Sunday, December 16, 2007

somewhere over the rainbow

"Further, such a structure of contrasts seems to establish commercialism and the consumer mentality as the true reality, a state of normalcy in which one can trust and feel stable. It reminds us of a “real” (read: constructed) outside world, in a sense, by contrasting it repetitively with a undeniably constructed fantasy world."

I was just thinking about how fairy tales and fantasy worlds used to exist "outside," "in a place far far away," "somewhere over the rainbow." Now they are made to fit within the boxes constructed for the media that can provide definite edges, secure limitations. Its a security measure.

Although my dreams exist in my mind, they exist unbridled on the outside. I project and splatter paint my multi-colored imagination all over the god damn place.


I always thought the word "paradigm" meant something in opposition, when it actually is something exemplified.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Idea Tango

I'm an ideas kind of girl.
I like concepts. I like
connections. I like to imagine
my thoughts and perceptions
as if they have arms and
legs, appendages that reach
out and interact with one
another as if in a community,
maybe one holds another's
hand, maybe another slaps
the other about - but still,
they can't exist without the
relational value given to them
by the existence of the others.

Its like all the ideas in my head
were at a dance hall. Some of them
get down in the middle of the floor,
others stay as wallflowers - but
the dancers are such when compared to
the possibility of their not dancing.
The wallflowers remain, despite their
inactivity, as part of the dance overall
just the same

[spring 2007]

V for Vendetta: Differences in Form, Space and Time in the Graphic Novel and Film

According to Bolter and Grusin’s treatment of the study of newer forms of digital media, the film version of V for Vendetta can be understood by the manner in which it may “honor, rival and revise” the older graphic novel version (Bolter, 15). Examples of “remediation” that can be noted in the film version of the novel seem to stem from the physical form of each medium which shapes elements of space and time. While honoring certain aspects of narrative, the film revises the novel’s use of framing and fragmentation while rivaling the older form’s quality of tangibility, presentation, and sense of immediacy.

The film “honors” the novel in its quality of being rooted in the original version’s narrative structure. Although the existence of narrative is unquestionably present in both media forms, the film version does not feature a replication of the sense of narrative elemental to the novel as much as it utilizes it as a base for its own purposes and in doing so, transforms its character and questions its role and value. In the novel, interest is placed in building a background for the events as a means to unraveling an enigma. V states “I want to know the story of Evey Hammond.” Evey tells V her story of her childhood, parents; etc. In the film, however, narrative exists only so as to provide anticipation for coming action. It is not so interested in why events or actions may occur but in that they do, they have and they will. Evey’s life story is presented in a secondary fashion, rambled off by the inspector as mere detail rather than density. This can also be seen in treatment of the other characters such as the herbologist who was provided with a much more detailed story in the novel. The reader was told more about who she was, her interactions with V and the events that had occurred at the detention facility because it added to the unraveling of the story. The film, however, seemed to focus on how her role pertained to the action of V’s killing her, that she once acted and would then, in the presence of the audience, be acted upon, than to the disentanglement of meaning within the story.

Despite differing manners in the treatment of narrative, a focus on action is present within both media forms. In this case, film has taken an essential quality which defines the novel, Action, and made it more active through the character of its medium. For example, film has a greater capacity to construct time through editing of sound and image. In expressing the simultaneity of two actions, the novel uses phrases such as “In the meantime” or ellipses to suggest a kind of continuance. Film, however, is able to take the suggestion of events being connected and literally connect them. Such an example can be found in the opening scene of the film version in which the camera presents the characters of V and Evey getting dressed literally within the same frame as the camera moves from one place to the other and then, to further suggest simultaneity, begins a series of cross-cutting between the two figures which ends in an alleyway where both figures exist in the same space and time within one uniting frame (Gaudreault, 42). In addition to visual cohesion, the voice of Natalie Portman as narrator continues steady as scenes change, providing the frame cuts a kind of connected base. Although the opening chapter of the novel can be said to do a similar kind of “cross-cutting,” the nature of its medium forces the characters to remain separated and alone within his or her own frame. It can provide the suggestion of connection, but lacks the interwoven quality that film provides to make it “real.”

