As Gilles Deleuse famously argued, film exists as form of becoming in which matter, motion, and consciousness are inseparably intertwined. The medium is capable of eluding the Cartesian division between subject and object, instead functioning as a philosophical mechanism with its own epistemological imperatives. The experience of making, viewing, and studying film can change our ways of seeing. In the cinema, 'seeing' is not an act of sensory perception alone. It is neither purely mental nor haptic; neither conscious nor subconscious; but rather an act of holistic consciousness in which, as Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener point out, "the brain and body function as a single indivisible whole."
Such matters of ontology and holistic subjective experience are central themes in the work of avant-garde filmmaker and artist Stan Brakhage. In subject-matter, Brakhage's works are often concerned with human subjectivity and its limits; film theorist Fred Camper writes, "every moment that appears to valorize the affections, the moods [of the subjective experience], is balanced by a sense that the work itself is in danger of coming apart, that its beauty and unity are fragile, that its making acknowledges its own destruction." As Camper suggests, the 'mind' of Brakhage's films lies at the intersection of form and content—or, perhaps within the argument that there is indeed no distinction between the two whatsoever. For Brakhage, the practice of filmmaking was a way to come to an understanding about how and whether to continue living; through his manipulations of the medium, we can see that, far from just being a mode of representation, film has a being unto itself.
Video essay produced for Cinema Theory + Practice at Parsons, Spring 2015.