A Chance for Cinema-Writing in Electronic Literature
Computational cinema, the digital manipulation of pixels, frames, shots and sequences, is a catch-all term for the many ways digital technology can affect cinema as a system of expression. If a movie scene calls for a snowstorm, CGI can be employed to create an idealized snowstorm. Computation in this sense is used to efficiently control contingencies (weather) and direct the intentions of “the writing” or preconceived idea. But computation can also create new contingencies that add to the camera’s already complex presentation of the world. Multimedia hypertext and interactive cinema, generative and recombinant video, datamoshing and databending all introduce forms of indeterminacy into digital cinema. As digital writing becomes even more cinematic and immersive, it is important to revisit the roots of cinema art and seek its relation both to writing and the world. The ideal of “cinema-writing,” or cinécriture in the French cinema context, is one that takes the machine seriously as a tool to bring the world into thought and thought out onto the world. Cinema and writing together, as imagined by the art’s earliest practitioners and theorists, is a way to harness the camera’s unique indexicality; to extend its spatio-temporal reach and direct its signification towards narrative, but also to benefit from its dispersed realism, its opacity and its potential to escape thought and narrative closure altogether. In this paper, I explore affiliations between cinema art and electronic literature, with a particular focus on computation as an extension of cinema-writing. Through examples of cinematic electronic literature, as well as film and video art, I will present strategies for a computational cinema that welcomes chance operations into the process of signification; that seeks an “outside” within (and beside) narrative composition and authorial intent.
electronic literature, digital writing, digital cinema, computation, machine-writing
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