Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Ctheory, http://www.ctheory.net/ (2002)
Julian Hochberg and Virginia Brooks argue in "Movies in the Mind's Eye" that the apparent movement of motion pictures should be understood as a mental process described by cognitive theory and gestalt psychology. This argument is a reconfiguration of the traditional, physiological model that makes the motion an effect of ocular physiology. In place of this model, they propose that the movement we see when watching a movie -- whether in the form of a film or a video tape -- is more than simply the illusion of motion: it is perceptually as real as any other visual motion we perceive. The difference between this motion and other motion resides in its empirical status independent of observation, not in our subjective perception. Their transformation of the conceptualization of "motion pictures" has implications for our understanding of motion in painting. So-called "painterly motion" is historically one of the most important effects employed in old master paintings (and developed in the Modernist period by Cubism and some of its derivatives). Hochberg and Brook's theory about a cognitive basis for film motion is applicable to any form of virtual movement. It provides an account of why we can see "painterly motion." This theory implies a connection between painterly motion and movies that has implications for understanding "avant-garde" film and video. It also suggests a type of kinetic art heretofore unknown.
A continuous motion in the world is, of course, captured by successive displayed images on film (or their video equivalent). For most events, these displacements are small, and within the range of the low-level sensory receptors of the visual system; these respond identically to the visual displacements on the screen and to the differences provided from one moment to the next by smooth physical motion in the world. 
[image: Eadweard Muybridge, Animal Locomotion]
By contrast, "painterly motion," which is a technical effect common to "old master" paintings of the European painterly tradition, presents a single image that incorporates some of the same characteristics as the entire series of photographs employed in "photographic motion." The movement we see in Peter Paul Rubens' portrait of his wife wearing a fur wrap is a example of this effect made famous by critic John Berger's commentary in Ways of Seeing:
[image: Francis Bacon Three Studies of Lucien Freud, 1969]
[permission to reproduce granted by the Estate of Francis Bacon]
The differences between painterly and photographic motion become significant when considered in relation to one another. While the painterly motion requires the movement of the spectator's eyes through the image to create the effect of bodies in motionﾗa static image of motionﾗphotographic motion does not require movement by the viewer per se because the succession of images provide the necessary shifts in relationship are combined perceptually into motion. The encounter with painterly motion is fundamentally a more active process than that of photographic motion. Both proceed from an interpretative process, but the actual motion of the spectator is irrelevant to photographic motion. However, both types of motion can be understood through the same interpretative strategy, the likelihood principle. The same biological perception is employed in different ways but to the same effect: the creation of visual motion.
A kinetic art of the type proposed by this discussion relies upon the human interpreting consciousness for its existence. What this essay has attempted to show is the applicability of the cognitive view of film motion to painterly motion. By providing an account of how we can interpret both film and painting as developing from a common basis, we have also addressed the ontological question of their relationship as different or related media. This connection implies that it may be more appropriate to consider art based on its apparent motion, a division built from perceptual experience rather than one of physical materials. Such a view elides the interpretative difference between painting and film.
 Hochberg, Julian and Virginia Brooks, "Movies in the Mind's Eye" in Post Theory, ed. David Bordwell and Noel Carroll, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996) pp. 368-369.
 Ibid., p. 373.
 Berger, John. Ways of Seeing, (New York: Penguin, 1972), p. 61.
 Ibid., p. 61.
 Ibid., p. 61.
 Arnheim, Rudolf. To The Rescue of Art: Twenty-Six Essays, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), p. 36.
 Ibid. p. 205.
 Archimbaud, Michael. Francis Bacon, (London: Phaidon, 1993), pp. 14-15.
Michael Betancourt is an art critic and artist working in Miami, Florida.
Reproduced with permission.