The film also builds off of the novel’s use of fragmentation. It does not abandon it, but rather expands and redefines its role in the communication of visual information. The novel is departmentalized into boxes which contain a combination of images and text in the form of captions or dialogue. It seems to hold a certain likeness to what film historian Tom Gunning calls the “facial expression genre” of early cinema in which figures may make an emotional gesture in a close up shot to communicate an idea or feeling, essentially relying on the space within a given frame to do so (Gunning, 5). In the novel V for Vendetta, the reader is presented with numerous instances in which this occurs. For example, Evey’s face is shown up close with a just a single tear many times in the novel’s first half. Towards the end, she faces the reader with a more self controlled and contemplative expression. With the absence of effects such as sound available in making film, the novel relies on momentary displays of feeling and character which, although intended to remain with the reader as she continues through the pages and to provide a kind of intensity, seem rather “out of place” within the context of its surrounding story frames.

The novel succumbs to the traditional notion of space as volume enclosed by solid surfaces. One can hold it in her hands and feel the contents within its two covers, trusting that it holds a beginning, middle and end. One understands the separate frames to be connected only because they exist within the same paper book. The non-tangible quality of projected film challenges this notion of space by suggesting an uncertainty concerning the solidity of matter (Keiller, 1). One may view the last frame of the novel which shows the detective walking alone down a dark road as a suggestion of continuity into the unknown, but is more likely to conceive of it as an ending by visual convention. The film medium’s association with uncertainty inherent in its form makes its presentation of the “to be continued” suggested ending of most graphic novel stories more trustable. We are unsure of whether or not action will continue, but we acknowledge the possibility or likelihood of it doing so. To consider that something presented as real with thought and emotion can exist, yet beyond one’s physical grasp leads one to question the solidity of everything that claims truth because of its corporal existence. This characteristic of the film medium seems to make it most fitting in presenting themes of transformation and revolution. The tangible nature of the novel suggests it to be more of a documentation that had previously existed and will continue to do so, if only on a shelf. The information provided in a film can be understood as a momentary spectacle, seen as more “real” because the action is played out in real time as it is projected, experienced by the audience as if they were present in it through the eye of the camera lens.

Film can be seen as rivaling the novel in that it presents itself as achieving a greater sense of “immediacy” in which the existence of media construction is made transparent and the viewer experiences a sense of being “drawn into” the scene provided to them. In the graphic novel, “space comes forward to present itself to the spectator within a uniformity of theatrical framing” whereas in film, the spectator identifies with the camera as narrator “mediated through an engagement with the unfolding of the story (Gunning, 9).” Frames disappear as consistent motion “pours over from shot to shot, binding as it blurs…we tend to forget the boundaries…we attend to motion only (Bluestone, 315).” The presentation and experience of time is made more flexible by the spatial mobility enabled and captured by the film medium. Where the reader of the novel may treat the story as part of the past in recognizing the nature of the medium as having captured and tangibly documenting it, the film viewer experiences a very different notion of time, one in which “the present becomes ‘specious’ because…it is seen as fused with the past, obliterating the line between them (Bluestone, 313).” The novel presents its characters with general features and focuses more on the concept of the form or action addressed. It could be argued that this generality enables the reader more ease in identifying with the characters, place and story. However, the reader is quicker to treat the information presented as artistic and imagined than real. A view of the story as unreal and limited to existence within the covers of a graphic novel medium transfers to the ideas presented. Themes of anarchy, fascism and of cultural resistance may be thought only capable of existing in comic books. Film is “more real” to viewers because of the use of actual live characters. The choice in casting Natalie Portman as Evey and dressing her in simple clothing, for example, maintains a level of generality to allow for viewer identification with her character. Her story is made more real due to her easy recognition as a real person and Individualized stories are remembered and given weighted value much more than generalities in same way that one is more inclined to remember a face than a name.

In some ways, the film version of V for Vendetta can be seen as a presentation of the “film’s ability to present a view” through its “fascination with the thrill of display rather than with the construction of a story (Gunning, 9)?” Film versions of graphic novels have developed into a cinematic genre of its own which promises to guarantee action and spectacle, providing a “direct and acknowledged act of display (Gunning, 3).” The genre promises illusion by its association with superheroes credited with magical strengths or abilities. The film possesses a kind of “cinematic gesture of presentation” for display, as can be seen for example in moments of dramatic pyrotechnics. It can be argued that the graphic novel attempts much the same in through techniques of action drawing. Both the film and novel can be said to possess key elements of what Gunning calls the “aesthetic of attractions” including “pleasure of looking” (color and line in the novel and movement in the film), “novelty” (the inclusion of actual current events in the world such as terrorism and war), and “sexualized fascination with socially taboo subject matter dealing with the body” ( in the novel’s treatment of Evey as a Prostitute, death and violence, “the threat of injury”)(Gunning, 3). What places the film version closer to a “cinema of attractions” is its focus on a constant present tense which is maintained through an “alternation of presence and absence” and unspecified anticipation of future events which play out in “staccato jolts of surprise (Gunning, 4).”One could argue that this is used so as to establish a sense of unpredictability in the instant, subtly reflecting (and perhaps constructing?) cultural connotations of Anarchy with chaos. The film provides moments signifying gestures of display, such as when V literally conducts explosion or in the presentation and destruction of a domino “V”, which create expectation for display and directs the viewer away from the narrative “how” and into the exploding “will” and “when.” The film’s use of “the apotheosis ending” suggests unquestionable desire to display a grand finale of spectacle. The excessive display of a mass of people, including characters who reappear despite having been killed earlier in the narrative, who are shown “in a timeless allegorical space that sums up the action of the piece” in witness to parliament blowing up provides a kind of closure that exists outside of the narrative by “shifting spectator interest from what will happen next to and enjoyment of the spectacle presented to them (Gunning,9 ).”

