K. Wyborny

On What Holds Pictures Together

Notes for a Series of Lectures at the California Art Institute

Los Angeles, March 1997

1) Internal coherence of pictures
a) the net of Hephaistos - first photograph; by a blacksmith, an early Eastman or Edison, married to the most beautiful woman, but not loved by her - many actresses still marry camera-men. The net´s grid is holding the image still and together, plus the knowledge of the geography of the human body, of Aphrodite´s tits and Ares´ muscles. Hermes and Apoll talking about the baudy picture: I´d like to fuck her too. Pornography right at the beginning of photography.
b) that develops into representing external space - real figures in the real world, the net transforms into geographical coordinates. Out comes a theory of perspective, a theory of pornograpy, sexually or political, out comes a multitude of advertisements. Hephaistos unwillingly made an advertisement for Aphrodite.

2) coherence of different images - very complex because it requires a human beholder much more so than Hephaistos´ net, which could also be thrown out by a machine on dead matter. The knowledge of the compactness of a given space-time segment is replaced by an a-priori understanding of the world as a whole - from minus eternity to plus eternity. Too complex to be handled in a direct attack, compared to this it is easier to understand:

3) what holds the real world together
a) one used to consider forces as the agents of coherence - the acepted hierarchy is as follows: exchange, strong, electromagnetic, weak, gravitational, but one comes to a more general way of looking at that
b) by just stating that particles are in a certain relation to each other. This way of looking at things is called the Heisenberg Picture of the physical world: you don´t decribe the forces, but the relation of particles. The basic truth behind it is: the world ist held together, because its particles are in one world. Nothing and no law can improve on that tautology. That is the unspoken basis of each physical law.
c) a very strong proposition is the Big Bang - first there ist Nothing, as Saint Augustine had put it, and suddenly the neverchanging laws of physics start to exist. A great wonder indeed - more so than the emergence of matter after that explosion - thats why the dove in the cration dome of San Marco is engraved into the nothing beforehand. Theologically speaking: Unless the trinity existed before the creation, it can´t emerge later on. This is included in all medieval representations of the creation.
d) films as being part of the real world also hold together because of these laws: the emulsion does, the bits on a harddisk do, glued together by matter´s desire to be together. But there is an extra coherence which comes from the existence of humanity.

4) what holds humans together? a very wide field, as many have stated - here a few candidates:
a) Sex
b) Families
c) politics of all sorts
d) coming back to San Marco: first man was black, and became white the next day.
e) but also: a certain coherence of attitude, some call it nationality. In films it generally is a community with shared behaviour. The plot of many films is the intrusion of a person with deviating behaviour into an established community.
f) which is very interesting for art. The older I get the more I like romanesque sculpture - the round heads that are too large for the bodies, the round and proud eyes, arrogant and modest at the same time. I like the reduction of drama in romanesque ensembles - the developement went to an increase of such drama - see Antelamis crucification. Interesting that this increase went hand in hand with a curiosity to depict space.
g) gothic art had the missing sense for drama - Giovanni Pisanos Siena and Pisan sculptures already deptict the maximum of drama that is tolerable. My dream for cinema: romanesque acting with a few gothic highlights. Those you can also call insights. Art should have stopped there - or it should go back there now - space, which seemed to be the objective of artistic developement is for sale now.
h) The actor is the biggest enemy of the artist - he is con man par excellence. If you don´t destroy the actors in your films, your are lost. The most haunting expierience in my filmmakig career: Tilda Swinton´s smile.
i) The advent of the smile: the present of Greece, the korai on the Akropolis. It´s the entrance of humanness, the biggest miracle in the arts. The Greeks gave it away very quickly - Laokoon is the betrayal. Nicola Pisano gave us back that smile - befor gothic Drama there was the Pisan Smile, which turned into the Sienese smile, into Giottos smile - it ended with the last romanesque artist: the man from SanSepulcro. Leonardo finished it off - Michelangelos figures don´t smile any more. Neither dare van Gogh`s, Gaugin`s or Monet`s. Now it is the property of the Tom Cruises. And up for sale. We like it on family photos though.

5) and images?
a) architecture, up to Giotto, see for example Antelamis Baptisterium in Parma 1180
b) architecture in time , a sense of direction in San Marco 1230 or in the Arena Chapel 1305: a sense of forwardness, a vector of time inscribed into architecural space. Thats the beginning of the clearly defined time vector of cinema.
c) One can also arrive at one by borrwing the time vector of music.
d) Or that of a great story - The Bible. Or: The Birth of A Nation. One or the other, I suppose.

6) Gravity and images
a) a falling ball alway has a downfalling component in an representative picture and vice versa - which can serve as a definition.
b) a series of pictures of the same falling ball - what do they depict? Either the law of gravity in general - or the fate of an individual ball under the law of gravity. 2 completely different things. Cinema chose the latter - maybe unfortunately.
c) The latter requires restrictions on the space-time structure of the series: no contradictions under the time vector. Not easy to formulate in a general way, because it implys an understanding of what holds the world together.
d) in cinema you don´t have to know what holds the world together - instead you have to play on what an observer thinks what holds the world together. The word governing that is plausability. In science fiction films of the star-wars-class it is plausible that you hear a sound when you watch a space-ship explode in the disance. Thats obviously not so in real empty space.

7) Man as a falling ball - from birth to death.
a) Joseph Conrads essence of story-telling - arrived at by a rotation of the falling ball by 90 degrees.
b) The basic law of cinematic coherence: A person going left in one picture should also go left in the next one - unless one wants to depict that something had happended to him in between. Oh, you many fallen balls!
c) its inversion: if he changes direction, an observer assumes something has happened to the actor.

8) Man and Music

9) from here to whatever direction the students find interesting.



Parma Baptisterium 35 Minutes
San Marco Venice 30 Minutes
Torcello Last Judgement 20 Minutes
San Maria Maggiore Rome 20 Minutes
San Sabina Rome- the door 6 Minutes
San Zeno Verona - the doors 15 Minutes
Baptisterium Pisa Nicolo Pisanos pulpit 20 minutes
Siena Dome Nicolo Pisanos Pulpit 20 minutes
Pisa Dome Giovanni Pisanos Pulpit 20 Minutes
Pistoia Giovanni Pisanos pulpit 20 Minutes
Arena Chapel Padova Giottos Paintings and the Last judgement 35 Minutes
Crucifixes from the Pisa Museum 5 Minutes
A walk through Pompei and Pompeian paintings 3 hours
Nile mosaic Palestrina 5 Minutes

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