imagining, the form has a presence and therefore qualifies as existent. The physical child and image

of the bride are both temporal instances that exist simultaneously. How can you die before you are

born? You’re death is imminent in your birth as a human form, it already exists for you. Without

realizing we often make ‘leaps of faith’ with respect to what we regard as existent. For example, the

way we affirm historical references, celebrities or digital objects. In each case; a personal story of

someone’s ancestor, the assumed bodily presence of public figure (never seen in person) or the

validity of digital folder would all be assumed as existent. Despite a lack of tangibility and legitimate

empirical data, they have a presence within consciousness. The presence and viability of these forms

is passed from one person to another.21 Therefore, where is the causality? Are forms generated within

consciousness or do they pass through consciousness? Even when we have the sensation of

synthesizing information to form new concepts–those forms are perhaps a cell that we subconsciously

selected from an the all-form, all-time, all-space singularity. Did I think of the form and it

therefore exists or did it exist as an always already form and I thought it? Is conscious experience just

a focusing or framing of discreet instances? Relating back to the temporal scenarios of media content,

where is the causal juncture of these scenarios? Expanding upon Immanuel Kant’s concept of the

Idea, Deleuze posits that in the time-image of cinema we are presented with time itself. Colebrook

explains

The time-image, the direct presentation of becoming itself, can be what cinema works toward,

its Idea…. An Idea is a concept pushed beyond any possible experience. Let us say that we

have the concept of cause, such that we experience our world in terms of causes and effects.

If we extend this concept beyond experience we can think of some ultimate or first cause, a

cause that is not the effect of prior cause. This might give us the Idea of God. But this can only

be an Idea, for to experience something it has to be placed within the order of time; we cannot

experience the beginning of time but we can think it. We cannot experience a first cause

because to experience something is to give it a place within a causal sequence. But while we

cannot know or experience a first cause actually, we can think it. An Idea extends the concepts

through which we think the world to a virtual point beyond the world…. Cinema has the timeimage

as its Idea.22

How does this relate to the Idea of time and our experience of time? Is time a concept or an actual

presence. Is time a virtual extensity? Take slow-motion for example,

Yet, slow-motion is not simply a slowness of speed, It is, in fact, something which exists in our

minds, not on screen, and can be created only in conjunction with the identifiable reality of the

photographic image. When we see a man in the attributes of running and identify the activity as

a run, one of the knowledges which is part of that identification is the pulse normal to that

activity. It is because we are aware of the known pulse of the identified action while we watch it

occur at a slower speed that we experience the double-exposure of time which we know as

slow-motion. It cannot occur in abstract film, where a triangle, for instance, may go fast or slow,

but having no necessary pulse, cannot go in slow-motion.23

Herein, Maya Deren is pointing to causal chain wherein slow-motion is a product of cognitive temporal

associations relevant to specific content and our intuition of time. Yet, is slow-motion an always

already phenomenon existing outside of filmic content and outside of empirical experience? Is it then

realized prior to the existence of the film, in the mind of the filmmaker, in the content itself or in one’s

apprehension of the content? In seeing slow-motion (or any filmic temporal effect) for the first time, it

appears to us as an always already phenomena. This becomes another double exposure–because it

is simultaneously instantiated and negated as a viable temporal scenario. It is instantiated as

something that is (as evident in our empirical experience of seeing it) and it’s viability is negated as it

is regarded as a synthetic temporal view compared with our non filmic temporal experience. This is

problematic because the aforementioned motion in general as an illusion, yet slow-motion as a form

would be included in the all-time all-space all-form singularity. Hence our use of and apprehension of

slow-motion is a causal simultaneity, it is both of-us (conscious instantiation) and outside-of-us (part of

the Real). We are framing or focusing on slow-motion as an instance of and from within the singularity

and at once slow-motion unfolds as an appearance of what is. Causality is not linear but

simultaneous. Forms appear for us at the same time that we intentionally focus on them. It can

therefore be said that we ourselves are just one instance, one point in time-space, a multiple within

the manifold of the time-space singularity. Using media technology and content to relate our position

in time-space, we are not watching time pass as a film as in Bergson and Russell’s17 theories, but we

are the particles of light that can be at once outside the camera, passing through the camera making

impressions on film (or micro-controllers) and projecting in space onto a surface. Rather than an

