Reflections on developing frames as a multimodal device for the analysis of film/FILM

Author: Vic Hurr

As part of the MODE summer school series I discussed how the notion of “frames” and “framing” could be developed as part of a theoretical framework for multimodal analysis of moving image texts such as ‘art’ films. Although this is still under construction, the workshop provided a good opportunity to explore how a method of visual and semiotic analysis of Tacita Dean’s FILM (2011) could contribute to such a framework, and for these insights to be used as a prompt for a multimodal analysis of the art house film Prosperos Books (1991) by Peter Greenaway. The participants’ analysis of modes and reflections on sensory experience drew attention to ways Greenaway isolates the various sonic and visual modes within the filmic ‘score’, yet simultaneously he allows the modes to interact to disturb the perceived expectations of the visual and the sonic in film. For example the visual is less an image trapped within the flat screen but a visceral experience connected to the haptic sense of touch. Or the reverberations of an echo, not necessarily perceived to emanate from the action on screen but perform to sonically define the space of the spectator as a frame for the moving images.

The content of the presentation focused on a series of descriptions of FILM, which were linked to a set of characteristics of frames in general and framing devices employed by Dean within the moving image work itself and in dialogue with both the context (Tate Turbine Hall architecture and institutional discourse) and the movement of the spectator. These descriptions were used to make connections with significant theoretical perspectives on framing such as Goffman’s “Frame Analysis” (1974), Derrida’s “Parergon” (1987) and Bal/Bryson’s work on semiotics and Art History (1991).

To “frame” the session, it was necessary to introduce the moving images used to present FILM and the framework, in other words, how the moving images used in the presentation represent or re-present FILM. As an example, the edited video of FILM is a documentation of FILM; a mix of short recordings to keep a record of the work for research purposes, but it is also an interpretation of the work, and significantly for the MODE project, it is a digital document of a film designed specifically to be projected using analogue technology. As such, not only is this video a document but it also explores the effects on meaning at the level of recording and display – what we as viewers’ experience and the time of that viewing. For example, recording moving images in real time, camera framing and the visual effects of digital technology (flip camera or HD set at 24fps). As a frame: how do the affordances of digital media effect what it means to document an encounter with FILM? What, where and how does meaning take place through the translation or transformation of analogue into digital?

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