The Displaced Dispositif

Guy Edmonds, Shaun Lewin


Dispositif” is a term used in film studies since the 1970s to describe the entire system of mechanical and human factors which together bring about the cinema experience. It therefore refers to (amongst other things) the space of the auditorium, the screen, the projection technology and the physiology of the spectator. Many of its qualifying components are masked from the view of participants in the system. The dispositif’s purpose is to set up the conditions for a specific type of cognitive experience, one which mirrors and extends (and in some readings, controls) the experience of its participants.

The Displaced Dispositif is a performance designed for the space of a cinema theatre, but featuring the projection of fragments of early silent cinema on a coeval (1910s) film projector from the auditorium. The film fragments are live-scored by the sound artist, Shaun Lewin, using a combination of closely mic’d sources on the projector itself, luminance data from the projected image and EEG brainwave data recorded from participants during previous projections of the film. Displacing elements in the dispositif in this way, by shifting modalities, situating in parallel, feeding back and layering, draws attention to its hidden existence and creates the potential for a more knowing and informed participation in the cinema experience. It also serves to demonstrate the degree to which dispositifs of modern cinema spectatorship, which have morphed and proliferated since the widespread digitization of film heritage, have radically altered both the technological and experiential qualities of the medium. By integrating EEG data, the performance adds the dimension of electrophysiological experience to the long tradition within experimental cinema of artists calling attention to Cinema’s hidden structures. As well as challenging the dominance of the worldview propagated by the film industry, the performance also signals a means of re-engaging with the creative potential of the system itself, once unshackled from its bonds to the reality effect and freed from the limits imposed by its commercializing instincts.


early cinema; EEG; flicker; performance; sonification

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