Albertain perspective positing a 1:1 relation between the self and time we are within an infinite

temporal-spatial field. Deleuze refers to cinema’s ability to shift from a single view-point to presenting

multiple vantage points simultaneously as ‘any point whatever’.24 This perspectival shift is also evident

in the early works of artist, Anthony McCall. Line Describing a Cone is a film comprised of abstract

lines which ultimately form a circle shape. The film is projected in a smoke filled room, creating a

visible cone of projected light. The viewer is invited to participate by walking around and becoming

enfolded in the projected light phenomena. Film curator and theorist, Phillipe-Alain Michaud relays the

perspectival shift in Line Describing a Cone:

With McCall’s film, the space of conventional cinema–which is based on the traditional

theater’s separation of spectator from performance and constructed according to an ideal,

single, fixed point of view–comes apart. That configuration, the traditional design of the theater

dominant throughout the twentieth century, depends on the forgetting of the phenomenon of

projection: the screen functions as a window within which an illusionist spatial perspective–a

fictive space–is reconstituted. For the perspectival space of conventional cinema, McCall

substitutes a projective space… Line even develops as the inversion of the perspectival set-up

insofar as the cone’s apex no longer coincides with the vanishing point on the horizon line

behind the screen but rather with the source of the light beam formed in the projector’s lens. In

overturning the fictive depth beyond the screen and directing it toward the real depth that

unfolds beyond it, Line opens filmic experience to tri-dimensionality. From now on film is no

longer that projected image hollowing out a semblance of depth within the wall’s surface but a

field truly formed by and merged with the projection itself. 25

Here we are not looking out at the Real as an end point, but immersed in a field–positioned as one

point within an apparatus of the Real. Michaud goes on to compare McCall’s perspectival shift to

Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic and the Copernican Revolution. Wherein, “a series of epistemological

reversals” are put forth involving re-thinking the cosmos as homogenous, potentially infinite space,

hence dissolving hierarchical space, man’s place in the universe is relativized and the end product no

longer counts as the cause of movement.26

[in McCall's film] The displacement of the emphasis from the projected image toward

the projection phenomenon results in the following:

The geometricization of space: the gallery’s homogenous and omnidirectional space

replaces the cinema’s heterogeneous space, formed as it is by different, qualitatively distinct

places (screen, theater, projection booth).

The relativization of the spectator, who is now deprived a fixed, stable point of

reference, the reappraisal of the unidirectional point of view and of the monodirectional point

of view. 27

Rather than placing an emphasis on media content or technology as a viable scenario, McCall places

the viewer’s attention simultaneously on the art installation and their position in space. The actual art

object seems to be in revealing the epistemological issue of an incessant causality mechanism. The

title, Line describing a Cone, appears to outline a causal relationship, in that the line is revealed

because of the cone. Whereas, the projected line would not exist without the projector’s light throw,

which incidentally always natively takes a cone shape. It could easily be entitled, Cone Describes a

Line. If the abstract line image film frames were not projected and the projector was turned on sans

image, a cone of light would still be present in space. However due to the format of projectors, the end

point shape/image of the cone would be a rectangle and not McCall’s signature circular line. In

projecting the circular line image content, McCall seems to create a pun of ‘form and content’ as the

form of the work unites the tri-dimensional cone form with it’s two-dimensional correlate, the circle, as

the work’s content. Ultimately, they are aspects of the same form and one doesn’t cause the other. He

is not only unraveling the perspectival, spatial aspects of film content and technology, but the causal

temporal chain of events–capture, record, edit, project, ending in viewing an image. The cone is not

captured, recorded, edited or projected as an image. It is an apriori form that unfolds simultaneously

within us (apprehension) and around us (in physical space). The cone is comprised of pervasive

particles of light that hover between positive and negative space–being visibly present as a physical

form yet, remains intangible. In this fashion, the cone is simultaneously there (in appearance) and not

there (lacking solidity of tangible physical object). Finally, Michaud postulates in McCall’s projections

that the light emission and projected form endure rather than each frame replacing the last. “We can

therefore form the following hypothesis: when succession is returned to simultaneity, the film changes

into sculpture.”28 What Michaud refers to as sculptural, is essentially the simultaneity of singularity. In

