2003 The Relation-Image (two english texts)


Future Cinema
. The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel (ed.),
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe/The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA,
November 2003

20 x 28 cm, 640 pages, 1000 illustrations


Jean-Louis Boissier

« La Morale Sensitive »

In Future Cinema, 2003, ZKM/MIT Press (English)

As in my previous work, notably my work involving re-readings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1), I am investigating in this work articulations between the regimes of reading and spectacle: how do we place cinematographic images onto the pages of a book? Within what I consider to be a new genealogical branch descending from chronophotography, I am looking to preserve the indexical relation inherent in the photographic medium, namely its optical and temporal capturing [saisie]. Thus we find a paradox: to work with interactivity, which belongs in essence to real-time and to a synchrony with the objects it explores, while at the same time using images that refer indexically to a past moment, to the moment itself when the image was shot.

The installation La Morale sensitive in the Future Cinema exhibition, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2002.

As a consequence, I refuse to allow the spectator-reader to “enter into the image”, while placing him or her in what I consider to be the sole legitimate position: in a relationship with the recording apparatus. A mobile projector can restore the mobility of a mobile camera. An interactive cinema is created by liberating variability within a whole series of parameters that cinematography had to immobilize in order to develop itself into an art. As a result, in the installation La Morale sensitive, the only means of acting on the image is through a simple hand gesture – by displacing the image on the table/screen – therein restoring the lateral panoramic movements within which all of the video sequences were inscribed.

“I told myself that, in fact, we are constantly only beginning, and that there is no other liaison in our existence than the succession of present moments, of which the first is always the actual one.” (2) This notion of the moment borrowed from Rousseau, becomes for me a technical as well as aesthetic entity, a type of suspended spatio-temporal unit, containing neither beginning nor end but instead variations, bifurcations, possibilities of triggering events, and above all repetitions.

Moving from one of these moments to the next, there is not strictly speaking the effect of a visual montage, but rather a stringing of events linked by semantic, thematic and linguistic proximity. This preserves distance, creates a gap — for, in order to link one sequence to the next, the reader must give his or her “hand” to the program, in other words to the text itself: to the pre-existent and “untouchable” text of Rousseau. It is the text that opens each new image sequence, through a constant play of recalculations of its auto-linking capacities via the play of linking words, or “shifters.”

The text is there to provide a horizon, an argument for a performance of which the interactive video may be considered the report, the account, or more exactly in my case, the capture [la saisie]. With La Morale sensitive I propose through concrete experimentation the hypothesis that an interactivity associated with the shooting process is capable of storing and restoring all palpable forms of interaction captured from reality by the camera, including, and above all, through the logical apparatus of interactivity. All capture or storage [saisie] therefore opens onto a restoration [resaisie]. The dramatis personae, whom I consider as models participating in a performance, are by proxy the vectors of our actions, answering to the reader’s intentions, but also fundamentally escaping them by executing their own acts.

To a Rousseau obsessed with the necessity of proving his loyalty to truth, of proving his innocence, our performances can be seen as attempts to verify the contemporary truth of Rousseau. All of the scenes were filmed at the locations of Rousseau’s life, using models chosen on-site with the intention that the relation-image created by the interactive video produce something other than a simple illustration of the text. It is in this vein that the locations and dates attached to the excerpts are connected to the locations and dates of the images, which are in a sense doubles, but doubles that belong to us fundamentally.

This collision of a multi-layered past into the present of the reading process incidentally finds its model in Rousseau: “In saying to myself, I was overcome with pleasure [j’ai joüi], I am once again overcome with pleasure. (3) The act of reading has the role of actualizing this past ad libitum, of inscribing it in the permanence of our own time. For La Morale sensitive takes its title from a philosophical project Rousseau never set down in writing, in which he treats the perceptible approach to things through learning and experiment, social behavior and world-view, aspects of which can be found throughout his various writings. According to the “sensitive morals,” we must place our trust in the various registers of sensation and, even more importantly, found our experience on objects and places which, through the permanence of sensations they instill, can guarantee us permanence in our sensations and rationality in our knowledge.

The reader-spectator of the installation, confronted with objects, situations, known gestures and acts, should be able to seize [saisir] — in other words, literally take as well as understand — the general model capable of being shared socially with others, while at the same time be able to seize the irreducible singularity of a shot, of its bodies, objects and circumstances. This pseudo-didactic situation is indicated by the usage of schoolroom furniture, a table and a chair intended to evoke in the reader the posture of learning, of an exercise, and perhaps the nostalgia of childhood. Interactivity — or even, in my opinion, precisely just such an experiment in “interactive cinema” — is fundamentally appropriate to an autobiographical attitude. Instead of a relation of I to You, it is more a relation of the I of the author to the I of the player. That said, through the choice of the most neutral gestures, through the stress placed on the operations and functions that make up the situations, from the rendering of visual and auditory sensations related to objects, to materials, to the lighting and to atmospheres, through repetitions and the initiative given to the reader-spectator to enact these interactive repetitions, I aim to instill a distance which can be assimilated to the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt. Our interactive dramatic method consists of placing the reader into a play of relations wherein, if we feel guilty of voyeurism and of manipulation, we always find ourselves rendered innocent at the very point at which, as in Rousseau himself, we able to defer our “guilt” to the circumstances of the game, and to the “advances” made by the machine.

