New Ways of Viewing, Revisited
November 20th 2008 @ 7:39 pm Uncategorized

In my previous post, I examined the role that aberrant viewing plays in constructing narratives. My experience of Bones in reverse was interesting in terms of charting cause and effect, but the way I constructed the fabula from the series syuzhet (adopting the terms to the story arc of the season/series instead of episode text) was not seriously altered. At the time, I supposed that other aberrant ways of viewing could directly impact the narrative of a text. But in the end, I came to no definite conclusions on the matter. 

In Film Theory today, we watched ten seconds of Psycho in slow motion in an attempt to recreate the feeling of Douglas Gordon’s instillation work “24 Hour Psycho” (see this New York Times article for more information). We discussed how watching just under 2 frames per second leveled out the importance of actions and scenes in the film. A car pulling into a station and the shower scene are of equal importance when shown at this pace. Things that would never be examined are given narrative weight and Barthes’ elusive third meaning becomes readily examinable. A cut is truly a revelation, and in fact, becomes the most exciting moment in this 24 hour film. The viewer asks inappropriate questions: Who is that extra? Do they have a story? Where is that other car going? Purely graphic phenomenon in a film projected at 24 fps morph and become narrative phenomenon.

Additionally, Gordon’s piece was an instillation in a gallery. Consumption circumstances impact not only how we view narratives, but the meaning we accord to them. Watch a film with a group who would rather be surfing, and you will probably not like the film. Which, in turn, says absolutely nothing about the inherent qualities of that film. Watching Arrested Development online was an entirely different narrative experience than watching it in a lecture hall in Axin. Like Duchamp’s followup to L.H.O.O.Q., L.H.O.O.Q. Shaved, nothing has changed in the text itself, and yet, everything has changed. Slowing Hitchcock down to 2 fps doesn’t fundamentally alter the text. But then again, it does. 

So in revisiting my question (do aberrant modes of viewing affect narrative) I’m going to have to answer a resounding yes. Whether it be internet clip viewing, extra-textual knowledge, rewinding to rewatch, watching at a drive in, or just seeing 2 frames per second, our mode of viewing has an immense impact on the narrative we end up constructing. 

-Leslie Stonebraker
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