Moving Image Poetics

In today’s seminar we looked at poetics in moving image, specifically we looked at applying Aristotle’s principles of dramatic theory, known as  ‘Poetics’, to our own work in progress for the current module.

This proved to be a challenging exercise for me due to the non-linear and non-narrative nature of my current practice. In the spirit of the classic exercise where 2 seemingly unrelated ideas are brought together in an effort to force new and original thinking, I did attempt to shoehorn non-linear/narrative content into the Aristotelian framework of dramatic analysis  – resulting in the development of a number new perspectives.

Firstly, it should be said that the main theme for my current investigation is temporal distortion – specifically I have been looking at the way in which temporal phenomena might be linked to audio to produce provocative moving image outcomes. In order to develop my ideas further I have been on the look out for sample scenes I can film within the limits imposed by time/equipment etc. One result is the macrographic study of a spider weaving a web right, shot outside the front window of my house.

The spider fills the whole of the frame as the camera follows, the spider moving frantically around its web spinning more silk all the time. The visual content of the piece lends itself well to temporal distortion as the dynamic of the constant movement will make it easier to distinguish areas of the image that have been affected.

As a study of time, the spider footage is a promising candidate as the spider spends all day busily weaving a web – who knows how the creature itself perceives the passing of time?  From sunrise to sundown may feel like an eternity to the spider or perhaps mere moments. These are rich themes for a study of temporal distortion.

Let’s take each of Aristotle’s themes one at a time and attempt to explore them within the context of the current work.

Mimesis or imitation/representation

A representation of the fracturing of time by freezing of part of a moving image. An imitation of audio decay especially decaying echo.

Catharsis or purgation/purification/clarification

The ability of temporal distortion to challenge preconceptions of linear temporality.

Peripeteia or reversal

If some time is distorted, what happens to the time that is not? What is the inverse effect?

Anagnorisis or recognition/identification

Famaliaritry of the subject matter – a spider weaving it’s web.

Hamrartia or miscalculation

The ‘glitchiness’ of the whole piece.

Mythos or plot

The spider sets out to weave a web it can never finish.

Ethos or character

The tenacity of the spider.

Dianoia or thought/theme

Preoccupation, energetic repeated action, relativity of time, futility.

Lexis or diction/speech

The staccato rhythm of the spider’s movement. The scuttling of the spider on its web.

Melos or melody

The frequencies and timbres of sound – does the web make sound as the spiders feet move along it?

Opsis or spectacle

Fascination with the sheer scale of the magnified spider image.

Lastly, here’s an actual poem I quite like


E.B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.

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