Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

White Balance: A History of Video

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

White Balance: A History of Video

Article excerpt


A man sits behind a long, shallow desk. He is surrounded by a series of cameras. These cameras would appear to be non-functioning junk - a small-scale museum of outmoded equipment. The man is staring directly into an operational camera, which in turn relays his image onto a larger projection screen behind him. He holds up a sheet of white paper to the camera, thus obscuring the lens. He speaks. Presumably, the text he subsequently recites is printed on the back of this sheet of paper.

I have often imagined an extrapolated and nightmarish scenario of total documentation - of every waking experience having some form of recorded double. This fear would be pathological, imagined as a state of affairs that 1 myself would have compulsively instigated. Having taken pictures of all the things I had ever seen and done in my life, and recorded all the sounds 1 had ever made and heard from birth to present (or at least from the age of my acquisition of technological aptitude), 1 would wonder if I had been complicit in a violation of the diktats of proper, particular space and proper, particular time. Within the framework of this thought experiment, one may be haunted by the idea that the capturing of an image or a sound is to contribute to that creeping sense of collective societal discombobulation regarding the where and when of things.

I wonder what would happen if I stopped recording - would this usher in a new sense of orientation? Somehow, the thought process didn't stop there. It started to occur to me that it is all materials that are displaced, recorded or not - that all forms are adulterated, in the wrong place at the wrong time, in an increasingly unnatural order. In this image of the world, everything is out of its place. Everything is out of its time. Therefore, returning all materials to a place of origin becomes an imperative. This return also implies a breaking-down of constituent parts. Now a phrase such as 'breaking-down' perhaps takes us into a realm of destructive behaviours. You may have a breaking-down of things materially. Of things being methodically taken apart, and returned to a prior form. This is not to start again necessarily - just to get closer to the beginning. On the other hand, we have a 'breaking-down' of things psycho- logically speaking. This would be the desire for a cleansing of the sensory palette, returning to a place where language has been de-learned and all experience forgotten. Picture your body growing backwards to the eventual point of finding oneself lying in a cot, perpetually staring at a white, featureless ceiling, with no way to articulate what this empty frame might mean.

I recall similarly regressive imagery in a particular passage from Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel Slaughterhouse 5. In this instance, the nature of time is explored in reverse. Throughout this book, the main protagonist Billy Pilgrim keeps on becoming 'unstuck in time', drifting involuntarily between past, present and future. There is one section of the book where he is watching a movie set during World War Two - but in his unstuck state, Billy sees the movie backwards as he moves backwards in time. He sees a formation of US bombers flying backwards over a German city in flames:

The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them in cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes.1

Billy goes onto describe the 'miraculous devices' possessed by the German soldiers on the ground that suck bullets from the bodies of the US airmen. As the film continues to play out in reverse, bodies are steadily repaired and the damaged planes are gradually reconstructed as they fly over Germany, and back to their bases. The bombs and bullets are then taken from the planes to factories where they are defused, broken down to their constituent elements and put back into the ground - out of harm's way. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.