(1)Flora petrinsularis, CD-ROM, ZKM, 1993; Le billet circulaire, 1997; La deuxième promenade, Le Fresnoy, 1998; Moments de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, CD-ROM, Gallimard, Paris, 2000.
(2) Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile et Sophie , “Lettre première,” in Œuvres complètes, Bernard Gagnebin (ed.), Gallimard, Paris, t. IV, p. 905.
(3) Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Art de jouir et autres fragments, in op. cit., t. I, p. 1174.


Jean-Louis Boissier

« The Relation-Image »

In Future Cinema, 2003, ZKM/MIT Press (English)

I will describe here the path I have explored throughout several projects of what can be considered an interactive cinema. Its specificity lies in the resolute adherence to the shooting process, namely a process in which the image retains its indexical nature as a reference to an external reality. The result of this approach is an interactive regime in which the shooting process is referred to both by placing the spectator into a simulation of the fundamental aspects of the cinematographic apparatus — for example, choosing points of view or the movements of the camera — as well as by organizing the interactive structure of the images in such as way as to create figures or diagrams of those relations captured from reality. Along with the capture of appearances and time within the image, I would include — through what can be called interactive perspective — the capturing of relations. Interactivity, in other words, is employed as an instrument for the depiction of interactions.

The interactive video sequences are named interactive moments, conceived as temporal spaces closed onto themselves, and offering potential variations. From this context, I propose the definition of a larger category, namely the relation-image. The classical cinematographic apparatus emerges from it as merely a special case within a larger apparatus whose parameters have found a previously unheard of variability: mobility of projection; differentiation of speed, rhythm, and the order of images; and variations within the enunciative regimes and the semantic contents. These experiences propose, among others things, a system of notation that can lead us to a writing specifically designed for interactive video storytelling.

Taking inspiration from previous work with videodiscs, as well as a series of works employing interactive video animations constructed image by image — Album sans fin in 1989, Globus oculi in 1992, Flora petrinsularis in 1993, Mutatis mutandis in 1995 — this process was extended and perfected from 1997 onward through works including the installation La deuxième Promenade in 1998, the CD-ROM Moments de Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 2000, and the installation La Morale sensitive in 2001. These three productions are closely related in that all of them are based on the same project of a subjective and experimental reading of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Great specialists such as Jean Starobinski have even acknowledged this study of Rousseau for its originality. At first, however, this aspect of a study on Rousseau was merely the consequence of a strategy of research into interactive cinema. The idea was to use the rich stories and thought of Rousseau as a basis, to explore its nuances and contradictions while constructing a writing form specific to interactive storytelling. This original hypothesis was confirmed well beyond my initial intuitions. It is for these reasons that I will here describe the recurring motifs of this reading of Rousseau as much as the technical, methodological and artistic choices — while underlining the extent to which they have become inextricably related.

“Local impressions”

Rousseau was above all a method: to collect, to sample signs from places, collecting the sites themselves, and to catalogue the story of the investigation. Organizing this collection and the collecting was the implicit goal of the experience, requiring from the beginning use of the computer and interactivity. The project led us to all the places Rousseau had been. A drawing was traced that still resides within the program for Moments as an itinerary, a cloud of points on a map. Within this presumedly complete location scouting, one expression kept coming back, an indeterminate memory of an old reading of the Rêveries. It was the expression “local impression.”

“Not only do I remember the times, the places, the people, but as well the surrounding objects, the air temperature, its smell, its color, a certain local impression [impression locale] which could only be felt there, the memory of which transports me there again.”(1)

“Local impression” reappears in the Rêveries in a passage on botany, written during a brief stay at the Island of St. Pierre:

“All of my botanical excursions, the various impressions of the location [impressions du local] where those objects caught my attention, the ideas the locale gave birth to within me, the incidents that were mixed in with that place, all of this has left in me the impressions that come back to me as I look again at the plants I collected at those very sites.”(2)

With the herbarium (a book containing collections of dried plants), Rousseau gave us the prototype of the recollecting sign [signe mémoratif], a fragment of the Real slipped between the pages of a book. The simple capturing or seizing [saisie], which preserves the unknown aspect contained in all things, seemed to me capable of coexisting with a story that would engage interactivity as a form. To record into memory, while simultaneously giving access to memory. The interactive diagram became capture-recapture [saisir-ressaisir].

La morale sensitive, an installation created simultaneously with the CD-ROM Moments, takes its title from a philosophical work Rousseau planned but never wrote, a project in which he treats the perceptible approach to things through learning and experiment, social behavior and world-view, aspects of which can be found throughout his various writings, from Émile to La Nouvelle Héloïse, from Contrat social to the Confessions. According to his “sensitive morals” [morale sensitive], “sensitive reason” [raison sensitive], or even his “wise man’s materialism” [matérialisme du sage], it is essential that we trust our various registers of sensation, and even more importantly, found our experience on objects and places, which, through the permanence of sensations they instill, can guarantee us permanence in our sensations and rationality in our knowledge.

