Slowness and the Still

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Revisiting Leighton’s Art and the Moving Image for a third time -necessary by all means due to the sheer density of the fantastic work – I have come to discover great value in the last section of the introduction: “Slowness/The Still.”

My interest in the works of the works of video artists such as Thierry Kuntzel, Michael Snow, and David Claerbout fall well into this category. Their experimental techniques for video production introduced “the still” as a powerful embodiment of all that can be achieved from a fixed perspective.

Such a technique creates “an ambiguous stillness, a ‘dynamic stasis’ (as media theorist Thomas Y. Levin characterises it), more commonly associated with photography than with film” (Leighton, 39). In many respects, this technique appears tame compared to the more experimental works of those familiarizing themselves with the medium. One might even see such a lack of interaction as regression to the comforts of traditional photography techniques. In actuality, this is far from the case.

Leighton continues: “These works are static images, yet at the same time they are moving; they create a heightened awareness of time’s passing. In slowing down, halting the image or simply showing it as it is, slowness perhaps becomes a new and vital artistic strategy, one that brings about renewed attention to an ‘archaeology’ of time” (ibid).  In her rhetoric it becomes clear that the masterful effect of such films is that they convey the ceaseless passage of time. Your senses are manipulated as you view the image as simply that – an image – yet are caught off guard by the slight movements and interplay of motion. This is especially true for Claerbout’s Ruurlo, Bocurloscheweg (1910) and Kuntzel’s Venices. 

The technique of fixed perspective to create slowness is not one to be so quickly overlooked. The dialogue  Leighton commences in her writing is absolutely brilliant and has allowed me the chance to foster a new appreciation for the works of video artists wishing to achieve a slow or even still effect in their films.

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