Mike Frank points to an interesting analogy when he writes on using video
in place of film:
<<it obviously is easier, less
annoying, more pleaant, to read a poem that is printed clearly on clean
paper, than it is to read the very same poem handwritten over the print
on an
old sheet of newspaper . . . but isn't the poem exactly the same in both
cases? . . . does the text itself change when the medium of delivery
Perhaps one way of re-phrasing this analogy would be in terms more
similar to those used by Walter Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age
of Mechanical Reproduction" and consider the difference between say,
reading an illuminated manuscript versus a xerox copy of an illuminated
manuscript. Like a film, there is a certain uncanny pleasure in the
reading of an illuminated manuscript, a presence, an aura, if you will
that is lost in the xerox copy. The pleasure in reading a xerox is re-
located to the affect of the words, not in the medium itself, which is an
aesthetically degraded form compared to something like an illuminated
manuscript. I think there's an analogy that can be made with film;
because of the lower resolution or variations in light emissions, film
transferred to video is a degraded form of the film...there's a loss of
aura in the reproduction due to its detachment from the original, to
frame it in explicitly Benjaminian terms.
It seems to me that the loss of aura has been "filled in" by the upcoming
generation of students by a love for technology for its own sake...an
excitement about competing visual technologies - laser disk, video, digital
imaging - and what that competition means in terms of democratizing
access to creating visual imagery and the control of its production.
I'm not passing judgment on whether this posture is good or bad, as much as
I'm struggling to say that there are generational differences towards
film/cinema v. "other" technologies which seem to be at the heart of this
discussion and which are worth considering. Aesthetic judgment is, after
all, historically produced, and the development of new technologies can't
help but effect new aesthetic standards in ways which we cannot anticipate.
Isn't that something that the history of film's own technology teaches us?
Meryem Ersoz
University of Oregon
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