Trembling Meaning: Camera Instability and Gilbert Simondon's Transduction in Czech Archival Film

Film-Philosophy 25 (1):18-41 (2021)


Many experimental found footage films base their meanings and effects on an interaction between the figurative content of the image and its material-technological underpinnings. Can this interaction arise accidentally without artistic appropriation? A recently digitised film by the Czech cinema pioneer Jan Kříženecký, Opening Ceremony of the Čech Bridge, presents such an exercise in accidental aesthetics. At one point, the horizontal and vertical trembling of the cinematograph – obtained from the Lumière brothers – translates into a trembling of the figures on the bridge so precisely that the figurative and material spheres appear to cooperate towards a common aesthetic goal. To account for such phenomena, film theory, found footage filmmaking, and archival practice need to join forces with philosophy. More specifically, Gilbert Simondon's notion of transduction, a process based on the intersection of diverse realities within a domain, allows us to conceptualise the paradoxical interaction between the figurative and material dimensions and the unintentional meanings that arise out of it. Transduction enables the distribution of elements between these heterogeneous spheres while maintaining a certain stability within a system. In the case of archival films in which transduction occurs without prior intention or expectation, transduction can be foregrounded and prolonged. The connection between transduction and the “trembling meaning” of Opening Ceremony, understood within the wider context of camera instability in experimental found footage, will uncover the aesthetic potentialities held by the autonomous creativity of film matter and its interferences with the figurative content.

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