Spatial Montage, Spatial Imaging, and the Archeology of Windows: a Responce to Marc Lafia

Lev Manovich
[September 1, 2002]

Spatial Montage, Spatial Imaging, and the Arheology of Windows:
a Responce to Marc Lafia

1. Montage vs. Co-Presence.

My apologies for responding to Marc's exellent text so late - however, now
that some of you had a chance to visit Documeta 11 and to see the works he
discusses, this maybe a good moment to pick up the thread. (For those who
will not be going to Documenta, note that the Documenta installations of
Isaac Julian and Eija-Lisa Ahtila would be also included in ZKM's Cinema
Future exhibition which opens on November 15.)

I think that Marc's observations arevery perceptive and that his overall
paradigm of "the spatialization of the image" is a productive way to start
thinking about various recent practices of a time-based (and now,
"space-based" as well) moving image. I agree with Marc that "new spatial
cinema or spatial imaging" often bypasses the logic of montage (i.e.,
juxtaposition as the source of meaning and effect) in favor of other logics
- which Marc started to map out.

Yet I also think that Marc's proposal that "the whole concept and project of
montage or cinema as the place from which to speak of these new
forms, new regimes of image is wholly inadequate and a looking at the moment
in a backwards fashion" is being underminded by his own examples. He does
admit that some of the key practioners of "spatial cinema" - Sherin Neshat,
Eija-Lisa Ahtila, and Isaac Julian - all rely on the cinematic montage. And
while I agree with Marc that a number of other "spatial imaging"
installations included in the Documenta 11, or show elsewhere, do not
operate within the cinematic montage paradigm (works by Chantal Ackerman,
Lorna Simpson, Fiona Tan, Bruce Nauman at DIA), I still think that the
montage paradigm can be a useful starting point to understand how these
works function diffirently.

Eloborating what the new paradigms of spatial image are would require at
least a few articles but let me very briefly comment on one of these
paradigms. Marc writes: "the distribution of images spatially complicates
the intensity of such [montage] strategies and grammars as they are deployed
in parallel. A parallel that at times is not necessarily juxtaposition, and
may be even be thought of as a-parallel." I have the same feeling that many
"spatial imaging" works also do not rely on juxtaposition. The terms I would
use to talk about their logic is "co-existience," and "simultaneity."
Documenta installations of Lorna Simpson and Chantal Ackerman, as well as
Doug Aitkens's "Electric Earth," work not by juxtaposing images but by
adding them next to each other. In contrast to montage, where juxtaposition
of images is used to built one single whole narrative world, in these works
diffirent times and/or spaces presented in diffirent images simply co-exist.
They do not "talk" to each other as in cinematic montage - instead they
simply ignore each other. There is no single space and time they add up to.
In rhetorical terms, this is the logic of metonomy.

In "The Language of New Media" I used the quote from Foucault' lecture "OOf
Other Spaces" as a justification for the approprietness of spatial montage
today - but I now think that this quote better describes this new sense of
"co-existence" (or