I’m currently reading The Shadow and Its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema edited by Paul Hammond. In his introduction Hammond discusses the classic Surrealist film experience where they entered theatres randomly, watched a bit of a movie, and then moved on to another theater. Breton and company would move from one theater to the next creating a new fragmented narrative from the pieces of other works. This no doubt contributes to the Surrealist fetishistic view of films, where small parts/aspects of the films are valourized over the whole, much like a foot fetishist would prefer the foot of the woman to the whole woman (it’s an analogy Hammond uses).
Hammond goes on to note how the TV seems an ideal medium for replicating such an experience, but he states it is not, offering a number of reasons: small screen, incomplete darkness, banal content, the familiar companions (part of the Surrealist experience being the theatre itself and its occupants). I don’t completely agree with Hammond’s dismissing of TV as a purveyor of drifting dream images (for that is really what the Surrealists were going for).
A couple years ago, a good friend of mine, Eric Sutton, sat down in front of the television and starting drawing comic strips. He looked at the screen to capture a moment of time and then went about drawing it. When he was finished with the first panel he went back to the TV to draw the next panel–staying on the same channel or switching to something else. In this way he created a slew of fragmented narratives using the TV as his “muse” (that’s what he calls the series). Hammond’s comments got me thinking about Eric’s drawings. Luckily enough, there are a number of them up at Eric’s website, H-E-A-P. One of my favorites is here.
Chance and a certain selection process create often surprising connections from one panel to the next. The process is more controllable than running from theatre to theatre, but with television one needs to be more discerning.