Missed Encounters: Film Theory and Expanded Cinema – Bruno Lessard

Abstract: This article examines the intriguing treatment of expanded cinema in two seminal texts in film theory: Stephen Heath’s Questions of Cinema and Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 2: The Time-Image. I argue that expanded forms of cinema such as the split screen and its related forms of spectatorship represent a technological double of classical Hollywood cinema that functioned as a ghostly presence until the late 1960s. Thereafter, the prospect of a “future cinema” opened the door to notions of expanded space and indeterminate forms of spectatorship that dovetailed uneasily with the 1970s theorization of the cinematic apparatus. Heath’s invocation of “other cinemas” and Deleuze’s recourse to “electronic images” indicate a concern for expanded cinema that would ultimately point to unresolved tensions pertaining to the future of moving image productions in terms of ideological determinations, narrative continuity, spectatorial agency, and social relevance.

The study of moving image installations within film studies is still in its infancy, even though we can return to the 1890s and Raoul Grimoin-Sanson’s Cinéorama, first installed at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, to locate the first signs of a desire to expand cinema spatially and technologically. The quasi-absence of discussions of moving image installations in film studies leads us to concentrate on the late 1960s and the 1970s as a key period during which a number of developments in film theory implicitly countered (or simply ignored) what artists were doing with the notion of expanded cinema, also referred to as future cinema, post-cinema, film and video installations, and moving image environments.[1] Ultimately, one notices highly artificial disciplinary walls being erected between artistic phenomena, even though mainstream cinema and gallery cinema belong to the same archeology of moving image productions that harks back to the panorama. No doubt the institutionalization of film studies certainly contributed to the creation of a canon and therefore the exclusion of some works. However, this does not fully explain the exclusion of moving image installations or the reasons that justify it.[2]

Of course, a number of factors can help to explain the relegation of expanded screens to art historical matters: the influence of minimalism and post-minimalist trends; the impact of Fluxus happenings and performance art in general; the phenomenological experience provided by the gallery space; the rise of installation art; and the increasing importance of video art and technology. These influences certainly point to some of the reasons that pushed moving image installations over the side of art history. Yet I cannot help but feel that there are elective affinities between the cinematic apparatus and the moving image installation that do not solidify but in fact blur traditional institutional boundaries.

Ever since Abel Gance’s 1920s experimentations with the notion of “polyvision” and multi-screen projection for his 1927 Napoléon,[3] the expanded screen has functioned as a technological double of classical Hollywood cinema, pointing to an “expanded cinema” that art galleries and museums around the world have exhibited to an unprecedented degree since the 1970s. In this article I am particularly interested in the missed encounter between film theory and expanded forms of cinema.[4] My central claim is that expanded forms of cinema such as the split screen and its related forms of spectatorship represent a double of cinema that functioned as a ghostly presence until the late 1960s.[5] Thereafter, the prospect of a future cinema opened the door to notions of expanded space and indeterminate forms of spectatorship that dovetailed intriguingly with the 1970s theorization of the cinematic apparatus.

To circumscribe cinema’s “others” and their invisible journey in film theory, I first turn to 1970s apparatus theory and its fundamental notion of ideological determination to account for the manner in which late 1960s and 1970s split-screen experimentations function as ghostlike traces in the work of Stephen Heath. To be more precise, Heath’s concept of determination, as it relates to the cinematic apparatus, is a divided concept that is haunted by both the specter of cinematic indetermination (and the challenging forms of spectatorship it entails) and Gene Youngblood’s concept of expanded cinema. Heath’s discussion of the cinematic apparatus opens, paradoxically one might add, onto a relational concept of spectatorship that sits uneasily with the ideological determinations of the apparatus he aims to put forward.

Having shown how apparatus theory’s emphasis on determination in fact intriguingly reveals a concern for indetermination and what Heath terms “other cinemas,” I then turn to another milestone in film theory: Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1989). Drawing on pages that have gone largely unexamined for more than two decades, I examine the philosopher’s tentative yet highly prescient concept of what could potentially be termed a “space-image” that deals with what he calls “electronic images.” Here, Deleuze reveals not only a type of image that departs from the time-images he deftly discusses throughout, but also one that creates a rift whereby time ceases to be the crucial concept to make sense of post-1945 cinema.

