Society of the Spectacle

The image, the spectacle and the cinematic are all quite interconnected concepts that seem to overlap in many places.  The image represents that which exists around us.  The spectacle describes how we see those images.  It refers to the ways in which we string images together to create thoughts, ideas, opinions.  “The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be reestablished…The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification” (Debord).  We use our minds, our imaginations to fill in the gaps and make sense of things.  So it seems the spectacle being a product of ourselves, appoints the human mind as its medium.  We are the medium and it seems the spectacle, being our own creation, created to project our own views, belongs wholly to us.  The image, however, remains the property of the culture.  We are presented with the images only to incorporate them into our own spectacle.

In Cinema Isn’t I See, It’s I Fly, Paul Virilio chronicles the evolution and development of filmmaking from its beginnings.  He describes the cinematic as a third tier, combining both image and spectacle.  He refers to images in this context as photographic reproductions of original objects.  This is how Sontag discusses images as well in her essay on photography.  I suppose this type of image becomes the property of the medium used to create the reproduction and of the audience who views it more so than a possession of cuture itself.  The representation becomes its own image with its own properties.  But Virilio discusses how these representations come to affect our own individual spectacles.  He explains that because we see war only through the filter of a cinematic representation based on someone else’s spectacle, that then becomes our spectacle.  Or at least the basis for it.  We can still create have our own opportunity to think about and construct things in a way which we think makes sense, but it is significantly influenced by the information we receive and the filters it goes through before we receive it.

Thus, the image, the spectacle and the cinematic all seem to mesh together into what is our culture today.  It is the product of and property of the culture, the audience and the media.


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