Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kinds of Panoramic Vision

Scattered notes for (possibly) a future project:

- The view from the window of a [train] passing a landscape. A nineteenth century innovation in perception ... this is something that Wolfgang Schivelbusch has written about (though I've not read his work on this firsthand). Early cinema recorded quite a few films as seen from the window of a moving train.

- 'Panorama as form,' wherein the above is manifested in the rectangular (including, possibly, CinemaScope) frame of the canvas--the parameters of the image reflect the first principle of the composition. Or this can be a camera track/pan (think of the traffic tracking shot in Godard's Week End, or the shot of the supermarket in Tout va bien), or the movement of the eyes over a broad space which this camera movement presumably mimics.

- 'Panorama as content,' that is, the suggestion through even as it runs counter to form, as below, wherein the desire to see all around becomes the emphasis of the image if not its organizational principle. Below is Alma-Tadema's A Coign of Vantage (1895).

What makes these (particularly 'panorama as form') distinct from just any long horizontal space is that, representationally, they suggest or depict outright a coherent and unified space--unlike, say, the Bayeux Tapestry. One of my favorite 'follies' of early cinema is an attempt to create a coherent and unified space by way of pieced-together fragments, namely, the Cinéorama of Raoul Grimoin-Sanson (patented 1897, attempted to exhibit in 1900). Ten projections of footage in a circular sweep to show footage from ten cameras that go up in a hot air balloon over the countryside. When I was a child I saw a successful manifestation of this basic principle at, I think, Disneyland.

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