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"Beyond Spatial Montage" part 4 of 6

story © Michael Betancourt | published November 20, 2014 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  

theory: working notes

This theory work will be published as a book-length monograph Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing, or, the Cinematic Displacement of Time, Motion, and Space by Focal Press.

Part 4 of a 6 Part series proposing an expanded theorization of spatial montage, excerpted from a current book project.

MotionSpace Displacement (Mirroring)

The most easily identified variety of MotionSpace displacement, a tessellated array of (typically) triangular images, is immediately recognizable as being kaleidoscopic. However, any mirroring, even a simple vertical reflection on screen creating a symmetrical pattern would qualify as a MotionSpace displacement. These simple forms are the most common: mirroring is the earliest form of windowing to be developed since the visual structure happens continuously in real time since it does not require the motion picture as technological supportas a result, the first examples of this displacement are pre-cinematic. They appear in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as developments in kineto-optical devices (both photography and the motion picture are also examples of these scientific concerns). While a simple split screen (two images) would not be an example of this technique, if it were instead a mirroring of the frame (so long as it was not a superimposition of the frame flipped horizontally or vertically) it would qualify as the simplest variety of MotionSpace displacement. Complex versions with multiple reflections, often resembling a kaleidoscope, are more readily identified versions of this visual displacement.

Time is not displaced within this visual structure since the duration and timing of the visible material remains synchronized and simultaneous throughout the frame (a factor that distinguishes it from the displacements of video feedback that often reveal a delay, however slight). The Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster created a device for producing this type of imagery with The Kaleidoscope, patented in 1817 [Figure 18ac]. His term for the device and the type of imagery it produced is derived from joining several words in Greek: kalos meaning beautiful + eidos meaning form + scope meaning to see.

The organization of optical elements that produce the displacementsreflectors or prisms creating reflectionsguarantee the simultaneity of all motions and the continuity of reflections throughout the entire field of view in a continuous field of simultaneous action, each sample mirroring each other instantly. This immediacy is the determinant of MotionSpace displacement. Brewsters initial design is not only typical of later designs, it fully encompasses the systems developed for motion picture cameras. The continuous nature of the time shown makes the graphic and spatial displacements appear to be linkedall displayed actions spread simultaneously across the various framed elements. The most common constructions use three mirrors or prisms, set either to form acute angles (60-30/45-60) or equilateral triangles (60-60-60). Different quantities and angles of mirror combination create imagery based in a network of reflectionsdepending on the size, number, and angles of reflection, the variety of imagery generated by these constructions will vary greatly. Consequently, each type of apparatus produces different kinds of imagery.

MotionSpace Displacement from Ballet Mcanique (1924) showing kaleidoscopic reflections.

MotionSpace displacement tends to be dominated by decorative kaleidoscopic imagery, and consequently its applications in motion picturesthe use of these displacements as flourishes is a translation of the abstracting quality they present. That it is also unquestionably the earliest form of visual displacement makes its uncommon nature in this decorative mode entirely logical. The principles of Brewsters optical device are well known, as is the kinesthetic character of the decorative abstractions it was designed to produce. The general neglect these forms have received, compared to other types of displacement, may be a reflection of the transformation of the kaleidoscope from entertainment to childrens toy.

Beyond Spatial Montage:

  • Part 1 Foundations
  • Part 2 TimeSpace Displacement
  • Part 3 TimeMotion Displacement (Step Printing)
  • Part 4 MotionSpace Displacement (Mirroring)
  • Part 5 TimeMotionSpace Displacement
  • Part 6 Afterword


  • Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing, or, the Cine...
  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
  • Part 4
  • Part 5
  • Part 6
  • more from theory: working notes

  • print