Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media

Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media

Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media

Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media


It has become a commonplace that "images" were central to the twentieth century and that their role will be even more powerful in the twenty-first. But what is an image and what can an image be? Releasing the Image understands images as something beyond mere representations of things. Releasing images from that function, it shows them to be self-referential and self-generative, and in this way capable of producing forms of engagement beyond spectatorship and subjectivity. This understanding of images owes much to phenomenology- the work of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty- and to Gilles Deleuze's post-phenomenological work. The essays included here cover historical periods from the Romantic era to the present and address a range of topics, from Cézanne's painting, to images in poetry, to contemporary audiovisual art. They reveal the aesthetic, ethical, and political stakes of the project of releasing images and provoke new ways of engaging with embodiment, agency, history, and technology.


Robert Mitchell and Jacques Khalip

Thou Shall Not Create Unto Thyself Any Graven Im
age, although you know the task is to fill the empty
page. From the bottom of your heart, pray to be re
leased from image.

—Derek Jarman, Blue

In Derek Jarman’s Blue (1993), a seventy-six-minute 35-mm film devoid of any visual image beyond a deep blue color projected onto a screen, the release prayed for by Jarman accomplishes nothing less than an alteration of the senses: in the context of this film, “to see” does not mean yielding to an index of a thing or an event that is understood as located in a cinematic beyond; rather, it means reorganizing our assumptions about perception and images. As a film, that is, Blue releases us from certain assumptions about images—for example, from a narrative theory of the cinematic visual image and a selectional process of cinematic spectatorship. As a consequence, though, and by that same token, Blue renders the image otherwise by linking the blue color on the screen with the film’s sound track, which includes music, recordings (or simulations) of environmental city sounds, and Jarman’s reflections on his films and his own mortality (Jarman was to die of AIDS-related complications just a few months after finishing Blue and was already partly blind when he began what was to be his last film). By linking the indexicality of its aural register—the sense, that is, that we are listening to traces and recordings of voices and events that existed before and outside . . .

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