The cartoon series “Pokémon” run many times into censorship for different reasons. The first reason regards the 38th episode of the series, whose original title is “Electric Soldier Porygon” and which was banned allover the world. The above mentioned episode has been broadcast only once on the 16th December 1997 in Japan, causing almost 700 cases of epilepsy due to some scenes which show too rapid light intermittences. These intermittences have the following progression: a red, a blue and a light-blue frame. And then again a red, a blue and a light-blue frame and so on. Some people suffered epilepsy attacks also due to the rapid broadcasting of the controversial progression of images during tv-news. [source: Wikipedia]
From the 17th to the 26th September at the DOCVA (Documentation Center for Visual Arts) in Milan, via Procaccini 4, took place the exhibition “Quando l’occhio trema. Il flicker fra cinema, video e digitale” (When the eye shakes. A flicker between cinema, video and digital world”. It is a videoscreening created by Claudia D’Alonzo (Digicult) and Mario Gorni (Careof DOCVA) and made of15 works of art which play the so called “flicker” effect.
The cinematographic world, and more generally the moving images, is based on a progression of still-shoot with a speedy of 24 shoots a second. This updating frequency allows the perception of movement. Changing the number of still-shoots let’s say halving it the so called flickering effect is created. That’s all. Using Laura Mulvey ‘s words (1) we could say: Madden 12x a Second!
The works of art based on this principle are quite disturbing and desorienting (and all similar adjectives and neologisms). They are so disturbing that Ken Jacobs (parenthesis: why none of its works was selected?) puts above its Razzle Dazzle -The Lost World (2007) a notice saying: “This film is not for those suffering from epilepsy” (2).
From the public’s point of view, i.e. from the point of view of those people who watch a film, the experience is really traumatic and it is difficult to keep a constant attention with this kind of technique. The ocular nerve suffers a big stress and can not follow the (anti) narrative development of these alternating images. This is Alex’s feeling during the famous scene of “forced watching” in A Clockwork Orange (Italian title: Arancia meccanica, 1971).
From the cognitive point of view, the described effect reveals its amazing potential, stimulating a more disarticulated, freer, non-linear comprehension of images which differs from the usual 24x a second and therefore surprise.
The selection made by Claudia D’Alonzo and Mario Gorni shows eleven works of art coming from the rich archives of DOCVA and INVIDEO, as well as four works selected among all (digital) artists who are part of the international Digicult’s network.
The selection represented a good opportunity of discussion about an invisible (non)cinema, since it is experimental and underground and differs from the usual spectatorial 24x a second and the usual narrative conventions but above all from the habit of the eye to follow the movement as a fluid and continuous progression of frames. D’Alonzo and Gorni were able to take into account these technique, not only in its current fulfilment (through Granular Syntesis’, Otolab’s, Cairaschi’s, Fleish’s, Girts Korps’, ape5′s, Graw & Bockler’s, De Bemels’, Chiasera’s, Arford’s, Arnò’s works), but also from its origins and emersion.
Paul Sharits’ Piece Mandala / End War (1966) the first element of videoscreening puts the whole selection within a vision of “flickering” as a phenomenon generated from the experiments of the American experimental cinema of the ’60s, Stan Brakhage’s, Tony Conrad’s, Michale Snow’s (non) cinema and all those personalities who used the language of moving images to renew this kind of cinema and whose lesson came unchanged till the current digital epoque. Paul Sharit, Steina and Woody Vasulka, but above all Paolo Gioli are some of these famous names. Paolo Gioli was interviewed (http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=1504) by Claudia D’Alonzo – for Digimag 45 in June 2009. His selected work gives the title to the “exhibition” as if it want to underline the centrality and originality of the Italian experience which stayed alive and vivid during the decades (see Otolab’s work).
Taking into account experimental works of art is always complex since the linguistic handles are missing to give an evasive sense which is widely amplified by the flickering effect. Antonin De Bemels‘ Merge / Se Fondre is the easiest narrable work because it is similar to the classic cinematographic language: it is organized like a short-film both for its lenght and for the narrative style. It is the only work which uses the flickering as the visual representation of existential discomfort of the three protagonists of the story.
This happy chiose gives an opportunity to reflect on (moving) images from D’Alonzo’s to Gormi’s to the tout court cinema, wakening the public’s memory and its remembrance about similar experiments already seen in many different films. The most revealing person is David Lynch who has always used the flickering effect to give a stronger and more shaking value to his cinema (think for example to some scenes from Lost Highway, or Heraserhead till the last INLAND EMPIRE).
The clear choise to organize the selected material with the videoscreening style i.e. the continuous projection of images deserves a deeper reflection. Although this option is able to catch the primary pur pose of a great number of works, it incurs in a cognitive overload that distorts the unicity of each single work of art. The public risks to be dazed (sometimes I was really afraid to fall into an epileptic condition) because it is projected into an endless run among images which beat as a hammer the optical nerve.
“When the eye shaker. Flicker between cinema, video and digital world” before being an excellent opportunità to see very particular and extreme works of art, has been an efficient concretization of important and intersting sinergies such as the Documentation Center for Visual Arts of Milan, Digicult and INVIDEO: three absolutely interesting Italian (and international) realities.
In order to reach a more complete documentation of this event, I invite all readers to read what the editors of the event presentation wrote. These words infact not only clearly define the principles of this selection, but also describe the 15 elements compounding it.
(1) Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image , Reaktion Books, 2006.
(2) One of the paradigmatic works of art which founded this “effect” of moving image, The Flicker (Tony Conrad, USA/1965). It opens with a note saying to the public: “WARNING. The producer, distributor, and exhibitors waive all liability for physical or mental injury possibly caused by the motion picture “The Flicker.” Since this film may induce epileptic seizures or produce mild symptoms of shock treatment in certain persons, you are cautioned to remain in the theatre only at your own risk. A physician should be in attendante”