montreal, 9th september 2002
Futurists, Dadaists and other modern artists saw advances in photographic and cinematic technologies as a possible way to represent movement in their arts. In the 1916 manifesto The Futurist Cinema, Marinetti and five others rejected contemporary concepts of the cinema, and offered the possibility of cinema as a form of theatre without words, hailing it as "a new art, immensely vaster and more agile than all others existing". They declared cinema could be the most dynamic of human expressions because of its ability to synthesize all of the traditional arts, unleashing a form that was totally new. The Futurist cinema would free words from the fixed pages of the book and "smash the boundaries of literature" while it would enable painting to "break out of the limits of the frame." Futurist Cinema was described as "painting + sculpture + plastic dynamism + words-in-freedom + intoned noise + architecture + synthetic theatre" where the idea was to "project two or three different visual episodes at the same time, one next to the other".
One of the earliest Futurist expressions of this artistic exploration of the moving image, Bragaglia's 1913 manifesto Futurist Photodynamism was intended to reject contemporary methods of cinematography and chronophotography on another basis. He wrote: "We are not interested in the precise reconstruction of movement, which has already been broken up and analysed. We are involved only in the area of movement which produces sensation... We despise the precise, mechanical, glacial reproduction of reality, and take the utmost care to avoid it. For us this is a harmful and negative element, whereas for cinematography and chronophotography it is the very essence."
In Berlin, Hans Richter (one of the earliest exponents of Dada) was also one of the first to recognize the new possibilities cinematography offered the artist. He participated in the avant-garde film movement that included Léger, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, Cocteau and Dali.
As the Dada groups began to break up, Richter began to study musical counterpoint, in which two or more melodic lines are combined to complement or contrast with one another. He turned his efforts to translating the idea of contrasting themes and polarity from music to painting. Richter and Eggeling began to focus on the polar relationships between elementary forms, and these relationships developed into "a kind of continuity, not only a relationship in space and on the surface - but also one in time". Both artists began to create scroll paintings, works done on long strips of paper or canvas. In 1919 Richter produced his scroll "Preludium", a series of drawings based on the contrast and interplay of planes, and in 1920 another scroll called "Fugue".
Several of these early responses to technologies of the moving image are used as source films for this issue of 391, in recognition of the pioneering work of these artists. The word 'videodynamism' is intended to recall Bragaglia's photodynamism, and his idea of a machine "which will render actions visible, more effectively than is now today possible with actions traced from one point, but at the same time keeping them related to the time in which they were made. They will remain idealised by the distortion and by the destruction imposed by the motion and light which translate themselves into trajectories..."
Just as Bragaglia opposed the visual revolution represented by Marey's chronophotography, our digital photodynamism or videodynamism stands in opposition to contemporary chronophotography, for example the 'bullet-time' method brought to prominence in the film The Matrix. Where the original chronophotography involved placing sequential still photos together to give the illusion of movement, bullet-time uses a sequential photography to slow movement and to 'freeze' the visual environment in space and time, with only the audience remaining in motion around the frozen subject. As with photodynamism, our intention here is to capture the motion itself, its form and volume in space across time: "We seek the interior essence of things: pure movement; and we prefer to see everything in motion".
Videodynamism can also include the motion of the screen itself as an object of study - this represents the movement of the eye and its visual field, as well as the dynamism of screens/windows in a digital environment. As described in Boccioni's (1913) Plastic Dynamism, we are interested in "the simultaneous action of the motion characteristic of an object (its absolute motion), mixed with the transformation which the object undergoes in relation to its mobile and immobile environment (its relative motion)." More examples of this kind of meta-dynamic video can be found in turnbaby and patinage by babel.