Monday, 26 January 2009

Quasi. Antonioni and Participation in Art. ‘Preface: The Screen Test’ (1968) dir. Michelangelo Antonioni.

Screening of Michalangelo Antonioni's "Prefazione : Il Provino".

The producer, Dino De Laurentiis, had the quaint idea of making Soraya, one-time queen of Iran, into a movie star, and he persuaded Antonioni to contribute a “Preface” called “The Screen-Test” to a three segment film with Soraya as star of each segment


Antonioni’s preface is a small but interesting semidocumentary about how it must feel for a social celebrity to become a movie star.


It is not too farfetched to see in the microscopic examination of Soraya’s face a new kind of concern with the surfaces of art’s materials. Antonioni seems in this short film to approach the no-man’s land between cinema and metacinema. ‘The screen-test’ clearly foreshadows the meditation on the relation between art and reality that is ‘Blow Up’.

from ‘Antonioni, or, the surface of the world’ by Seymour Benjamin Chatman

The film was screened as part of a lecture on 'Participation in Art' by philosopher Alexander García Düttmann. He discussed two aspects of participation in art : immediacy and mediation.

Immediacy corresponds to the belief in what the viewer/beholder is being presented with (not necessarily in the representations), whereas mediation acknowledges the artificiality of art (it is art and not nature).

When in the film Soraya is being prepared for her screen test it corresponds to the artificiality of the product represented as it is being produced and has been produced (film). At the end of the film, Soraya is filmed dressed in a lavish gown by the window of a romantic salon with the wind blowing from two huge machines. The enunciation of illusion holds immediacy and mediation together and produces a 'mood'. The viewer can choose whether to be taken in or to be an observer.

Düttmann points out how the viewer/beholder can be aware of the mediation (intelligence) and how he can forget art is art (stupidity). The relationship of those two should be measured up against the work of art (when taking art seriously). Otherwise intelligence collapses to stupidity (knowing too much about art brings art to an end). Illusion is integral to art as it wouldn't be art otherwise.

An example to the conventions of participation can be traced in horror films where quasi-fear occurs : 'I know it's a film, yet I still feel fear'.

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