Here we would like to propose a radical pedagogy of the image as a way of media literacy that does not involve reading but rather seeing, and as a way of aesthetic pedagogy that does not involve artworks but rather artfulness. It will involve a pedagogy that is, to use Serge Daney’s words, “above or below” communication: not to learn to read the image, but to learn from feeling the image in learning to ‘perceive’. In other words, pedagogy here would concern “sensitivities” as “modes of experience” that precede and rather construe modes of knowledge. It concerns not the ‘source’ of transmission, but transmission itself (xx). Learning thus involves styles, the how of transmission, and what makes them particular can be seen as the constellation of techniques that carry a technicity
What a radical pedagogy of the image would will be approached in two parts. The first part follows the work of Serge Daney (often through the lens of Gilles Deleuze) as he conceives of what he calls a pedagogy of the image. This pedagogy foregrounds a training of the eye by virtue of certain cinematic manners, or styles, that could be found developed by many post world war 2 directors. This pedagogy
I. a pedagogy of the image
Serge Daney traces a beautiful line in the history of cinema conceiving of what he will call a pedagogy of the image. According to Daney, before the second world-war the image was still in a regime of movement, of representation. This period was marked by images that invited spectators to see “behind the image”. (Deleuze 68) Each images linked to another image, construing a grand “beautifying organic whole”. (xx) It presented an “encyclopaedia of the world” that set out to register and represent the things of the world in a beautiful way.
It is of course difficult if not impossible to generalize such a long period and all the films that it contained ‘wholly’. This would also not be the purpose of such a periodiation, as would appear even in this time there would be directors that already grasped a new image, that would already experiment to move beyond the regime of representation (notably Welles and Renoir, but there were more, there is always more even when they are not registered in the annals of history.) What the period then brought together above all is a particular way of thinking, or a way that can be thought by saying it is a period. It is not that there was such a period as a whole, it is that by looking at the period such a regime can be thought. In other words, it presents the possibility for a conception of a movement-image, as Deleuze will call it. It will this conception that defines this period as much as the period defines the conception.
The cinema of Eisenstein (and even his office in Moscow) is most typical for this period of the image. Daney even calls Eisenstein’s library, the Cabinet of Doctor Eisenstein, the symbol of the great encyclopedia (in Deleuze 69). Eisenstein always sought for the organic whole, making the image pass from one to another in order to create a synthesis, a higher degree attained by juxtaposing conflicting images while retaining a harmonious whole. A gun shot, following a cow being slaughtered, following a fleeing people: Eisenstein mobilized a beauty (in juxtaposition) to raise the image to a next level, hoping to find there the shock of activation that would spur a revolutionary people.
But this period met its gruesome end during the war, precisely in reaching its peak in this sought elevation of the image and its organic whole. During the war the image would indeed mobilize the people, but not so much in the hoped for revolution that Eisenstein foresaw. It would culminate more so in the images of fascism, thriving on that organic whole making of politics an art (Benjamin ). Beauty became war and nature became death, while the image became that which condemns in being shot. Deleuze citing and completing Daney remarks that “’the great political mise en scene, state propaganda turning into tableaux vivants, the first mass human detentions’ realized cinema’s dream, in circumstances where horror penetrated everywhere, where ‘behind’ the image there was nothing to be seen but concentration camps, and the only remaining bodily link was torture.” (69)
After the second world-war a new period presents itself as experimentations with the image take place. These were experimentation born out of the need to see differently, which seemed the only thing left after the war had engulfed the whole of the image. “What is there to see on the surface of the image?” (Deleuze 69) The image would be resurrected but not upon new grounds, it would rather stay transient and fleeting, skimming the surface, omitting its getting caught in the same logic of ground and possible elevation. When the eye moved onto the image, it is no longer looking for what is behind it but it learns to rest on the image, feeling what it does. In thinking this the image radically changed. As Deleuze would say, Daney seems to be ‘in contact with the image, entering into the image’ (Deleuze 1995).