In discussions of Deleuze and future cinema, at least to my knowledge, few have returned to the concluding chapter in Cinema 2[6] , a conclusion that not only sums up the arguments set forth in more than 500 pages of film theory but also engages with the future of cinema given the increasing presence of “electronic images.” Attending to Deleuze’s conclusion and its discussion of electronic images allows one to address indeterminate forms of spectatorship as evolving states of becoming – more ontogenesis than ontology, more about observing the genesis of a process, person, or technology than presuming its completion – that open up unexpected intervals between time-images and electronic images or between cinema screens and expanded screens. However, the manner in which these intervals are framed and closed off ultimately discloses Deleuze’s ambiguous orientation toward spectatorship in the context of “new” media.

Stephen Heath’s “Other Cinemas”

Historicizing certain claims by grounding them in a history of media materiality could not be more appropriate to counter the often overly enthusiastic scenarios that accompany discussions of future cinema. Such discussions often risk obliterating the present and create narratives that are not based on current technologies but on the wildest fantasies of some observers. One such observer is Youngblood, whose pioneering book, Expanded Cinema (1970, 419), famously closes on the following note: “Through the art and technology of expanded cinema we shall create heaven right here on earth.” His book has the merit of having paved the way for sustained studies of expanded cinema, and it draws our attention to the combination of artistic intention and technological advancement to configure what the future may have held not only for film spectators in general but also for the entire human race. However, one cannot help but feel that the previous quotation is tainted by media determinism, the consequence of which is for technology to assume quasi-human agency. The writings of apparatus theorists offer a more nuanced account of what it means to confront visual media, social forces, and ideological determinations in examining the deployment of technology, its socio-historical sources, and its possible directions.

During the 1970s, Heath published several essays that sought to define the art of cinema in a way that would take into account the ideological determinations of the apparatus[7] . Most interestingly, Heath rejects a concept of determination that would be a half-baked rendering of Louis Althusser’s writings. He clarifies his theoretical agenda: “Analysis will be concerned not with determinations in this mechanistic sense but with contradictions, it being in the movement of these contradictions that can be grasped the set of determinations – the ‘structural causality’ – focused by a particular social fact, institution or work” (Althusser 1981, 6-7). Focusing on a “set of determinations,” Heath implicitly draws nearer to theorizing the interplay between determinations, for a set can be depicted as a series of determinations or determinations in indeterminate order. Either of which points to the impact on or aggregate nature of determinations in the first place. The study of ideology, the role of cinema in a capitalist society, and the material history of the cinematic apparatus seemed very promising precisely because they opened the door to other analytical grids that were not openly determined.

In his essay “The Cinematic Apparatus,” Heath confronts the issue of causality and the apparatus itself. Referring to an unnamed expanded cinema – or future cinema –, Heath targets Youngblood and derides the closing sentence of Expanded Cinema by zeroing in on the way in which this book pays scant attention to ideological determinations: “The posing of the problem of determination is crucial to the understanding given in the constructed history. Technological determinism substitutes for the social, the economic, the ideological, proposes the random autonomy of invention and development, coupled often with the vision of a fulfilment of an abstract human essence” (Heath 1981, 226; emphasis mine). It is here that Heath makes a judicious move: he claims the solution is not to overturn the opposition between technological determinism and social determinism but to construct another way of thinking: “the process is that of a relation of the technical and the social as cinema[8] (original emphasis). Therefore, cinema would be not only the art of projecting images, but it would also reveal another way of thinking and constructing history, subjectivity, and the factors that shape them. It is another thought process, a cinematic subjectivity and historicity dare I say, and not another mere subject under ideological control, which we should envision. As Heath concedes in the last sentence of his collection: “the questions of cinema envisaged here must be taken, followed through, posed for the work towards other cinemas, new films” (244; emphasis mine).

What I find most compelling in Heath’s work is that he problematizes, more than Jean-Louis Baudry does, the recourse to Plato’s cave and the emergence of perspective as a central question in art history, but only to the extent that these precursors pose problems to our understanding of cinema and its ideological determinations.[9] Contrary to Baudry’s way of describing influence and repetition, Heath prefers to question the apparatus instead of aligning it with its supposed precursors or possible futures. The main issue for apparatus theorists is to account for the ideological and material determination of an apparatus whose immediacy and impression of reality seem to have separated it from the physical world. Therefore, Heath suggests, the study of materiality cannot resort to facile explanatory schemas: “Firstly, it must be seen that the notion of determination which has proved – or been made to prove – such a stumbling block for ideological analysis cannot be conceived of as a problem in cause-and-effect with its answer an explanation from an absolute point of origin” (1981, 6).

