Between the Eyes: Human vs. Techno by Maria Ramadori
A phenomenology of film locates its vision in the progressive and continuous passage of one visual instant into another, and in the inter - locking of these moments in time.
Barbara Sternberg’s film midst re-energizes and rehearses our visual experience. It shows us brilliant cities, communities, contrasting images of young and old, day and night and the merging of the four seasons. Each view changes according to the camera’s speed and angle, the lighting and the filmmaker’s careful editing. As a silent film, midst speaks to the body through a visuality that infuses the viewer with a sense of their own vision. The mechanics of vision are mimicked by the film, each of its many formal strategies demonstrates our own visual rhetoric.
The tension created by the changing speed and direction of the images affects one's ability to see clearly. Despite the characterization of vision as atemporal and stable, the eye functions most optimally when in almost constant motion. As a result of this motion, vision defies patterns of organization and fixity. For example, the eye may move across a visual field and/or jump from one briefly fixed point to another. Rapid movement and flux within a film characterizes the physical and theoretical understanding that our vision is in constant motion. It shows us an eye making contact with the world; it is not just a screen on which things are projected.
Barbara Sternberg's midst depicts this most eloquently. As a silent film, midst is a wholly visual experience that ignites one's senses and triggers one's imagination. The film combines fast moving montage with slower, close-up pans across landscapes and bodies.
In one scene the camera moves quickly across the landscape, from images of trees to shots of quickly alternating leaves and branches. midst utilizes a flicker effect to infuse a sense of hallucination in the spectator. The viewer's response to the film is felt upon his/her body through the tension and anticipation left by the onslaught of visual
information. The flicker effect is important in creating tension between nature and technology, between the human eye and the technological eye. While the repetitiveness of the leaves, trees and branches makes contact with one's visual senses, the speed at which they occur allows for only a brief encounter with the film's content. The structure of discontinuity created by this quick montage effect also reflects the flux and movement with which the viewer experiences his/her world. The spectator's ability to capture the experiences of this landscape scene and to attain a full understanding of it are questioned by the rate at which Sternberg is able to edit her shots together. The most dramatic shift in these scenes is the speed at which the images change colour. The colour moves in and out of the landscape at a faster rate than the images appear onscreen. The result is a continual change of the seasons, as viewed through the landscape. Although this manipulated time warp lasts for just a few moments, it touches you. It makes contact with your eyes. The spectator's eyes become an extension of the camera. You see and feel the leaves as the colour washes through them.
One's eyes are not simply the "site of vision." They stand for a part of the whole, a synecdoche. Our bodies, our vision and our knowledge of the world provide us with an ever-changing and reciprocal surrounding that allows for the potential of an embodied film experience.