The Fall of the House of Usher film clip


Epstein quote:

“I would describe as photogenic any aspect of things, beings, or souls whose moral character is enhanced by filmic reproduction. And any aspect not enhanced by filmic reproduction is not photogenic, plays no part in the art of cinema […] I now specify: only mobile aspects of the world, of things and souls, may see their moral value increased by filmic reproduction.” (Epstein 1923, p314)


 The French original implies something closer to ‘metaphysical’ rather than ‘moral’ in the above quote.

Poe and Epstein both place weather, landscape, mood, emotion and vagueness of emotions ahead of narrative markers of plot logic, place, and temporality. Both centre their narratives on the interconnection of sight and knowledge, and its relation to power. The narrator is sceptical and frequently doubting of what he sees. Epstein adds to this a dusty eyeglass and ear horn to further emphasis a deficiency in regard to the human beings ability to perceive the ontological world. In contrast, Roderick Usher possesses unexplained qualities of sensitivity that seem to be affected by and affecting of the environment around him, both temporally and spatially. Part of Roderick’s enhanced sensitivity is his ability to imbue his artwork, the portrait of his sister Madeline, with life. It needs to be noted that it is through an obsession with looking, iterated by Epstein’s constant return to Roderick’s gaze, that this sensitivity and ability manifests itself.

Roderick’s line of sight is a motif, constantly returned to and interrogated. The object of the gaze oscillates between objects, their interactions with the environment (space and time) and Madeline’s portrait.

It can be seen that Epstein is articulating the limits of knowledge and perception by framing and presenting his characters and their points of view in fragments. People, objects, locations and the relations between are all obscured by unstable editing transitions. Spatial relationships are not clarified. This is perhaps one of Epstein’s most visible authorial signatures. Close-ups are imbued with meaning and mysticism and wide shots speak to a more mundane reality.

Not only are spatial relationships distorted, but temporal relations as well. Books fall from the shelf, the drapes are blown by the wind, and the inner workings of the grandfather clock tick and note time all in slow motion as once again the environment subsumes any ability the characters have to rationalize or apply reason to the events that take place in the house. Inanimate objects have somehow taken on an inexplicable agency within the narrative. They are imbued with meaning and significance.

How does this visual palette reflect or articulate the tenet’s of Epstein’s ideals: photogenie as a film and aesthetic system? The first thing to decipher is the experimental nature of the film. Every shot is another camera experiment; another exploration of space and time. The narrative is woven together by hundreds of fragments. There are no long takes, though there are elongated moments. Meaning is hard to pin down, yet feelings and moods are overwhelming.


Author’s Preface:

Deleuze describes Bacon’s painting as violent – his painting is of a very special kind of violence. This violence is not ementaing from the subject matter of his paintings: spectacles of horror, crucifixions, prostheses and mutilations. Violence is correlated with colour and line – and described as a sensation. Maybe a texture of violence is an appropriate rewording. Sensation over representation: ‘a static or potential violence, a violence of reaction and expression’. This aesthetic outline appeals to me as it is a step away from the singular dimension of representation and identity politics. Deleuze is establishing a discussion with parameters set outside the norm of linguistic deconstruction and image analysis.

Bacon’s paintings are a ‘relationship not of form and matter, but of materials and forces.’ There is a foreboding of these invisible forces. This language reminds of a childhood nightmare I had: a recurring nightmare in which I would stand at the bottom of a large, spiral staircase in terror, fearful of what was at the top of the stairs. Voices would emerge from a multitude of directions, from adjacent rooms and hallways and I would be compelled to wander up the stairs almost against my will and the terror and fear would exponentially exaggerate until I woke up. In this nightmare was a forebording of the invisible and a force of inertia that carried me up the stairs. Deleuze describes a force of inertia in Bacon’s paintings. The figures and and the bodies are being carried somewhere – the flesh hangs and is shaken from the body. Bacon’s art is an art of materials and forces. It makes unseen forces visible. THere is a concern with time – or a temporal element built into the images. Movement contrasts with stasis. Things fall, stretch, are pulled and pushed. Movement is an affect – something that happens to an immobile body. Deleuze points out here that the violence is tied up therefore wit ha sense of pity and pathos. Flesh and the movement of flesh (decay / violence) is an essential life element.