Line, the film cells of abstract line parts are multiple instances projected to ultimately form a circle

image and a large cone in space. This is not to suggest a linear temporal progression towards cone

completion as mini cone instances (native projection shape) are enacted in the projection of each

point of the circle. Additionally, despite only having visible access to parts of the circle, it is always

present as a complete form within our own Gestaltian intentional processes. On a greater scale, the

circle is already complete in one of McCall’s film cells. Deleuze refers to this phenomenon as the ‘outof-

field’.29 As an audience member, we can’t see it projected as a visibly persistent form, yet the circle

exists as a complete form (on film) at the same time that we see it slowing progressing towards

completion in the projection presentation. The circle is also an apriori form, complete prior to McCall’s

work. Just as Maya Deren cites a triangle as incapable of slow-motion, a circle form is never

incomplete. We are merely presented with an illusion of succession from an incomplete to complete

circle. The de-materialization of McCall’s project is of note, as the pervasive presence opposed to the

final (causal) image, reveals abstract time-space as it actually is. On many levels, McCall’s Line

Describing a Cone and it’s iterations use light to enact the simultaneity of the Real.

The simultaneity of being becomes manifest in the multiplicity of distributed presences. Theoretically,

the act of selecting a physical self having a conscious experience in this moment, from the singularity

of all instances of being-ness is akin to focusing on a subject to shoot, framing a scene to film,

selecting a moment to edit and projecting an image. The confluence of all instances of self exist in

abstract time-space and do not necessarily take physical form–yet exist as multiples in the immanent

presence of consciousness/memory, apparent potential/ past/future selves, digital iterations and

conceptual selves. Just as we would not recognize the slow-motion of the triangle, without being

necessarily cognizant of it, we already accept objects that have a distributed presence–existing as

virtual multiplicity. Look at how objects can simultaneously span time-space vis-á-vis technology,

consciousness and our conception of historical events. The Mayan calendar currently exists in

multiple forms–image, digital, physical, the calendar of 5th Century BCE, the implicated future years

and the intentional image/concepts of consciousness. This calendar is currently a singularity

comprised of multiplicity which is simultaneously existing in a an expanse of 2,500 + years. The

Mayans of 2,500 years ago projected via thought to us, by imagining 2011 and we project to them in

imagining the inception of the calendar. Yet, due to our synthetic compositing of the Real and

ultimately our position within our conscious experience we cannot recognize that we ourselves are

instances of simultaneous multiples. Moving to more contemporary media technologies utilizing

networked systems, such as; internet, google earth, telepresence, interactive/responsive

objects/environments and human-less aircrafts, we see evidence of the distributed presence of

multiple selves and objects, wherein one can be in multiple places simultaneously. Within new media,

the continuous data of analog film celluloid is now the atomized data of pixels. A pixel can be at once

visible on multiple desktop computers, television and mobile screens as it is at the same time

contained as numerical data on a server. Furthermore, video and photography are no longer separate

mediums, just different displays of interchangeable bits of information. Pixels, despite displaying

different color qualities, are completely homogenous in that one can mix and match (“cut and paste”)

data equally at will. Digital photos can easily be imported into video projects and videos can be

exported as a series of image frames. MIT Architecture, Media Art and Science professor, William J.

Mitchell, writes about digital images in his text, Networked Eyes,

But a digital image may have a more complex and ambiguous temporal

structure than a snapshot. A digital camera, for example, may make several exposures in very

quick succession, then automatically combine the resulting frames to achieve better tonal

rendition. Successive frames may be compared to detect moving foreground objects, then the

traces of these objects automatically removed. Frames taken from a moving viewpoint may be

combined, through a process of matching common but displaced features in successive

exposures, to produce three-dimensional digital models that can be re-navigated, in real time,

in arbitrary ways. And frames showing faces may be averaged to produce statistical reference

for use by face recognition systems.

The digital images that are produced and distributed in these varied ways are

not closed and finalized within their frames. They do not present themselves to us as

untouchable works of art, like Renaissance paintings or Edward Weston prints, but as

incomplete data fragments that invite endless mutation and recombination into larger

structures.30

Digital SLR cameras and smart phones have the capability to record video or images. “Furthermore,

the natural mode of the digital camera or camera phone is not the single frame but the sequence–the

short digital-video clip. Such clips can be played as the motion equivalent of snapshots–slices of life a

few seconds long. They can mined for telling still images, and they can function as mobile,

inexpensive, readily recombinant audiovisual fragments.”30 I predict the next iteration of this

technology will be a simultaneous recording of images and video in a stromotion, stereoscopic

fashion. This methodology is partially evident in projects like HIPerSpace and Microsoft’s Photosynth

software, which offers a complete picture created from multiple users’ photos. In cubist fashion,