On Heath’s account, cinematic narrative space is an indeterminate locus in which “space will be difficult” (1981, 32). Apparatus theory turns into the study of kinetics: its possibility and the factors that would accentuate it or deny it. As Heath argues: “Cinema is not simply and specifically ideological ‘in itself’; but it is developed in the context of concrete and specific ideological determinations which inform as well the ‘technical’ as the ‘commercial’ or ‘artistic’ sides of that development” (33). The study of cinema metamorphoses into the study of what would determine it not in a simple cause-and-effect way but in terms of coexisting determinations that may culminate in patterns of indetermination. The notion of film spectatorship would eventually problematize Heath’s initial concept of determination.

According to D.N. Rodowick’s (1988) study of apparatus theory, Heath’s privileging of the spectator over the film text constitutes one of the major turning points in 1970s film theory. Contrary to semiotic approaches that focused on the cinematic text, or Marxist approaches that explored the ideological nature of the cinematic text, Rodowick maintains, Heath sought to define modalities of address or forms of spectatorship. This does not imply that he excluded either semiotic or Marxist theories, but that he looked at those from the perspective of their relations to spectators by way of the filmic work. By reconceptualizing approaches to film, Heath questioned causality – the various determinations characteristic of cinema – by reinstating another type of determination that would eventually open the door to indetermination in other types of cinema. For example, Heath’s overturning of the then prevalent opposition “film / spectator” in order to focus on the multifaceted relations at the heart of spectatorship challenges determination insofar as it does not correlate a one-way influence of film on spectator. Continuity, narrative, ideology, and realism still play crucial roles in determining the cinema effect, but they do so precisely because they join forces in an indeterminate fashion in the spectatorial address. Therefore, Heath reconsiders determination as potential indetermination and unwittingly points to the indeterminate patterns of spectatorship that would later be at the heart of current theorizations of spectatorship in the context of multi-channel installations.

Such emphasis on indetermination in the study of cinema could lead to the possibility of envisaging a new type of causality. At the heart of any approach to causality lies an implicit theory of relation that governs the terms that form the relation. Or is it the relation that gives shape to the terms? Near the end of his essay “Narrative Space,” Heath uses a quotation from Maurice Merleau-Ponty as a stepping board to introduce his concept of relation. In his essay on cinema and psychology, Merleau-Ponty points out “the aspect of the world would be transformed if we succeeded in seeing as things the intervals between things” (qt. in Heath 1981, 62; original emphasis). Heath goes on to claim: “The [Merleau-Ponty’s] formulation can now be recast: the relations of the subject set by film – its vision, its address – would be radically transformed if the intervals of its production were opened in their negativity, if the fictions of the closure of those intervals were discontinued, found in all the contradictions of their activity” (62-3). Instead of a film theory that implicitly posits the identity of the terms with which it is concerned, couldn’t we conceive of a situation or visual environment – an apparatus – that would constitute both spectators and film in still forming, coextensive terms? Instead of identity, why not emphasize difference, a difference based on emerging intervals?

According to Heath, we should come to an understanding of cinema as a process, as a relation. This relation would in fact join together technology, ideology, and history to account for what we call “cinema.” As Heath (1981, 227) describes it:

Cinema does not exist in the technological and then become this or that practice in the social; its history is a history of the technological and social together, a history in which the determinations are not simple but multiple, interacting, in which the ideological is there from the start – without this latter emphasis reducing the technological to the ideological or making it uniquely the term of an ideological determination.

Yet one feels that Heath does not completely think through the problems of theorizing spectatorship, relational movement, and transformation in cinematic productions precisely because he short-circuits his promising agenda by over-determining it with psychoanalytically influenced concepts such as suture and identification, thereby returning to the either/or position of semiotics and psychoanalysis. Even the combination of these two approaches, in the work of Julia Kristeva, for instance, does not seem radical enough to open an interval – an alternate sphere – in which indetermination would allow the possibility of truly unexpected relations between film, spectator, and the ideological imperatives that may pressure them.

The problem here is not the critic’s way of conceiving of things – in fact, Heath is radically ahead of his times in emphasizing relation and intervals in the study of cinema – but that in order to frame these intervals he resorts to Freudian/Lacanian psychoanalysis which will if not overdetermine then greatly determine any new insight that may come from the assemblage of film and spectator.[10] Therefore, I would disagree with Rodowick when he says that Heath’s recourse to Freudian theory leads him into an “interesting direction” (1988, 200). After all, how can one of the most constrictive of theoretical models, that is, psychoanalytic criticism, be helpful to open up intervals and establish unforeseen relations? How is it different from any cultural or theoretical perspective (e.g., Althusserian interpellation or semiotic models) that proposes fixed answers to multifaceted problems? If the intention is to question causality and determination in film interpretation and spectatorship, won’t psychoanalytical concepts pressure the creation of new concepts intended to shed light on new technological and social phenomena? The point here is not to question psychoanalytic approaches to film; rather, the goal is to target the regimes of determination that haunt 1970s film criticism and show how their reliance on pre-established models impinges on the questioning of causality.