“The entire body becomes plexus”

1a network of anastomosing or interlacing blood vessels or nerves
2an interwoven combination of parts or elements in a structure or system


The next element of Bacon’s aesthetic for discussion is colour. Bacon’s fields of colour are without depth or consist only of shallow depth. The figure detaches itself from the colour field – the figure ‘executes .. taunting acrobatics’. These two pictorial elements draw life from one another – they are not indifferent. Colour is related to many different systems in Bacon’s work. It corresponds to the figure/flesh and to the colour field/section. Deleuze cites Cezanne and describes two problems of painting: “how, on the one hand, to preserve the homogeneity or unity of the background as though it were a perpendicular armature for chromatic progression, while on the other hand also preserving the specificity or singularity of a form in perpetual variation?” This set of problems needs some unpacking.

Armature an organ or structure (such as teeth or thorns) for offense or defense

The first problem is a problem of painting realism: the background must appear as unified as human visual perception of the world unified (is coherent – the spectre of colours are all relatable). However, the world (both in reality and in perception) is perpetually varied. To depict the figure/form, this variation needs to be built in to the colour and composition. The second problem is a problem of painting flesh. For the first problem, Bacon took the path of not representing life through variations in hue, but rather through subtle shifts in intensity or saturation determined by zones of proximity. These zones are induced by sections of fields of colour. The problem of painting flesh is resolved by producing broken tones; ‘as though baked in a furnace and flayed by fire.’

Bacon’s genius according to Deleuze lies in the coexistence of these two aspects:

“… a brilliant pure tone for the large fields, coupled with a program of intensification; broken tones for the flesh, coupled with a procedure of rupturing or ‘fire blasting,’ a critical mixture of complementaries.”

Deleuze next introduces the importance of the triptych. The triptych typically presents three distinct sections that negate any narrative that would establish itself amongst them. For Bacon, the sections are simultaneously linked by a unifying distribution (distribution of colour and field?) that makes them interrelate in a way that is free of any symbolic undercurrent. It is important to note that according to Deleuze Bacon is not a symbolist, expressionist, realist or a cubist – he fits no genre. All that we need going forward is to understand that Bacon has broken with figuartion by elevating the Figure to prominence.

The following blog posts on this topic will seek to understand Deleuze’s ideas on Bacon. I will be looking for ways in which these ideas might intersect with my broader research around photogenie.



notes from a lecture

February 28, 2018 — Leave a comment

Irit Rogoff

Professor of Visual Cultures – Goldsmiths; University of London


research website

Professor Rogoff proposes that we need to move toward a new understanding of the research term. What is a research term? Rather than setting a question in advance through which research is guided she proposes a state of being as a researcher that is permanent: a state of working and questioning. This is a shift from basing all research knowledge gains on inherited knowledge and toward what she describes as ‘working from conditions’. This is not about focussing on ‘conditions’ themselves, but working ‘from’ conditions. I take this to mean engaging in the totality of your life and existence and allowing your pursuit in research interests to eb and flow into and out of life conditions: a continuum from life to research to life. I feel that there is a connection between my research focus, photogenie, and this sentiment. I describe photogenie as a quest to discover images and moments that resonate (sensation) and offer new insights and knowledge about existence (revelation). It is the ‘quest’ aspect that I think relates to Rogoff.

Interestingly Rogoff proposes this as a response and antithesis to the nihilism and dead ends of identity politics. She places emphasis on emergent (emerging) independent and individual subjectivities. She calls this a ‘re-singularisation’. Personally I can relate to this. As an artist I never seek to align myself with anybody or any collective based on my immutable characteristics – whiteness, maleness, 30 – year old-ness, tattoo-ed-ness,  – nor for that matter do I align with political or social interests. Rogoff asked: ‘how do these subjectivities collect together in a moment?’. I believe this to be the right question. I’ve always found it more interesting to relate to a person or another artist or collaborator, or anyone I might meet on a film set, in terms of that person as a unique and interesting individual. What happens when we talk as two unique and interesting individuals without the forced assumptions (identity based, or politically based) imposed by the terms of the collective in which we are operating? I think that openness and open-mindedness (and mind-full-ness) are more powerful than aligning power to identities.

… from an investigative impulse to the constitution of new realities …

The influence of Thomas Kuhn … 

I liked her comment that artistic research is an alternative entry point into significant problems. Granting ourselves permission is an important tenet of artistic expression. What facet of my being needs to be activated – what aspect of my condition is vying for articulation in  reality?



images from a work in production

title: I Work for the Devil

In these images I am playing around with different colour tones and editing choices. I am building an aesthetic to carry through the rest of production.



Directed by Arthur Angel

Produced by Jim Thompson

Written by Arthur Angel and Jim Thompson



2017-02-15 13.55.38-1

I will be transforming the purpose of this blog from notes and quotes and thoughts on theory to my artistic practice and methodology blog. It is now officially my PhD blog .. more on that later.