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UAL Research Online

'The Immersive Spectator: A Phenomenological Hybrid'

Walsh, Maria (2004) 'The Immersive Spectator: A Phenomenological Hybrid'. Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 9 (3). pp. 169-186. ISSN 0969-725X

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Walsh, Maria

In this paper, I explore the shift in film spectatorship from models developed in the 1970s premised on distance and critical awareness to models developed more recently by film theorists such as Laura U. Marks and Vivian Sobchack where the dynamic of screen and spectator is considered interrelational and immersive.

In my text, I develop a model of spectatorship based on a hybrid of philosophers who do not normally go together, Gilles Deleuze and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The purpose of this hybrid is to articulate a scene of spectatorship whereby a viewer is both immersed in the flow of images (Deleuze), yet simultaneously aware of shifts in bodily co-ordinates that occur in relation to that flow (Merleau-Ponty). My rationale for this hybrid is twofold: on the one hand, it counter the emphasis on disembodiment in discussions of the digital image; on the other hand, it counters the emphasis in cineanalysis on distanciation. I argue that these approaches reduce the spectator to the medium rather than attending to how sensory engagement transcends medium specificity.

As a subtext, my paper also critiques the ubiquitous embrace of Deleuze in certain branches of film studies. My reading of Deleuze through the historical lens of phenomenology in 1970s film theory exposes the inadvertent resurgence in Deleuze's own thinking of a disembodied transcendental subject. Given my feminist ethos, I found it necessary to balance Deleuze's evacuation of the body from perception with Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of embodiment. I demonstrated that, contrary to dominant readings, these two philosophers have much in common and are conducive to rethinking the embodied interrelation between viewer and screen. The outcome of this hybrid configures spectatorship as an immersive mode of temporalized spacing whereby the perceiving body both loses itself and continuously refinds itself transformed in relation to the time frame of the image.

Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Chelsea College of Arts
Date: 1 December 2004
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2009 12:52
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2010 14:16
Item ID: 824
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/824

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