Photosynth, composites vantage points which are then navigated by panning and zooming through

the perceived spatial depth of the “flat” image. You are at once viewing multiple instances (pixels,

vantage points, multiple users, spatial dimensions) presented as a singularity (complete image). In the

self-directed navigation, you are aware of simulating continuity between spatial, temporal and cultural

instances at will. The multiplicity of instances in terms of the digital image is also evident in data bases

such as Google Images. In pervasive fashion, content exists within the search engine database as

always already forms. Its seems almost impossible to add a new form, as entering a search term

always yields imagisitic results. For example, if I were to take a photo of a leaf, it already exists in

multiplicious permuting forms with the database. Herein, the future moment precedes the present

moment, as the leaf photo I am about to take has been taken. This is of course a generic example,

and one could argue my photo would be specific to my place in time and space and no two photos are

exactly the same. Which is also true. This is the interesting aspect of digital content which includes it’s

spatial and temporal location within it’s metadata. One can easily look at the pixel height, width,

overall megabyte quantity, geographical location and author of any digital file. As each point in time

and space unfolds it is recorded simultaneously as an instance in pixel/metadata/image form. In many

ways, as Google grows, it can become the simultaneous tangible/intangible instantiation of all-forms,

all-time, all-space as mediated through consciousness. How can this be? As I’m sitting here writing,

millions of moments are unfolding in time-space that are not showing up as digital data on the

network. At present, my geo-spatial presence is viewable via satellite images transmitted from Google

Earth appearing on a screen as a Google Map location. A quick search of my name, Ela Boyd, would

transmit instances of myself from the initial thought of “Ela Boyd” within the consciousness of the

person searching, then instances travel to a server, (depending on your connection) up to a satellite,

or via fiber optic wires converting electrical signals carrying data into light to a screen and ultimately

returned to consciousness in the apprehension of the search result. This inter-looping and

interpenetrating causality of states of presence is akin to the multiplicity of the circle in Line Describing

a Cone. It’s unclear which iteration of “Ela Boyd” has primacy over the other. Am I appearing in digital

form because I am an immanent form appearing in consciousness or am I an always already byte of

data enpresenting throughout a pervasive network? Mitchell also compares “The Network” and it’s

attendant “eyes” of camera phones, web and surveillance cameras to a panopticon.

The result is a new panopticon–not the architectural sort proposed by Bentham, nor even the

more subtle and insidious kind that we were confronted with by Foucalt, but a networked,

consumer-electronics version. Anywhere you happen to be, at any time, there’s probably

someone around with a camera phone, and a record of your activities might end up on the

web. It is not the thought of a central, invisible observer that increasingly disciplines us under

this condition, but the realization that the Net has a thousand eyes, and that anyone with a

personal computer and a search engine can stealthily make us objects of visual surveillance.31

In this, the Panoticon of Foucalt is emeshed with the Rhizome of Deleuze and Guattari32. Perhaps, our

“intuition” of time is not in the numerical sense (Kant) but of the singularity. Relative to the network, we

are an administrator of a system which enacts this phenomenon. To disagree with Mitchell, the

network is not a panopticon of eyes as in surveillance, but a record of being–a record of the

singularity. A system that tracks time-space instances. Our position in said system is relative in that it

is both watching us and inversely we have access to see (and modify) instances trans-time-space.

Just as the viewer becomes enfolded into the spatial field of Line Describes a Cone, the paradigmatic

lack of a specific location/position is indicative of a Universal ontology outside of the subjectivist

empirical perspective. Subjectivism becomes enfolded into interpenetrating temporal-spatial causal

states in that we are both a panopticon looking at the world (through network access) and being

looked at by technological systems with subsequent human consciousness on the other end. We are

having an experience of being existent in this moment in time-space, yet we are able to transport our

presence to other times /places within conscious recollection and literally through technology. The

disembodied distributed self is an interchangeable instance that becomes a multiplicity of selves

simultaneously instantiated vis-á-vis technological and conscious apprehension. At the same time we

transport the self to another place, the place is re-located to us. There is no specific instance of time

and place but an trans-spatio-temporality. The location transcends it’s being-ness as what it is–a

location, and becomes a spatial projection that is revealed by conscious reflection of it. Art Critic,

George Barker writes about decentralization vis-a-vis Lacan regarding Knut Asdam’s work,

For Lacan locates the gaze not in the subject but in the world. “We are beings who are looked

at, in the spectacle of the world,” Lacan insists.

