Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Artist (and The Editor)!

The popularity of The Artist and Hugo in this year's crop of Oscar-nominated films struck me in a new way, thanks to the lens provided by Shillingsburg in From Gutenberg to Google. That book is slow going for me, but some of what he argues sticks. And, while he talks about books and print, I sense that much of his analysis can be transferred to cinema. 

"...I am declaring that new texts cannot be identical to old texts nor fully represent them and that an editor's responsibility is to be as self-aware as possible about the effects of editorial intervention and to be as explicit and articulate as possible about those effects..." (pp.19-20) 

These words, this sensibility echoed when I read  "Is Cinema Facing a Digital Dark Age?", an article from the that found me this morning.

The argument, from Paola Cherchi Usai (learn more about him in this YT video ), is that the process of digitally preserving classic silent picture era films -- a seemingly noble aim that also escapes from the cost of traditional photomechanical methods -- actually betrays the original work of art. 

This is a good example, or, at least, one that I can understand, of the seen and unseen ways that technology may intrude on a text, altering it in the very act of preserving it. 


  1. I was having similar thoughts after viewing The Artist this weekend too, Glenn!

    The thing that strikes me as odd about their popularity is they're movies about how great film used to be. I can't help but feel like their existence is an attack on newer digital methods, a way to discredit technology.

    I still can't get over that Hugo was in 3D- surely an innovation that Meliers would denounce!

  2. Glenn - very interesting to think about preservation and how it alters the original. I suppose the word itself, preservation is a misnomer because we never are able to actually preserve something...even fossilised elements are not the *original*. And then, of course, what exactly is the original? What you see? What I see? I think you're example of preserving silent films really highlights these questions. But, do you think the gap between the *original* and the *preserved* outcome will be as great (or at least, feel as great) with future technologies and creations?

  3. JessL -- thanks for the comment and question, which I've been thinking about, for sure. It is hard to imagine that the differences will be as great, considering, as Shillingsburg says, already authors are beginning to deal with works that never existed in any but electronic forms (97). But that raises another question, which is, are we richer or poorer for that narrowing gap?