At the start of my PhD research, I delineated its context as follows:
Exploring the multiple in a ‘cinema of attractions’
The multiple as such. Here’s a set undefined by elements or boundaries. Locally, it is not individuated; globally it is not summed up. So it’s neither a flock, nor a school, nor a heap, nor a swarm, nor a herd, nor a pack. It is not an aggregate; it is not discrete. It’s a bit viscous perhaps. A lake under the mist, the sea, a white plain, background noise, the murmur of a crowd, time.
Michel Serres, Genesis, pp. 4-5
Multiplicity is a fundamental and constituent component of the phenomenological infrastructure of contemporary multifaceted society (Crocker, 2008). In my doctoral research project, I will use multiple instances of specific interventions in search of a contemporary iteration of the concept ‘cinema of attractions’ (Gunning, 1990).
In addition to being a historical time indication in early cinema theory, ‘cinema of attractions’ also “defines a mode of representation by establishing an opposition between attraction and narrative” (Kessler, 2006). In this second meaning the concept ‘cinema of attractions’ provides the theoretical framework for my research; as an everpresent undercurrent it surges to the surface in the form of ‘Expanded Cinema’ exploits (Youngblood, 1970) or in more contemporary materializations catalogued under the denominator ‘Future Cinema’ (Shaw & Weibel, 2003).
What is central in such a ‘cinema of attractions’ is generating curiosity with the observer, and doing so not by concentrating on the narrative message conveyed, but by trying to expand the code of the medium itself.
To reach this goal I will set up a number of experiments using a methodology of deconstruction and subversion of the perfected apparatus that video has become, a methodology inspired by the media-archeological origins and evolution of that machinery.
The current focus in my work
The approach in both my arts practice and my PhD research is inspired by media archaeology: look in the rear-view mirror, gauge the affordances of an older and maybe analogue media technology, and explore how it can re-inject curiosity and wonder into our relationship with the techno aesthetics of contemporary society.
Cylindrical anamorphosis is one such seemingly obsolete visual media technology. It has its origins in a 17th century Baroque context of natural and artificial magic: a distorted image can be observed in its reconstituted form through reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The analogue cylindrical mirror has the strange pre-digital processual power to generate images based on the position of the observer. In our media-saturated world where digital processual images are becoming standard, cylindrical anamorphosis uses its own analogue processual power and re-injects its wild analogue magic back into this 21st century digital media apparatus. However, by using moving images that are digitally manipulated, cylindrical anamorphosis is contaminated by the present, and becomes a hybrid contemporary version of artificial magic.
The appropriation of cylindrical anamorphosis is the central research topic in my practice-based PhD. A series of appropriations enables—or even demands—cross-links to other art disciplines such as music and dance, and a media archaeology inspired methodology of short-circuiting past and present can fashion new and imaginary media forms that may provide new insights into how we engage with media, and how media define us as human beings.