Gilles Deleuze(3) highlights Rousseau’s “method” in which “we will understand the passing of time, and we will finally desire the future, rather than be enamored of the past,” and in which “the true pedagogical redress consists of subordinating the relations of men to the relation of man and things.” Deleuze underlines in what ways one might misconstrue Rousseau, “by ignoring his power and his comic genius, from which his work draws most of its anticonformist efficiency.” Throughout Moments and La morale sensitive, two works which willfully promote a pseudo-didacticism and playfulness, I have sought to maintain this comedy.

In order that the lesson come “from the thing itself,”(4) in order that a “sensitive morals” be founded on sensitive relations to surrounding objects, Rousseau demanded of a sign that it conserve a perceptible obviousness. Today, a sign that samples from the Real [le réel] finds its realization in photo-cinematographic recordings and video. In our project, the digital realm was never intended to erase the analog power of the optical recording or its capacity to designate an exterior reality [réel extérieur]. In fact, interactivity — which is the most specific consequence of digital technologies — demonstrated its capacity to itself participate in the extension of the aesthetic field of recording [la saisie].

“An optical effect”

The Flora Petrinsularis, Rousseau’s project for an exhaustive flora of the Island of St. Pierre — a utopian project associated with his desire to renounce a writing which had become painful to him while still maintaining via alternative means the production of books — gave me the model for an interactive installation and a first CD-ROM.(5) A true herbarium, written using interactivity, was coupled with images explicitly imagined using persona and scenes, “short moments of delirium and passion,”(6) which punctuate the writing of the Confessions. The dried plants recognized immediately and automatically by the computer literally materialized Rousseau’s claims: “This herbarium is, for me, a diary of plant collections which returns me to their collection with a renewed charm, producing in me the effect of an optical apparatus [optique] painting them again for me before my eyes.”(7)

The “optique” was an apparatus that allowed one to observe an engraving through a magnifying lens and thus exalt in the representative efficiency. Rousseau’s optique is that of the shortsighted, leaning enraptured “over the vegetable structure and organization, and over the play of the sexual organs during fructification.”(8) It is the desire to see distances as through a magnifying glass — by installing an astronomer’s telescope in Charmettes, or by trying, like St. Preux in Meillerie, to penetrate with a telescope Julie’s residence on the other side of the lake.

Rousseau’s optique is also that of transparent media. The optic quality of the air is its “inalterable purity”(9), the condition for the innocence of the gaze. The optical quality of water is that of refraction, the condition for experimental knowledge of things.(10) For him, “remote views” [vues éloignées](11), distant projects, overviews [vues d’ensemble], do not incite action or the imagination. Pleasure comes from what is in front of us, nearest to our senses. This innovative eighteenth-century thinking challenges the fixed placement of the eye, which the Renaissance stipulated as a condition for pictorial illusion.(12) Sight is to be situated in displacement, and operates over successive framings through the designation of fragments. All veduta becomes singular and free, but must renounce constituting itself as an isolated entity in order to become, on the contrary, a play of relations in a complex space. In Julie’s garden, “we had no view onto the outside, and we were very happy to not have any.”(13) By imposing limits, visibility calls on imagination.

While classical cinema in principle constructed the impersonal nature of its enunciation(14), interactive cinema instead calls for a personification of the act of showing and saying. Looking into the lens, the “subjective” or “objective” position of the camera, the movements of the apparatus, as well as the off-screen space, are all transformed by the new role given to the spectator.

Our shooting apparatus is thus constructed in a dual model: First, that which the image must reveal in a disparate, dissimilar environment is recorded using a forward and backward zooming movement. All of the “monuments,” the documentary views, are recorded in this way, indicating anywhere where the name Rousseau is written in the present-day space. For monument designates, in Rousseau’s writing, the testimony of that which remains of actions past, that which stores memories, that which we can count on to guide our memory, to testify to the truth: in other words the archive, the document. Second, that which the image must stage, must direct, and around which it must create a mise en scène, that which it must frame while suggesting an off-screen space, is recorded [saisie] in a panoramic movement. These are the adjuncts or “supplements,” in the manner of engravings, where fiction avows itself, short stories of the sensitive experience of a place and a reconstructed event.

Variability of the image within the screen

Acting upon the image is not to be mistaken with an immersion, either supposed or tangible, within the image. The most legitimate role we can propose to readers — without pretending to allow them into the represented thing — in other words, the role which is the most true for us, can be found in the interactive representation of the image recording apparatus itself. If the author is on the side of the camera, organizing its movement, the spectator, from the side of the projector, can be given the power to move the projector.

