9629 - The Representation of Movement in Images & Words - Motion in inanimate objects and movement in living organisms, the "dynamic scene," is a common, everyday experience. As with many other sensations, perceptions, and concepts, motion and movement have been represented in different ways, through different communicative tools. The graphical/pictorial and photographical solution had always struggled with the basic contradiction between a motionless image and a corresponding dynamic perception. The same may be said for Sculpture. Here we already address a different level of complexity, because we have to take into consideration those tri-dimensional objects whose physical motion is intended to be the characterizing factor for their existence. The cinematographic solution had solved many dynamic and temporal problems, but the spatial setting is not completely satisfying. The screen can be a convincing substrate for a dynamic image in motion, but it is bi-dimensional. Theatre may be the purest representation of the movement in real space and real time, yet the stage sets, very often, too severe limitations on the movement in space-time. All digital simulations are poor because of their deliberate renunciation of motion representation within convincingly structured spaces where, again, images appear in bi-dimensional settings. Holograms, their enormous optical sophistications notwithstanding, are still restrained to the ghettoes of scientific laboratories.
Music and Architecture, although intensely concentrated on the evocation of movement in space and time, treat these "categories" as intense allegories or metaphors renouncing to evoke into the listener, or the beholder, or the tactual "customer," sensations and perceptions too close to "ecological correctness." The so called "Virtual Reality" had carried out a short, unsatisfactory and unsavory life.
A completely different set of solutions may come from literature and some of the narrative procedures studied in Theory and Criticism. On this ground, a similar enquiry had to proceed, at the beginning, with an exhaustive analysis of the graphic and representational tools exploited in order to evoke and control the idea of movement in space and time. A historical, temporally oriented approach may be employed in order to query possible interchanges between representational and "narrative" solutions. Such an approach will intimately deal with the problem of the representation of time in narrative. But, although apparently less fascinating, literary representations of space are nonetheless worth analyzing and comparing with analogous symbolic or factual treatment of it in Experimental and Theoretical Physics, Psychology and Sensory Physiology. The very concept of "Chronotope," according to M. M. Bakhtin, could be more properly looked after if its two "components" are kept separated on the dissecting table of the critics. A convincing, purely textual "description" of a dynamic scene could be thought of as an efficient "bypassing" of the sensory and perceptual devices which operates directly upon the representational cortex. If this is true, "engrammed" words are to play a significant role. The evocation of motion through reading translates as a strict cultural process depending upon words, glossaries, grammars, syntaxes and general semantics.
A possible analysis of the problem may take advantage of the many connections between a fictional situation as described in a text and the documented corresponding "real" one. A very good exercise in the History of Perspective is the graphical reconstruction, and nowadays the computer simulation, of the spatial setting suggested in paintings, drawings and engravings. Very often extremely well done and utterly convincing pictorial spaces show immense flaws in their inner logic when we try to "reconstruct" them using an independent analytical tool. Furthermore, some pictorial representation, despite its evident and multiple "errors," may produce a coherent internal spatial evocation into the beholder. I hope that a deeper enquiry into the space-time fabric of the narrative will help in understanding the cognitive processes which lie at the basis of the internal "building" of the Chronotope.
Many classical narrative topoi attempt to circumscribe situations such as the arrival, the parting, the departure, the occasional meeting, or the travel altogether. All these circumstances imply a well defined, or definable, evocative "visual field" upon which the dynamic components of the scene can, or must, be projected. The use of many transportation systems since antiquity to the present had provided the human observer with a very large collection of dynamic perceptions: time-depending perspective, blurring of the image, geometrical deformations of shapes and forms, appearance and disappearance of colors, relative positioning of objects depending upon the variable vantage points, etc. How were these perceptions filtered down in a narrative? And why only did some of them so develop narratively, and not others? Could one infer that different languages with different expressive and/or descriptive tools produce literary ecosystems at variance one with another? Or do they all tend to converge upon a "general observer-dependent" format? Just consider a few examples among many: the sensation of the flight. Let's take a chronological survey from Gilgamesh floating up into the sky, to Hermes landing on Calypso Island, to Dante flying on Gerione's shoulders, and even further to Don Quixote and his "hobby horse," to Saint Exupéry and D'Annunzio, to the more recent and nonetheless captivating book by Daniele del Giudice, Detaching my shadow from ground. This last book has been inspired by the author's personal experience as a professional private pilot. Another interesting example may be the very strange travel down into the deep waters of the ocean, allegedly made by the "Tonsetzer" Adrian Leverkühn in Doktor Faustus, which mirrors the Hellenistic accounts of the Travels of Alexandros, and which has its counterpart in the complicated undersea-scape described by Jules Verne in his Twenty thousand Miles under the Seas. A very short but highly dramatic "travel" on foot in an arctic setting has been described by the Admiral Bird in Alone, a splendid recollection of the six months in solitude at the South Pole. A similar text, lacking this time the highly dramatic implications for the survival of the author, is the description by the American painter Edwin Church of icebergs and arctic seas during his trip North of Labrador in search of inspiration for a new series of paintings. This last "documentary narrative" can be paralleled with the arctic-scape described by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in her Frankenstein. Her enthralling book offers us a dynamic description of the relative movement of a ship in relation to the ice bed and to the sleigh conducted by the "monster." These few examples may be sufficient to suggest the potential interests for the students to inquire closely at the very fabric of the narrative and its dynamic components.
A more explicit consequence could be arrived at from the above suggestions. Different cultures had developed very different ideas, concepts, and cognitive maps of space-time relationships. Are these differences evident at the narrative level, or not? Have the techniques of writing "smoothed down" cultural differences in the name of commonly shared representational procedures based on written words? Or, rather, had the act of writing enhanced previous differences giving a more substantial and diversified status to them?
In synthesis: the course proposal intends to suggest a possible didactic scenario leading to a closer analysis of the written representation of commonly shared existential experience: sensation, perception, and cognition of movement and motion.
Bibliography on perception of motion and movement is very broad and it covers many fields of Physiological Optics, General Physiology, Visual Perception and similar cultural provinces. Less populated is the bibliographic region strictly concerned with the pictorial (i.e., static) representation of movement. But regional contributions are easily to be found in different areas: Classical Archaeology, Philosophy, Art History, History of Science, Applied Technology, etc. Explicit, extensive, systematic and detailed analysis of the representation of the movement in literature and, more generally, in the narrative could be a very useful tool in Criticism. This last search field may be the main focus of inquiry for the proposed Course.
The bibliography of R. Pierantoni's volume, Forma Fluens. The Representation of Movement in Art, Science and Technology (Turin: Bollati-Boringhieri, 1990) contains some 300 entries in English; this could be considered an acceptable introduction to a more accurate and updated search into this specific domain.
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