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Kinetic Emergence: The Theory and Practice of Motion Design,
R. Brian Stone and Leah
Wahlin (Editors), forthcoming (2017) from Common Ground
Publishing
F R O M K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title
Sequences
Michael Betancourt
The relative independence of title sequence designs from the
demands of drama
and narrative in Hollywood’s feature films has allowed them a
degree of formal
experimentation atypical of these productions generally, and
suggests a general
theory for the analysis, discussion, and design of text–image
composites. While
superimposed text over photography used in title sequence
designs are the focus
of this discussion, the three interpretive modes identified can
apply to any text–
image composite. The development of this approach to titles
follows from the
lack, noted by media historian Jan-Christopher Horak in his
book Saul Bass:
Anatomy of Film Design, of any formal design theory. Instead,
a collection of
traditional views about the “ideal” relationship of title sequence
to drama have
been circulating since (at least) the 1950s. Established
approaches to title design
follows a hagiography of noteworthy designers—Saul Bass,
Maurice Binder,
Pablo Ferro, et. al who received on-screen credit—whose work
was a model to
emulate, neglecting uncredited designers’ work as of lesser
interest and
significance (Billanti 1982, 60-69; 70-71). These anecdotal
approaches do not
develop general theories, nor do they propose methods for
discussing or
analyzing the resulting designs (Horak 2014).
What is of interest to the designer in a theoretical approach to
design is very
different from what is of interest to critical analysis. Theories
that designers
employ tend to be heuristic, concerned with the material
production of work;
critical theories are hermeneutic, addressing meaning and
significance without
concern for productive technique. There is little overlap
between heuristic
theories and the hermeneutics of use to analysis other than
semiotics, which
offers a description of general methods producing meaning, that
can be used
hermeneutically and heuristically. The three modes described in
this analysis are
adapted from Michel Foucault’s analysis of Rene Magritte’s
painting in the book
This Is Not a Pipe; Foucault’s theory about the semiotics of
text–image
composites as an ordering and dominating expression of vision-
as-knowledge can
be adapted for a general application to title squences.
Title sequence design has varied greatly in duration,
complexity, and
independence from the rest of the film over its more than 125
years of history in
the United States (Stanitzek 2009, 44-58). As feature films
became the primary
type of production, the visuals, running time, and quantity of
title cards increased
during the 1910s and ’20s paralleling the audience’s
understanding of them. The
basic modes of interpretation were in common use by the 1930s:
the calligram
and figure–ground mode, distinguished by their formal design
(Betancourt 2015,
Semiotica 239-252). Each title card either invokes the direct
link of a textual label
attached to an identifying image (calligram), or the composition
does not propose
an immediate association (figure–ground or rebus). The lexical
aspect of these
distinct modes is precisely the reason for their appearance and
deployment in title
B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 2
sequences. Foucault’s theorizing of interpretation organized and
ordered
through a specifically visional dominance equates seeing with
understanding, and
is embodied precisely in metaphors of vision-as-knowledge;
observers gain
power over the observed. He uses this conception of sight as a
foundation for
exploring text–image composites, through Foucault termed the
“empirical gaze”
in The Birth of the Clinic (Foucault 1975). Seeing dominates
what is seen; vision
is Foucault’s central paradigm for comprehension, linking
visual experience to
knowledge contained by language in a relationship of
telling::showing. Vision
transforms entanglements of text and image, rendering image
supplemental
(secondary) to language. For audiences, these familiar semiotic
modes of text–
image relationship (figure–ground, the calligram, and the rebus)
render visual
designs “transparent” in exactly the same way that written
language functions
without the need for a self-conscious consideration of the
individual letterforms.
Each mutually exclusive mode interprets the elements contained
by a specific title
card (image, text). The two primary modes (figure–ground and
calligram) provide
a methodology for organizing and designing title sequences that
renders their
comprehension immediate for the viewer; the title sequence as a
whole may
employ different modes individually as/in particular title cards.
The third, rebus
mode provides a model for rhetorical meaning through
metonymy and
synecdoche that illuminates the shifting interpretations and
recognitions of how
text–image relate between each title card and the whole
sequence. These modes’
heuristic application comes from marking the differences
between title designs
that produce complex sequences commenting on the main
narrative and those that
do not.
THE FIGURE-GROUND MODE
The Figure–ground mode is the most basic text–image structure.
Audience
perception of the relationship between typography and image
determines the
resulting meaning: whether the typography and photography are
recognized as
being illustratively linked, or remain as separate, distinct
“fields” on screen. In
the figure–ground mode there is no link between text and image,
they are simply
shown at the same time. Individual parts of the image remain in
separate ‘fields’
articulated independently: there is no intersection between text
and image, and
they remain unrelated. The figure–ground mode employs text
and image remain
separate, independent “fields” that are not have no immediately
apparent
relationship, nor do they imply a connection: historically, it is
common for the
superimposed text to entirely obscure the background
photography. This
independence of text–image elements is reflective of categorical
differences
between connotation (language) and denotation (image): the text
is read, while
the image is seen (Barthes 1985, 141).
The figure–ground mode remains consistent. Designs produced
in 1935 and
in those made seventy-five years later in 2011 employ the
relationship in the
same way: in Rumba (1935) the list of names are superimposed
over a collection
of dancing women; in Unknown (2011) the credits are
superimposed over the
opening shots of the story. Both Rumba and Unknown were
chosen as examples
for the figure–ground mode because they are specifically
average, typical
representatives of the same standard approach. In Rumba, the
dancing shadow-
women provide a rhythmic background disconnected from the
music. Their
presence is merely to provide a motion counterpoint to the
stillness of the
typography. As there are only six title cards in a two minute
sequence, this
movement is essential to creating a dynamic composition since
the text is entirely
stationary. In contrast to Rumba, Unknown is organized as an
“invisible”
sequence, integrated with/into the opening shots of the drama. It
does not obscure
the important actions on screen. What is important about these
compositions is
the live action photography, not the credits. The type is placed
within the
3
photographic composition in empty space (“type hole”) that
does not interfere
with the photography; this approach to narrative integration was
pioneered by
Wayne Fitzgerald’s uncredited design for Touch of Evil (1958)
(Betancourt 2013).
The text is superimposed, arranged not to obstruct the narrative
background, but
is otherwise unrelated to it. Although the narrative runs
continuously, eliding the
independence of the title sequence from the rest of the film, the
formal
relationship of figure–ground remains unchanged. The “end” of
the titles in
Touch of Evil is only marked by the theme music ending; in
Unknown the end is
not clearly marked. Integrations of title cards and narrative
background require
the distinction of text from image that defines the figure–ground
mode. The
design must simply place the text so it doesn’t obscure the
narrative imagery.
Figure 1: The Figure-Ground Mode
Source: All six title cards from Rumba, Paramount Pictures,
1935.
THE CALLIGRAM MODE
The calligram functions as a “label” in relation to the
background photography in
a link commonly used to precisely identify the actors. Both the
figure–ground and
calligram modes can (and often do) appear side-by-side within
the same title
sequence. These relations of text–image depend on the
recognition of text–image
as fused. Foucault defines calligrams in This Is Not a Pipe as
entangled text–
image combinations where identification and illustration
converge, establishing
their meaning through the subordination of seeing to reading
through a process of
enculturation begun in childhood, since the calligram and its
structure of image
and text are commonly employed in elementary readers for
young children:
In its millennial tradition, the calligram has a triple role: to
augment the
alphabet, to repeat something without the aid of rhetoric, to trap
things in
a double cipher. [...] The calligram aspires playfully to efface
the oldest
oppositions of our alphabetical civilization: to show and to
name; to
shape and to say; to reproduce and to articulate; to imitate and
to signify;
to look and to read. Pursuing its quarry by two paths, the
calligram sets
the most perfect trap. By its double formation, it guarantees
capture, as
B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 4
neither discourse alone, nor a pure drawing could do (Foucault
1982, 20-
22).
Text and image are doubles for each other, teaching their
connection as both a
function of relationship—the text naming the fruit, ‘apple,’ and
the image
depicting that fruit converge—and of design, where the
proximity and placement
of text–image creates a form that reappears as both title cards
and as subtitles in
motion pictures. Understanding this relationship is necessary to
understanding
how calligrams are commonly employed: they identify the
actors even when the
rest of the sequence is structured by the figure–ground mode. In
Unknown, a live
action shot of actor Liam Neeson at an airplane window is
simultaneously
accompanied by the words “Liam Neeson” appearing next to his
head. Similar
direct relationships appear in Danny Yount’s main-on-end
design for Sherlock
Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011): the credit “Robert
Downey, Jr.” appears
slightly overlapping the actor’s image as “Sherlock Holmes.”
The distinction
between figure–ground and calligram distinguishes this title
card from the earlier
ones in the sequence. Even though they also contain images of
“Sherlock Holmes”
type placement identifies their design as figure–ground, while
the slight overlap
and proximity of name to image render the calligram’s
connections explicit. The
audience recognizes this name is a label identifying this man as
the actor,
connecting his name to his image on screen; this recognition of
text-as-label
specifically defines the calligram mode.
Figure 2: The Calligram Mode
Source: Title card stating “Liam Neeson” from Unknown, Dark
Castle
Entertainment, 2011.
In a calligram, reading::seeing are a dual articulation of the
same idea. The
image and the text do not compete for the audience’s attention
and understanding,
but are fused into a singular unit. In title cards, this linkage of
connotation and
depiction reiterates the text as the image: in both sequences, the
actor—“Robert
Downey, Jr.” or “Liam Neeson”—simultaneously appears on
screen, identified
and labeled with their name; calligrams appear in title designs
precisely because
of this mutually reinforcing illustration. In seeing the text
placement that
produces the apparent linkage of name to live action
photography—typically in
close proximity to the subject—the audience understands that
this text is
presented as a label; other text placements do not produce such
an immediate
connection, and so are not understood as calligrams, but as
figure–ground.
Calligrams link actors with their real world names, serving an
essential
function in commercializing cinema by identifying the “star”
independently of the
role played. It connects reading::seeing as mutually reinforcing
illustrations
through a logic of similarity and duplicitous naming/showing
that acknowledges
5
the fictitious nature of the drama: the name that the actor
responds to on screen
is not their own; the calligram counteracts this effacement of
real identity by
inscribing the “true name” of the actors onto their images,
contradicting their
behavior in the narrative: “Robert Downey, Jr.” is not “Sherlock
Holmes” except
within the film. This duality of reality and fiction reiterates
Foucault’s
understanding that calligrams as demonstrate the clinical gaze
actively imposing
order through a translation of visual experience into the
knowledge contained by
language—the label printed on screen: sight actively imposes a
hierarchical order
on the world. Thus the calligram embodies a subversive duality.
By confusing the
image with the text, it asserts the principles that make this
hierarchy possible (it
combines text and image into a mutually dependent relationship
asserting what
appears to be a singular meaning), while the drama seems to
undermine the
certainty of the label (the actor responds to a different name
than the one shown).
The complexity and contradiction of this relationship between
text and image
becomes apparent once the film drama begins: the actor named
in the titles is not
typically called by their real name in the drama. This mismatch
is foundational;
the actors who appear on screen are playing a role, different and
distinct from
their identities when not playing that role in the motion picture.
The role of
calligrams is to subordinate image to language: it establishes
the boundaries of
comprehension—the limits of interpretive and conceptual
understanding—in the
title sequence, this is the distinction between actor and
character. This separation
of live actor from fictional role presented/constructed in the
film is governed by a
set of conventions not least of which is the framing and staging
of the film itself
to hide and render invisible all the technologies required for its
production. This
superimposed text is non-diegetic, external to the “reality” on
screen, reiterating
the enclosed, independent nature of the drama through
(paradoxically) instructing
the audience in the real identity of the actor distinguished from
their character in
the story. The audience knows all of this in advance, and the
pleasures and
attractions of dramatic realism employed in Hollywood films
emerge from
accepting the fictional “world” (Lackey 1973). Distinguishing
between real
names and dramatic roles asserted through the calligram marks
the boundary of
the fictional realm within the film itself. The dualities of
naming and showing
actors is part of the conventionalized realism of dramatic film,
where instead of
rupturing the illusion, it draws attention to it as such, allowing
the audience to
acknowledge this realism is a construct in a complicit, knowing
fashion.
THE REBUS MODE
The rebus develops a dialectical contrast between image and
typography via a
rhetorical juxtaposition—metonymy and synecdoche. There are
both simple and
complex versions of the rebus mode. The simple version
depends on the image
for the rhetorical meaning; in the complex version, the graphic
style of the letters
provide this rhetorical content. Identifying rhetoric depends on
the audience
making connections invoked through the mismatch of one term
with another—the
text–image relationship draws attention to itself through the
ambiguous form of
the “rebus” or word–image puzzle (Barthes 1972, 114-116). The
a new meaning,
a rhetorical excess (Barthes 1972, 109-159), is a poetic
transformation revealing
itself through recognized, but absent, links and connections
invoked in the
mismatch of text and image (Barthes 1972, 114-116). The rebus
is defined by
how it realizes indirect connections between text–image; the
simple (and most
common) rebus implies its meaning by juxtaposing an
independent text with a
conceptually related image, making the title card into a
visualized metaphor or
analogy.
The rebus draws from the audience’s past experience with
recognizing
implied connections: the imaginative (poetic) juxtaposition of
text and image.
Ambivalence is central to rhetoric, an elliptical combination
that challenges
B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 6
established meaning by deflecting the image towards its
metonymic potential.
The various roles “played” by the cartoon panther in David
DePatie and Friz
Freleng’s design for The Pink Panther (1963) reflect allegorical
connections: the
choices of “photographic subject,” “conductor,” or “typing” all
direct attention to
the activity associated with the text. Each title card plays with
the relationship
between action (performed by cartoon panther) and production
role:
cinematography, music composition, screenwriting. This form is
commonly used
in title cards for production credits, distinguishi ng the unseen
work of technicians
from the actor’s playing their roles.
Figure 3: The Simple Rebus Mode
Source: Title card from To Kill A Mockingbird, Universal
International Pictures,
1962.
In discovering the connection contained by a title card such as
“written by
Horton Foote,” superimposed over a photograph of a crayon in
Steven Frankfurt’s
design for To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), the audience must
recognize the links
and ellipses between a crayon used by children to draw and
scrawl words and the
structured, carefully organized process of writing a screenplay.
The superimposed
text on this image is not a calligram. The crayon in To Kill a
Mockingbird does
not illustrate “written by Horton Foote” in the way that the
actor illustrates his
name “Robert Downey. Jr.” in Sherlock Holmes: Game of
Shadows. Yet there is
an apparent link in To Kill a Mockingbird: these cards employ
the familiar logic
of metonymy—this crayon does stand for the act of adapting the
screenplay from
the novel. It is a strictly linguistic connection translated into
visual form,
deferring their connection until the audience acknowledges the
relationship of
text and associated image. These erratic features of language
are specifically
discontinuous, requiring imaginative leaps to join them in a
logic of synthesis
arising from a dialectical conjunction of elements, each
specifically distinct from
another.
Rhetoric is incompatible with illustration—the picture is not
the statement
made by the text. Neither is dominant; text and image have
equal weight in their
interpretation. This precarious balance animates their meaning,
forcing them to
fuse into the rebus. The simple connections of crayon–writing
are relatively direct
links whose metonymy emerges from how the image stands-in
for the activity
identified by the text: writing is linked to crayon in an
immanent relationship
between the thing depicted and the activity named. By
acknowledging this link,
the audience recognizes the nature of these actions and their
meaningful re-
7
presentation on screen. Categorical classifications of text and
image remain
unchallenged: text remains linguistic, while image remains
graphic. The
metaphor rendered visual depends on perceived connections via
metonymies
between image and text. Their conceptual recognition directs
attention away from
the illustrative. Until the linkage is made between image and
text—a sudden burst
of comprehension produced by deciphering these dialectics—the
rebus remains
unrecognized, masquerading as the figure–ground mode.
Indirect connections transform images into text via
metonymy—the crayon
evoking action of writing itself—mobilizing past knowledge and
experience to
unravel the rebus’ associative meanings. The same affirmation
of dominant order
visualized in calligrams (and title sequences generally) changes
into an explicit
assertion of that order in the rebus. Forcing a consideration of
an allegorical
meaning, independent of the images/texts alone, deflects
photography’s
representational status, transfiguring “connotation” to become
“denotation,” as
Foucault notes about the changed meanings produced by the
rebus:
The similar develops in series that have neither beginning for
end, that
can be followed in one direction as easily as in another, that
obey no
hierarchy, but propagate themselves from small difference
among small
differences. Resemblance serves representation, which rules
over it;
similitude serves repetition, which ranges across it (Foucault
1982, 44).
The rebus renders the image as denotation; Foucault’s
distinction of semblance
and resemblance describes the movement from mimetic
depiction into the realm
of semiotics where images become text in the shift between
reading::seeing.
Abandoning immanent recognition for a generalized meaning,
necessarily
rhetorical, defines the rebus. The crayon comes to resemble the
associated
activity—writing—as cyphers functioning not by their
representation specificity
(resemblance) but thorough abstraction as general signs; this
rhetorical deflection
is characteristic of the rebus. The similarity between depiction
and concept
invoked through the text resolves the rebus as a visualized
metaphor whose
meaning comes from a forced similarity between ambivalent
image the lexical
meaning. Foucault’s “similitude” is this condition of language,
of terms whose
meanings emerge from their contextual transformation; it
produces what he
identifies as rhetoric:
It uses the possibility to repeating the same thing in different
words and
profits from the extra richness of language that allows us to say
different
things with a single word. The essence of rhetoric is in allegory
(Foucault 1982, 21).
Where a calligram’s joining of text to image produces a
doubling or reinforcing
of the same meaning, its dialectics creates a new meaning
different from what the
image shows. The rebus transforms depiction (which always
aspires to be what it
shows) into a sign whose meaning is other than the depiction.
Rhetoric is not just
a series of terms arranged, but their deflection and
transformation via
juxtaposition in series, one term altering the meaning of next—
these changes
happen fluently for the audience—as when “lightning” modifies
and is
transformed by “bug” (nobody confuses the meaning of
“lightning” and
“lightning bug”). The rebus resolves image as a sign, i.e. as
connotation
(language).
B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 8
By transforming vision into reading the rhetorical shift around
crayon/writing in Frankfurt’s design allegorically allows these
references to move
beyond the immediate and superficial representation of writing
by this crayon to
become at the same moment also a statement about the nature
and source of that
writing—the choice of this crayon, worn and thick, which
appears in use
elsewhere in the title sequence rubbing over type to reveal the
films’ title,
drawing a bird—is necessary to firmly identify the writing as a
child’s story; the
narrative is from a child’s perspective. The entire sequence is
implicated in this
single title card. Thus the association of crayon with “written
by Horton Foote”
suggests the point of view employed in the film, beyond just the
metonymic
linkage of writing with an implement. The apparent challenge to
vision-as-
knowledge is a chimera since selection of a particular image
(photography is
always specific) foreshadows and anticipates the drama.
Relations of title cards to
drama are common in the rebus—the encapsulation of the film
in the opening
renders its metanarrative of the film that follows as a puzzle
(rebus) because its
lexicon is the drama itself: the story unfolding after the title
sequence is over
decodes the title design. Nevertheless, the decoding is
spontaneous, a recognition
of relationship and meaning the audience performs fluently.
Differences between
reading::seeing are fundamental, but familiar roles, readily
navigated.
Allegory transforms representation into metaphor, in the
process shifting the
significance of what is seen so its material form serves
interpretative ends; instead
of being, it signifies. The particularities of the image matter,
but only in so far as
they engage this new function, as a rebus born in the dialectical
relations of text–
image. Re-reading the image as language characterizes the
simple variant of the
rebus. In denying the representational mimesis of photography,
the dominance of
vision affirms the established hierarchies of thought and
interpretation. These
recognitions and shift happen readily and fluidly, this process
being instantaneous
since it is the same sequence of shifts between image and
language commonly
employed in reading text itself.
