Divine Horsemen and People Inbetween: A Study of the Spaces Between Magical Time and Mechanical Motion
Date: 15 April 2011
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Film By Practice
This PhD “Film by Practice” sets out to question and explore the nature of film poetry. The poetry of the cinematic image is described by the filmmaker Jean Epstein as the “unveiling of the magic inherent in the visual object beyond the capacity of words to define” (Epstein, cited in Sitney, 1978: xxiii). This is a daunting task that ...
This PhD “Film by Practice” sets out to question and explore the nature of film poetry. The poetry of the cinematic image is described by the filmmaker Jean Epstein as the “unveiling of the magic inherent in the visual object beyond the capacity of words to define” (Epstein, cited in Sitney, 1978: xxiii). This is a daunting task that the study interprets through the moving image with particular reference to the magical temporal art of trance possession, which is processed within the genre of experimental ethnographic documentary and intercultural film. This thesis is an experiment in form, taking the filmmaker Maya Deren’s notion of film as comprising of “narrative horizontals” and “poetic verticals” (Deren and Sitney, 1971: 178) explored through a practical investigation of movement and time in space both beyond and within the film frame, studied through the art installations Divine Horsemen (2005) and People Inbetween (2007). It is focused through a reading of Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonian philosophies of cinema as “movement-images” and “time-images” (Deleuze, 1989: xvi, xvii), exhibited as multi-screened video art installations that evolve within the space and hence exist in a perpetual state of “becoming”. Whether this is the sounds and images that change depending on where they are viewed, or the narrative theme of the works as “becoming other”. The themes of “in-betweenness” and the “mix” are investigated through these two video documentary artworks; first, by a third party restaging/remixing of the experimental ethnographic footage of Haitian Voodoo trance possession shot by Maya Deren, unfinished and posthumously released as Divine Horsemen the Voodoo Gods of Haiti (1985); and second, diaspora and the intercultural are explored through the first person personal. Intercultural documentary and experimental ethnography filtered through me with specific reference to my own triangular ethnicity, being British, Sri Lankan, though classified as Dutch Burgher, a “lost white tribe” (Orizio, 2000: 2): a journey into racial “becoming” as an “in-between” belonging to a diasporic community.
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