Although one may view film as a remediated form of the graphic novel in its treatment of the “V for Vendetta” story, it is important to view both forms as a remediation of textual language into visual language. The use of both visual media forms to communicate a story of revolution and transformation may support the notion that “language, consisting of bounded, discrete units cannot satisfactorily represent the unbounded and continuous (Bluestone, 314),” providing prime examples of the process of remediation as a response to constantly evolving progressive thought and the need to communicate it in the contemporary world.


Bluestone, George. "Time and Film in Fiction." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 19 (1961): 311-315.

Bolter, Jay D., and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. 1st ed. The MIT P, 2000.

Gaudreault, Andre. "Detours in Film Narrative: the Development of Cross-Cutting." Cinema Journal 19 (1979): 39-59.

Gunning, Tom. ""Now You See It, Now You Don't": the Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions." Velvet Light Trap 3 (1993): 3-10.

Gunning, Tom. ""Primitive" Cinema: a Frame-Up? Or the Trick's on Us." Cinema Journal 28 (1989): 3-12.

Keiller, Patrick. "Motion Pictures." The Guardian 21 May 2005. 4 Nov. 2007 .

Moore, Alan. V for Vendetta. New York, NY: DC Comics, 1988.

V for Vendetta. Dir. James McTeigue. Perf. Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, and Stephen Rea. DVD. Silver Pictures, 2006.

[november 2007]

The Anguish of Departure: Giorgio de Chirico and Arte Metafisica

In the fall of 1913, Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico began painting an enigmatic scene which, upon completion in 1914, he titled The Anguish of Departure (fig.1). The work, although undated and unsigned, embodies qualities of form and content, including symbolism and iconography both psychological and sexual in nature, which are unequivocally unique to the artist and would later be termed ‘metaphysical’ upon the founding of the Italian Scuola Metafisica in conjunction with former Futurist painter Carlos Carra in 1917.

The elements of form and content found within The Anguish of Departure are clearly identifiable with de Chirico. The work presents an outdoor setting made up of large spaces, including a rounded Italian square shaping the fore and middle grounds and an enveloping sky at dusk like a backdrop to theatrical scenery (Martin, 343). Everyday forms and objects exist within the space, however the subject matter of the work is not found in the physical essence of the presented forms but rather in the capacity of those forms to evoke associations within the mind of the viewer. Exact meaning in the work is not dictated, but rather the viewer is encouraged to recognize the idea of a meaning that exists outside of the physical world, and to experience the “previously unknown sensations” of such a revelation through the works enigmatic quality and ‘inhabited depth’ (Chipp, 452) The space is “a dreamlike illusion of infinite space and quiet” steeped in stillness and enigma with a kind of paranoid, anxious anticipation for something to move or make a sound (Soby, 51). De Chirico calls this quality in his work a kind of “madness... [that will] always exist and continue to gesture and show itself behind the inexorable screen of matter (Chipp, 449). With this is a kind of madness and mystery that makes de Chirico revolutionary in his artistic execution in which he has “strip[ped] art of all its subject matter in favor of aesthetic synthesis,” in which the subject exists within the mind of the viewer rather than in his or her physical space (Chipp, 397).

The nature of the painter’s technique and use of texture, light and color played a large role in the creation of his enigmatic imagery. He utilized artistic techniques reflecting older traditions of mural wall paintings with a use of pigment that is much drier and thinner (Soby, 50). The canvas is very lightly covered and yet there remains certain texture to the surface that can be seen and felt. Its thin application of paint provides the work with a kind of luminous quality, “almost incandescent, as though lighted from beneath the canvas (Soby, 51). Like many of his works, The Anguish of Departure possesses very rich color with a slight somber quality. It also presents very sharp contrasts between light and dark, provided for mostly by use of shadow. The quality of light within the scene “resembles the sharp spotlight effect of the theater” and envelope the forms in a mysterious glow, of whose origins are blocked by the portico and out of sight (Lombardo,6).

