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Cinema's Silk Routes


One of the questions that never get asked of independent video work as it was, compulsively, of film is: Who is this made for? Who is the target audience? This could be a historical shift – from the struggling and resentful 1980s to the growing purchasing power and magnanimity of consumerist 21st century with its attendant growth in audio-visual sensibility, following the boom in television and now internet content. It could also be a particular unassuming quality of video itself.   I began work myself in the film medium and therefore for many years approached video as poor woman’s cinema. Only recently has the specificity of this medium begun to reveal itself to me. Today, I find it useful and exciting for exploring both self-expression and audio-visual aesthetics that I hope one day to take back into film! Dream on, say the trade magazines, promising doom (no, that’s not an oxymoron – one man’s promise often is another woman’s doom) with pixel sizes and hard-disk capacities, which are rapidly going to outpace film resolution. Is there no research happening at all on the film front, one wants to know. Is Kodak actually going to fold up and die, or worse, begin to manufacture HD diskettes? Is that really ‘worse’? If so, for whom? What exactly am I holding on to? Nostalgia? These are the questions I’d like to address in this article.   Among video’s default strengths is the duration it offers for lengthy shots. This does not automatically make it Deleuze’s time image but it certainly facilitates the search for it. Theoretically a shot in video can be as long as an hour without requiring a cut, for that’s the default duration of a shooting tape (as against the 4 or maximum 10 minutes in a film reel). This can stretch to three hours with a recorder attached, and become virtually indefinite with a hard-disk attachment. What this immediately reconstitutes is the possibility of ‘live performance’—I say, reconstitutes, because in the origins of cinema what we had was performance and narrative broken up to suit an assembly-line production of ‘alienated’ shots. And I call it ‘live’ not with reference to the body but with reference to real time. Video facilitates immeasurably the rendering of extended and open-ended (improvisatory) mise en scene.   Editing then becomes not about the construction of a dismembered whole but about lateral shifts—...

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