biographische Artikel | biographic articles

Toward a Phenomenology of Emotion in Film:
Michael Brynntrup and The Face of Gay Shame
by Randall Halle

On a neuro-physiological level, the study of emotion has been relatively excluded from studies of cognition in part simply because the emotional and sensory centers in the brain are distinct, but increasingly cognitive science has recognized that these centers are linked, sharing and passing on information and creating responses in as yet not comprehended ways. For the most part though in the 1990s cognitive theory sought to contend with emotions in what we could describe as a neo-Kantian approach, ascribing them to the realm of judgment. Appraisal theory describes emotions as arising in a complex condition of evaluation or appraisal; we experience love because we appraise that we are being treated well.[1] However, such a rational judgment model, subsuming emotions into a computational approach, cannot take into account dispositions or temperament that have nothing to do with rational judgments or choices. Suspicions, fears, phobias, anxieties, angst, shame and other negative states can arise contrary to interests or cognitive processes of appraisal, indicating at least some other component to emotions, i.e. a more primary even drive-based form of affect.[2]

Thus a turn came in cognitive science with the investigation of affective elements and memory. It might seem like a simple matter of common sense, but the premise that strong emotional-affective experiences can color memories, for instance simply make them more vivid, offered a breakthrough in the consideration of how cognitive representations work. Michael Martinez described the state of research developing out of this insight: “representations are often portrayed as valueless, cool records of information and experience. This portrayal is misleading because represented knowledge very often does have emotional and motivational value; representations are words, images, goals, and plans charged with meaning, valence, emotion, and energy.”[3]

That this “affective turn” began in cognitive science roughly a decade ago and is only now gaining momentum might, from outside the discipline, seem a bit contrary to expectations but we might want to recall that, as psychologist Eleanor Rosch noted, “since the Greeks, Western psychology has treated affect and cognition as separate faculties, states, or processes, and through history cognition has been valued more positively than affect. Emotion tends to be seen as irrational and reason as affectless.”[4] As the Martinez quote indicates, seeing and perceiving, as fundamentals of cognition, were primarily approached from the camera obscura perspective, as if the image was written innocently on the grey matter of the brain. That perhaps experiences of affect, emotions, or desire could prove more primary, or if they have a fundamental evaluative function, or how they might color cognition with a particular valence is an open field of exploration.[5] Inquiry in this area marks the beginning of the affective turn. It has led to an expansion of new research and new models of perception, emotion, and affect, and it will be of central consideration in this essay.[6]

There is a second turn of central interest to this essay and that is the turn to cognitive film studies. While cognitive scientists have carefully constructed experiments with visual materials to trace out how perception functions, they have not extensively considered different modes of viewing, different media of seeing.[7] Cognitive film studies holds the potential to offer to cognitive scientists a wealth of information and an elaborated language developed over years to describe various aspects of image and viewing, frame and positionality, the embodiment of viewing as it interacts with the constructed viewing space and directed viewing material. Cognitive film studies is a new development, having emerged in the span of the last decade.[8] While posing new productive questions, the attempt to develop an interdisciplinary relationship between cognitive science and film studies up until now has resulted mainly in a rather one-sided direction of application.[9] Cognitive film studies have primarily sought to adopt the insights of cognitive science, applying studies developed in very different contexts to the moving image and cinematic space.[10][11] This approach does open up new understanding but it moves in a singular direction of applying cognitive/analytic work to film. The problem, and point of critical intervention here, is first that such an approach easily overlooks the fact that the work being adopted may itself exist within a series of disciplinary internal contestations and critiques. What is taken as fact by someone from outside, is often itself only a proposition under investigation within a discipline. Such is the case with cognitive theory and the approach to the image and emotions; it is, as noted above, the site of various and lively debates. Secondly and relatedly, such research does not move in the other direction, with inquiry into film and the cognitive processes it unleashes being perceived as making a contribution to existing debates in cognitive science. Film scholars are not producing investigations of interest to their colleagues in cognitive science. This is understandable, given the nature of the training of film scholars. The type of experimental procedures in cognitive science is not yet part of the background of most of the new cognitive film scholars, nor do cognitive scientists understand how to benefit from the non-clinical models of research in film studies. However, I contend that an awareness of the debates within cognitive approaches does allow for a type of research and investigation that establishes an inter-disciplinary conversation.

What can the study of the moving image and how it constitutes an emotional state reveal to us about the processes of cognition? This essay will offer a critical intervention by undertaking a sort of case study of the work of Michael Brynntrup.[11] Brynntrup is one of the most significant contemporary artists of the moving image. Mike Hoolboom has described Michael Brynntrup as “the most fiercely prolific filmmaker of the German fringe.” Indeed Brynntrup has produced close to one hundred moving image pieces: films, videos, digital images, as well as a series of drawings and other art objects. Further he has kept an artist’s diary and has constructed a web site that pushes his entire life into the realm of mediatized art. It is an impressive oeuvre that covers an expansive set of concerns. Moreover the work continually becomes more complicated, drawing on new technologies and new forms of signification. Brynntrup even reworks his older pieces, drawing old images into new settings and transforming the format itself, converting for example early super 8 films from the 1980s into interactive digital texts to be posted on his website. In terms of content, Hoolboom notes that Brynntrup “has undertaken an exhaustive cinematic self-examination, conjuring the subject as a fictional amalgam of semiotic slippage, male/male desire and broken historical recall.”[12] Alice Kuzniar points out that “Brynntrup consistently dismantles the barriers between genres and media, raising questions. Are his films educational, documentary, autobiographical, or pornographic? Do they resemble Silent comedies, animation, or movemented collections of still-life photos?”[13] Subjectivity, death, AIDS, reproduction, body alteration, digitization, communication, mediation and mediatization, popular culture, high culture, and culture industry are just a few of the themes Brynntrup investigates.

Brynntrup does not produce narrative films; rather he creates what might be described as experiments in visual form. These experiments belong to an approach that picks up on aspects of the historical avantgarde, without adopting the unfulfillable revolutionary claims of its grandiose manifesto rhetoric.[14] My case study will focus on Brynntrup’s more modest neo-avant-garde experiments, with the goal of considering how they might offer interventions in current cognitive debates. After a general overview of the parameters of Brynntrup’s experiments, I will focus on what we could call “the Face of the Other Trilogy”: ALL YOU CAN EAT (1993), LOVERFILM—An Uncontrolled Dispersion of Information (1996) and FACE IT! (face-to-face) (2007). In these works Brynntrup turns to “desiring genres”: pornography, biography or the confessional mode, and cyber-contact images respectively. However, he decontexualizes the images such that they cannot deliver what is expected of the genre. In this decontextualization or deformation of the visual language, Brynntrup establishes an experimental space in which something other than the expected incitement of desire takes place. These moving-images allow subjective awareness of affective and perceptive faculties to arise. With these pieces, you never get what you want, but instead, to paraphrase the Stones, you just might find how you need. Such experimentation, while not a clinical model, places Brynntrup’s work interestingly at the nexus of questions being posed in philosophy, cognitive science, and increasingly, film studies. This essay cannot hope to answer all those questions, but it can make a contribution to the debates that generate them.

