The Crystal Image: A Theoretical Approach to Image Perception Across Film and Photography

Sutton, Damian Peter (2002) The Crystal Image: A Theoretical Approach to Image Perception Across Film and Photography. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis uses the influential philosophy of Gilles Deleuze to understand the relationship that photography has with time. Deleuze's concept of the time-image, developed in his books on cinema after the philosophy of Henri Bergson, offers a glimpse of pure duration. From this he proposed a taxonomy of cinema in which certain cinemas represent time abstractly via movement (movement-images), whilst other cinemas engage perception of time directly (time-images). Time unfolds from the latter non- chronologically, because they force the viewer into contemplation of the act of photography itself. The result is the crystalline structure of memory- images that form perception and interpretation. Deleuze initially dismissed the photograph as incapable of representing time in this direct manner, since photographs (as photogrammes) are the basis for the sensory-motor schema upon which the movement-image depends. The thesis re-investigates this situation and sets out the conditions in which photographs can, in fact, represent time directly, and without connection to this schema. From then on the thesis examines the crystal-image and the connection between photographs and cinema: both the act of photography and photography as an object in a relationship with memory. Chapter One demonstrates how Deleuze's initial dismissal of photography can be re-oriented by returning to the essential conditions of the time- image. The chapter argues for some photographs to be considered as crystal images, as they fulfil three necessary conditions established from Deleuze's work: Time-images must demonstrate a splitting of time beyond the image's apparent connection to movement; time-images must be free of depicting space and time as interdependent, and must make 'tense' irrelevant to the image; time-images must be self-referential in order to create free indirect discourse between perception and the objects perceived. Chapter Two uses Deleuze's work on Leibniz to demonstrate the connection between cinema and the photograph suggested in Chapter One, and proposes that they are connected by a genetic element: the pure optical situation (opsign) that they share. The extraordinary diversity that is apparent between cinema and the-photograph is challenged by understanding this genetic element as a monad, a single entity with pleats and folds that are viewed as entirely different. To demonstrate this, the chapter considers films in which photographs, or photography, are referenced, and where the problems of their representation of reality are questioned. These films, In the Street, kids, Funny Face, and L'Annee derniere a Marienbad, are proposed as crystal-images that rely upon this monadic connection to be made apparent. Chapter Three considers the context of Henri Bergson's writing on memory and cinema. It compares the cinema of the Lumieres to the photography of Eugene Atget in order to demonstrate the division of time by perception that Bergson, and then Deleuze, suggest. The chapter also accounts for the relegation of the photograph in criticism to a medium that is unable to depict time as a passing, and which is therefore persistently connected with death, as it is by Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes. Chapter Four employs the photographs of Cindy Sherman as a case study to demonstrate the fragmentation of subjectivity and objectivity that occurs in their reference to film and visual culture. The critical responses these images provoke in writers demonstrate the structure or 'environment' of the crystal image - in this case promoted by the images' narrative ability, or narrativity. Chapter Five considers the process of photography that is at the heart of the crystal environment. The coming into being of the photographic image is understood via Deleuze's notion (with Felix Guattari) of becoming. The chapter uses the early experimental filmmaking of Andy Warhol, particularly My Flustler, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Empire, to explore the artist and his work as a demonstration of this becoming in photography. Becoming is the essential seed of photography's direct representation of time, and Warhol's work - which reduced artistic production to 'one extreme function' - presents the photographic image in its role as opsign before intervention by perception, criticism, and practice separates cinema from photography, and consequently creates the conception of photography and time which provoked the study in this thesis. The thesis has a short Conclusion that looks beyond the study of time represented in photography to propose conditions of the time-image in relation to painting and the digital image, and thereby across representation as a whole.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Bill Marshall
Keywords: Philosophy, Art criticism
Date of Award: 2002
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2002-75787
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 18:11
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 18:11

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