A few years ago the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris opened a large public exhibition titled Le Mouvement des images (The Movement of Images) -- information and images here. The Centre Pompidou is France’s National Museum of Modern Art, covering both the 20th and 21st centuries, and it boasts one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of film and moving image art.
Le Mouvement des images was based on a straightforward but quite radical premise: that the art of the 20th century should be re-read through the cinema experience. What this implied was a reconsideration of assumptions about the relation of art and technology to include not just film and photography, but also the traditionally plastic arts: painting, sculpture, drawing. In short, the exhibition was “a redefinition of the cinematographic experience widened to include all the visual arts.”
The strength of the Pompidu’s collection meant that the exhibition’s curator Philippe-Alain Michaud had an opportunity rarely available to curators and academics - he was able to work directly from the museum’s holdings to literally re-organize the canon of modern art relative to the idea that the filmic and ‘static’ arts both reflect a technological influence. For example, in relation to series of drawings made by Picasso several minutes apart in 1970, the artist is quoted as observing “It’s the movement of the painting that interests me, the dramatic effort from one vision to the next.” Taking a dynamic principal like movement as subject tends to alter the painting’s emphasis from fixity to flux.
I mention Le Mouvement des images because it seems a good example of a perspective from within the arts relevant to the interdisciplinary interests of this blog. In part, this is because Michaud understands film to be something far more pervasive than Hollywood blockbusters: he defines ‘cinema’ in a way that includes the moving images that are a ubiquitous part of our daily life, including those on the internet, on iPhones, webcams, and in scientific laboratories.
Part of my interest in the specific art/science crossover comes out of the observation that moving images are an increasingly integral, even methodological component of contemporary scientific research. Some of my current reading on the topic goes so far as to suggest that filmic tools like live-cell imaging are changing biology by introducing a dynamic imaging process into the heart of the scientific method. In that vein, it is probably not a coincidence that a couple of Shaun and James’ recent posts have involved links to films - of animation by stop-motion, by cell structures, and by particles.
So if it seems viable to revise the history of Modern art from the point of view of dynamic images, can we extend that perspective to science? I’m curious about the perspective on film as a research tool from the other side of the art/science equation.
Image credit: Gerhard Richter, Halfmannshof (1968), Offset print on lightweight cardboard. Based on a photograph taken by the artist from a moving train.