Toward a New Philosophy of Cognition:
The Logical Facts of the Thought are the Picture

In the 1960s cognitive science emerged as an interdisciplinary direction drawing on input from psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy. Especially in the United States it was a welcome way out of many of the impasses reached by the behaviorist model that dominated psychology. It is important in this context to note that initially, cognitive science developed in an interdisciplinary environment with primary input from the humanities. Out of the analytic philosophical approach, cognitive science began as a discipline which presumed cognition to be dominated by the logic of speech, and thus the so-called image controversy proved to be one of the initial debates of the discipline. The controversy developed around a fundamental question of whether the interior language of the brain functions according to images, or according to a language grammar. Cognitive scientists started from an imagist presumption wherein imagination was taken as a sign of the interiority of the mind, and following a line of reasoning already explored philosophically by Kant, among others, they stressed the import of our ability to imagine objects and things we have never seen: e.g. mermaids and centaurs, or they noted the ability to mentally rotate and manipulate images into heretofore unseen objects. These abilities bespeak an interiority that is distinct from the material world, an interiority that allows us to act upon and even shape the exterior. As early as the 1970s, the descriptionists doubted the ability of the multivalent image to serve as a fundamental building block of cognitive processes. The descriptionists drew the influence of Wittgenstein and linguists like Noam Chomsky into cognitive science. They responded to the imagists by seeking to describe a fundamental grammar, a sentential state, to which images are eventually attached.[15] The descriptionist approach rejected the inherent multi-valence of the image; for them there was no guarantee of definite meaning for any particular image. The suggestion was that there is a form of computation or cybernetics at the heart of cognitive processes that is distinct from image, leaving them to concentrate on defining “syntactic subroutines.”[16] In the 1970s and 80s, along with the Chomskian search for the deep structures of language, the expanding research in cybernetics fostered this approach.

Brynntrup’s films first emerged in the 1980s against this backdrop. As experimental films, they fundamentally seek to establish environments that challenge the perceptive faculty. Moreover, they directly engage significant aspects of the philosophical tradition; the filmmaker himself makes this plain by quoting Hegel and Kant in the textual titles of his films. For Michael Brynntrup, who initially studied philosophy from 1977–87 in Münster, Freiburg, Rome and Berlin, these acts of quoting are not simply clever decorations. Integrated into experimental films, they offer what can be described as a visual philosophical text, actually reworking into visual language some of the central problems in modern European philosophy. Brynntrup significantly begins his work Tabu V with an adaptation of the Wittgensteinian citation, “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man Filme machen [of what one cannot speak, one must make films],” and one is justified in understanding this paraphrase as more than superficial play. It indicates an active engagement with and response to a classic proposition of analytic philosophy which was crucial to the genesis of cognitive science. But while Wittgenstein’s original seventh proposition from the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus—“what we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence”—leads to an impasse and silence, Brynntrup counters with an active expression located in other media than the spoken word.

It is in this engagement with Wittgenstein, a founding figure for cognitive science, that we can see the extent to which Brynntrup’s work intersects with cognitive science. Tabu V does not just take on the seventh but also inverts Wittgenstein’s third proposition from the Tractatus: “Das logische Bild der Tatsachen ist der Gedanke [The logical picture of the facts is the thought].” Tabu V—and Brynntrup’s work in general—counters Wittgenstein’s proposition with a filmic statement that the logical facts of the thought are the picture. By this I mean that the figurative in the moving image is not simply subordinate to the limitations of expression in words; rather, the filmmaker has access to a mode of expression that can weave together associations exceeding not only the capability of speech but also the logic of cognition. It is this picture that establishes the ground of the thinkable. Brynntrup’s films thus counter both the linguistic concentration in analytic philosophy and descriptionist cognitive studies. We can immediately recognize that Brynntrup’s work responds to the descriptionist presumed primacy of specific linguistic forms of expression—a deep structure of cognition—by offering visual perception as more fundamental or at least of a primary order.

How this non-linguistic expression takes place is therefore difficult to describe in words. It is best seen. Nevertheless, in films like Herzsofort. Setzung (I) [Heart.Instant/iation (I)] (1994), Mein zweiter Vers (1993) or Die Statik der Eselsbrücken [The Statics—Engineering Memory Bridges] (1990), Brynntrup leaves narrative and denotative logic behind for a rich associative web of images that push the viewing subject into a kind of cognitive overload. These pieces are difficult to describe, to put into words, precisely because they are specifically experimenting with visuality. All three begin from a conundrum of reproduction. Herzsofort.Setzung, for instance, features a manipulated series of images of Brynntrup himself over a ten-minute time frame.[17] The images are primarily of Brynntrup looking directly at a recording device. It is not just a camera; his face is manipulated in various technologies and media through 56 different generations in twelve sequences. The technologies involved range from polaroids and photocopying through photo, video, 35mm, and digital. The images that appear in ten minutes were produced over a ten-year time frame—and continue to be produced. They thus display a “real time” aging of Brynntrup. The constantly transforming image begins showing an image of Brynntrup with his face painted—the “original” is thus already an image of a decorated and manipulated body. That image is then blown up and appears with Brynntrup standing in front of it, which is then blown up and manipulated so that another Brynntrup stands in front of the image of Brynntrup in front of the image of Brynntrup and so on; however the image at the end shows a Brynntrup ten years older than the image at the start of the sequence. Each generation adds colors and the multiplying layers push the film into the kaleidoscopic.

The project should be understood as a cognitive experiment in perception or an attempt at expanding consciousness. The eye scans each new image to make sense of what it sees, searching to recognize the successively transmuting Brynntrup, and meanwhile, without a narrative, the mind races behind the fleeting moments of recognition, attempting to create connections with the preceding image. Brynntrup described the images of Herzsofort.setzung enigmatically as “stimulating the retina’s sense of touch in order to make the folds of the brain palpable.” The project seeks to make us physically aware of the physical faculties of perception and cognition. Herz establishes an associative web of images that ultimately bring that-which-cannot-be-physically-felt into awareness and that-which-cannot-be-contained-in-language into picture. Within this project, then, we find that the picture drives the logical facts of thought, thought in its most physical sense as literally the perceptive faculty.