Therefore, one of the first factors of variability is relative to the camera-projector relation. In early cinema, during a period that could be termed naive, the position of the spectator and his or her relation to the screen was determinant in the manner in which the shot was conceived in advance. The static projector with a consistently flowing filmstrip corresponded with an equally static and constant camera. We might recall that the first forms of the traveling shot were obtained by placing cameras on a train, and seem to have dictated a theater shaped like a train car. Today, a similar naivete can be found in certain forms of simulation and virtual reality.

Nevertheless, it is when the camera frees itself from the projector that the process of differentiation is born in which cinema becomes a form of writing and a form of art. Deleuze notes this in his opening to The Movement-Image:

“On the one hand, the shooting point of view was fixed, therefore the shot was spatial and formally immobile; on the other hand, the shooting apparatus was combined with the projection apparatus, endowed with a uniform and abstract time. The evolution of cinema, the conquest for its own essence or newness, was achieved through editing, the mobile camera, and the emancipation of the shooting point of view, which separated itself from projection. The shot thereby ceases to be a spatial category and becomes temporal, while the section is no longer immobile, but mobile.”(15)

I found that it was possible, once the frames of a sequence had been separated and classified, to reconstruct an animation that would unfold the camera movements on the surface of the computer screen. The reduced video image frame and the frame of the computer monitor are dissociated. The contents of an image recorded during a panoramic movement do not move according to the screen, despite the fact that the image is moving from one edge of the screen to the other. The obtained result is comparable to that a film or video projector would create if its beam were moved across the screen according to the movements recorded by the camera during the shooting process.

For all of the sequences in Moments, I placed a digital camera onto a motorized panoramic head, which I had built with sufficient precision in the degrees of rotation as to achieve just such an interactive panorama. As the starting and ending positions were precisely marked during shooting, the image sequences submit themselves naturally to visual on-screen development, to looping, and to internal bifurcations. It is through this equivalence of the movement of the human gaze [du regard], by controlling the movement of the image, that the reader explores each sequence.

“Without which we will never seize the unity of the moment”

In order for us to know Rousseau’s thoughts, we have only his words. Therefore our transitions necessarily rely upon them. Computers fundamentally treat nothing but codes, languages. Consequently, I borrowed Rousseau’s words in order to move from one sequence to another. Each quotation is associated with a sequence and can be perceived as a justification of the images, as an anchor connecting it to the text as a whole. This parallel presence of that which is readable and that which is showable should remind us of the irreducible disjunction between seeing and saying which are nevertheless inextricably woven one within the other, as Deleuze underlines when referring to Foucault’s work on the archive.(16)

In order to allow for progressive reading, texts discovered long ago that they could cut themselves up into coupled pages. It was a similar logic that lead us to split the screen in two, and to the back and forth movement between the two positions of the image. In fact, text’s fragmentation gave us a mechanism. By acting on the image, and because we can only act on this contemporary rendition of the image, we come to understand that it is the text that articulates and decides on its appearance and disappearance. In the completed version of Moments, some three hundred variants of eighty-four words become shifters [embrayeurs](17) of a potential and random succession that is not a montage, in the filmic sense, but rather a passage through associations of ideas, a daydream or reverie.

In the eighteenth century, the link — or chain — became the principle for storytelling. Barthes reminds us of this while quoting Diderot: “The entirety of Diderot’s aesthetics depends on the identification of the theatrical scene and of visual painting: the stage offers to the spectator ‘as many real paintings as there are moments in the action which are favorable to the painter’”. Concerning painting, it is a “perfect instant,” “necessarily whole,” “artificial.” It is a “hieroglyph where, in a single gaze (or a single grasp, a single recording, if we applied it to theater or cinema), the present, the past, and the future tie into one another. […] This crucial instant, totally concrete and totally abstract, is what Lessing calls (in Laocoon) the pregnant instant.”(18)

To this linking of ideas, or to the “chain of sentiments,”(19) which are capable of enriching our present, Rousseau counters with the “fugitive succession” of “precious moments,”(20) moments that are always “short,” “quick.” Meanwhile, this moment in actuality has its own plenitude, an internal movement, which an engraving must revive. In the margins of La Nouvelle Héloïse, Rousseau gave these instructions to his illustrators: “As much as the figures in movement, it is important to be able to see what precedes and what follows, and to give a certain latitude to the time of action; without which we will never seize the unity of the moment to be expressed.”(21)

Le Baiser de l'amour
« Le premier baiser de l’amour », illustration for La Nouvelle Héloïse.

« Le premier baiser de l’amour », interactive video for La Morale sensitive.

A software application, or what in French is entitled a logiciel, is that which applies a logic. In cinema, the principle logical axis is that which regulates the recording of appearances in the temporal flow. The strength of cinema lies in the logic of its relationship to the Real. The camera and the projector, two symmetrical apparatuses combined at their origin, both respect a common rule: string together still images in a fixed order, and at a fixed rate. Interactivity is a means to reduce, and give variation to this logic, to the extent at which cinema, and video, are transformed into applications in which the singularity of their software resides in the formula: “24 (or 25/30) images per second, in their chronological order.” Interactive cinema liberates the potential variability of cinematographic parameters. The interactive-video substance out of which our “moments” are constructed, are edited all the way down to the individual images, the constitutive, discrete elements of cinema.

