Any-Space-Whatever (continued)


Carrying on from last time, Deleuze identifies a variety of image types that cinema uses. Using Bergson's notion of an image, not the normal representational idea of an image being something one looks at. I didn't explain that fully last time, so that for example when describing mental-images it's possible somebody might think that a mental-image like one of Hitchcock's 'depicts' the act of thinking. This is not what Deleuze means - rather the image directly produices thinking in the viewer, just as with a movement-image the viewer doesn't add movement to a series of static frames, but rather simply perceives movement, as they would outside the cinema (and of course adding in 3 dimensions and various other contextual aspects, but the point is in both cases the movement is fully given, not added).

Here's how Bergson explains the concept right at the start of his classic, Matter and Memory. It's interesting to note that although Bergson was a philosopher, his Nobel Prize was in literature, for the brilliance of his ideas and writing (just a sweetener to read him).

The aim of our first chapter is to show that realism and idealism both go too far, that it is a mistake to reduce matter to the perception which we have of it, a mistake also to make of it a thing able to produce in us perceptions, but in itself of another nature than they. Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of "images". And by "image" we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing - an existence placed halfway between the "thing" and the "representation". This conception of matter is simply that of common sense. It would greatly astonish a man unaware of the speculations of philosophy if we told him that the object before him, which he sees and touches, exists only in his mind and for his mind or even, more generally, exists only for mind, as Berkeley held. Such a man would always maintain that the object exists independently of the consciousness which perceives it. But, on the other hand, we should astonish him quite as much by telling him that the object is entirely different from that which is perceived in it, that it has neither the colour ascribed to it by the eye nor the resistance found in it by the hand. The colour, the resistance, are, for him, in the object: they are not states of our mind; they are part and parcel of an existence really independent of our own. For common sense, then, the object exists in itself, and, on the other hand, the object is, in itself, pictorial, as we perceive it: image it is, but a self-existing image.

Again and again real wisdom lies in rejecting stupid binary oppositions, in this case between representational ideas of our minds somehow projecting reality, even if it's only to clothe it with colours and other sensations (with matter then just a meaningless flow of atoms and what have you - this is the most common model in neuroscience, making it profoundly idealist) - and realist ideas that the world just is and our interaction with it plays no role in our perception of it.

To bring this back to any-space-whatever, like any of the images in film it will have a direct, visceral effect on the viewer. As Bergson showed, the idea of passive representation is a myth. And that effect will be very closely related to the effect abandoned things have on people. First we need Deleuze's description of what specifically makes up an any-space-whatever:

Any-space-whatever is not an abstract universal, in all times, in all places. It is a perfectly singular space, which has merely lost its homogeneity, that is, the principle of its metric relations or the connection of its own parts, so that the linkages can be made in an infinite number of ways...a richness in potentials and singularities...

So this sort of space is not just a blank canvas, a totally abstract background to possible action, as might a new uninhabited house or new but undriven car be to some extent. (Actually it can mean that - a plain white set, such as Apple uses in its commercials, is almost the extreme case of an any-space-whatever. But the sort of any-space-whatever I'm talking about here is more blended, in that it retains a residue of its past, for a quite different effect.) It is a space that had a specific or singular purpose, from which the people have been stripped. So all of the material supports of the actions people once carried out in these spaces are still there, but that's all that's left. So when you (or me anyway) walk through an abandoned factory site, for example, that site is transformed from being one of simple functionality, which it was to those who once worked there, into an infinite set of possible images of the actions that did happen there. And I mean images in the Bergsonian sense - our experience when standing in such places, where we see the accumulated dirt and wear and tear of the actions of so many people over such a long time, is one of being thrown immediately and directly into a sort of reverie of potential actions which might have taken place there. This bit of dirt there may be because somebody did this or that thing, and that bit of wear on the floor could be because it was a thoroughfare or because people sat there for years, etc. etc. etc.

In film these images, like the streetscape in Kelly's Singing in the Rain, lead Kelly and the viewer off into a potentially infinite set of tangents, with each everyday fire hydrant or lamp post transformed into a new segment of song and/or dance. It's a shift from space as an ordinary framework for the actions we carry out each day, like walking down the street and buying a paper, into a space of endlessly diverse thought and dream. This is what being with abandoned things does to me, it immediately plunges me into the infinite potentiality of things, which is not the same as 'fantasy'. The potentialities link back to the objects in the space, the 'dream' is constrained by the actual reality of the used and worn objects. It's a rich and real experience of the life that has occurred there.

Which probably makes no sense at all!

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