The Complex Rebus
The complex rebus develops a rhetoric around the form of the
type and its
arrangement on screen. The typography becomes an additional
“image”
commonly ignored in other modes. Shifts in the design and
presentation of the
text—its graphic style and dress—offers meanings not contained
by the text itself.
In Pablo Ferro’s first title design, created for Dr. Strangelove,
or how I learned to
stop worrying and love the bomb (1964) has two distinct
sections: a voice–over
narrative preamble accompanying aerial footage of cloud-
shrouded mountains
running 40 seconds, and the title sequence itself, running
approximately 110
seconds and containing 16 title cards made of irregular
compositions mostly
filling the screen with outlines of spindly hand-drawn
letterforms that either fade–
in and –out, or dissolve one into the next, overlaid onto eight
live action shots
(Heller 2005, 74-79). The film is a satire on the cold war, the
title sequence
compresses these thematics through the design and the
particulars of the lettering
used for the title cards. The screen design draws attention to
them as graphics,
denying language to assert the words-as-image, a reversal that
requires an
additional layer of interpretation—the rebus. In contrast to other
title sequences of
the time, these title cards are clearly hand-drawn. Irregular lines
and wobbly
letters form asymmetrical compositions where the outlines of
words fill the
screen, but their graphic character does not obscure the live
action background.
Their combination is comical, the use of hand drawn “type” and
the odd sizes and
arrangement of text suggests commentary on the events shown
in the live
action—without directly making any critical or comic
statement; this additional
meaning foreshadows the satiric drama to follow. Shifting from
“letter” to
“graphic” opens language onto other types of meaning—a
formal rhetoric of
9
shape and design that violates fundamental conceptions of
typography as
primarily a vehicle for reading in an existential challenge to the
Modernist
conception of typography as focused on legibility, as Jan
Tschichold theorized in
1926: “The essence of the new [Modernist] typography is
clarity” (Tschichold
1998, 66). This reversal defines the complex form: language
becomes something
that must be seen rather than read, in the process undoing the
semiotics of writing
to give primacy to the visuality normally hidden in/by
“reading.” Rejecting
language returns lettering to its foundations —graphics
composed and
superimposed over other, photographic materials in a reflexive
(and thus
potentially critical) re–assertion of sight as organizing process
rendering meaning
possible.
Figure 4: The Complex Rebus Mode
Source: All 16 title cards from Dr. Strangelove, or how I
learned to stop worrying
and love the bomb, Columbia Pictures, 1964.
Displacement and transformation are hallmarks of rhetoric,
rendering its
meanings apparently natural and immediate, hiding what creates
their
significance: the excess meaning of the rebus in Dr. Strangelove
is contained by …
Case study
Sara is a 29-year-old woman who worked at ABC hospital as a
Mental Health Technician (MHT) for 1.5 year. In the beginning,
Sara felt that the job was interesting and informative, but as
time went on, the job and its environment began to affect Sara
negatively. As an MHT, Sara was not given the opportunity to
use the skills and knowledge she had acquired over time from
her Associate of Arts degree, from her Family Development
Credential, and from her 6.5 years of experience in Social
Services. Initially, in the MHT position, Sara was permitted to
chart on patients, which allowed Sara to engage in therapeutic
conversations with the patients. These interactions with patients
helped Sara to feel like she was making a difference.
After her first year however, a policy changes prohibited MHTs
from charting on patients and mandated that such duties be done
by licensed staff only. This restriction cut into the therapeutic
aspect of the job substantially. MHTs responsibility of doing
patient groups was also cut down to one communi ty group in the
mornings, a group meeting whose purpose was to go over rules
and regulations. The new MHT position as a result of the
change consisted of nothing more than observing patients and
documenting their location every 15 minutes. This affected Sara
greatly, as she felt the need to use her skills and experience and
felt very overqualified and under-utilized in her position.
Sara's compensation was also an issue. The hospital system that
oversaw the mental division did not recognize educational
milestones in Sara's position. The AA that Sara already held had
no bearing on her pay rate. Sara had also found out that when
she would have obtained her BA in December, there would be
no pay increase as a result. Yearly raises had also been minimal,
with employees being told that they "should be thankful to have
a job in this economy", yet the hospital continued to make
expensive aesthetic improvements to the hospital.
Sara's supervisor was also someone who was hard to deal with.
Known for having minimal people skills, the supervisor
maintained a distance with staff members. She was difficult to
talk to, intimidating, and hard to approach with personal or
work concerns.
Sara had noticed that most of the time her attitude towards work
had become negative. She dreaded getting up in the mornings to
go to work and almost never smiled while she was there. Her
affect at work was often that of boredom and disdain. She
resented organizational rules and policies and how they were
conducted at the hospital. She found that her stress level and
negative attitude had started to spill over into her personal life.
Also, where Sara was once a model employee on her
performance review, with zero absences and zero tardiness, she
now found herself not caring whether she was on time or not, or
what her supervisor thought about her job performance.
About six months ago, a job offer for a Counselor-In-Training
opened up at a nearby clinic. Although Sara wasn't really
looking for a change until graduation in December, she decided
to interview and fortunately she ended up getting the job.
Almost immediately, Sara's stress levels stabilized, and her
normal, pleasant affect returned. She also regained her positive
attitude and began to once again care about her work. She
became once again motivated to perform at her best.
In the new job, Sara was able to have one-on-one sessions with
patients and she also learned to work with a new computer
system. She really felt that her intelligence and skills were
being utilized. This was extremely important to Sara The pay
was a bit better, but Sara found out that she would be getting a
substantial raise once she obtains her BA in Psychology. The
administrator, Sara's supervisor, was also kind and easy to talk
to. Sara immediately felt comfortable there and felt that she
could really begin to build her career at this organization.
Modernist Painting
Clement Greenberg
Modernism includes more than art and literature. By now it
covers almost the whole of
what is truly alive in our culture. It happens, however, to be
very much of a historical
novelty. Western civilization is not the first civilization to turn
around and question its own
foundations, but it is the one that has gone furthest in doing so.
I identify Modernism with
the intensification, almost the exacerbation, of this self-critical
tendency that began with
the philosopher Kant. Because he was the first to criticize the
means itself of criticism, I
conceive of Kant as, the first real Modernist.
The essence of Modernism lies, as I see it, in the use of
characteristic methods of a
discipline to criticise the discipline itself, not in order to
subvert it but in order to entrench
it more firmly in its area of competence. Kant used logic to
establish the limits of logic,
and while he withdrew much from its old jurisdiction, logic was
left all the more secure in
what there remained to it.
The self-criticism of Modernism grows out of, but is not the
same thing as, the criticism of
the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment criticized from the
outside, the way criticism in its
accepted sense does; Modernism criticizes from the inside,
through the procedures
themselves of that which is being criticized. It seems natural
that this new kind of criticism
should have appeared first in philosophy, which is critical by
definition, but as the 19th
century wore on, it entered many other fields. A more rational
justification had begun to
be demanded of every formal activity, and Kantian self-
criticism, which had arisen in
philosophy in answer to this demand in the first place, was
called on eventually to meet
and interpret it in areas that lay far from philosophy.
We know what has happened to an activity like religion, which
could not avail itself of
Kantian, immanent, criticism in order to justify itself. At first
glance the arts might seem to
have been in a situation like religion!s. Having been denied by
the Enlightenment all tasks
they could take seriously, they looked as though they were
going to be assimilated to
entertainment pure and simple, and entertainment itself looked
as though it were going to
be assimilated, like religion, to therapy. The arts could save
themselves from this leveling
down only by demonstrating that the kind of experience they
provided was valuable in its
own right and not to be obtained from any other kind of
activity.
Each art, it turned out, had to perform this demonstration on its
own account. What had to
be exhibited was not only that which was unique and irreducible
in art in general, but also
that which was unique and irreducible in each particular art.
Each art had to determine,
through its own operations and works, the effects exclusive to
itself. By doing so it would,
to be sure, narrow its area of competence, but at the same time
it would make its
possession of that area all the more certain.
It quickly emerged that the unique and proper idea of
competence of each art coincided
with all that was unique in the nature of its medium. The task of
self-criticism became to
eliminate from the specific effects of each art any and every
effect that might conceivably
be borrowed from or by the medium of any other art. Thus
would each art be rendered
“pure,” and in its “purity” find the guarantee of its standard of
quality as well as of its
Page 1 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
independence. “Purity” meant self-definition, and
the enterprise of self-criticism in the arts became
one of self-definition with a vengeance.
Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the
medium, using art to conceal art; Modernism
used art to call attention to art. The limitations
that constitute the medium of painting—the flat
surface, the shape of the support, the properties
of the pigment—were treated by the old masters
as negative factors that could be acknowledged
only by implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism
these same limitations came to be regarded as
positive factors, and were acknowledged openly.
Manet!s became the first Modernist pictures by
virtue of the frankness with which they declared
the flat surfaces on which they were painted. The
Impressionists, in Manet!s wake, abjured
underpainting and glazes, to leave the eye under
no doubt as to the fact that the colors they used
were made of paint that came from tubes or pots.
Cézanne sacrificed verisimilitude, or
correctness, in order to fit his drawing and
design more explicitly into the rectangular
shape of the canvas.
It was the stressing of the ineluctable
flatness of the surface that remained,
however, more fundamental than anything
else to the processes by which pictorial art
criticized and defined itself under
Modernism. For flatness alone was unique
and exclusive to pictorial art. The enclosing
shape of the picture was a limiting
condition, or norm, that was shared with the
art of the theater; color was a norm and a
means shared not only with the theater, but
also with sculpture. Because flatness was
the only condition painting shared with no
other art, Modernist painting oriented itself
to flatness as it did to nothing else.
The Old Masters had sensed that it was necessary to preserve
what is called the integrity
of the picture plane: that is, to signify the enduring presence of
flatness underneath and
above the most vivid illusion of three-dimensional space. The
apparent contradiction
involved was essential to the success of their art, as it is indeed
to the success of all
pictorial art. The Modernists have neither avoided nor resolved
this contradiction; rather
they have reversed its terms. One is made aware of the flatness
of their pictures before,
instead of after, being made aware of what the flatness contains.
Whereas one tends to
see what is in an Old Master before one sees the picture itself,
one sees a Modernist
picture as a picture first. This is, of course, the best way of
seeing any kind of picture, Old
Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot with a Fan, 1872
Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Plaster Cupid, 1895
Page 2 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
Master or Modernist, but Modernism imposes it as the only and
necessary way, and
Modernism!s success in doing so is a success of self-criticism.
Modernist painting is in its latest phase
and has not abandoned the
representation of recognizable objects in
principle. What it has abandoned in
principle is the representation of the kind
of space that recognizable objects can
inhabit. Abstractness, or the non-
figurative, has in itself still not proved to
be an altogether necessary moment in
the self-criticism of pictorial art, even
though artists as eminent as Kandinsky
and Mondrian have thought so. As such,
representation, or illustration, does not
attain the uniqueness of pictorial art;
what does do so is the associations of things represented.
All recognizable entities (including pictures themselves)
exist in three-dimensional space, and the barest
suggestion of a recognizable entity suffices to call up
associations of that kind of space. The fragmentary
silhouette of a human figure, or of a teacup, will do so, and
by doing so alienate pictorial space from the literal two-
dimensionality which is the guarantee of painting!s
independence as an art. For, as has already been said,
three-dimensionality is the province of sculpture. To
achieve autonomy, painting has had above all to divest
itself of everything it might share with sculpture, and it is in
its effort to do this, and not so much—I repeat—to exclude
the representational or literary, that painting has made
itself abstract.
At the same time, however, Modernist painting shows, precisely
by its resistance to the
sculptural, how firmly attached it remains to tradition
beneath and beyond all appearances to the contrary.
For the resistance to the sculptural dates far back
before the advent of Modernism. Western painting, in
so far as it is naturalistic, owes a great debt to
sculpture, which taught it in the beginning how to
shade and model for the illusion of relief, and even
how to dispose that illusion in a complementary
illusion of deep space. Yet some of the greatest feats
of Western painting are due to the effort it has made
over the last four centuries to rid itself of the
sculptural. Starting in Venice in the 16th century and
continuing in Spain, Belgium, and Holland in the 17th, that
effort was carried on at first in
the name of color. What David, in the 18th century, tried to
revive sculptural painting, it
was, in part, to save pictorial art from the decorative flattening-
out that the emphasis on
color seemed to induce. Yet the strength of David!s own best
pictures, which are
predominantly his informal ones, lies as much in their color as
in anything else. And
Ingres, his faithful pupil, though he subordinated color far more
consistently than did
Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VIII, 1923
Piet Mondrian, Composition with Blue
Plane, 1921
Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538
Page 3 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
David, executed portraits that were
among the flattest, least sculptural
paintings done in the West by a
sophisticated artist since the 14th century.
Thus, by the middle of the 19th century,
all ambitious tendencies in painting had
converged amid their differences, in an
anti-sculptural direction.
Modernism, as well as continuing this
direction, has made it more conscious of
itself. With Manet and the Impressionists
the question stopped being defined as
one of color versus drawing, and become
one of purely optical experience against optical experience as
revised or modified by
tactile associations. It was in the name of the purely and
literally optical, not in the name of color, that the
Impressionists set themselves to undermining shading
and modeling and everything else in painting that seemed
to connote the sculptural. It was, once again, in the name
of the sculptural, with its shading and modeling, that
Cézanne, and the Cubists after him, reacted against
Impressionism, as David had reacted against Fragonard.
But once more, just as David!s and Ingres! reaction had
culminated, paradoxically, in a kind of painting even less
sculptural than before, so the Cubist counter-revolution
eventuated in a kind of painting flatter than anything else
in Western art since before Giotto and Cimabue—so flat
indeed that it could hardly contain recognizable images.
In the meantime
the other cardinal norms of the art of painting had
begun, with the onset of Modernism, to undergo
a revision that was equally thorough if not as
spectacular. It would take me more time than is at
my disposal to show how the norm of the
picture!s enclosing shape, or frame, was
loosened, then tightened, then loosened once
again, and isolated, and then tightened once
more, by successive generations of Modernist
painters. Or how the norms of finish and paint
texture, and of value and color contrast, were
revised and re-revised. New risk have been taken
with all these norms, not only in the interests of
expression but also in order to exhibit more
clearly as norms. By being exhibited, they are
tested for their indispensability. That testing is by no means
finished, and the fact that it
becomes deeper as it proceeds accounts for the radical
simplifications that are also to be
seen in the very latest abstract painting, as well as for the
radical complications that are
also seen in it.
Neither extreme is a matter of caprice or arbitrariness. On the
contrary, the more closely
the norms of a discipline become defined, the less freedom they
are apt to permit in
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Socrates, 1787
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres,
Louis-Francois Bertin, 1833
Giotto, Lamentation of Christ, 1305-6
Page 4 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
many directions. The essential norms or conventions of painting
are at the same time the
limiting conditions with which a picture must comply in order
to be experienced as a
picture. Modernism has found that these limits can be pushed
back indefinitely before a
picture stops being a picture and turns into an arbitrary object;
but it has also found that
the further back these limits are pushed the more explicitly they
have to be observed and
indicated. The crisscrossing black lines
and colored rectangles of a Mondrian
painting seem hardly enough to make a
picture out of, yet they impose the
picture!s framing shape as a regulating
norm with a new force and
completeness by echoing that shape so
closely. Far from incurring the danger of
arbitrariness, Mondrian!s art proves, as
time passes, almost too disciplined,
almost too tradition- and convention-
bound in certain respects; once we
have gotten used to its utter
abstractness, we realize that it is more
conservative in its color, for instance, as
well as in its subservience to the frame,
than the later paintings of Monet.
It is understood, I hope, that in plotting
out the rationale of Modernist painting I have had to simplify
and exaggerate. The
flatness towards which Modernist painting orients itself can
never be an absolute
flatness. The heightened sensitivity of the picture plane may no
longer permit sculptural
illusion, or trompe-l'oeil, but it does and must permit optical
illusion. The first mark made
on a canvas destroys its literal and utter flatness, and the result
of the marks made on it
by an artist like Mondrian is still a kind of illusion that suggests
a kind of third dimension.
Only now it is a strictly pictorial, strictly optical third
dimension. The Old Masters created
an illusion of space in depth that one could imagine oneself
walking into, but the
analogous illusion created by the Modernist painter can only be
seen into; can be
traveled through, literally or figuratively, only with the eye.
The latest abstract painting tries
to fulfill the Impressionist
insistence on the optical as the
only sense that a completely
and quintessentially pictorial art
can invoke. Realizing this, one
begins to realize that the
Impressionists, or at least the
Neo-Impressionists, were not
altogether misguided when they
flirted with science. Kantian self-
criticism, as it now turns out,
has found its fullest expression
in science rather than in
philosophy, and when it began
to be applied in art, the latter
was brought closer in real spirit
to scientific method than ever before—closer than it had been
by Alberti, Uccello, Piero
della Francesca, or Leonardo in the Renaissance. That visual art
should confine itself
Claude Monet, Water Lillies, 1908
Piero della Francesca, Flagellation, probably 1450s
Page 5 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
exclusively to what is given in visual experience, and make no
reference to anything
given in any other order of experience, is a notion whose only
justification lies in scientific
consistency.
Scientific method alone asks, or might ask, that a situation be
resolved in exactly the
same terms as that in which it is presented. But this kind of
consistency promises nothing
in the way of aesthetic quality, and the fact that the best art of
the last seventy or eighty
years approaches closer and closer to such consistency does not
show the contrary.
From the point of view of art in itself, its convergence with
science happens to be a mere
accident, and neither art nor science really gives or assures the
other of anything more
than it ever did. What their convergence does show, however, is
the profound degree to
which Modernist art belongs to the same specific cultural
tendency as modern science,
and this is of the highest significance as a historical fact.
It should be understood that self-
criticism in Modernist art has never
been carried on in any but a
spontaneous and largely subliminal
way. As I have already indicated, it has
been altogether a question of practice,
immanent to practice, and never a
topic of theory. Much is heard about
programs in connection with Modernist
art, but there has actually been far less
of the programmatic in Modernist than
in Renaissance or Academic painting.
With a few exceptions like Mondrian,
the masters of Modernism have no
more fixed ideas about art than Corot
did. Certain inclinations, certain
affirmations and emphases, and
certain refusals and abstinences as
well, seem to become necessary simply because the way to
stronger, more expressive
art lies through them. The immediate aims of the Modernists
were, and remain, personal
before anything else, and the truth and success of their works
remain personal before
anything else. And it has taken the accumulation, over decades,
of a good deal of
personal painting to reveal the general self-critical tendency of
Modernist painting. No
artist was, or yet is, aware of it, nor could any artist ever work
freely in awareness of it. To
this extent—and it is a great extent—art gets carried on under
Modernism much in the
same way as before.
And I cannot insist enough that Modernism has never meant,
and does not mean now,
anything like a break with the past. It may mean a devolution,
an unraveling, of tradition,
but it also means its further evolution. Modernist art continues
the past without gap or
break, and wherever it may end up it will never cease being
intelligible in terms of the
past. The making of pictures has been controlled, since it first
began, by all the norms I
have mentioned. The Paleolithic painter or engraver could
disregard the norm of the
frame and treat the surface in a literally sculptural way only
because he made images
rather than pictures, and worked on a support—a rock wall, a
bone, a horn, or a stone—
whose limits and surface were arbitrarily given by nature. But
the making of pictures
means, among other things, the deliberate creating or choosing
of a flat surface, and the
deliberate circumscribing and limiting of it. This deliberateness
is precisely what
Modernist painting harps on: the fact, that is, that the limiting
conditions of art are
altogether human conditions.
Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld, 1861
Page 6 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
But I want to repeat that Modernist art does not
offer theoretical demonstrations. It can be said,
rather, that it happens to convert theoretical
possibilities into empirical ones, in doing which
it tests many theories about art for their
relevance to the actual practice and actual
experience of art. In this respect alone can
Modernism be considered subversive. Certain
factors we used to think essential to the
making and experiencing of art are shown not
to be so by the fact that Modernist painting has
been able to dispense with them and yet
continue to offer the experience of art in all its
essentials. The further fact that this
demonstration has left most of our old value
judgments intact only makes it the more
conclusive. Modernism may have had
something to do with the revival of the
reputations of Uccello, Piero della Francesca,
El Greco, Georges de la Tour, and even
Vermeer; and Modernism certainly confirmed, if
it did not start, the revival of Giotto!s reputation;
but it has not lowered thereby the standing of
Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, or
Watteau. What Modernism has shown is that, though
the past did appreciate these masters justly, it often
gave wrong or irrelevant reasons for doing so.
In some ways this situation is hardly changed today.
Art criticism and art history lag behind Modernism as
they lagged behind pre-Modernist art. Most of the
things that get written about Modernist art still belong
to journalism rather than to criticism or art history. It
belongs to journalism—and to the millennial complex
from which so many journalists and journalist
intellectuals suffer in our day—that each new phase
of Modernist art should be hailed as the start of a
whole new epoch in art, marking a decisive break
with all the customs and conventions of the past. Each time, a
kind of art is expected so
unlike all previous kinds of art, and so free from norms of
practice or taste, that
everybody, regardless of how informed or uninformed he
happens to be, can have his
say about it. And each time, this expectation has been
disappointed, as the phase of
Modernist art in question finally takes its place in the
intelligible continuity of taste and
tradition.
Nothing could be further from the authentic art of our time than
the idea of a rupture of
continuity. Art is—among other things—continuity, and
unthinkable without it. Lacking the
past of art, and the need and compulsion to maintain its
standards of excellence,
Modernist art would lack both substance and justification.
Rubens, Elevation of the Cross, 1610-11
Raphael, The Alba Madonna, c.1511
Page 7 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
Postscript (1978)
The above appeared first in 1960 as a pamphlet in a series
published by the Voice of
America. It had been broadcast over that agency's radio in the
spring of the same year.
With some minor verbal changes it was reprinted in the spring
1965 number of Art and
Literature in Paris, and then in Gregory Battcock's anthology
The New Art (1966).
I want to take this chance to correct an error, one of
interpretation an not of fact. Many
readers, though by no means all, seem to have taken the
'rationale' of Modernist art
outlined here as representing a position adopted by the writer
himself that is, that what he
describes he also advocates. This may be a fault of the writing
or the rhetoric.
Nevertheless, a close reading of what he writes w ill find
nothing at all to indicate that he
subscribes to, believes in, the things that he adumbrates. (The
quotation marks around
pure and purity should have been enough to show that.) The
writer is trying to account in
part for how most of the very best art of the last hundred-odd
years came about, but he's
not implying that that's how it had to come about, much less
that that's how the best art
still has to come about. 'Pure' art was a useful illusion, but this
doesn't make it any the
less an illusion. Nor does the possibility of its continuing
usefulness make it any the less
an illusion.
There have been some further constructions of what I wrote that
go over into
preposterousness: That I regard flatness and the inclosing of
flatness not just as the
limiting conditions of pictorial art, but as criteria of aesthetic
quality in pictorial art; that the
further a work advances the self-definition of an art, the better
that work is bound to be.
The philosopher or art historian who can envision me—or
anyone at all—arriving at
aesthetic judgments in this way reads shockingly more into
himself or herself than into
my article.
Forum Lectures (Washington, D.C.: Voice of America), 1960;
Arts Yearbook 4, 1961 (unrevised);
Art and Literature, Spring 1965 (slightly revised); The New Art:
A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory
Battcock, 1966; Peinture-cahiers théoriques, no. 8-9, 1974
(titled “La peinture moderniste”);
Esthetics Contemporary, ed. Richard Kostelanetz, 1978; Modern
Art and Modernism: A Critical
Anthology, ed. Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison, 1982;
Clement Greenberg: The Collected
Essays and Criticism vol. 4, ed. John O!Brian, 1993.
From: http://www.sharecom.ca/greenberg/modernism.html (Last
access 21 July 07)
Page 8 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
HY HIRSH | color photographs
PAUL M. HERTZMANN, INC. | SAN FRANCISCO
2
Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc.
Post Office Box 40447
San Francisco, California 94140
Tel: 415 626-2677
Fax: 415 552-4160
Email: [email protected]
Photographer and filmmaker Hy Hirsh led a restless and
unconventional life. He worked in
Los Angeles and San Francisco before creative and economic
opportunities lured him to Europe
in 1955. He died in Paris at age 49 under clouded
circumstances, his death variously attrib-
uted to a drug overdose or a heart attack.2 One account,
probably apocryphal, suggests that
upon Hirsh’s death his estate was seized by the French police
because of the illegal cannabis
found among his belongings.3 When his estate was released,
much of his life’s work in film and
photography went missing. What survives is work that Hirsh left
with close friends and a few
items that were returned to his family.4
The abstract color prints featured in this catalogue are unique
among Hirsh’s body of little-
known photographic work. They directly link his still
photography to the experimental filmmaking
for which he is best known. By closely connecting the two, he
joins such artists as Man Ray
and Francis Bruguière in making a notable contribution to both
experimental filmmaking and
photography.
His parents, Russian immigrants Max and Olga Hirsh, brought
him to Southern California
as a child in 1916, placing Hirsh in an ideal location to develop
an interest in both filmmaking
and photography. He was just 19 years old when he began
working in the Hollywood studios.
From 1930 through 1936 he was employed as a camera operator
and editor, primarily at
Columbia Studios.5 He began to make still photographs in
1932.6
Hirsh’s personal life was often tumultuous.A romantic
relationship with Mae Agronowsky led
to the birth of Hirsh’s only child, Diane, in 1934. He lived with
them for two years but found trad-
itional family life too confining. In 1939 he married Marie
Gattman, a dancer and actress. She
shared Hirsh’s interest in workers’ rights and left-wing politics,
as well as his bohemian lifestyle.7
The couple lived in Los Angeles for a short time before moving
to San Francisco’s Haight
Street. Hirsh became the photographer for the California Palace
of the Legion of Honor and the
M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, photographing artwork,
processing film and making prints.
He also used the museum darkroom facilities for his own
artistic pursuits, though this arrange-
ment was not officially approved. When colleagues knocked on
the lab door, which Hirsh kept
locked, he could be heard scurrying about in an attempt to hide
his own artwork before return-
ing to a museum project and opening the door.8
His early photographic style mirrored that of the most
influential movement in California
photography, Group f64, whose inaugural exhibition was held at
the M. H. de Young Memorial
Museum in 1932. The “straight” photographers of Group f64,
including Edward Weston, Ansel
Adams and Imogen Cunningham, insisted on “truth to the
medium” by communicating their
experiences through the elements of photography most
characteristic of the medium. They pre-
visualized their subject full-frame, printed the entire uncropped
negative, emphasized fine detail,
and adamantly opposed alterations to either negative or print.
Hirsh’s photographs from that time
are sharply focused renderings in black and white that employ
little, if any, manipulation.
Hirsh also was influenced by the social documentary approach
of the Farm Security
Administration (FSA) photographers who poignantly recorded
the impact of the Great Depression
on displaced workers and their families. The harsh economic
reality and the leftist leanings of
many in Hollywood undoubtedly had an impact on Hirsh, as
well.9 Hirsh’s photographs from this
1
HHyy HHiirrsshh:: EExxppeerriimmeennttss iinn
FFiillmmmmaakkiinngg aanndd PPhhoottooggrraapphhyy
…form and image obey the ceaseless logic of dream.
Henry Miller
1
Fig. 1.
Self-Portrait. Vintage silver print, ca. 1955.
period often explore social issues. More detached than most
FSA photographers, he seldom
focused upon individuals or rural subjects. City scenes were a
frequent subject for his camera,
particularly the decay and rubble of urban life. He photographed
dilapidated debris—the wasted
leftovers of human existence.Among his merciless images are
rusted-out machinery abandoned
in vacant urban lots (fig. 2) and stacks of old crates (fig. 3).
He received early recognition for these photographs, which he
exhibited in Los Angeles and
San Francisco in seven shows between 1935 and 1955.10 In the
second of these, a 1936 group
exhibition entitled Seven Photographers held at the Stanley
Rose Gallery in Los Angeles, he
exhibited with some of the leading figures of West Coast
photography: Ansel Adams, Edward
Weston, and Brett Weston.11 Hirsh’s work was also represented
in publications during this period,
including U.S. Camera in 1936, 1937 and 1939.
The San Francisco Museum of Art presented a solo exhibition of
his photographs in 1943.12
Critic Alfred Frankenstein wrote in the San Francisco
Chronicle, “Hirsh is a craftsman in the
tradition of Weston and the other ‘pure’ photographers. His
plates are surgically clean in detail
and surface, but he prefers a rather somber color and tone, and
tends toward rather sober
subject matter.”13 Frankenstein describes Hirsh’s work of the
time as depicting “a strong and
honest and pitiless record of the world…”
14
While Hirsh pursued photography, he grew interested in
underground filmmaking. In the
film, Even—As You and I, a live action short made in 1937, he
acted and assisted with the pro-
duction, though he is not listed in the film credits.15 The film
depicts the hesitant efforts of three
young men who attempt to create a film for entry in a contest,
discover Surrealism, and produce
a series of wild, freewheeling visual experiments. Such playful
exploration appealed to Hirsh.
He became increasingly involved in the underground film
movement blossoming in San
Francisco’s jazz-beat scene (and in Los Angeles, in the shadows
of Hollywood). In 1946 a land-
mark symposium on avant-garde filmmaking was presented by
the San Francisco Museum of
Art. Entitled Art in Cinema, it celebrated the spirit of
experimental film while generally dismissing
Hollywood movies as entertainment. The event, which Hirsh
surely attended, showcased early
films by Marcel Duchamp, Oskar Fischinger, and Man Ray
(both Fischinger and Man Ray were
living in Los Angeles at the time). Films by younger
Californians were shown, such as those
by brothers James and John Whitney, winners of the first
international award in experimental
animation in 1946. The growing California independent film
community eventually included
Jordan Belson, Stan Brakhage, and Harry Smith.
In this invigorating environment Hirsh met filmmaker Sidney
Peterson, whose work was
screened at the symposium.16 In 1947 Peterson joined the
faculty of the California School of
Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Francisco and founded its film
program.17 He enlisted Hirsh in the making
of the first film produced at the college, The Cage. Hirsh was
originally brought in as camera-
man, but the project became a full collaboration between the
two men.
Working with Peterson on The Cage, Hirsh again found
filmmaking to be a medium ripe for
bold experimentation.As Peterson later described in a letter,
“Together, in one way and another, we
did everything either could think of to do with a camera. We
tried animation. We tied the camera
to a contraption and rolled it down a hill.We reversed the action
and shot it upside down and then
reversed the film in accordance with the rule, since made
explicit by Jasper Johns, about taking
an object, doing something to it and then doing something else
to what had been done.”18
As Hirsh’s involvement in alternative filmmaking deepened, his
commitment to the classical
restraint of straight photography diminished. The purist
approach seemed too limiting, with
its restrictions on manipulation and the preciousness with which
its practitioners regarded the
finished print. Hirsh began exploring more expansive
approaches to photography. He produced
surrealist inspired works such as a slightly disturbing image of
manikin forms (fig. 4), as well as
images filled with ambiguous spaces and a prevailing sense of
mystery (fig. 5).
2
Fig. 2.
Untitled [Abandoned Machinery].
Vintage silver print, ca. 1935.
Fig. 3.
Untitled [Stacked Crates].
Vintage silver print, ca. 1940.
HHyy HHiirrsshh:: EExxppeerriimmeennttss iinn
FFiillmmmmaakkiinngg aanndd PPhhoottooggrraapphhyy
Although he had been greatly influenced by Adams and Group
f64, he came to
regard the older photographer as emblematic of an inhibited,
narrow approach to
photography. With a note of ridicule for Adams, who was the
founder of the photog-
raphy department at CSFA, Sidney Peterson recalled the sharply
different sensibili-
ties of Adams and Hirsh, “What I find extraordinary … about
Hy at the time, was the
readiness with which he lent himself [in the making of The
Cage] to what must have
seemed sheer madcappery to many and to have done it, as a
photographer, in the
very citadel of photographic conservatism, a school of
photography … presided over
by that arch conservative Ansel Adams. His [Hirsh’s] own
status as a photographer
was on the line and he couldn’t have cared less. I doubt he even
thought about it.”19
Hirsh’s exploratory nature expressed itself most fully in
filmmaking. He began
creating his own art films in 1951.20 In San Francisco he
produced four films:
Divertissement Rococo (1951), Eneri (1953), Come Closer
(1953), Gyromorphosis
(1954), and at least six more, later, in Europe.21 Eneri, won
first prize at the California
State Exposition in 1954. Gyromorphosis won a medal at the
1958 Brussels
Exposition, as did a film he produced in Europe, Autumn
Spectrum (1957).
In Eneri shapes jump and play, lines wiggle and twist, colors
convert and
combine. Together they form a rhythmic display accompanied
by a dynamic Afro-
Cuban beat.22 The result is something like rubbing your eyes
hard and watching the
array of patterns and colors dance on the back of your eyelids —
a spectral vision set
to rhythmic drumming.
Hirsh’s arrangements, however, are neither random nor
haphazard. They are
carefully considered and artfully orchestrated, yet they remain
lively and fluid. Some
pulsate with geometric shapes, while others employ the
soothing, hypnotic motion
of reflections on the surface of water. Still others feature female
forms swimming in
liquid color.
These pioneering efforts by Hirsh and other animators are the
equivalent of
early flying contraptions. Such films were laborious to make
and today appear
delightfully crude in light of present-day computer technology.
As with the first
aviators, one has to admire the inventiveness, adventurousness,
and do-it-yourself
independence of these filmmakers. What is surprising is how
fully realized these
films are and how compelling they remain.
Making these films required considerable know-how, and Hirsh
was regarded as a techni-
cal wizard. Peterson described Hirsh’s adaptation of a Taylor-
Hobson lens to the Cine Special
camera used by the two of them in the making of The Cage. The
lens, as Peterson explained,
was “a novelty number intended for the amusement of friends,
the anamorphic equivalent of a
funhouse mirror…Hy cooked up some sort of adapter and it was
used in all those school films,
I think, and then, finally, I gave it away to Stan Brakhage and it
became, as they say, legendary.”23
To produce his films, Hirsh combined a number of techniques.
With the “oil wipe” process,
for example, simple lines and shapes were drawn in thick
colored oils and then filmed. Hirsh
also rigged a device for recording in film the patterns produced
on an oscilloscope screen. He
shot the patterns in black and white and used filters to add
color. Oscilloscope derived images
appear in a number of his films. He united these and other
effects using an optical printer, a
device capable of overlaying various images onto a single strip
of film. Hirsh hand built his own
optical printer and shared it with other filmmakers, most
notably Jordan Belson and Harry Smith.
Combined images became integral to Hirsh’s still photography,
too. Sometimes he utilized
double exposure, other times he overlapped separate negatives.
In Europe he employed both
approaches to produce a series of fashion spreads for Elle,
overlaying the image of a model with
a floral motif or combining a model’s image with that of a
landscape turned on its side (fig. 7).24
3
Fig. 4.
Untitled [Manikins]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1940.
Fig. 5.
Untitled [Paris]. Vintage silver print, late 1950s.
4
In another print he produced a mocking, Dali-like self-portrait
by superimposing two negatives,
one of himself and one of a broken sheet of glass (fig. 1).
In Paris he shot hundreds of color slides of old wall posters that
were peeling, exposing
layers of posters underneath. These torn and deteriorating
posters, their printed images inter-
mixing, resulted in surprising and unexpected juxtapositions
(fig. 6). The subject itself, the layers
of posters, shot on a single negative, provided a montage
equivalent to double exposure.
Hirsh’s still photography and filmmaking were linked to one
another, both in technique and
subject matter. The slides of posters, for example, were taken in
preparation for making a film in
1958 of the same subject, entitled Défense d’Afficher. The
slides were shown a decade later, after
Hirsh’s death, in Recent Color, a presentation organized by
John Szarkowski at the Museum of
Modern Art, New York, “exploring experimental directions in
contemporary color photography.”25
The most important connection between Hirsh’s films and
photographs involved music,
which was one of Hirsh’s passions. He maintained a large
record collection and attended jazz
performances in Bay area coffeehouses. Be it primal drum beats
or the cool jazz of Thelonius
Monk (in Chasse des Touches), music was a key rhythmic and
emotional component of his films.
Beyond its use on the sound track, music fulfilled a profound
role for Hirsh and other
avant-garde filmmakers, both in the United States and Europe.
These artists explored the rela-
tionship between visual art and music, searching for the basic
elements shared by both. For
example, just as musical notes and phrases can be said to have a
certain coloring, colors can
be said to have volume and impart mood. In this pursuit artists
created paintings, photographs,
films and light shows as the visual equivalents of music. This
tradition of art is often referred
to today as visual music.26
The visual music movement during the twentieth century
belonged to the reductive direc-
tion of modernism—an effort to distill art down to its most
fundamental elements of expression.
Artists wanted color, line, shape, value and texture, rather than
the subject matter, to carry the
emotional message of their art. This is why their work, be it
filmmaking or painting, is often
abstract and without a recognizable subject. Perhaps the most
popularly known example of visual
music is the Walt Disney film, Fantasia, in which the usual
Hollywood storyline gives way to phan-
tasmagorical displays of abstract shapes and colors. Artists who
worked in the visual music
tradition include painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar
Fischinger and Stanton Macdonald-
Wright. Some artists are still pursing this path today.
Not surprisingly, given their interest in the synesthetic
relationship between the various arts,
many creators of visual music films also produced art in other
media. Fischinger (who worked on
Fantasia) was both a painter and filmmaker, as was Harry
Smith, Jordan Belson, James Whitney,
and Len Lye. Man Ray and Francis Bruguière were painters,
photographers and filmmakers.
Hirsh’s role as a visual music filmmaker has been recognized,
but his contribution to visual
music as a still photographer has been overlooked. The color
abstract images reproduced in this
catalogue evolved, like his filmmaking, as a part of the visual
music movement. They are closely
connected to his films, particularly Eneri, Chasse des Touches
(1959), and La Couleur de
la Forme (1960–61). The same elliptical patterns, flowing lines,
and biomorphic shapes are
displayed upon fields of saturated color in both his films and
photographs. The experience for
the viewer is nearly the same in either – an exuberant evocation
of the freewheeling jazz-beat
spirit so alive at the time in San Francisco and Paris.
It is important that these color prints not be viewed as mere film
stills, since they do not
duplicate specific film frames. They stand alone as works of art.
In these prints time is momen-
tarily held—like a musical chord sustained—so that we might
meditate on the image’s visual and
emotional character. As such these photographs are artful
companions to Hirsh’s films. They
represent his purist expression of visual music created in still
photography.
Dennis Reed
Fig. 6.
Untitled [Wall Posters, Paris] Color slide, ca. 1958.
Fig. 7.
Untitled [Illustration in Elle, August 18,
1961, p. 31]. Half-tone color reproduction.
HHyy HHiirrsshh:: EExxppeerriimmeennttss iinn
FFiillmmmmaakkiinngg aanndd PPhhoottooggrraapphhyy
5
About the Author
Dennis Reed is best known for his 1986 book and exhibition,
Japanese Photography in America, 1920–1940, and as
the co-author of Pictorialism in California: Photographs, 1900–
1940, published in 1994 by the J. Paul Getty Museum.
The Wind Came from the East: Asian American Photography, an
essay, will be published by Stanford University in 2008.