Brynntrup’s work thus performs a fundamental critique of descriptionist cognitive science, suggesting that the descriptionists ignored or overlooked the fact that in cognitive development, seeing precedes speaking, and while the ability to communicate in language must indeed be understood as a fundamental structure of cognitive processes, this faculty is preceded by abilities to perceive, recognize, and respond that are more primary than the spoken word. The ability to perceive is a faculty more primary and if not fundamental certainly not subordinated to any deep structures of spoken language. But Brynntrup’s works go further than simply reasserting the model of imagist cognitive science, ultimately rejecting both imagist and descriptionist approaches. As experiments they point to a fundamental and problematic unexamined presumption of interiority in both the imagist and descriptionist directions in cognitive science. Both directions fundamentally concentrate on processes in the brain as generators of perception and cognition, not considering the role of the “exterior” world. Critical of the general concept of interiority in cognitive science and analytic philosophy, Brynntrup offers evidence of what we could term a phenomenological approach. There is not simply an interior, neither is there some behaviorist exterior that is at work; rather, there is a calling out into a world that invites perception and a development of cognition. Brynntrup’s experimental work reinforces the fact that perception is not a thing in itself. Perception is always perception of something. In perception the surface and boundaries of the body and the world take shape.

Brynntrup’s films offer a neo-avant-garde response to both analytic philosophy and cognitive science by creating an actual experience of the faculty of perception. These works give the observer a chance to become aware of a logic that precedes the rational sense-making of descriptive speech. It is not nonsense but rather the sensible production of a provocational ineffable. The provocational ineffable is not to be confused with techniques of Brechtian distanciation that were deployed especially in the neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s. The ineffable Brynntrup produces is about distance from emotions but about experiencing something in cognition that cannot be expressed in words, that even precedes words. Speech cannot represent everything one sees, and conversely one can imagine and make as image that whereof one cannot speak. The strategies of representation in Brynntrup’s films are thus often cryptic, aestheticized, associative, often dissociative—the connections one begins to make fall apart in a visual and sensory overload. This overload is a provocation to cognition, eliciting in the spectator a sense of the ineffable. (The ineffable here is akin to the sublime, but not that of Kant’s rationalization of “threatening” excesses, rather that of Schiller’s more fundamental celebration of the emotive or affective states the sublime unleashes in the subject.)[18] In such provocation the subject becomes aware of other processes at work, which are generally masked by cognition, especially emotion and affect. It is in this regard that Brynntrup’s work makes some of its most compelling interventions in current debates.

The Affective Turn and the Face

While Brynntrup used his own face as the central motif in Herzsofort. setzung, in the work that followed he focused on the face of the other. Beginning with ALL YOU CAN EAT (1993) and continuing with LOVERFILM—An Uncontrolled Dispersion of Information (1996) and FACE IT! (face-to-face) (2007), he drew on various media from super 8 to contemporary digital imaging to create what could be taken as a trilogy in experimental film. He distilled faces, decontextualized them, and established what could almost be described as controlled experimental spaces in which we can experience general and specific aspects of our perceptive faculties.

Cognitive film studies, especially the work of scholars like Carl Plantinga, Greg Smith or Torban Grodal, has attended to some of the aspects with which Brynntrup experiments. The work of Plantinga, Smith, and Grodal, inspired by the larger affective turn in the social and behavioral sciences, offers some descriptive paradigms for what takes place in Brynntrup’s trilogy.[19] Especially Plantinga has focused on the face as one of the specific motifs in film that compels an emotional experience. The face, he has argued, serves to establish the “scene of empathy” and initiate the process of “emotional contagion.”[20] The face can “infect” the viewer with its own emotional state. A laughing face on the screen elicits laughter from the spectators. Factors like attention, duration, and context in the close-up on the face lead to a “facial feedback” in the spectators.[21]

Still, the work of Plantinga, Smith, and Grodal on film has expressed itself largely in analyses of popular narrative film, like Smith’s work on Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981) or Grodal’s on E.T. (Spielberg, 1982). Grodal, one of the first cognitive film scholars to take the affective turn, ascribes narrative film’s attractiveness to its ability to activate the body: “narrative patterns in films are mechanisms in which fictional actions and changes in fictional situations transform the arousal induced by the spectator’s engagement with characters.”[22] Smith has expanded on this work, investigating film structure and what he calls the emotion system, “a combination of longer orienting tendencies and briefer emotional states arranged into a process that allows us to evaluate and act upon our environment.”[23]

Such research focuses on a viewing experience in which the spectator enters into a willing suspension of disbelief to allow, as Grodal terms it, “narrative patterns” to direct emotional and emotive experiences. Plantinga’s focus on the face as site of empathy adds to narrative context a mechanism he terms “affective congruence.”[24] He notes how film techniques of editing and sound incite the spectator to lend a depth of character to an otherwise two-dimensional image of a face: a certain menacing chord in the John Williams score of Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) indicates Darth Vader’s imperial evil, while John Morris’s score for the satirical Spaceballs (Brooks, 1987) manages to express the ineptitude of the character Dark Helmet. Lighting and score work in congruence with narrative to elicit certain affective states.

Plantinga observed the possibilities afforded by non-narrative films that “play on the involuntary process of emotional contagion, but discourage contagion through various distancing strategies.”[25] What happens when a filmmaker actively strives for an affective discord, a disjoining of filmic techniques from emotive and affective intent, an undermining or rejection of narrative—as with Brynntrup’s provocational ineffable? Certainly the analysis of narrative film— the dominant mode of film production—is primary in Plantinga’s work. Nevertheless he notes that through non-narrative work, the “rhetorical, ideological, and aesthetic uses” of filmic representations are opened to investigation. Such possibilities appear if we attend to the 5’30” short ALL YOU CAN EAT, which relies on found footage from 1970s gay male pornography. Brynntrup did not seek to create a pornographic film himself, but to highlight and underscore the activities of the frame and framings of desire. Instead of allowing the spectator to enter into a familiar narrative context, Brynntrup reworks the images into unfamiliar patterns.

EAT selectively edits the images of the material, extracting a series of shots that focus primarily on a man’s face. In EAT, Brynntrup does not create a narrative pattern or emotion system out of the found footage; rather, he picks up on a theme first explored in Andy Warhol’s 1963 classic Blow Job and revisited in his lesser-known Eating too Fast (1966). In those films Warhol focused on the face of the recipient of the act of fellatio. It is a study in reaction. Where Warhol’s films encourage a desiring identificatory relationship to the image, even establishing what Smith describes as “mood,” Brynntrup dismantles the structures of that relationship.

