Silvia Ulloa: INTERVAL
Advisor/tutor: Alena Alexandrova
Independent reviewer: Facs of Life (Silvia Maglioni & Graeme Thomson)
Arnhem, June 2014
This thesis engages in the analysis of the space of the interval, to explore its functions and possibilities as a crucial figure involved in the process of meaning-making. My personal interest relies on interval within the field of film as a practice based on
I have structured my text under two modes and three paradigms from where to look at the space of the interval. Two interval modes: relational and constitutive. Three paradigms or situations: fold, grid and cut. Three possibilities: to merge, to divide, and to rejoin. To ask: What is the essence of montage? Fold, grid and cut have served as a tool for me to be able to visualize and articulate and connect various questions and engage with the interval in the field of my interest, film, as well as in other fields such as sculpture and painting.
The camera will film that what there is in between you and me. It won't record either 'You' or 'Me'. What there is in between 'You' and 'Me'. That is all that exists.
Form is appearance
Structure is resistance
In general, I found this a well-written, well-organized and « clear-cut» exposition of the subject under investigation. The three part structure of fold, grid and cut provides a useful and effective, if occasionally limiting, structuring principle, and the examples selected to illustrate or explain each approach are aptly chosen, even while certain of them may appear, to this reviewer at least, somewhat overcited.
In current parlance, haven't we reached « peak Marker » or at least « peak Jetée » talking about the essay film or « peak Warburg » in relation to the theory of montage?
But to consider each section of the essay in more depth, beginning from the first chapter on the fold. Here Ulloa's approach to the question of folding in relation to film seems to echo the materialist concerns of structural cinema, by focusing on what is normally foreclosed by the representational « ideology » of the moving image , its disavowed « support » structures. This is interesting, particularly in the moments when she relates it to her own practice of folding film strips such that the images form a dark mass in which they cancel each other out. It's a pity that these references to her own practice were not developed in more depth, particularly with regard to her interest in the space of affect. What can be said about the fact that the « pile » itself forms not simply an object but also another encompassing image of a pile of photograms (here one might think of another overused, though in this case, perhaps useful scene, that of Benjamin's Angel of History, the rubble of which piles up at his feet) whose own conditions of visibility and capacity to produce meaning remain in question? (Might a pile of photograms be equated to a «collapsed » film ?). How does Ulloa negotiate her presencing of such foldings of film as material both within and without the filmic frame as image ?
But there's something else that gets lost here, another more subtle sense of folding that remains an immanent possibility of cinema in its more traditional representational forms, one that, through the folds of memory and history, whether in the subjective experience of a character or the material world being filmed, interferes with the supposed linearity of filmic time. It's strange that after introducing a graphic illustration of a moebius strip, Pep Vidal's Timeline without orientation, the artist doesn't go on to consider how this kind of folding can operate within narrative cinema itself (in the experiential timewarps of Resnais, Robbe-Grillet, Mankiewicz, Welles, Rivette and Lynch to take only a few examples), nor does she appear to see the ways in which it would connect to her later discussion of Marker's La Jetee, whose own moebius timewarp narrative she completely ignores in favour of a somewhat literal reading of the intervallic spaces between images, when the film relies precisely on the tension it generates between temporal continuity and discontinuity.
Here is just one of the points at which the thesis might have benefitted from a more supple reading of the potential lines (or signs) of interrelatedness that traverse its three terms - fold, grid and cut. For instance the way that Matta Clark's split house makes visible a fold in time in which the virtual image of house as a whole persists, although it can no longer be retrieved in actuality. Or the effect of the imperfections in Agnes Martin's infinitessimally wayward geometries, variations in pressure that introduce accentuated rhythmic folds in perception of the grid. Occasionally, there is an attempt to make such linkages, but the somewhat rigid demarcation of the chapters in which each term is discussed in turn, as well as the brevity of the exposition, tends to mitigate against them. At the conclusion to the chapter on the grid she says of Andre « His practice resembles that of a filmmaker, as in both cases the result of the process is an organization of equal materials (bricks, still images in celluloid) in the form or idea of the grid. » an assertion that would seem rather forced without further qualification and one which begs a number of questions. In what sense would a filmmaker work towards the form of a grid, beyond the transformation of film into a geometrical organization of filmstrips (but in that case more as a work of visual art in the manner of the side-projects of Mekas and other experimental filmmakers)? Perhaps a discussion of Andre's relation to the cinematic practice of Hollis Frampton might have been useful here, particularly as a way of showing how series are themselves a form of non-linear organization (e.g. the alphabetic series of Zorn's Lemma) which problematizes both the interval and the relative fixity of the components in the series . And
then does a single film strip already constitute a grid, or does it require more than one? And if that is so doesn't this also imply a form of cutting. Can individual photograms be considered « equal materials »? And so on.
The last chapter on the cut considers more specifically the interval as space of thought in cinema, particularly the essay film.
Here again there are some good examples though they are each given a somewhat cursory treatment that relies a lot on secondary sources.
The conclusion, meanwhile, introduces some highly interesting ideas about the possible role of interference (particularly of non-filmic materials) in intervallic spaces and of possible redistributions of the components of the image, that it would have been nice to see explored at greater length, making me wonder why these questions were not more thoroughly integrated into the body of the essay.
That said, what emerges is a good, wide raging introduction to a topic that will hopefully inspire Ulloa to further investigation and reflection in her practice. Facs of Life