Abstract

Abstract:

Film theorists from Jean Epstein to André Bazin to Stanley Cavell have located cinema’s unique qualities in its capacity to produce moving images “automatically,” or with limited assistance from human hands. Human absence and mechanical causality, in these accounts, assures a necessary link between a photograph and its referent. The present essay puts these mid-century film theoretical discourses in conversation with contemporary conversations on industrial automation. Drawing on both discourses, the essay proposes a broader definition of “recording” applicable to media and objects apart from cinema. A visual recording is any image generated by a process that does not dynamically react to the image it produces in the course of producing it. Automatic drawings by artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Jean Tinguely, and Sol LeWitt demonstrate how the supposedly autographic art of drawing can record contingent encounters if an artist removes or ignores some source of visual or manual feedback during a process of inscription. Moreover, we can understand some of the errors produced by mid-twentieth-century factory automation—such as factory rejects and printing errors—as “recordings,” or material records of contingent encounters. These objects suggest that we should consider recording not as an ontological property defining a set of media that are given and fixed, but rather as a force of inscription that works across and outside of what we traditionally think of as media.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6539
Print ISSN
0300-7162
Pages
pp. 6-33
Launched on MUSE
2019-11-05
Open Access
No
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