Reed is Dean of Arts at Los Angeles Valley College.
Author’s Acknowledgements
I wish to express my gratitude to Hirsh’s daughter, Diane
Kleinfeld, who shared her personal story. Cindy Keefer,
Executive
Director of the Center for Visual Music, generously provided
information and guidance regarding Hirsh’s life, his films, and
the films of others with whom he worked. Judith Berlowitz
offered extensive information on Hirsh’s marriage to her aunt,
Marie Gattman-Hirsh-Chapman. Jeff Gunderson assisted with
facts related to CSFA. I also want to mention Dr. William
Moritz, an expert on experimental film, who I had the pleasure
of meeting in the early 1980s when I began to research
Hirsh’s work.
Notes
1 Henry Miller, “Introduction: The Red Herring and the
Diamond-backed Terrapin” in Art in Cinema, San Francisco
Museum of Art (San
Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1947), 5.
2 Interview with Dr. William Moritz, 1984. Hirsh’s death
certificate indicates cardiac infarction as the cause of death.
3 Dr. William Moritz, “Hy Hirsh & The Fifties: Jazz and
Abstraction in Beat Era Film” in Kinetica 3:
Abstraction/Animation/Music (Los
Angeles: The iotaCenter, 2001), 5–8. This story has been widely
circulated, but this author is aware of no direct evidence to
support it.
4 Interviews with Diane Kleinfeld, Hirsh’s daughter, in 1983,
2006-2007.
5 Kerry Brougher, Olivia Mattis, Jeremy Strick, Ari Wiseman
Judith Zilczer, Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music
Since 1900
(London: Thames & Hudson, 2005), 252; Moritz, Hy Hirsh
Biography, iotaCenter [article online]; available from
http://www.iotacen-
ter.org/visualmusic/articles/moriz/hirshbio; Internet; accessed
15 May 2007.
6 Document entitled, Hy Hirsh: Curriculum Vitae, provided by
Barbara Shuey to Dr. Moritz [from the William Moritz
Collection, Center
for Visual Music, Los Angeles].
7 Judith Berlowitz, Biography of Marie Gattman-Hirsh-
Chapman, typed manuscript, December, 2006; Berlowitz emails
to author,
2006–2007; Kleinfeld interviews.
8 As related by Hirsh’s San Francisco roommate, Beryl
Sokoloff, to Cindy Keefer, interview, 2002.
9 For a time Hirsh worked for the WPA.
10 1935, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1946, 1954 and 1955.
11 Sherril Schell’s work was also included in the exhibition.
12 One version of Hirsh’s Vita, prepared after his death (or
amended), probably by Beryl Sokoloff, indicates that a one-man
show of his
work was held in Germany in October of 1961 [from the
William Moritz Collection, Center for Visual Music, Los
Angeles].
13 Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, April 18,
1943 (from a typed copy). The reference to color refers to
mood, as the prints
discussed were black and white.
14 Ibid.
15 Kerry Brougher, Olivia Mattis, Jeremy Strick, Ari Wiseman
Judith Zilczer, 252.
16 Sidney Peterson’s film The Potted Psalm, made with James
Broughton, was among those screened at the festival.
17 This was an exciting time at CSFA because Douglas
MacAgy, as the new director, immediately began to transform
the institution. It was
he who famously brought to the school such painters as Clifford
Still, Richard Diebenkorn and David Park, hired Peterson to
found the
film program, and approved the new photography department
headed by Ansel Adams and Minor White. The CSFA was
renamed the
San Francisco Art Institute in 1961.
18 Sidney Peterson, unpublished letter to Marie Gattman-Hirsh-
Chapman, November 11, 1977.
19 Ibid.
20 He also produced short reportage films for television in
1954–1955.
21 Filmographies vary and footage exists from apparently
unfinished films. Gyromorphosis was likely filmed in
Amsterdam.
22 Eneri was named after his girlfriend of the time, Irene, by
spelling her name backwards (Hirsh and Gattman had divorced).
Always
interested in the new technology, Hirsh bought an early
magnetic tape recorder and used it during a fashion shoot to
record the music
for Eneri.
23 Peterson.
24 His work appears in at least five issues of Elle in 1961.
25 Museum of Modern Art, Press Release, No. 24, February,
1968.
26 Kerry Brougher, Olivia Mattis, Jeremy Strick, Ari Wiseman,
Judith Zilczer, 1–272.
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS & PRICES
All color illustrations are from original chromogenic
photographs,
printed by Hirsh himself, using the Ansco Printon process.
The color prints are untrimmed, full sheets, 97⁄8 x 87⁄8 inches
[25 x 20 cms.] or the reverse. All black and white illustrations
are from vintage gelatin silver photographs, printed by the
photographer. Hirsh’s credit stamp is on the reverse of all
photographs. Each print is identified by an inventory number,
shown in brackets below.
Front cover.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4841]
$4,500
Inside front cover.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4839]
$4,500
Fig. 1.
Self-Portrait. Vintage silver print, ca. 1955.
8 x 77⁄8 inches. [4818] $3,000
Fig. 2.
Untitled [Abandoned Machinery]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1935.
75⁄8 x 95⁄8 inches. [4419] $3,000
Fig. 3.
Untitled [Stacked Crates]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1940.
75⁄8 x 95⁄8 inches [4820] $3,000
Fig. 4.
Untitled [Manikins]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1940.
75⁄8 x 95⁄8 inches [4821] $3,000
Fig. 5.
Untitled [Paris]. Vintage silver print, late 1950s.
53⁄8 x 73⁄4 inches [4822] $3,000
Fig. 6.
Untitled [Wall Posters, Paris]. Color slide, ca. 1958. Not for
sale.
Fig. 7.
Untitled [Illustration in Elle, August 18, 1961, p. 31].
Half-tone color reproduction. Not for sale
PLATES
Page 6.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4840] $4,500
Page 7 top.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4847] $3,500
Page 7 bottom.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4827] $4,000
Page 8.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4832] $4,000
Page 9.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4828] $4,000
Page 10.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4831] $3,500
Page 11.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4845] $3,500
Page 12.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4835] $4,000
Page 13 top.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4844] $3,500
Page 13 bottom.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4826] $3,500
Page 14.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4843] $3,500
Page 15.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4837] $3,500
Page 16.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4836] $4,500
Page 17.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4833] $3,500
Page 18.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4829] $3,500
Page 19.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4842] $3,500
Page 20.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4825] $3,500
Page 21 top.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4846] $3,500
Page 21 bottom.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4824] $3,500
Back cover.
Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4830] $4,500
CONDITIONS OF SALE
All the photographs are from the estate of Hy Hirsh
and are subject to prior sale.
Customers will be billed for shipping and insurance.
Applicable sales tax will be charged.
23
SELECTED CHRONOLOGY
1911 Born October 11, Philadelphia, PA.
1930–36 Worked as a cameraman and editor at
Columbia Studios, Los Angeles.
1932 Made his first black and white photographs.
1936 Exhibited in “Seven Photographers” at Stanley
Rose Gallery, Los Angeles.
1936–37 Worked as a photographer for the WPA, Los Angeles.
1937 Acted and worked as cinematographer in his
first film project Even-As You and I. Moved to
San Francisco.
1937–54 House photographer for the Palace of the Legion of
Honor and the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum,
San Francisco.
1943 Solo exhibition of his photographs at the
San Francisco Museum of Art.
1946–52 Assisted Sidney Peterson and other experimental
filmmakers.
1951 Created his first independent abstract animation
film, Divertissement Rococo.
1952 Divertissement Rococo screened at the
Sixth International Edinburgh Film Festival.
1954 Awarded first prize for Eneri at the California
State Exposition.
1954–55 Made 15 short documentary films for television
(believed lost).
1955 Moved to Paris. Received “Lion d’Or de Cannes”
for publicity film.
1955–61 Worked in Spain, Holland, France in film publicity,
advertising and fashion photography, experimental
films, and experimental still photography. His
commercial photographs were published in Elle,
Réalités, and Vanity Fair.
1958 Received award for his films, Gyromorphosis
and Autumn Spectrum at Brussels Exposition.
1960 Film “Retrospective Hy Hirsh” at the Louvre,
Pavillon de Marsan, Paris.
1961 Died November, Paris.
1968 His color slides shown in Recent Color at the
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
1977 His photographs exhibited in “The 30’s and 40’s:
Vintage Prints by Hy Hirsh” at Focus Gallery,
San Francisco.
1978 His photographs exhibited at the Stephen White
Gallery, Los Angeles.
SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY
The Cage, 1947
16mm, silent, 28 mins.
Director: Sidney Peterson
Horror Dream, 1947
10 mins.
Director: Sidney Peterson
Clinic of Stumble, c. 1948
16mm, 16 mins.
Director: Sidney Peterson
Lead Shoes, 1949
16mm, 18 mins.
Director: Sidney Peterson
Divertissement Rococo, 1951
16mm, color, sound, 12 mins.
Eneri, 1953
16mm, color, sound, 7 mins.
Come Closer, 1953
16mm, stereoscopic color, sound, 7 mins.
Gyromorphosis, 1954
16mm, color, sound, 7 mins.
Autumn Spectrum, 1957
16mm, color, sound, 7 mins.
Music: Modern Jazz Quartet
Défense d'Afficher, 1958
16mm, color, sound, 8 mins.
Chasse des Touches, 1959
16mm, color, sound, 4 mins.
Music: Thelonius Monk, “Evidence”
Décollages Recollés, c. 1960
16 mm. black/white and color
Two projector film, (unfinished)
La Couleur de la Forme, 1961
16 mm, color, 7 mins.
(original lost)
Scratch Pad, 1961
16mm, color, sound, 9 mins.
Etude Anatomique du Photographe, 1961
(believed lost)
24
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
“The Enigma of Hy Hirsh,” Cartoons: One Hundred Years of
Cinema Animation. Paris: Editions Liana Levi, 1991.
Berlowitz, Judith. Biography of Marie Gattman-Hirsh-Chapman,
typed manuscript, December, 2006.
*California Arts and Architecture, April, 1941, pp. 20–21.
Curtis, David. Experimental Cinema. London: Studio Vista,
1971.
*Elle, no. 788, 1/27/1961, pp. 42–45.
*Elle, no. 789, 2/3/1961, pp. 44–47.
*Elle, no. 795, 3/17/1961, pp. 94–113.
*Elle, no. 797, 3/31/1961, pp. 88–93.
*Elle, no. 817, 8/18/1961, pp. 30–41.
Fischer, Hal. “Exhibition Wrap-up,” Artweek, 12/24/1977.
Frankenstein, Alfred. “A New Crop of Photo Shows,”
San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13/1977.
Haller, Robert. “Hy Hirsh,” Articulated Light: The Emergence
of Abstract Film in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Film
Archive/Anthology Film Archives, 1995,
Hy Hirsh: Curriculum Vitae, provided by Barbara Shuey to
Dr. William Moritz. William Moritz Collection at the Center
for Visual Music, Los Angeles.
Keefer, Cindy. “Hy Hirsh Preservation: History and Mystery,”
Kinetica 3. Los Angeles: The iotaCenter, 2001.
Keefer, Cindy. “Space Light Art-Early Abstract Cinema and
Multimedia, 1900–1959,” White Noise, Melbourne: Australian
Center for …
Novelty title sequences and self-reflexivity in classical
Hollywood cinema
Deborah Allison
There were things that could be done with film, it was crazy not
to do them.
title designer Wayne Fitzgerald [1]
In 1976 Saul Bass designed the opening title sequence for That's
Entertainment Part II (Gene Kelly) and in
doing so created a piece of film that was about titles
sequences, as well as being one itself. The film's
compilation format of classic clips from Hollywood musicals
inspired him to emulate a wide-ranging series of
titles from the classical period and, in particular, the 1930s. The
result is a joyous celebration of a range of
titling styles designed to entertain in their own right, sometimes
imitating existing sequences, and sometimes
inspired by what Bass calls the "mythic memory" of sequences
that could or should have been.[2]
This sequence highlights two important issues. In its pastiche of
title sequences from the 1930s it shows some
of the sorts of novelty sequences produced at that time. It is
historically important to remember that such
sequences existed since many of the journalistic articles written
about film titles in recent years present an
inaccurate picture proposing that film titling was universally
dull and conservative until 1954 when the form was
revolutionised by Bass in his design for Otto Preminger's
Carmen Jones. Typical of such articles is David
Thomson's which claims that, "For decades before the
1950s, movie credits had meekly followed whatever
standard treatment prevailed at every studio… The music over
the credits sometimes had the mood of the
picture to come, but the graphics themselves were classical
lettering on a bland background."[3] As I will show,
the history of title sequences is far more lively and varied than
this.
The second issue relates to what is often perceived as a key
purpose of title design, namely finding ways to
prepare the viewer for the experience of watching the coming
film. In That's Entertainment Part II, pleasure and
function are seamlessly blended in a sequence that names the
film, credits the cast, hints at what will follow and
sets an appropriate tone, as well as providing a stylistic history
lesson. David Geffner has argued that title
sequences "form a kind of contract, outlining the filmmaker's
intentions and, for better or worse, setting up
expectations that the audience, almost subliminally, will
demand to be met."[4] This attitude can be discerned in
the design of many sequences described in this article, but
I will also show that in other sequences the
importance of this function is displaced by other features.
Indeed, the common factor of the sequences featured
here is a flamboyant exhibitionism that revels in its own
cleverness. In this respect, these sequences differ
considerably from the attitudes to film titling that later rose to
domination.
Experimentation with striking and unusual title sequences began
as early as the late 1910s, but it was the
1930s when an explosion of ideas and techniques occurred that
consolidated the role of the title sequence as
something more than a list of names. A wide range of styles and
techniques were used at this time, many of
them indigenous to the period. Although many sequences were
designed with relative stylistic economy, others
seemed fascinated instead with the potential of the
medium for exploring techniques of direct address and
self-reflexivity. These highlight a more than usually complex
relationship between themselves, the main part of
the film they introduce and the process of its production.
In this article I explore a selection of sequences that
foreground the problematic relationship between the
exhibitionism of title sequences and the need to construct
a full diegesis. All of these sequences are
self-reflexive, a process normally manifested through the
introduction of film titles into the diegetic space, or
through references made to them either by fictional characters
in the film or a member of the production crew.
Such a collapsing of the boundaries between the diegetic and
non-diegetic space contravenes a convention that
many theorists, such as Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, have
looked upon as central to the 'classical style',
although these authors acknowledge that exceptions exist.[5]
This convention is that the diegetic space should
be internally coherent and that filmic technique should not
conspicuously impinge upon it. These sequences
raise questions about such ways of understanding the
construction and pleasures of Hollywood cinema. Are title
Novelty title sequences
http://tlweb.latrobe.edu.au/humanities/screeningthepast/20/nove
...
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sequences an entirely different medium from the films they
introduce, or does their failure to conceal their
artifice and their frequent promotion of non-narrative
pleasures represent an intensification of a more
widespread mode of film practice in which a narrative structure
and apparently seamless diegetic construct exist
merely as an organisational principle in which other pleasures
are contained?
Many films of the studio era, and indeed the majority of films
now, do indeed tend to avoid actively drawing
attention to the fact that the diegetic space is an artificial
entity constructed in the process of the film's
production. Perhaps the most notable exception to this rule is
film comedy. Henry Jenkins has argued that, "the
comic film tended to lag behind the rest of American cinema in
its acceptance of classical Hollywood norms,
remaining one of the places where marginal film practices
enjoyed the greatest acceptability."[6] Steve
Seidman's excellent study of comedian comedy cites a wide
range of instances where diegetic boundaries have
been rendered problematic, and one of the foremost sites he
identifies for using such a device is the opening (or
sometimes the end) credits sequence.[7]
The practice of foregrounding the process of production is a
feature also found in many avant-garde films. It is
not unusual for the materiality of the title cards to be
emphasised in such films, as lettering is scratched or
painted on film, inscribed onto a physical object, or cards are
positioned or removed by hand. Examples can be
seen in Color Cry (Len Lye, 1953), Little Stabs at Happiness
(Ken Jacobs, 1959-1963) and Gulls and Buoys
(Robert Breer, 1974). Moreover, title sequences that rely
heavily upon cinematic trickery show a preoccupation
that Tom Gunning has observed in the writings of the early
modernists, namely "a fascination with the potential
of the medium."[8] Observing that one feature of early cinema
and the avant-garde alike is "its freedom from
the creation of a diegesis, its accent on direct stimulation",
Gunning identifies a sensibility that he terms "the
cinema of attraction."[9] The attitude that he describes can be
seen to resonate through the titling innovations
of films cited in this essay.
Although there are parallels between such instances and
features of some mainstream comedies, we should be
wary of inferring too close a commonality between the two
forms. Steve Neale and Frank Krutnik have argued
that "neither comedy nor the comic can be regarded as
inherently subversive or progressive, or as inherently
avant-garde… [since] the level of generic verisimilitude [in
expecting the unexpected] accounts… for the non
avant-garde character of even the most formally
adventurous comedies."[10] Accepting the validity of their
argument, we can nonetheless recognise that in some of
the title sequences this essay describes, features
strongly associated with both classical film comedy and avant-
garde cinema are brought together.
Some of the sequences I will describe are from comedies, and in
these we can detect some strong consistencies
between the title sequence and the rest of the film in the ways in
which the viewer is addressed. Most of them
are from other genres though, and would therefore seem to be at
odds with the films they introduce. Even if we
allow that title sequences, like certain film genres, are a
site in which self-reflexive devices have been
normalised, we are still left with a situation where the
artificiality of the film construct is highlighted to a degree
that raises questions about the validity of arguments which hold
that mainstream films, of the classical period at
least, do all they can to present themselves as hermetically
sealed entities.
The varying relationships between title sequences and the
diegesis
The self-reflexive sequences discussed in this essay can be
placed into three basic categories. The first two are
quite similar to each other in that they both involve titles
inscribed onto physical objects. In the first case there
is the insinuation that these objects may belong within the
diegetic space but are not unequivocally placed
there. In the second group are sequences where the credit titles
are inarguably placed within that space. The
third group involves some interaction between the credit
titles and either the characters in the film or its
production crew. Perhaps the most interesting feature of these
sequences is the range of ways in which they call
into question the nature of the diegesis and the means by
which the films structure and present this
organisational system.
Traditionally, credit titles have collided with the diegetic image
in one of two ways. Either the whole sequence
has been marked off from the diegesis by placing the lettering
on a totally different background, such as a plain
board or piece of paper, or else the lettering has been
superimposed over diegetic footage without any attempt
to conceal the independence of one plane from the other, or to
conjoin them in such a way as to suggest that
their origins might be linked. The films described below
provide exceptions to this rule.
Defining the boundaries of the diegesis can be a difficult task in
itself, although the meaning of the term seems
fairly straightforward at first glance. For a popular textbook
definition we may as well take the one provided by
Bordwell and Thompson in Film Art: "In a narrative film, the
world of the film's story. The diegesis includes
events that are presumed to have occurred and actions and
spaces not shown onscreen."[11] When a film
opens, the viewer has no frame of reference, however.
How is s/he supposed to assess the status of the
background image during a title sequence that comes right at
the beginning of a film, as many of them do? If
Novelty title sequences
http://tlweb.latrobe.edu.au/humanities/screeningthepast/20/nove
...
2 of 7 5/26/15, 12:02 PM
the background is plain, or a painted picture, then knowledge of
convention may suggest that after the titles
there will be a cut to a live action scene that has no spatial link
to the title card. Yet as I will later describe,
Whirlpool (Otto Preminger, 1950), provides one exemplary
illustration of just how easily the viewer can be
tricked.
Live action backgrounds and the presence of three-
dimensional objects during the titles present a greater
problem for the viewer. A comparison of three title sequences,
which share strong similarities with each other,
will illustrate this difficulty: My Darling Clementine (John
Ford, 1946), The Cat and the Fiddle (Lloyd Bacon,
1933) and You'll Never Get Rich (Sidney Lanfield, 1941).