As with language, the gaze pre-exists the subject, and thus the seeing subject must be

reconceived as the subject seen, just as the picture produced by consciousness is preceded

by the picture in which the subject’s centrality is lost.33

Just as a star projects its image to us–it is simultaneously an instance of its present state existent in

space, which would be considered a future for us, as we see it’s past self from millions of light years

ago in the present. It reveals itself as we call it into conscious attention. The past/present star

projection we see does not exist just because we see it, yet conversely the trans-spatio-temporal star

phenomenon would not exist if did not see it. It’s past self projecting into our present is a phenomenon

we have to participate in via conscious intentionality. It reveals itself as evident at the moment we

perceive it. Furthermore, in apprehension of this concept, we must project ourselves to the star in

space in order to imagine its present state beyond the projection of a past star we see empirically. The

star is a projection of light that simultaneously inverts it’s own past/present/future self. The causal

structure is more of a simultaneously revealing and an ontology of interweaving temporal states rather

than a linear or subjectivist progression.

All matter can be atomized into particles of energy, instances are not vapid, but energetic. Or as

Deleuze says, “pure vibrations”.34 Here again, the focus is not on the final image, but the flow of transcoded

bits of information. If what we see in apprehension of our physical world is pointillistic

projections of light particles bouncing off objects, we are inherently perceiving billions of bits of

information simultaneously which we synthesize into complete forms. We further utilize protention and

retention to composite a complete tri-dimensional form. If one were to compare pixels to atoms, in

both, we would find interchangeable homogenous instances. We can infer that an instance of a

cohesive form is merely one iteration of it’s multiplicity of form-ness. As outlined thus far, instantiations

of parallel forms are not potential, future or past iterations in our common linear understanding, but

structural permutations of homologous bits that compose all that the form is, was, will and could be. All

iterations of it’s form-ness are happening simultaneously. What if we could visually see the multiplicity

of these theoretical “bits” and instances on all levels–pixels, light particles, atoms, multiple instances

distributed across time and space. We could see ourselves becoming what we were, while we revert

to what we are. All parallel potential options imminent in our being-ness are available and

simultaneously visible. Each self recalled into the consciousness of future individuals and recorded in

data banks is mapped out in front of us. Every permutation of each atom and pixel becomes evident.

Imagine the all-space all-time all-form Universe of the Real we are immersed in is not an abstract

concept, but splayed out in front of us as a spatially extensive and collapsed constellation of

stroboscopic vision. What if we literally saw multiple versions of ourself as in Meshes of the afternoon?

How would we focus on one self or one experience in our preferred format of linear succession?

Which film would we choose to live in from all of the options? How could we coordinate our narrative

to overlap with another person’s chosen experience? What social and moral strata would be involved

in choosing each experience? How can one gauge which always already scenario is the best for all of

the selves? We would have to strip all perceptions that cooperate in our mediated synthetic composite

of being. From Michael Bull’s essay, Mediation,

To the mediation of knowledge by the senses, then we must add the mediation of the senses

themselves by culture and history. From this point of view, “looking” and “hearing” are indeed

mediated cultural practices, as are notions of what it is to “remember” or to “experience”

anything at all. How we experience one another and the world around us is necessarily

mediated by the recognized and unrecognized cultural baggage with which we learn how “to

be” in the world. As the anthropologist Kathleen Linn Geurts aptly puts it: “Sensory

orientations, therefore, represent a critical dimension of how ‘culture and psyche make each

other up’ and play a critical role in a person’s sensibilities… And these sensoriums may affect

the very basic features of our ability to judge each other.”35

How would the mediation of technology help us strip away illusionistic perceptual abilities generated

from this ‘cultural baggage’? It seems the over-stimulation and de-sensitization of ubiquitous

interactive devices is perhaps not a cultural humanistic problem, but a transitionary state towards

seeing the way in which we inhabit the singularity. Devices, such as smart phones, laptops, interactive

kiosks/ATMs/self-checkout systems mediate our experience with the physical world. Just as the

camera is often described as a mask/ shield from the world36, we use networked systems as both

barriers and interfaces or portals to the physical “real” world. In doing so, we become adept at being

simultaneously embodied and dis-embodied. Being partially disembodied, simultaneously existing in

virtual forms, how are we to interact with the physical world? Would we pick up an intangible object

and pretend to perceive it as physical? What criteria are we using to choose a given

permutation/instance of an object to interact with? Would an object trans-mutate in response to our

desires or would it be amorphous in the way water finds its level? Using the current technological

human-machine interface schema of physical > digital/intangible > physical not only allows us to

become adept at simultaneously mapping the virtual onto the actual, but enfolds us into the networked

system. Within networks, such as the Internet, bits of information travel to and from nodes (servers,

web pages) which are all homogenous (non-hierarchical). By design, nothing is above or more

important than the other. Of course search engines stimulate a mediated hierarchy, but fundamentally

all parts are equally accessible. This sets a cultural standard of moving away from unique and

