“Life-Edit. A Companion to Streaming and Solitude” is a text by Costanza Candeloro commissioned by Fondazione Prada. Focused on the individual and collective experience of streaming, this native content accompanies the film project “Perfect Failures” conceived by MUBI and Fondazione Prada and available on the online platform from 5 April 2020.
In the current time, in which shared cinematic universes and streaming services have upended the very notion of what is “cinema”, movie lovers are simultaneously confronted with new releases and films of the past. This daily experience lived by a wide audience shapes a visual and mental landscape, in which it is possible to question the past and current functions of cinema, in order to reconsider its seductive power and cultural role.
Every week a chapter of the text will be published on Fondazione Prada’s website and on Notebook, illustrated by a gallery of images that suggest possible connections with other creative fields, from science to literature, from technology to philosophy.
A Companion to Streaming and Solitude
by Costanza Candeloro
Streaming is the default and generic act of watching a movie on a digital device, a clean act. This text introduces several conditions that are parallel to the act of streaming, providing a fragmentary overview of watching and playlist syndromes involved when somebody engages with movies in the 3rd millennium.
Streaming is the least passive format of viewership, a personal, emo-driven subjective edit; performed over keyboards and running times (pause / keep watching / watch it again), it has changed the status and politics of vision.
Streaming is generally understood to involve laptops, movies, images, infrastructures and the Internet. Some of the pictures that illustrate this text tell us about the parallel development of reading monitors and the microfilm process. From single queries to large networks, monitor accumulation and archiving systems (i.e., the screen-aided literary process), a set of images is used to trace the main and core models by which streaming is a collective dream and ultimately a literary phenomenon.
A visual companion to the fragmentary origin of streaming symptoms.
Biblioteca di Stato di Berlino, Archivio Fotografico del patrimonio prussiano, Germania, ante 1997. Courtesy Agencja Fotograficzna Caro / Alamy Foto Stock, ph. Jandke
Constantly changing landscape: thoughts
Which are black fish, pale pearls,
Icy monsters or infinitely small
Corpuscles huddled in the seabed of being,
Seeds of designs, indistinct germs of dreams
Emerging from an unknown mental abyss,
That rise to the eye in short assumptions,
They come to animate the crystal screen.
(Georges Rodenbach, Le Voyage dans les Yeux, 1896)
Unicast is by definition a one-to-one transmission, the least advanced format of information transmission, yet it is the only one where what is sent is addressed solely to one receiver. As poetry becomes as diverse as the reader’s mind, Le Voyage dans les Yeux forecasts the direct human feeling that a vast uploaded infrastructure populated by nodes and compressed movie titles still holds: solitary comfort.
A truly special adjustment to solitude since it is not meant as a cure but as companionship.
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Collirio.Eye drops. Courtesy Alisha Arif / Alamy Stock Photo
1.1 Out (Look)
Streaming belongs to states that come to be as personal and unspoken as private life is, an adjunct form of companionship. Like all private matters, its performance must not be scientific, algorithmically driven or solicited by third-party ads, its effect allowed to be as poetic and cringe-worthy as unsurveyed solitude.
Sight always implies a mandatory format of coupling with an untold technology, a sought-after pairing of screens. An adoptive sisterhood made—alternatively—by sights and corneas, screens and viewer, entry-level crystals and reflections¹.
A correct depiction of present-day viewership would merge and re-construct panic as a no-escape Gallery of Mirrors. Emergency escape routes in scientifically darkened cinema theatres offer zero reflection, handling mirroring ambitions to multiplied image carriers, a transflective—just shuttered—living image. * Images quantified by dispersion.
And if it is true that the eyes, from Rodenbach to today, remain strictly a lone pair, it is equally true that sources, darker than the outcome, and their sight target—still portrayed via images—is now quantified by dispersion.
Metaphors are slippery, origins as debatable as fact-finding is hard. The mobilization of viewership should not back up from earlier sources. Rodenbach’s screens, with the aid of textual communication, represent a companion to all recent efforts at establishing a stable theory of streaming, dating it back to the late 19th century and radically reconstructing a poetic enchantment where technology feels like a separating force. An unrated story of origins.
¹A flow of images, videos, films begins. The effect is your chronology, your daily life and it appears to me as a discontinuous phenomenon made up of sequences, scenes, plans, shots. The dissolved darkness between these two glass parts is a layout of mirrors, which, should it encounter light, gives to unitary vision a drop of refractive particles. Monitor brightness passes through my entire structure, what remains from the absorbed part specifies my transparency. When electricity is implemented, I become a transflective character. When inactive, my glass structure shows up. The black of my dull crystals is a mirror for your userface. Backlight kills me, it enables you.
* A transflective — just shuttered — living image, six annotations from the core of in&out display reflection.
Esame oculistico con cheratometro: la misurazione della curvatura della superficie esterna della cornea permette di diagnosticare il grado e l’asse di astigmatismo / Ophthalmic test with keratometer: by measuring the curvature of the anterior surface of the cornea, the extent and axis of astigmatism can be assessed. Courtesy Volf Elena / Alamy Stock Photo
1.2 Solo Streamer
Playlist Syndromes, in the decades preceding today’s stable stream, have long been designed by users within peer-to-peer communities, immaterial groups predating visual cults by means of isolation.
According to a more or less pervasive rationale, the do ut des of upload and download, precise invitations and permanence policies, hosting, feed-quality control and private trackers’ video repositories are not the point of owning—in archived form—a vast majority of human-run video production. The temporal visual ownership of titles has seen spikes of commercial movies, random footage and the excessive extemporary production of generalized .mov based visual cultures.
The long wave of this phenomenon has irrigated our adolescence, providing an indispensable video library to our palace of memories: the pirate torrent and the illegal stream were representing the interlocutors in the construction of our generation’s identity, while cinema and television programming was going around in circles.