In this period the image would gain a new function according to Daney, namely a pedagogy of perception (xx). “How can we wonder what there is to see behind an image (or following on from it … ), when we can’t even see what is in it or on the surface until we look with our mind’s eye?” (70) Here the image is no longer secondary, merely a means to something else (always another image, another representation) but rather something in and of itself. An image does something, and this something doing always exceeds the otherwise presumed linkage to other images, to a whole. Daney in such conceives of a pedagogy of the image in properly thinking the image itself while seeing its aesthetic capacity for learning.
Daney conceives of the image in respect to what he calls the visual: “The distinction that I have made between the image and the visual is entirely pragmatical.” (Daney, 1999: 181) “I call "image," then, what still relies upon an experience of vision, and 'Visual" the optical verification of a procedure of power, whatever this may be (technological, political, advertising, military), a procedure which only requires, as sole commentary, a "receiving loud and clear." (1999: 181)
It does not concern ‘visibility’ as such, in what construes of the Euclidian space wherein we read what is ‘outside’ the frame, what lies behind it. There isn’t something else that makes this image possible, that makes one ‘able’ to see it. Daney is thinking the image in itself, not as something being seen, but as seeing itself. Hence he says “The condition sine qua non for there to be an image is, I think, alterity.” (1999: 182) Where in the earlier regime there was always something mediating (or what Daney likes to call “transmission”) between a spectator and an image, entering into a constellation of perpetual linkage, when the image itself becomes ‘seeing’ then it is also difference itself, or the difference differing, that which Daney calls “alterity.”
Daney’s conception of the image, fully pragmatical, resonates with what Godard famously said about the images he produces
Ce n'est pas une image juste, c'est juste une image", ce n'est pas seulement pour dire qu'il n'existe pas en soi d'image juste mais pas davantage pour dire que l'on doit se contenter de juste une image. Le but du film est d'interroger cette image, de la faire travailler, correspondre, voir avec d'autres pour produire de l'émotion. (Godard )
While it might sound diminishing, to create ‘just’ an image is perhaps one of the hardest things to do. Trapped within the immense amounts of striations, to free perception and perceive just an image is in actuality an impossible thing to think of. What makes an image just an image? How is it not trapped by the many chains of signification that always mean to reduce it again, to subjugate it to meaning and linkage and by that virtue to a whole? These become the questions that make the pedagogy of the image move, that give it its impetus in remaining in the image, on its surface searching for what else it can do.
Or let’s put it this way. What allows someone to make just an image? Is there not, consciously or unconsciously, some steering in terms of determination what should be shot and with that what that shot means? Responding to a journalist’s demand to justify the amount of violence in Pierrot Le Fou (1965), Godard insisted that there was no blood in his films, just the colour red. How could it ever be ‘just the colour red’ when, for instance, someone had just been shot? How does one shoot without having preconceived ideas determine the way the image should look while still retaining enough to make it specific, to compose to a style that draws a line, albeit an erring one perhaps, through the different shots? The ‘just’ all of a sudden becomes the most impossible thing.
At this point Daney’s it becomes quite clear why Deleuze took so much interest in Daney’s conception of a pedagogy of the image. For Daney will also say, in thinking an image in itself, “what can a body do? And what can that body do? I even think that this question is at the heart of every popular art’ (Daney 2002, 22). This is of course the famous adage of Spinoza, “what can a body do?” that Deleuze takes up to think affect as the pre-individual force that allows things to shape each other (xx). That is to say, thinking the image in such a manner is also to think immanence and to think immanently.
[mannerism as pedagogy]
What Daney, and Deleuze similarly, foregrounds in thinking an image in itself is what it does. This pragmatic question becomes a matter of the ‘how’: in what manner does it do what it does? This leads both Daney and Deleuze to take up the Baroque concept of mannerism, in that there is a manner in creating an image. Talking about Francis Ford Coppola’s film, Daney gives an apt description of what he sees as mannerism.
