Christa Blümlinger on Tscherkassky

My current fiction project finds me writing about film, and I have found much to be inspired by in Christa Blümlinger’s analysis of Peter Tscherkassky’s Outer Space, itself a masterpiece of the medium.

(all emphasis mine)

“The face, and all its constitutive parts, plays an essential role in the attack scenes: it is the site where desire translates into affect, the place towards which the subject (-spectator) is directed by the flow of the images. This function of the face is already evident in the original film, The Entity (4), by its specific figuration: one of the “attacks” takes place in the bathroom where, in one camera movement, framing separates Hershey’s nude body from her head, and, in the one following, her face is multiplied through a trick of mirrors. Outer Space adopts this mirror scene as a decisive figurative element in depicting the sexual attacks. Through his choice of images, Tscherkassky puts into play a kind of censorship, in the psychoanalytic sense. He transfers the representation of the libidinal attacks from the nude female body (the sort of literal representation of a “realization” of fantasy, perversion, and taboos that became commonplace in ’80s horror films (5)) to the face which, as an image, is punished for the spectator’s desire and repression.”

The transference of libidinal representation from the body to the IMAGE of the face is of most note here; “punished” by the spectator’s desire/repression dichotomy, this, I think, presupposes the film-viewer as an active participant, at least subconsciously.

“The cinematographic aspect is inscribed in the image through flickering, traces of chiaroscuro, and sprocket holes, which are visible in the field of vision. In the middle of the film, the flickering, reinforced by positive-negative inversions, combines with the perforated picture frames to a point of complete abstraction (6). The figuration of the female body—from the beginning a precarious matter in Tscherkassky’s work—is thus simultaneously deconstructed as something imaginary, the object of projection, and as a material construction.

Reducing (expanding?) the diegetic-corporeal elements of the filmic-body to an abstraction, or even better, a materialist flicker/frame (“the object of projection”) reconfigures the lust of the spectator towards what is on screen: to recognize, allow the body as a material projection reconfigures the relationship of desire.

“only film knows how to represent the play of physiognomy”

Necessity for film-as-medium outside of material elements. I haven’t encountered much claim for the necessity of any medium outside of materialism.

“In Tscherkassky’s work, the gesture of re-reading “found” images thus allows a theoretical determination of the status of the face in cinema, which is achieved through analyzing filmic constructions of feelings, emotions, and conceptions of the world. The re-reading of a conventional horror film allows one to decipher its codes—through a material “attack” on the field of the image, in showing the face’s enclosure in the frame, by way of the material dimension of a picture frame. Outer Space multiplies and isolates the face in its different parts, in order to expose, through the reciprocal game of the visible and invisible, a mold of fright. In such a way, the film sustains the virtuality of the fantasy with a plastic tension between figuration and abstraction. If “outer space” is a fantastical place, Tscherkassky redirects it from the spectator’s imaginary off-screen space to the off-frame space of the celluloid.

Locating fantasy between figuration and abstraction: perfect. An idea I’ve been toying with for a while now, but articulated nicely here. The material placation of this is also fascinating, and something I had never considered (in such terms), despite regularly reviewing the film.

All quotations from Found Face: on Outer Space by Christa Blümlinger.

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