Micro50 video: durational remapping


However brief we suppose any perception to be, it always occupies a certain duration, and involves, consequently, an effort of memory which prolongs, one into another, a plurality of moments.

Henri Bergson (1988 p.34).

Micro50 video is two seconds/50 frames in length. A collection of moments and distilled events. The slights of mediated performance; cut, cared for, reframed, de/interlaced, contracted. An invitation to revel in brevity and concision, to view, review and repeat. To play and replay.

These brief choreographic encounters with mediated performance represent a desire to posit and foreground stillness within the dancing/moving image; to innervate and remap the durational experience of witnessing choreography for screen. To sensitise one’s experience of mediated performance time in two brief (repeatable) seconds.

In 1993, Peggy Phelan wrote, “Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance” (Phelan, 1993 p.146). Phelan’s valorisation of live performance as a consequence of its apparent ephemerality persists to this day, and reflects a hierarchy of performance modalities, at the top of which stand actors or dancers performing in a theatre. Mediated performance (“representations of representations”), on the other hand, is not offered a shred of ontological participation.

The valorisation of performance’s questionable ephemerality is inadequate. It is a reification based on tired, outmoded, concepts of originality[1], and on the spatialization of performance’s existence in time, a spatialization that renders inert the possibilities for creating alternate representative practices.

According to Henri Bergson, “time is the spatialized, measurable counterpart of space, the other of space” (Grosz, 2004 p.279) that is already marked by the penetration of space. In Bergson’s efforts to distil or un-mix time and space he proposes ‘the data of consciousness’ as being temporal, in other words duration[2] (Lawlor & Moulard, 2004). Duration is “the inner experience of ‘real time’” (Mullarkey, 1999 p.9), and a rendering of subjectivity, which, more broadly, affords the differentiation or awareness of differences in kind. For example, interpenetrating changes in sensation “differentiate themselves only in duration” (Grosz, 2004 p.162). In contrast to Bergson’s understanding of scientific time as a “rearrangement of the pre-existing” (Mullarkey, 1999 p.9), duration incorporates, by definition, newness and creativity in which each moment is qualitatively different from the previous. Furthermore, without spatiality, time or duration is not a succession of qualitative changes simply because it is no longer tethered to the notion of succession. Rather, it is better described by “coexistence” (Deleuze, 1988 p.60). Pure duration is becoming, and it becomes a form of temporal change that marks (or times) the environment of differences in kind.

In Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation, Dorothea Olkowski (1999) describes Bergson’s analogy of the pendulum clock as an example of the sense of duration:

…if we count each of the sixty oscillations of a clock’s pendulum beating out one minute, by excluding the recollection of the preceding beats we screen out any experience of duration, for we remain always in the present of each beat – a static arrangement in which each beat is without relation to what has come before. If we picture the sixty beats all at once we likewise forfeit any sense of duration in exchange for a spatialized homogeneous representation. But if we retain the recollection of the preceding beat along with the current one, perceiving each permeating the other like the notes of a tune, they form a ‘qualitative multiplicity,’ the image of pure duration.

Dorothea Olkowski (1999 p.105).

In this sense, a micro50 video represents a fraying of the edge of performance temporality; an inhabiting of (non-spatialised) duration, and in so doing resists disappearance, and (briefly) merges into the ongoing. The project exists in an equivocal state: archive, vodcast, performances, objects, choreography, and both still and moving images. The precariousness of its presence invites an assessment of micro50s as an alternative to conventional notions of spatio/temporal representations. The videos incite a perceptual hiccough or blip, a durational composite of performativity, set amidst the confines of a microscreen.

[1] In which ‘dancers on a stage’ or ‘actors in a theatre’ represent the original event or experience.

[2] La durée


Bergson, H. (1988). Matter and memory (N. M. Paul & W. S. Palmer, Trans.). New York: Zone Books.

Deleuze, G. (1988). Bergsonism (H. Tomlinson & B. Habberjam, Trans.). New York: Zone Books.

Grosz, E. (2004). The nick of time: Politics, evolution and the untimely. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Lawlor, L., & Moulard, V. (2004, Summer 2004). Henri Bergson. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy Retrieved 17 March, 2005, from http://plato.stanford/edu/archives/sum2004/entries/bergson/

Mullarkey, J. (1999). Bergson and philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Olkowski, D. (1999). Gilles Deleuze and the ruin of representation. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Phelan, P. (1993). Unmarked: The politics of performance. London: Routledge.

Micro50s initiated by:

David Corbet
Performance and multimedia practitioner

Dr. Simon Ellis
Choreographer & Research Fellow
Performance Studies
University of Northampton

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