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The Remix as Expanded Cinema:

REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE in context

Deidre Carney
Spring 2013
Avant-Garde and the Moving Image
It can be argued that the video remix, or a digital short film project made from

appropriated content, is the most dominant contemporary form of expanded cinema. Expanded

Cinema is a term that was developed most likely by Stan Vanderbeek and Carolee Schnermann

in the mid-1960s to describe the integration of film into wider performance or spatial studio art.

The term can be applied to many different aspects of media-audience interaction and in a general

sense refers to work that makes interaction an integral part of the film form. While “interaction”

is generally still accepted in reference to the late 20th century definition of a physical installation

with different components to engage the viewer, it has also come to mean the appropriation and

reforming of digital material. In 2010, filmmaker Jeff Desom remixed Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear

Window into a multiplatform video project titled REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE. Using Adobe

AfterEffects, a digital motion graphics, visual effects and compositing software, Desom stiches

together the film into a single panorama, simulating the implied view of the protagonist in the

film. While many remixes utilize multiple sources, Desom’s work is an interesting example of

extreme audience engagement to point of digitally restructuring the film into a new form to

enhance the narrative. Desom’s project subverts the original piece and its meaning in a manner

that can be used to explain the growth of the contemporary avant-garde.

In many regards, despite the focus on structural experimentation and technical

innovation, the avant-garde is best defined by a level of audience engagement. As Kristen Daly

notes in Cinema 3.0: The Interactive-Image, “Community, complexity, and multimedia

intertextuality was available before digital and computer technologies. The French New Wave

and its community in Cahiers du Cinema, and other journals and cineclubs of the time, was a
networked and intertextual form of cinema experience.”1 REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE

articulates this blurring of finality of composition and audience interaction in the logical extreme.

REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE is particularly contemporary in that it is a true project that is

available in multiple formats. REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE as an installation piece is a 20

minute digital projection that transforms the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window into a time

lapse panorama.

The 3 minute online video that functions as a “making of” video is a fundamental part of the

project on its own right. Daly notes in Cinema 3.0, “The experience of the movie is more like a

project and a piecing together of disparate parts, some contained in the movie text itself and

                                                                                                                         
1
Kristen Daly, "Cinema 3.0: The Interactive Image." Cinema Journal 50, no. 1 (2010): 81-98.
www.jstor.org/stable/40962838.
2
http://www.jeffdesom.com/hitch/RearWindowsSetup.jpg
some which may be found in other media.”3 The video has been shared on many social networks

and has received 1.1 Million views on the official Vimeo site.4

It could be said that the online short functions as a “viral video.” The blurring between corporate

promotion and the tradition of the avant-garde to utilize film documentation to record somewhat

ephemeral interactions is the subject of another paper, but it is fair to state that the viral video in

many regards is the preferred and natural medium of the contemporary avant-garde. The artist

considered retaining the narrative structure of the piece part of the challenge of making the

timelapse project. Therefore, REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE’s primary subversions are in format.

Desom has taken a work intended for the cinema screen, reformatted for DVD and reshaped it

into two of the most contemporarily relevant forms a video: the viral video and the looping

digital projection installation.

                                                                                                                         
3
Kristen Daly, "Cinema 3.0: The Interactive Image." Cinema Journal 50, no. 1 (2010): 81-98.
www.jstor.org/stable/40962838.
4
http://vimeo.com/37120554
In Cinema 2: The Time-Image, Gilles Deleuze defined a shift in filmmaking convention

coinciding with World War II, describing an “emergent way of making sense of the world that

was represented in postwar cinema.”5 The term is useful when trying to group together both

forward thinking commercial and independent films that emerged between the end of WWII and

the proliferation of digital media. It could be argued that Hitchcock was a great director of the

films that typify Cinema 2. Cinema 2 can be defined by "acts of seeing and hearing replace the

linking of images through motor actions; pure description replaces referential anchoring."6 What

made Hitchcock a “master of suspense” was really a masterful understanding of optical

subjectivity. Optical subjectivity was one of the most lasting legacies of French Impressionist

