Seeing beyond Walter Murch’s “seeing around the edges of the frame”.
Two museum goers contemplate photographs by Jeff Koons
John A. Allison would like the Cato Institute to be taken more seriously by the powers that be:
[O]ur Center for Constitutional Studies has significantly redirected the debate on the limitation on governmental action imposed by the U.S. Constitution. However, as strong as the Center is, we will achieve world standard status when the professors at the Harvard Law School find it necessary to respond to the arguments of Cato scholars and when the Supreme Court Justices feel consistently obligated to consider the Cato perspective in reaching their judicial decisions.
Alan Jacobs thinks readers do not give sufficient thought to the constraints under which op-ed columnists work:
I’ve had some conversations lately, on Twitter and elsewhere, that have renewed in my mind an old complaint: that readers rarely pause to consider the limits — including plain old word limits — that journalists typically have to contend with. All journalists have to deal with scarcities of time and space, but it has always seemed to me that op-ed columnists have it particularly tough.
I cannot count the number of times over the years that I have listened to people complain that a particular newspaper or magazine column fails to do justice to the nuances and complexities of a given situation. To which I always reply, though usually just in my head: “Right, and that’s because they get eight hundred words.”
In the chapter, “Seeing Around the Edge of the Frame” from his book IN THE BLINK OF A EYE film editor Walter Murch writes:
The film editor is one of the few people working on the production of a film who does not know the exact conditions under which it was shot (or has the ability not to know) and who at the same time has a tremendous influence on the film.
If you have been on and around the set most of the time…you can get caught up in the bloody practicalities of the gestation and delivery. And when you see the dailies, you can’t help, in your mind’s eye, seeing around the edges of the frame–you can imagine everything that was there, physically and emotionally, just beyond what was actually photographed.
“We worked like hell to get that shot, it has to be in the film.” You (the director in this case) are convinced that what you got was what you wanted but there’s a possibilities that you may be forcing yourself to see things that way because it cost much–in money, time, angst–to get it.
By the same token, there are occasions when you shoot something that you dislike, when everyone is in a bad mood, and you say under protest, “all right, I’ll do this, we’ll get this close-up and then it’s a wrap.” Later on, when you look at the take, all you can remember was the hateful moment it was shot, and so you may be blind to the potentials it might have in a different context.
The editor, on the other hand, should try to see only what’s on the screen, as the audience will. Only in this way can the images be freed from the context of their creation…
I guess I’m urging the preservation of a certain kind of virginity. Don’t unnecessarily allow yourself to be impregnated by the conditions of shooting…the audience knows nothing about any of this–and you are the ombudsman for the audience.
Lately much of the thinking I’ve been doing has been contra Murch, which is to say that while Murch’s ideas represent a platonic ideal of the relationship between artist and audience, they do not represent the reality that artists and audiences must contend with. Communication is contextual. Framing matters. A column in the New York Times will be received differently from the exact same words posted by an unknown writer to a blogspot account. Improperly signaled, art becomes pornography, and visa versa.
Jeff Koons’ Dirty – Jeff on Top (1991), with an audience of Rob Pruitt, Sadie Coles and Gavin Brown, in “Pop Life” at Tate Modern