Brynntrup’s film offers single faces in a sexual encounter. Pornography, the genre from which Brynntrup drew his found images, is a genre the emotion system of which is certainly designed to allow the spectator to enter into a desiring relationship with the image. It is often referred to as a “body genre,” promising to excite, entice, move the spectator. Given the film’s background in this genre, its early reviewers expected scenes from pornography. The description of the film and its source material predisposed them to a certain mood. Smith speaks of “emotion markers” in a film’s narrative.[26] In Brynntrup’s case, the markers toward a particular system pre-formed the experience, and instead the reviewers got a rapid series of faces with 1970s-style electronic music. Their anticipation of something “more” confused and disappointed a number of the reviewers and critics: having expected something sexually explicit, they assessed the film negatively. Peter Goddard, a reviewer for the Toronto Star, had to explain to potential viewers, “By the way, anyone coming to . . . to see more porn than its bad hair, will be disappointed. Brynntrup may start with what’s on top of the head, but what he’s really interested in is what goes on inside.”[27]

Here the ineffable in ALL YOU CAN EAT comes out as affective discord or dissonance. It is important, however, to underscore that this discord is not without its own form of pleasure. A few reviewers praised the focus on moments of ecstasy from a pre-AIDS period of freedom. Christina Nord from the Tageszeitung found in the film a sophisticated play with the dialectic of seeing and revealing.[28] The spectator of pornography expects to be moved, but this movement is not typically associated with the face. The “money shot” is the quasi-star of the porn film. Seeing ejaculation is a sign of a consummation of some form of desire-effect on the part of the actor while the face plays a decidedly minor role in the porn shoot. Brynntrup once humorously noted that he had to go through a large amount of porn film material to find enough shots solely of faces. Out of the eight hours he had at his disposal, there was only enough for under five minutes. When Plantinga focused on the face as site of affective congruence and emotional contagion, he noted that narrative film relies on attention, duration, and allegiance to establish a scene of empathy. The reduction in EAT to the face brings to bear an attention and duration that is otherwise not in the original. This focus ultimately frames out all that is anticipated in pornography; nevertheless, it underscores that while the face shot may appear infrequently, it is in the editing of the face shot that the emotional relationship between spectator and image develops the rhythm to crescendo. The face is essential, not incidental.

Nevertheless, regardless of the specific frame of the found shots, by body movement and posture, or by facial features and gestures, it is still clear that the faces presented are part of a sex act. It is also clear that the images derive from male-male sex. The film offers its viewers a pleasure of recognition. Through the film the spectators can become aware of the larger social conventions and presumptions about male (hetero)sexuality that infuse the frame. This play with recognition counters the typical presumption that imagination leads desire; the film allows spectators to experience how desiring expectations form imagination.

Unlike Blow Job, these images were embedded in a larger narrative context where “more” was shown. This leaves the spectator in a quasi generic awareness of the source of the image, aware of what is missing, not shown, outside the focus on the face. The partner, sexual positions, location, erotica, all the elements of pornography, become an unseen other outside the frame but essential to the experience of the film. The spectator of Blow Job imagined how the blowjob was proceeding outside the frame; the spectator of EAT speculates on what is happening, how bodies attach to the face shown, how the genre scenario played out. Through genre expectations, the imagination fills in and expands the frame but the spectator is overwhelmed not by emotion or desire, but by the “rhetoric” of the face.

The “sequel” to ALL YOU CAN EAT restores a certain individuality and subjectivity to the face, which had been missing from the found footage. In 22 minutes LOVERFILM passes review over twenty years of sexual experiences and over one hundred different partners. Brynntrup notes that the idea for this film developed out of ALL YOU CAN EAT. There are numerous points in which the films resemble each other visually. LOVERFILM presents pictures, films or videos of the lovers’ faces while Brynntrup narrates their names in a monotone voice. There are also other images; apparently when no photo of a former partner was available, Brynntrup inserted a sequence like that found in EAT. Primarily, though, the images are of former lovers as they look into the camera. They pose and address it as one would when being photographed by a friend and lover. Robin Curtis describes the experience of the film as similar to “flipping through a friend’s photo album.”[29] While this is true, the emotion system established here is not an intimate mood. The monotone quality of the voice establishes a sort of cognitive dissonance between the image and a certain expectation of emotional attachment established by the title, LOVERFILM. The voice is not the studied voice of a Straub/Huillet film, it is more an echo of Warhol’s famous indifference. It passes review without an inflection of love, fondness, or concern.

In addition to the images through the voice we are given bits of further information from Brynntrup’s diaries, like when he got herpes, or who was his first Asian or African, or the results of his HIV tests: “1989, It’s August 20th; I’m still negative.” This information contributes to the sense of dissonance. Curtis further observes in this regard that the “passages from the diaries describing the trials and tribulations of particular relationships are contrasted with the imperatives of the medical discourse that views each individual with respect to the AIDS virus, in the language of epidemic modelling, simply as either ‘infected,’ ‘susceptible,’ or ‘dead.’ This is underscored by the fact that some of the protagonists from LOVERFILM, such as Baldiga or Ovo Maltine, are now also subjects of memorial works by Brynntrup.” Hovering over all these images without being stated explicitly is a revision of gay sexuality in the era of AIDS. It asserts a non-monogamous sexuality of the kind eschewed in the era of safer sex and sexual respectability. Of interest here though is the monotony of the voice listing the names and stating intimate facts frequently related to health. This voice jars vis-à-vis the often innocent and even naïve pictures. The monotone does not sensationalize, rather it holds up for consideration. It conveys a confusing sense of coldness, investigation, concern, listing, and even surveillance.

Beyond the framing of the images within the litany of sexual partners, the film warns the spectator that “those photographed have not been notified that their likeness is being used in this context, nor has their permission been approved.” This notice underscores, in contradistinction to EAT and the pornographic source of the footage, that these images come from a private and even intimate sphere and were not intended or released for appropriation into a public and sexualized sphere. It further provokes with “Warning” title cards and at two points either delays or stops the review of names and faces by instructing the spectator in 1950s stylized lurid language of the social problem film that “the viewer is also responsible for images made public. Be aware that when you watch the following film, you will infringe upon the privacy of those persons who have been photographed. You have one minute to decide if you really want to see this film. Don’t hesitate to leave the theater with a clear conscience if that be your choice.”

The face here is the face of the lover with personal information attached. The emotional register explored, however, is not that of a melodramatic register, or even that of flipping through a friend’s photo album. In contradistinction to EAT, the face is identified and the question of permission draws up a sense of ownership and (failed) agency over the image. This is an unusual state to describe as emotional, and again with Brynntrup we reach the limits of the expressible in words. The cognitive theories all work to describe emotion within narrative. How does this non-narrative focus on the face require an expanded understanding of emotional systems?