Variability in the image chain

A second factor of variability, that of succession and rhythm, can be identified in the same manner. With computers, the order of images and the rhythm of their display are variable and can be modulated, not only concerning what can still be considered a capture [saisie] of the Real, but in the recapturing [resaisie] offered by an interactive reading. In the type of animated image that I construct, interactivity treats a collection of images. In this sense, it is an integral element within the image, and itself an image. The interactive moments do not have, strictly speaking, a beginning and an end. While there are without a doubt entry points, the image nevertheless carries on in infinite loops, oscillating or circular, which invert, bifurcate, flowing into other loops, all according to the common actions of the mise en scène and the current, actual reading.

None of these breaks from the classical cinematographic model find their descriptive or narrative pertinence, nor do they find their pertinence as a spectacle, outside of the role given to the reader. Variability in interactive video does not simply open possibilities for bifurcation, pauses, or activation, but opens as well the possibility of a generalized dissociation between the stored time and the time restored. Taking for example the interactive panorama, camera movement is a temporal expenditure which coincides with the time of that which was filmed or recorded. We can, when required, store it for later, pause it, and reverse it. But we cannot specifically dissociate these two temporal strata. In an infinite loop, however, both through the repetition and beyond the repetition, the filmed time tends to detach itself from the time of the observer.

In the interactive image, or — more exactly in my case — the interactive assembling of still images, the time of reading can be dissociated from the filmed or recorded time. These two time strata only coincide — and with great elasticity — when the observer designates one side of the screen or the other, thus controlling the transformation and movement of the image. In contrast, this passing and unstable moment, in which our temporality as observers rejoins that of the filmed subject, brings out in us the sensation of a manual seizing [saisie] of the flow of time. Such a projection of time inside of time could perhaps ground the notion of the depth of time, of the relational perspective, of which interactivity would be the principle.

Within that which prefigures an interactive cinema, we could add interactive perspective to the optical perspective that is, of course, the primary apparatus. If we can imagine relation as a form, we can conceive of a relation-image capable of being produced by a new type of perspective. To that perspective which refers to optics can be added a dimension relating to relational behavior. Within this interactive perspective, interactivity holds the position held by geometry in optical perspective. We could go so far as to say that, if perspective is that by which we can capture or construct a visual representation, interactive perspective is equally capable of seizing [saisir] or modeling relations. This interactive perspective projects relationships into a relational space, placing them at an oblique angle and thereby rendering them identifiable and executable.

Mechanics speaks of the moment of force in relation to a point, in relation to an axis. With a lever, for example, the moments of the active force and the active resistance are equal in opposite directions. Rousseau uses precisely this example of the lever in the lessons he gives to Émile.(22) Speaking more generally, physics gives the name moment to the product of a force and a distance. The interactive moment would therefore metaphorically describe through a mobile and temporal image its capacity of interaction with other images or with the external force exerted on it by a reader. In a larger sense, that which I here call the interactive moment would be in fact a relation-image, in other words an image that, by way of its internal interactions, opens up onto external actions. We would then see in the interactive moment a process of representation. Just as photography represents appearances, just as cinema represents time and movement, interactivity represents interactions.

The relation-image

In this way, Moments experimentally employs a relation-image whose function is the presentation of an interaction, comparable to what Deleuze said of cinema: cinema is not an image to which we might add movement, but rather directly a movement-image, while the time-image — through an inverted subordinate relationship — is a direct presentation of time.

A relation is a narrative. In French this is the first historical use of the word: a testimony, a report. A reporting [rapport], as in when one relates something, when one gives a report [rapport] on an investigation, before it simply becomes a report [rapport] — a logical relation. There is, in the notion of the relation, this double aspect which has always interested me: that of capture [saisie] and that of synthesis [synthèse]. The history of the word is surprising: relation is first that which relates and afterwards that which connects. Relation is that which characterizes objects and various thoughts contemplated within a unique material or intellectual act. Deleuze reminds us of this throughout his works, from Empiricism and Subjectivity to the Dialogues, passing through The Movement-Image, which perhaps comes closest to our present concerns: “The relation is not a property of objects, it is always external to its terms.” More concretely, “ ‘Pierre is smaller than Paul,’ ‘the glass is on the table’: the relation is neither internal to one of the terms which would consequently be its subject, nor is it internal to both. Further, the relation can change without the terms having changed.”(23) If the relation has a form, a transformational form of the set it organizes, it follows that we can work with it, that it can be used in an artistic process, as can the relation-image whose theoretical use I am here attempting to validate.

Relation-image belongs to the pairs Deleuze developed around image in order to understand cinema: of course movement-image and time-image, as well as perception-image, action-image, affection-image, and impulse-image, and then memory-image, dream-image, and world-image.(24) The relation-images, like the change-images or the duration-images, are for Deleuze constitutive of the time-image, and beyond movement itself.(25) I am not attempting to add a chapter to studies on Deleuze, but merely to use a linguistic declension within the Deleuzian model, in other words to append our proposition concerning interactive images (which does not yet have a name, its own name) to cinema itself, as cinema already has a name, and has become a brand.