These belong to a small but diverse group of films that
present their opening titles on billboards or signposts. To
illustrate the point in hand, the pertinent feature of
these sequences is the varying relation between the signposts
and/or billboards in the title sequence and the
space of the subsequent film. My Darling Clementine uses titles
scorched into a single wooden signpost. This is
the only physical object in the frame during the title sequence,
which ends with a cut. There is therefore no
suggestion that the post is located anywhere within the diegetic
space (save only that its style suggests rural
origins). The Cat and the Fiddle shows cars circling a
roundabout, in the centre of which is a notice board that a
man approaches. We see that it displays a poster advertising
Ramon Novarro and Jeannette McDonald in The
Cat and the Fiddle. The camera tracks into this poster and
freezes, after which the board rotates to show two
further posters/title cards. As in My Darling Clementine, a cut
is used to separate the title sequence from the
rest of the movie. You'll Never Get Rich is by far the most
elaborate of the three sequences. It shows a man
being chauffeured along a country road. The passenger asks the
driver to slow down as, watching from the
window, he sees a row of signs along the roadside on which
there appear film credits as well as pictures of the
top-billed stars. Presently credit titles start to appear on fences
and buildings too. After the last one, the film
cuts back to the passenger, who tells his driver, "All right, go
ahead. Thank you." At this point, as in the other
sequences, the film cuts to a different location. It is a city scene
and is therefore evidently a different space. Yet
a street sign passed by a car establishes this new location, the
iconography of the shot thus linking it to the
previous sequence.
In these films, we see three examples of titles inscribed upon
physical objects that have no clear spatial link to
the actual space in which the narrative occurs. There is a
gradation between the first sequence, which is
completely divorced from any narrative space, and the second,
which suggests a similarity between the space of
the titles and the following scenes by including some action in
the title sequence. In the final example, there is a
strong continuity with the construction of the subsequent space
and action, due to the presence of dialogue and
a minimal narrative content during the titles as well as
loose graphic matching between the two spaces.
Although in all these examples a cut separates the space of the
titles from the main part of the film, some films
discussed later in the essay proceed without any
intermediary cut. Instead of being insinuated into a
mock-diegetic space, their titles are patently positioned within
the very space where the narrative action occurs.
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences
Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences

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Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences

  • 1. Kinetic Emergence: The Theory and Practice of Motion Design, R. Brian Stone and Leah Wahlin (Editors), forthcoming (2017) from Common Ground Publishing F R O M K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E Understanding Text-Image Composites in Title Sequences Michael Betancourt The relative independence of title sequence designs from the demands of drama and narrative in Hollywood’s feature films has allowed them a degree of formal experimentation atypical of these productions generally, and suggests a general theory for the analysis, discussion, and design of text–image composites. While superimposed text over photography used in title sequence designs are the focus of this discussion, the three interpretive modes identified can apply to any text– image composite. The development of this approach to titles follows from the lack, noted by media historian Jan-Christopher Horak in his book Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design, of any formal design theory. Instead, a collection of traditional views about the “ideal” relationship of title sequence
  • 2. to drama have been circulating since (at least) the 1950s. Established approaches to title design follows a hagiography of noteworthy designers—Saul Bass, Maurice Binder, Pablo Ferro, et. al who received on-screen credit—whose work was a model to emulate, neglecting uncredited designers’ work as of lesser interest and significance (Billanti 1982, 60-69; 70-71). These anecdotal approaches do not develop general theories, nor do they propose methods for discussing or analyzing the resulting designs (Horak 2014). What is of interest to the designer in a theoretical approach to design is very different from what is of interest to critical analysis. Theories that designers employ tend to be heuristic, concerned with the material production of work; critical theories are hermeneutic, addressing meaning and significance without concern for productive technique. There is little overlap between heuristic theories and the hermeneutics of use to analysis other than semiotics, which offers a description of general methods producing meaning, that can be used hermeneutically and heuristically. The three modes described in this analysis are adapted from Michel Foucault’s analysis of Rene Magritte’s painting in the book This Is Not a Pipe; Foucault’s theory about the semiotics of text–image composites as an ordering and dominating expression of vision- as-knowledge can
  • 3. be adapted for a general application to title squences. Title sequence design has varied greatly in duration, complexity, and independence from the rest of the film over its more than 125 years of history in the United States (Stanitzek 2009, 44-58). As feature films became the primary type of production, the visuals, running time, and quantity of title cards increased during the 1910s and ’20s paralleling the audience’s understanding of them. The basic modes of interpretation were in common use by the 1930s: the calligram and figure–ground mode, distinguished by their formal design (Betancourt 2015, Semiotica 239-252). Each title card either invokes the direct link of a textual label attached to an identifying image (calligram), or the composition does not propose an immediate association (figure–ground or rebus). The lexical aspect of these distinct modes is precisely the reason for their appearance and deployment in title B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 2 sequences. Foucault’s theorizing of interpretation organized and ordered through a specifically visional dominance equates seeing with understanding, and is embodied precisely in metaphors of vision-as-knowledge; observers gain power over the observed. He uses this conception of sight as a foundation for
  • 4. exploring text–image composites, through Foucault termed the “empirical gaze” in The Birth of the Clinic (Foucault 1975). Seeing dominates what is seen; vision is Foucault’s central paradigm for comprehension, linking visual experience to knowledge contained by language in a relationship of telling::showing. Vision transforms entanglements of text and image, rendering image supplemental (secondary) to language. For audiences, these familiar semiotic modes of text– image relationship (figure–ground, the calligram, and the rebus) render visual designs “transparent” in exactly the same way that written language functions without the need for a self-conscious consideration of the individual letterforms. Each mutually exclusive mode interprets the elements contained by a specific title card (image, text). The two primary modes (figure–ground and calligram) provide a methodology for organizing and designing title sequences that renders their comprehension immediate for the viewer; the title sequence as a whole may employ different modes individually as/in particular title cards. The third, rebus mode provides a model for rhetorical meaning through metonymy and synecdoche that illuminates the shifting interpretations and recognitions of how text–image relate between each title card and the whole sequence. These modes’ heuristic application comes from marking the differences between title designs
  • 5. that produce complex sequences commenting on the main narrative and those that do not. THE FIGURE-GROUND MODE The Figure–ground mode is the most basic text–image structure. Audience perception of the relationship between typography and image determines the resulting meaning: whether the typography and photography are recognized as being illustratively linked, or remain as separate, distinct “fields” on screen. In the figure–ground mode there is no link between text and image, they are simply shown at the same time. Individual parts of the image remain in separate ‘fields’ articulated independently: there is no intersection between text and image, and they remain unrelated. The figure–ground mode employs text and image remain separate, independent “fields” that are not have no immediately apparent relationship, nor do they imply a connection: historically, it is common for the superimposed text to entirely obscure the background photography. This independence of text–image elements is reflective of categorical differences between connotation (language) and denotation (image): the text is read, while the image is seen (Barthes 1985, 141). The figure–ground mode remains consistent. Designs produced in 1935 and in those made seventy-five years later in 2011 employ the relationship in the
  • 6. same way: in Rumba (1935) the list of names are superimposed over a collection of dancing women; in Unknown (2011) the credits are superimposed over the opening shots of the story. Both Rumba and Unknown were chosen as examples for the figure–ground mode because they are specifically average, typical representatives of the same standard approach. In Rumba, the dancing shadow- women provide a rhythmic background disconnected from the music. Their presence is merely to provide a motion counterpoint to the stillness of the typography. As there are only six title cards in a two minute sequence, this movement is essential to creating a dynamic composition since the text is entirely stationary. In contrast to Rumba, Unknown is organized as an “invisible” sequence, integrated with/into the opening shots of the drama. It does not obscure the important actions on screen. What is important about these compositions is the live action photography, not the credits. The type is placed within the 3 photographic composition in empty space (“type hole”) that does not interfere with the photography; this approach to narrative integration was pioneered by Wayne Fitzgerald’s uncredited design for Touch of Evil (1958)
  • 7. (Betancourt 2013). The text is superimposed, arranged not to obstruct the narrative background, but is otherwise unrelated to it. Although the narrative runs continuously, eliding the independence of the title sequence from the rest of the film, the formal relationship of figure–ground remains unchanged. The “end” of the titles in Touch of Evil is only marked by the theme music ending; in Unknown the end is not clearly marked. Integrations of title cards and narrative background require the distinction of text from image that defines the figure–ground mode. The design must simply place the text so it doesn’t obscure the narrative imagery. Figure 1: The Figure-Ground Mode Source: All six title cards from Rumba, Paramount Pictures, 1935. THE CALLIGRAM MODE The calligram functions as a “label” in relation to the background photography in a link commonly used to precisely identify the actors. Both the figure–ground and calligram modes can (and often do) appear side-by-side within the same title sequence. These relations of text–image depend on the recognition of text–image as fused. Foucault defines calligrams in This Is Not a Pipe as entangled text–
  • 8. image combinations where identification and illustration converge, establishing their meaning through the subordination of seeing to reading through a process of enculturation begun in childhood, since the calligram and its structure of image and text are commonly employed in elementary readers for young children: In its millennial tradition, the calligram has a triple role: to augment the alphabet, to repeat something without the aid of rhetoric, to trap things in a double cipher. [...] The calligram aspires playfully to efface the oldest oppositions of our alphabetical civilization: to show and to name; to shape and to say; to reproduce and to articulate; to imitate and to signify; to look and to read. Pursuing its quarry by two paths, the calligram sets the most perfect trap. By its double formation, it guarantees capture, as B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 4 neither discourse alone, nor a pure drawing could do (Foucault 1982, 20- 22). Text and image are doubles for each other, teaching their connection as both a function of relationship—the text naming the fruit, ‘apple,’ and the image
  • 9. depicting that fruit converge—and of design, where the proximity and placement of text–image creates a form that reappears as both title cards and as subtitles in motion pictures. Understanding this relationship is necessary to understanding how calligrams are commonly employed: they identify the actors even when the rest of the sequence is structured by the figure–ground mode. In Unknown, a live action shot of actor Liam Neeson at an airplane window is simultaneously accompanied by the words “Liam Neeson” appearing next to his head. Similar direct relationships appear in Danny Yount’s main-on-end design for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011): the credit “Robert Downey, Jr.” appears slightly overlapping the actor’s image as “Sherlock Holmes.” The distinction between figure–ground and calligram distinguishes this title card from the earlier ones in the sequence. Even though they also contain images of “Sherlock Holmes” type placement identifies their design as figure–ground, while the slight overlap and proximity of name to image render the calligram’s connections explicit. The audience recognizes this name is a label identifying this man as the actor, connecting his name to his image on screen; this recognition of text-as-label specifically defines the calligram mode.
  • 10. Figure 2: The Calligram Mode Source: Title card stating “Liam Neeson” from Unknown, Dark Castle Entertainment, 2011. In a calligram, reading::seeing are a dual articulation of the same idea. The image and the text do not compete for the audience’s attention and understanding, but are fused into a singular unit. In title cards, this linkage of connotation and depiction reiterates the text as the image: in both sequences, the actor—“Robert Downey, Jr.” or “Liam Neeson”—simultaneously appears on screen, identified and labeled with their name; calligrams appear in title designs precisely because of this mutually reinforcing illustration. In seeing the text placement that produces the apparent linkage of name to live action photography—typically in close proximity to the subject—the audience understands that this text is presented as a label; other text placements do not produce such an immediate connection, and so are not understood as calligrams, but as figure–ground. Calligrams link actors with their real world names, serving an essential function in commercializing cinema by identifying the “star” independently of the role played. It connects reading::seeing as mutually reinforcing illustrations through a logic of similarity and duplicitous naming/showing that acknowledges
  • 11. 5 the fictitious nature of the drama: the name that the actor responds to on screen is not their own; the calligram counteracts this effacement of real identity by inscribing the “true name” of the actors onto their images, contradicting their behavior in the narrative: “Robert Downey, Jr.” is not “Sherlock Holmes” except within the film. This duality of reality and fiction reiterates Foucault’s understanding that calligrams as demonstrate the clinical gaze actively imposing order through a translation of visual experience into the knowledge contained by language—the label printed on screen: sight actively imposes a hierarchical order on the world. Thus the calligram embodies a subversive duality. By confusing the image with the text, it asserts the principles that make this hierarchy possible (it combines text and image into a mutually dependent relationship asserting what appears to be a singular meaning), while the drama seems to undermine the certainty of the label (the actor responds to a different name than the one shown). The complexity and contradiction of this relationship between text and image becomes apparent once the film drama begins: the actor named in the titles is not typically called by their real name in the drama. This mismatch
  • 12. is foundational; the actors who appear on screen are playing a role, different and distinct from their identities when not playing that role in the motion picture. The role of calligrams is to subordinate image to language: it establishes the boundaries of comprehension—the limits of interpretive and conceptual understanding—in the title sequence, this is the distinction between actor and character. This separation of live actor from fictional role presented/constructed in the film is governed by a set of conventions not least of which is the framing and staging of the film itself to hide and render invisible all the technologies required for its production. This superimposed text is non-diegetic, external to the “reality” on screen, reiterating the enclosed, independent nature of the drama through (paradoxically) instructing the audience in the real identity of the actor distinguished from their character in the story. The audience knows all of this in advance, and the pleasures and attractions of dramatic realism employed in Hollywood films emerge from accepting the fictional “world” (Lackey 1973). Distinguishing between real names and dramatic roles asserted through the calligram marks the boundary of the fictional realm within the film itself. The dualities of naming and showing actors is part of the conventionalized realism of dramatic film, where instead of rupturing the illusion, it draws attention to it as such, allowing
  • 13. the audience to acknowledge this realism is a construct in a complicit, knowing fashion. THE REBUS MODE The rebus develops a dialectical contrast between image and typography via a rhetorical juxtaposition—metonymy and synecdoche. There are both simple and complex versions of the rebus mode. The simple version depends on the image for the rhetorical meaning; in the complex version, the graphic style of the letters provide this rhetorical content. Identifying rhetoric depends on the audience making connections invoked through the mismatch of one term with another—the text–image relationship draws attention to itself through the ambiguous form of the “rebus” or word–image puzzle (Barthes 1972, 114-116). The a new meaning, a rhetorical excess (Barthes 1972, 109-159), is a poetic transformation revealing itself through recognized, but absent, links and connections invoked in the mismatch of text and image (Barthes 1972, 114-116). The rebus is defined by how it realizes indirect connections between text–image; the simple (and most common) rebus implies its meaning by juxtaposing an independent text with a conceptually related image, making the title card into a visualized metaphor or analogy. The rebus draws from the audience’s past experience with recognizing
  • 14. implied connections: the imaginative (poetic) juxtaposition of text and image. Ambivalence is central to rhetoric, an elliptical combination that challenges B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 6 established meaning by deflecting the image towards its metonymic potential. The various roles “played” by the cartoon panther in David DePatie and Friz Freleng’s design for The Pink Panther (1963) reflect allegorical connections: the choices of “photographic subject,” “conductor,” or “typing” all direct attention to the activity associated with the text. Each title card plays with the relationship between action (performed by cartoon panther) and production role: cinematography, music composition, screenwriting. This form is commonly used in title cards for production credits, distinguishi ng the unseen work of technicians from the actor’s playing their roles. Figure 3: The Simple Rebus Mode Source: Title card from To Kill A Mockingbird, Universal International Pictures, 1962. In discovering the connection contained by a title card such as
  • 15. “written by Horton Foote,” superimposed over a photograph of a crayon in Steven Frankfurt’s design for To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), the audience must recognize the links and ellipses between a crayon used by children to draw and scrawl words and the structured, carefully organized process of writing a screenplay. The superimposed text on this image is not a calligram. The crayon in To Kill a Mockingbird does not illustrate “written by Horton Foote” in the way that the actor illustrates his name “Robert Downey. Jr.” in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. Yet there is an apparent link in To Kill a Mockingbird: these cards employ the familiar logic of metonymy—this crayon does stand for the act of adapting the screenplay from the novel. It is a strictly linguistic connection translated into visual form, deferring their connection until the audience acknowledges the relationship of text and associated image. These erratic features of language are specifically discontinuous, requiring imaginative leaps to join them in a logic of synthesis arising from a dialectical conjunction of elements, each specifically distinct from another. Rhetoric is incompatible with illustration—the picture is not the statement made by the text. Neither is dominant; text and image have equal weight in their interpretation. This precarious balance animates their meaning, forcing them to
  • 16. fuse into the rebus. The simple connections of crayon–writing are relatively direct links whose metonymy emerges from how the image stands-in for the activity identified by the text: writing is linked to crayon in an immanent relationship between the thing depicted and the activity named. By acknowledging this link, the audience recognizes the nature of these actions and their meaningful re- 7 presentation on screen. Categorical classifications of text and image remain unchallenged: text remains linguistic, while image remains graphic. The metaphor rendered visual depends on perceived connections via metonymies between image and text. Their conceptual recognition directs attention away from the illustrative. Until the linkage is made between image and text—a sudden burst of comprehension produced by deciphering these dialectics—the rebus remains unrecognized, masquerading as the figure–ground mode. Indirect connections transform images into text via metonymy—the crayon evoking action of writing itself—mobilizing past knowledge and experience to unravel the rebus’ associative meanings. The same affirmation of dominant order visualized in calligrams (and title sequences generally) changes into an explicit
  • 17. assertion of that order in the rebus. Forcing a consideration of an allegorical meaning, independent of the images/texts alone, deflects photography’s representational status, transfiguring “connotation” to become “denotation,” as Foucault notes about the changed meanings produced by the rebus: The similar develops in series that have neither beginning for end, that can be followed in one direction as easily as in another, that obey no hierarchy, but propagate themselves from small difference among small differences. Resemblance serves representation, which rules over it; similitude serves repetition, which ranges across it (Foucault 1982, 44). The rebus renders the image as denotation; Foucault’s distinction of semblance and resemblance describes the movement from mimetic depiction into the realm of semiotics where images become text in the shift between reading::seeing. Abandoning immanent recognition for a generalized meaning, necessarily rhetorical, defines the rebus. The crayon comes to resemble the associated activity—writing—as cyphers functioning not by their representation specificity (resemblance) but thorough abstraction as general signs; this rhetorical deflection is characteristic of the rebus. The similarity between depiction and concept
  • 18. invoked through the text resolves the rebus as a visualized metaphor whose meaning comes from a forced similarity between ambivalent image the lexical meaning. Foucault’s “similitude” is this condition of language, of terms whose meanings emerge from their contextual transformation; it produces what he identifies as rhetoric: It uses the possibility to repeating the same thing in different words and profits from the extra richness of language that allows us to say different things with a single word. The essence of rhetoric is in allegory (Foucault 1982, 21). Where a calligram’s joining of text to image produces a doubling or reinforcing of the same meaning, its dialectics creates a new meaning different from what the image shows. The rebus transforms depiction (which always aspires to be what it shows) into a sign whose meaning is other than the depiction. Rhetoric is not just a series of terms arranged, but their deflection and transformation via juxtaposition in series, one term altering the meaning of next— these changes happen fluently for the audience—as when “lightning” modifies and is transformed by “bug” (nobody confuses the meaning of “lightning” and “lightning bug”). The rebus resolves image as a sign, i.e. as connotation (language).
