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Thomas Dempsey

The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft, By Anne Friedberg


Chapter 2 The Frame
In this chapter, I examine the camera obscura, its relation to the window metaphor, and its pivotal position in philosophical and historiographic debates about the production of images My concern here is not so much to provide an account of the camera obscuras complex technical and discursive history *rather,+ it will be important to emphasize the camera obscuras relation to the long tradition of devices that relied on projected light in a darkened room and on a projected image produced for a viewers delight due not to its verisimilitude, but to the illusion of verisimilitude it was the fascination with virtuality the approximation of the real that drove these inventions. (60) Perspective and the Camera Obscura The distinction between the camera obscura and Albertis window/reticulated net: While Alberti used his window as a means of geometric calculation, the camera obscura was a mechanical device that could render a perspectival image onto a picture plane without the need of mathematical calculation or geometric formula. (61) The window is looked through, whereas the camera obscura projection is looked upon? Rather, Friedberg equates the C.O. with a window in its play of light on darkness, and sees the virtual nature of Albertis window as the projection. Epistemological / Phenomenological effects of C.O. in terms of science and illusion (entertainment) Johannes Kepler coined Camera Obscura, an incisive term that indicated the reductive simplicity of the behavior of light entering a dark room. (62) Leonardos solution for image reversal: view projection head-on through paper screen. Construction of C.O. as a dioptric device (adds lenses), with brass, wood and glass, would seem to see it alongside tools of measurement, extending human vision and transforming the object being observed. Louis Mumford Without the use of glass for spectacles, mirrors, microscopes, telescopes, windows and containers, the modern world as realized by physics and

chemistry could scarcely have been conceived What is the new easel picture, in fact, but a removable window opening upon an imaginary world? (63) For painterly perspective, Friedberg addresses the differences (conflicts) between Italian Renaissance linear perspective painting and Dutch (northern) style characterized by the absence of a prior frame that rectangle or framed window which Alberti offers as his initial definition of the picture so that the image spread out of the pictorial surface appears to be an unbounded fragment of the world that continues beyond the canvas. (64) Svetlana Alpers Oddly framed discussion Dutch, or northern visuality, on the other hand Camera Obscura is Paradigmatic of Dutch images in a specifically northern cultural ambience that imparts a trust to devices, to intermediaries, that represent nature to us. (64 65) Concludes section by siding on the subjective, illusory capacities of the C.O. The Camera Obscura: Perspective Machine or Projection Device (subjective v. objective) Jonathan Crary The camera obscura defines the position of an interiorized observer to an exterior world, not just a two-dimensional representation, as is the case with perspective. Many contemporary accounts of the camera obscura single out as its most impressive feature its representation of movement thus the phenomenological differences between the experience of perspectival construction and the projection of the camera obscura are not even comparable. (65-66) The C.O. is inseparable from this metaphysic of interiority. Friedberg emphasizes first the presence of light and virtual movement, which arrests the viewer in an immobile state, making for the entertaining illusory capacities of the device in the 17 th century. Crarys attention to the observer as a subject who is both the historical product and the site of certain practices, techniques, institutions and procedures of subjectification one who sees within a prescribed set of possibilities, one who is embedded in a system of conventions and limitations forms an exemplary model for describing the visual practices and habits of vision of the contemporary movie-goer, TVviewer, computer user, or driver. (68) (Discussion back to Drive?) Crarys outlook falls short in Friedbergs eyes regarding the historical progression of visual apparatus (that of the light in the dark room) and the endurance, in some form or another, of screen practice (Charles Musser). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The German Ideology equates the relationship between ideology and men/their circumstances with the image of the camera obscura: inverted and reversed. The device itself is emblematic of the duality of ideology; science meets illusion.

