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In Res Medii: A [materialist] Filmphilosophy of the Matter-Image

by Ethan Tussey

by Bernd Herzogenrath for IN MEDIA RESBill Morrison's Decasia does not see the signs of the time as flaws, as material defects they rather transfer their own aesthetics onto the images. Morrison has deliberately chosen sequences were the representation engages in a direct contact with the material media carrier. A boxer is seen fighting against an amorphous blob [once presumably the image of a punching ball] threatening to swallow him. 'Flames' are dancing over the close-up face of a woman, 'wounding' both celluloid and image. The film's|woman's skin cracks and bubbles and seethes like molten lava the woman's face gets 'out of shape,' melts. The subject|title of the film seems to have transferred|inscribed itself into its material. The resulting tensions produce cracks that echo old oil paintings, but also of some of Brakhage's works. Decasia owns a tactile texture, an almost sculptural depth missing from most contemporary film this is not the utopia of the digital HiRes image, but the idea of an almost three-dimensional geology of surface. Morrison's approach starts with the materiality of the filmic medium and its own proper metamorphosis, rather than its capability to represent time and things the temporality and thingness of the material itself is the center of his work, not the forms and shapes it represents, but the shape and form it becomes. The struggle between image and material ruins the narration of the 'original film,' but produces a new 'narrative' that Decasia does not illustrate, but that emerges out of the ruinous image itself.
The return of film's [repressed] materiality makes itself seen as the destruction of the image which it had produced in the first place yet, an image interference is itself again an image, otherwise it would not be representable. In Morrison's matter-image, film is revealed as image-producing materiality, not as an illusion of reality, as in classic film. Since, for the audience of Decasia, the [re-]entry of the material in the medial form appears as the very destruction of that form, the result is a paradoxical mise-en-scne of the simultaneity of appearance and disappearance, of destruction and construction. The filmic material is not a transparent transmitter of images and meaning, but rather instrumental in its construction the subject of 'time' in Decasia is presented on the filmic material directly, by the material's 'treatment' by time itself.

Philosophy and Materialism

A clip from Bill Morrison’s Decasia

from Decasia (2002)
Creator: Bill Morrison
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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