  • 19. B e t a n c o u r t | K I N E T I C E M E R G E N C E 8 By transforming vision into reading the rhetorical shift around crayon/writing in Frankfurt’s design allegorically allows these references to move beyond the immediate and superficial representation of writing by this crayon to become at the same moment also a statement about the nature and source of that writing—the choice of this crayon, worn and thick, which appears in use elsewhere in the title sequence rubbing over type to reveal the films’ title, drawing a bird—is necessary to firmly identify the writing as a child’s story; the narrative is from a child’s perspective. The entire sequence is implicated in this single title card. Thus the association of crayon with “written by Horton Foote” suggests the point of view employed in the film, beyond just the metonymic linkage of writing with an implement. The apparent challenge to vision-as- knowledge is a chimera since selection of a particular image (photography is always specific) foreshadows and anticipates the drama. Relations of title cards to drama are common in the rebus—the encapsulation of the film in the opening renders its metanarrative of the film that follows as a puzzle (rebus) because its lexicon is the drama itself: the story unfolding after the title sequence is over
  • 20. decodes the title design. Nevertheless, the decoding is spontaneous, a recognition of relationship and meaning the audience performs fluently. Differences between reading::seeing are fundamental, but familiar roles, readily navigated. Allegory transforms representation into metaphor, in the process shifting the significance of what is seen so its material form serves interpretative ends; instead of being, it signifies. The particularities of the image matter, but only in so far as they engage this new function, as a rebus born in the dialectical relations of text– image. Re-reading the image as language characterizes the simple variant of the rebus. In denying the representational mimesis of photography, the dominance of vision affirms the established hierarchies of thought and interpretation. These recognitions and shift happen readily and fluidly, this process being instantaneous since it is the same sequence of shifts between image and language commonly employed in reading text itself. The Complex Rebus The complex rebus develops a rhetoric around the form of the type and its arrangement on screen. The typography becomes an additional “image” commonly ignored in other modes. Shifts in the design and presentation of the text—its graphic style and dress—offers meanings not contained by the text itself.
  • 21. In Pablo Ferro’s first title design, created for Dr. Strangelove, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb (1964) has two distinct sections: a voice–over narrative preamble accompanying aerial footage of cloud- shrouded mountains running 40 seconds, and the title sequence itself, running approximately 110 seconds and containing 16 title cards made of irregular compositions mostly filling the screen with outlines of spindly hand-drawn letterforms that either fade– in and –out, or dissolve one into the next, overlaid onto eight live action shots (Heller 2005, 74-79). The film is a satire on the cold war, the title sequence compresses these thematics through the design and the particulars of the lettering used for the title cards. The screen design draws attention to them as graphics, denying language to assert the words-as-image, a reversal that requires an additional layer of interpretation—the rebus. In contrast to other title sequences of the time, these title cards are clearly hand-drawn. Irregular lines and wobbly letters form asymmetrical compositions where the outlines of words fill the screen, but their graphic character does not obscure the live action background. Their combination is comical, the use of hand drawn “type” and the odd sizes and arrangement of text suggests commentary on the events shown in the live action—without directly making any critical or comic statement; this additional
  • 22. meaning foreshadows the satiric drama to follow. Shifting from “letter” to “graphic” opens language onto other types of meaning—a formal rhetoric of 9 shape and design that violates fundamental conceptions of typography as primarily a vehicle for reading in an existential challenge to the Modernist conception of typography as focused on legibility, as Jan Tschichold theorized in 1926: “The essence of the new [Modernist] typography is clarity” (Tschichold 1998, 66). This reversal defines the complex form: language becomes something that must be seen rather than read, in the process undoing the semiotics of writing to give primacy to the visuality normally hidden in/by “reading.” Rejecting language returns lettering to its foundations —graphics composed and superimposed over other, photographic materials in a reflexive (and thus potentially critical) re–assertion of sight as organizing process rendering meaning possible. Figure 4: The Complex Rebus Mode Source: All 16 title cards from Dr. Strangelove, or how I
  • 23. learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, Columbia Pictures, 1964. Displacement and transformation are hallmarks of rhetoric, rendering its meanings apparently natural and immediate, hiding what creates their significance: the excess meaning of the rebus in Dr. Strangelove is contained by … Case study Sara is a 29-year-old woman who worked at ABC hospital as a Mental Health Technician (MHT) for 1.5 year. In the beginning, Sara felt that the job was interesting and informative, but as time went on, the job and its environment began to affect Sara negatively. As an MHT, Sara was not given the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge she had acquired over time from her Associate of Arts degree, from her Family Development Credential, and from her 6.5 years of experience in Social Services. Initially, in the MHT position, Sara was permitted to chart on patients, which allowed Sara to engage in therapeutic conversations with the patients. These interactions with patients helped Sara to feel like she was making a difference. After her first year however, a policy changes prohibited MHTs from charting on patients and mandated that such duties be done by licensed staff only. This restriction cut into the therapeutic aspect of the job substantially. MHTs responsibility of doing patient groups was also cut down to one communi ty group in the mornings, a group meeting whose purpose was to go over rules and regulations. The new MHT position as a result of the change consisted of nothing more than observing patients and documenting their location every 15 minutes. This affected Sara greatly, as she felt the need to use her skills and experience and felt very overqualified and under-utilized in her position. Sara's compensation was also an issue. The hospital system that oversaw the mental division did not recognize educational milestones in Sara's position. The AA that Sara already held had
  • 24. no bearing on her pay rate. Sara had also found out that when she would have obtained her BA in December, there would be no pay increase as a result. Yearly raises had also been minimal, with employees being told that they "should be thankful to have a job in this economy", yet the hospital continued to make expensive aesthetic improvements to the hospital. Sara's supervisor was also someone who was hard to deal with. Known for having minimal people skills, the supervisor maintained a distance with staff members. She was difficult to talk to, intimidating, and hard to approach with personal or work concerns. Sara had noticed that most of the time her attitude towards work had become negative. She dreaded getting up in the mornings to go to work and almost never smiled while she was there. Her affect at work was often that of boredom and disdain. She resented organizational rules and policies and how they were conducted at the hospital. She found that her stress level and negative attitude had started to spill over into her personal life. Also, where Sara was once a model employee on her performance review, with zero absences and zero tardiness, she now found herself not caring whether she was on time or not, or what her supervisor thought about her job performance. About six months ago, a job offer for a Counselor-In-Training opened up at a nearby clinic. Although Sara wasn't really looking for a change until graduation in December, she decided to interview and fortunately she ended up getting the job. Almost immediately, Sara's stress levels stabilized, and her normal, pleasant affect returned. She also regained her positive attitude and began to once again care about her work. She became once again motivated to perform at her best. In the new job, Sara was able to have one-on-one sessions with patients and she also learned to work with a new computer system. She really felt that her intelligence and skills were being utilized. This was extremely important to Sara The pay was a bit better, but Sara found out that she would be getting a substantial raise once she obtains her BA in Psychology. The
  • 25. administrator, Sara's supervisor, was also kind and easy to talk to. Sara immediately felt comfortable there and felt that she could really begin to build her career at this organization. Modernist Painting Clement Greenberg Modernism includes more than art and literature. By now it covers almost the whole of what is truly alive in our culture. It happens, however, to be very much of a historical novelty. Western civilization is not the first civilization to turn around and question its own foundations, but it is the one that has gone furthest in doing so. I identify Modernism with the intensification, almost the exacerbation, of this self-critical tendency that began with the philosopher Kant. Because he was the first to criticize the means itself of criticism, I conceive of Kant as, the first real Modernist. The essence of Modernism lies, as I see it, in the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticise the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench
  • 26. it more firmly in its area of competence. Kant used logic to establish the limits of logic, and while he withdrew much from its old jurisdiction, logic was left all the more secure in what there remained to it. The self-criticism of Modernism grows out of, but is not the same thing as, the criticism of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment criticized from the outside, the way criticism in its accepted sense does; Modernism criticizes from the inside, through the procedures themselves of that which is being criticized. It seems natural that this new kind of criticism should have appeared first in philosophy, which is critical by definition, but as the 19th century wore on, it entered many other fields. A more rational justification had begun to be demanded of every formal activity, and Kantian self- criticism, which had arisen in philosophy in answer to this demand in the first place, was called on eventually to meet and interpret it in areas that lay far from philosophy. We know what has happened to an activity like religion, which could not avail itself of
  • 27. Kantian, immanent, criticism in order to justify itself. At first glance the arts might seem to have been in a situation like religion!s. Having been denied by the Enlightenment all tasks they could take seriously, they looked as though they were going to be assimilated to entertainment pure and simple, and entertainment itself looked as though it were going to be assimilated, like religion, to therapy. The arts could save themselves from this leveling down only by demonstrating that the kind of experience they provided was valuable in its own right and not to be obtained from any other kind of activity. Each art, it turned out, had to perform this demonstration on its own account. What had to be exhibited was not only that which was unique and irreducible in art in general, but also that which was unique and irreducible in each particular art. Each art had to determine, through its own operations and works, the effects exclusive to itself. By doing so it would, to be sure, narrow its area of competence, but at the same time it would make its
  • 28. possession of that area all the more certain. It quickly emerged that the unique and proper idea of competence of each art coincided with all that was unique in the nature of its medium. The task of self-criticism became to eliminate from the specific effects of each art any and every effect that might conceivably be borrowed from or by the medium of any other art. Thus would each art be rendered “pure,” and in its “purity” find the guarantee of its standard of quality as well as of its Page 1 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting independence. “Purity” meant self-definition, and the enterprise of self-criticism in the arts became one of self-definition with a vengeance. Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium, using art to conceal art; Modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constitute the medium of painting—the flat
  • 29. surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment—were treated by the old masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only by implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly. Manet!s became the first Modernist pictures by virtue of the frankness with which they declared the flat surfaces on which they were painted. The Impressionists, in Manet!s wake, abjured underpainting and glazes, to leave the eye under no doubt as to the fact that the colors they used were made of paint that came from tubes or pots. Cézanne sacrificed verisimilitude, or correctness, in order to fit his drawing and design more explicitly into the rectangular shape of the canvas. It was the stressing of the ineluctable
  • 30. flatness of the surface that remained, however, more fundamental than anything else to the processes by which pictorial art criticized and defined itself under Modernism. For flatness alone was unique and exclusive to pictorial art. The enclosing shape of the picture was a limiting condition, or norm, that was shared with the art of the theater; color was a norm and a means shared not only with the theater, but also with sculpture. Because flatness was the only condition painting shared with no other art, Modernist painting oriented itself to flatness as it did to nothing else. The Old Masters had sensed that it was necessary to preserve what is called the integrity of the picture plane: that is, to signify the enduring presence of flatness underneath and above the most vivid illusion of three-dimensional space. The apparent contradiction
  • 31. involved was essential to the success of their art, as it is indeed to the success of all pictorial art. The Modernists have neither avoided nor resolved this contradiction; rather they have reversed its terms. One is made aware of the flatness of their pictures before, instead of after, being made aware of what the flatness contains. Whereas one tends to see what is in an Old Master before one sees the picture itself, one sees a Modernist picture as a picture first. This is, of course, the best way of seeing any kind of picture, Old Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot with a Fan, 1872 Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Plaster Cupid, 1895 Page 2 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting Master or Modernist, but Modernism imposes it as the only and necessary way, and Modernism!s success in doing so is a success of self-criticism. Modernist painting is in its latest phase and has not abandoned the
  • 32. representation of recognizable objects in principle. What it has abandoned in principle is the representation of the kind of space that recognizable objects can inhabit. Abstractness, or the non- figurative, has in itself still not proved to be an altogether necessary moment in the self-criticism of pictorial art, even though artists as eminent as Kandinsky and Mondrian have thought so. As such, representation, or illustration, does not attain the uniqueness of pictorial art; what does do so is the associations of things represented. All recognizable entities (including pictures themselves) exist in three-dimensional space, and the barest suggestion of a recognizable entity suffices to call up associations of that kind of space. The fragmentary silhouette of a human figure, or of a teacup, will do so, and
  • 33. by doing so alienate pictorial space from the literal two- dimensionality which is the guarantee of painting!s independence as an art. For, as has already been said, three-dimensionality is the province of sculpture. To achieve autonomy, painting has had above all to divest itself of everything it might share with sculpture, and it is in its effort to do this, and not so much—I repeat—to exclude the representational or literary, that painting has made itself abstract. At the same time, however, Modernist painting shows, precisely by its resistance to the sculptural, how firmly attached it remains to tradition beneath and beyond all appearances to the contrary. For the resistance to the sculptural dates far back before the advent of Modernism. Western painting, in so far as it is naturalistic, owes a great debt to sculpture, which taught it in the beginning how to shade and model for the illusion of relief, and even how to dispose that illusion in a complementary
  • 34. illusion of deep space. Yet some of the greatest feats of Western painting are due to the effort it has made over the last four centuries to rid itself of the sculptural. Starting in Venice in the 16th century and continuing in Spain, Belgium, and Holland in the 17th, that effort was carried on at first in the name of color. What David, in the 18th century, tried to revive sculptural painting, it was, in part, to save pictorial art from the decorative flattening- out that the emphasis on color seemed to induce. Yet the strength of David!s own best pictures, which are predominantly his informal ones, lies as much in their color as in anything else. And Ingres, his faithful pupil, though he subordinated color far more consistently than did Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VIII, 1923 Piet Mondrian, Composition with Blue Plane, 1921 Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538 Page 3 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting
  • 35. David, executed portraits that were among the flattest, least sculptural paintings done in the West by a sophisticated artist since the 14th century. Thus, by the middle of the 19th century, all ambitious tendencies in painting had converged amid their differences, in an anti-sculptural direction. Modernism, as well as continuing this direction, has made it more conscious of itself. With Manet and the Impressionists the question stopped being defined as one of color versus drawing, and become one of purely optical experience against optical experience as revised or modified by tactile associations. It was in the name of the purely and literally optical, not in the name of color, that the Impressionists set themselves to undermining shading
  • 36. and modeling and everything else in painting that seemed to connote the sculptural. It was, once again, in the name of the sculptural, with its shading and modeling, that Cézanne, and the Cubists after him, reacted against Impressionism, as David had reacted against Fragonard. But once more, just as David!s and Ingres! reaction had culminated, paradoxically, in a kind of painting even less sculptural than before, so the Cubist counter-revolution eventuated in a kind of painting flatter than anything else in Western art since before Giotto and Cimabue—so flat indeed that it could hardly contain recognizable images. In the meantime the other cardinal norms of the art of painting had begun, with the onset of Modernism, to undergo a revision that was equally thorough if not as spectacular. It would take me more time than is at my disposal to show how the norm of the picture!s enclosing shape, or frame, was
  • 37. loosened, then tightened, then loosened once again, and isolated, and then tightened once more, by successive generations of Modernist painters. Or how the norms of finish and paint texture, and of value and color contrast, were revised and re-revised. New risk have been taken with all these norms, not only in the interests of expression but also in order to exhibit more clearly as norms. By being exhibited, they are tested for their indispensability. That testing is by no means finished, and the fact that it becomes deeper as it proceeds accounts for the radical simplifications that are also to be seen in the very latest abstract painting, as well as for the radical complications that are also seen in it. Neither extreme is a matter of caprice or arbitrariness. On the contrary, the more closely the norms of a discipline become defined, the less freedom they are apt to permit in
  • 38. Jacques-Louis David, Death of Socrates, 1787 Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Louis-Francois Bertin, 1833 Giotto, Lamentation of Christ, 1305-6 Page 4 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting many directions. The essential norms or conventions of painting are at the same time the limiting conditions with which a picture must comply in order to be experienced as a picture. Modernism has found that these limits can be pushed back indefinitely before a picture stops being a picture and turns into an arbitrary object; but it has also found that the further back these limits are pushed the more explicitly they have to be observed and indicated. The crisscrossing black lines and colored rectangles of a Mondrian painting seem hardly enough to make a picture out of, yet they impose the picture!s framing shape as a regulating
  • 39. norm with a new force and completeness by echoing that shape so closely. Far from incurring the danger of arbitrariness, Mondrian!s art proves, as time passes, almost too disciplined, almost too tradition- and convention- bound in certain respects; once we have gotten used to its utter abstractness, we realize that it is more conservative in its color, for instance, as well as in its subservience to the frame, than the later paintings of Monet. It is understood, I hope, that in plotting out the rationale of Modernist painting I have had to simplify and exaggerate. The flatness towards which Modernist painting orients itself can never be an absolute flatness. The heightened sensitivity of the picture plane may no longer permit sculptural illusion, or trompe-l'oeil, but it does and must permit optical
  • 40. illusion. The first mark made on a canvas destroys its literal and utter flatness, and the result of the marks made on it by an artist like Mondrian is still a kind of illusion that suggests a kind of third dimension. Only now it is a strictly pictorial, strictly optical third dimension. The Old Masters created an illusion of space in depth that one could imagine oneself walking into, but the analogous illusion created by the Modernist painter can only be seen into; can be traveled through, literally or figuratively, only with the eye. The latest abstract painting tries to fulfill the Impressionist insistence on the optical as the only sense that a completely and quintessentially pictorial art can invoke. Realizing this, one begins to realize that the Impressionists, or at least the Neo-Impressionists, were not
  • 41. altogether misguided when they flirted with science. Kantian self- criticism, as it now turns out, has found its fullest expression in science rather than in philosophy, and when it began to be applied in art, the latter was brought closer in real spirit to scientific method than ever before—closer than it had been by Alberti, Uccello, Piero della Francesca, or Leonardo in the Renaissance. That visual art should confine itself Claude Monet, Water Lillies, 1908 Piero della Francesca, Flagellation, probably 1450s Page 5 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting exclusively to what is given in visual experience, and make no reference to anything given in any other order of experience, is a notion whose only justification lies in scientific
  • 42. consistency. Scientific method alone asks, or might ask, that a situation be resolved in exactly the same terms as that in which it is presented. But this kind of consistency promises nothing in the way of aesthetic quality, and the fact that the best art of the last seventy or eighty years approaches closer and closer to such consistency does not show the contrary. From the point of view of art in itself, its convergence with science happens to be a mere accident, and neither art nor science really gives or assures the other of anything more than it ever did. What their convergence does show, however, is the profound degree to which Modernist art belongs to the same specific cultural tendency as modern science, and this is of the highest significance as a historical fact. It should be understood that self- criticism in Modernist art has never been carried on in any but a spontaneous and largely subliminal
  • 43. way. As I have already indicated, it has been altogether a question of practice, immanent to practice, and never a topic of theory. Much is heard about programs in connection with Modernist art, but there has actually been far less of the programmatic in Modernist than in Renaissance or Academic painting. With a few exceptions like Mondrian, the masters of Modernism have no more fixed ideas about art than Corot did. Certain inclinations, certain affirmations and emphases, and certain refusals and abstinences as well, seem to become necessary simply because the way to stronger, more expressive art lies through them. The immediate aims of the Modernists were, and remain, personal before anything else, and the truth and success of their works
