Film-Philosophy

Journal | Salon | Portal (ISSN 1466-4615)

Vol. 6 No. 14, July 2002

 

 

Melissa Clarke

Senses of Time Evoked by Artistic Images

 

 

 

_Time and the Image_

Edited by Carolyn Bailey Gill

Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000

ISBN 07190 58139 (hb) 07190 58147 (pb)

221 pp.

 

_Time and the Image_ is a wide-ranging collection of articles discussing various aspects of artistic images and their relations to, or differing ways of evoking a sense of, time. The papers draw on psychoanalytic theory and philosophy, as well as film theory, critical theory, and the visual arts. Carolyn Bailey Gill has selected these papers from among those presented at the 1997 Conference on Time and the Image in London.

 

Throughout the history of modern aesthetics there had been a general consensus that 'the image' was a reified static object. An image was considered to be something individually circumscribed, definable, and as such knowable and fixed. Consequently, discussions of the relation of time and the image tended to be focused on the changes or affects on an image over time, which was conceived purely as a linear progression. As a more specific example of this line of thinking, one could consider that its aesthetics questions might perhaps be focused on issues of the pros and cons of restoration or preservation of an artistic image.

 

An alternative to this way of thinking is the more contemporary idea that an image may evoke a sense of time. On this view, an artistic image is an indeterminate part of a wider set of fluidic relations, among them the possible relation between an image and the functioning of time. Accordingly, time may be revealed through an image. In addition, time itself may be other than a continuous linear progression. Consideration of the way in which these senses of time are produced opens up a whole new field of study. Generally speaking, it is in this sense that the papers in _Time and the Image_ consider images and time. The papers represent an array of alternative ways to consider images as evoking various senses of time.

 

The most philosophical of the papers were 'Time and the Image' by John Sallis and Patrick ffrench's ''Time in the Pure State': Deleuze, Proust, and the Image of Time'. Both these works considered the time relation itself to be an issue; that is, they considered 'what' time may be. Sallis's contribution reinterprets a traditional rendition of Plato's philosophy of time in 'Timaeus' and relates this to Heidegger's view of time as a tension between the internal and the external. He outlines the traditional understanding, which was that Plato claimed that first was created the heavens and then, separately, something signifying time was created. In contradistinction to this, Sallis reinterprets the Greek text, showing that a more accurate translation of the relevant passages of the 'Timaeus' holds that the creation of the heavens precisely was creating an image of time. Thus Sallis's contribution clearly emphasizes an understanding of the sense in which a somewhat reified object (in this case, the heavens) can also be conceived to evoke time. He continues by considering how a sense of time can be produced, describing the way in which, rightly understood, Plato held time to be an external relation rather than an internal psychological mechanism, which would change the traditional understanding and interpretation of both Plato and time. Sallis then credits Heidegger for broadening this sense and emphasizing the degree to which time is both an internal and an external relation. Ultimately, Sallis describes the way in which this reorienting of time is borne out in Claude Monet's 'Wheatstacks'. ffrench's paper also considers the problem of time as a pure movement of relation. He contrasts Bergson and Deleuze's notions of time as a simultaneity of presents and pasts, to the Freudian depiction of time as a progression with intervals, and describes the way in which both of these theoretical perspectives are exemplified in artistic images.

 

Many of the papers come from a psychoanalytic understanding of time, particularly 'The Strut of Vision: Seeing's Corporeal Support', where Joan Copjec's argument contrasts this understanding to that of film theory's. Copjec's discussion of time as interval focuses attention on the spectator as embodied, which is opposed to film theory's earlier attempts to depict an abstract disembodied seer as the audience for film. Film theory's rendition of the disembodied viewer, Copjec argues, emphasizes time as an uninterrupted linear progression, unaffectable by any relation which might bend or alter it. By contrast, the reality of an embodied viewer relating to the images introduces the possibility of stops and starts, gaps and intervals in perception, all of which produce a difference sense of time. The essay 'Reliquary Art: Orlan's Serial Operation' by Howard Caygill continues Copjec's consideration of the body and its relation to time and the image. Caygill considers Orlan's body work with reliquaries to be another attempt to interrupt the linear model of time; in effect, neutralizing it by evoking a consideration of the effects of preservation. Caygill also argues that the fleshy quality of the 'images' and the questions of decay and preservation contribute to this sense of the suspension of time.

