You Are Here

a journal of creative geography

The Montage Effect: A Note From The Editors

Laura L. Sharp
School of Geography and Development
The University of Arizona

&

Shelby Lillian Smith
School of Geography and Development
The University of Arizona

“To turn a street corner, to blink, or to glance in a rear-view mirror is to experience the world through montage”

(Doel and Clarke 2007, 897)

First theorized and perfected by Soviet filmmakers Lev Kuleshov and Sergei Eisenstein in the 1920s, montage is the film editing technique that entails the cutting and rearranging of shots so as to manipulate time, space, movement, and meaning. In Eisenstein’s formulation montage was the central element of filmmaking necessary to emotionally persuade the audience to become involved in the film’s narrative, accomplished by asking the viewers to mentally bridge the juxtaposed images. By activating this mental join cinema becomes more than what can be contained in the image (frame):

[T]he frame refers to what is around the frame – a spatially and temporally contiguous ‘unseen’ that may, in its turn, subsequently enter the frame and so become actualized as a seen/scene… The essential thing about film, then, is not the framed image, but that which comes between the frames: the cut. (Doel 2008)

When combined with the camera’s mobile gaze, the continuous play of the seen/unseen points to the ways that the principles of montage theory extend beyond cinematic technology. As the camera moves, taking the spectator on a voyage through time and space, montage continually repositions the viewer, stitching together disparate scenes. This roving camera emulates our own itinerant bodies. As we move through the world we are confronted with a series of fragmentary spaces and views, scenes reordered, smoothed out, and held together by what exists outside of the frame – our thoughts, identities, emotions, affects, past experiences, and internal frameworks – the narratives of our place in the world. In other words, in the narrative cinema of our lives, “[i]t is montage that converts space into place, that allows for place-making to occur” (Lukinbeal 2010, 19).

Thinking about place and our experiences of being in the world through montage, in this edition of you are here we asked for contributions that expressed experiences of place through the technique of montage, but also those that illustrate how our experiences of place are always already a montage effect, constructed by selection, variance, the cut, and the unseen. Following precedent, poems, prose essays, and visual art comprise the majority of the selected submissions, all of which were chosen for their ability to impress upon us the fact that montage is not merely a visual device that differentiates art-house from Hollywood cinema, but rather underpins communication itself.

In addition to these exceptionally creative pieces, this year’s journal is unique in offering two new formats that, it is our hope, will become commonplace in future editions. First, the montage effect is the first you are here to include video, made possible by our new website found at www.youareheregeography.com. The second format unique to this year’s edition is a set of theoretically grounded essays written by key thinkers working at the intersection of media, art, and geography. We are excited to include these pieces, as they provide a philosophical foundation on which to situate the creative expressions of place and montage. We believe that together, these academic and art pieces elaborate the rich dimensions of montage as both an analytic tool and emotional experience.

The issue has been organized into three sections in order to highlight themes identified throughout the contributions. The first section, Framing Geographies of Montage, provides what we see as a series of establishing shots that explore how montage informs conceptualizations and experiences of geography, as well as how montage as technique can be used to express those experiences. The second section, Montaging Materialities, explores montage as verb, an ongoing active presence in the world that concatenates lived experiences, the production of space and place, and socio- physical milieus. Finally, in The Psychic Life of Montage, contributors consider the nexus of montage, emotion, and event as mediating and being mediated by the self’s ever-shifting internal and external negotiations. While it was necessary to organize the journal into sections, it should be noted that we feel that each piece exceeds and challenges these categorizations. We encourage our readers to traverse the journal as they see fit, creating new meanings and their own montage event.

References

Doel, Marcus and Clarke, David. 2007. Afterimages. Environment and Planning D. 25(5): 890-910.

Doel, Marcus. 2008. From Animated Photography to Film: The Formation of Vernacular Relativity. In The Geography of Cinema – A Cinematic World, edited by Chris Lukinbeal and Stefan Zimmermann. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Lukinbeal, Chris. 2010. Mobilizing the cartographic paradox: tracing the aspect of cartography and prospect of cinema. Digital Thematic Education 11(2): 1-32. Special Issue Images, Geographies and Education.

Download the PDF of this article here: Sharp & Smith

1 Comment

  1. Chris Lukinbeal

    What a fascinating and wonderfully exciting theme for a special issue. I especially like the montaging of academic theory with art pieces.

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