On Thursday, Oct. 14, the Chicago Film Seminar convened at the SAIC for its first regular meeting of the year (following the September roundtable discussion that kicked off this year’s programs). Christian Quendler of the University of Innsbruck, currently a visiting scholar at Northwestern University, delivered a talk entitled “Camera Eye and Dispositif: Descartes vs. Vertov,” from a longer essay-in-progress. Yuri Tsivian from the University of Chicago provided the response.
Quendler’s talk brought together the philosophical implications of a pre-cinematic notion of the camera eye rooted in Descartes’ philosophy of subject and Vertov’s notion of the kino-eye. Following Joachim Paech’s writings on Deleuze, Quendler posited a nuanced gradation of the medial aspects of dispositif by adding the rhetorical notion of the disposition and the psychological category of disposition to the discussion. Using Descartes’ and Vertov’s competing models of camera eye, Quendler mapped out the interrelations between media, discourse and senses. The dispositif refers to a space of interaction and communication between subject and object that is organized by media assemblies where things become visible and virtually available to be identified discursively. The disposition refers to an intentional ordering of things in discourse in order to achieve a certain persuasive effect, or the logic or grammar that structures an argument. Disposition may be considered as a virtual system of knowledge in contrast to the actual manifestations of knowledge. As a triad, these concepts structure the intervening spaces where intentionality as the flow between subject and object is refracted.
In his discussion of Vertov, Quendler noted that writings on the kino-eye illustrate the state of in-betweenness attributed to the dispositive. It blends subject and object as well as being and praxis. The paramount goal of the kino-eye is kinesthetic resolution, which can be correlated to Descartes’ notion “seeing better”. However, while Descartes’ imperative is geared towards ascertaining an autonomous object, Vertov’s resolution is best described as the visceral effect that result from calibrating technology to the chaos of life. In a Deleuzian sense, Quendler asserted, the kino-eye represents a threshold where different kinds of discourse break and discourse. Vertov’s kino-eye aligns with a highly heterogeneous discourse regime, which raises the question of the discursive order. Quendler views Vertov’s kino-eye as a model of camera vision that places an emphasis on “seeing more.” In contrast to Descartes, the visceral appeal of the kino-eye conceives of a linkage between camera and eye as “internal organs.” In its experimental alignment of medial and dispositional structures, the kino-eye generates a discursive order that is radically at odds with Descartes’ method of discourse and classical notions of subjectivity.