 

Two of the articles discuss the production of the sense of time in film or, more precisely, in moving images. A contribution by Laura Mulvey considers the photograph to be uniquely related to time inasmuch as it can cause the viewer to hesitate, which in turn initiates a realization of the ordinary movement of time and the way in which that can be interrupted. Peter Wollen continues in like manner by describing the centrality of moving images in Goethe's description of the Hellenistic sculpture 'Laocoon'. These moving images can occur by fluttering the eyelids while gazing at the sculpture. Wollen links moving imagery in this instance to the phenomena of anxiety and fear, and then considers the importance of these elements of terror for evoking a time image. The effects created by terror, he argues, lead to an acknowledgement of punctuation of time by intervals or gaps.

 

In addition, there is an interesting exchange which considers the trifold relation between time, the image, and the viewer. This exchange involves a pair of articles, one by Thierry de Duve entitled 'On incarnation: Sylvie Blocher's 'L'anonce amoureuse' and Edouard Manet's 'A Bar at Folies Bergere'', and a brief reply by Sylvie Blocher in 'Le Double touche, or: Gendering the Address'. Duve gives a detailed comparison between Blocher's work, particularly 'L'anonce amoureuse', and Manet's painting. He makes the compelling argument that Blocher extends Manet's work by exposing the intricate connections between who is in authority, what is being represented and to whom, and the interrelations between form and content. He also considers that while Manet captured relations of reversal and the precise moment of transference of address in the 'double touche' phenomenon, Blocher added the dimension of humanity to the image in process. Blocher's reply tends to agree generally with Duve's observations, but she adds that her work also intended to present the feminine element often missing in art. Her response also features an interesting discussion of her claim that each individual person embodies a dualism consisting in a masculine and a feminine aspect.

 

Parveen Adams in 'Out of the Blue' and Mieke Bal in 'Sticky Images: The Foreshortening of Time in the Art of Duration' also consider the relation of art and the viewer. Adams returns to the psychoanalytic rendering of time as interval, describing this interval as a movement in play between an image and its reverse and the effect of this on the viewer. She argues that Catherine Yass's photographic work exemplifies this sense of time. Adams also explains the way the image functions at the level of representation, which is the same relation as that of the signifier in Lacanian psychoanalysis. Bal's paper complements this by considering the way still and 'sticky' images evoke time while simultaneously functioning as social agents. This is possible, she argues, because sticky images and images that draw the viewer in, in a process of duration, mimic time's relative, relational qualities. This in turn reveals the relative, relational, indeterminate characteristics of the socio-cultural world and its milieu to the audience.

 

Several of the articles discussed above have also evidenced influences of cultural, literary, and critical theory. Another to be counted among these is Alexander Garcia Duttmann's 'Lifeline and Self-Portrait'. This work draws on Benjamin and Adorno to argue that self-understanding occurs through the doubling of perspectives which are non-coincident. This doubling, or divergence, provides a transformation or a revelation of the structure of self which is that it just is this doubling of perspectives. This also reveals time as non-linear and allows the viewer to consider the suspension of ordinary reliance on the process of direct causation. Duttman concludes that this divergent relation is best revealed in the self-portrait.

 

The various articles in this work, taken together, form an interesting network of perspectives on ways time can be revealed in artistic images. From still images to film, from disintegrating art to art that preserves body tissue, we are shown how images portray time in its various manifestations as interval, gap, reversibility, frozen moment, eternal return, internal or external relation, flow, and multiple layered reality. Each piece contributes a different perspective of analysis from which to interpret the relationship between time and various images in the arts. And yet, all of the contributions to this volume had at least one similar, and therefore common, aim; namely that of freeing the image from its formal, reified basis, and emphasizing instead the intersection between time and the image.

 

The College of Saint Rose

Albany, New York, USA

 

 

Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 2002

 

Melissa Clarke, 'Senses of Time Evoked by Artistic Images', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 6 no. 14, July 2002 <http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol6-2002/n14clarke>.

 

 

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