The problem for Heath seems to be twofold: on the one hand, he set out to criticize the dominant orientations in 1940s and 1950s film criticism and offered a more complex theoretical system than is usually associated with “apparatus theory”; on the other hand, the recourse to psychoanalysis gradually undermined his project of fashioning a theory of indeterminate film spectatorship. Second, he had a vision of other apparatuses, other cinemas, that he did not explore explicitly, even though the video and split-screen installations of the era would have greatly helped him theorize another apparatus and another way of conceiving of the 1970s cultural and media production of subjectivity and spectatorship. Questions of Cinema gives the impression of possessing the correct theoretical insight, namely, the emphasis on indeterminate intervals between spectator and film, but the incorrect object of study. Discussing the Hollywood cinematic apparatus, Heath resorts to some of his colleagues’ writings, critical efforts that draw extensively on Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis. However, when he meditates on metacritical efforts to redirect film theory, Heath ultimately ends up questioning classical cinema as though it were an inappropriate object of study for the kind of analysis he has in mind and turns to uncharacterised “other cinemas, new films” that future critics will have to locate.


There is the possibility that apparatus theory could have been different or even transformational in its characterization of determination. The combination of ideological determinations and cinematic experiments in visual perception could have generated different theoretical models than those based on psychoanalysis, given that split-screen installations challenged both mainstream cinema and film studies. One wonders what apparatus theorists must have thought of the split-screen work of Andy Warhol, the cinematic dome of Stan VanDerBeek, and the double-sided screen of Michael Snow.[11] Most importantly, attending to such ex-centric forms of visual experimentation could have generated other media archaeologies and other theorizations of film spectatorship.

For example, VanDerBeek’s dome, Movie-Drome, makes us reflect on the apparatuses that antedate contemporary 360-degree panoramic and immersive environments such as those of Jeffrey Shaw. A thirty-one-foot high dome metal dome structure, VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome consisted of over a dozen projectors for 16mm film and slides that covered the dome. The projected images would range from portraits of politicians to news clippings, photographs, and ads. Projected on the seamless surface of the dome, the images “demanded a spatially and temporally unique audience not yet addressed by conventional cinematic forms” (Sutton 2003, 138). Doing away with narrative expectations and the spatial boundaries characteristic of the film screen, VanDerBeek sought to shape a new form of post-cinematic apparatus that would decentre the visual experience: “The source of the sounds and lights was not centralized, and did not privilege a certain reading of the body or organization of the space: there was no front or back” (Sutton 2003, 140). It is therefore the modalities of reception and spectatorship that are the crux of these experiments in phenomenologically expanded forms of cinema. Image production thus becomes image reception more than anything related to representation or narration.

As VanDerBeek’s project demonstrates, issues of determination, ideological or otherwise, were at the center of multi-screen installations and immersive environments. I argue that the efforts of 1970s film theorists such as Heath to theorize the cinematic apparatus could have been greatly enriched by attending to works such as VanDerBeek’s. The immersive quality and spatial organization of such examples of the post-cinematic apparatus is clearly the object of what Heath called “other cinemas, new films.” Specifically, multi-screen installations provoke a turn to indeterminate assemblages between apparatus, spectator, and exhibit space. Certainly, the various configurations of the post-cinematic apparatus, in the installations of Luc Courchesne, Grahame Weinbren, Bill Viola, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and Shirin Neshat, give the impression that the interplay between bodies, spatiality, and technologies has never been more primordial. Deleuze’s foray into film theory would eventually grapple with such issues.

Gilles Deleuze’s Electronic Images

Less than ten years after Heath struggled to integrate indetermination in his work on the cinematic apparatus, Deleuze concludes his two-volume study of cinema on this note: “For no technological determination, whether applied (psychoanalysis, linguistics) or reflexive, is sufficient to constitute the concepts of cinema itself” (1989, 280). Deleuze rejects critical approaches that rely heavily on either technological determinism or psychoanalytically and linguistically oriented approaches.[12] Deeply indebted to the work of Henri Bergson, Deleuze’s film theory also questions determination on both the theoretical plane (other film theories) and on the more fundamental plane of movement itself in the form of the sensori-motor link and its break in time-image cinema. Building not only on Bergson’s critique of psychological approaches that were based on determinism but also on the philosopher’s theorizations of movement and becoming, Deleuze refers to Bergson’s center of indetermination, but he does not develop it in the sense that the concept does not lead to other fully fledged concepts similar to the ones related to the movement-image and the time-image.