Cinema. Cinema 2 for Deleuze was a "cinema of the seer and no longer of the agent as the

movement-image gave way to the time-image."7 It is for this reason it is interesting thematically

that Desom chose Rear Window to reshape. It stands to logic that the unique vantage point and

set design of the film make it a compelling choice for this type of project. However, beyond the

original form of the film being suitable for “hacking,” the film is interesting in terms of

Hitchcock’s place in the experimental film cannon. Gene Youngblood in particular uses

Hitchcock as an example of what expanded cinema is not in his landmark 1970 work Extended

Cinema:

“It is essential to understand that Hitchcock openly admits that he didn't even try to

expand awareness or to communicate some significant message, but only exploited a

                                                                                                                         
5
Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image 1985, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis;
University of Minnesota Press, 1989),1.
6
David N. Rodowick, Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 12.
7
David N. Rodowick, Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 2
universal tradition of dramatic manipulation in order to supply his audience with the

gratification it paid for.”8

Youngblood looks down on audiences for wanting to see themselves reflected in media and

faults Hitchcock for giving it to them. This seems incongruous with the definition of expanded

cinema as Youngblood defines it. It is Youngblood himself who is most famously quoted with

the following definition for expanded cinema:

“Expanded cinema does not mean computer films, video phosphors, atomic light, or

spherical projections. Expanded cinema isn't a movie at all: like life it's a process of

becoming', i.e. a concept of presence more than it is a material of one kind or another.”

It begs the question, who is more present as viewer than someone reshaping the film form? How

can someone engage with media they do not see themselves in? Youngblood is responding to an

interview that the famously cheeky Hitchcock gave to promote the film. It is undeniable that in

its initial form, Rear Window is a commercial film and on the whole Hitchcock was a

commercial director. However, in the time between Youngblood’s writing and this paper a wide

body of research has been published investigating Hitchcock with a critical lens. As R. Barton

Palmer argues, “Hitchcock’s later American films, in short, are neither ‘classic’ nor ‘modernist’

but rather ‘metatextual.’…the viewing of experience that delineates the experience of viewing,

the levels of fiction and interpretation mutually informing one another.”9 In that regard, a film

that is about seeing and vantage point is not only physically appropriate for Desom’s subversion,

but thematically and, perhaps most importantly, culturally.

                                                                                                                         
8
Gene, Youngblood. Expanded Cinema. New York: P. Dutton & Co, 1970.
http://www.vasulka.org/Kitchen/PDF_ExpandedCinema/book.pdf.
9
R. Barton Palmer, "The Metafictional Hitchcock: The Experience of Viewing and the Viewing of Experience in
"Rear Window" and "Psycho"." Cinema Journal 25, no. 2 (1986): 4-19. www.jstor.org/stable/1225456, 4.
As Elise Lemire writes in Voyerism and the Postwar Crisis of Masculinuty in Rear

Window, “Rear Window is often considered a film that thematizes cinematic spectatorship. In

other words, it is considered to be a movie about watching movies.”10 This makes the material

ripe for appropriation into another work created by a viewer. For Hitchcock in 1954, the movie

viewer was typified by the character Jeffries, the photographer with a broken leg. In 2010, the

viewer was not so passive. It seems only logical that with the proliferation of home video and

editing equipment and what Youngblood refers to as a “television babies, ha[ving] reached

maturity having watched an average of 15,000 hours of television while completing only 10,000

hours of formal education through high school.”11 Perhaps without fully understanding what he

is articulating, Youngblood argues that the television viewer would not only intuitively dissect

media offered to them, but reconstruct the media in their own vision. Youngblood is not the first

to note the phenomenon. The idea that exposure to media is the best teacher for the language of

media dates back to at least Walter Benjamin. Benjamin writes, "Technology has subjected the

human sensorium to a complex kind of training.”12 As Desom notes in his brief artist statement,

“Since everything was filmed from pretty much the same angle I was able to match them into a

single panoramic view of the entire backyard without any greater distortions.”13 Hitchcock put

him in the place of the viewer and Desom put himself in the place of the director. This is fitting

with the narrative content of the project. As film historian R. Barton Palmer explains it, “Jeff

originally had been both the author and the audience of the fictionalized universe in the

apartment house across the courtyard. Now he relinquishes his function as audience for that of