  • 44. remain personal before anything else. And it has taken the accumulation, over decades, of a good deal of personal painting to reveal the general self-critical tendency of Modernist painting. No artist was, or yet is, aware of it, nor could any artist ever work freely in awareness of it. To this extent—and it is a great extent—art gets carried on under Modernism much in the same way as before. And I cannot insist enough that Modernism has never meant, and does not mean now, anything like a break with the past. It may mean a devolution, an unraveling, of tradition, but it also means its further evolution. Modernist art continues the past without gap or break, and wherever it may end up it will never cease being intelligible in terms of the past. The making of pictures has been controlled, since it first began, by all the norms I have mentioned. The Paleolithic painter or engraver could disregard the norm of the frame and treat the surface in a literally sculptural way only because he made images
  • 45. rather than pictures, and worked on a support—a rock wall, a bone, a horn, or a stone— whose limits and surface were arbitrarily given by nature. But the making of pictures means, among other things, the deliberate creating or choosing of a flat surface, and the deliberate circumscribing and limiting of it. This deliberateness is precisely what Modernist painting harps on: the fact, that is, that the limiting conditions of art are altogether human conditions. Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld, 1861 Page 6 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting But I want to repeat that Modernist art does not offer theoretical demonstrations. It can be said, rather, that it happens to convert theoretical possibilities into empirical ones, in doing which it tests many theories about art for their relevance to the actual practice and actual
  • 46. experience of art. In this respect alone can Modernism be considered subversive. Certain factors we used to think essential to the making and experiencing of art are shown not to be so by the fact that Modernist painting has been able to dispense with them and yet continue to offer the experience of art in all its essentials. The further fact that this demonstration has left most of our old value judgments intact only makes it the more conclusive. Modernism may have had something to do with the revival of the reputations of Uccello, Piero della Francesca, El Greco, Georges de la Tour, and even Vermeer; and Modernism certainly confirmed, if it did not start, the revival of Giotto!s reputation; but it has not lowered thereby the standing of Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, or
  • 47. Watteau. What Modernism has shown is that, though the past did appreciate these masters justly, it often gave wrong or irrelevant reasons for doing so. In some ways this situation is hardly changed today. Art criticism and art history lag behind Modernism as they lagged behind pre-Modernist art. Most of the things that get written about Modernist art still belong to journalism rather than to criticism or art history. It belongs to journalism—and to the millennial complex from which so many journalists and journalist intellectuals suffer in our day—that each new phase of Modernist art should be hailed as the start of a whole new epoch in art, marking a decisive break with all the customs and conventions of the past. Each time, a kind of art is expected so unlike all previous kinds of art, and so free from norms of practice or taste, that everybody, regardless of how informed or uninformed he happens to be, can have his say about it. And each time, this expectation has been
  • 48. disappointed, as the phase of Modernist art in question finally takes its place in the intelligible continuity of taste and tradition. Nothing could be further from the authentic art of our time than the idea of a rupture of continuity. Art is—among other things—continuity, and unthinkable without it. Lacking the past of art, and the need and compulsion to maintain its standards of excellence, Modernist art would lack both substance and justification. Rubens, Elevation of the Cross, 1610-11 Raphael, The Alba Madonna, c.1511 Page 7 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting Postscript (1978) The above appeared first in 1960 as a pamphlet in a series published by the Voice of America. It had been broadcast over that agency's radio in the spring of the same year. With some minor verbal changes it was reprinted in the spring 1965 number of Art and
  • 49. Literature in Paris, and then in Gregory Battcock's anthology The New Art (1966). I want to take this chance to correct an error, one of interpretation an not of fact. Many readers, though by no means all, seem to have taken the 'rationale' of Modernist art outlined here as representing a position adopted by the writer himself that is, that what he describes he also advocates. This may be a fault of the writing or the rhetoric. Nevertheless, a close reading of what he writes w ill find nothing at all to indicate that he subscribes to, believes in, the things that he adumbrates. (The quotation marks around pure and purity should have been enough to show that.) The writer is trying to account in part for how most of the very best art of the last hundred-odd years came about, but he's not implying that that's how it had to come about, much less that that's how the best art still has to come about. 'Pure' art was a useful illusion, but this doesn't make it any the less an illusion. Nor does the possibility of its continuing usefulness make it any the less
  • 50. an illusion. There have been some further constructions of what I wrote that go over into preposterousness: That I regard flatness and the inclosing of flatness not just as the limiting conditions of pictorial art, but as criteria of aesthetic quality in pictorial art; that the further a work advances the self-definition of an art, the better that work is bound to be. The philosopher or art historian who can envision me—or anyone at all—arriving at aesthetic judgments in this way reads shockingly more into himself or herself than into my article. Forum Lectures (Washington, D.C.: Voice of America), 1960; Arts Yearbook 4, 1961 (unrevised); Art and Literature, Spring 1965 (slightly revised); The New Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock, 1966; Peinture-cahiers théoriques, no. 8-9, 1974 (titled “La peinture moderniste”); Esthetics Contemporary, ed. Richard Kostelanetz, 1978; Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology, ed. Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison, 1982;
  • 51. Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism vol. 4, ed. John O!Brian, 1993. From: http://www.sharecom.ca/greenberg/modernism.html (Last access 21 July 07) Page 8 of 8 | Greenberg, Modernist Painting HY HIRSH | color photographs PAUL M. HERTZMANN, INC. | SAN FRANCISCO 2 Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc. Post Office Box 40447 San Francisco, California 94140 Tel: 415 626-2677 Fax: 415 552-4160 Email: [email protected] Photographer and filmmaker Hy Hirsh led a restless and unconventional life. He worked in Los Angeles and San Francisco before creative and economic opportunities lured him to Europe in 1955. He died in Paris at age 49 under clouded circumstances, his death variously attrib- uted to a drug overdose or a heart attack.2 One account,
  • 52. probably apocryphal, suggests that upon Hirsh’s death his estate was seized by the French police because of the illegal cannabis found among his belongings.3 When his estate was released, much of his life’s work in film and photography went missing. What survives is work that Hirsh left with close friends and a few items that were returned to his family.4 The abstract color prints featured in this catalogue are unique among Hirsh’s body of little- known photographic work. They directly link his still photography to the experimental filmmaking for which he is best known. By closely connecting the two, he joins such artists as Man Ray and Francis Bruguière in making a notable contribution to both experimental filmmaking and photography. His parents, Russian immigrants Max and Olga Hirsh, brought him to Southern California as a child in 1916, placing Hirsh in an ideal location to develop an interest in both filmmaking and photography. He was just 19 years old when he began working in the Hollywood studios. From 1930 through 1936 he was employed as a camera operator and editor, primarily at Columbia Studios.5 He began to make still photographs in 1932.6 Hirsh’s personal life was often tumultuous.A romantic relationship with Mae Agronowsky led to the birth of Hirsh’s only child, Diane, in 1934. He lived with them for two years but found trad- itional family life too confining. In 1939 he married Marie Gattman, a dancer and actress. She
  • 53. shared Hirsh’s interest in workers’ rights and left-wing politics, as well as his bohemian lifestyle.7 The couple lived in Los Angeles for a short time before moving to San Francisco’s Haight Street. Hirsh became the photographer for the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, photographing artwork, processing film and making prints. He also used the museum darkroom facilities for his own artistic pursuits, though this arrange- ment was not officially approved. When colleagues knocked on the lab door, which Hirsh kept locked, he could be heard scurrying about in an attempt to hide his own artwork before return- ing to a museum project and opening the door.8 His early photographic style mirrored that of the most influential movement in California photography, Group f64, whose inaugural exhibition was held at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in 1932. The “straight” photographers of Group f64, including Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham, insisted on “truth to the medium” by communicating their experiences through the elements of photography most characteristic of the medium. They pre- visualized their subject full-frame, printed the entire uncropped negative, emphasized fine detail, and adamantly opposed alterations to either negative or print. Hirsh’s photographs from that time are sharply focused renderings in black and white that employ little, if any, manipulation. Hirsh also was influenced by the social documentary approach of the Farm Security
  • 54. Administration (FSA) photographers who poignantly recorded the impact of the Great Depression on displaced workers and their families. The harsh economic reality and the leftist leanings of many in Hollywood undoubtedly had an impact on Hirsh, as well.9 Hirsh’s photographs from this 1 HHyy HHiirrsshh:: EExxppeerriimmeennttss iinn FFiillmmmmaakkiinngg aanndd PPhhoottooggrraapphhyy …form and image obey the ceaseless logic of dream. Henry Miller 1 Fig. 1. Self-Portrait. Vintage silver print, ca. 1955. period often explore social issues. More detached than most FSA photographers, he seldom focused upon individuals or rural subjects. City scenes were a frequent subject for his camera, particularly the decay and rubble of urban life. He photographed dilapidated debris—the wasted leftovers of human existence.Among his merciless images are rusted-out machinery abandoned in vacant urban lots (fig. 2) and stacks of old crates (fig. 3). He received early recognition for these photographs, which he exhibited in Los Angeles and San Francisco in seven shows between 1935 and 1955.10 In the second of these, a 1936 group
  • 55. exhibition entitled Seven Photographers held at the Stanley Rose Gallery in Los Angeles, he exhibited with some of the leading figures of West Coast photography: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Brett Weston.11 Hirsh’s work was also represented in publications during this period, including U.S. Camera in 1936, 1937 and 1939. The San Francisco Museum of Art presented a solo exhibition of his photographs in 1943.12 Critic Alfred Frankenstein wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Hirsh is a craftsman in the tradition of Weston and the other ‘pure’ photographers. His plates are surgically clean in detail and surface, but he prefers a rather somber color and tone, and tends toward rather sober subject matter.”13 Frankenstein describes Hirsh’s work of the time as depicting “a strong and honest and pitiless record of the world…” 14 While Hirsh pursued photography, he grew interested in underground filmmaking. In the film, Even—As You and I, a live action short made in 1937, he acted and assisted with the pro- duction, though he is not listed in the film credits.15 The film depicts the hesitant efforts of three young men who attempt to create a film for entry in a contest, discover Surrealism, and produce a series of wild, freewheeling visual experiments. Such playful exploration appealed to Hirsh. He became increasingly involved in the underground film movement blossoming in San
  • 56. Francisco’s jazz-beat scene (and in Los Angeles, in the shadows of Hollywood). In 1946 a land- mark symposium on avant-garde filmmaking was presented by the San Francisco Museum of Art. Entitled Art in Cinema, it celebrated the spirit of experimental film while generally dismissing Hollywood movies as entertainment. The event, which Hirsh surely attended, showcased early films by Marcel Duchamp, Oskar Fischinger, and Man Ray (both Fischinger and Man Ray were living in Los Angeles at the time). Films by younger Californians were shown, such as those by brothers James and John Whitney, winners of the first international award in experimental animation in 1946. The growing California independent film community eventually included Jordan Belson, Stan Brakhage, and Harry Smith. In this invigorating environment Hirsh met filmmaker Sidney Peterson, whose work was screened at the symposium.16 In 1947 Peterson joined the faculty of the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Francisco and founded its film program.17 He enlisted Hirsh in the making of the first film produced at the college, The Cage. Hirsh was originally brought in as camera- man, but the project became a full collaboration between the two men. Working with Peterson on The Cage, Hirsh again found filmmaking to be a medium ripe for bold experimentation.As Peterson later described in a letter, “Together, in one way and another, we did everything either could think of to do with a camera. We tried animation. We tied the camera to a contraption and rolled it down a hill.We reversed the action
  • 57. and shot it upside down and then reversed the film in accordance with the rule, since made explicit by Jasper Johns, about taking an object, doing something to it and then doing something else to what had been done.”18 As Hirsh’s involvement in alternative filmmaking deepened, his commitment to the classical restraint of straight photography diminished. The purist approach seemed too limiting, with its restrictions on manipulation and the preciousness with which its practitioners regarded the finished print. Hirsh began exploring more expansive approaches to photography. He produced surrealist inspired works such as a slightly disturbing image of manikin forms (fig. 4), as well as images filled with ambiguous spaces and a prevailing sense of mystery (fig. 5). 2 Fig. 2. Untitled [Abandoned Machinery]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1935. Fig. 3. Untitled [Stacked Crates]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1940. HHyy HHiirrsshh:: EExxppeerriimmeennttss iinn FFiillmmmmaakkiinngg aanndd PPhhoottooggrraapphhyy Although he had been greatly influenced by Adams and Group f64, he came to
  • 58. regard the older photographer as emblematic of an inhibited, narrow approach to photography. With a note of ridicule for Adams, who was the founder of the photog- raphy department at CSFA, Sidney Peterson recalled the sharply different sensibili- ties of Adams and Hirsh, “What I find extraordinary … about Hy at the time, was the readiness with which he lent himself [in the making of The Cage] to what must have seemed sheer madcappery to many and to have done it, as a photographer, in the very citadel of photographic conservatism, a school of photography … presided over by that arch conservative Ansel Adams. His [Hirsh’s] own status as a photographer was on the line and he couldn’t have cared less. I doubt he even thought about it.”19 Hirsh’s exploratory nature expressed itself most fully in filmmaking. He began creating his own art films in 1951.20 In San Francisco he produced four films: Divertissement Rococo (1951), Eneri (1953), Come Closer (1953), Gyromorphosis (1954), and at least six more, later, in Europe.21 Eneri, won first prize at the California State Exposition in 1954. Gyromorphosis won a medal at the 1958 Brussels Exposition, as did a film he produced in Europe, Autumn Spectrum (1957). In Eneri shapes jump and play, lines wiggle and twist, colors convert and combine. Together they form a rhythmic display accompanied by a dynamic Afro-
  • 59. Cuban beat.22 The result is something like rubbing your eyes hard and watching the array of patterns and colors dance on the back of your eyelids — a spectral vision set to rhythmic drumming. Hirsh’s arrangements, however, are neither random nor haphazard. They are carefully considered and artfully orchestrated, yet they remain lively and fluid. Some pulsate with geometric shapes, while others employ the soothing, hypnotic motion of reflections on the surface of water. Still others feature female forms swimming in liquid color. These pioneering efforts by Hirsh and other animators are the equivalent of early flying contraptions. Such films were laborious to make and today appear delightfully crude in light of present-day computer technology. As with the first aviators, one has to admire the inventiveness, adventurousness, and do-it-yourself independence of these filmmakers. What is surprising is how fully realized these films are and how compelling they remain. Making these films required considerable know-how, and Hirsh was regarded as a techni- cal wizard. Peterson described Hirsh’s adaptation of a Taylor- Hobson lens to the Cine Special camera used by the two of them in the making of The Cage. The lens, as Peterson explained, was “a novelty number intended for the amusement of friends, the anamorphic equivalent of a
  • 60. funhouse mirror…Hy cooked up some sort of adapter and it was used in all those school films, I think, and then, finally, I gave it away to Stan Brakhage and it became, as they say, legendary.”23 To produce his films, Hirsh combined a number of techniques. With the “oil wipe” process, for example, simple lines and shapes were drawn in thick colored oils and then filmed. Hirsh also rigged a device for recording in film the patterns produced on an oscilloscope screen. He shot the patterns in black and white and used filters to add color. Oscilloscope derived images appear in a number of his films. He united these and other effects using an optical printer, a device capable of overlaying various images onto a single strip of film. Hirsh hand built his own optical printer and shared it with other filmmakers, most notably Jordan Belson and Harry Smith. Combined images became integral to Hirsh’s still photography, too. Sometimes he utilized double exposure, other times he overlapped separate negatives. In Europe he employed both approaches to produce a series of fashion spreads for Elle, overlaying the image of a model with a floral motif or combining a model’s image with that of a landscape turned on its side (fig. 7).24 3 Fig. 4. Untitled [Manikins]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1940. Fig. 5. Untitled [Paris]. Vintage silver print, late 1950s.
  • 61. 4 In another print he produced a mocking, Dali-like self-portrait by superimposing two negatives, one of himself and one of a broken sheet of glass (fig. 1). In Paris he shot hundreds of color slides of old wall posters that were peeling, exposing layers of posters underneath. These torn and deteriorating posters, their printed images inter- mixing, resulted in surprising and unexpected juxtapositions (fig. 6). The subject itself, the layers of posters, shot on a single negative, provided a montage equivalent to double exposure. Hirsh’s still photography and filmmaking were linked to one another, both in technique and subject matter. The slides of posters, for example, were taken in preparation for making a film in 1958 of the same subject, entitled Défense d’Afficher. The slides were shown a decade later, after Hirsh’s death, in Recent Color, a presentation organized by John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, “exploring experimental directions in contemporary color photography.”25 The most important connection between Hirsh’s films and photographs involved music, which was one of Hirsh’s passions. He maintained a large record collection and attended jazz performances in Bay area coffeehouses. Be it primal drum beats or the cool jazz of Thelonius Monk (in Chasse des Touches), music was a key rhythmic and
  • 62. emotional component of his films. Beyond its use on the sound track, music fulfilled a profound role for Hirsh and other avant-garde filmmakers, both in the United States and Europe. These artists explored the rela- tionship between visual art and music, searching for the basic elements shared by both. For example, just as musical notes and phrases can be said to have a certain coloring, colors can be said to have volume and impart mood. In this pursuit artists created paintings, photographs, films and light shows as the visual equivalents of music. This tradition of art is often referred to today as visual music.26 The visual music movement during the twentieth century belonged to the reductive direc- tion of modernism—an effort to distill art down to its most fundamental elements of expression. Artists wanted color, line, shape, value and texture, rather than the subject matter, to carry the emotional message of their art. This is why their work, be it filmmaking or painting, is often abstract and without a recognizable subject. Perhaps the most popularly known example of visual music is the Walt Disney film, Fantasia, in which the usual Hollywood storyline gives way to phan- tasmagorical displays of abstract shapes and colors. Artists who worked in the visual music tradition include painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Fischinger and Stanton Macdonald- Wright. Some artists are still pursing this path today. Not surprisingly, given their interest in the synesthetic relationship between the various arts,
  • 63. many creators of visual music films also produced art in other media. Fischinger (who worked on Fantasia) was both a painter and filmmaker, as was Harry Smith, Jordan Belson, James Whitney, and Len Lye. Man Ray and Francis Bruguière were painters, photographers and filmmakers. Hirsh’s role as a visual music filmmaker has been recognized, but his contribution to visual music as a still photographer has been overlooked. The color abstract images reproduced in this catalogue evolved, like his filmmaking, as a part of the visual music movement. They are closely connected to his films, particularly Eneri, Chasse des Touches (1959), and La Couleur de la Forme (1960–61). The same elliptical patterns, flowing lines, and biomorphic shapes are displayed upon fields of saturated color in both his films and photographs. The experience for the viewer is nearly the same in either – an exuberant evocation of the freewheeling jazz-beat spirit so alive at the time in San Francisco and Paris. It is important that these color prints not be viewed as mere film stills, since they do not duplicate specific film frames. They stand alone as works of art. In these prints time is momen- tarily held—like a musical chord sustained—so that we might meditate on the image’s visual and emotional character. As such these photographs are artful companions to Hirsh’s films. They represent his purist expression of visual music created in still photography. Dennis Reed
  • 64. Fig. 6. Untitled [Wall Posters, Paris] Color slide, ca. 1958. Fig. 7. Untitled [Illustration in Elle, August 18, 1961, p. 31]. Half-tone color reproduction. HHyy HHiirrsshh:: EExxppeerriimmeennttss iinn FFiillmmmmaakkiinngg aanndd PPhhoottooggrraapphhyy 5 About the Author Dennis Reed is best known for his 1986 book and exhibition, Japanese Photography in America, 1920–1940, and as the co-author of Pictorialism in California: Photographs, 1900– 1940, published in 1994 by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Wind Came from the East: Asian American Photography, an essay, will be published by Stanford University in 2008. Reed is Dean of Arts at Los Angeles Valley College. Author’s Acknowledgements I wish to express my gratitude to Hirsh’s daughter, Diane Kleinfeld, who shared her personal story. Cindy Keefer, Executive Director of the Center for Visual Music, generously provided information and guidance regarding Hirsh’s life, his films, and the films of others with whom he worked. Judith Berlowitz offered extensive information on Hirsh’s marriage to her aunt, Marie Gattman-Hirsh-Chapman. Jeff Gunderson assisted with facts related to CSFA. I also want to mention Dr. William Moritz, an expert on experimental film, who I had the pleasure of meeting in the early 1980s when I began to research Hirsh’s work.
