Is cinematography a biological technology? Probably not.

Here’s a thing – if you run Deleuze through a piece of cloth and strain out all the poo, you end up with some reasonable, if fairly simple ideas. (Of course that ‘does violence to his concepts’ but I can live with that).

So here’s one. Technology is a mechanism by which we make our actions easier and more potent. A telescope enables us to see further, a microscope allows us to see smaller and if you’re Dziga Vertov, a camera enables us to see things more clearly. Deleuze is even more enthusiastic – cinema is a technology which entwines with our own innate technology of seeing. Unlike a microscope or a telescope, cinema is a means by which our perceptive apparatus and therefore mind processes can be analyzed and re-synthesized. Cinematic language is an exercise of attention that leads to new modes of thought.

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His argument is more visible now than when he was writing. When you see a child fascinated by an iPad, to the extent of being oblivious to nature around them, you may feel the sense of unease that he mentions – it’s hard to say whether the child is accelerated, sensing the game world at immense speed, or senile in being unable to sense anything else. It can be both.

Where I disagree is that I do NOT see cinema as privileged in this way. When I recently bought some prescription glasses and walked home I was appalled to find that everything was now taller (and so my feet found it difficult to hit the ground) and that people far away had faces, which was extremely disturbing. That’s not equivalent to the entirety of cinema – it doesn’t have to be. I think that any technology does what he describes to some extent.

Now, a related factoid is about episodic memory, which is stored as sensory impressions with duration, or at least sequence. If you blast the right part of the temporal lobe with electricity you can bring up auras which include sensory impressions before they have been organised into a narrative (e.g. one stimulation brought ‘being at a wedding, throwing a bouquet’, another ‘the theme from Star Wars’ source). For a short while it was thought that we record everything like a video camera. But then it was noticed that memories are cinematically assembled, to the extent that you may see yourself ‘filmed’ in the third person. There’s further evidence that recall is drawn from a storyline – {me}{the beach}{ball}{hit} = embarrassing – and turned into visuals. You will note the comparison between episodic memory and film, which at first blush leads one to think that narrative film is a technical realisation of episodic memory.

But it’s always good to be sceptical. By which I mean we’ve only buzzed people since there was film. If you buzzed someone from several hundred years ago would they see through the media of a painted triptych? If you went back far enough, would Julian Jaynes be right and you get the Voice of Gods explaining what happened in your past? Did perspective arrive in the mind when it arrived in art? Because as much as we may be inspired by our bodies and minds to extend them, we may also train our minds and bodies to emulate mechanical systems. It could be a cycle, and Deleuze was right to be worried that we have cut off the variety of existence that we could otherwise have.

The sensory impressions found in the temporal lobes are not organised in the way we store files on a hard drive. There are related items spread all over the place to the extent that if you snip out a relevant bit of flesh, the memory is still retrievable, but more blurry. So how this material is ‘scored’, or even manifested is (I guess) a matter of the installed biological software. That software could have evolved over time – in fact I would be amazed if it hadn’t. The manner in which the episodic impressions are realised, and how their causal chains are linked cannot have been the same for all human history.

A quick reality check is dreams, which at best guess involves random excitation of these impressions and attempts by the hippocampus to stitch them into a causal chain. Blind dreamers do not dream visually. But their dreams still involve narrative structure. The camerawork of the sighted dreamer doesn’t occur naturally – it’s more likely that camera work in film has responded to the mental mechanism, which in turn has noticed patterns in camera work and responded in kind. I am pretty sure that yes, Deleuze is right about film now, but I also think that the use of fire was once just as important, perhaps the start of animistic religion. And god knows how these images once served human thought:

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Olde Tom’s Booke of Dreames Interpreted According To Venerable Knowledge And Wisdome

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Withe extra e’s on thee ende of everythinge.

Dear Tom, the other night I had a musical dream – I heard a beautiful sound like a thousand singing voices, golden and rhythmic, it had an amazing subtle melody and pulsed with joy and I was so very sad to to wake and feel the melody slip away from me. If only I could hear that music again. How can I have this dream come back to me?

– ‘Wagner’

Ye have woken thyself from SNORING so LOUD ye have verily BOXED thine own ears with the DIN of it. (Surely ye do not share a bed or the lady of the house would be VEXED to distraction). However to return the snores apply equal parts strong ale and curried meat pudding and be assured that thy very WALLS will shudder with thy musical eruptions.

Dear Wizard, only you can help me! I dream that I am walking down the street – but wearing no pants! Everyone is ignoring me.What does it mean?

– ‘Naked’

The BIBLE makes clear the wearing of pants is for GOOD CHRISTIAN FOLK and shalt not be mocked by animals that have NO SOULS. An animal may have the Waistcoat as its only garb, and leave the nether regions revealed to all to know it as a CREATURE.

741donald-duck-postersYet the TROUSERS are not suited to a BEASTE. And so in this dream we see thy FORETAIL flapping in the wind for all to see thy BESTIAL URGES. It is a dream of hidden lusts and ye should make haste for the confession box where the father will see about thine URGENT PENANCE.

Dear Old Chap, dreamed I ate a enormous marshmallow. The next morning my pillow was gone. Ideas?

– ‘Pillow Biter’

It would seem thine answer will soon be found in a FLUFFING of thy nether regions. If indeed this is not the ruse of one that liveth under a bridge!

Dear Tom, I have a constant recurring dream that I have failed to study for my mathematics exam – and the exam is happening today and I have no idea of how to answer anything. Then I realise that I am actually Chief Executive Officer at Bank of America and the exam was long ago! How do I stop this dream from playing over and over again?

– ‘Ken Lewis’

The mathematicals – being a saucy arte thrown hither and yon to the pleasure of he that maketh it – can used to pretend the mouse as the moon or the very reverse. And the dreame in this case works to reverse the nature of time. You are found at a reckoning WITLESS and empty of knowledge and so it is that ye write ERRORS in thy booke. YET the truth runs the other way and in life ye find thy booke fore ye with ERRORS already written. Now ye must ponder long and harde what WITLESSNESS brought thee to this place.

Dear Tom I dreamed I was sleeping with my mother. And I didn’t care.

– ‘Your Son’

Know that thy mother has this very day described a dream of shit-a-bed, and so DREAMES are shown to reveal GREAT TRUTHS.

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