RESEARCH

REDISCOVERING ARNHEIM

New ideas for research


Dimitri Liebsch
Oglethorpe University – Atlanta | Ruhr-Universität Bochum

THE LONG ENDING OF THE SILENT MOVIE
Paper presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the ‘European Society for the History of the Human Sciences, Salzburg, July 20-24, 2004. German integral version: “Das lange Ende des Stummfilms”. In: C. G. Allesch – O. Neumeier (Hrsg.), Rudolf Arnheim oder Die Kunst der Wahrnehmung. Ein interdisziplinäres Portrait, Wien: WUV Universitätsverlag, 2004, pp. 69-85).

In the literature on Rudolf Arnheim’s inspiring work on film, four connected aspects have most often been mentioned: aesthetics, art, form, and the silent movie. One might come up with the following slightly exaggerated formula: within a formalist aesthetic, Arnheim devoted himself to the silent movie as an art genre. Regarding Arnheim’s most extensive work on film, that is, Film als Kunst, written in 1932, these four aspects are very productive. However, Arnheim did continue studying film after being turned out of Nazi Germany. Until the early 1940s he worked on film intensely and continued to do so sporadically up to 1999. And in these later texts you will find four complementary aspects, namely an inquiry into media theory and sociology, the documentary dimension of film, realism, and sound film. In the first (longer) part of this paper I want to concentrate on the four aspects put forth in Film als Kunst, and in the second (shorter) part I will connect these with the four mentioned complementary ones, which unfortunately have been so often overlooked and slighted in the criticism on Arnheim’s film theory


Rainer Schönhammer
Burg Giebichenstein Hochschule für Kunst und Design Halle – Saale

HUMAN ‘SENSE OF SPACE’, MOVING IMAGES AND ARCHITECTURE

Paper presented at the International Symposium Aesthetics and Architectural Composition, Dresden, 2004.

The paper discusses possibilities and restrictions of the representation of built space in film and virtual reality. The presenter’s approach combines phenomenological analysis, reference to traditional theories of aesthetic experience and more recent neurocognitive insights. The ‘sense of space’ is constituted by multimode sensory stimulation changing according to the organism’s movement relative to its environment. As a starting point, the paper considers some disturbances of the inherited interplay of vision and movement that take place while /watching cinema or being immersed in 3D virtual reality. The perceptual situation provided by moving images in many cases produces disorientation and dizziness. The presentation will focus on the impact of the visual flow produced by ‘point of view shots’ in the cinema and analogue scenes in virtual reality on the human ‘sense of space’ and state of consciousness. Whereas the moving pictures – in a certain respect – can make appropriate use of the resulting dizziness and disorientation, these mediaeffects are not welcome in the context of the representation of built space. Movie-makers (intuitively) learned how to counterbalance potentially disturbing effects that the visual flow produces by means of the movement of the camera. For several reasons the most important ‘antidote’ to the effect of the movement of the camera seems to be the depiction of moving objects (animals/machines) relative to the background of the scene. The strategies used by makers of commercial fiction-films to minimize disorientation of the film-viewer hint to some possible ways of improving the design of virtual reality and films that aim to represent built space.

ARNHEIM ON THE PERCEPTION OF MOVING IMAGES
Paper presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the ‘European Society for the History of the Human Sciences, Salzburg, July 20-24, 2004. German integral version: “Mit Arnheim Kino” in C. G. Allesch – 0. Neumeier (Hrsg.), Rudolf Arnheim oder Die Kunst der Wahrnehmung. Ein interdisziplinäres Portrait, Wien: WUV Universitätsverlag, 2004, pp. 87-96).

The most eminent feature of Arnheim’s theory of film is the author’s sceptical view of sound film (“the introduction of the sound film smashed many of the forms that the film artists were using in favour of the intrinsic demand for the greatest possible ‘naturalness’”; 1957, p. 154). Instead of discussing dimensions of this ‘anachronism’, the present paper focuses on an elementof Arnheim’s theory that is still relevant: the perception of moving images. Arnheim stressed that the movement of objects (not least: the moving human body) – besides being expressive – is essential for the viewer’s impression of three-dimensional space. As for the movement of the camera, Arnheim explained why it tends to produce disorientation and dizziness (which may sometimes be an intended effect). These insights contradict the still widespread mystification of camera movements as the core of the movie experience (cf. Gibson, 1982; Bordwell, 2001).


Ian Verstegen
University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia

A FORMALIST REBORN
in «Film-Philosophy», Electronic Salon 3, 46, 1999.

Review of Rudolf Arnheim, Film Essays and Criticism, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.