  • 65. Notes 1 Henry Miller, “Introduction: The Red Herring and the Diamond-backed Terrapin” in Art in Cinema, San Francisco Museum of Art (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1947), 5. 2 Interview with Dr. William Moritz, 1984. Hirsh’s death certificate indicates cardiac infarction as the cause of death. 3 Dr. William Moritz, “Hy Hirsh & The Fifties: Jazz and Abstraction in Beat Era Film” in Kinetica 3: Abstraction/Animation/Music (Los Angeles: The iotaCenter, 2001), 5–8. This story has been widely circulated, but this author is aware of no direct evidence to support it. 4 Interviews with Diane Kleinfeld, Hirsh’s daughter, in 1983, 2006-2007. 5 Kerry Brougher, Olivia Mattis, Jeremy Strick, Ari Wiseman Judith Zilczer, Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900 (London: Thames & Hudson, 2005), 252; Moritz, Hy Hirsh Biography, iotaCenter [article online]; available from http://www.iotacen- ter.org/visualmusic/articles/moriz/hirshbio; Internet; accessed 15 May 2007. 6 Document entitled, Hy Hirsh: Curriculum Vitae, provided by Barbara Shuey to Dr. Moritz [from the William Moritz Collection, Center for Visual Music, Los Angeles]. 7 Judith Berlowitz, Biography of Marie Gattman-Hirsh- Chapman, typed manuscript, December, 2006; Berlowitz emails
  • 66. to author, 2006–2007; Kleinfeld interviews. 8 As related by Hirsh’s San Francisco roommate, Beryl Sokoloff, to Cindy Keefer, interview, 2002. 9 For a time Hirsh worked for the WPA. 10 1935, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1946, 1954 and 1955. 11 Sherril Schell’s work was also included in the exhibition. 12 One version of Hirsh’s Vita, prepared after his death (or amended), probably by Beryl Sokoloff, indicates that a one-man show of his work was held in Germany in October of 1961 [from the William Moritz Collection, Center for Visual Music, Los Angeles]. 13 Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 1943 (from a typed copy). The reference to color refers to mood, as the prints discussed were black and white. 14 Ibid. 15 Kerry Brougher, Olivia Mattis, Jeremy Strick, Ari Wiseman Judith Zilczer, 252. 16 Sidney Peterson’s film The Potted Psalm, made with James Broughton, was among those screened at the festival. 17 This was an exciting time at CSFA because Douglas MacAgy, as the new director, immediately began to transform the institution. It was he who famously brought to the school such painters as Clifford Still, Richard Diebenkorn and David Park, hired Peterson to found the film program, and approved the new photography department headed by Ansel Adams and Minor White. The CSFA was renamed the
  • 67. San Francisco Art Institute in 1961. 18 Sidney Peterson, unpublished letter to Marie Gattman-Hirsh- Chapman, November 11, 1977. 19 Ibid. 20 He also produced short reportage films for television in 1954–1955. 21 Filmographies vary and footage exists from apparently unfinished films. Gyromorphosis was likely filmed in Amsterdam. 22 Eneri was named after his girlfriend of the time, Irene, by spelling her name backwards (Hirsh and Gattman had divorced). Always interested in the new technology, Hirsh bought an early magnetic tape recorder and used it during a fashion shoot to record the music for Eneri. 23 Peterson. 24 His work appears in at least five issues of Elle in 1961. 25 Museum of Modern Art, Press Release, No. 24, February, 1968. 26 Kerry Brougher, Olivia Mattis, Jeremy Strick, Ari Wiseman, Judith Zilczer, 1–272. 6 7
  • 69. 17 18 19 20 21 22 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS & PRICES All color illustrations are from original chromogenic photographs, printed by Hirsh himself, using the Ansco Printon process. The color prints are untrimmed, full sheets, 97⁄8 x 87⁄8 inches [25 x 20 cms.] or the reverse. All black and white illustrations are from vintage gelatin silver photographs, printed by the photographer. Hirsh’s credit stamp is on the reverse of all photographs. Each print is identified by an inventory number, shown in brackets below. Front cover. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4841]
  • 70. $4,500 Inside front cover. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4839] $4,500 Fig. 1. Self-Portrait. Vintage silver print, ca. 1955. 8 x 77⁄8 inches. [4818] $3,000 Fig. 2. Untitled [Abandoned Machinery]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1935. 75⁄8 x 95⁄8 inches. [4419] $3,000 Fig. 3. Untitled [Stacked Crates]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1940. 75⁄8 x 95⁄8 inches [4820] $3,000 Fig. 4. Untitled [Manikins]. Vintage silver print, ca. 1940. 75⁄8 x 95⁄8 inches [4821] $3,000 Fig. 5. Untitled [Paris]. Vintage silver print, late 1950s. 53⁄8 x 73⁄4 inches [4822] $3,000 Fig. 6. Untitled [Wall Posters, Paris]. Color slide, ca. 1958. Not for sale. Fig. 7. Untitled [Illustration in Elle, August 18, 1961, p. 31]. Half-tone color reproduction. Not for sale PLATES
  • 71. Page 6. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4840] $4,500 Page 7 top. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4847] $3,500 Page 7 bottom. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4827] $4,000 Page 8. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4832] $4,000 Page 9. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4828] $4,000 Page 10. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4831] $3,500 Page 11. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4845] $3,500 Page 12. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4835] $4,000 Page 13 top. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4844] $3,500 Page 13 bottom. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4826] $3,500 Page 14. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4843] $3,500 Page 15. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4837] $3,500 Page 16.
  • 72. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4836] $4,500 Page 17. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4833] $3,500 Page 18. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4829] $3,500 Page 19. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4842] $3,500 Page 20. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4825] $3,500 Page 21 top. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4846] $3,500 Page 21 bottom. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4824] $3,500 Back cover. Untitled chromogenic photograph, ca. 1950. [4830] $4,500 CONDITIONS OF SALE All the photographs are from the estate of Hy Hirsh and are subject to prior sale. Customers will be billed for shipping and insurance. Applicable sales tax will be charged. 23 SELECTED CHRONOLOGY
  • 73. 1911 Born October 11, Philadelphia, PA. 1930–36 Worked as a cameraman and editor at Columbia Studios, Los Angeles. 1932 Made his first black and white photographs. 1936 Exhibited in “Seven Photographers” at Stanley Rose Gallery, Los Angeles. 1936–37 Worked as a photographer for the WPA, Los Angeles. 1937 Acted and worked as cinematographer in his first film project Even-As You and I. Moved to San Francisco. 1937–54 House photographer for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco. 1943 Solo exhibition of his photographs at the San Francisco Museum of Art. 1946–52 Assisted Sidney Peterson and other experimental filmmakers. 1951 Created his first independent abstract animation film, Divertissement Rococo. 1952 Divertissement Rococo screened at the Sixth International Edinburgh Film Festival. 1954 Awarded first prize for Eneri at the California State Exposition.
  • 74. 1954–55 Made 15 short documentary films for television (believed lost). 1955 Moved to Paris. Received “Lion d’Or de Cannes” for publicity film. 1955–61 Worked in Spain, Holland, France in film publicity, advertising and fashion photography, experimental films, and experimental still photography. His commercial photographs were published in Elle, Réalités, and Vanity Fair. 1958 Received award for his films, Gyromorphosis and Autumn Spectrum at Brussels Exposition. 1960 Film “Retrospective Hy Hirsh” at the Louvre, Pavillon de Marsan, Paris. 1961 Died November, Paris. 1968 His color slides shown in Recent Color at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 1977 His photographs exhibited in “The 30’s and 40’s: Vintage Prints by Hy Hirsh” at Focus Gallery, San Francisco. 1978 His photographs exhibited at the Stephen White Gallery, Los Angeles. SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY The Cage, 1947 16mm, silent, 28 mins. Director: Sidney Peterson
  • 75. Horror Dream, 1947 10 mins. Director: Sidney Peterson Clinic of Stumble, c. 1948 16mm, 16 mins. Director: Sidney Peterson Lead Shoes, 1949 16mm, 18 mins. Director: Sidney Peterson Divertissement Rococo, 1951 16mm, color, sound, 12 mins. Eneri, 1953 16mm, color, sound, 7 mins. Come Closer, 1953 16mm, stereoscopic color, sound, 7 mins. Gyromorphosis, 1954 16mm, color, sound, 7 mins. Autumn Spectrum, 1957 16mm, color, sound, 7 mins. Music: Modern Jazz Quartet Défense d'Afficher, 1958 16mm, color, sound, 8 mins. Chasse des Touches, 1959 16mm, color, sound, 4 mins. Music: Thelonius Monk, “Evidence” Décollages Recollés, c. 1960
  • 76. 16 mm. black/white and color Two projector film, (unfinished) La Couleur de la Forme, 1961 16 mm, color, 7 mins. (original lost) Scratch Pad, 1961 16mm, color, sound, 9 mins. Etude Anatomique du Photographe, 1961 (believed lost) 24 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY “The Enigma of Hy Hirsh,” Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation. Paris: Editions Liana Levi, 1991. Berlowitz, Judith. Biography of Marie Gattman-Hirsh-Chapman, typed manuscript, December, 2006. *California Arts and Architecture, April, 1941, pp. 20–21. Curtis, David. Experimental Cinema. London: Studio Vista, 1971. *Elle, no. 788, 1/27/1961, pp. 42–45. *Elle, no. 789, 2/3/1961, pp. 44–47. *Elle, no. 795, 3/17/1961, pp. 94–113. *Elle, no. 797, 3/31/1961, pp. 88–93.
  • 77. *Elle, no. 817, 8/18/1961, pp. 30–41. Fischer, Hal. “Exhibition Wrap-up,” Artweek, 12/24/1977. Frankenstein, Alfred. “A New Crop of Photo Shows,” San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13/1977. Haller, Robert. “Hy Hirsh,” Articulated Light: The Emergence of Abstract Film in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Film Archive/Anthology Film Archives, 1995, Hy Hirsh: Curriculum Vitae, provided by Barbara Shuey to Dr. William Moritz. William Moritz Collection at the Center for Visual Music, Los Angeles. Keefer, Cindy. “Hy Hirsh Preservation: History and Mystery,” Kinetica 3. Los Angeles: The iotaCenter, 2001. Keefer, Cindy. “Space Light Art-Early Abstract Cinema and Multimedia, 1900–1959,” White Noise, Melbourne: Australian Center for … Novelty title sequences and self-reflexivity in classical Hollywood cinema Deborah Allison There were things that could be done with film, it was crazy not to do them. title designer Wayne Fitzgerald [1] In 1976 Saul Bass designed the opening title sequence for That's
  • 78. Entertainment Part II (Gene Kelly) and in doing so created a piece of film that was about titles sequences, as well as being one itself. The film's compilation format of classic clips from Hollywood musicals inspired him to emulate a wide-ranging series of titles from the classical period and, in particular, the 1930s. The result is a joyous celebration of a range of titling styles designed to entertain in their own right, sometimes imitating existing sequences, and sometimes inspired by what Bass calls the "mythic memory" of sequences that could or should have been.[2] This sequence highlights two important issues. In its pastiche of title sequences from the 1930s it shows some of the sorts of novelty sequences produced at that time. It is historically important to remember that such sequences existed since many of the journalistic articles written about film titles in recent years present an inaccurate picture proposing that film titling was universally dull and conservative until 1954 when the form was revolutionised by Bass in his design for Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones. Typical of such articles is David Thomson's which claims that, "For decades before the 1950s, movie credits had meekly followed whatever standard treatment prevailed at every studio… The music over the credits sometimes had the mood of the picture to come, but the graphics themselves were classical lettering on a bland background."[3] As I will show, the history of title sequences is far more lively and varied than this. The second issue relates to what is often perceived as a key purpose of title design, namely finding ways to prepare the viewer for the experience of watching the coming film. In That's Entertainment Part II, pleasure and function are seamlessly blended in a sequence that names the
  • 79. film, credits the cast, hints at what will follow and sets an appropriate tone, as well as providing a stylistic history lesson. David Geffner has argued that title sequences "form a kind of contract, outlining the filmmaker's intentions and, for better or worse, setting up expectations that the audience, almost subliminally, will demand to be met."[4] This attitude can be discerned in the design of many sequences described in this article, but I will also show that in other sequences the importance of this function is displaced by other features. Indeed, the common factor of the sequences featured here is a flamboyant exhibitionism that revels in its own cleverness. In this respect, these sequences differ considerably from the attitudes to film titling that later rose to domination. Experimentation with striking and unusual title sequences began as early as the late 1910s, but it was the 1930s when an explosion of ideas and techniques occurred that consolidated the role of the title sequence as something more than a list of names. A wide range of styles and techniques were used at this time, many of them indigenous to the period. Although many sequences were designed with relative stylistic economy, others seemed fascinated instead with the potential of the medium for exploring techniques of direct address and self-reflexivity. These highlight a more than usually complex relationship between themselves, the main part of the film they introduce and the process of its production. In this article I explore a selection of sequences that foreground the problematic relationship between the exhibitionism of title sequences and the need to construct a full diegesis. All of these sequences are self-reflexive, a process normally manifested through the introduction of film titles into the diegetic space, or
  • 80. through references made to them either by fictional characters in the film or a member of the production crew. Such a collapsing of the boundaries between the diegetic and non-diegetic space contravenes a convention that many theorists, such as Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, have looked upon as central to the 'classical style', although these authors acknowledge that exceptions exist.[5] This convention is that the diegetic space should be internally coherent and that filmic technique should not conspicuously impinge upon it. These sequences raise questions about such ways of understanding the construction and pleasures of Hollywood cinema. Are title Novelty title sequences http://tlweb.latrobe.edu.au/humanities/screeningthepast/20/nove ... 1 of 7 5/26/15, 12:02 PM sequences an entirely different medium from the films they introduce, or does their failure to conceal their artifice and their frequent promotion of non-narrative pleasures represent an intensification of a more widespread mode of film practice in which a narrative structure and apparently seamless diegetic construct exist merely as an organisational principle in which other pleasures are contained? Many films of the studio era, and indeed the majority of films now, do indeed tend to avoid actively drawing attention to the fact that the diegetic space is an artificial entity constructed in the process of the film's production. Perhaps the most notable exception to this rule is
  • 81. film comedy. Henry Jenkins has argued that, "the comic film tended to lag behind the rest of American cinema in its acceptance of classical Hollywood norms, remaining one of the places where marginal film practices enjoyed the greatest acceptability."[6] Steve Seidman's excellent study of comedian comedy cites a wide range of instances where diegetic boundaries have been rendered problematic, and one of the foremost sites he identifies for using such a device is the opening (or sometimes the end) credits sequence.[7] The practice of foregrounding the process of production is a feature also found in many avant-garde films. It is not unusual for the materiality of the title cards to be emphasised in such films, as lettering is scratched or painted on film, inscribed onto a physical object, or cards are positioned or removed by hand. Examples can be seen in Color Cry (Len Lye, 1953), Little Stabs at Happiness (Ken Jacobs, 1959-1963) and Gulls and Buoys (Robert Breer, 1974). Moreover, title sequences that rely heavily upon cinematic trickery show a preoccupation that Tom Gunning has observed in the writings of the early modernists, namely "a fascination with the potential of the medium."[8] Observing that one feature of early cinema and the avant-garde alike is "its freedom from the creation of a diegesis, its accent on direct stimulation", Gunning identifies a sensibility that he terms "the cinema of attraction."[9] The attitude that he describes can be seen to resonate through the titling innovations of films cited in this essay. Although there are parallels between such instances and features of some mainstream comedies, we should be wary of inferring too close a commonality between the two forms. Steve Neale and Frank Krutnik have argued that "neither comedy nor the comic can be regarded as
  • 82. inherently subversive or progressive, or as inherently avant-garde… [since] the level of generic verisimilitude [in expecting the unexpected] accounts… for the non avant-garde character of even the most formally adventurous comedies."[10] Accepting the validity of their argument, we can nonetheless recognise that in some of the title sequences this essay describes, features strongly associated with both classical film comedy and avant- garde cinema are brought together. Some of the sequences I will describe are from comedies, and in these we can detect some strong consistencies between the title sequence and the rest of the film in the ways in which the viewer is addressed. Most of them are from other genres though, and would therefore seem to be at odds with the films they introduce. Even if we allow that title sequences, like certain film genres, are a site in which self-reflexive devices have been normalised, we are still left with a situation where the artificiality of the film construct is highlighted to a degree that raises questions about the validity of arguments which hold that mainstream films, of the classical period at least, do all they can to present themselves as hermetically sealed entities. The varying relationships between title sequences and the diegesis The self-reflexive sequences discussed in this essay can be placed into three basic categories. The first two are quite similar to each other in that they both involve titles inscribed onto physical objects. In the first case there is the insinuation that these objects may belong within the diegetic space but are not unequivocally placed there. In the second group are sequences where the credit titles are inarguably placed within that space. The
  • 83. third group involves some interaction between the credit titles and either the characters in the film or its production crew. Perhaps the most interesting feature of these sequences is the range of ways in which they call into question the nature of the diegesis and the means by which the films structure and present this organisational system. Traditionally, credit titles have collided with the diegetic image in one of two ways. Either the whole sequence has been marked off from the diegesis by placing the lettering on a totally different background, such as a plain board or piece of paper, or else the lettering has been superimposed over diegetic footage without any attempt to conceal the independence of one plane from the other, or to conjoin them in such a way as to suggest that their origins might be linked. The films described below provide exceptions to this rule. Defining the boundaries of the diegesis can be a difficult task in itself, although the meaning of the term seems fairly straightforward at first glance. For a popular textbook definition we may as well take the one provided by Bordwell and Thompson in Film Art: "In a narrative film, the world of the film's story. The diegesis includes events that are presumed to have occurred and actions and spaces not shown onscreen."[11] When a film opens, the viewer has no frame of reference, however. How is s/he supposed to assess the status of the background image during a title sequence that comes right at the beginning of a film, as many of them do? If Novelty title sequences http://tlweb.latrobe.edu.au/humanities/screeningthepast/20/nove ...
  • 84. 2 of 7 5/26/15, 12:02 PM the background is plain, or a painted picture, then knowledge of convention may suggest that after the titles there will be a cut to a live action scene that has no spatial link to the title card. Yet as I will later describe, Whirlpool (Otto Preminger, 1950), provides one exemplary illustration of just how easily the viewer can be tricked. Live action backgrounds and the presence of three- dimensional objects during the titles present a greater problem for the viewer. A comparison of three title sequences, which share strong similarities with each other, will illustrate this difficulty: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946), The Cat and the Fiddle (Lloyd Bacon, 1933) and You'll Never Get Rich (Sidney Lanfield, 1941). These belong to a small but diverse group of films that present their opening titles on billboards or signposts. To illustrate the point in hand, the pertinent feature of these sequences is the varying relation between the signposts and/or billboards in the title sequence and the space of the subsequent film. My Darling Clementine uses titles scorched into a single wooden signpost. This is the only physical object in the frame during the title sequence, which ends with a cut. There is therefore no suggestion that the post is located anywhere within the diegetic space (save only that its style suggests rural origins). The Cat and the Fiddle shows cars circling a roundabout, in the centre of which is a notice board that a man approaches. We see that it displays a poster advertising Ramon Novarro and Jeannette McDonald in The Cat and the Fiddle. The camera tracks into this poster and freezes, after which the board rotates to show two
  • 85. further posters/title cards. As in My Darling Clementine, a cut is used to separate the title sequence from the rest of the movie. You'll Never Get Rich is by far the most elaborate of the three sequences. It shows a man being chauffeured along a country road. The passenger asks the driver to slow down as, watching from the window, he sees a row of signs along the roadside on which there appear film credits as well as pictures of the top-billed stars. Presently credit titles start to appear on fences and buildings too. After the last one, the film cuts back to the passenger, who tells his driver, "All right, go ahead. Thank you." At this point, as in the other sequences, the film cuts to a different location. It is a city scene and is therefore evidently a different space. Yet a street sign passed by a car establishes this new location, the iconography of the shot thus linking it to the previous sequence. In these films, we see three examples of titles inscribed upon physical objects that have no clear spatial link to the actual space in which the narrative occurs. There is a gradation between the first sequence, which is completely divorced from any narrative space, and the second, which suggests a similarity between the space of the titles and the following scenes by including some action in the title sequence. In the final example, there is a strong continuity with the construction of the subsequent space and action, due to the presence of dialogue and a minimal narrative content during the titles as well as loose graphic matching between the two spaces. Although in all these examples a cut separates the space of the titles from the main part of the film, some films discussed later in the essay proceed without any intermediary cut. Instead of being insinuated into a mock-diegetic space, their titles are patently positioned within the very space where the narrative action occurs.