“special” forms towards memes–forms that exist in multiplicity, slightly iterated via interchangeable

data. This takes the focus away from the individual self as the generator of concepts. It becomes more

about the total gesture of all meme iterations (easily viewable in simultaneous image viewing software

formats, such as Google Images and Manovich’s ImagePlot). Wherein the total gesture of all meme

iterations is the singular form. The meme itself is positioned as the form generator rather than the

individual artist. The meme uses the consciousness of the artist as a host to propagate itself. Works

that dissolve the artist as causally related to art production are more relevant in terms of the

interconnected object/subject memetic paradigm I’ve outlined. What happens when the self becomes

a meme? If each distributed self could consciously collect information simultaneously, would we be

more like a networked super-computer than a slowly evolving intelligence attached to a physical

body? Herein, I would theorize that media would help us to focus and frame a given instance. Just as

the camera frames and focuses on an aspect of the whole picture, we would use media devices to

help us see and experience one instance of the all-instance singularity. Rather than regarding media

as a simulation that re-enacts “real-life” (as is the current sentiment), media will render the continuity

simulation of our current illusionistic ontological paradigm. We will simultaneously have a distributed

presence aware off all instances of being while engaged in a simulation of one self moving forward in

linear causal succession. I have already outlined our contemporary ontological paradigm as a

simultaneous singularity (only visible via various media) which is ultimately mis-perceived as a

synthetic successive composite. Just as Deleuze regards the Time-Image wherein “we move from the

virtual to the actual: from all possible creations to actualized events.”37, The future paradigm is an

inverse double-exposure of being–perceiving the simultaneous singularity at all times and consciously

choosing a synthetic composite as needed via media.

Endnotes:

1. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man Rev ed. (Boston, MA:

MIT Press, 1994)

2. Temporology, my term not theirs

3. Keith Ansell Pearson, Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual Bergson and the Time

of Life (London, UK: Routledge, 2002) 3.

4. Pearson, 4.

5. Pearson, 10.

6. Claire Colebrook, Giles Deleuze (London, UK: Routledge, 2002) 51.

7. Pearson, 13.

8. Pearson, 23.

9. Colebrook, 4.

10. (paraphrase) Pearson 19.

11. Pearson 20.

12. Pearson 22.

13. Maya Deren, Essential Deren: Collected Writings on Film (Kingston, NY: McPherson &

Company, 2005), 116.

14. Pearson, 5.

15. Pearson, 208.

16. Pearson, 29.

17. Pearson, 30.

18. Deren, 116.

19. Colebrook, 48.

20. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001) 15.

21. See writing on attention economy: Ela Boyd, Reflection, Refraction, Projection (Los Angeles,

CA: There Not There Publishing 2011) 57-58, 63.

22. Colebrook, 52.

23. Deren, 121.

24. Colebrook, 31.

25. Phillippe-Alain Michaud, “Line Light: The Geometric Cinema of Anthony McCall” October 137

(Summer 2011): 8.

26. Michaud, 13.

27. Michaud, 13-14.

28. Michaud, 15.

29. Colebrook, 44.

William J. Mitchell, “Networked Eyes” in Caroline A. Jones, ed., Sensorium: Embodied

Experience, Technology and Contempory Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 178-179.

30. Mitchell, 175-176.

31. See Rhizome: Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and

Schizophrenia trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: Univerisity of Minnesota Press, 1987)

32. George Barker, “pulsatile, dazzling, and spread out”, Knut Asdam Portfolio Website

http://www.knutasdam.net/Texts/FinalTexts/Baker.pdf (1997-1998),6.

33. Colebrook, 44.

34. Michael Bull, “Mediation” in Caroline A. Jones, ed., Sensorium: Embodied Experience,

Technology and Contempory Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 167.

35. see also writing about camera as weapon, Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York, NY:

Picador, 1977), 14-15.

36. Colebrook, 33.

37. Chris Marker, La Jeteé, 1962.


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