On theater...A passing comment

all panoramas and dioramas, including their variations, are enveloped in containers that are as large as a georama dome and as small as a honeycomb box for the diorama model i make. on one level, the containers control light and, therefore, what can be and cannot be viewed. on another, they create, what bachelard calls, an illusion of shelter that allows one 'to dream,' to wander. to bachelard, many memories are impregnated in a house where every nook and corridor serves to delineate them. the more securely they are fixed in space, he claims, the sounder they are. the notion of memory then begins to shift from time to space where determination of dates for our intimacy becomes no longer relevant; rather "the spaces in which we have suffered...enjoyed, desired and compromised...remain indelible within us." in tsai ming liang's goodbye, dragon inn, the architectural space of the fu-ho theater also contains the cityscape of various people, noise, activities, and even ghosts. the theater is the city's oneric house where many movies have been screened and stories scratched onto the heavily textured walls and floors of the building. it is a residue of which the city has left its traces; it represents a soon to be lost aesthetic shelter.

if goodbye is about capturing a sense of place...that is dying, diorama is about capturing a sense of place that is about to begin. a diorama model is contained in a box, a device that controls the direction and magnitude of light so that it can appear more realistically in a photograph. it also acts as a three-dimensional stage to construct and display a potential landscape scenario. in landscape design, the diorama box houses the future of a place, steered by our curiosity to what appears strangely familiar. imagination of a designer and viewers take place in this box; beyond the three-dimensional objects in foreground and the two-dimensional photograph of a site context in background, one begins to daydream about the possible place that can come to life.

then, there is a paradox. on one hand, both movie theater and diorama box control movement and vision of a spectator; on another, they serve as a bachelardian shelter that encourage mental wandering. to achieve a perfect illusion of reality, earlier panorama and diorama accompanied highly calculated rotundas and props inside to manipulate spectator's vision. modern movie theaters follow the same path: a darkened room and the screen bordered with black walls or heavy curtains allow no exchange, no circulation and no communication with any outside. screening takes place in a closed space where viewers are not expected to move out of their assigned seats. every viewer faces in one direction toward the screen, toward the same film; all cellular phones must be turned off and no babies must cry. in a similiar principle, a diorama box selects, crops, and fragments landscape that only matches the designer's intention to be shown. the landscape is presented and represented as an object that demands compliance.

according to baudry, cinema presumes a subject as this passive observer. the screen reflects images, not reality; cinematic apparatus lends the film spectator the position of a trancendental subject and at the same time blocks the insight that this position is something that is constructed. baudry relates the spectator's self-misrecognition to lacan's theory of the mirror phase: at an age when it experiences its own body as uncoordinated and fragmentary, the child is provided with a visual impression of individual physical wholeness in the mirror image. the mirror image appears to him as an ideal ego; the identity available to the child, therefore, derives from a site external to itself. baudry explains: "just as the mirror assembles the fragmented body in a sort of imaginary integration of the self, the trancendental self unites the discontinous fragments of phenomena, of lived experience, into unifying meaning. through it each fragment assumes meaning by being integrated into an 'organic' unity." according to him, cinema fulfills this wish by producing a phantasmification of the subject. the cinematic apparatus is intended to be hidden in order to maintain a fiction, which exists in the first place due to a denial of a real social coercion. for baudry, the only way to break through this phantasmification was to make its production obvious and visible.

however, what baudry seems to underestimate is that this self-surgery - assembling discontinuous fragments into a body of meaningful narratives - is in fact an act of empowerment. the long, static camerawork in goodbye forces us to pause...until our eyes, either out of boredom or curiosity, begin to wander themselves in the screen searching for own meaning. even the crowd in tsai's film doesn't seem to be affected by the rules of the theater: a young couple chews on popcorn too loudly; an old man joins the auditorium at his convenient time; and the japanese tourist constantly switches his seat and pursues erotic encounter while ignoring the screening entirely. perhaps this is where freedom seeps in. and imagination. the impression of reality during cinematic experience is produced not due to what baudry claimed a denial of social coercion but due to a willingness to overcome and rebel against such coercion. and perhaps in the diorama, a small fragment of the selected landscape and its deadly silence, must i add, trigger the viewer in the same way that tsai's long, static shots did....especially in the case of diorama models, there is still a charm to its naively deceptive nature. parcell claims that because diorama is not a historical reconstruction, it retains a potential for fiction without an authorized narrator to explain what it means. also relevant is its delivery of the qualities of space not through a measured space-making but through a hybrid of suggestive materials such as barbeque brush and color pencil shavings that defy literal and to-scale conventions in landscape representation. it is a play afterall, a spectacle of deception that requires the spectators to consent to being duped; the consent, however, is not inflicted.

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