                                                                                                                         
10
Elise Lemire, " Voyerism and the Postwar Crisis of Masculinuty in Rear Window," in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear
Window, ed. John Belton, 57-91. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 57.
11
Gene, Youngblood. Expanded Cinema. New York: P. Dutton & Co, 1970.
http://www.vasulka.org/Kitchen/PDF_ExpandedCinema/book.pdf.
12
Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings: 1938-1940. Vol. 4. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003, 328.
13
http://www.jeffdesom.com/hitch/
character is consequently obliged to lead the narrative (through the process of investigation), but

also to construct it for a different audience (Lisa and the detective).”14 Just as Jeff feels

compelled to transgress from passive viewer to active participant in the story, the new form of

experimental filmmaking hinges on the audience being consumers and creators of media.

REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE maintains the narrative of the source film at an accelerated

pace. This gives the appearance of everything happening at once, much like looking out one’s

window. This dismantles Hitchcock’s strict editing, but at the same time makes the portrait

intended to be created in the viewer’s mind literal. Playing with narrative is a common, but

sometimes misunderstood aspect of expanded cinema. Although much of the discourse on avant-

garde video installation focuses on lack of narrative, re-examinations of the artwork that

comprised the first and second generation expanded cinema argues that much of the work deals

with alternative narrative presentations outright.15 Video and film are used in near equal measure

in both the commercial and avant-garde filmmaking worlds in 2013, but video artist Jackie

Hatfield feels that irrelevant material bias dictates the shape of the early discourse for expanded

cinema and obscured the alternative narrative exploration, at least in the case of the British

1960s-80s avant-garde. Hatfield writes, “The historical lines of demarcation between film and

video are problematic, as any preoccupation with filmic-ness located in the material is missing

the point. For example, I would prefer to use the term cinematic to describe what I do as an artist.

                                                                                                                         
14
R. Barton Palmer, "The Metafictional Hitchcock: The Experience of Viewing and the Viewing of Experience in
"Rear Window" and "Psycho"." Cinema Journal 25, no. 2 (1986): 4-19. www.jstor.org/stable/1225456, 7.
15
 Jackie Hatfield, "Expanded Cinema and Narrative: Some Reasons for a Review of the Avant-Garde Debates
Around Narrativity." Millenium Film Journal 39, no. Wint (2003).
http://mfj-online.org/journalPages/MFJ39/hatfieldpage.html.  
I do not use film, but I do make cinema -- it moves, it is composed of moving images.”16 This

attitude is what fuels remix culture. Sequences of moving images become another medium or

component in the creation of a new assemblage that can independent or referential of the original

source material. Most, like REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE, are both.

It is interesting, but understandable given his frame of reference, that Youngblood

completely misses the importance of pop culture to the expanded cinema that would come in the

form of remix culture. Perhaps it could be argued that what could be called futuristic yearning

has been replaced with nostalgia in the contemporary incarnation of expanded cinema. Though

Youngblood is describing his predictions for the relationship between artist and technology, it is

when his logic is applied to the relationship between artist and content that it rings most true.

Some of Youngblood’s most prescient predictions are within the “Cybernetic Cinema and

Computer Films” section of the book. Youngblood quotes Robert Mallary in regards to the

"science of art...because programming requires logic, precision and powers of analysis as well as

a thorough knowledge of the subject matter and a clear idea of the goals of the program...

technical developments in programming and hardware will proceed hand in glove with a steady

increase in the theoretical knowledge of art, as distinct from the intuitive and pragmatic

procedures which have characterized the creative process up to now."17 Youngblood is tainted by

his time and cannot conceive of technicians as artists or extreme demonstrations of technique as

an artform of its own, but he understands that knowledge levels grow geometrically and

subverting that knowledge will shape the art the come.

