remix culture and the kuleshov effect
Remix Culture students are finishing up their 250 word project descriptions and their video previews, so today’s class is mostly going to be a workshop were we can all get on with it and raise any issues that have come up.
I do want to show everyone the Kuleshov effect, which I think is particularly relevant to the people working on the manipulation of reality and on remixes of videos. Lev Kuleshov was an early Soviet filmmaker who set up a simple experiment: he showed an audience a film that showed the same footage of a man’s face three times – but each time followed by a different image: a bowl of soup, a dead body and a half-naked woman.
Each time, the audience interpreted the man’s expression differently, showing that the meaning of an image or sequence of images is as much in the images it is surrounded by as in the image itself.
You can read about the Kuleshov effect in pretty much any book called something like An Introduction to Film Studies, and if you’re writing about remix video in any sense you should definitely read a little more about this and other theories of video montage.
(I wonder whether we should all study cinema montage theory a bit more? After all, film editing is always a form of remixing, I suppose?)
Here’s a brief video of Hitchcock explaining (and demonstrating) the Kuleshov effect, without mentioning Kuleshov.
Montage was a major part of 1920s and 1930s Soviet film theory. The Odessa Stairs scene in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, where images “collide” and create new meanings is probably the most famous example:
If there’s interest, we can talk more about film montage in the upcoming weeks.