As in many of his works, The Anguish of Departure utilizes a great deal of precise and geometric form in its construction due to his belief in Otto Weininger’s concept of the ‘geometric metaphysic’ that claims geometric figures to be “symbols of a superior reality (Chipp,453). Weininger’s belief that the form of an arc, much like that within this work for example, presents something “still incomplete, that needs to be and can be completed” influenced de Chirico’s interest in forms whose meaning exist in the realm of the presentiments they evoke (Chipp, 453). Further, the work is structured in a triangular composition between the three main forms, the chimney, the moving wagon, and the portico. Further, the large shadow from the portico is in a triangular wedge shape. The artist was particularly interesting in the triangle because of what he believed was its power to evoke “a sense of uneasiness and…fear,” which, combined with the “precise, geometric shadow” suggests an “enigma of fatality, [a] symbol of the intransient will (Soby, 252). The geometric forms also utilize line whose qualities alternate between rigidity and curvature, seen for example, where the portico’s rigidly straight vertical edges meet and are countered by the horizontal rounding arc of the square’s boundary.

In addition to his experimentation with geometric form, 1913 marks the year in which de Chirico begins presenting a deeper concept of space and perspective. He creates an imaginary space that is modeled around a more traditional one-point perspective that is, however, deliberately skewed and exaggerated for effect (Soby, 48). In The Anguish of Departure, this experimentation can be seen most clearly in the space that extends into the far and hazy distance yet is still bound by a landscape. It is, in essence, an illusionary sense of limitlessness that is still contained (Soby, 49).

As the year 1913 brought about much exploration in his artistic methodologies, de Chirico also expanded and developed his traditionally used iconography (Baldacci, 185). The Anguish of Departure exemplifies the manner in which commonplace forms or objects are illogically used in the construction of his works, intentionally placed in “seemingly arbitrary but mysteriously evocative juxtapositions (Baldacci, 185). The artist comments on the grounds for his use of iconography in such a manner so as to enter the viewers “regions of childhood vision and dream” in his 1912 essay Meditations of a Painter when he states that “logic and common sense will only interfere” and therefore must be “broken (Chipp, 397). Architecture is presented as a prominent iconographical theme in de Chirico’s works between 1910 and 1914, first occurring in his work The Enigma of the Hour (Soby, 43). The artist was fascinated with architecture primarily due to its geometric qualities-“signs of the metaphysical alphabet”- through which one may experience the “joys and sorrows hidden within a portico, the angle of a street,” each corner of which he felt “possessed a spirit, an impenetratable soul (Chipp, 402, 452). In The Anguish of Departure, a large arcaded portico with empty windows creeps in from the right, shaping the space and casting a large geometric shadow that extends beyond the left frame. It is positioned in a rounded Italian square that curves to an unseen place behind the portico and separates the foreground from the rest of the work. In the middle ground, an exaggeratedly large industrial chimney tower stands solidly as it visually grounds the work, connecting the upper and lower halves of the canvas.

Trains and locomotives are also often included in his works. In this work, the train appears very small in the distance at the base of the chimney tower, apparently frozen in the still, quiet composition with the other forms while yet at the same time, it evokes an odd sense of motion (Martin, 353). His use of trains in his works could be due to childhood memories of toy trains and of his engineer father. De Chirico also claimed to have been frequently visited by trains in his own dreams and to have been neurotically troubled by railway travel due to childhood experiences. Nevertheless, he was interested in their nostalgic nature and hold on popular imagination (Soby, 48).In the foreground, a moving wagon, which made its first appearance in this particular work due to de Chirico’s having moved to a new studio across the street from a moving company, appears stationary in front of the shadowed grounds behind it (Baldacci, 193). Positioned on wheels, it suggests a potential for movement, yet does not depart, rather appears much like a box that has been abandoned (Soby, 51).

Many of his works tend to exclude the human figure altogether, displaying rather a shadow of an unseen individual. In The Anguish of Departure, however, two minute figures and their shadows can be found standing before the boundary of the square towards the right. With much of the canvas undetailed, a powerful mysterious quality is achieved through spatial absence that translates onto the human forms which, only mere smears of black, occur as if absent themselves of a quality of humanness (Gale, 273). There is no clear division between the blackness of the actual figure and that of his or her shadow. This ‘human absence’ is a prime example of de Chirico’s view that the aim of painting should be to “free [the viewer] from the anthropomorphism that…shackles; …to see everything, even man, in its quality of thing (Chipp, 397). He engages in a “de-individualization or de-personalization” of the human figure so as to “express a more comprehensive spirituality” through abstraction (Martin, 343).