In my view, the emergence of electronic images greatly challenges the reception of Deleuze as the theorist of the movement-image and the time-image. Ultimately turning to the future of the moving image in yet unseen visual configurations, Deleuze gives a different take on how to conceptualise the future without resorting to utopian scenarios à la Youngblood or ideological determinations à la Heath. Rather, Deleuze’s discussion of electronic images is predicated on his concept of the “spiritual automaton” or “automatism become spiritual art” (1989, 263). This concept refers to the certain autonomy that cinema confers upon images as deployed on screen. For Deleuze, the spiritual automaton that cinema reveals is an independent “psychomechanics” that the transition from the movement-image to the time-image exacerbates to the point of crisis. The introduction of electronic images, Deleuze argues, will also modify this spiritual automaton in the tradition of previous automated entities: “A return to the extrinsic point of view obviously becomes necessary: the technological and social evolution of automata. Clockwork automata, but also motor automata, in short, automata of movement, made way for a new computer and cybernetic race, automata of computation and thought, automata with controls and feedback” (264-265). As we can see, Deleuze wishes to establish a certain genealogy of automata in which cinema is only a moment, albeit the most significant in twentieth-century art. However, the nature of this modification in automated machines remains to be assessed. The introduction of “electronic images” helps Deleuze circumscribe the nature of transformation in automata.

First, let us see what Deleuze has in mind when he speaks of electronic images. Upon closer reading, one notices that Deleuze does not evince radical claims on the subject of the electronic image’s displacement of analogue cinema. Although he states that “The electronic image, that is, the tele and video image, the numerical image coming into being, either had to transform cinema or to replace it, to mark its death” (Deleuze 1989, 265), we can rest assured that Deleuze opts for a transformation of the image under contact with the “new” images. Here he alludes to the coeval becoming of images in the post-1980 visual sphere that consisted of film, television, and video images. As he points out in the conclusion, his goal is not to theorize such new images, preferring instead “to indicate certain effects whose relation to the cinematographic image remains to be determined” (265), effects, that is, to which the new images give rise. As I have mentioned, 1970s film theory’s emphasis on determination is still alive in Deleuze, but only insofar as he is heir to Bergson, whose first major publication was a critique of psychological determinism.[13] Therefore, we can expect that Deleuze’s targeting of determination will be different from that of apparatus theorists and that, relying on Bergson, it will focus more intensely on what determines, overdetermines, and indetermines the body’s movement and cinema’s writing of movement (i.e., the movement-image) than the ideological determinations discussed above.

Determination and automation thus come to function together in the assessment of future images which Deleuze calls “electronic.” In the age of video and split-screen installations, Deleuze wishes to establish a certain historicity between image types, as he connects the movement-image with the time-image in the abandonment of the sensori-motor link. What remains to be theorized is the nature of the break between the time-image and the electronic image. Apparently, Deleuze does not envision a break but some sort of emancipation in a new “will to art” that artists would have to discover: “The new automatism is worthless in itself if it is not put to the service of a powerful, obscure, condensed will to art, aspiring to deploy itself through involuntary movements which none the less do not restrict it” (1989, 266). The indeterminate relation between “new automatism” and involuntariness certainly offers a different take on the future of the then “new” images, and it corresponds to the novel visual assemblages of split- and multi-screen installations that spectators have to synthesize mentally. But whereas Deleuze envisages a will to art that would be drastically different from the time-image, contemporary media arts and installations, I would argue, demonstrate that the transition from the time-image to the “new” image seldom reveals “unknown aspects of the time-image” (266). On the contrary, what happens in most cases where several screens are deployed is the multiplication of time-images instead of their radical transformation.