If cinema is, as Raymond Bellour has stated, “an installation which succeeded,”(26) we must look back at its specificities and its differences with other apparatus [dispositifs] that have had less success, or have failed. And we could as a consequence take the time to observe those apparatus which, along with new media, ground newer genealogical branches of the cinema “species,” often appropriating those traits that have historically been abandoned: stereoscopes, panorama, moving projectors, variations in the placement of the spectator, and so on. We would also have to include those apparatus which develop previously unheard-of modalities: interactive immersion, non-linearity, variability in points of view, playability with the accessories, characters or story line, generativity, and the like.

It should be mentioned that Hitchcock’s proposal to work within a “direction of spectators,” just as one speaks of the “direction of actors,” can paradoxically be used for the interactive apparatus, for which — contrary to the common assumption — it is less a question of giving freedom to the spectators than of introducing them to a play of solicitations, in other words constraints, which are necessary to the functioning of the work, as measured in the success of its reception.

We can therefore develop the hypothesis in which we consider cinema as a special case within a larger apparatus — for which the interactive image is henceforth the prototype and for which computers provide the variability. In a computer cinema, the logical relation to the Real is not canceled or diminished, its is rather transformed, emphasized… What is more, the various domains of interactivity open up this variability. For, an interactive object’s degree of openness is not linked to its simple determination, but rather to its increasing perfection in the management of its internal relations, which in turn gives it a greater autonomy: that of being able to respond to the demands of the external interactions and to the mutations of its environment.

Thus the question will be asked concerning the notation of these relation-image structures. Although they are in appearance simple, the sequences cannot be translated through a simple arborescent diagram. I have purposefully refused such diagrams in order not to diminish in advance the interactive arrangement’s capacity to depict the random variations and micro-events that make up the moment. That said, while preparing the image, and above all during the shooting process, elementary diagrams were called for. Once the sequences were completed, the question of their functioning, and thus their exploration, was experimented using interactive diagrams. Using paths traversed by a marble or billiard ball (une bille), the play of triggers, bifurcations and pauses could be visualized. This notation system was perfected by displaying, in a symbolic manner, the essential variables. Through this experience, the dialectics of a notation system were proven in its ability to open up, through an inverse operation, onto a writing system.(27) This research is similar to the problem of notation in the field of dance and choreography, and to its successes and difficulties which are well known.


The response to Rousseau’s expectations for a unity of the moment and its singularity can be found in repetition. “To extract something new from repetition, to extract from it its difference, such is the role of imagination or of the mind [l’esprit] as it contemplates from within its multiple and divided states,” writes Deleuze.(28) Repetition is foundational of the notion of the moment. This repetition is twofold: the image is placed in a state of suspension within the repetitive movement, while the interactive mutations are repeatable ad libitum.

From my earliest experiments with interactive books(29), I asked myself explicitly the following question: is it possible to make use of filmed images in the pages of a book? In order to be represented on the pages which will be leafed through, the image must be looped, must be animated and lend itself to the flow of time, but within a vibration, an oscillation, a repetition which leads nowhere in particular. The image can only accommodate passing, fleeting or even reversible events. Then I discovered in the imaginative world of Rousseau a certain propensity to precisely these floating and repetitive movements: the splashing of waves, the swaying of branches, the rising and lowering of the chest, the shakiness of a hand.

Rousseau aspires to the subjective moment, the suspended moment, attached to the sentiment of a pure presence. It is evening on the shore of the lake of Bienne:

“This ebb and flow of the water, its continuous noise rising at intervals, and hitting my ears and my eyes without pause, became a supplement to the internal movements which reverie had extinguished in me, and was sufficient enough to make me feel pleasure again in my existence, without the effort of having to think.”(30)

It is a state “in which the present persists, and yet without making felt the passing of time or any trace of succession.”(31) It is the moment of a return to himself, after the accident in Charonne:

“It felt as if from my light existence I was filling all of those objects which I could perceive. At the time, I wasn’t able to remember anything of the present moment; […]”(32)

The cycles of the loops strung together, bring back the same transitions, the same attitudes, the same incidents. The back-and-forth of the panorama and zooms construct and deconstruct the gesture, the gaze, the exchange, reinforcing at once the impression of their autonomy and the pleasure of our power of apprehension.

