6/24/13

River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit

The western movies themselves were always anchored in a sense of place and a passion for it, a passion that was more the filmmakers' than the protagonists, as the camera panned riders across deserts, zoomed in on houses swallowed up in the prairie, followed herds across rivers. The desire for the real lives on, if nowhere else, in representations in which Web sites and cell phones are marketed with pictures of rock climbers and shepherds with their flocks. Another way to think of Plato's cave is as an condition in which people live entirely in representation and interior space, in a universe constructed by humans, ultimately inside the imaginations of those who came before, an operation that suggests nesting Russian dolls and a certain crampedness of the imagination after a few generations. Muybridge's work teetered between these two conditions, between the noplace of the whited-out Palo Alto reacetrack and the black-walled Philadelphia studio and the brilliant description of place in all his other work, from Guatemala to Alaska. He gave up place for the laboratory of motion, and it is from this relinquishment that he produced the bare bones of cinema.