Apertúra Film-Vizualitás-Elmélet
Spring 2012 | Nyomtatás |

In our Spring issue we have selected articles dealing with two subjects. The Media/Mediality section deals with the concept of the medium, a notion that continues to remain in the forefront of humanities. While John Guillory's far-reaching article examines the historical contexts necessary for the appearance of the concept of the medium from a language theoretical and philosophical point of view, Joachim Paech concentrates on shifts that resulted from different conceptualizations of film and cinema: as art, as text and as a medium. The common topic of Mary Ann Doane's and Jens Schröter's article is the indexical quality of the photographic image, but they interpret the analogue/digital shift rather differently: in Doane's understanding it is a turning point regarding the traditional concept of the medium (which is contested by the fantasy of immateriality invoked by the digital), while Schröter emphasizes that the referentiality of both the analogue and the digital image is generated by explication, contextualization and other intermedial procedures. Ákos Seress' article presents the medial rivalry between cinema and theatre, and the change of the viewer's position based on the analysis of Death of a Salesman.

The section entitled "Documents" of Sound Recording contains translations of texts contemporary to the invention of sound reproduction. (We dedicated the Fall 2011 thematic issue of Apertúra to the analysis of cinematic sound.) The articles published in magazines, journals, and trade papers, sci-fi stories and short stories invoke the fears, anxieties and hopes related to this technical innovation: the disembodied, acousmatic or deadly sound, the reproduction of dead persons' voices, voice as the imprint of the personality, coupling of sound and image.


John Guillory: Genesis of the Media Concept

Guillory's far-reaching study examines the origin of the media concept, a term that has entered the foreground of the humanities and social studies. It refers primarily to philosophical works and studies in language philosophy in order to discover the emergence of ideas and claims required for the development of the concept. Persuasion, communication, means, mediation, representation are related to historical contexts that, with the help of specific texts (by Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Wilkins, Mill, Mallarmé, Saussure, Pierce, etc.) allow their examination as annotations of the history of the media concept The study claims that the media concept, in the sense it is used today, has been lacking from theories of language and cognition, and regards the 19th century understanding of language as communication as a turning point, according to which the media concept presents a challenge to the dominant idea of representation. Relying on the explanatory potential of the media concept understood as removal, Guillory makes a proposition towards the rearrangement of the disciplinary landscape of literature, media, communication and cultural studies.
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Joachim Paech: Why media?

The article is the text of a speech Joachim Paech gave when retiring from the University of Konstanz on April 30, 2007. The author gives an outline of the history of approaches to film. What was the film regarded as at the beginning, within the context of arts, how did it a become text with the appearance of television and VCR player, and finally, why do we regard it as medium, and what does film as medium mean?
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Mary Ann Doane: The Indexical and the Concept of Medium Specificity

The aim of Doane's study is to articulate the idea of medium specificity and cinema's medium specificity regarding especially the analogue-digital change of our days. Taking its starting point in Pierce's taxonomy of signs, it investigates the indexicality of cinematic image. Doane points out that Pierce outlines two different, somewhat contradictory definitions of the index: index as trace and index as deixis. While the first concept bears witness to an existence (which for Barthes is the "this has been" moment of photography), deixis is the extension of a pointing gesture in which it dissolves itself. Doane argues that the cinematic image rests on a dialectic of the index as trace and index as deixis. Contrary to the cinematic image defined by the index, the digital legitimates itself as a medium without materiality built on the fantasy of dematerialization and abstraction. In answering the question whether the digital is a medium or not, the essay leans towards asserting the idea that because it has no necessary relation with time and historicity, the digital suppresses the notion of the medium as we know it.
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Jens Schröter: Analogue/Digital

Through a discussion of the special similarities and differences of digital and analogue photography, the present study criticizes the popular notion of the relevant literature according to which digital photographs lose their reference to reality simply because of their digital nature. The author points out that digital photography (gathering momentum after its rapid development in the 1990s) gains its reference (similarly to analogue photographs) not simply by an indexical relationship with the object or event being photographed, but by adding explanatory, supplementary and other intermedial aspects many consider to be a "falsification", a manipulation of reality. The study also criticizes the generally negative preconceptions about manipulation as a process, and it puts forward significant and famous examples from the fields of modern medicine, astrophysics and particle physics that prove how manipulation was many times a precondition of reference and not its counterpart even in analogue times. By comparing the charactersitics of analogue and digital images, the author offers a much larger, intermedial frame for the creation of referentiality, going beyond the digital and photochemical methods themselves.
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Ákos Seress: Theatre, movie and the panoptic machine. The omnipotent position of the spectator in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

This interpretation of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman focuses on the ongoing competition between film and theatre. The main goal of modern theatre was to create an omniscient position for the audience, and by building up the fourth wall it succeeded: members of the audience (as invisible spectators) were familiar with all aspect of the characters' lives. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, film managed to create the sensational illusion of seeing minds, and by doing this, it declared war on theatre. Miller's play is part of that war, since the American dramatist had the proper answer for the film: on his stage we see the protagonist's thoughts, dreams and memories. It remains questionable though, whether with this remediation Miller fulfilled the desires of modernity, or on the contrary, by using film techniques, and by showing everything to the audience, the Salesman deconstructed the omniscient position.
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 "Documents" of sound recording

J.D. Whelpley: The atoms of Chladni (1860)

James Davenport Whelpley is part of our cultural memory thanks to his science-fiction short stories. His piece entitled "The atoms of Chladni" (1860) was published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine and foreshadowed several technical details of sound recording. It is likely that the text was read by Edison as well, who, as a young man, sold papers and beverages on trains. Edison obtained the patent for the phonograph in 1877. Whelpley's plot includes elements of sci-fi, the topos of the mad scientist, and foreshadows dangers and anxieties entailed by sound recording, such as the possibility to misappropriate sound, to separate it from its source, and to question its indexical nature.
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The Speaking Phonograph (1878)

The man behind so many revolutionary discoveries has perfected yet another invention. His inspiration came as an accident, but it will someday prove of immense value. A reporter visits Thomas Alva Edison upon the news of the discovery. The Professor is found in the middle of his childish, joyful playing with his speaking phonograph at Menlo Park. After presenting the technical aspects of the machine, the Professor keeps the reporter entertained by singing nursery rhymes and a ballad into the instrument and then playing it back. Two of them then run their minds on the possibilities and capabilities of this remarkable instrument, and agree on the fact that it will benefit the whole of mankind. This paper is a hearty report with Thomas Alva Edison proudly presenting his speaking phonograph.
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Friedlaender, Salomo (Mynona): Goethe speaks into the phonograph (1916)

The short story entitled "Goethe speaks into the phonograph" is an interesting piece of sci-fi: it is a mockingly ironic parody, which takes the technically literal meaning of the voice of "great personalities" "conveyed" or "given voice to" through literary texts. The short story, written about the auratic effect of the metaphorical and literal understanding of voice in literature is an important document on the medial turn, brought about by technical media.
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John L. Cass :The Illusion of Sound and Picture

The main aim of motion picture is to create perfect illusion. The professional technique of photography developed in the years of silent cinema, combined with ingenious cuts, but a desire for musical accompaniment emerged already at this stage. Electronic companies developed an equipment which made talking picture possible by sound recording. This way a new medium of expression was created; the popularity of talkies relies on the success of illusion. In the case of talking picture, many cameras and microphones have to work together to create the perfect illusion. Since there are many requirements to maintain the illusion, a deeper understanding of recording sound and taking pictures is essential.
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