Tag Archives: layers

Layers of Reality

With the revolution of new media, it’s apparent that media forms have gotten much more complex.  There is rarely ever one choice, one path or one layer.  Digital images consist of “a number of separate layers, each layer containing particular elements” that each can be manipulated separately (229).  If one has ever used photoshop to edit an image before, you understand that you can create layers to add, remove or distort objects before pressing all the layers together to produce the final image.  Manovich explains that producers of films change the layers of films and delete backgrounds, blur objects, ect.

Manovich also focuses on two very important concepts: databases and narratives.  He describes databases as a “collection of individual items, with every item possessing the same significance as any other” (218).  Databases can be anything really such as flickr which stores millions of photos, or even imdb which stores pictures and biographical data.  Narratives, however “create a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly disordered items/events” (225).  This includes video games, where you are a character that follows a specific trajectory that holds different outcomes for different choices.  Narratives have an underlying algorithm, which is the hidden logic within the game or other medium.  In order to win a game, one must execute an algorithm.

It seems that these two concepts (narratives and databases) are polar opposites.  Is there a way to connect them into one object?  Through Tziga Vertov’s film, Man with the Movie Camera, the two concepts seem to gel together nicely.  The film is a straight hour of seemingly random images and footage with no characters or storyline, and, thus, a database.  However, the montage of images “reveal social structure among the multitude of observed phenomena” (240).  In a way, it creates a narrative by trying to make a story about the filming of such images and the complexity of everyday life.  I found something similar to this film, called video art.  The creator, Gary Hill combines vast quantities of random images (database) with a narrator and possible meaning that can be derived from the art.

Another example of database and narrative mixtures is the film, Mulholland Drive.  The film seems to start out like any other Hollywood film, with characters revolving around a storyline of a famous actress who no longer remembers who she is.  However, as the film progresses there appears to be many different layers and stories (a director being blackmailed into hiring an actress, a man who has nightmares about a hairy man in a parking lot).  The film is filled with many images, often times having nothing to do with the supposed storyline, distorting any sense of narrative the viewer originally started out with.

You can find the whole movie online if you’re ready to be confused out of your mind and experience a very intriguing mash of database, narratives, and layers that sometimes intersect.

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