The Camera Obscura and the Photographic Camera Early photographys pairing with the light-filled window, via the experiments of Niepce and Talbot. (The frame for seeing through was made into the viewing surface.) Bazin lifted photography over painting, seeing it as a presentation of reality (to which cinema was the completion). This realism denied a perspective, and so Bazin asserted photography as redeeming the sin of linear perspective. (Also held to the continuous genealogy from the camera obscura to photography). Bazinian theory formed the foundation of 1970s apparatus theory, which addressed as its subject the viewer and the projected films impact upon them. Perspective and the Camera Obscura of Apparatus Theory Baudry Friedberg describes his view that the image produced by perspective and by the camera was implicitly tainted with the ideology of the producing device. Summed up in to points: Linear perspective of monocular aperture has inherent perspective Perspective and the camera work together to create a virtual image. The fixity of the projected image, forcing the viewer into immobility, imparts perspective. Regarding Hubert Damischs critique of Baudrys claims, Friedberg sites Damisch as having a deeper concern for the ideological implications: To discuss perspective in terms of ideological critique is to foreclose all possibility of understanding its historical fortune, as well as the efforts of humanism to bring it into conformity with its own standards. (76-77) For Damisch, perspective is a paradigm, a structure that can traverse history or collide with it. In turn, Friedberg assumes a warmer disposition towards Stan Brakhage, whose films sought Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, and eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. (77) From this stripping down of theoretical conventions, Friedberg reasserts the importance of the light projecting into the dark. The Frame (finally) From fresco paintings on walls, early medieval paintings were made portable via wooden or stone slabs; then came the tabular antependia of the thirteenth century. Throughout these periods,

The paintings frame acquired its own representational function matching the motifs and materials of portal surrounds, doors and window jambs. The frame became, in a sense, its own form of architectonic structure. (79) The fifteenth century saw the arrival of easel paintings and rise of tubed, oil-based paints. This saw greater portability for paintings, as well as the arrival of the first true frames, which played into the metaphor of the art as a visible wall-mounted safe. Whatever the techniques, the frame of the painting was a key component of a representational system dependent on the limitations of its frame. (80) (Oddly circular logic?) The Camera and the Eye of the Viewer: Primary Identification? The viewer identifies with the camera while remaining outside of the cameras framed view; an air of disembodiment. This disembodiment is manifested in apparatus theorists two isolated elements of cinematic representation: The viewer is immobile relative to the screen, and This fixity is in relation to the depicted movements on the screen. Suture Theorists: averse to an awareness of the frame on the part of the viewer (the opposite of Giambattista Della Portas delight in the deceitful capabilities of the C.O.). The illusion of diagesis is one that must be carefully maintained, not through Bazinian subservience to the reality of the image, but through means of editing that dont draw the viewers attention. The section concludes with the Apparatus theorists view of the screen as a reflective surfac e, not a transparency, where psychic space was enfolded into physical space. The Frame and the Fix Position of the Viewer Bordwell soundly refutes Apparatus theorys resignation to the central perspective, siting German expressionism and varying lens length as commonly overlooked non-scientific exceptions. All the same, he seemingly embraces Apparatus theorys imposition of perspective, citing it as a central concept for explaining narration and a central concept within the mimetic tradition. (82) The Perspective Frame and the Moving Image The moving image of the C.O. would seemingly contradict the linear perspective of the camera. Rather than pointing out the obvious, Friedberg uses this presence of movement to assemble a taxonomy of perspective changes: Movement within a frame, either by the camera itself or the objects in frame, Spatial and temporal shifts between multiple shots, and Multiple frames within a single shot.

Baudry argues that the projectors inherent imposition of movement rende rs these perspective changes moot, while Stephen Heath suggests that the stream of narrative unites the various shots in the mind of the viewer, with regulation coming via the narratives characters. Friedberg, on the other hand, posits that the space of the frame itself, the most consistent element of the film, is the overarching uniting force between various perspectives and cuts, as well as the boundary demarcation between the screen world and the material world of the spectator. (84) The Frame and the Awkward Binocular Body From the illusory nature of the cinematic image and the play of light in the dark of the camera obscura, Friedberg posits films noncorporial mode of viewing, as opposed to those that demand direct contact for engagement (Edisons early Kinetoscopes). She then perceives the Lumieres cinematographe as a merging of corporeal optics with noncorporial engagement. Here, Crary is summoned to predict a return to the severed human observer of the camera obscura (Ill admit, Im not sure what he was getting at), with Friedberg qualifying his portent with the technological advances of recent years freeing the viewer of the screens fixity, by way of having it permeate all views. Spatalized Time: The Time Architecture of the Virtual Window Marta Braun and Eadweard Muybridge biologists who famously utilized speed photography for the capturing and study of minute animal movements (the former with the multiple exposures of bird flight, the latter of the running horse). These images, and the speed of motion photography on its own, are indicative of the preservation of time through photography, a connection drawn by the C.O.s flattening of 3D space onto the 2D field of a Cartesian plane. Friedberg ties this into Mary Ann Doanes paradox of the motion picture being comprised of still frames, a fact that again plays into Friedbergs emphasis on the illusory and the influence of the projected light in the dark. Discussion of Heideggers Frame