                                                                                                                         
16
Jackie Hatfield, "Expanded Cinema and Narrative: Some Reasons for a Review of the Avant-Garde Debates
Around Narrativity." Millenium Film Journal 39, no. Wint (2003). http://mfj-
online.org/journalPages/MFJ39/hatfieldpage.html.
17
 Gene, Youngblood. Expanded Cinema. New York: P. Dutton & Co, 1970.
http://www.vasulka.org/Kitchen/PDF_ExpandedCinema/book.pdf.  
While Hitchcock was fiercely protective of his work, the form that REAR WINDOW

TIMELAPSE takes in many ways articulates the stylistic vision that Hitchcock was too limited by

the technology of his time to explore. It is popularly mythologized that Hitchcock tried to shoot

his 1948 film Rope as one long continuous take, but could not due to the time/footage limitations

of film cameras. One of the emerging questions of the remix culture is the morality of content

appropriation. Does what Hitchcock would want even matter? Though this is considered to be a

contemporary issue born of media malleability, it must be considered that from its inception, film

has been an appropriative art form. The earliest silent films were accompanied by orchestras

performing classic 19th century compositions as Jeremy Barham notes in his article “Recurring

Dreams and Moving Images: The Cinematic Appropriation of Schumann's Op. 15, No. 7”18

Barham asserts that Schumann’s “Träumerei” became popular to accompany scenes of “pathos

and romance.” This is somewhat contradictory to the original meaning of the piece in the

context of the larger work. This has in practice changed the way “Träumerei” is regarded and

performed. Barham asserts that the piece’s meaning has come to be “song for a movie.”

REAR WINDOW LOOP may not be the most clear example of content subversion as

remix culture, as many remixes utilize content from multiple sources to form an original

creation. However, the utilization of the entire narrative in a different form must be taken as a

deliberate subversion and an interesting example of the face of the contemporary avant-garde.

Film and video are inherently collaborative and appropriative mediums. Through the use of pop

culture references and the reformatting of culturally significant works of art, the contemporary

avant-garde in many regards takes expanded cinema to it’s logical extreme through participation

                                                                                                                         
18
Jeremy Barham, Recurring Dreams and Moving Images: The Cinematic Appropriation of Schumann's Op. 15, No.
7 19th-Century Music Vol. 34, No. 3 (Spring 2011) (pp. 271-301)
http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/ncm.2011.34.3.271
in remix culture. In it’s original form, Rear Window is about a passive viewer interjecting

himself into the story on his “screen.” In it’s remixed incarnation, the work becomes the process

of a formerly passive consumer of the work becoming an engaged consumer-creator hybrid.


Bibliography

Barham, Jeremy, “Recurring Dreams and Moving Images: The Cinematic Appropriation of
Schumann's Op. 15, No. 7” 19th-Century Music Vol. 34, No. 3 (Spring 2011) (pp. 271-301)
http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/ncm.2011.34.3.271
Benjamin, Walter. Selected Writings: 1938-1940. Vol. 4. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 2003, 328.

Daly, Kristen. "Cinema 3.0: The Interactive Image." Cinema Journal 50, no. 1 (2010): 81-98.
www.jstor.org/stable/40962838.

Desom, Jeff. REAR WINDOW TIMELAPSE. 2010. http://vimeo.com/37120554

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta
(Minneapolis; University of Minnesota Press, 1989).

Hatfield, Jackie. "Expanded Cinema and Narrative: Some Reasons for a Review of the Avant-
Garde Debates Around Narrativity." Millenium Film Journal 39, no. Wint (2003).
http://mfj-online.org/journalPages/MFJ39/hatfieldpage.html.

Lemire, Elise. " Voyerism and the Postwar Crisis of Masculinuty in Rear Window," in Alfred
Hitchcock's Rear Window, ed. John Belton, 57-91. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2000), 57.

Palmer, R. Barton. "The Metafictional Hitchcock: The Experience of Viewing and the Viewing
of Experience in "Rear Window" and "Psycho"." Cinema Journal 25, no. 2 (1986): 4-19.
www.jstor.org/stable/1225456, 7.

Rodowick, David N. Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
1997).

Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema. New York: P. Dutton & Co, 1970.
http://www.vasulka.org/Kitchen/PDF_ExpandedCinema/book.pdf.