De Chirico’s iconography became significantly more sexualized in the works beginning in the year 1913, presumably as a result of encountering the poet Apollinaire, who encouraged the artist’s further development of symbols in this direction through more “evident… dialectical opposition” as a translation into painting of the poet’s commonly addressed themes concerning the Ariadne-Dionysus dichotomy and general “polarity between masculine and feminine elements (Baldacci, 164, 179). This is most clearly seen in The Anguish of Departure through his use of “alternating solids and voids” particularly in the arcade architecture, the vaginal quality of the unknown empty spaces and empty, enclosed boxcar in the foreground, and the phallic nature of the large shadows and towers which consume the space (Soby, 69). Although tower iconography is used in his previous works, here the tower symbol has become an industrial smokestack, a symbol which didn’t appear prior to 1913, presented more explicitly as it seems to demand much of the center ground from which it stands, an “obvious Dionysian phallic emblem”: massive, erect, red and swelling in its penetration of the sky’s open space, a symbolic feminine void (Baldacci, 179). The location of the train at the very base of the chimney in the visual field creates a sense of tension deriving from opposition between the stillness of the scene and the suggested upward movement of steam which creates an anxious presentiment of explosion.

De Chirico not only operated as an artist outside of the modernist movements of the time, but he also despised most of what was being done as well. His work has been viewed as a reaction to such modernist movements as the impressionists whom he labeled “sensationalists” unable to create anything “new” or provide a revelation of something which “previously did not exist (Soby, 244-45). “I was more concerned with creating a work that would be my own,” the artist stated in response to his association with other movements (Mazars, 115). He considered his art to be different, “more metaphysical,” which to him meant “more complete, more profound, more complicated (Chipp, 447). Although he had been painting in the metaphysical style since 1908, his work was not considered part of a particular movement until meeting Carlos Carras, a futurist painter in search of a “more monumental art based on early Italian tradition”, in 1917 and co-founding La Scuola Metafisica, “the metaphysical school (Chipp, 445). The work of the metaphysical school revolved around two core principles. First, the art created should “evoke the disquieting states of mind that prompt one to doubt the detached and impersonal existence of the empirical world” so as to view each object as merely an external part of one imagined, cerebral experiences (Taylor, qtd in Chipp, 446). The second principle of the movement concerned the manner in which the former was to be accomplished: through “solid, clearly defined constructions which, paradoxically, seem entirely objective,” using “classical compositions” of everyday forms and objects and the associations that they evoke (Taylor, qtd in Chipp, 446). Another core quality of the metaphysical style was a metaphysical solitude which de Chirico called ‘the solitude of signs’ through which each object in the visual field is freed of “predictable links with the surrounding world,” allowing each sign to signify on its own and elicit unpredictable mental associations from the viewer (Baldacci, 193). The school was “anti-Futurist in spirit,” looking back to classic Italian form in a radical manner: “a poetry with deep roots in the past which was at the same time modern (Arcangeli, 176). Where the Futurists were concerned with evolution, de Chirico was more interested in the idea of “perpetual becoming” in the mode of Heraclitus in which “everything changes while appearing to remain the same (Martin, 346).

With his radically unique treatment of form and content while operating outside the popular modern art movements of his time, Giorgio de Chirico came to found one of the most important modern art movements in both Italy and the western art world. Evidence in The Anguish of Departure provide only one case study to explain an artist operating in such a revolutionary style whose dream-like symbolism and fantastical nature would break the ground from which future modern movements like Surrealism were able to take root.


Arcangeli, Francesco. "Notes on Contemporary Italian Painting." The Burlington Magazine, 97 (1955): 174-180.

Baldacci, Paolo. De Chirico: the Metaphysical Period 1888-1919. New York: Bulfinch P, Little, Brown and Company, 1997.

Gale, Matthew. "The Uncertainty of the Painter: De Chirico in 1913." The Burlington Magazine 130 (1988): 268-276.

Lombardo, Joseph V. "20th Century Italian Art." Art Education 5 (1952): 1-10.

Martin, Marianne W. "Reflections on De Chirico and Arte Metaphisica." The Art Bulliten 60 (1978): 342-353.

Mazars, Pierre. "Giorgio De Chirico: Surrealism." Yale French Studies, 31 (1964): 112-117.

Soby, James T. Giorgio De Chirico. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1955.

[november 2007]