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A Body of Vision

Representations of the Body in Recent Film and Poetry

R. Bruce Elder

Publication Year: 1997

Elder examines how artists such as Brakhage, Artaud, Schneemann, Cohen and others have tried to recognize and to convey primordial forms of experiences. He argues that the attempt to convey these primordial modes of awareness demands a different conception of artistic meaning from any of those that currently dominate contemporary critical discussion. By reworking theories and speech in highly original ways, Elder formulates this new conception. His remarks on the gaps in contemporary critical practices will likely become the focus of much debate.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Contents

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pp. iii-iv

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With Gratitude

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pp. v-vi

I owe a great deal to many people. In the spring of 1989, when I was under attack from all quarters for using images of the body in my films, the organizers of the Toronto International Avant-garde Film Congress invited me to present a program of films by other filmmakers that incorporate similar...

Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

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pp. 1-19

The history of the problematic in this book, like that of so many other works, can be readily traced back to Plato. In his writings, particularly the Phaedo, a conception of the body finds paradigmatic expression. In the Phaedo (64e), Socrates asks Simmias whether the philosophers attach importance to the...

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The Human Dilemma

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pp. 21-24

Becker argues that everything that humans do in the symbolic world---the world of thought, ideas, representations, and self-consciousness---they do in an effort to deny and overcome this dual state whose grotesque character results from the individual being, as Becker states, "a small god in nature"...

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The Anxious Body of Shame, Disgust, or Appalling Death: Films by Bruce Conner

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pp. 24-36

Thinkers spanning the range from Darwinian social theorists to sociobiologists have averred that for nature, humans are nothing but body, that nature's values are bodily values, and that only humans--and this only insofar as they rise above physical nature--value the mental realm.8 Commenting...

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The Troubling Body of Sexual Difference: Williard Maas's: The Geography of the Body

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pp. 36-65

Among films that present the anxious body, troubled by some sort of shame, are many that make synecdoche their basic trope. Many of the latter rely on synecdoche's capacity to isolate the negatively charged areas (the lips, the genitalia, and so on) from the whole of the body.15 This use of synecdoche...

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The Complexities of Identification--Walter Gutman and the Body Remade as Whole

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pp. 65-70

Many recent filmmakers have given us images that convey a conception of the body as sacred. There are two distinct, but compatible and, often, co-present forces that motivate the production of such representations. One impulse derives its energy from the memory (sometimes unconscious,...

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The Body as Sacred--The Films of James Broughton, Especially: The Golden Positions

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pp. 70-85

In the first two sections of this work, those devoted to the films of Bruce Conner and to Williard Maas's The Geography of the Body, we explored works that drew their impulse from a similar sense of the body, viz., the troubled body, made anxious by a sense of its unseemliness or its lack of wholeness....

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The Body and the Cosmos--The Films of Ed Emshwiller

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pp. 85-96

The films of Ed Emshwiller share with those of Broughton a fascination with the body. More than that, like Broughton's, they are animated by the sense that the body can be experienced as sacred. When the body is experienced in that way, it substitutes for the whole of the cosmos in all its grandeur, mystery...

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First Digression: The Theory of Transformation and Its Importance to Understanding the Uniqueness of Artistic Meaning

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pp. 97-116

This work is concerned with the reasons why many advanced artists have taken an interest in representations of the body. I hope to show that this interest relates to concerns around meaning and cognition and specifically in the features that distinguish the meanings that artistic forms have (and the...

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Ed Emshwiller's Mixed Mode of Cinema Contrasted with the Lyrical Film

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pp. 116-140

The lyrical form continually suggests the subject that experiences whatever the film or poem depicts. This subject is not the subject that we reflexively experience, but the subject that lies behind all that we experience. Its primitive character ensures that it never enters experience. It is therefore a site...

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The Body as the Universe in Stan Brakhage's Early Films

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pp. 140-143

Emshwiller's greatest film, Relativity, identifies the body with the cosmos. This sort of identification is not uncommon in avant-garde film because it is not uncommon in ordinary life. Such an identification provides the basis for Stan Brakhage's Dog Star Man (one of the twentieth century's greatest...

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The Body Electric: Of Wilhelm Reich and Antonin Artaud--Laying the Groundwork for Carolee Schneemann's Body Art

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pp. 143-191

Several women artists and writers have also expressed beliefs in the sacredness of the body. This is evident in the works of that group of writers who, though they consider their positions individual, distinctive, and even opposed to each other's intellectual stance, are sometimes lumped into a...

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Second Digression: A Mystical View of the Body under the Pervasive Influence of Gnosticism--Laying the Groundwork for Leonard Cohen's Writings on the Body and Carolee Schneemann's Films and Performances

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pp. 191-209

Susan Sontag pointed out, with characteristic perspicacity, that the contours of Gnosticism trace the course of Artaud's madness. The comment offers a key to Artaud's life and work; but more than that, it opens a way towards understanding the parallels between Gnosticism and a manner of imagining...

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Leonard Cohen's Gnosticism and Its Influence on His Conception of the Body

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pp. 210-223

Many writers, including Artaud, discovered in Jewish mysticism the teaching that there exists a good source from which human souls derive and to which they long to return. The main teachings of this esoteric branch of Judaism are collected in the Cabala. The name "Cabala" derives from the...

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The Influence of Gnosticism on the Writings of Antonin Artaud

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pp. 223-233

In her introduction to Artaud's Selected Writings, Susan Sontag offers the astute comment that the development of Artaud's madness traces the course of Gnosticism. She writes, "for the first time the Gnostic themes can be seen in evolution. Artaud's work is particularly precious as the first complete...

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The Body of Gnostic Energy in the Work of Carolee Schneemann

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pp. 233-276

Carolee Scheemann's film and performances foreshadow French feminism in conveying an artistic cosmology built on notions about the erotic body and the integrative energies of sexuality. Even her wish to give expression to a sexuality that is inclusive and plural resembles the aspirations of French...

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The Body of Transcendental Flesh--The Films of James Herbert

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pp. 276-294

A few film artists, such as James Herbert, have dedicated their considerable talents to presenting an image of the body that neither loathes its fleshiness nor responds to its time-bound and animal character by hypervaluing, or even by idealizing it, conceiving it in the manner of present-day gnostics, as...

The Cognitive Body--The Films of Amy Greenfield and Another View of the Films of Stan Brakhage

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pp. 294-316

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The Pneumatic Body--The Films of Andrew Noren

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pp. 316-350

Not all our meanings are natural to us. We do not receive all of them at birth. Some come to us from the outside, from our dealings with others. Hegel showed in The Phenomenology of Spirit (section B.IV A) that the self takes...

Notes

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pp. 351-380

Bibliography

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pp. 381-384

Index

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pp. 385-400


E-ISBN-13: 9780889208186
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889202764

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 1997