Experiencing the Modulation of Colour

I know this blog has been quite for almost two months. The holiday season got in the way, as well as my continued search for an academic teaching position. I am finally starting to do some new writing. The Society of Cinema and Media Studies conference is approaching in March and I have to write the paper for it. (You can read the abstract for this paper in this previous post.) I will post the full paper when it is ready next month.

For now you will find below a new abstract I wrote for the Film Studies Association of Canada’s annual conference. Enjoy.

Experiencing the Modulation of Colour in Florian Cramer’s Floppy Films

In 2009 Dutch digital researcher and artist Florian Cramer created a series of digital videos called Floppy Films. These works consisted of the five Oscar-nominated films of that year, greatly compressed to occupy no more than 1.44 megabytes of memory, the exact capacity of the near-obsolete floppy disc. The resolution of each film was reduced from the high-definition video standard to a simplified resolution measuring seven by three pixels, playing at eight frames per second, and with a palette of only one hundred and twenty-eight colours. As a result of the compression, the films were altered to such a degree that certain features, such as characters, settings, and plot, were eliminated. All that remained were the dominant colours found in each film. Through a process of digital compression, Cramer’s Floppy Films make colour the focus of these work.

In this paper I will explain how these videos enable viewers to experience the modulation of colour. According to Gilles Deleuze, colour modulation involves a double movement of expansion and contraction that produces sensations. Although these sensations occur  below the threshold of perception, they are nonetheless what ultimately generate the images that viewers come to see. I will explain how the colours in the Floppy Films expand beyond the limits of their pixels, enabling relations to take hold among the various colours. At the same time, as these relations emerge, a contraction occurs, joining the various colours of the videos together in order to produce something more than just a collection of colours. As this expansion-contraction double movement of colour modulation takes place, imperceptible sensations are produced.

Despite the fact that viewers are unable to see the modulation of colour and the sensations this process produces, I will contend that the Floppy Films enable viewers to momentarily experience the sensations as affects felt in the seeing. Following Brian Massumi, affects are not emotions; rather, they are the intensities that are experienced during the occurrence of an event. The simplified image resolution found in the Floppy Films makes it possible for viewers to experience the intensive affects generated by the modulation of colour, and to briefly witness a process that is normally hidden from their sight.

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