landscape, film and touch (contextual study)

as part of my research into my lens based work on landscape and body, i have begun researching phenomenological approaches to film and lens-based media. i often describe my work as being predominantly lens based and predominantly visual – it seems i have much to learn. so first up – The Tactile Eye (2009) by Jennifer Barker. some notes …

non-binary divisions and materiality: i am always curious about exploring non-binary divisions in relation to gender and other things. one of the first points that Barker makes is a non-binary approach to many aspects of cinema experience, describing how the mind and body are linked through film – “film is the greatest teacher because it teaches not only through the brain but through the whole body” (Pudovkin, in Barker, 2009, p.1). film acts like a fluid connection or medium between the the body and brain (p.1). Barker also argues for films ability to link brain (emotion), movement (body) and materiality (p.1). she sees film as a way to enable full bodied engagement with the materiality of the world (p.2). film takes up material space for a lived in body – a sensuous physicality rather than an immaterial digitalisation. later Barker also discusses how vision and touch are also inextricably linked (p.22).

(haptic) touch – touching and touched: Barker argues that touch is shared by film and its viewer. this touch is not just skin deep but penetrates deep within the body (p.2). film is therefore not an external and distant experience but an intimate and close one. Barker defines touch as a sensation that is not only felt by the skin but is felt by the entire body simultaneously (p.2). “tension, balance, energy, immersion, languor, velocity, rhythm” all are considered touch and not solely felt at the surface of the body (Gibson, in Barker 2009, p.2). making reference to Merleau-Ponty, Barker argues that touch is not merely a contact point but a ‘manner of being’ (p.2) where both what is perceived and the perceiver are joined in experience (p.3). again blurring binary divisions, Barker states that tactility is a mode of perception and expression which the body is drawn into and forms a relationship with the world (materiality).

layers of contact: Barker describes how tactile experience of cinema penetrates through the body from the surface, through to the muscles, the bones and into the ‘murky recesses of the body’ (p.3) which respond to cinematic experience. these responses are in rhythm with the materiality of the cinema – the celluloid on screen, the lense the light etc (p.3).

film and the body: embodied spectatorship: recent film theory has begun to discuss the phenomenology of spectatorship and the ways that consciousness is materially embodied through film (p.4). citing Sobchack (which i have also started to read), Barker describes how when watching a film we can see the seeing and the seen, hear the hearing and the heard, feel the feeling and the felt (p.8). as merleau states – to perceive is also to experience (p8). it is more than representation it is perception and embodied experience, or as merleau says – all perception is embodied perception (p.17).

making links: having read this introductory chapter, i am wondering how this relates to my work. i guess firstly, it raises questions to consider about the screening and spectatorship of my film work, maybe something that i overlook in favour of process experience and content. understanding film as a way of linking the perceived and the perceiver seems to hold a lot of potential in relation to landscape, in ways i have yet to discover.


Barker, J.M. ( 2009) The Tactile Eye, Touch and the Cinematic Experience. Berkeley: University Press of California Press.

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