Tuesday, November 07, 2017

A very old machine

Hi - I'm reading "A Very Old Machine: The Many Origins of the Cinema in India (SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema)" by Sudhir Mahadevan and wanted to share this quote with you.

"No technology dies a predictable death in India. Nor does it undergo an ordinary birth. Both are evident in the contraption I have just described. This book demonstrates how this axiom applies to the emergence of the cinema in South Asia. The title of the book therefore alludes to the Bioscope as an assemblage that is emblematic of film culture in India and how its history has been shaped. The Bioscope is a combination of past and present. It represents a key symbol of early cinema brushing against new and not so new media. It is the result of the refashioning of an “optical device” of still pictures well pre-dating the cinema in the nineteenth century, into a source of moving images with the help of domestic home viewing technology and digital formats. Finally, the assemblage performs and demands a public space and publicity for its viability. The embedded temporalities of just a single contraption capture I think, the complexity of India’s visual cultures, especially those centered on the cinema.
A Very Old Machine searches for antecedents to—or previous versions of—the imaginaries that have informed the cinema’s place in everyday life and the practices that have sustained its manifestations, both mainstream and idiosyncratic, in India. I investigate the emergence of the cinema in India from a variety of perspectives: as a screen practice that became viable as much through makeshift technologies as through capital intensive practices, as mass culture whose legitimacy was won in the nexus of commerce, culture, and the global traffic in images, as hybrid media that in tandem with photography and print culture registered the experience of modern life and thus established itself as a medium of topical relevance, and finally, as a form of social and cultural memory that has been particularly suited to a cinema whose many origins have made a single archive and a singular narrative impossible to produce and sustain."

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