“The supplement”

From repetition emerges the question of the double. In Rousseau, it can be identified in the mirror, in the self-portrait, in representation. Rousseau resigns himself to the idea that writing is capable of giving anew the pleasure of that which it fixes on the page: “In saying to myself, I was overcome with pleasure [j’ai joüi], I am once again overcome with pleasure.”(33) In the “The second stroll” [La deuxième promenade], the one in which Rousseau is knocked over by a dog, the story is that of rebirth, which can just as well be read as an entrance into a world exclusively made up of reminiscent images. “[…] constantly preoccupied with my past happiness, I remember it and ruminate on it, and, it could be said, to the point of allowing myself to be overcome again with pleasure [d’en jouir] whenever I wish.”(34)

It is as if Rousseau lived only to be able to immediately transform things into memories, souvenirs available for some future enjoyment. “And as pleasure [la jouissance] was never present outside of a certain repetition, writing, by bringing it back, brings the pleasure with it as well. Rousseau denies the avowal, but not the pleasure,” writes Derrida. “Writing represents (in all of the senses of the word) pleasure [la jouissance].”(35) In order that this event and the emotions it brings with it can be conserved, it must be organized as a moment, in other words, isolated, terminated. The reduplication implied in writing, takes over in a sense from previous repetitions. It would only be another of many repetitions though, if Rousseau hadn’t expressed such a clear understanding of the originality of autobiographic writing, a repetition destined for others:

“In abandoning myself both to the memory of the received impression and to my present sentiments, I will paint twice the state of my soul with a knowledge of the moment where the event happened to me and of the moment I described it; my writing style, both uneven and natural, at times quick and others diffused, at once wise and then crazed, at times solemn and others gay, will itself play a part in my historical account.”(36)

The CD-ROM Moments considered this double movement as it own, redoubling it once more. The interactive mise en scène introduces a moment, and interactivity actualizes yet another. But didn’t Rousseau already envision that, “it is up to him [the reader] to assemble these elements and determine the existence they compose; the result must be his own work.”(37)

This series of redoubling belongs to what Rousseau designated as the “supplement.” The supplement is that which supplants [ce qui supplée], that which arrives as compensation, filling in a gap, substituting as an addition. It is the “remedy within the evil,”(38) a dangerous but healthy artifice. Thus, it is auto-eroticism which appears first in the Confessions as a supplement: “Soon reassured, I learned of this dangerous supplement which tricks nature and saves up for young men of my temperament many disorders at the expense of their health, their strength, and sometimes their life.”(39)

It is through his linguistic and aesthetic reflections that Rousseau transforms the notion of the supplement into a critical instrument: “Languages were meant to be spoken, writing merely supplements speech […].”(40) In this sense, any form of representation is a supplement. Art itself becomes an even greater supplement: “Much art has to be employed in order to prevent the social man from becoming entirely artificial.”(41)

An appendage is required at this point in Rousseau’s vision. St. Preux had to distance himself from Julie. He describes his stay among the women of the Valais region in the Alps, comparing their cleavage to that of Julie:

“Do not be surprised to find me quite knowledgeable on the mysteries which you hide so well: I am knowledgeable regardless of you. One meaning can sometimes instruct another: and despite the most jealous vigilance, sometimes a few light interstices escape from the most well adjusted dialogue, through which sight has the same effect as touch. An eager and reckless eye creeps its way with impunity underneath the flowers of a bouquet; it wanders beneath the caterpillar and the gauze, and makes the hand feel the elastic resistance it does not dare experience itself.”(42)

When the eye supplants in this way the hand, we are speaking of the haptic powers of the image. Our shots and their digital treatment, which reinforces the contrast and detail, contribute to this effect. But beyond that, interactivity supplants [supplée] gesture. Using not the literal touch but instead designation, it allows for intervention by proxy. Is not interactivity that which simulates real interactions? When I picked an apple, or when I pushed a rock over a precipice, I accompanied my gesture with a camera movement. By allowing the displacement of the image across the screen, I am offering not only that the reader displace his or her gaze, but I am giving them the means to pick and push in turn, following the order of the representation, following the order of the supplement. The digital realm possesses this quality of preserving a process without requiring the resolution of the problem of continuity. And in fact, this continuum offers, within certain measure, a reversibility that encourages the reader to in turn follow the same path that was used during the creation of the deed.


When spectators find themselves implicated in an enunciation that ceases to be impersonal, while the authors see themselves reinforced in their role as subjective mediators of the Real, the artifact produced therein becomes exceptionally playable. For if a word was required to define the performance which actualizes the relation-image, that word would be game. Our reader is also a spectator, occupying both roles at once, but as well something else. What is expected of the reader is that he or she play, yet in a game which is dissociated from simple amusement or distraction, which maintains the quality of an exercise or of an interpretation, but without placing itself on the side of the tool, remaining on the side of works [œuvres], on the side of the supplement which creates a reading.