Claiming to evade historical accounts of cinema in the introduction to Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, Deleuze offers a subterranean genealogy – or taxonomy – that nevertheless implies conceptual breaks between types of images that are marked by the historical discontinuities of World War II. In such discontinuities, Deleuze makes sure to point out overlapping material consistencies between images. As shown above, the electronic image’s ontology, if there be such a thing, lies in the latter’s prolongation of the time-image. Therefore, the electronic image is a third type of image on which Deleuze chose to elaborate precisely because the time-image is only one stage in the undetermined development of cinema. As Deleuze mentions, what is at stake is not only the future of the image but also of cinema itself in an epic battle between the spiritual automaton and the electronic image: “The fact is that the new spiritual automatism and the new psychological automata depend on an aesthetic before depending on technology. It is the time-image which calls on an original regime of images and signs, before electronics spoils it or, in contrast, relaunches it” (1989, 267). This confrontation characterizes a state of affairs that Deleuze thus summarizes: “The life or the afterlife of cinema depends on its internal struggle with informatics. It is necessary to set up against the latter the question which goes beyond it, that of its source and that of its addressee” (270). As is the case with Heath, one could argue that it is not “informatics” per se that is to be assessed but the way in which cinema tends to expand spatially on a number of screens and demands updated theories of spectatorship. The double of cinema, in the form of split- and multi-screen installations, very well stands as one of the most significant transformations or incarnations the cinematic apparatus has encountered in terms of the challenge to evade mainstream narrative cinema. These numerous screens now echo Heath’s “other cinemas” and certainly redirect Deleuze’s formulation of an “internal struggle” between cinema, electronic images, and the computer.

The great thing about struggles is that they open onto a field of possibilities. In the realm of visual culture, such possibilities usually entail an entire range of hybrid entities that result from numerous material and historical confrontations between media environments. In the last pages of Cinema 2, Deleuze not only addresses such potential struggles in the possible joining together of the time-image and the electronic image but he also prefigures debates over the future of cinema in the age of computer-generated imaging. Setting the stage for this confrontation between the time-image and the electronic image, the philosopher wishes to link the electronic image’s source and its addressee whose activities are often clouded by discourses on interactivity. Deleuze, however, chooses not to explore this path and returns to the potential of the time-image in the films of the Straubs, Duras, and Syberberg. Yet similar to the way in which Deleuze finds in the movement-image the seeds for the time-image, I cannot help but feel that it is precisely in the time-image that we can find the seeds for theorizing contemporary spectators’ and interactors’ ways of apprehending images in recent media environments.[14]

As the time-image presents a direct temporal duration, it is held that time-images present characters who function as seer-like entities. They roam around in a world whose reliable sensori-motor link has been severed in the time-image, searching for some kind of ontological and metaphysical certainty that will not come. Movement then subordinates itself to time: “It is no longer time which derives from movement, from its norm and its corrected aberrations; it is movement as false movement, as aberrant movement which now depends on time” (Deleuze 1989, 271, original emphasis). Such time-images, based on the erosion of the sensori-motor actions found in movement-images, reveal contemplative characters who do not know how to respond to the stimuli of the post-war condition. As Deleuze describes such a state, it is discontinuity, contingency, and flexible spaces of exploration that take precedence: “The situation no longer extends into action through the intermediary of affections. It is cut off from all its extensions, it is now important only for itself” (272).

What I find most compelling in Deleuze’s gloss on the transition between the movement-image and the time-image is that he emphasizes characteristics that can help theorize the spectatorial uncertainty at the heart of split- and multi-screen installations. One such characteristic, and it is particularly surprising, is Deleuze’s emphasis on space. What he implicitly describes when he discusses “new” images is the spatial qualities and manoeuvres that such images can generate. Moreover, it is Western perspective to which Deleuze alludes and uses as a foil to describe his new images: “The organization of space here loses its privileged directions, and first of all the privilege of the vertical which the position of the screen still displays, in favour of an omni-directional space which constantly varies its angles and co-ordinates, to exchange the vertical and the horizontal” (1989, 265). It comes as an undeniable surprise to read Deleuze elaborate explicitly on transformative space, Western perspective, and spatial coordinates.[15] What emerges is that the type of image that might have followed the time-image, in what we can imagine as Cinema 3, would have merged time and space in order to provide the basis for current theorizations of the software-image.[16] What Deleuze describes is another relation between images and their environments as a form of becoming different from that of the time-image. In fact, it is precisely the relation between time and space that offers a reconceptualized version of Bergson’s centre of indetermination in the context of new images.[17] This image, however, remains to be theorized.

Deleuze’s future cinema, as we can see it emerge in his brief notes on the electronic image, takes the form of a Möbius strip whose outside eventually becomes its inside and vice-versa: “The new images no longer have any outside (out-of-field), any more than they are internalised in a whole; rather, they have a right side and a reverse, reversible and non-superimposable, like a power to turn back on themselves” (1989, 265). Deleuze’s descriptions of the new images express a volatility and malleability that denote the flux and becoming characteristic of his previous theorizations of the effects of the time-image. He in fact points to the manipulation of electronic images and their potential re-appropriation: “They are the object of a perpetual reorganization, in which a new image can arise from any point whatever of the preceding image” (Deleuze 1989, 265).

