Sculpting in time: temporally inflected experience of cinema

In Jerome Pelletier & Albert Voltolini (eds.), The Pleasure of Pictures: Pictorial Experience and Aesthetic Appreciation. Routledge. pp. 201-223 (2019)
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Abstract

We engage with all representational pictures by seeing things in them. Seeing-in is a distinctive form of visual experience, one in which we are aware of both the marks, projected lights, or whatever that make up the picture (its Design) and what the picture represents (Scene). Some seeing-in is inflected: what we then see in the picture is a scene the properties of which make essential reference to Design. Since cinema involves moving pictures, it too supports seeing-in. But can that seeing-in be inflected? Film is a relatively transparent pictorial medium: properties of the representation other than its content have a relatively low profile in our experience of it. This prevents film from exhibiting the sorts of inflection common in other pictorial media. However, film is certainly not completely transparent. Among the Design properties of which we are aware are temporal properties of the film. Is our experience of cinema inflected by these properties? And, if so, is this one source of the feature some take to constitute cinema’s distinctiveness as an artform, the special relation in which it stands to time? I argue that the answer to both these questions is Yes.

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Robert Hopkins
New York University

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