In their work, Grodal, Smith, and Plantinga all rely on a “downstream flow” of perception, cognition, emotional processing in narrative film.[30] It is a uni-directional flow; the viewers see, they comprehend, they experience emotion. However, underlying all of their work are Silvan Tomkins’s foundational studies of affect from the 1960s. Tomkins’s analyses make possible a more complicated multi-directional understanding of affect, an understanding that better describes Brynntrup’s work. Tomkins explored affect as located in the voice, skin, autonomic nervous system, hand, body, and most extensively, the face. Rather than perceive affect and emotion as developing outward from the inner organs as Henri Bergson, William James, or Carl Lange had suggested, Tomkins and his colleagues Carrol Izard and Paul Ekman focused mostly on the face as “an organ for the maximal transmission of information, to the self and to others” and concluded that “the information it transmits is largely concerned with affects.”[31] This is the point on which narrative film studies has focused. Tomkins conducted extensive tests to discover how we present and perceive affect, including using an ultra-high-speed camera to record micro-movements in the face of a subject displaying changing affective states. Ekman condensed the central theoretical points of Tomkins’ clinical work, noting that for Tomkins “the face is central to emotion and has priority over visceral changes because of its speed, visibility, and precision.”[32]

However, the recognition that affect is independent of cognition proved important and highly suggestive to new paradigms of how affect works. Tomkins suggested that the face informs not just others, but also the self, of affective states. Further Ekman notes “feedback of the facial response is the experience of affect.”[33] The subject becomes aware of the state by actually feeling it in the face, meaning that it precedes cognition. You do not necessarily smile because you are happy; rather you smile and become aware of your happiness. Likewise, the face of the other transmits information that causes an immediate response in your face, of which you become aware only afterwards. Thus, emotional processing, cognition, and perception are not a matter of a series of events but variables that lead to rapid transformations of subjective states.

As with EAT, the face in LOVERFILM unleashes the potential of emotional states in the spectator, but on different terms. Unlike in EAT, LOVERFILM (re)personalizes the image. The spectator is invited to consider that there is a person behind the image, albeit one who has not given their consent. Moreover, the images often have nothing to do with the specific description of the narrator. We contemplate the information and context that adds to our ability to read the face but we do not bring it into conjunction with our desire, or that of the narrator. The face in LOVERFILM is a sexualized face, albeit not an eroticized one. The narrator’s voice is that of the former lover, but monotonous, without affect. The spectator views the images in the context of a transgression, albeit not a sexualized one. There is an affective dissonance here between the intimacy of the lover’s face, the “cold” informational tone of the narrating voice, the censorial warnings of the title cards, and the ensuing volition of the spectator. The cinematic space that such a work constructs is not one in which the spectators are led to experience emotion, rather it is one in which they are provoked into an experience of the experiencing of emotion.

Because of this affective dissonance, the emotional processing of the individual spectator becomes more important in the assessment of the film’s images. It forces a revision of what is perceived and how the perceived comes into cognition. For instance, the film creates the sense that there is something wrong with the image. This is of central importance to the affect of the film. The film sets up its own viewing as a transgression of privacy: By continuing to view, the spectator is forced to become aware of the desire to view. The film instantiates a condition of scandal and even shame around the image. To view the film is to violate a norm, to view the faces is to enter into an uncomfortable condition outside of permission. Exhibition and inhibition are not typically considered emotional states, but the piece highlights their emotional aspects. Fundamentally, what the piece does is establish a very different condition in its spectators. The often negative response of film festivals and critics, describing the film as “embarrassing,” “leading by the nose,” “provocative,” or “obscene,” suggests that the film can make its spectators squirm. It unleashes unpleasant emotions.

Gay Shame

It is important at this point to make a clarification. In this discussion I have not yet considered the distinctness of desire, emotion, and affect. As a short-hand, I actually have at times condensed the three. However, within cognitive theory and the psychology of emotions, psychologists like Silvan Tomkins have insisted on the distinction between psychoanalytic notions of desire, emotions, and affect.[34] In his considerations of affect Tomkins followed a path initiated by Wilhelm Wundt in the 19th century, insisting on a limited number of classifiable affects. Tomkins counted only nine biologically based affects that were to be distinguished as unattached and discrete from the attached and indistinct emotions. While the particular number of affects and their designations has been critiqued, his major breakthrough—that affect is biologically based and discrete in its form—is widely accepted and has generated intense research.

The distinction of affect from emotion and desire proves useful for the consideration of Brynntrup’s work, particularly in the final part of Brynntrup’s trilogy, FACE IT, in which affect plays a central and discrete role. FACE IT! (face-to-face) premiered as an installation piece at the Berlin Film Festival in “Forum Expanded,” the section devoted to experimental work. Brynntrup described FACE IT! (face-to-face) as a “peer-to-peer installation in offline mode. A big, walk-in corner wardrobe. The spectators enter individually and then see a video on a vertically mounted flat screen with life-size self-portraits from current chat profiles. FACE IT! is a confrontation with the new privacy of the World Wide Web (2.0).” Passing through swinging doors, the spectator stands alone, literally in a closet, inches away from a flat screen monitor. On the monitor is a collage of images drawn from gay chat rooms and contact sites on the www. In the images men present themselves for display in order to appear attractive. Most of them are at least shirtless. The goal of the original image is clearly to take up contact with other men; however, in the images there is nothing explicitly sexual or more risqué than one might see at a (European) beach. Still, the men present themselves to be sexually attractive. Their physicality is visceral. They want to appear “hot.”

The spectators, alone with these images in close proximity, have an opportunity to become aware of their own bodies. They can experience phenomenologically an image, given to perception, that calls out a response. The spectator who enters into the booth may or may not have an economy of desire that corresponds to these images, but the arousal of physical or sexual desire is not the goal of the installation. The installation abstracts the images from their original context and puts them into a new one. Originally, although semi-public, they were deployed to engage private communication. The communicative aspect is lost in the installation. The booth in which they now appear, with its peepshow quality, actually removes the images from the typical “private” experience of viewing at the computer terminal. It underscores the actual public quality of the chat room, and by placing the spectator in such proximity to the images in a public installation, it distills and intensifies the awareness of this public/private dynamic. Like LOVERFILM, it can make the spectator uncomfortable. It places the spectator into a position not of arousal but of awareness of the possibility of arousal.

And yet, a central motif and key to the brilliance of Brynntrup’s piece is the fact that none of the bodies have faces. Brynntrup selected images that anonymize the figures. These are not images where the head is cropped out but rather images where the subject holds a camera in front of his face and shoots into a mirror. All the men, presenting themselves, take self-portraits in a mirror, holding the camera in front of their faces. The body appears but the eyes, nose, mouth, the specific facial features, are obscured. Sometimes it is simply a camera that is positioned in front of the face. Often, however, it is a flash from the camera. In place of the face alluded to in the title, FACE IT, the viewer sees a bright blast, a flare, a sort of radiant halo.

This motif of the flash is new. The other and older strategy of choice to preserve a form of anonymity while presenting the self as incitement is to cut the head out of the frame. This strategy establishes an aesthetic connection to antiquity: the men display themselves as a classic Greek torso. The flash, however, belongs to the aesthetic aspects of the technological possibilities opened up by the cheap digital cameras and ubiquitous hosting platforms of Web 2.0. This flash that effaces is a new form of self-representation.

