- Jun 25, 2015
Three classes by Professor Peter Szendy, of Paris West University Nanterre La Défense, were held from 1-3 June. The theme of the lectures was "The underside of images: proposals for an 'iconomy'". "Iconomy" is coined from a combination of icon (image) and economy, the flood of images in present-day society being likened here to money. The lectures developed their arguments in reference to several texts by Gilles Deleuze, Walter Benjamin, and Marie-José Mondzain, as well as footage by Robert Bresson and Brian De Palma.
"Money is the underside of all the images that cinema shows and sets in place, so that films about money are already, if implicitly, films within the film, or about the film.'' (Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2, The time image, Minuit, 1985, p. 104). The class began with consideration of this quote from Gilles Deleuze's Cinema 2, and continued to be steered by it throughout. If a sheet of paper is a film image on its upper side, then the underside of it is money. (Implying, films cost money). Following in this strain, in the case of films about money, the side of the film image is folded inwards and the money side shows outwards: this enables us "to see the underside of the image".
We were shown various film images to illustrate this. I will introduce two scenes from among them that made a lasting impression upon me. The first was one scene from "The Sopranos" (HBO). Mother and son are in the kitchen; the son, Tony, having avenged his father's death, stands in front of the refridgerator with a banknote in his hand, while the mother sits looking at her deceased husband's photograph. There are many bits of text and pictures stuck to the fridge door with magnets; over one of these, "One day at a time", he places the banknote so that only "time" is visible. This scene suggests that "Time is money": that the son's actions imply money, namely time. Just then the mother turns over the photograph frame on the table, hinting at "seeing the underside of the image". On the underside of this image is time.
The second was one scene from "Pickpocket" (Bresson). The is staged inside a train just about to depart from Paris-Gare de Lyon. A gang of pickpockets uses smooth techniques to steal valuables undetected by the people on the train. In this scene, the passing round of a stolen purse between the gang members suggests money going round - money only has worth when in circulation. It is the same with film images. Furthermore, here, the stealing of a watch in fact signifies the stealing of time. Thus, in films about money, the underside of the image of visible, yet obscure money reveals the invisible, yet clear object of time.
In this way, the three days of lectures made a spectacular exposition of the difficult "time image" as advocated by Deleuze.