One of the great merits of “new” images certainly is to have forced Deleuze to reflect upon two areas dear to film studies that have been noted as lacking in his work: space and spectatorship. Regarding the latter, a caveat should be borne in mind at the close of this article, for Deleuze ultimately shifts the focus from spectator to screen space, thereby diminishing the former’s agency: “And the screen itself, even if it keeps a vertical position by convention, no longer seems to refer to the human posture, like a window or a painting, but rather constitutes a table of information, an opaque surface on which are inscribed ‘data’, information replacing nature, and the brain-city, the third eye, replacing the eyes of nature” (1989, 265). The screen becomes an organizer of information, a machine-like centre of indetermination that manages visual information in lieu of the spectator. Moreover, Deleuze’s account tends to become media deterministic and teleological insofar as new images replace nature entirely (i.e., the indexical link to reality). There thus seems to be a tension between the description Deleuze makes of new images; the way in which spectators would negotiate such images; and the manner in which these new images would determine the course of the visual productions to come. Clearly, Deleuze envisages the becoming of cinema, but he somewhat sidesteps the relational qualities and hybridity of most productions, be they video installations or early computer-generated films that merged the analogue and the electronic or, in the case of more recent productions, the analogue and the digital. Contrary to teleological accounts of the unstoppable “evolution” of cinema, I would maintain that it is the way in which one image type, say, the analogue, relates to a different type, say, the electronic, that makes cinema’s hybridity an even more fascinating phenomenon.

Finally, Deleuze’s emphasis on spatiality creates an unassigned fourth term in his equation “cinema = movement-image + time-image.” As spatiality opens onto relationality and indetermination, the expanded screen then bridges the gap between the time-image and the programmable image because it functions as an independent interface to be scanned. The associative patterns the expanded screen generates are characterized by the indeterminate nature of the parallel actions that spectators continuously attempt to synthesize but to no avail. Deleuze’s comments on space open the door to multifaceted versions of spectatorship, but the philosopher ultimately dismisses spectatorship as a valuable field of inquiry. What the perspective of an expanded cinema points to, as a ghostly presence in the most notable moments of film theory, is another way of conceiving of spectatorship that would remain stillborn.

The ubiquity of screens in today’s world forces us to reconsider Youngblood’s notion of “expanded cinema.” As is made clear in his path-breaking book, Youngblood’s concept reveals more than a technologically enhanced cinematic apparatus. Aside from a potentially different dispositif, expanded screens were meant to expand mind and body, thereby fulfilling the wish for synesthetic plenitude sought for by several 1960s and 1970s artists. Conversely, such avant-garde ideals need not cloud the current age’s own fantasies of immersion in both mainstream cinema and media arts. What such parallel ideals of expanded cinema offer is a number of questions and unresolved tensions that pertain to the determination and becoming of moving image productions in terms of narrative continuity, spectatorial agency, and social relevance. The minimal exploration of the future of the cinematic apparatus offered in Heath’s invocation of “other cinemas” and Deleuze’s recourse to “electronic images” demonstrates that film studies will continue to be a divided and haunted discipline as long as it remains satisfied with media archaeologies that interrogate the survival of forms, but that neglect the symptomatic absence of others.


Baudry, Jean-Louis. 1986. The Apparatus: Metapsychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality in the Cinema. In Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader, ed. Philip Rosen, 299-318. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bellour, Raymond. 2000. D’un autre cinema. Trafic 34: 5-21.

Bensmaïa, Réda, ed. 2006. Deleuze et le cinéma. Prolégomènes à une esthétique future?. Special issue, CINéMAS 16, nos. 2-3.

Bergson, Henri. 1991. Matter and Memory. Trans. N.M Paul and W.S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books.

–––. 1960. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. Trans. F.L. Pogson. New York: Harper & Row.

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–––. 2002. Sensi che vedono. Introduzione all’arte della videoinstallazione. Pisa: Nistri-Lischi.

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–––. 1982. Address to the Heathen. October 23: 89-163.

De Bruyn, Eric. 2004. The Expanded Field of Cinema, or Exercise on the Perimeter of a Square. In X-Screen: Film Installations and Actions in the 1960s and 1970s, ed. Matthias Michalka, 152-76. Cologne: Walther König.

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–––. 1981. Questions of Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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[1] In this article, “expanded cinema,” for lack of a better expression, echoes what scholars have been discussing using equally problematic expressions such as future cinema, post-cinema, film and video installations, and moving image environments. This terminological problem certainly points to a future yet inescapable discussion of it in film theoretical circles. I use the notion as shorthand to refer to late 1960s, 1970s, and contemporary split- and multi-screen installations and immersive environments, rather than to all forms of experimental or avant-garde cinema.

