Montage - transformation - allegory : a study of digital imaging in dialectical film making

Wright, Richard (1998) Montage - transformation - allegory : a study of digital imaging in dialectical film making. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


The thesis is an attempt to show practically and theoretically how digital image synthesis can be used to help create new ways of making meaning by examining some of the methods that lie at the heart of materialist avant-garde arts practice. In the first instance this involves the technique of montage, especially dialectical montage as developed by Eisenstein, Brecht and Godard in which the shock effect is used to overcome conditioned perceptions and create a critical distance. Secondly it is informed by Benjamin's concept of allegory, a method of using montage to assemble historical fragments or emblems to reveal insights into the world of material social relations. The aim of my thesis is to show that transformation rather than montage has now become the primary aesthetic means in digital media and stands with montage in a new perceptual dialectic of shock and fascination.

The main practical component of this thesis submission consists of the film LMX Spiral, a digital film making project based on aspects of British social and cultural history from the eighties to the nineties. The film is used as the main means to illustrate various points about the relation between montage and transformation in the context of allegorical film making. LMX Spiral can be described as both a historical thesis and a dialectical special effects film based on the attempts during the eighties to create an economic utopia of enterprise and opportunity, undermined by the likelihood of human corruption and natural catastrophe. It is an allegory about Britain's transition between the enterprise culture of the eighties and the lottery culture of the nineties.

The final chapter attempts to expand the application of Benjamin’s concept of allegory as a cultural form to the level of the technical production of digital media. The necessity for software systems to perform efficiently under a number of different requirements leads to a hybridisation of knowledge bases and a fragmentation of theoretical models that might be similar to the emblematisation and montage of cultural icons. This suggests the possibility that scientific and mathematical models could be used allegorically on a variety of different levels but also points to certain limits in the applicability of this concept of allegory.

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