Brynntrup edited these images together so that they pass review at various speeds to the rhythm of an electronic soundtrack. Periodically there is a countdown of the type that usually appears in a film trailer; this acts as a sort of coda or refrain. Toward the end, the montage accelerates, taking on the quality of collage. The final sequence occludes the men and shows instead only the cameras, repeating the entire sequence again, as if to suggest that it was always only about the cameras. In the absence of the bodies the erotic aspect of the images dissipates. Plantinga, Smith, or Grodal offer little that can address these non-narrative faceless pieces. Where Plantinga considered the close-up and the face, Brynntrup offers the body without a head (and the camera without the body without the head). Nevertheless, clearly, the piece can affect its viewers.

The significance of the images grew as FACE IT began to circulate. During the Berlinale, the closet was positioned in the Atrium of the Filmhaus on Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. Starting the following August, it traveled as a projected piece through a large festival circuit from Berlin to Budapest, Moscow, Istanbul, São Paulo, Seoul, the Hague, and Paris. And then in a new form, as a return of the project to the web, Brynntrup loaded FACE IT (Cast your self ) as streaming video onto YouTube. In spite of its success on the festival circuit, the debut of the piece on YouTube lasted only a half hour before it was flagged as inappropriate content. Here the piece returned the images to the web, their original medium, albeit in a different forum. Nevertheless the YouTube viewer had the opportunity to experience the images in that illusory “private” space in which they originally appeared, while bringing them into a decidedly less gay, more “public” space.

We cannot be certain of the motivations for censorship; YouTube gets so many uploads per day that it is impossible for the systems operators to review everything, so they have established a self-regulating mechanism where users can flag a piece. Viewers can flag the content and once reviewed, it is then removed without explanation. The image of the other, the images of men, the images of men presenting themselves sexually, the images of men seeking to appeal to other men, the act of effacement in the images—something was able to provoke enough YouTube users to flag the video for it to be removed in short order. Something in the video made it stand out as particularly appropriate for censorship from the field of over 1000 classic beefcake images, or the 120,000 Paris Hilton videos, or 96,500 car crash videos, or even 250 dog excrement videos that YouTube hosts. It is impossible to reconstruct what it really was that motivated the users. It is possible that it was disgust with the images. It is also possible that one or more of the men recognized themselves and were embarrassed to find themselves on display in a way they did not originally intend. Brynntrup noted that the anonymity of this “democratic” censorship pushed the concept of Web 2.0 to reveal its limits: “There are mechanisms that continually close down this endless freedom. I approve of digital freedom, but one should always reflect on who has control over the circuits of power.”[35]

Inasmuch as FACE IT attracts, it is also able to repel. The piece obviously has the ability to elicit some form of censorious response: the YouTube users responded directly to the images, provoked by them into action. The face here in its effacement may be taken to exhibit Tomkins’ understanding of shame. Shame, Tomkins suggested, exhibits itself in a weakening of the neck muscles so that the head wants to hang. He describes how the subject possibly blushes and the eyes avert. Aesthetically the flash could be understood as an extreme abstraction of the blush that hides the head. This self-portrait replaces the direct look. It averts the gaze of the subject, while at the same time attracting the affect of the observer.

Of Tomkins’ nine forms of biologically based affects (interest-excitement, enjoyment-joy, surprise-startle, distress-anguish, anger-rage, fearterror, shame-humiliation, dissmell, and disgust) shame-humiliation was one of the last to evolve. Shame might be understood as working in conjunction with the other, positive affects, especially the primary pairs of interest-excitement and enjoyment-joy. It is not their opposite but a deep and constantly changing bodily response to new circumstances, experienced at the point of contact between the body and the social world. It is felt especially when the individual experiences an impediment to interest or enjoyment. Thus, shame is not the opposite of enjoyment but rather an experience potentially felt in conjunction with it (or excitement, or interest). Even though it is felt in the individual, it is a response across individuals. Therefore this process should not be understood as an individual process. It is intersubjective and communicative in a form outside of spoken language.

Alice Kuzniar and Eve Sedgwick have extended this work, concentrating on how the affect of shame in particular exists between the body and the face of the other.[36] Both Kuzniar and Sedgwick stress that shame is that particular form of affect most profoundly felt in relationship to others and in social circumstances that matter the most, or in which the individual is most invested. Furthermore, in pairing shame-humiliation Tomkins also underscored that the affect arises with a lack of response to interest-excitement, in conditions of non-recognition. The exposed body may or may not appeal and in that moment of exposure, the affective possibilities are in flux. The effaced image captures that flux and expresses multiple affective potentials. Is there something specific to be described in the presentation of men’s bodies for other men? Is there a form of shame specific to gay people? A number of critics and theorists have recently begun to answer this question affirmatively. David Halperin and Valerie Traub argue in the introduction to their edited collection of essays Gay Shame that gay shame is an outcome of conditions of non-recognition or social ostracism especially for gay people.[37] In a heteronormative social environment, conditions of nonrecognition lead to an experience of shame—especially in gays and lesbians. Being ignored or excluded leads to a lessening of self-value. Gay pride, as the foundation of gay liberation in the 1970s, thus has a counterpart in gay shame, and is thus not the opposite but an outgrowth of gay shame of the 1950s and 60s.

In Moving Politics Debbie Gould explores the role of noncognitive, nonconscious, nonlinguistic, and nonrational motivations for social movements.[38] She extends the analysis, focusing on “activism and political feelings, including expected and often evident feelings in the realm of activism like rage, anger, indignation, hope, pride, and solidarity, but also those that might be less perceptible but nevertheless in play, like fear, shame, embarrassment, guilt, overwhelmedness, desperation, and despair” (4). Gould’s work is an important innovation in the analysis of the role of affect in the social and behavioral sciences because to this point, on a fundamental level, emotions have been assessed negatively, especially as a destructive aspect of crowd or mob behavior.[39] It was not until the emergence of civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights that participation in extra-parliamentary social movements became understood as justified and reasonable. Gould’s work on affect suggests that gay pride does not undo or dispense with shame. Moreover, it also suggests that there is no need to be ashamed of shame. Gould, Halperin, Traub, Sedgwick, and Kuzniar’s research suggests that gay shame can be assessed positively. Shame as affect is productive in its connection to movement and expression. Gay shame can produce significant activity, activity that signifies more profoundly than gay pride.

