The Film 3_ErasFebruary 26, 2018
This is one of several articles commissioned for and published in conjunction with the 2018 Seminario Fundación Cisneros, Disruptions: Dilemmas Regarding the Image in Contemporaneity.
Las tres eras de la imagen (Akal, 2010), the last work by Spanish philosopher José Luis Brea, is divided into three phases—the image-matter, the film and the electronic-image or e-image—and analyzes how different technical formats foster different models of production, distribution, and reception of images, as well as their cognitive potential.
The result of this deep and concrete reflection was a unique essay on the panorama of Spanish thought and Brea’s last book published before his death. What stands out most is that, until now, there has been no “history of the image” that approaches it from a theoretical-critical perspective, or that looks at how the narratives that regulate its symbolic forces are organized within it.
In this sense, the essay constitutes a unique study, as much for its object—the image in its different forms and manifestations, without the distinction of eras, technical formats or genres of practice—as for its method, which is neither that of art history nor of pure aesthetic theory, but one in which José Luis Brea crosses theoretical analysis with cultural criticism, anthropology of the image and studies of visual culture, and which comes to fill that enormous vacuum.
The film 3_Eras, which I began to work on with Brea and which I finished with the help of Roberto Riquelme, aspires to offer a version of that analysis of images from the images themselves, relating symbolic potential to technical forms from the point of view of contemporary critical theory. It is also a kind of “elucidating” exercise that intends to reflect on the technical and theoretical conditions of the images, which are the subject and object of the work itself. In the daring proposal of Brea’s essay, this exercise happens not only in the study of content but beyond that, in work that attempts to widen, expand and dislocate writing through the genre of the film essay.
Just as in the book itself, the proposal is divided into the three phases of said history: the image-matter, the film and the electronic-image or e-image. This is intended to examine and discuss how different technical formats favor models of production, distribution and reception in our world today—how each of these better channels a certain kind of symbolic and narrative content, and also how each of these channels a form of knowledge.
The “three eras” offer a certain history of the image that tries to differentiate the way in which the scopic episteme is constructed in each phase by looking at the technical features that characterize the image in the period determined—in other words, the way in which technical novelty is related to a complete mutation of our experience of the imagery, and additionally how this relates to the symbolic function that the production of this imagery will fulfill, according to the specific technical mode in which the images come to be. This is to analyze (as Walter Benjamin did) the history of the image and its development with particular attention to the role placed by the techniques of production and reproduction.
Brea faces the rupture among the eras, analyzing the current regime in particular, as well as its next formation. That is to say, he approaches that which is current and that which is next, diagonally, via history. In this case he describes a present in which the technical innovation that defines it is, on one hand, already completely given, but is, on the other hand, one in which it is still necessary to ask what the forms of transformation are that we must demand of the practices of symbolic production, as well as of those of theory, corresponding to this new technical condition.
This work has been pioneering not only within visual studies in Spanish, but within a tradition of cultural studies and of criticism in Spanish, given that one of Brea’s theses is that, currently, critical potential can not reside in artistic practice, due in part to its interest in maintaining a certain regime of beliefs. From there, what is of interest in this work has been to investigate and reflect on where and how art’s critical potential could recover strength and meaning within the technical conditions that are expressed in the image-movement and in writing, from there initiating a dialogue; that is to say, a reflective interweaving that does not exhaust itself, but on the contrary, one that continues to enrich itself and unfold.
Directed by: María Virginia Jaua and Roberto Riquelme
With the participation of José Luis Brea, Jean Luc-Nancy and Jacques Rancière
Voiceover: Santiago Auserón
Camera: Safaa Fathy and E. Pastrana
Duration: 24 min