About Vision

Some recent words of resonance from Pip Chodorov in a discussion concerning Canyon Cinema's escalating troubles...

This is a point that concerns me on a daily
basis, as a publisher of video reproductions of
avant-garde films.

It is essential to see the films on film. It is

not enough that a reproduction looks good, or
looks like the original. What is important is not
what it looks like, but what it IS.

When I film an event on 8mm or 16mm - a flower, a

sunrise, a smile, whatever - the emulsion is
phsyically altered on a molecular level on the
film strip, the developing chemicals transform
these into opacity and transparency, the
projector's light is again physcically altered by
this opacity and transparency, and the light that
hits the screen and bounces into my retina is
physically affecting my optic nerve, lateral
geniculate nucleus and the visual cortex in my
occipital lobe, again on a physical, cellular,
atomic level. There is a direct, physical
connection between the original event - the
flower, the sunrise, the smile - and the here and
now of watching it, my brain stimulus,
invigorated by the flicker which produces the phi
phenomenon, transforming the rapid slide show
into motion.

In a digital reproduction of the film, there is a

veil of zeroes and ones interposed; these have no
basis in material reality; the lack of flicker
means no phi phenomenon, but only the beta effect
is produced. We are far removed from the original
physical event of filming, no matter how much it
"looks like" it.

This is why I called my company "Re:Voir" - "to

see again," or, "about vision" - to raise
consciousness that the DVDs are only
reproductions to be used for study purposes,
after we have seen the original film projected on
film. These are only high-quality reproductions,
such as a good Rizzoli art catalogue, that nobody
would ever possibly mistake for the real thing.
And no Cézanne lover would avoid a good Cézanne
show, simply because they already have a
catalogue with good color reproductions. Would a
Brakhage lover stay home if Dog Star Man came to
their home town, just because they happen to have
the DVD on their shelf?

Of course the digital signal is an interesting

artistic medium too, since the neuronal brain
activity in the act of vision is also made up of
digital signals, but film artists using physical
film technology to capture moments of life or
perception are anticipating the physical
projection event, just as a painter anticipates
that people will see his canvas on the wall, not
a photocopy, or a jpeg on a website...