Thus, to open up a discussion of gay shame is not a way of saying that the men presenting themselves were too ashamed in the commonly understood way to show their faces. Rather, shame in its productive capacity may have motivated the effacement allowed by the flash. Certainly, however, the men were digitally cruising an electronically semi-public site in order to present themselves and to attract interest. Shame as affect interacts with other affects in such a setting, including excitement and enjoyment, coordinating visceral responses. The suggestion is, then, that shame travels as affect between the body and the face of the other. The act of cruising that generated the images is a deep and constantly changing bodily response to new circumstances. The users of the chat rooms sought a point of contact with another and with an ‘other.’ It is contact ultimately between the body and the social world. Yet cruising is not always successful, generating many impediments to interest or enjoyment. The faceless image puts the body on display while hiding the response to the interest/lack of interest of the other.

The origin of the images, then, is clear, but how do they function in their appropriated context? The spectator of the piece certainly lacks the typical point of identification and recognition. To be sure, regardless of the spectator’s economy of desire, the screening space of FACE IT creates an environment in which the spectator’s affective state is keyed to and cued to the image. Especially in the confined space of the installation, the spectator confronts a series of images of men presenting themselves to other men—with no face. Regardless of the economy of desire of the spectators, FACE IT positions them as the other to the faceless image. Do I want them? What do they want of me? The camera, however, stands in for an act of reflection and refraction typical of Brynntrup’s ineffable. The camera in the images simultaneously represents what the man on display sees: himself in a mirror, but it also refracts back a gaze at the spectator. The man’s look passes through the camera to the spectator. The camera thus simultaneously blocks what the spectator wants to see and stands in for an eye that sees the spectator. The spectator gives interest to an image that does not look back. Spectatorial recognition is doomed to failure. FACE IT thereby shames its spectators—if shame is that affect that arises most directly in relationship to the other from whom one seeks recognition or in whom one is most invested.

The negativity of the speedy response on YouTube arose because in Brynntrup’s piece we feel not just any shame, but the specific experience of gay shame. Gay shame here could mean that the images are not just marked by their facelessness but by their being men on display for other men; the original direction of desire remains, marking their alterity. But I would insist that in a heteronormative society, “gay” will always mark a position from which one seeks recognition from the other, but may be denied it or may receive it in a way that does not elicit joy or interest. And that is what the spectator is made to feel. FACE IT establishes a space in which the spectator’s affect can become an explicit object of perception and cognition. What the spectator feels does not result simply from a “downstream flow” but is part of the cycle of facial response Tomkins identified. There is much that could be said about this cycle, but suffice it to observe that for the spectator who benefits from heteronormative social orders, this experience of gay shame can prove profoundly moving to the point of calling forth a strong censoring mechanism. Moreover, this differential response raises a fundamental objection to the interiority of the imagist and descriptionist models discussed earlier. It would be banal to suggest that a gay spectator will have a gay way of seeing, but such a statement would be in line with the interiority of the cognitive models. The spectator is not bound by a fundamental grammar, or subject to a single sentential state. Both spectator and image are multivalent and differential. The image is the point through which the body and the social world come into contact.

The experimental space established in this piece, as in the others discussed, underscores how the world that calls forth perception is a vast field containing differing forms. We are not simply observers on a vast horizon of the world but spectators perceiving according to determining conditions of visibility. We can therefore refine further the proposition formulated earlier: if perception is always perception of something, it is not simply perception of any thing. The thing given to perception affects it, calls perception forth, gives it direction, and provides it with a sense of shape and form.

Cognitive film studies begin from the understanding that the cinematic represents a site of a particular mode of perception. Only with an awareness of how environments—like the cinematic—frame vision, can we draw some conclusions about the more general phenomenon of cognition and affect. In general, a cognitive study of film and the cinematic can support the emergence of such an approach. It does so fundamentally through its precise and specific attention to the embodied nature of the spectator and the specific positions of perception.

On this basis cognitive film studies holds the potential to make an equivalent and strong contribution to cognitive science. However, cognitive film studies has focused largely on narrative film, in which the thing perceived has multiple variations, yet is structured in a way that relies on a foundation of familiarity, readability, and legibility. Experimental film in contradistinction offers a surface that tests and plays with perception. Brynntrup’s work can make us aware of perception as such. Brynntrup’s associative webs of the ineffable draw out an experience of cognition’s freedom to go beyond the linguistically expressible into other realms of affective experience. This ineffable points in effect to that which is felt in the body. It fundamentally relies on offering new experiences for perception, thereby offering perception a chance to experience itself differently, anew.

University of Pittsburgh

Randall Halle, "Toward a Phenomenology of Emotion in Film: Michael Brynntrup and The Face of Gay Shame", In: Modern Language Notes, Volume 124, The Johns Hopkins University Press, April 2009.