[2] Recent publications on the various forms of technologically expanded cinema usually come from art historians and media arts scholars. See Groys (2001), De Bruyn (2004), Cargioli (2005), Shaw and Weibel (2003), Rebentisch (2003), Jäger, Knapstein, and Hüsch (2007), Poissant and Tremblay (2008), and Tanya Leighton (2008). For notable exceptions, see Bellour (2000), Friedberg (2006), and Marchessault and Lord (2007).

[3] Original footage of Gance’s films and experimentations is difficult to find. Interested readers might want to watch Nelly Kaplan’s two documentary films, Abel Gance: Hier et demain (1963) and Abel Gance: Et son Napoléon (1983), which are available on one DVD distributed by Cythère Films / Koch Vision Classics.

[4] Simonetta Cargioli justly notes: “There have been few studies, at the international level, that explore the relations between video installations and film theory; whereas, as we have seen, references to 1920s avant-gardes and to the even more innovative and theoretically more fruitful cinema are frequent: to Eisenstein, Vertov, to abstract cinema.” (2002, 90; my translation).

[5] Interest in split-screen work has been growing lately. One useful source is a weblog entirely devoted to split screens in, among others, film, advertising, television, music videos, and digital arts. See http://www.splitscreen.us/ (accessed June 27, 2008).

[6] I am referring to publications such as Flaxman (2000), Bensmaïa (2006) and Marrati (2008). Three exceptions are Spielmann (1997), Filser (2003) and Stewart (2007).

[7] It should be noted that this section on Heath does not wish to repeat the well-known and extensive debate between Noël Carroll and the author of Questions of Cinema, which appeared in October in the early 1980s. See Carroll (1982), Heath (1983) and Carroll (1983). Dana Polan discusses this heated debate in Polan (1985). As the reader will gather, and contrary to Carroll’s approach in his review and reply to Heath, I take issue with Heath’s appropriation of psychoanalysis only insofar as it undermines his then promising theorization of spectatorial indetermination.

[8] For a more recent take on cinema as a relational thought process, see O’Connor (2002).

[9] See Baudry (1986).

[10] It is noteworthy that Heath (1999, 33) has come to question the use of psychoanalysis in film studies and the conceptual reductions to which it can lead: “Screen did at times put the weight so heavily on describing the representation made that it fell into an overdeterministic account, a theoreticist version of closure”, and later in the same chapter, “In film analysis, the recourse to psychoanalysis as interpretative source has mostly worked illustratively, resolving things into the confirmation of a set of given themes, a repeatable psychoanalytic story duly repeated” (35). Finally, theoretical conclusions should be drawn from the fact that Heath does not manage to reconcile these two seemingly “parallel histories.”

[11] Mention should be made here that Heath does discuss Snow’s work on several occasions in Questions of Cinema (1981) and in other uncollected articles, but his comments mostly address the innovations of Wavelength (1967), La Région centrale (1971), and Rameau’s Nephew by Diderot (thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Shoen (1974). I am referring to multi-screen works such as Two Sides to Every Story (1974), the equally pioneering features of which remain in the dark.

[12] In the French critical context, one thinks of the work of Christian Metz.

[13] See Bergson (1960).

[14] Deleuze (1989, 266) himself touches on this matter: “What is important is that the cinematographic image was already achieving effects which were not like those of electronics, but which had autonomous anticipatory functions in the time-image as will to art.”

[15] The problem of space in Deleuze has been addressed lately, but its status in Deleuze studies remains marginal compared to that of other notions such as temporality, actuality, and virtuality. See the contributions in Buchanan and Lambert (2005).

[16] Martin Reinhart and Virgil Wildrich’s digital project TX-Transform demonstrates the hidden potentialities of the software-image. See http://www.tx-transform.com (accessed June 27, 2008).

[17] See the first chapter in Bergson (1991). Hansen’s (2004) study of new media art foregrounds the concept of indetermination and offers a reassessment of this most important of Bergsonian notions.

Author Bio

Bruno Lessard is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Film and in the Communication and Culture program at York University in Toronto. He has published articles and book chapters on the subjects of digital technologies, new media art, cinema and philosophy, and intermedia adaptation. He has forthcoming articles and book chapters in Film-Philosophy, Public, and Convergence, and in collections such as In the Dark Room of Marguerite Duras (Peter Lang), Sound and Music in Film and the Visual Media: A Critical Overview (Continuum), and Save as … Digital Memories (Palgrave). He is currently completing a book-length study of new media adaptation.

Contact Email: lessard77@yorku.ca