How can one define this mannerism? Nothing happens to human beings, everything happens to images - to Images. Images become characters with pathos, pawns in the game. We tremble for them, we want them to be kindly treated, they are no longer just produced by the camera, but manufactured outside it, and its "pre-visualization," thanks to video, is the object of what little love is left in the cold hearts (I am exaggerating) of the filmmakers. In a mannerist world, actors "of flesh, blood and celluloid" are quickly reduced to the status of stand-ins and quotations of themselves, to visual signals. They're still there, but they've ceased to be interesting ages ago.
While there is here already for Daney a foreshadowing of another period, another regime of the image to come (and one, for that matter, that, as can be tasted, callously appropriates the image for completely other purposes than what the pedagogy of the image brought fore) what matters now is the relation of the different pedagogies to mannerism. In the creations of just images, it is style, the manner of creation that has taken the foreground and thus the concern in regards to image production has shifted from, what was before, a representational regime that thrived on context and meaning, to an aesthetic regime that thrives on background and affections. Mannerism shifts the concern to, as Daney notes, the Image as things on themselves, as blocs of sensation Deleuze and Guattari would say (xx).
Through this mannerism it becomes possible to speak of particular pedagogies in respect to directors, e.g. a pedagogy of Godard, of Straub-Huillet, of Akerman, of Antonioni, etcetera. At the same time though, it should be noted that while Daney used the concept of mannerism for quite some time, he also abandoned it in the late 80’s. It would seem that Daney had pushed the concept to a limit, and could not keep on using it after. He writes at a certain point: “And what of the mannerists? They’re the ones who appended their signatures to the anamorphosed becoming of what the moderns had glimpsed. But before becoming a pure market effect, the personal "signature effect" in Melville or Leone cannot escape a degree of pain. A signature is like a detail which replaces the whole that it cannot forget. That’s what mannerism is.“ (xx) It is clear that mannerism and ‘style’ here become attached to a signature, and hence particularly to a director. This line inevitably makes mannerism prone to become a gimmick, or become a trait that gets taken up in the larger capitalist flows as selling points to that specific director. Daney’s abandonment of the concept should be understood from this perspective. This also emphasises a difference that would occur when Deleuze takes up the same concepts, but never ties it into the function of proper naming, perhaps a remnant of auteur cinema in Daney. For Deleuze on the other hand, and this cuts into why we would say there is a need for a radical pedagogy of the image, these mannerisms are simply resonating with conceptual personae, which the directors become in Deleuze’s pedagogy of the concept.
To get an idea of what such a pedagogy of the image infused with mannerism does, it is good to look at a few examples (in part developed by Daney, in part by Deleuze, supplement at times.) Obviously, for each there is a lot more to say as a pedagogy never comprises the whole of a directors work; it is also not its purpose to do so. Unfolding from the singular images they manage to create, a pedagogy becomes a matter of learning in itself.
“the manner in which [the materials] are brought together.” (Deleuze Bacon 34-5) In mannerism we can speak of events emerging through processes concerning that composition: thus, for instance, a cinematic process, or a painting process.
“Godard’s experiments are motivated by this precept. Godard’s work, moreover, for Daney constructs what he identifies as the mise-en-scene of pedagogical repetition (90).” A pedagogy that can be found in Godard in this sense is that of the “irrational cut.” Godard is interested in linkages, but not in the conventional ‘organic’ way. Rather
“In Godardian pedagogy there is something that the cinema - especially the cinema - cannot tolerate: talking to the air.” (Daney xx) Godard’s pedagogy becomes one of the “disjunctive” where things are always a response to what came before, but something else.
Making the disjunctive into a pedagogy, Godard foregrounds what Deleuze will call “irrational connections”
“School is preeminently the place where it is possible, permitted and even recommended to mix up words and things - not wanting to know what links them, putting off until later the moment when one must go examine more closely what corresponds to what one has been taught.” (Daney)
“His approach is the most anti-archeological there is. It consists of taking note of what is said (to which one can add nothing) and then looking immediately for the other statement, the other image which would counterbalance this statement, this sound, this image.”