[1] For an overview discussion see Klaus Scherer, “Profiles of emotion-antecedent appraisal,” Cognition and Emotion 11:2 (1997): 113–50; Klaus Scherer, “Universality of emotional expression,” Encyclopedia of Human Emotions, ed. D. Levinson, J. Ponzetti, and P. Jorgenson, vol. 2 (New York: Macmillan, 1999) 669–74.
[2] See Louis Charland, “The Natural Kind Status of Emotion,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (2002): 511–37 and “Feeling and Representing: Computational Theory and the Modularity of Affect,” Synthese 105 (1995): 273–301; Peter Goldie, The Emotions: A Philosophical Exploration (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000); Richard Wollheim, On the Emotions (New Haven: Yale UP, 2000).
[3] Michael Martinez, “Cognitive Representations: Distinctions, Implications, and Elaborations,” Development of Mental Representation: Theories and Applications, edited by Irving E. Sigel (Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1999) 25.
[4] Eleanor Rosch, “Mindfulness meditation and the private (?) self,” The Conceptual Self in Context: Culture, Experience, Self-Understanding, ed. Uric Neiser and David Jopling (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997) 197.
[5] In the history of philosophy, a few voices have raised doubt as to the innocence of the process of cognition, e.g. Spinoza, Hume, William James, Nietzsche and Bergson. They assert instead that the emotions belong to the body in a process separate from rational cognition. But the primary approach in cognitive science has only recently begun to consider the possible primacy of emotions and affective states in establishing— in Nietzschean terms—a reactive filter or an active constituting mechanism within the process of cognition. Indeed, seeing and perception as part of cognition are increasingly understood as part of a process that shapes, forms, and constitutes what is seen.
[6] See Patricia Ticineto Clough and Jean Halley eds., The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social (Durham: Duke UP, 2007); Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotions (New York: Routledge, 2004); Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham: Duke UP, 2002).
[7] Terence Horgan and John Tienson did initiate what is known as “the frame problem” in cognitive science, but this problem is largely about individual circumstances and social positioning and has never taken on the quality of exploring the visual frame or the embodiment of seeing. See Terence Horgan and John Tienson, “Representations Without Rules,” Philosophical Topics 17 (1989): 147–74.
[8] Seeking to draw on the insights of cognitive science and analytic philosophy, cognitive film studies were initiated with some controversy by David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, and have led to productive studies that chart out new directions for the discipline. See David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, eds., Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1996). See also David Bordwell, Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging (Berkeley: U of California P, 2005), and also his own webpage with extensive discussions and blogs: http://www.davidbordwell.net/essays/zizek.php. Warren Buckland’s excellent synthetic study of cognitive and semiotic approaches and Per Perrson’s attempt to develop a “psychological theory of moving imagery” have helped reinvigorate areas of investigation, like spectator studies, that had reached impasses in existing critical methodologies. See Warren Buckland, The Cognitive Semiotics of Film (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000); Per Persson, Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003).
[9] Bordwell and Carroll, xiii.
[10] Persson draws for instance on “discourse understanding” as developed by psychologists Arthur Graesser, Paul van den Broek, and Rolf Zwaan. Greg M. Smith applies an “emotion system” developed likewise by psychologists such as Michael Lewis, Joseph LeDoux, or Richard J. Davidson. Greg M. Smith, Film Structure and the Emotion System (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003); Carl Plantinga and Greg M. Smith, eds, Passionate Views: Film, Cognition, and Emotion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999). The first 85 pages of Smith’s innovative study are oriented toward “developing the approach” out of cognitive psychologists’ work on emotions. Such an orientation results in film studies by non-psychologists applying psychological models, rather than film studies that contribute to the understanding of cognitive processes through the specific potential of the filmic medium. This singular direction of the flow of information is not necessary nor need we assume it is permanent. It has a great deal to do with the way interdisciplinary investigations often begin as a one-sided opening by one discipline (film studies) to another (psychology in this instance).
[11] Much of Brynntrup’s work, and especially the work discussed here, is at least in part viewable through his website www.brynntrup.de. The website itself should be considered a piece of that work, to be explored in its own right.
[12] Mike Hoolboom, “The Death Dances of Michael Brynntrup,” Millenium Film Journal 30/31 (1997): 39–42.
[13] Alice Kuzniar, The Queer German Cinema (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2000) 198.
[14] See Randall Halle and Reinhild Steingröver, eds., After the Avant-Garde: Contemporary German and Austrian Experimental Film (Rochester: Camden House, 2008).
[15] See Nigel Thomas, “Mental Imagery, Philosophical Issues About,” Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, ed. Lynn Nadel (London: Nature, 2003); Zenon Pylyshyn, “Visual indexes, preconceptual objects, and situated vision,” Cognition 80:1–2 (2001): 127–58 and “Situating vision in the world,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4.5 (2000): 197–207; R. Rensink, “The dynamic representation of scenes,” Visual Cognition 7 (2000): 17–42; M. Behrmann, “The mind’s eye mapped onto the brain’s matter,” Current Directions in Psychological Science 9.2 (2000): 50–54.
[16] Mark Rollins, Mental Imagery: On the Limits of Cognitive Science (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989) 54. See also his “Romantic Science: On the Role of Images in Cognition,” Begetting Images: Studies in the Art and Science of Symbol Production, ed. Mary B. Campbell and Mark Rollins (New York: Peter Lang, 1989).
[17] Stills from the work are available at www.brynntrup.de.
[18] See Friedrich Schiller, Über das Schöne und die Kunst (Munich: DTV, 1984); Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1974).
[19] Greg M. Smith, Film Structure and the Emotion System (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003); Carl Plantinga and Greg M. Smith, eds., Passionate Views: Film, Cognition, and Emotion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999); Torben Grodal, Moving Pictures: A New Theory of Film Genres, Feelings, and Cognition (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997).
[20] Carl Plantinga, “Scene of Empathy and the Human Face,” Passionate Views 239–55. See also his Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator’s Experience (Berkeley: U of California P, 2009).
[21] Plantinga, “Scene of Empathy” 243.
[22] Torben Grodal, “Emotions, Cognitions, and Narrative Patterns,” Passionate Views 130. See also Torben Grodal, Moving Pictures: A New Theory of Film Genres, Feelings, and Cognition (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999).
[23] Greg M. Smith, “Local Emotions, Global Moods,” Passionate Views 242. See also Greg M. Smith, Film Structure and the Emotion System (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007).
[24] Plantinga, “Scene of Empathy” 253.
[25] Plantinga, “Scene of Empathy” 256.
[26] Smith 117.
[27] Peter Goddard, “Shaking the city’s culture; Filmmaker’s series critiques gay sensibilities,” The Toronto Star 18 November 1999: 1.
[28] Cristina Nord, “Einblicke ohne Offenbarung: Die Kurzfilme des Experimentalfilmers Michael Brynntrup im Filmkunsthaus Babylon,” Tageszeitung 31 Oct. 1998: 29.
[29] Robin Curtis, “From the Diary to the Webcam: Michael Brynntrup and the Medial Self,” After the Avant-Garde: Contemporary German and Austrian Experimental Film, ed. Randall Halle and Reinhild Steingröver (Rochester: Camden House, 2008) 225–45; 235.
[30] Grodal 132.
[31] Silvan Tomkins, “What and Where are the Primary Affects? Some Evidence for a Theory,” Exploring Affect: The Selected Writings of Silvan S. Tomkins, ed. E. Virginia Demos (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995) 218.
[32] Paul Ekman, “Silvan Tomkins and Facial Expression,” Exploring Affect 210. This point proved central to Ekman’s development of the Facial Action Coding System. See Paul Eckman, W. V. Friesen, and J. C. Hager, The Facial Action Coding System, 2nd ed. (1974; Salt Lake City: Research Nexus eBook, 2002).
[33] Ekman 210.
[34] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank, eds., Shame and Its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader (Durham: Duke UP, 1995).
[35] “Es gibt eben Mechanismen, die dieser grenzenlosen Freiheit immer wieder Riegel vorschieben. Ich finde die digitale Freiheit gut, aber man muss immer reflektieren, wer über die Schaltstellen verfügt.” Michael Brynntrup, “Rette dein Leben,” interview by Bert Rebhandl, TAZ 12 June 2008 <http://www.taz.de/1/leben/film/artikel/1/rette-dein-leben>.
[36] See in particular Alice Kuzniar, Melancholia’s Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006); and Eve Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham: Duke UP, 2003). See also Eve Sedgwick, “Shame in the Cybernetic Fold: Reading Silvan Tomkins,” Shame and Its Sisters 1–28.
[37] David N. Halperin and Valerie Traub, eds., Gay Shame (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008).
[38] Deborah Gould, Moving Politics (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2009).
[39] Protest and participation in protest was perceived from the 19th century (Le Bon) to the 1970s as a sign of weak ego boundaries (Freud) and a propensity to come under the sway of authoritarian figures (Lasswell or Adorno et al).


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