Machine Cinematography

Henning Schmidgen Henning Schmidgen. “Machine Cinematography.” Inflexions 5, “Simondon: Milieu, Techniques, Aesthetics” (March 2012). 130-147.

Schmidgen examines the photographs used in The Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, arguing that they form a cinematographic understanding of technical evolution. Focusing on two examples, the combustion engine and vacuum tubes, Schmidgen argues that Simondon offers a "quasi-inductive manner" of understanding technological evolution highlighting the nonlinear processes of technical evolution (141). It is a shift in thinking analogous to the shift from linear sequences to montage in cinematography, a shift aided through Simondon's meticulous photographs. Schmidgen's argument is that Simondon, then, focuses both on seriality and discontinuous breaks with such seriality in his discussions of concretization and invention. However, the full strength of Simondon's concept of invention is not taken up in the photographs, but in the body of his text. Invention is "linked to the presence and the use of already existing technical objects;" invention brings about a bifurcation of the available technical materiality, individuating new technical objects that can be "reproduced, varied and selected" (145). For his attention to the serialization of concretization and discontinuous schisms of invention that engender new forms of serialization, Schmidgen calls Simondon as a "cinematographer of machines" (145).

Schmidgen's essay is one of the few that even alludes to the visual components of his argument, and provides fertile ground for considering the role of visual practices in individuation in Simondon's philosophy. Foregrounding, for instance, the ways in which art provokes individuations, which is how I intend to incorporate Schmidgen's argument. However, there are certain blind spots within this argument as well. Schmidgen does not discuss Simondon's aesthetics, technical or otherwise, nor his concepts of form and ground, through which Simondon critiques certain gestalt approaches. Given that Schmidgen links a "quasi-inductive" understanding to Simondon's photographs, it goes to reason that this tension would be acknowledged, if not oriented toward a resolution.