The pipes of the industry had been updated to new rules and regulated paths, intersecting source and consumer. The wide speed-spectrum of private video consumption has been given life by personal data, a wolf-like figure that goes by the name of data hoarding: two million gigabytes of unhinged (unsorted) videos, produced by cam-users and uploaded to Amazon servers by an indexed single-user archive, where the accumulated running time now reaches centuries of stored visual content.
A mass dispatched and aimed at soloist satisfaction.²
² Every evening you come home worn out from a mess of events, travels, relationships, images—none of which you can identify as an accomplished experience. Divided and scattered, the nature of your knowledge finds perfect correspondence in the various aspects of everyday life. The logical relationships between the events of your life seem to be replaced by random combinations. You do not need any cure for insomnia, just a decent partner.
Cosplayer alla/at the Super Comic Convention, ExCeL Centre, Londra/London. Courtesy Marcin Rogozinski / Alamy Stock Photo
1.3 Singular Streamer
The evolvement of streaming did not maintain its offer of “unlimited storage” to its users, as repeated plays do not equal ownership, neither truthful and just accessibility; the monomania of fandom, a reel that thrives on analysis, theories and the rewatching of a single body of content was left empty handed. Content became separated and the normal flow of watching by distancing and commenting through keyboards that created the protocols for the burgeoning of streaming platforms became a disaffected singular stream, a stable offer of disciplined contents, subjects and auto-adjusted resolution, prevented what fandom is based on, human-based research activity, visual pleasure kept by rare and precious content. Content ages and disappears, like habits, contemporary streaming customers have now adopted a median position that puts them like a mixed-breed onlooker constructed by data-hoarding and fandom: “greedy for content, exhausting seasons by trend, the big news that orient human chit-chat, with nomad and unpleasant passion.”
Still dal film / still from film "Ghost in the Shell" (1995), Mamoru Oshii. Courtesy Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
1.4 Remote Participation
“If you do not like the way you live, my suggestion is to change yourself,
otherwise simply close off your ears, eyes and mouth, and live alone.” [Motoko Kusanagi arresting a criminal.]
(Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Koan Kyuka SECTION-9, Season 1, Episode 1, October 1, 2002, Kenhji Kamiyama.)
Generalist streaming depletes genetic diversity according to an alleged logic of demand. An ideal fishing pond where an apparent heterogeneity is a sale offer made by the same species, camouflaged in a well-known formula of choice. A visual dining option that would bore even the average consumer planning a comfortable #nepenthe&chill evening.
The heightened possibility of choice does not match a general freedom, it consolidates a figure that has come to be defined as a generic spectator, a human-like being fed by a progressive decrease in the presence and circulation of visual materials that is not as click-friendly and binge-watchable as the perfect machinery of admissible movies. The build-up of sections singularly dedicated to independent, award-winning, worthy arthouse content channeled a made-up elective relationship with unrestful users, without the necessary provision of hard-access content and any air-space for confrontation. A turn that is building a canon that is just as much given by movie-materials as by their assumed presence, and that does not manage to construct any resolution.
What used to be congregational—as in a collective yet dispersed community of independent spectators, getting together as a form of new development, assuming diverse universes, alternate ending and hardcore critique—is now dead and has been rebuilt in a new format of participation, coded in the platform.³
³ Right after dinner, I read in front of you, the movements coagulate with the rattling of the train that crosses the flyover. The corridor window frames the seasons, a mirror that helps to endure. These hours should be time for you to devote to home-management activities. The film is depleting as you move from one room to another. Still with difficulty, yet another day is about to end.
Carole Roussopoulos filming the demonstration of the LIP company workers in Besançon for her documentary / riprende la manifestazione degli operai della LIP a Besançon per il documentario "La Marche de Besançon. LIP II" (1973). 09/1973. Distribution by Centre audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, Paris.
assembly, modification, selection
Movie memory works exactly like editing: it modifies, selects and assembles useful information, relevant images in order to give continuity to a personal bond with video reality.
Wonderful representations of these processes merge the screen, streaming and the nomadism of multiple platforms with selective taste. Current streaming modes brought to light an active eye process, giving birth to what perfect editing significantly is, since unnoticeable shifts re-building governance over sight. This radically multiplies any movie fragments into an imaginative narrenschiff, mixing images, branded content, news information, collateral native info and other movies, making watching a populated and unregulated editing process.
Numerous are the levels of reality which intersect in these increasingly widespread scenarios. This perspective makes the process of watching a movie frenetic, an active experience—which can only be interpreted according to an apparent idea of disorder—a visual development with adventure story features, but with characterizing hues built up with solitude.
A viewer only watches by himself as a single, decentralized, sometimes sleepless calculator, assimilating images with specific personal filters and in an unreconstructable disordered manner.4
Solitary viewership (what streaming is) makes movies the absolute editing platform for imaginative processes. A continuous re-writing of the psychological, perceptive and ontological plan a movie defines within user experiences coordinates.
Like a camera, eyes feed on fragments and subjectivity is manifested through assembling.
Streaming websites injected the personal into cinematography, providing the ground for a ghosted expansion, that gave personal movie-watching unseen hegemony.5 The possibility of using an object/information without downloading—streaming—makes it possible to produce hypertext-driven scenarios, with no forced escape. A movie-theater only allows one action, streaming feeds the viewers’ existence with devious and polymorphic configurations, a set of peculiar narratives about the cognitive life of the onlooker.
Movie-memory is constantly busy assembling and disassembling the endless reportage of what eyes catch, sensitive to hyperbolic associations not forced in an irreversible space-time structure.
Streaming is the personal unbound, a possible estimate of loneliness.6