This is in fact what Roland Barthes demanded in favor of the “text we write (in ourselves, for ourselves) when we read:”
“To open the text, to lay out one’s system of reading, is not only to demand and show that one can freely interpret; it is above all, and indeed more radically, to lead the reader to the realization that there is no objective or subjective truth in reading, but only a playful truth [verité ludique]; although the game should not here be understood as a distraction, but rather as work [un travail] […].”(43)

When all is said and done, it is in the performance of the passing of the relay, defined as the relation-image, that exerts that which, in the specificity of interactive objects, enacts the story. If we consider that the story evolves out of its visibility and readability, then there cannot be an interactive perspective without a certain level of playability. For a more academic terminology, we would certainly have used the expression performativity. Playability nevertheless, as the word has already become the elected term for video game adepts, and admittedly has already won its cultural, and perhaps theoretical, pertinence. If we wish to grasp the pertinence of an interactive perspective, we must understand it as that which joins production and reception through the three simultaneous registers of visibility, readability and playability. Playability, along with (and following) visibility and readability, can create a lasting work [peut alors faire œuvre]. A double-sided work [œuvre biface], actual and virtual, according to Deleuze’s expression. Associated with the virtual realm, in other words with the interactive realm of playability, but without confusing itself with it, are possibilities, namely the interactions of that which is playable. Within the virtual space of playability, depicted via interactive perspective, another perspective is actualized, a perspective understood as that which is projected, and which will eventually take place.

Translated from the French by Douglas Edric Stanley.

(1) Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Les Confessions, in Œuvres complètes, Bernard Gagnebin (ed.), Gallimard, Paris, Livre III, t. I, p. 122.
(2) Les Rêveries, Septième Promenade, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1073.
(3) “Jean-Jacques Rousseau, précurseur de Kafka, de Céline, et de Ponge,” written for the 250th anniversary of Rousseau’s birth, Les Arts, n° 872, June 1962, p. 3; reprinted in Gilles Deleuze, L’Île déserte et autres textes, Minuit, Paris, 2002, pp. 73-78.
(4) Émile, Livre II, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. IV, pp. 368-369.
(5) Flora Petrinsularis, published in Artintact, n°1, ZKM, Karlsruhe and Cantz-Verlag, Ostfildern, 1994. The title, Flora Petrinsularis, can be loosely translated as “The Flora of the Island of St. Pierre.”
(6) Les Rêveries, Cinquième Promenade, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1046.
(7) Les Rêveries, Septième Promenade, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1073.
(8) Les Rêveries, Cinquième Promenade, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit.., t. I, p. 1043.
(9) La Nouvelle Héloïse, Première partie, lettre XXIII, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. II, p. 83.
(10) Émile, Livre III, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. IV, pp. 482-486.
(11) Les Confessions, Livre IV, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 146.
(12) Roland Recht, La Lettre de Humboldt, Bourgois, 1989, p. 148.
(13) La Nouvelle Héloïse, Quatrième partie, lettre XI, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. II, p. 483.
(14) This thesis is developed by Christian Metz in L’Énonciation impersonnelle ou le Site du film, Méridiens Klincksieck, Paris, 1991.
(15) Gilles Deleuze, L’Image-Mouvement, Minuit, Paris, 1983, p. 12.
(16) Gilles Deleuze, “La vie comme œuvre d’art,” in Pourparlers, Minuit, Paris, 1990, pp. 131-133.
(17) These words were chosen because of their frequency and the pertinence of the thematic links they offered.
(18) “Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein,” in Revue d’Esthétique, 1973, reprinted in L’Obvie et l’obtus, Seuil, 1982, pp. 87-89.
(19) Les Confessions, Livre VII, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 278.
(20) La vie aux Charmettes, Les Confessions, Livre VI, , in Œuvres complètes, op. cit. t. I, p. 225.
(21) La Nouvelle Héloïse, Appendice II, Sujets d’estampes, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. II, p. 761.
(22) Émile, Livre II, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. IV, p. 380.
(23) Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, p. 69.
(24) Gilles Deleuze, L’Image-Temps, Minuit, Paris, p. 92.
(25) Gilles Deleuze, L’Image-Mouvement, Minuit, Paris, p. 22.
(26) Raymond Bellour, “D’un autre cinéma,“Trafic, n° 34, été, 2000, pp. 5-21.
(27) Le Petit Manuel interactif, an installation I conceived with a group of students in 2001 for the Cité des sciences in Paris, develops this type of diagram of visualization and is in fact the central argument of the scenario.
(28) Différence et Répétition, Presses universitaires de France, p. 103.
(29) Album sans fin, installation, 1989.
(30) Les Rêveries, Cinquième Promenade, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1045.
(31) Les Rêveries, Cinquième Promenade, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1046.
(32) Les Rêveries, Deuxième Promenade, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1005.
(33) Art de jouir et autres fragments, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1174.
(34)Les Confessions, Livre XI, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 585.
(35) De la grammatologie, Minuit, 1967, p. 440.
(36) “Ébauches des Confessions,” in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 1154.
(37) Les Confessions, Livre IV, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 175.
(38) see Jean Starobinski, Le remède dans le mal, Gallimard, 1989.
(39) Les Confessions, Livre I, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. I, p. 109.
(40) Fragment sur la prononciation, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. II, p. 1249.
(41) Émile, Livre IV, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. IV, p. 640.
(42) La Nouvelle Héloïse, Première partie, Lettre XXIII, in Œuvres complètes, op. cit., t. II, p. 82.
(43) Roland Barthes, “Écrire la lecture,” (1970) in Œuvres complètes, t. II, Seuil, pp. 961-963.